Scotland the brave
The John Deere Classic held our attention last week as we entered the final round with an outright pick in contention and plenty of placements to cash in on. Adam Schenk came in fourth and didn't close the deal for us, but we did go 6-1 on our placement predictions. Even "live" add (after round one) Mark Hubbard cashed a Top 20 with his sixth-place finish. It pays to read the entire newsletter and follow us on social media.
The Renaissance Club is hosting its fifth Genesis Scottish Open and this one should be just as great as the one from a year ago. The strength of field for the 156 players competing in Scotland's Open Championship will be one of the highest ever for a regular DP World Tour event.
- Four of the Top 5 in the world are playing.
- Eight of the Top 10
- Thirty of the Top 50
The collaboration between the DP World Tour and PGA TOUR that brought this brainchild to life is reaping rewards in just the first two years. The co-sanctioned event is sponsored by both tours and in advance of the 151st Open Championship next week plans to give Scotland another sensational two-week celebration of elite golf. Starting with the weather and course conditions, here's what can we expect this week in North Berwick, Scotland:
- Scotland in the summer, temperatures will range from the mid-50s in the mornings to mid 60s in the afternoon.
- Make note, TRC is located on the Firth of Forth. That's a big body of water and being a coastline course will be even cooler than that when we consider the wind chill. Speaking of wind, it will increase as the week carries on. Thursday through Saturday we expect 12-15 mph with gusts above that. Sunday could be a killer finish as the winds are going to be in the mid-20's with gusts into the 30's.
- The forecast looks very wet in Scotland. They have been receiving rain all week and the tournament days don't look much better. Nearly .75 inches of rain are predicted on Thursday through Sunday.
The Par 71, 7,293-yard layout will test the best. They have three Par 5s, five Par 3s and 10 Par 4s. Those Par 4's can play long as seven of them measure over 440 yards. Throw in three Par 3's over 200 yards and you better bring some ball speed with you. This is the fifth time in a row the event will be played at TRC. The previous four editions:
- 2019, 2021, and 2022 were played in July and 2020 was played in October (due to covid)
- 2019 - 2021 all ended in a playoff
- Note the winning scores as a result - 2022 (-7), 2021 (-18), 2020 (-11), 2019 (-22)
- The odds of the winners at TRC for the least four years: Schauffele (+2000), Lee (+20000), Rai (+5000), and Weisberger (+4000)
The location of TRC is pure Scotland. Located alongside the Firth of Forth in North Berwick, the Sarvadi Family has developed a very special venue. The windswept landscape is a brilliant mix of wild fairway bounces and target approach shots. A true links player has yet to win the Scottish Open at TRC and that plays into our predictions. Eighty bunkers dot the terrain. One of the most diabolical holes is the par 3 sixth hole. The shortest test of all eighteen it gave the world's best fits last year in calmer weather.
For three straight weeks, we have witnessed record scoring on the summer swing of the PGA TOUR schedule. The Scottish Open will present a far different set of dramatic turns. The next couple of weeks are two of my favorites on TOUR. Enjoy the early mornings and golf played on the ground. The setup is perfect for the final major championship of the season. One hundred days ago we were traveling down Magnolia Lane and now the Claret Jug is near.
Scottish Open starts in...
X marks the spot
I love this layout by Tom Doak. He's one of my favorite modern architects and any chance I get to play one of his courses, I'm in! The Renaissance Club is certainly one of his best and between the subtleness of the green surfaces and thought-provoking tee shots, the winner will have succeeded with a very well-rounded skill set.
It starts off the tee. Looking at the leaderboards from the last four Scottish Opens at TRC prove that power helps. With long Par 5's, a drivable Par 4, and three Par 3's over 200 yards, having speed helps considerably. With the wet and wild conditions, the more ball speed you have traveling through the air the better off you will be. Schauffele, Kitayama, Cantlay, Fleetwood, and Fitzpatrick were five of the first six names on last year's leaderboard.
When the elements affect the approach game, we look toward the best scramblers in the field for contenders. The Renaissance Club has huge greens. When players miss them, the challenge to get it close will really help you separate from the field. Many times, that same challenge will take place on the putting surface. The three-putt percentage at TRC is more than 30% higher than the TOUR average! I have selected players who are great approach putters. Lag putting is an art form and for the next two weeks, each one of our outright predictions will share that skill.
Those 80 bunkers will cause fits in the wind and rain. Getting back to the short game, sand saves will also differentiate this crew of contenders. Doak's design perfectly positions so many of the penalty areas where fairway runoffs and green edges go. Even the best will get thrown into a bunker or two. Getting out is an art form under normal conditions. Wet sand is the equivalent of concrete. A shallow angle of attack serves you well in the bunker and off the tightly mown low areas of the runoffs around these green complexes.
We are going to see two distinct wind directions and plenty of rain. Although we most likely won't get a 20 under winner with this forecast, our outrights still need to make birdies. Don't forget BoB% when conditions distract us from the real priority, scoring. The best par 3 and par 5 scorers create another advantage. There are five 3s and that will end up being 28% of a player's total score. All par 5s and the short par 4 fifth (338 yards) must be taken advantage of.
Xander is one of the best players when it comes to trajectory control. Here's another reason why being on-site 16 times this season really gives us an advantage. The Scottish Open is a DP World Tour event across the Atlantic. Watching the world's finest warm up week after week gives me a complete rolodex of options to cover all types of playing conditions. More important than picking a mudder, we want players who can really flight the golf ball. Compression is key in the wind and our list is full of "straight flushers."
