The Bare Necessities ๐Ÿป


Let's all be cognizant

Let's get real, we have 15 days until THE PLAYERS Championship and approximately 40 (days) until round one at Augusta National. One player in the top 10 of the OWGR has won this year (Wyndham Clark) and Jake Knapp just stole the show in Mexico. We all love a Cinderella story, but to be honest, the stars need to step up. Thirteen of the top 40 in the world rankings are in the field for the Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches. Rory McIlroy is the favorite and playing for the first time since 2018.

I believe there's a serious sense of urgency at the top of the betting board. You cannot blame the TOUR's distractions for why the favorites aren't winning. Tiger's influence over the evolution of professional players is real and the young guns are proving it. All 144 players will have their hands full in Palm Beach Gardens. PGA National's Champion Course is historically one of the toughest non-major tests on the schedule. Known for the "Bear Trap" (holes 15, 16, 17) the layout has water in play on 15 of the 18 holes!
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Cognizant Classic starts in...

Count down to 2024-02-29T11:30:00.000Zโ€‹

The TOUR has competed on the Champion course since 2007. For the 2024 edition, we have one slight change to the scorecard. The tenth hole is going to be a par 5 (530 yards) rather than a par 4. Par is now 71 and the yardage measures 7,147 yards. The average winning score over the last decade is 9 under par. Will this alteration affect the field enough to change our approach, definitely not. People get hung up on par, but lowest score wins. Players will still make 3s, 4s, and 5s there. The television total may look a little different, but overall, this small advantage against par is not a key factor in handicapping the event.

I'd like to focus more on course conditions. Through December and January, the Palm Beach region received nearly 10" of rain. It has been a difficult winter for the agronomy team. Rain brings clouds and grass needs the sun to survive and flourish. The Bermudagrass fairways, tees, and greens along with the overseeded Ryegrass rough is in fair condition. The penalty for missing the fairway will be reduced this year giving length a considerable advantage. Temperatures are expected in the low 80s, high humidity, and the breeze blowing. That will keep the ball flying especially in the Bear Trap which will be playing downwind all week.

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Course conditions

โ€‹PGA National (Champion)โ€‹

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โ€‹Coverage timesโ€‹

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โ€‹Palm Beach Gardens, FLโ€‹

Even with less aggressive rough conditions, players do need to keep the ball in play. Almost every hole has a penalty area. The best ball strikers and short game aficionados excel at PGA National. The par 3s are a great microcosm for the challenges of the Champion. All four play over par and have an average bogey rate of 18%. If 20% of the field is struggling with these holes, they are important to pay attention too. TV will promote the Bear Trap all week, but the three holes stretch of five, six, and seven on the front play to a cumulative score greater than the back nine trap.

Thirteen holes have a bogey rate over 15% while only seven holes have a birdie rate over the same value. This is partly why scoring volatility at PGA National is so common. In the last 14 years, seven winners held pre-tournament odds of +8000 or higher. Conversely, seven winners in that same time had odds of +3500 or lower! For every JT, Adam Scott, or Rickie Fowler that has won, we have a Keith Mitchell, Sepp Straka, and Russell Henley.

Read The Line recap ๐Ÿ—ž๏ธ

Chris Kirk followed the best blueprint for success at PGA National last year by gaining over six strokes on approach and another five and a half with his putter. His 14 under par total was the lowest winning score on the Champion since the tournament moved there in 2007.

Keep it in play

RTL won here with Chris Kirk (+3000) in a playoff over Eric Cole last year. Both names will be mentioned frequently this week. Their skill set fits this test quite well. Each is excellent with a wedge and keeps the ball in play. Having played the Champion Course and been on-site for this event in 2023, I know the simple keys to winning. Recent champions (last 10 years) display a well-rounded skill set, but a couple trends really catch my attention. The last ten winners have gained over six strokes on the par 3s. Par 3s require two very important skills, approach and around the green play.

Those same winners gained over six strokes (average) on approach in the year they won. The field secures well below the TOUR average of GIRs. This week we are selecting GIR machines. Getting up and down to save par is even more important than hitting the fairway historically. If 10 under par wins in seven of the last 10 years, then bogey avoidance is key. You won't hit all 16 par 3 GIR opportunities and saving a stroke or two with your short game is imperative.

