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Last week was excellent for Golf Betting System. European Tour colleague Paul Williams landed 33/1 (Bjerregaard) and 125/1 (Rai) full each-way places at the BMW International Open. On the PGA Tour we landed Bubba Watson at a rather generous 33/1 and it was nice to see Brian Harman birdie the last to bring home a full each-way payout at 50/1. I know both were popular with readers so congratulations to all who were on board!
We move onto the Quicken Loans National hosted for the second consecutive year at TPC Potomac. Despite having Tiger Woods as its figurehead, the event has struggled to attract the quality of field that both the tournament and course deserves. With the European Tour Rolex Series events in France, Ireland and Scotland dominating the professional schedule pre-Open Championship, 'Tiger's National' event, despite having Invitational status, is floundering a little. However as per every week on the PGA Tour, there's plenty to play for with Open Championship spots up for grabs for those who haven't as yet earned exemptions.
Over on the European Tour, Paul Williams previews the Open de France - you can read his thoughts on that event here.
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Course Guide: TPC Potomac hosted Tiger Woods Foundation's Quicken Loans National for the very first time 12 months ago. Located pretty much opposite its famous neighbour Congressional Country Club, it's a course with plenty of professional golf tournament history and proved to be a potent addition to the current PGA Tour schedule in 2017. The course has hosted PGA Tour, web.com and a Senior Major Championship over the past 12 years. From 1987 to 2004, plus 2006, this venue hosted the latterly named Booz Allen Classic which was a staple tournament on the PGA Tour. Winners included Lee Janzen (1995), Steve Stricker (1996), Justin Leonard (1997), Stuart Appleby (1998), Rich Beem (1999), Bob Estes (2002), Rory Sabbatini (2003), Adam Scott (2004) and Ben Curtis (2006). Following the 2006 tournament, TPC Potomac underwent a significant renovation to bring the golf course up to today's professional standards. Never a particularly easy venue, the layout was extended by circa 200 yards and now plays as a Par 70, whilst the small green complexes were converted from Poa Annua to Bentgrass. TPC Potomac certainly showed its teeth last term, ranking as the toughest non-Major on the PGA Tour in 2017.
TPC Potomac at Avenel Farms, Maryland: Designer: Ault, Clark & Sneed 1986 with Hardy & Wenzloff (2007) renovations; Course Type: Technical; Par: 70; Length: 7,107 yards; Water Hazards: 4; Fairways: Bentgrass; Rough: Fescue with Kentucky Bluegrass 3.5"; Greens: 4,265 sq.ft average featuring A1/A4 Bentgrass; Tournament Stimp: 13ft; Course Scoring Average 2013: 69.84 (-0.16), Difficulty Rank 26 of 49 courses. 2012: 72.11 (+2.11), Difficulty Rank 2 of 29 web.com. 2013: 72.63 (+2.63), Rank 1 of 27 web.com courses. 2017: 71.46 (+1.76), Difficulty Rank of 4 of 50 PGA Tour courses.
Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for TPC Potomac and how they compare to recent courses on Tour:
Course Overview: Post the 2007 renovation we hadn't seen TPC Potomac on the PGA Tour, so last year was a step into the relative unknown. At 7,107 yards in length, many players might have arrived under the false pretence that this course could be totally overpowered, but that certainly wasn't the case. It soon became evident that the Par 70, which continually sped up across the 4 days, was the tough course we anticipated. TPC Potomac has only a single reachable par-5 and with 3 of 4 par-3s measuring 190 yards and above, the short holes offer little respite either. Throw in 6 par-4s which measure over 450 yards in length and you can see why this was the venue for the 2010 Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship. Green complexes here feature A1/A4 Bentgrass, whilst at an average of only 4,265 sq.ft, they are particularly small. That's noteworthy as the metronomic greens in regulation character that Kyle Stanley is captured his 2nd PGA Tour title here by topping the GIR stats for the week. Even Kyle missed 17 greens across his 4 rounds, making it evident that if you want to win around here you very much need to have a scrambling game to make par when you inevitably miss greens.
Winning totals from 12 months ago plus from 2012 and 2013 web.com tournaments held here read -7/273, -8/272 and -7/273, so we're dealing with a tough venue this week, if conditions allow. That's hardly a surprise with a Tiger Woods-hosted tournament, with the man himself sure to have the ultimate decision on where his tournament is played. TPC Potomac ranked as tough in most key statistical criteria last year: 6th toughest for Birdie Average, 9th toughest for Greens in Regulation, 5th toughest for Sand Saves, 11th toughest for Proximity to Hole, 6th toughest for Scrambling, 8th toughest for Par Breakers, plus 10th & 3rd toughest for par-4 and par-5 Scoring Average.
