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Water World 💧

Published 9 months ago • 13 min read

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The 3M Open is entering a fifth year as a PGA TOUR event. Formally on the PGA TOUR Champions schedule, it made the jump to the big tour in 2019 with a dramatic finish. Many of us will remember Matt Wolff winning in a playoff over Bryson DeChambeau and Collin Morikawa coming in third. Looking back just one year, who could forget Scott Piercy's triple bogey on 14 and 41 over his last nine holes. Tony Finau took advantage of the faltering Piercy and went on to win for the first of two weeks in a row on TOUR.

Overall, this tournament is an interesting puzzle to put the pieces together. Consider this, in the four editions:

  • The average winner's OWGR has been 501!
  • The average winning odds of the four champions is +15400.
  • Our field this week has 7 of the Top 35 in the OWGR.
  • After four editions, the average winning score is 18 under par.
  • Eighteen players traveled from Royal Liverpool to Blaine, Minnesota.

In general terms, this is one of those weeks where anything can and has already happened. This course does show some very specific indicators for success. Even though picking a winner may seem wide open, course knowledge and the current playoff scenario will add context to the tournament.

Let's dive into the course and weather this week:

  • TPC Twin Cities is a par 71 reaching 7,431 yards for the competitors.
  • It has 15 holes where water comes into play and was designed by Arnold Palmer.
  • The course is approximately 1,000 feet above sea level.
  • This week it seems as if it is hot everywhere and Blaine, Minnesota is no different.

I mention the altitude, temperature, and humidity for a specific reason. On paper, this is the seventh longest course on TOUR. When you consider it sits at 1k feet above sea level you can take away 2% of that length. Temperatures in the 90's with high humidity will also increase carry distances and shorten the course. I believe length is such an advantage here with past contenders because the course plays much shorter than what the card will lead you to believe.

Danger lurks around all corners at TPC Twin Cities. Amateurs would hate this golf course. Water comes into play everywhere. These penalty areas don't bother the TOUR's elite, but they can create some drama on Sunday. Contenders will need to pay attention and avoid double bogeys. Although the par 5s average a 41% birdie rate, you can easily lose a stroke on those holes as well. At Hoylake, the bunkers were a penalty, but at least you could hit out of them. TPC Twin Cities boasts 27 water hazards from which the only play is a drop. All that water makes TPCTC the third most penal course on the PGA TOUR.

The original tournament director was quoted as saying, "We want birdies and train wrecks, and we don't want to be the hardest course on tour." What a setting for the second to last week of the FedEx Cup regular season. Forty-two of the 50 players who fall between 50 and 100 on the points list are in Minnesota. Only the top 70 get into the playoffs. Even Justin Thomas is here to try and secure a spot. With all the playoff pressure, penalty areas, and weekly stress on TOUR this is going to be a great week of entertainment.

3M Open on TV:

  • Thursday - Friday 7:45am - 7:00pm (ESPN+), 4:00 - 7:00pm (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday 8:00am - 6:00pm (ESPN+), 1:00 - 3:00pm (Golf Channel), 3:00 - 6:00pm (CBS)
  • Sunday 8:00am - 6:00pm (ESPN+), 1:00 - 3:00pm (Golf Channel), 3:00 - 6:00pm (CBS)
  • Complete details on PGATOUR.com​
  • All times EDT.

3M Open starts in...

Count down to 2023-07-27T11:00:00.000Z

Stay safe

The layout at TPC Twin Cities is just flat-out fun. Birdies and blow-ups await the field as they contend for this week's title. Looking closer at the design features, past contenders, and skills they used to climb the leaderboard, I believe there's a specific player out there who can take home this trophy. Start with these facts:

  • The average green size is 6,500 square feet. That's the same size a Royal Liverpool, but players who contend in Minnesota will hit well over 72% of their GIRs. The TOUR average is just 66%.
  • Distance seems to be a thing as the average driving distance of contenders is 290 yards against a tour average of 283. Past champions include Matt Wolff, Cam Champ, and Tony Finau.
  • Mid and long irons are frequently used as 45% of your approach shots will come from over 175 yards.
  • Four of the toughest five holes are par 4s and seven of them are under 450 yards in length. I'm looking strongly at overall par 4 scoring with this eclectic group of par 4s.
  • The par 5s have a birdie average over 40%. The path to 20 under par starts on these three holes.
  • All 14 fairways bend, seven work left to right and seven right to left off the tee, A great driver can move the ball both ways.
  • Last one, this is the 3rd most penal course (of 46) for penalty areas on the PGA TOUR. Let's not just avoid bogeys this week, but double bogeys as well.

As I was studying last year's betting card, I noticed Wyndham Clark was our best finish. It was the first time I predicted him to win, what a difference a year makes. In the four previous editions of the 3M, the largest average strokes gained category is approach (+7.1) by the winners. There's a ton of attention on off the tee play, but the reality is proximity to the hole is the big differentiating factor. These guys are all very good at driving the golf ball.

