Congratulations to Bryson DeChambeau backers – I know there were plenty of you – who landed a rather juicy winner as 100/1 was available with Unibet on Monday. I grabbed a full each-way spot on Adam Scott at 45/1 who managed to eagle the par-5 17th on Sunday, keeping this column ticking over quite nicely.
DeChambeau’s Northern Trust title was his 2nd title of 2018. It was a huge victory as it effectively sealed his spot in the Ryder Cup with Jim Furyk now sure to pick him. The 23 year-old also took the FedEx Cup Number 1 spot last week, in turn guaranteeing himself a top 5 position when he arrives at the Tour Championship in Atlanta. That’s vital in the context of the FedEx Cup as the top 5 going into East Lake hold their destiny in their own hands. From a FedEx Cup perspective, Bryson now leads from Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Tony Finau and Jon Rahm. Cameron Smith, guaranteed a spot at East Lake with a strong performance at Ridgewood last week, as did Billy Horschel and Aaron Wise; others though find themselves in different circumstances with Jason Dufner (100th), Branden Grace (91st), Kevin Chappell (88th), Matt Kuchar (74th) and Tyrrell Hatton (71st) all outside of the BMW Championship qualification cut. 98 players (no Rickie Fowler or Francesco Molinari) – will become 70 players after this week. As most of you will be aware, the Dell Technologies runs from this Friday to Monday 3rd September to mark Labor Day festivities in the US.
Over on the European Tour, Paul Williams previews the Made in Denmark – you can read his thoughts on that event here.
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Course Guide: TPC Boston is a slightly different test to Ridgewood. The freshly extended 7,342 yard (course was extended 81 yards for 2014, another 55 yards for 2015 and yet another 45 yards in 2017), Par 71 – which is an original Arnold Palmer design – yields birdies, but only for those who are aggressive and seriously on their game. Winning totals of -17 (Thomas 2017), -15 (McIlroy 2016), -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 11 renewals show that the pure Bentgrass greens can produce low scores. Scoring tends to be dictated by the firmness of the greens though, so with a very wet July and August and light winds forecast, we may see a slightly lower winning total than Justin Thomas’ -17/267 last year.
TPC Boston, Norton, Massachusetts: Designer: Arnold Palmer 2001, with Hanse re-design 2006, 2016; Course Type: Up-State, Resort; Par: 71; Length: 7,342 yards; Water Hazards: 4; Fairways: Princeville; Rough: Kentucky Bluegrass Fescue 4″; Greens: 5,800 sq.ft average featuring A-4 Penn 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. 2016: 70.24 (-0.76), Rank 30 of 50 courses. 2017: 70.78 (-0.22), Rank 28 of 50 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:
- TPC Boston: 250 yards from the tee: 38 yards wide; 275:36; 300:35; 325:28; 350:33.
- Ridgewood: 250 yards from the tee: 31 yards wide; 275:31; 300:30; 325:27; 350:27.
- Sedgefield: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:26; 300:25; 325:22; 350:22.
- Bellerive CC: 250 yards from the tee: 32 yards wide; 275:33; 300:31; 325:30; 350:33.
- Firestone South: 250 yards from the tee: 25 yards wide; 275:26; 300:25; 325:25; 350:24.
- Montreux G&CC : 250 yards from the tee: 37 yards wide; 275:41; 300:42; 325:40; 350:38.
- Glen Abbey: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:31; 300:29; 325:29; 350:30.
- Carnoustie: Average 28 yards.
- TPC Deere Run: 250 yards from the tee: 42 yards wide; 275:40; 300:37; 325:33; 350:30.
- Old White TPC: 250 yards from the tee: 36 yards wide; 275:34; 300:34; 325:35; 350:32.
- TPC Potomac: 250 yards from the tee: 32 yards wide; 275:30; 300:27; 325:23; 350:27.
- TPC River Highlands: 250 yards from the tee: 37 yards wide; 275:35; 300:28; 325:28; 350:27.
- Shinnecock Hills: Average 42 yards with 8th hole widest at 64 yards wide.
