So Patrick Reed earned an automatic spot in Davis Love III's team at a gruelling Bethpage Black last week - an excellent performance from a now 5-time PGA Tour winner. Naturally this Ryder Cup sub-plot will now continue through both the Deutsche and the BMW Championship with 3 Captain's Selections up for grabs after Crooked Stick in 2 weeks time. Fowler, Watson and Kuchar will be hard to shift, but a successful FedEx Playoff campaign, the likes of which we saw from Billy Horschel in 2014, could well change things.
From a FedEx Cup perspective, Patrick Reed now leads from Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth. Remember that the top 5 going into the Tour Championship hold their destiny in their own hands. Emiliano Grillo guaranteed a spot at East Lake last week, as did Sean O'Hair; others though find themselves in different circumstances with Jim Furyk down in 84th position - any hopes he has of a Captain's Pick need to start this week. 99 players - Danny Willett plays in Switzerland rather than Massachusetts - will become 70 players after this week. As most of you will be aware, the Deutsche runs from this Friday to Monday 5th September to mark Labor Day festivities in the US.
Over on the European Tour, Paul Williams tackles the Omega European Masters - you can read his thoughts on that event here.
Course Guide: Players will breathe a sigh of relief as they move from Long Island to Cape Cod country - TPC Boston is no Bethpage Black. Fact is though that the freshly extended 7,297 yard (up 81 yards from 2014 and 55 yards from 2015) par 71 - which is an original Arnold Palmer design - yields birdies, but only for those who are aggressive and on their game. Winning totals of -15 (Fowler 2015), -15 (Kirk 2014), -22 (Stenson 2013), -20 (McIlroy 2012), -15 (Simpson 2011), -22 (Hoffman), -19 (Stricker), -22 (Singh) and -16 (Mickelson) across the past 9 renewals show that the pure Bentgrass greens can yield plenty of birdies. Scoring tends to be dictated by the firmness of the greens, so with a relatively dry August and another lengthening of course yardage, we should expect around the same level of scoring as we have seen in the past 2 years.
TPC Boston, Norton, Massachusetts: Designer: Arnold Palmer 2001, with Hanse re-design 2006; Course Type: Up-State, Resort; Par: 71; Length: 7,297 yards; Water Hazards: 4; Fairways: Bentgrass; Rough: Kentucky Bluegrass Fescue 4"; Greens: 5,500 sq.ft average featuring Bentgrass; Stimpmeter: 11.5ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 70.65 (-0.35), Difficulty Rank 31 of 49 courses. 2013: 69.21 (-1.79), Difficulty Rank 39 of 43 courses. 2014: 70.47 (-0.53), Rank 34 of 48 courses. 2015: 70.96 (-0.04), Rank 19 of 52 courses.
Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for TPC Boston and how they compare to recent courses that we've seen on Tour:
Course Overview: TPC Boston is an Arnold Palmer original that's set up for eagle and birdie-making on key holes. 2 of the 3 par-5s on the scorecard play under 550 yards so are reachable for all bar the shortest of hitters. No surprise then that these holes, namely the 2nd and the 18th, yielded 18 eagles and 235 birdies last term. TPC Boston though will play slightly harder in 2016 as the driveable par-4 4th, which always ranked in the top 2 easiest holes, has been lengthened from 298 yards to 353 yards. Risk and reward on scoring holes is the nature of this course and those who average 290+ yards from the tee have a distinct advantage here. Mix of winners in the recent past include either short-game specialists or ball-strikers, with softer course conditions always linking to the -20 level scoring years. That low level of scoring though is unlikely to happen this term as a dry July and August, in tandem with strong breezes across the tournament, should see scoring closer to the -15/269 levels we have witnessed recently.
A number of key statistics jump from the page when you look at TPC Boston 12 months ago. Remember the course was receptive on Thursday but dried throughout the tournament which, allied to significant breeze across the 4 days, impacted on scoring. Birdie Average fell from 4.09 in 2013 to 3.48. 3-Putt Avoidance also slumped as green speeds increased. Birdie or Better conversion was at a 6-year low and Going for the Green Birdie or Better conversion was the 4th lowest across the whole of 2015. Yes, the course is scoreable, but it's certainly no drag-strip. Indeed the set of par-5s played as the 6th toughest on Tour and although the par-4s were very scoreable in comparison, the lengthening of the 4th will see that hole play significantly harder in 2016.
Winners: 2015: Rickie Fowler (-15); 2014: Chris Kirk (-15); 2013: Henrik Stenson (-22); 2012: Rory McIlroy (-20); 2011: Webb Simpson (-15); 2010: Charley Hoffman (-22).
Tournament Stats: We've published some key player statistics for this week which are well worth a look. Naturally they'll help to shape a view on players who could go well: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes.
Published Predictor Model: Our published Deutsche predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 5 of the predictor are Jordan Spieth (Predictor Number 1), Jason Day, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and Matt Kuchar.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10 tournament window that stretches back to the Quicken Loans National / BMW International Open and includes both PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 3 main Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
Winners & Prices: 2015: Fowler 40/1; 2014: Kirk 150/1; 2013: Stenson 28/1; 2012: McIlroy 12/1; 2011: Simpson 35/1; 2010: Hoffman 125/1; 2009: Stricker 22/1. Average: 59/1. For a summary of winners' odds on the PGA Tour for the past 5 years based on the 2016 schedule click here.
