Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What to Look For: The Open 2017

Before I go on to The Open, I wanted to discuss Bryson DeChambeau's victory at the John Deere Classic.

DeChambeau came in to the Tour with some controversy with his swing philosophies and the Single Length irons concept.  There has been a lot of attacking the Single Length iron concept, but here's Bryson's current rankings of key performance metrics:

(out of 202 golfers)

Driving Effectiveness: 21st

Green Zone (75-125 yds): 200th
Yellow Zone (125-175 yds): 61st
Red Zone (175-225 yds): 31st

Short Game (<30 b="" yards="">82nd

Putts Gained: 173rd

As we can see, ballstriking has not been the major issue for Bryson.  He has struggled from the Green Zone (75-125 yds), but that is a fairly volatile metric where players often perform well there one season and struggle from there the next season.  In fact, Bryson ranked 44th from the Green Zone in 2016.

Having hit the Sterling Single Length irons and Cobra One Length irons I have been amazed how easy it is to hit the long irons straight.  I generally don't have an issue hitting long irons given how much of my practice is focused on the long irons, but the ability to hit them straight has been impressive.

In the end, when it comes to distance with irons it's about proper gapping, the landing angle of the ball and the spin rate.  The claim 'they've tried this before and it didn't work' neglects the changes in technology and the more advanced engineering concepts that exist today.  Engineers like Tom Wishon, David Edel and the people from Cobra have been able find ways to allow their irons to properly yardage gap, get the proper amount of spin and compatible landing angles.

Single length irons won't be for everybody but neither will variable length irons.  It's just something to keep an open mind about when looking for a set of irons.




***

Royal Birkdale was built in 1889 and received 'Royal' status in 1951.  The Clubhouse to Birkdale is unusual in the sense it looks like it was from 1970's architectures with it's clean lines and boxy design, but it was actually built in 1935 which makes me think they were 35 years ahead of time on a very fad-ish design concept.

The course is more appealing for TV than your typical Open course although you probably won't see the great views like you will see at Royal St. George or Royal Liverpool.  But the course is well received because the tee shots are more 'fair' and it is supposed to be in great condition.

Looking at the past two championships at Birkdale the common theme of the top finishers tends to be Red Zone (175-225 yds) play, short game performance and putting.  Typically, I don't focus on good putters when making picks for an event because usually putting is too unpredictable on almost all of the courses on Tour.

Years ago, I asked Aimpoint creater (www.aimpointgolf.com), Mark Sweeney, about what the most difficult courses where to read the greens.  I thought he would reply with Augusta National, but instead he said that Augusta's greens are not all that difficult to read.  Instead, he mentioned the various courses in the Open cycle because they often feature odd locations for anchor points (lowest point of the green) and that makes the reads very difficult to accurately see.

Therefore, given this information and Royal Birkdale's past history of favoring good putters, I will consider putting more here in these picks:

3JACK'S FAVORITES

Rickie Fowler +1,600
Jon Rahm +1,600
Louis Oosthuizen +4,500
Thomas Pieters +5,000
Marc Leishman +5,000
Justin Thomas +5,000


3JACK'S DARK HORSE PICKS

Ian Poulter +6,600
Daniel Berger +8,000
Matthew Fitzpatrick +8,000
Bernd Wiesberger +10,000
Kevin Na +25,000



3JACK

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What To Look For: The John Deere Classic

The Tour comes to Illinois for the 46th John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run. Ed McMahon served as the original host of the event from 1975 to 1979.

 

TPC Deere Run was designed by former Tour player, DA Weibring. It was built in 2000 and plays to 7,258 yards long with a 144 slope and a 75.8 rating. However, the course does not play anywhere close to that difficult for the John Deere Classic. The ball tends to roll out pretty good making the course play shorter and it has very receptive greens and flat putting surfaces which mean a lot of approach shots are struck close and a higher percentage of putts are being made.

Generally the course is liked by the Tour players because it’s not a completely grueling dogfight and it’s rather fun to play. It plays fairly tough off the tee because some of the landing areas are pretty small. This places an emphasis on driving the ball, but once you get out to the approach, most shots are gained/lost from 135-170 yards.

The field here is unpredictable from year-to-year because the British Open is the following week and many of the Canadian players want to prepare for the Canadian Open which is the following week after the British Open. It often depends on how the top stars feel about playing the British Open and if they are lukewarm on the Open, they may be more willing to play the John Deere.

Anyway, expect low scores and lots of birdies. Generally favors mid-length drivers of the ball and makes life difficult on the longer hitters.

The final official critical hole is the par-5, 17th hole. But the 18th almost made the list of critical holes. That means the final 2 holes can provide for some real excitement even if it is a low scoring event.


PROJECTED WINNING SCORE: -21


3JACK’S FAVORITES

Brian Harman +1,600
Charley Hoffman +1,800
Kyle Stanley +2,200
Steve Stricker +2,200
 Ben Martin +4,000
Bryson DeChambeau +4,000


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Chez Reavie +4,500
Ryan Palmer +6,600
Rory Sabbatini +17,500
Rick Lamb +30,000







 3JACK

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

What To Look For: The Greenbrier Classic

The Tour comes back to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia after playing the Quicken Loans at TPC Potomac.



I didn't do a What To Look For last week due to the Tour having not played TPC Potomac in a while and the course went thru renovations and re-design in the process.  What's interesting is that the course, back when it was known as TPC Avenel, was once won by one of the premier ballstrikers at the time in Grant Waite.

Kyle Stanley is now one of the best ballstrikers on Tour and the course was very much about driving off the tee with a bias towards hitting fairways rather than distance.  Stanley is one of the best drivers on Tour (currently 5th in Driving Effectiveness) and favors more accuracy (currently 7th in Adjusted Hit Fairway Percentage) than distance off the tee.


***

The Greenbrier Classic will be played at The Old White TPC.  The Greenbrier Classic replaced the old Buick Open which was being held in Michigan and had the second most raucous crowds next to TPC Scottsdale.

The Old White TPC was built in 1914 by Charles Blair MacDonald.  It went thru some re-designs and then had some slight re-designs last year after the flood which destroyed the course and killed 20 people.


The course has been well received by Tour players since the Tour started coming here.  In fact, Bubba Watson took up a summer residence here and it is frequently visited by Lee Trevino.  The renovations have kept much of the course the same except they had to re-do each of the 18 greens and supposedly they move the greenside bunkers a little closer to the greens.

I know in the south Bermuda greens are supposedly good for roughly 14 years.  When they get renovated with new bermuda grass, I find it usually takes about 1 year for the greens to settle in.  So with the bunkers being a little closer to the greens and the greens possibly being firmer (although they have bent grass greens), greenside bunker player could play a factor.

In the past, long approach shots and 3-wood play was quite important here.

Projected Winning Score: - 15


3JACK'S FAVORITES

Kevin Kisner +1,400
David Lingmerth +2,500
Webb Simpson +2,800
Graham DeLaet +5,500


3JACK'S DARK HORSE PICKS

Nick Watney +6,600
Ollie Schniederjans +6,600
Luke List +9,000
Scott Stallings +12,500
Hudson Swafford +12,500
Harold Varner III +12,500