A measure of what we should be looking for this week can be seen in the key numbers for Kyle Stanley in victory last year. First in Stokes Gained Off the Tee was more for accuracy rather than distance and he was 4th for Strokes Gained on Approach, driven by being 1st in the field for Greens in Regulation and 6th in the field for Proximity to Hole. A reasonable short game when missing the green was supplanted by an ok week with the flat-stick where he was 26th for Putts per GIR and only 52nd for Stokes Gained Putting.
Winners: (TPC Potomac) 2017: Kyle Stanley (-7); (Congressional) 2016: Billy Hurley III (-17); (RTJ) 2015: Troy Merritt (-18); (Congressional) 2014: Justin Rose (-4); 2013: Bill Haas (-12); 2012: Tiger Woods (-8); (Aronimink) 2011: Nick Watney (-14); 2010: Justin Rose (-10).
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. NEW! Combined Current and Course Form is now available here.
Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Rickie Fowler, Francesco Molinari, Kyle Stanley, Joel Dahmen, Byeong-Hun An, Rory Sabbatini, Kevin Streelman, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Joaquin Niemann and Marc Leishman.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the Valero Texas Open & Trophee Hassan II and includes both PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
Winners & Prices: 2017: Stanley 45/1; 2016: Hurley III 200/1; 2015: Merritt 350/1; 2014: Rose 16/1; 2013: Haas 40/1; 2012: Woods 11/2; 2011: Watney 14/1; 2010: Rose 30/1. Average: 88/1. Past 4 Renewals Average: 153/1. For a full summary of winner's odds on the PGA Tour since 2010 click here.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Bethseda, Maryland, is here. 20mm of rain since Tuesday 19th June is undoubtedly more rain than tournament organisers will have wanted. But the real key here is whether it rains (potentially 15mm) on Wednesday night into Thursday morning. If so, we should see a similar situation to 12 months ago where scoring is possible across Thursday/Friday before the course starts to firm up significantly. A slight breeze will be a factor on Thursday before it disappears permanently. Temperatures into the mid-30 degrees Celsius will ensure the course dries out as we move into the weekend.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the top 4 finishers from last year here at TPC Potomac 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 Potomac sets-up and what specific skills it requires:
Kyle Stanley (2017): “Yeah it's really good. One of the more difficult courses I think we have played this year. You have to keep the ball in-front of you, it's pretty demanding off the tee. If you get a little bit out of position it just creates problems for yourself, so being in the fairway off the tee was something I knew was going to be big this week. And fortunately I drove it pretty well this week."
David Lingmerth (2017):"Hitting fairways. That's one of the big keys out here, its a course where the rough is very penalising, really gnarly. As fast and firm as these greens are you really have to stay in the fairway to have a chance of making birdies. Obviously coming here having won on the web.com Tour, design-wise the course is the exact same. Its seems to suit my eye really well. It's a course that is visually kind of straight forward. It's easy to pick targets. It's just a great golf course. You don't necessarily have to be too aggressive here."
Michael Putnam: “If you get aggressive on this golf course it’s real easy to make bogeys. There are penalties everywhere. I was aiming towards the middle of the greens having 20 footers for birdie.”
Hudson Swafford: "You’ve got to be patient out here, you can get on a bogey train very quickly. You can’t try to overpower it. Making a par on some holes is good. It’s like a U.S. Open venue. I made a couple of bad swings and made some bad numbers. You miss it in the wrong spot and you’ve got to get it back in play fast. Those were unfortunate errors but I rebounded nicely. The greens are getting firmer and faster and the rough’s not getting any shorter."
David Lingmerth: "I was really calm all day. You've really got to golf your ball out here. The key ingredient this week was that I finally got to make some putts. I knew I wasn't putting up to my ability this year and I finally found a feeling that I like."
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 8 winners of this event:
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.
For the record, here's the breakdown of pure Bentgrass green PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
It's worth recognising that the Quicken Loans National is a strong prize to capture for plenty in the field this week. Naturally the Ryder Cup looms in the distance and Tiger Woods plus Jimmy Walker will want to be producing results. With a win Walker forces himself into the conversation and Woods will also want to make the likely Captain's Pick conversations surrounding him very easy between Jim Furyk and his fellow vice captains. Whilst Anthony Kim, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler and Tiger himself have all used this tournament to catapult themselves into the Ryder Cup / Presidents Cup, the timing of the tournament is also key for players further down the food chain as they can qualify for The Open Championship this week. The Royal & Ancient established Open Qualifying Series will see 4 players, who have not already qualified and who finish in the top 12 at TPC Potomac, secure places in The Open Championship.