To find our winner, there needs to be an edge. All the contenders will take care of the par 5s. They won't miss many greens, so short game won't separate you like last week in a major. The strokes gained putting stats show a +4.3 average by the four winners, but two really spiked and two barely gained positively. Getting the ball close from the fairway is my key. Hot iron players are the ones to watch.

Most of the 156-man field has been playing back here in the states for the past two weeks in the Barbasol and Barracuda. Only 18 players traveled over from Royal Liverpool. Those that did are on a mission. Unlike past years, I believe the new FedEx Cup points system will alter the 3M. What was once a mid-tier event in the summer schedule is now vital to players keeping their card. Good players who normally are well within the top 125 are now fighting for their status.

Keith Mitchell and Austin Eckroat sit just inside the top 70 cut. A solid finish in Minnesota allows for a week off before the playoff grind. Justin Thomas, Cam Davis, Joel Dahmen, and Gary Woodland are outside the top 70. They need two great weeks to play in the FedEx St. Jude. What all seemed like semantics months ago is now coming to life. A player like Woodland needs a couple of top 10s to get in! Missing this season long cut will create a true sense of urgency.

Though most will look at the long shots who have won here in the past, I bet the name of our winner will be known. He'll be an incredible iron player and overall ball striker. TPC Twin Cities can be conquered without the flatstick going nuclear. Finau finished in first a year ago by gaining just +0.8 with his putter and +16.5 strokes T2G. The 3M has already given us plenty of great endings, but with the PGA TOUR's new playoff system, I believe the best is yet to come.

Outright winners - 3M Open

Cameron Young has come back to life. Adjusting to playing with a new caddie and returning to his previous golf ball has apparently elevated him back to elite status. The young superstar just led the field at Royal Liverpool in strokes gained T2G, off the tee, and on approach! Although he didn’t seal the deal for the second year in a row at the Open Championship, he displayed many reasons why he will win on the PGA TOUR. Quickly following last year’s runner-up finish at St. Andrews, he competed a couple weeks later in Detroit and finished runner-up again. He wants to win and this course fits Cameron’s game. His length and accuracy off the tee are a huge advantage. Follow that up with positive putting gains in recent starts and there’s no better favorite in this field. Young winning is not a question of if, rather than when (and that when is this week in Minnesota).

Lucas Glover has four wins on the PGA TOUR including the 2009 US Open. Glover has always been a straight flusher of the golf ball. He leads the field in Minnesota for strokes gained ball striking (SG:BS), proximity to the hole, opportunities gained, and strokes gained approach (SG:APP). In his last three starts, Lucas has finished 4-6-5. A notoriously bad putter, Glover has gained positively with his flatstick over his last five starts. A feat seldom witnessed throughout his 500+ start PGA TOUR career.

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That's some high quality H-2-O

Another week, another major is on our schedule. The Amundi Evian Championship takes place adjacent to beautiful Lake Léman on the border between France and Switzerland. The famous body of water is approximately 45 miles long and over 1,000 feet deep. Set against the base of the Swiss Alps, Évian-les-Bains, France sits at about 1,500 feet above sea level. This picturesque setting provides some of the most breathtaking LPGA views we see all year.

The Champions Course is a par 71 layout measuring 6,527 yards in length. Over the last decade, the average winning score has been 15 under par. The winner this week may not need to go as deep as Lake Léman nearby, but this major does see some scoring. The course has:

  • FIVE par 3s measuring 185 yards on average.
  • Four par 5s stretch out to 524 on average.
  • Nine par 4s ranging from 331 to 437 yards and averaging 390 yards in length.

The Champions Course sits on a hillside and at this elevation will lose about 2% of the scorecard length. The longer holes tend to go downhill like the 226-yard par three fourteenth while the short 331-yard seventeenth hole goes uphill. Sandwiched by a great par 3 at 16, and closing risk reward par 5 eighteenth, these final three holes have provided plenty of drama over the years.

Last summer, Europe witnessed record heat across the continent. The routine climate of Evian has returned, and we can expect milder temperatures. The forecast calls for highs in the low 80s and rain. Over 2" of precipitation is expected from Sunday to Sunday. This parkland layout will play like target practice for these world class women. That average score of 15 under will probably get passed. The scoring will be low due to the combination of soft conditions and little wind. Less than 10 mph of breeze is expected out of the west and southwest.

The wind direction is significant as the course almost entirely rests west to east. This direction will provide very few crosswind holes and make target practice even easier for the field of 132 players. The top 65 and ties will make the weekend to play for a purse of $6.5 million dollars and a first-place check of $1 million! Of those 132 who start on Thursday, seven players have odds of +2000 or less. Those seven favorites have the boards worried. Quite frankly they should be.

We are going to see some serious low scores. The winner will have four rounds in the 60s. I'll cover more of the skills needed in the outright section, but this course has always been gettable. Five of the nine par 4s are under 400 yards and four of the five par 3s are under 190 yards. That's why many don't consider this event to be a true major championship. It doesn't bother me, the status collects a great field and the scoring is always entertaining.