Course Designer Links: For research purposes other Arnold Palmer and Gil Hanse re-designs include:
- Bay Hill – Arnold Palmer Invitational
- PGA West – Palmer Private – Host Course 2008 through 2015 Career Builder Challenge
- Isleworth Golf & Country Club – 2014 Hero World Challenge
- Albany – 2015/16 Hero World Challenge
- Trump National Doral – 2014 through 2016 WGC Cadillac Championship
- Ridgewood CC – The Barclays / Northern Trust 2010, 2014 & 2018.
- Plainfield CC – The Barclays – 2011 & 2015
Course Overview: TPC Boston is an Arnold Palmer original with recent Gil Hanse modernisation 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 21 eagles and 285 birdies last term. TPC Boston though, unless ridiculously soft, is no pure resort course style test like Waialae or PGA West. The course was toughened for 2017 as the par-4 12th, under the auspices of Gil Hanse, has been lengthened to 510 yards, which follows on from 2016’s tournament change where the driveable par-4 4th was lengthened from 298 yards to 353 yards. Risk and reward on scoring holes is the nature of this course and those who average 295+ 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.
A number of key statistics jump from the page when you look at TPC Boston over the past 3 renewals, which have been played with relatively firm conditions and enough wind to keep the scoring up. Par-4s here are more than attackable, with the 11 4-shot holes at TPC Boston playing as the 19th (2017), 7th (2016) and 20th (2015) easiest on Tour. Conversely the 12 looks at the par-5s over the course of 2015-2017 played as the 13th (2017), 11th(2016) and 6th (2015) toughest on the PGA Tour. With Going for the Green Birdie or Better conversion being 10th (2017), 3rd (2016) and 4th (2015) lowest across those last 3 renewals, TPC Boston is scoreable, but not the pure drag-strip we used to see.
Winners: 2017: Justin Thomas (-17); 2016: Rory McIlroy (-15); 2015: Rickie Fowler (-15); 2014: Chris Kirk (-15); 2013: Henrik Stenson (-22); 2012: Rory McIlroy (-20); 2011: Webb Simpson (-15); 2010: Charley Hoffman (-22).
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 Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Tony Finau, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood and Gary Woodland.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the Travelers Championship / BMW International Open 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:
- Driving Accuracy: 1)Emiliano Grillo; 2) Henrik Stenson; 3) J.J. Spaun; 4) James Hahn; 5) Ryan Moore; 6) Brian Gay; 7) Russell Knox / Kyle Stanley / Louis Oosthuizen; 10) Kelly Kraft; 11) Ryan Armour / Austin Cook; 13) Ted Potter Jnr; 14) Russell Henley; 15) Aaron Wise; 16) Keegan Bradley / Zach Johnson / Kevin Streelman; 19) C.T. Pan; 20) Danny Lee.
- Greens in Regulation: 1) Louis Oosthuizen; 2) Billy Horschel; 3) Patrick Cantlay; 4) Jon Rahm; 5) Gary Woodland / Tiger Woods; 7) Tyrrell Hatton; 8) Adam Scott; 9) Scott Stallings / Henrik Stenson; 11) Paul Casey; 12) Tony Finau; 13) Russell Knox; 14) Luke List / Justin Rose / Kevin Streelman; 17) Joel Dahmen / Charley Hoffman; 19) Rory McIlroy / Justin Thomas.
- Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Adam Scott; 2) Justin Thomas; 3) Dustin Johnson; 4) Jordan Spieth; 5) Jason Day; 6) Zach Johnson; 7) Cameron Smith / Tiger Woods; 9) Kevin Na / Pat Perez; 11) Austin Cook; 12) Ted Potter Jnr; 13) Tony Finau / Brooks Koepka; 15) Brian Gay; 16) Whee Kim / Anirban Lahiri ; 18) Hideki Matsuyama; 19) Joel Dahmen; 20) Charley Hoffman / Beau Hossler.
Winners & Prices: 2017: Justin Thomas 20/1; 2016: McIlroy 14/1; 2015: Fowler 40/1; 2014: Kirk 150/1; 2013: Stenson 28/1; 2012: McIlroy 12/1; 2011: Simpson 35/1; 2010: Hoffman 125/1. Average: 53/1. Past 4 Renewals Average: 56/1.