This tournament has thrown up some surprise winners in the past couple of renewals. Kyle Stanley hadn't won on the PGA Tour for over 5 years before taking the title here at TPC Potomac in a play-off with Charles Howell III. If you want to select a play off opponent, CHIII would be high on any player's list, but Stanley (45/1) took his opportunity on Sunday as it all got too much for the final groups. 350/1 shot Troy Merritt was particularly left-field in 2015, whilst at least local man Billy Hurley III (200/1) had fantastic Congressional course form prior to winning his maiden title in 2016; both bagging 3-year PGA Tour exemptions into the bargain. Prior to that, Justin Rose won this tournament in both 2009 (Aronimink) and 2014 (Congressional). His 2009 win came after his inaugural PGA Tour win at Muirfield Village and a near miss the week before at TPC River Highlands. 2016 had seen him win at 16/1 after a 12th the outing before at Pinehurst Number 2 and 4th at TPC Sawgrass. 2013 saw Bill Haas victorious at Congressional after a missed cut at Merion which had followed a 4th place at Muirfield Village.
TPC Potomac has some hidden course form as we know that the course has hosted both PGA & web.com Tour events in recent times. Players in this week's field with strong results over and above the 2017 Quicken Loans National held here are detailed below:
My selections are as follows:
One player who made a big forward step at the Memorial Tournament was Byeong-Hun An. His best ever result in the United States came with a solid showing from start to finish on a course which really played to his ball-striking and tee-to-green skills. 10th for Strokes Gained Off the Tee, 34th for Strokes Gained on Approach, 48th for Scrambling and 18th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green is the mix of play which is pretty perfect for TPC Potomac and he should be arriving full of confidence. A decent early showing at Shinnecock Hills was preceded by a runner-up position at Muirfield Village where he, Bryson DeChambeau and Kyle Stanley competed in the play off. His demeanour, short game and ability to play excellent approaches on a relatively soft course impressed me and undoubtedly he has made progress in 2018. 6th at the Dubai Desert Classic, 5th at the Honda Classic, 14th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and 7th at the RBC Heritage are strong results on ball-striker friendly tracks. An also finds himself in a tight spot when it comes to the Majors and WGCs despite sitting 58th in the OWGR. Presently with no invite to the Open Championship or WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, breaking back into the top-50 must be a priority. The chance of earning an Open invite this week can only motivate, but Byeong-Hun is playing well enough to make a bigger breakthrough on the PGA Tour this week. The winner at the tree-lined Wentworth in 2015, we know he has the ability to win big tournaments on tough courses and I like his chances this week. RESULT: T41
Like never before, young players hit the PGA Tour ready to compete. 2013 saw Jordan Spieth, 2014 saw Justin Thomas and since then the likes of Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau and Aaron Wise have arrived with talent and instantly challenged the very best on the PGA Tour. The latest edition to the conveyor belt is Joaquin Niemann and yet again this 19 year-old can play. The number 1 ranked amateur from May last year till he turned professional after The Masters, Joaquin won last year's Mark H. McCormack Medal awarded at the end of the summer. He followed the likes of Danny Lee, Peter Uihlein, Patrick Cantlay, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Ollie Schniederjans, Jon Rahm and Maverick McNealy to receive the award. 2 weeks after Augusta, Niemann made his professional debut when invited to play the Valero Texas Open, where on a tough golf course he shot 67-67 across the weekend to finish an amazing 6th. A star was born. Missed cuts at Quail Hollow and Trinity Forest followed, but again weekend rounds of 65-66 delivered 8th at Colonial.