The last five winners have gained over seven GIRs on the field which creates more realistic birdie chances. The greens at PGA National's Champion course aren't small at 7,000 sq/ft (on average). Wind, design, and pressure all add to the anxiety of the moment(s). Bermudagrass can befuddle some, but we know who the good putters are on Florida greens. The putting is not nearly as difficult as the ball striking on these 18-holes. Players tend to make more putts than the PGA TOUR average at lengths greater than 5' from the hole. The greens are pretty flat. Read the beak correctly, and you can make a bunch of sub-par scores.

I'm also favoring guys this week who start quickly. Over the last 14 years, every winner has been inside the top nine (and within five shots) of the lead after 36-holes. Comebacks at PGA National are near impossible. The course has not had a cutline below one over par in those 14 years as well. Sixty bunkers, fifteen holes with water, and precisely placed palm trees define landing areas and keep the driving accuracy below the weekly TOUR average. Going back to an earlier point, I think we will see a much more aggressive approach off the tee this year and that adjustment by the competitors will create an edge. To compound this point, PGA National has added an acre of fairway grass since last year to the 18-holes.

Diving deeper into the field, past winners have gained on the par 4s. If you want to make the weekend cut (top 65 and ties) and grab a piece of that $9 million dollar purse, then you will need to win the battle between BoB% and bogey avoidance. Scrambling plays a big role in scoring this week. Not just saving par but scoring on those three par 5s from close range. When you break down the approach scoring, the biggest scoring separation happens in the 175-200 yard range.

A majority of the winners in the last decade have come in showing good form. This event has moved several times on the calendar, so the lead up tournaments are not as important as the ability to contend recently.

Outright winners - Cognizant Classic

PGA National was built for a player like Russell Henley.

  • Henley is sixth in the field in par 4 scoring and seventh SG:T2G.
  • Russell's best surface is Bermudagrass by a mile.
  • Hard courses favor Henley, he hits fairways and greens more consistently than a majority of the TOUR.
  • This will become a GIR contest, and Russell is ranked top 15 for GIRs gained.

JT Poston continues to play exceptional golf. Starting 2024, he has finished 5-6-11-20-MC-10.

  • We know JT can putt and Bermudagrass is his best surface. He has won on it.
  • Poston has 10 top 20s in his last 15 starts.
  • JT ranks thirteenth T2G and second in par 4 scoring.
  • Poston is ranked third in BoB% mainly due to the combination of his approach and putting.
  • In his last five starts, he is positive in every SG category and gains and average +5 strokes per event.

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Inside the ropes at the 2023 Genesis Invitational


When it rains...

Please pay attention to the countdown timer below, the ladies are in Asia and start on Wednesday night.

It's time for "Asia's Major," the HSBC Women's World Championship is an elite field of 66 players competing for 72-holes. Hosted by the Sentosa Golf Club for over a decade, the ladies started using their Tanjong Course in 2017. Seven of the top 10 and 20 of the top 30 in the Rolex World Rankings are in Singapore for the championship. The two-time defending champion is former world number one Jin Young Ko. Ko finished twentieth in Thailand and seems ready to defend her title.

  • They will compete for $1.8 million dollars and a first-place check of $270,000.

The Tanjong Course is a par 72 layout covering 6,774 yards. That would be a long course for the LPGA anywhere, but at sea level in southeast Asia, we are asking a lot of the field from a length perspective. Solid ball striking will be a priority especially when we consider the forecast. Last year, the tournament was drenched by Mother Nature, and we have a similar forecast in 2024. Approximately two inches of rain are expected to fall during the week. Long will only play longer in soft conditions.

Temperatures are going to be in the high-80s and the wind should blow in the low teens. Sentosa Golf Club is located on an island so I believe the wind will always be a little stronger at the course. Just another reason ball speed will be important playing through challenging conditions. The last six champions are all major championship winners. The course and elite field are both tough to beat. Our best bets will include some of the finest the LPGA has to offer.

HSBC Women's starts in...

Count down to 2024-02-29T02:00:00.000Zโ€‹

The Tanjong Course has plenty of obstacles besides the weather, so as we handicap the field here's a couple more details to digest.