- 2017: Friday: Sunny, breezy and cool with a high of 70. Wind NW 8-12 mph with gusts to 30 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy and cool with a high of 73. Wind NNW in the morning, changing to SSW wind in the afternoon 5-10 mph. Sunday: Occasional showers all day with a couple of brief heavy downpours. High temperature of 63. Wind ENE 6-12 mph. Monday: Sunny with a high of 80. Wind SW 10-15 mph with gusts to 25 mph.
- 2016: Friday: Partly sunny and cooler, with a high of 76. Wind ENE at 6-12 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy, with a high of 75. Wind NE at 5-10 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy and windy, with a high of 73. Wind NE 15-20, with gusts to 30 mph. Monday: Mostly cloudy and windy with a high of 71. Wind NNE 15-20 mph, with gusts to 30 mph.
- 2015: Friday: Mostly sunny, with a high of 77. Wind NE at 7-12 mph. Saturday: Sunny, with a high of 79. NNE wind at 5-10 mph. Sunday: Sunny, with a high of 84. Wind SSW at 6-12 mph. Monday: Mostly cloudy and humid, with a high of 90. SW wind at 8-15 mph.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Norton, Massachusetts, is here. I’m expecting soft conditions yet again this week in Massachusetts – a theme we’ve seen across recent weeks. 234mm of rain across July and August is more than double the norm for this part of the east coast of the United States and with a 60% chance of rain on both Thursday (prior to the start) and tournament Monday, their should be a level of cut in the turf. Wind looks like it will be down on 2017. Friday could see medium gusts up to 20mph, with the strength of the wind subsiding over the course of the tournament. Temperatures will be a very pleasant peaking at 29 degrees Celsius on Monday.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the last 8 winners here since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
- 2017, Justin Thomas (-17). 308 yards (3rd), 58.9 fairways (58th), 70.8% greens in regulation (13th), 32″7″ proximity to hole (5th), 95.2 % scrambling (1st), 1.69 putts per GIR (12th).
- 2016, Rory McIlroy (-15). 313 yards (1st), 64.3 fairways (41st), 73.6% greens in regulation (18th), 34″5″ proximity to hole (34th), 63.2 % scrambling (41st), 1.60 putts per GIR (1st).
- 2015, Rickie Fowler (-15). 299 yards (30th), 66.1% fairways (26th), 73.6% greens in regulation (6th), 30″4″ proximity to hole (4th), 78.9 % scrambling (1st), 1.66 putts per GIR (5th).
- 2014, Chris Kirk (-15). 299 yards (28th), 75.0% fairways (7th), 63.9% greens in regulation (50th), 32″0″ proximity to hole (2nd), 80.8 % scrambling (4th), 1.70 putts per GIR (15th).
- 2013, Henrik Stenson (-22). 287 yards (37th), 78.6% fairways (11th), 84.7% greens in regulation (1st), 33″1″ proximity to hole (43rd), 81.8% scrambling (6th), 1.69 putts per GIR (15th).
- 2012, Rory McIlroy (-20). 310 yards (5th), 55.4% fairways (69th), 66.7% greens in regulation (35th), 33″9″ proximity to hole (25th), 70.8% scrambling (2nd), 1.52 putts per GIR (1st).
- 2011, Webb Simpson (-15). 299 yards (40th), 62.5% fairways (44th), 65.3% greens in regulation (35th), 34″9″ proximity to hole (16th), 76.0% scrambling (3rd), 1.60 putts per GIR (2nd).
- 2010, Charley Hoffman(-22). 300 yards (10th), 78.6% fairways (5th), 76.4% greens in regulation (6th), 36″6″ proximity to hole (42nd), 64.7% scrambling (22nd), 1.62 putts per GIR (4th).
Tournament Skill Averages:
- Driving Distance: 19th, Driving Accuracy: 33rd, Greens in Regulation: 21st, Proximity to Hole: 21st, Scrambling: 10th, Putting Average 7th.
So let’s take a view from players as to how TPC Boston has played in recent years and what specific skills it requires:
Justin Thomas: “Yeah, the course being softer, it’s going to play easier. But the ball is going so short. I still am bummed; the hardest probably is rained all day was on 18. It’s 260 yards to carry that bunker and I hit a drive right on the screws and I didn’t carry it. I usually carry a driver 300 yards, so I think you can do the math. Gracey and I were in shot when we walked up there and our golf balls hadn’t cleared. That was probably the hardest part was just when it was a little into the wind, the ball just wasn’t so short, I mean, just so short. I hit a really good one on two today and it went like 276 or something like that. So that was the hardest part, you know, when you would have 152 yards or something, where I would usually just be chipping a little 9-iron, I’d have to hit a decent 8-iron or something like that. Other than that, if you could dial that in, then it was, being soft, it was easier.