With Special Temporary Membership now a real reality, Jack Nicklaus kindly gave Joaquin an invite to the Invitational-status Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village. A packed field including Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Patrick Reed and Tiger Woods could have easily thrown the young Chilean, but instead he was paired with Cameron Davis and Sam Burns in the last group of the AM/PM wave and went on to shoot -7/65 to tie the 1st Round lead with Abraham Ancer and Hideki Matsuyama. Where Ancer disappeared down the leaderboard rather obviously Niemann shot -4/68 on Friday to be joint leader with Kyle Stanley. Undoubtedly this boy can play! Joaquin eventually finished a brilliant 6th and in doing so attained Special Temporary Membership, meaning he can play as many Tour events now as he chooses up until the FedEx Cup Playoffs. However such a driven individual must have goals and a potential invite to the Open Championship if he contends this week at TPC Potomac must be on the horizon. He spoke in Ohio in interviews of how he grew up playing short, tree-lined courses in Chile and I get the feeling that the confines of the course this week will be attractive to a player who sits atop my 10-week Greens in Regulation tracker and who was 2nd, 7th and 5th for Strokes Gained Approach across Valero, Fort Worth and Memorial. RESULT: T17
Again we see 2-time PGA Tour winner and 2017 Players Championship winner Si-Woo Kim at a backable price. The sixth highest ranked player in the field, Kim arrives in Maryland playing some very nice golf. 26th at TPC River Highlands featured bookend 66s. Kim was also 11th at The Memorial after 54 holes, going on to finish 29th. As we know with Si-Woo, he needs to show very little before seriously contending and it's noticeable that his game is converging. Memorial featured 6th for Strokes Gained Around the Green and 8th for Strokes Gained Putting, whereas last week at TPC River Highlands was driven by an exceptional 2nd for Strokes Gained Approach and 14th for Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green. 2 years ago as a Tour maiden, Kim struck the ball beautifully at TPC River Highlands, finishing 25th before travelling to the Wyndham Championship and winning his first title at Sedgefield Country Club. Kim has also got previous here at TPC Potomac: 2013 saw the then World Number 910 arrive in Maryland with form of MC-WD-MC-MC from 4 appearances. A sparkling -5/65 saw him lead on Thursday evening, going on to finish 11th. That week he finished 8th for Driving Accuracy, 1st for Total Driving, 7th for Greens in Regulation and 2nd for All-Round. 3rd at El Camaleon, 10th at Kapalua, 9th at the Dell Match Play and 2nd at Harbour Town are the highlight results of season 2017/18 and despite being Bermuda positive, a look at his web.com CV highlights Bentgrass positive results across Lakeland Country Club, Ohio (2nd 2014, 7th 2015), TPC Stonebrae (1st 2015) and Fox Den Country Club (2nd 2015). He won at a firm and fierce TPC Sawgrass at -10/278 and 2 of his 3 victories in the United States have been on Par 70s. RESULT: MC
Last time out, Andrew Putnam was in the final group with Dustin Johnson at the FedEx St Jude Classic. Rounds of 67-64-64 saw Putnam leading through 54 holes at the tough and very hot TPC Southwind Par 70. The gap he had built between himself and the rest of the field, was useful on a stressful Sunday, but Putnam held-on comfortably for his best ever pay cheque in professional golf as he finished a deserved runner-up. 2nd in my Greens in Regulation 10 week tracker and also an incumbent in the top 20 Driving Accuracy tracker is a super spot for the test this week and Andrew is the sort who is a decent all-rounder. In the top 80 for Scrambling and 54th for Strokes Gained Around the Green highlights a player who can tidy-up well when he misses a green and the 29 year old has already garnered 3 top 8 finishes in his last 8 appearances. Impressive stuff. Well rested after a deserved fortnight off, Andrew also has experience of TPC Potomac, having played the Mid-Atlantic Championship here in 2013. Back then he had only made a handful of professional appearances, but rounds of 70-70-69 placed him in the top 10 after 54 holes. He eventually finished 29th, but since then a couple of web.com wins and his recent run of PGA Tour results would suggest that he can get involved again this week in Maryland and finish off the job on Sunday. RESULT: T27
If there's one name we need to look out for this week at a tough, technical, track it's James Hahn. Wins in fast, brutal conditions at Riviera in 2015 and at Quail Hollow in 2016 came with a winning scores of -6/278 and -9/279 and that describes an American player who sure can grind. He's also the sort who wins at big prices on the basis that his triumphs to date have come off the back of very indifferent form. His maiden Riviera triumph came off form of 29-41-59-20 and his Quail victory was totally left-field with 8 Missed Cuts preceding his second win in firm, fast conditions. 200/1 and 500/1 winning prices won't surprise. So 125/1 about Hahn this week is totally acceptable, especially in such a weak field and especially as he's showing signs. 37th for Bogey Avoidance, 54th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green and 71st for Scrambling in the PGA Tour season-long are more than acceptable for the test this week, but where James has been struggling is with the putter. However across Muirfield Village, TPC Southwind and last week at TPC River Highlands there's been a significant positive step with the flat-stick and that can be seen in the results. 45th in Memphis was Hahn's first pay-cheque since Houston and a pair of Friday/Saturday 67s saw the Scottsdale, Arizona resident 22nd on Saturday night - he slipped to 36th by close of tournament - but still his best finish at The Travelers. 2nd at Waialae (2018), 6th at Muirfield Village (2017), 6th at Old White TPC (2015), 10th at Glen Abbey (2017) and 5th at TPC Boston (2016) link very well to Kyle Stanley, plus Hahn shot an opening round 67 here last term. RESULT: T60
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