Kirk and RTL🗞 wins at Honda!
We secured our first outright win of the year on Sunday. The drama kept our attention until the end, but Chris Kirk won on the first sudden death playoff hole over Eric Cole with a laser like lob wedge from 100 yards to two feet! Most overlooked the opportunity of taking a deep dive into the Honda based upon strength of field. Instead, I traveled to the tournament and found a winner in the most wide open field of contenders to date.
With the designated events limiting the winner's odds each week, an opportunity like the Honda is even better for us. We were also very close on the LPGA having two outright predictions finish in the Top 4!
I received many messages of RTL Members who grabbed odds pre-tournament as high as +3500 on Kirk. Congrats on taking advantage of a very volatile week on the odds board. Thank you for all the support, I hope everyone enjoyed Sunday night with a victory celebration!
The King and I
As you can clearly see, the King and I have history. For five years, I worked across the lake from Bay Hill at Isleworth Country Club. I have watched, and played Bay Hill many times over the years. There's a reason why Palmer's paradise in Orlando is one of the most predictive courses on the PGA TOUR. Although I'm not going to breakdown every detail over a couple thousand words, just know this... I've taken every ounce of that experience and put it into this week's narrative in order to win again.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational is one of the most storied tournaments on the modern PGA TOUR. To win the King's red cardigan is a badge of honor almost as big as the crest on the winner's sweater. For the third week in a row, I will be covering the PGA TOUR on-site. A return to Orlando is a welcome opportunity. The town, Mr. Palmer, and this facility have played a significant role in the development of my professional career.
The Champion (Front 9) and Challenger (Back 9) come together to create one of the toughest tests on the Tour. Listed at 7,466 yards and a Par of 72, not many courses with four Par 5's curtail scoring as much as this course. Over the last five years, the average winner's score is just 10 under par. Over the last ten, that average jumps to 12 under par.
- We have 120 players in the field for this Invitational.
- There are twenty-three of the Top 25 ranked players in the world competing (45 of the Top 50).
The 36-hole cut will be for the Top 65 and ties. Those men will get to the weekend and compete for the $20 million dollar purse and $3.6 million dollar first place prize. Over the last decade, the average winner's odds at the API are +6200 (62-1) and this was before it was "designated." Six times in that range, the winner's odds were under +3300 (33-1). The highlight being Tiger Woods in 2013 winning with +300 odds. I don't miss those days going against him! Rahm has a little way to go before he gets GOAT odds.
The weather will be interesting at Bay Hill. I'm not a big believer in playing specific waves, but this week would be a good time to convince me. Bay Hill is nestled in Orlando amongst a large set of lakes. When the wind blows, those rock hard greens become impossible targets to hit. The Par 3's alone have the longest average yardage of any non-major course. Friday looks reminiscent of that Saturday in 2020 when only one player in the field broke par (Max Homa). Temperatures are going to be warm reaching the 90's in the first three rounds. I doubt it will rain with less than a 25% chance over the weekend.
Wind is the key factor. Starting on Friday, the breeze is going to blow these guys all over the course. Take into account Orlando hasn't received any rain in February and you better bring your short game. The historic cutline over the last five years has averaged three over par. If the wind really blows on Friday over 20mph as they have predicted, it will be higher. Bay Hill is an extreme test of length and trajectory. Low ball hitters need not apply in most years, but this one may be different.
Nine holes have water that comes into play with the closing three holes being the toughest tests. As we have seen in the designated events, the cream is rising to the top. Can anyone stop Jon Rahm or the defending champion Scottie Scheffler? I think so, and watching the key players prepare on-site will be our edge to winning two weeks in a row!
API on TV:
The API starts in...
I just can't wait to be King
The blueprint to beating the best players in the world at Bay Hill is proven by the past champions. Take eight time winner Tiger Woods for example. Scoring at API comes down to great long iron play, a solid short game and consistent Bermudagrass putting. Mr. Palmer always wanted to host a US Open at his course. Since the event is played in June, that wasn't going to happen in Florida. Instead, Arnie decided to make changes to Bay Hill and created his own major style championship in March.
With the weather predicted for this week, these keys are going to really differentiate the field.