Weather Forecast: The latest PGA Tour weather forecast for Norton is here. Conditions will be excellent for this year's Deutsche, although a consistent niggling 10-15 mph north-easterly wind will help to dampen scoring a little. There is the threat (50%) of a little rain on Thursday, but with only 36mm of rain across August expect fast conditions on the fairways and greens that firm up considerably in the afternoons.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the last 6 winners here since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
Tournament Skill Averages:
So let's take a view from players as to how TPC Boston played in 2015 and what specific skills it requires:
Gary Woodland (Friday): "It definitely played tougher than it played the last couple of years. That northeast wind, it's a direction that we haven't seen in a long time out here. The par-5s are playing into the wind. The greens are very fast. And there were some tricky pins, as well. I'm happy with 3-under, I'm happy with the start I'm at. The wind is supposed to be the same direction the next couple of days so hopefully it's more of the same."
Jason Day (Friday): "Good day in some difficult conditions. Might toughen up a little bit this afternoon. I think as the week goes on, it's going to get gradually hotter, greens are going to start baking out a little bit quicker. Fairways are going to start baking out, as well. Today was difficult. It was really tough to get yourself below the hole. Really difficult to try to position yourself on the greens with how the wind was. It was very tough to see or feel where the wind was coming from. There was a lot of swirling there. And overall I'm very pleased with how it went today."
Charley Hoffman (Saturday): "The wind didn't blow, one. There's still a few good pin placements out there. In the morning I wouldn't say it was soft, but receptive greens and they were as smooth as can be this morning for us. And I was able to make a good amount of putts."
Henrik Stenson (Sunday): "Best way to summarise, there is a little bit of a breeze out there and if you're not playing great it's not the easiest course. Still birdie chances if you're doing well. And if you're struggling a little bit with your game you can drop one or two. Yeah, I thought the back nine with this wind that we had today which is southerly, I think the back nine was playing a little trickier. You've got 11, 12, 14 into the wind, so they play a little tougher. So I think it was probably a tougher wind on the back nine today than earlier in the week."
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 6 winners:
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
For the record, here's the breakdown of Bentgrass PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
Team USA Ryder Cup - Captain's Pick Candidates - Current Standings: - 9) Bubba Watson; 10) J.B. Holmes; 11) Rickie Fowler; 12) Matt Kuchar; 13) Scott Piercy; 14) Bill Haas; 15) Jim Furyk; 16) Daniel Berger; 17) William McGirt; 18) Jason Dufner; 19) Kevin Chappell; 20) Ryan Moore; 21) Charley Hoffman; 22) Kevin Na; 23) Daniel Summerhays; 24) Kevin Kisner; 25) Justin Thomas; 26) Gary Woodland; 27) Billy Horschel.
The Ryder Cup will undoubtedly have an impact this week at TPC Boston with Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar, you would assume, being pretty much automatic selections for Davis Love III. That leaves a final spot up for grabs with the likes of Holmes, Piercy, Haas and Furyk the highest in the standings excluding those 'big 3'.
In terms of other factors to look out for, the Deutsche Bank since 2009 - when the current structure was put in place - has been won by players ranked 2nd, 59th, 4th, 4th, 13th, 17th and 22nd in the FedEx Cup going into the tournament. Charley Hoffman (125/1) and Chris Kirk (150/1) provided big-price winners whereas Steve Stricker (22/1), Webb Simpson (35/1), Rory McIlroy (12/1) and Henrik Stenson (28/1) all carried form momentum into the Deutsche guaranteeing themselves a top 5 spot in East Lake. Rickie Fowler (40/1) won with little immediate form but had played very well at the Quicken Loans National 4 appearances prior.
Bookmaker Offers. A number of bookmakers have extended their each-way terms again this week plus there's a couple of other offers out there:
My selections are as follows:
TPC Boston is the perfect terrain for Predictor Number 1 Jordan Spieth. This is the venue where, in 2013, the Tour rookie shot a final round -9/62 - he finished birdie, birdie, eagle - to finish 4th and announce to Fred Couples that he was more than ready for a Captain's pick into the President's Cup team. He then went on to finish runner-up at the Tour Championship and we realised we had something special on our hands. Spieth has been a little quiet of late with a crooked driver not helping, but in reality Jordan was always going to struggle across this portion of the season with visits to Oakmont, Firestone, Royal Troon, Baltusrol and Bethpage Black featuring poa annua. Boston though with its Bentgrass greens will be a blessed relief, especially as 5 of his 8 PGA Tour titles have been on pure Bentgrass putting surfaces. 10th last week on Long Island featured a very strong greens in regulation game (for the second tournament in a row), but Spieth's hallmark putting failed to fire with the poa annua. I'm not so sure that will be the case at the Deutsche.
Spieth is all too aware that his driver needs to be straightened, "But for me, right now it comes down to driving the ball. I found some fairways towards the end but I need to kind of try and figure out a ball flight I know I can play on each hole, whether it's a draw or a fade" - he went on to split 8 of 14 on Sunday. He's also very aware that the FedEx Cup Playoffs is all about timing and holding on to a top 5 spot for East Lake. Currently 5th in the standings and with the 7,500 yard, par 72 of Crooked Stick on the horizon, I wouldn't be surprised to see Jordan play very well at TPC Boston this week in a bid to guarantee his shot at the overall title at East Lake. A 296 yard driver who sits 3rd in Birdie Average, 4th in par-5 Birdie or Better Conversion, loves Bentgrass greens and who putts and scrambles for fun is the perfect combination for this week. RESULT: T21
Phil Mickelson is another who I think is well suited to TPC Boston and circumstances are ripe for a Lefty victory in these FedEx Cup Playoffs after a magnificent season. Currently 10th in the FEC standings, Mickelson won here in 2007, has only missed the cut here once in 9 appearances and was 10th here in 2011 plus 4th here in 2012. Mickelson, under the tutelage of Andrew Getson, has been fascinating to watch in 2016. At 66th in the PGA Tour Driving Distance stats, Phil has taken an average of 6 yards off of his driving to hit more fairways in a bid to hit far more greens. It's worked as Phil's Greens in Regulation performance in 2016 has been his best since 2013, when of course he won the Open Championship - his last victory on the PGA Tour. That was also the year when he shot an opening round -8/63 to lead here, after which he said, "I do like the golf course a lot. I think it's one of the best risk/reward courses that we play. And I feel like there's plenty of room off the tee to get the ball in the fairway. The fairways are generous. If I'm able to hit them, which I hit a number of fairways, I'm able to be aggressive into the greens, which is the strength of my game, my iron play. So I think that's why I like this golf course so much."
Stats-wise his 2016 performance seems perfect for a challenge this week with 25th in Going for the Green, 8th in Birdie Average, 11th in par-5 Birdie or Better Conversion and 5th in Strokes Gained Putting being a strong combination. Ultimately though it's Mickelson's trend for a strong second week performance when he plays back-to-back tournaments that I really like this week. 2nd (Pebble), 5th (Doral), 2nd (St Jude) and 2nd (Troon) have all been off the back of a quiet previous week appearance in 2016. RESULT: MC
The punt of last week for many, we know that Billy Horschel loves the FedEx Cup Playoffs and we also know that he's playing rather well right now. Whilst other players of a similar standing such as J.B. Holmes, Scott Piercy and Bill Haas enter the next 2 PlayOff tournaments with the full glare of Ryder Cup attention set firmly upon them, Horschel enters with no expectations apart from his own - plus plenty of momentum. Lightly raced across June and July with a view to performing well at the close of the season, Horschel finished 5th at Sedgefield a fortnight ago where he finally found the putter. Last week saw him finish a frustrated 13th at The Barclays - his best ever finish at that event - where he was 2nd in birdies for the week. Clearly the putter and his trademark ball-striking have finally clicked. 2nd here in 2014 - an event he should have won - Horschel stated his love for TPC Boston when it plays firm, "I love it. Sometimes I hate shootouts, because I don't think it figures out who the best player is that week. But this week you've got to really bring your game, with the greens being so firm and the rough not being too bad, but you've got to judge it, and you can't stop it on the green. I love the golf course playing like this. I know we're supposed to get some rain the next couple of days, so hopefully not too much. But it's a great golf course, especially when it's playing like this."
Horschel loves playing a number of tournaments over consecutive weeks and he also knows exactly what he needs to do right now to move forward from his 51st spot in the FEC standings. His goal, "I need to get a victory. I need a victory or I need at least a couple second-place finishes to get into the top 5 at East Lake." RESULT: MC
Daniel Berger is the sort who I think could force himself into Davis Love III's plans . It's known that Davis would love to add a young talent to the team and in Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger we have the only real candidates. Both though need to show form and fast. That's not really a thought right now for Berger who at 30th in the FEC standings still has to perform well simply to qualify for the Tour Championship. He will draw masses from 12 months ago where, as a rookie, he performed magnificently at the BMW Championship finishing 2nd to Jason Day. Daniel showed real class at Conway Farms where he played the 3rd Round with Jason Day and the 4th Round with Rory McIlroy - that's huge pressure! Ultimately though his runner-up finish guaranteed a spot at East Lake, a full set of 2016 Major appearances and the Rookie of the Year award. 2016 has seen Berger fulfil plenty of his potential. 10th at Augusta on his debut highlights the talent we are dealing with here as does 9th at The Players Championship. His debut PGA Tour win came at TPC Southwind in June where he closed the tournament like a confident multiple winner. He also led after 54 holes this month at TPC River Highlands at a tournament where the leader on Sunday is always vulnerable before he eventually succumbed to the pressure on the back nine. These things happen to inexperienced 23 year-olds and I would not be surprised to see Berger back in the mix at a course where he was 6th after 54 holes last term before finishing 12th. RESULT: T41
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