Outright winners - Genesis Scottish Open
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The Dana Open has been played at Highland Meadows Golf Club since 1989. Thirty-three years and counting in the small suburb of Toledo, the LPGA returns one week after the US Women's Open. Fortunately, 12 of the Top 40 in the Rolex World Rankings made the trip from Pebble Beach to Sylvania, Ohio. I wasn't sure how many would make the trek after a brutal and beautiful week on the Monterrey Peninsula. Six past champions are also in the field with a chance to become the thirteenth winner of 2023.
This tournament has provided some serious fireworks over the years. The Par 71 scorecard reaches 6,555 yards. With three Par 5's and six of the eleven Par 4's under 400 yards, it takes plenty of birdies to win here.
- The average winning score in the last ten years is 17 under par.
- In the last five years, that average winning score jumps to 18 under par.
As we get into the outrights list, you will see quickly our selections are birdie-making machines. Scoring is a significant factor here. The last six winning scores at HMGC are 18, 19, 15, 22, 14, and 21 under par. Let me take it one step further, 2021's winning score was generated in just 54 holes! The final round was canceled due to inclement weather. If the weather cooperates, these ladies will need to go low to win.
- The forecast calls for temperatures in the mid 80s throughout all four rounds.
- There's rain predicted for Thursday through Sunday. Sunday looks like the best day, but it is going to be a wet week. Thankfully, the rain won't bring too much wind. The breeze looks calm enough to be under 10 mph for the duration.
A field of 144 players will take on Highland Meadows Golf Club. The top 65 and ties make the weekend and compete for the $1.75 million dollar purse. What a difference a week makes! Last week's winner Allisen Corpuz made two million dollars for winning the national championship. Corpuz is one of the top ranked players in the field. HMGC has always rewarded great ball strikers. The tree lined landscape winds through a very stereotypical parkland course.
Our venue has 68 bunkers and water comes into play on 10 holes. Although the landing areas are tight, these women just finished a USGA Championship. We will see relief in their eyes as they take dead aim during these soft conditions. Prior to this week, the Toledo region has seen enough rain to make this course more like target practice than tough. The scorecard sets up in an interesting way at Highland Meadows. The par on the front nine is 34, while the back nine closes with two par 5s and a par of 37. That's the second time in four weeks the women will play a course with two closing par 5s (The other was Baltusrol).
The Dana brings drama right until the end with such a unique layout. Another reason why birdies bring home trophies in this tournament. In 33 years at HMGC, we have watched 11 sudden death playoffs to decide the winner. We haven't had one since 2018 so don't be surprised if this year brings another. Who will win that exciting ending... keep reading to find out.
Dana Open starts in...
Take dead aim
Pebble Beach is in the past and the field in Ohio can take dead aim at the target. In the 39 rounds played by the last ten winners, only five have been 70 or higher. Much like the PGA TOUR over the past three weeks, the women will need 20+ birdies to win in Toledo. HMGC presents several scoring possibilities:
- We have three Par 5's averaging 535 yards in length.
- Two of the Par 3's are under 170 yards.
- The eleven Par 4's average under 400 yards in length (392) and in fact six of them are under 400 yards.
This layout will be a welcome sight after the last two LPGA tournaments. Rain soaked Baltusrol and chilly Pebble Beach were both extreme major championship tests. I think we will see some relaxed swings and freewheeling with the flatstick. Ball strikers will be the ones to watch as you do have to keep it in play off the tee.
- Twelve of the fourteen driving holes are tightly tree lined.
- Seven of the fourteen have fairway bunkers to avoid and six have penalty areas (water).
- Six of the tee shots move right to left and seven are shaped in the other direction; left to right.
The winner this week will be a great driver of the golf ball. Favoring great drivers is always comforting since strokes gained off the tee is the most reliable major strokes gained category.
- Why? - Off-the-tee statistics are the most reliable because all players are hitting from the same lie and place. Approach, around the green, and putting stats are measured from different places and conditions. They certainly tell a story, but overall driving stats are the most universally representative of a player's ability.
Making birdies requires hitting greens. At HMGC, that challenge is unique. About one-third of the approach shots come from 150 yards or more while another third come from 100 yards or less. The lady who hits the most greens will have a special blend of great wedge play and mid to long iron skill.
Approach shot breakdown:
- Less than 100 - 28% (5)
- 100-125 - 6% (1)
- 125-150 - 33% (6)
- 150-175 - 33% (6)
To shoot eighteen under par over 72-holes, the winning player will need to average 4.5 under par (66.5) for all four rounds. Keep a sharp eye on our players as they all have been selected based strongly on their ability to go low. I have looked at player Birdie %, Sub-par Holes %, Scoring Averages, and Rounds in the 60's %. The LPGA may lack a ton of ability stats, but what they do have are scoring analytics. I use them to directly support our approach on a weekly basis.
We also have historical data on the Dana Open. The LPGA has been coming here for three decades. Looking through the last five leaderboards, I saw a couple of other trends. Two of our four outrights have finished in the top 10 in at least one of their last five starts. The others are rookie sensations who fit the birdie mold. All four can sure score and all even made their fair share of birdies throughout back-to-back majors. All four are hungry for a mid-season win and that's the last reason I chose them.
Outright winners - Dana Open
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Read between the lines
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Listen to the CEO
Last year leading up to the Genesis Scottish Open, I spoke with Jerry Sarvadi, CEO of The Renaissance Club. His insights are still valuable as we discussed the course and what it takes to get a win. Some of the discussion is eerily prophetic when you consider how the tournamnet was won last year. If you want to learn more about this amazing course, check it out. (The video is less than 10 minutes long.)
|Keith talking to the CEO of TRC|
26 weeks in to 2023
8 wins and counting.
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