Eight past champions are competing along with all 15 winners from 2023. Last year, Read The Line picked the winner Brooke Henderson (+2200). Even better, all our outright selections from 2022 finished in the top 8! Fresh off Linn Grant's win a couple weeks ago, we have serious momentum for the LPGA's fourth major championship.

Evian Championship on TV:

  • Thursday - Friday 5:00 - 7:00am, 9:30 - 11:30am (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday 5:30 - 11:00am (Golf Channel)
  • Sunday 5:30 - 11:00am (Golf Channel)
  • Complete details on LPGA.com
  • All times EDT.

Evian Championship starts in...

Count down to 2023-07-27T05:30:00.000Z

Be like Brooke

Brooke Henderson has built a career on the foundation of being one of the world's best ball strikers. I selected her last year on the basis she can handle the terrain at Evian. The Champions Course is built on the side of a mountain. We are situated at the base of the Alps. Each hole presents a different unsettling lie. Whether it is uphill, downhill, or sidehill the situation is never level. This constant change from hole to hole really sets the table for needing a great set of ball striking skills like Brooke brought to the course last year.

We have five par 3s to contend with. I took a long look at par 3 scoring and calculated the GIR average for the field from 2021-22. Players were hitting those par 3 greens 70.6% of the time. They represent 28% of the holes you will play. They go uphill and downhill and vary greatly in length from 155 to 226 yards. 70%+ is a high number. This means players are hitting the greens, so scoring on these holes is vital to contending and that's why all our outrights are in the top third for par 3 scoring in the field.

Par 5s have always been the key to going low in any tournament. At Evian, players only hit the par 5 fairways 58.3% of the time. The average for hitting all thirteen fairways is 66.4%. Therefore, our contenders must be accurate and long to take care of the 5s. That's an interesting combination as it clearly tells us being a bomber just isn't good enough. Length is an advantage here, but course history and managing the par 5s have proven to be even more important.

When it comes to the par 4s it is easier to hit those fairways (69.7%) than the overall average, but hitting greens gets much more difficult. Over eighteen holes players hit 69.9% of their GIRs. On the Par 4s, that number drops to 63.2%! Playing well on these varied holes is a huge part of contending. What's even more interesting is the par 4s average 390 yards in length. That length is on the shorter side for the LPGA, and considering the elevation and wet conditions, ball strikers will separate from the field. The challenge lies in the ground. The nine par 4s represent some of the most challenging terrain on the course so be careful if you want to contend.

Henderson's approach game last year was impeccable. When you break down the iron game needed to win the Evian, there are two skills needed. One third of the approach shots are under 125 yards. These make up the three par 5s and short par 4s. One third are over 175 yards in length. The combination of wedge aptitude and long iron scoring is an elite skill set.

Though many don't see this tournament as a major, the list of past champions is impressive. Consider the elements I described already. Your last three Evian winners are Brooke, Minjee Lee, and Jin Young Ko. That's a serious who's who of the last five years on tour. I love the player characteristics the Evian Championship calls for. Hit a ton of greens, drive the ball successfully into uneven landing areas, and putt to win. Brooke may not be at her best currently, but have no fear, I know who can repeat her success.

Outright winners - Evian Championship

Atthaya Thitikul has two starts in the Evian and two top 8 finishes as a professional. She has seven top 10s in 11 starts this season. Her last two majors have been disappointing, but Thitikul is too good not to come back. She was the rookie of the year in 2022 and reached the #1 Rolex Ranking. Her strengths fit Evian as a great ball striker and putter. Eleventh on tour in GIRs hit and fifth in strokes gained total she is an amazing value play. Much like Minjee when she hit +4000, Atthaya is not a 20-1+ player. When she returns to form on a great course fit, we are going to maximize our return.

Can the phenom win two starts in a row? Linn Grant has five LET wins and a DP World Tour win. She finished eighth here last year and is playing better golf now. We saw in Ohio; she can score on the par 5s and Grant is ranked sixth on the LPGA for par 3 scoring. That's half the holes she will compete on this week. Linn is sixth on tour T2G and third in GIRs. The Evian is all about collecting scoring chances. Her ball striking ability makes her a threat to win every time she tees it up. The last edge, as if she needs another, comes on the greens. Grant is a good putter and will convert plenty of those scoring chances.

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RTL at the turn

With two weeks left in the regular FedEx Cup season and August around the corner, let's take a look at RTL's record. Since the start of 2023, Read The Line has written or posted to social media 726 bets yielding a 15% net return. We have nine outright wins and six in the last twelve weeks. With plenty of LPGA and PGA TOUR content left to create, I believe we will be able to surpass all of last year's benchmarks. Thank you for always reading the line!


5 weeks left of the FedEx Cup

... and two majors remain for the LPGA.

Plenty of time to grab some more meaningful wins!

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