- Over 30% of the approach shots at Bay Hill are struck from over 200 yards. That's about seven percent above the PGA TOUR weekly average. It takes a special player to not only hit those shots, but stop them. Look at a couple of the recent winners; Rory, Bryson and Scottie. These guys hit the ball extremely high off the turf. That's a huge advantage this week and my second most needed skill to contend.
- The first skill is putting. Over the last decade, the tournament winners have gained 6.3 strokes against the field with their flatstick. The greens at Bay Hill are very subtle. Players make less putts over ten feet then the Tour average. Scottie won last year with amazing lag putting and Tiger won just about every year by making a birdie putt on the final hole. If you cannot gain against the field on Bermudagrass, Bay Hill is not the week for you.
- How do API Champions like Fransisco Molinari and Tyrell Hatton win at API? With their wedges (and putters). Considering the wind forecast for this week, players will definitely need their short game. With all of the long approaches, the field historically hits about 60% of their GIR's. That's well below PGA TOUR average and this week a majority of the field will be lucky to hit over 50% of them.
- Last year, I commented that sand play would be critical to your success. Both Viktor Hovland and Gary Woodland didn't Read The Line and suffered accordingly giving the tourney to Scheffler. There are fifty-five greenside bunkers. This isn't always about getting up and down. Sometimes Par 5 scoring happens from a bunker after you reach greenside in two shots. Mr. Palmer wants a true champion to win his tournament, to do that you must have your bunker game in good order.
- Much is made of the difficult Par 3's and scoring on the Par 5's. Both statements hold true, but the winners at Bay Hill lead the field in Par 4 scoring. One of the most predictive analytics on Tour, handling these ten two shot holes takes a very well-rounded skill set. My research starts with Par 4 scoring on venues like Bay Hill.
- Driving accuracy is favored at Bay Hill and driving distance is less than the PGA TOUR average. Does this mean power is mitigated in Orlando? Definitely not. Players who can play out of the rough, launch long irons and reach Par 5's contend. Just because the tee ball takes a specific strategy on the Champ and the Challenger Course does not mean power is not a big advantage this week.
I can say from personal playing experience at Bay Hill, these skills will truly separate the field. When they do, these four are my predictions to win on Sunday and wear the red cardigan.
Outright winners - The Arnold Palmer Invitational
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Who'll stop the rain
The Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore is our host for "Asia's Major" or the HSBC Women's World Championship. We have another amazing field of players for this 72-hole, no cut four day competition.
- Nine of the Top 10 in the Rolex Women's Rankings are here and seventeen of the Top 20.
- They will compete for $1.8 million dollars and a first place check of $270,000.
The ladies will be competing on the Tanjong Course. The same host venue since 2017 is a Par 72 measuring 6,774 yards. That's a long first impression, especially when you consider we're playing in southeast Asia. Three of the last thirteen past champions are in the field including last year's winner Jin Young Ko. The former #1 ranked player in the world closed this past Sunday with 64 in Thailand. Maybe she is finally helathy as she finished T6 and looks prepared to defend her title.
This week will be a challenge for the tournament organizers and LPGA officials. Nearly 4" of rain are predicted for the region for Thursday through Sunday. Director of Agronomy Andrew Johnston has said coming into the event, "This is the wettest season in more than 100 years with daily rain since October. This has made it challenging to navigate conditions combined with daily play to become tournament ready." Temperatures are forecasted for the low 80's during the day and winds somewhat manageable in the low teens.
The Sentosa Golf Club is located on the Sentosa Island off the southern coast of Singapore. With these heavy rains predicted, I imagine the wind will pickup along the coast. 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 for this week. Who knows if they will make through 72 holes? We will need to find solid ball strikers who tend to start quickly.
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. If the storms show up as predicted, our winner will be less.
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. After all, last week we were close finishing with two of outrights in 3rd and 4th place.
One last thing for the LPGA this week, watch the countdown timer, they start on Wednesday night!
HSBC on TV:
The HSBC starts in...
It will be a long week
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 conditions 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 take advantage of a hitting the ball close to the target. 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 two events of the season have been played on Bermuda 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 3's require a long iron approach shot. All four of these holes rank in the Top 9 hardest relative to par on the course. i'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 dons't match the conditions will be very entertaining. It will also give us great insight into who can really strike the 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 sharpshooters.
Outright winners - HSBC Women's World Championship
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Win #1 with Chris Kirk at the Honda!
Let's grab another win and go back to back at the API.
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