The trend is our friend 💰
We have an outright winner at Read The Line for the second week in a row. Fact is, we almost had two in one weekend with Rory's runner-up at the API. That's 14 outright winners in just 13 months since we launched in 2022.
Congratulations to Jin Young Ko for closing out the HSBC Women's World Championship early Sunday morning. Her back to back 65's in the second and third round helped her take control of the tournament. The former world's #1 player defended her title in Singapore and gave us two wins at the HSBC in as many years.
What a wave of momentum we are riding heading into the largest purse event of the season! Three weeks in a row would be something special at The PLAYERS Championship!
A golden opportunity
When it comes to handicapping golf tournaments, I believe in stories, not just stats. I need a narrative to predict winners, and a model just won't cover it all. A big part of those winning stories stems from what I see on-site watching the players up close. As Read The Line continues to grow, it is important to me that we never lose that edge.
The Superbowl of the PGA TOUR season takes place this week in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. The PLAYERS Championship has been contested on the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course since 1982. In 41 past editions, there has been truly one winner - Pete Dye. The masterpiece of his design career, this course is the most well-rounded test he has ever created.
- Water comes into play on seventeen of the eighteen holes; truly "Dyabolical."
- The Par 72 scorecard reaches just over 7,200 yards at 7,275.
- Eighty-eight bunkers decorate the course. They range in scale from fairway length waste bunkers to miniature pot bunkers.
- Speaking of small, the average green size is approximately 5,500 square feet. Those greens are overseeded in the winter with Poa Trivialis. The same mix we just saw a month ago in Scottsdale.
Touted annually as the toughest field in golf, pundits propose that's no longer the case due to LIV, yet I argue the strength of field will still rank in the Top 4 of men's professional golf this year.
- The field of 144 players is playing for $25 million dollars and a $4.5 million dollar first place prize.
- Twenty-three of the Top 25 players in the world are competing, and 69 of the Top 100.
The PLAYERS marks our fourth designated event on the PGA TOUR in the last five weeks. If you watched any of them, you have not been disappointed. Just this past weekend, we had eight players within one shot of the lead with three holes left to play. Just as we thought Scottie Scheffler or Rory McIlroy (sigh) was going to win, +20000 Kurt Kitayama pulled it off by birdieing the 71st hole. That storyline is the perfect lead in to one of the most volatile betting tournaments of the year.
Most quickly look at the average winner's odds over the last decade and see a +7900 average. With an average winning total in the mid-teens (-14.2) and all of the peril Pete has placed across the landscape, even the best can get tripped up by one bad swing. I'm taking a rather different approach this week. Even though Kurt took the API, I still believe elite events have elite winners.
- The PLAYERS was contested from 2007-2018 in May. Since 2019, the tournament has been moved back to a traditional March date.
- The average winner's pre-tournament odds since the March return are +2000 (20-1).
The weather in March can play a significant role as it did last year, but overall I believe the course conditions are more predictable in March. Therefore, the best players will continue to win while the PLAYERS is held in early spring. Bermudagrass rough and greens are very unpredictable. With the wintertime overseed to Poa on the greens and much more consistent Rye grass rough similar to Bay Hill, the elite will tend to contend more often. The course is located a little more than a mile from the Atlantic Ocean, so even in a calm year we do have to pay attention to the forecast.
- Temperatures will reach the high 70's during the day and drop to the low 60's at night.
- A 40% chance of PM showers on Friday is predicted.
- Here's the fun one, the wind is expected to blow around 12-15 mph each of the four days. On Thursday from the northeast, Friday the south, Saturday the northwest, and Sunday from the southwest.
The Stadium Course spins you around like a lead character in a Hitchcock film. Combine Dye's design with four different wind directions in four days and the adaptability factor of these guys will be severely tested. One of the best examples of TPC's test comes on the Par 3's. Not only are they four very unique tests, they all play in different directions. Each covering the compass N-S-E-W, and combined with a changing coastal wind you can quickly see the challenge at hand.
This is why the average cutline over the last five years has been over par (+1.4). Much like the last two weeks, the Florida swing is not player friendly. Fresh off the Pro-Am birdiefest tour out west, this stretch in the schedule will really start to bring our major contenders into focus for 2023. I love being on property as we will be bringing you on-site coverage for the fourth straight week. The PLAYERS is absolutely one of the best tournaments of the year. Enjoy it!
The PLAYERS starts in...
The difference between knowing the path and walking the path
I approach the PLAYERS puzzle just as I do every week. After all, we have 14 wins in 13 months. The process is proven and I know being on-site also gives us an extra edge.
Pete Dye's masterpiece is designed with one intent, force you to make decisions. However, just because you know what you should do, doesn't always mean you can you do it? I think about half of this field can build a successful blueprint for this week. I know that sounds harsh, but look at the record. The PLAYERS field is one of the least predictive on tour. In the last four PLAYERS starts, Rory McIlroy has missed the cut, won, missed the cut, and finished 33rd. If one of the best players in the world struggles here, what are the chances of an average PGA TOUR member contending?
Having played and walked the course many times, I built my outright list based upon four fundamental questions for the Stadium Course.
- Can you just drive the ball in play? Pete Dye loves positional golf. Harbour Town, TPC Louisiana, and TPC River Highlands ask you to put the ball in play. The drive doesn't need to be long, just in the fairway. You can certainly add length, but stray from Pete's plan and there will be considerable risk. We're picking positional players this week. Not just guys who drive it well, but players who are super strategic.
- How's your wedge game? Over one-third of the approach shots on the Stadium Course are with a wedge in hand. These multi-tiered greens require you to be accurate with a scoring club. Competitors need to land the ball close to the hole. Many of these wedge shots will have unique sight lines and awkward lies. Can you win a proximity contest when you aren't quite settled?
- Are you good at scrambling? A player's ability to get the ball up and down from any lie inside of a full swing is the essence of scrambling. Whether it is the four Par 5's or short Par 4's, this skill will really help you score at Sawgrass. Don't always think of wedge play around the green as saving par. Sometimes we need to make birdie on a short Par 4. Certain players can take advantage of those opportunities and they are on our list.
- When is the last time you three-putted? Players three-putt at the Stadium Course well over the PGA TOUR average. The greens have tiers, swales, sharp movements and subtle breaks. They aren't large at 5,500 square feet, but get caught on the wrong shelf and it will take all of the skill you have to get down in two. In the recent March editions (2019-2022), the winners have gained more strokes on the greens than around the green and off the tee combined.
As a PGA Coach, I can develop a blueprint for success at Sawgrass, but can you implement it? The Stadium Course is a five hour outer body experience. A player's ability to control their emotions, manage their patience, and perform the tasks Pete puts in from of them is the key. Our outright list is a collection of trained killers. Guys who are impeccable ball strikers and proven winners. In case your questioning Corey Conners, he won after Monday Qualifying just to get in the tournament. That's some serious self-belief (The most common characteristic of our winners for the PLAYERS).
For four straight weeks, I have been watching the world's best compete. I have taken countless notes on their game, tendencies, and body language. Nothing is more helpful than using my educated eye to observe on-site. This is an excellent outright list and one I've worked very hard on for the first enormous event of the 2023 season.
Outright winners - PLAYERS Championship
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Two outright wins in two weeks.
Let's keep the momentum going and win three in a row!
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