I just was seeing them a little bit better today. These greens are so hard to read to me. There’s just so many times where it’s breaking one way and at the end it will go the other way or vice versa. I mean, I had a triple-breaking putt today which is absurd. That just doesn’t happen very often. Their the grainiest Bentgrass I’ve probably ever played on.
This week I’ve tried to get better at going each side, because you can really see the change in the colour of the grass, and I tried to do that the last couple days. I mean, today, it didn’t too much because it was wet so it all looked the same. But yeah, I don’t know, I had it in good spots, putting uphill to where I could be aggressive or I didn’t have to be timid, kind of putting from above the hole. It’s just one of those days where I was putting well.“
Gary Woodland: “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: “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: “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: “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 8 winners of this event:
- 2017- Justin Thomas: Round 1: 30th, Round 2: 15th, Round 3: 1st.
- 2016 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 67th, Round 2: 30th, Round 3: 7th.
- 2015 – Rickie Fowler: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 2nd.
- 2014 – Chris Kirk: Round 1: 65th, Round 2: 17th, Round 3: 3rd.
- 2013 – Henrik Stenson: Round 1: 23rd, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 2nd.
- 2012 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 6th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 2nd.
- 2011 – Webb Simpson: Round 1: 27th, Round 2: 18th, Round 3: 7th.
- 2010 – Charley Hoffman: Round 1: 3rd, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 4th.
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
- Justin Thomas: 6th Northern Trust/1st PGA/28th Bridgestone/MC Open.
- Rory McIlroy: 31st Barclays/MC PGA/5th Open/3rd Open de France.
- Rickie Fowler: MC PGA/30th PGA/10th Bridgestone/2nd Quicken National.
- Chris Kirk: 53rd Barclays/MC PGA/41st Bridgestone/19th Open.
- Henrik Stenson: 43rd Barclays/3rd PGA/2nd Bridgestone/2nd Open.
- Rory McIlroy: 24th Barclays/1st PGA/5th Bridgestone/60th Open.
- Webb Simpson: 10th Barclays/1st Wyndham/MC PGA/9th Greenbrier.
- Charley Hoffman: 27th Barclays/10th Turning Stone/MC Grenbrier/4th Canada.
First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010.
- 2017 – D Johnson – AM -6/65 – 16/1.
- 2016 – Hahn/Moore – Both PM -6/65.
- 2015 – De Jonge – PM -6/65.
- 2014 – Palmer – PM -8/63.
- 2013 – Davis/Mickelson – AM/PM Split -8/63.
- 2012 – Noh – PM -9/62.
- 2011 – Matteson – AM -6/65.
- 2010 – Day/Z Johnson – Both AM -8/63.
For the record, here’s the breakdown of pure Bentgrass green PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
- 7 – Justin Rose.
- 6 – Rory McIlroy.
- 5 – Zach Johnson, Jordan Spieth.
- 4 – Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods.
- 3 – Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Ryan Moore, Adam Scott.
- 2 – Stewart Cink, Jason Dufner, Rickie Fowler, Brian Harman, Brooks Koepka, Marc Leishman, Hideki Matsuyama, Troy Merritt, Kevin Na, Justin Thomas, Jhonattan Vegas, Nick Watney.
- 1 – Keegan Bradley, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Charley Hoffman, Billy Horschel, Michael Kim, Kevin Kisner, Russell Knox, Danny Lee, Louis Oosthuizen, Ian Poulter, Ted Potter Jnr, Chez Reavie, Patrick Reed, Xander Schauffele, Brandt Snedeker, Kyle Stanley, Henrik Stenson.
In terms of other factors to look out for, since 2009 – when the current structure was put in place – this event has been won by players ranked 2nd, 59th, 4th, 4th, 13th, 17th, 22nd, 38th and 3rd 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 – 2012 & 14/1 – 2016), Henrik Stenson (28/1) and Justin Thomas (20/1) all carried real form momentum into the event 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.
My selections are as follows: