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Can anybody stop Jason Day this week? It's been a fascinating 2015 with Rory McIlroy then Jordan Spieth and now Jason Day being the most feared golfer on the planet. All three now enter TPC Boston with the chance of leaving Massachusetts as Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) World Number 1. Day knows what he has to do: should he win and McIlroy (current World Number 1) not finish in outright second and Spieth not in at least a two-way tied for second, Australia will hail their third world No.1. Spieth also has a more than realistic chance of re-capturing top spot. Day is a 13/2 shot, with McIlroy and Spieth available at 8/1 and 17/2 respectively as we publish.
As most of you will be aware, the Deutsche Bank Championship runs from this Friday to Monday 7th September to mark Labor Day festivities in the US. The Deutsche also marks the final tournament where US and International players can both automatically qualify and/or impress Jay Haas/Nick Price enough to get a Captain's Pick. This sub-plot will be fascinating to watch with U.S. notables Haas, Holmes, Horschel, Snedeker, Simpson, Hoffman, Na, Streb, Koepka and Moore all a win away from qualification. On the International side, qualification is based upon OWGR with Danny Lee and Steven Bowditch locked in a titanic struggle for the final qualifying spot. John Senden, Matt Jones and Sang-moon Bae are also right in the frame if they can muster a career-defining performance in Massachusetts.
With all of these World Number 1 and President's Cup qualification issues at hand, it's worth noting that the PGA Tour FedEx Cup Playoffs also continue this week! The Deutsche is an ever-present in the Playoffs with host course TPC Boston playing as a short 7,242 yard Par 71 which rewards aggressive play, so expect some low scoring. Theoretically the Top 100 in the FEC should be in the field this week, but Sergio Garcia (preferring Spain to Massachusetts) doesn't start making for a field of 99. From Boston this week the Top 70 in the standings move to Conway Farms in a fortnight, from where the Top 30 qualify for the Tour Championship at East Lake starting on the 24th September.
Over on the European Tour we visit the Skolkovo Golf Club outside of Moscow for the M2M Russian Open. Paul Williams has cast is eye over the tournament and you can read his thoughts on that event here.
2015 Punters League: 8 selections for Thomas Pieters (80/1) and 5 for Jason Day (who was 10/1) landed some decent returns for many in last week's Punters League. Winner Denis O'Sullivan also had Robert Dinwiddie in his team earning a £/€25 free bet into the bargain. Sean Colgan is still in control of the overall Punters League season lead after Week 34. With a weekly £/€25 free bet prize, new entrants are always welcome - so enter your 6 players across the Deutsche and Russian Open via our 2,700-strong facebook group now!
With only 99 players at TPC Boston, plus significant sub-plots for both the World Number 1 and President's Cup selection on top of the Playoffs saga, here are some interesting angles that have shaped my final selections:
Course Guide: Of the 4 Playoff venues, TPC Boston is by far the easiest. Fact is this newly extended 7,243 yard Par 71 - which is an original Arnold Palmer design - is one of the easiest PGA Tour tournament venues on the calendar. Winning totals of -15 (Kirk 2014), -22 (Stenson 2013), -20 (McIlroy 2012), -15 (Simpson 2011), -22 (Hoffman), -19 (Stricker), -22 (Singh) and -16 (Mickelson) across the past 8 renewals show that the pure Bentgrass greens yield plenty of birdies. Relatively soft conditions and less wind than 2014 should again make for lower scoring this time around.
TPC Boston, Norton, Massachusetts: Designer: Arnold Palmer 2001, with Hanse re-design 2006; Course Type: Up-State, Resort; Par: 71; Length: 7,012 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.
Course Overview: TPC Boston is an Arnold Palmer original that's set up for eagle and birdie-making. 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 21 eagles and 252 birdies last term. Fact is though that those who season-average 290 yards from the tee have a distinct advantage here, especially with softer conditions forecast for the opening couple of days play. Ball-strikers tend to come to the fore here in softer years as Bentgrass greens tend to be very receptive. The track's only real defence is wind which, interestingly, will only be significant on Friday.
Winners: 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's event that are well worth a look. Naturally they'll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: 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 tailor-made model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Key players included in the Top 5 of the Predictor include Jason Day (Predictor number 1), Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar. Lower down in the Top 25 Justin Thomas Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker, Jason Bohn, Brendon Steele and Will Wilcox are all available at 80/1 or above.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the Travelers / BMW International Open and includes both PGA Tour and European Tour. 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: 2014: Kirk 150/1; 2013: Stenson 28/1; 2012: McIlroy 12/1; 2011: Simpson 35/1; 2010: Hoffman 125/1; 2009: Stricker 22/1. For a summary of winners' odds on the PGA Tour for the past 5 years based on the 2015 schedule click here.
Weather Forecast: The latest PGA Tour weather forecast for Norton is here. 10/15 mph wind will be a pretty even fixture across both AM and PM waves on Friday. From Saturday onwards expect less wind and lovely playing conditions. Monday sees temperatures up to 31 degrees Celsius so the course will slowly but surely firm up over the course of the tournament.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the last 5 winners here since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
Tournament Skill Averages:
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 4 Deutsche winners:
So let's take a view from players as to how TPC Boston sets up and why the scoring was so low in 2011:
Henrik Stenson: "The one thing that's always surprised me, I think, is that the scoring is always lower than what you think it should be. It's not like it's 325 yard par-4s with big, open greens. It's fairly generous off the tee, I would say, but it can still play long."
Geoff Ogilvy: "It's got a bit of space off the tee, I guess, which has traditionally been nice to me. It suits a guy that can keep the ball in the air a long time. Not that I hit it long, but I hit it quite high, and that suits around here, I think. I've always liked the greens. Bentgrass greens is what you putt on in Melbourne when you grow up."
Rory McIlroy: "Yeah, I think it's a good course for the long hitters. I think in the past long hitters have done pretty well here. I think you've got to take advantage of the par‑5s around here. The scoring is usually pretty good. Make your scores there, and it's a course where, I don't know, maybe 15‑ to 18‑under is a good total to try and win."
TPC Boston holds no fears for the best golfers on the planet, but the Arnold Palmer design seems to have characteristics that do favour certain types. The course doesn't overly punish the wayward from the tee and with 2 of the par 5s and the 298 yard par-4 4th all very much reachable, scoring in the 60's across all 4 rounds is essential if a player has serious contending ambitions. A fast start never hurts in these resort scoring tests either. Stenson (2nd), McIlroy (1st) and Hoffman (3rd) were right on the leading pace after 36 holes and Stricker led after 18 holes in 2009. Only Webb Simpson (2011) and Chris Kirk (2014) of the recent winners have come from off the pace - both in tournaments that featured strong winds.
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 and 17th going into the tournament. Charley Hoffman (125/1) and last year's winner 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), carried form momentum into the Deutsche guaranteeing themselves a Top 5 spot in East Lake.
So my strategy this week is to go with 2 elite players, both of whom find themselves outside of the World Number 1 'love-in'. Both though carry great current result and skill stats and still need to go well at TPC Boston to guarantee a Top-5 FEC spot in East Lake. From there I've added 66/1 and 80/1 selections, who have the game-shape and experience to win a FEC Playoff event. My selections are as follows:
In my view, Swede Henrik Stenson can easily do a Billy Horschel and follow-up a FedEx Cup Playoff runners-up spot with immediate victory the following week. Since 2012, Rory McIlroy, Henrik himself and Billy Horschel have entered the Playoffs relatively fresh and hungry and gone onto have stellar multi-win campaigns which, in Stenson's and Horschel's case, ultimately ended up in overall Playoff triumph. Lightly raced in 2015 and with no World Number 1 / President's Cup issues to de-focus him, Henrik played some sweet golf last week in Plainfield on Bent/Poa Annua greens where those with a west-coast leaning have a distinct advantage. So with a Top-5 FEC spot still far from sown-up and a return to TPC Boston where he calmly shot a tournament record equalling winner's total of -22/262 24 months ago, I see no reason why not to side with him this week. RESULT: 2nd
Justin Rose sits behind only Jason Day and Justin Spieth in this week's Predictor Model and at his seemingly standard 20/1 price point, for me, he is an attractive proposition this week. 2nd at Augusta, 6th at St Andrews and 4th at Whistling Straits across the 2015 Majors highlights a player that is playing world-class golf. Unfortunately though he came across Jordan Spieth and Jason Day at Augusta and Whistling Straits who are just naturally better putters. However there maybe a glimmer of hope that Day and Spieth, who are partnered together across Rounds 1 and 2, could focus more on the World Number 1 scenario than the tournament itself and if that's the case both Stenson and Rose will be primed to take advantage. A shoddy and I quote 'lethargic' opening round 77 took Rose out of the Plainfield equation last Thursday, but then follow-up rounds of 65-63 that included 14 birdies and a single double bogey truly highlighted what's under Justin's bonnet at the moment. If he keeps closer order this week then I can see him going close on a receptive course that will suit his sweet ball-striking. RESULT: MC
Paul Casey has had a cracking 2015 campaign but ultimately a second PGA Tour title has just evaded his grasp. It was a brave decision to focus solely on the United States in 2015, but that decision has reaped huge rewards with Casey jumping from 75th to 27th in the OWGR. Re-establishing himself in the World's Top 50 is a huge deal but Casey ultimately wants more this campaign and the Bentgrass greens of TPC Boston offer up a huge chance for him to achieve his goals.
Asked last week how close he feels he is to winning on Tour, Casey replied "You never know, with fields as strong as this and as golf courses as difficult as this. You just have to put yourself in position. Fortunately I'm playing some good golf and I feel like I can put myself in position. Last week, I felt that the opportunity was there. Davis played a blinder, it was magnificent golf and I struggled through the middle of the final round last week and just ran out of holes really, coming down the stretch. But this is a good time. If you're going to have a win, now is the time. I want to get to Atlanta. I want a chance to win the FedExCup. I had the chance in 2010 and would dearly love that again."
2 Play-off defeats in 2015 at Riviera and TPC River Highlands (both primarily Bentgrass surfaces) were close calls this season and 6th at Augusta and a Quarter Final defeat to tournament winner Rory McIlroy in the World Matchplay at Harding Park (Bentgrass) gives faith that Paul can still mix it in the biggest tournaments. TPC Boston is a perfect match for his top-level ball-striking. RESULT: WD
Russell Henley reminds me of Chris Kirk from 12 months ago. Primarily a fantastic putter, Henley has a touch of class about him and the Carolinian has undoubtedly become a more all-round player throughout the 2015 campaign. Plainfield was never going to suit a player who ranks 132nd in Greens in Regulation from Other than the Fairway and his frustration undoubtedly showed. However the 26 year-old showed progress in the fact that he made the weekend and pocketed a further $17,000. Prior to Plainfield, 12th at Whistling Straits, 17th at Firestone, 20th at St Andrews and 5th at Old White TPC has promoted Henley back into World's Top 50 and you get the feeling that he'll surface on a leaderboard either at TPC Boston or, less likely, Conway Farms. The President's Cup won't be a target for Henley (which is a positive) and he knows that anything close to his 2nd place here 12 months ago will cement a place at East Lake for the 2nd year running. That's a huge carrot and I like Henley even more as he sits in my rolling 10 week stats for both Greens in Regulation (4th) and Putting Average (8th). RESULT: MC
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