  • The course has fifty-four bunkers.
  • In recent years, over 150 trees have been added to the property.
  • On twelve of the holes water comes into play. The last four holes have significant penalty areas to contend with.

Closing this tournament will take some serious resolve on Sunday. Even though the layout has large greens (10,600 square feet on average), hitting them in these conditions with long approach shots will put pressure on other elements of your game. We'll get into more of this in the outrights section, but overall, we can start to see the scene developing. We will need to find solid ball strikers who tend to start quickly. Get to the lead and take care of par as the weekend conditions increase in difficulty. Very similar to the situation in south Florida!

Thankfully, this course was designed with the Australian sandbelt courses in mind. It should remain playable due to the ground conditions, but that won't help each player's performance in a persistent rain. Trajectory control, patience and above all else the ability to score in difficult conditions will matter. The average winning score since 2017 on the Tanjong Course is 17 under par. Jin Young Ko got there again last year in the rain so the soft scoring conditions will help.

Each of the last five winners of Asia's Major (HSBC) have been big names in the sport. With another stacked leaderboard at the top, I'm sure we will have to figure who from that list will get it done in the downpour. Keep reading because I have some interesting insights to help get us there again. Yes, we had Jin Young Ko defending her title last year at +2000. It was a great win and followed up Kirk at the Honda Classic. We also had Jin Young in 2022! Needless to say, I have a good feel for this course and the field once again. I'll take three in a row even if it is the same player!

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Course conditions

โ€‹Sentosa Golf Club (Tanjong Course)โ€‹

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โ€‹Coverage timesโ€‹

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Real-time weather

โ€‹Sentosa, Singaporeโ€‹

Major player

Sentosa Golf Club's Tanjong Course is long by LPGA standards. It's a tree lined landscape testing the resolve of 66 of the best female players in the world. We've already established it's going to be a challenging weather week, but let's dig a little deeper into the golf course.

  • Playing almost 6,800 yards, the ladies are going to need length under normal conditions to contend. Throw in the wet and soft turf and it should play even longer. I'm favoring a player who can really take advantage with the driver.
  • On approach, contenders will need to focus their efforts with their middle irons. Proximity to the hole from 125-175 yards is the key. These green complexes do test the putter due to their size. Capitalizing on scoring chances comes from a radar like iron game. Shot trajectory in the elements is the final key in this category of player.
  • I'm looking for good Bermudagrass putters with a solid putts per GIR number. When you have opportunities this week, one will have to take advantage. Due to the weather, the misses will come. The first three events of the season have been played on Bermudagrass so current form with the flatstick is extremely relevant.
  • We all miss more greens when the weather is unpredictable. Unlike last year, I'll be rating players for their ability to get up and down under difficult conditions. Those with great short game skill are the ones to watch for.
  • Each of the Par 3s require a long iron approach shot. All four of these holes rank in the top 9 hardest relative to par on the course. Iโ€™ll be using Par 3 scoring as a key in my analysis.

What I feel is most interesting this week is how the design of the golf course will compete with the weather. The sandbelt courses of Australia are known for their ground game. Players must manage where they land the ball and how it will roll out. With Sentosa being so wet, this strategy will change. Watching the best players in the world manage their game when the design doesn't match the conditions will be very entertaining. It will also give us great insight into who can really strike the golf ball.

Our outright card reflects the need for this adaptability. This is not a week for the faint of heart. We want forward thinking players who won't get discouraged. Birdie makers who can pound the golf ball. Target practice is about to begin and here are my southeast Asia sharpshooters.

Outright winners - HSBC Women's World Championship

Hyo Joo Kim won this event at 17 under par in 2021.

  • The most consistent ball striker on tour is extremely strong in challenging conditions.
  • Kim is ranked first in scoring average and tied first in BoB%.
  • Hyo Joo is eighth in approach and excellent at scrambling. She will be there on Sunday.

This is my favorite pick of the week; Yuka Saso.

  • Wet conditions give her an edge with her incredible length. Saso is first in the field SG:OTT.
  • Yuka is tied second in par 3 scoring for this field.
  • Fourth in BoB% and sixth in scoring average, Saso has the full skill set to score on a tough golf course. Keep in mind, she won a US Open!
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