After Brooks Koepka at 20/1 at the PGA Championship, we landed Brandt Snedeker last week at the Wyndham Championship at 28/1 – wins in 2 consecutive weeks is always a very pleasing result. Indeed across both the European & PGA Tours that puts our combined Betting Previews at just under 200 points of profit for 2018 to date, including 8 individual tournament winners.
On the PGA Tour we now move into the FedEx Cup Playoffs. The FedEx Cup has grown massively in popularity since its inception in 2008 – the spectacle of watching the world’s best golfers fight it out across a whole month of top-level competition has become a real highlight of the golfing calendar. In essence, this week is where the PGA Tour gets serious as the winner of The Northern Trust, Deutsche Bank Championship and BMW Championship will receive 2,000 points (regular season winners receive 500 points), plus each tournament has an increased prize fund of $9 million with $1.75 million going to the tournament winner – that’s not too far away from a Major victory in cash terms.
In addition to the increased $36 million of tournament prizes available, there’s also a $35 million FedEx Cup fund. The 2018 FedEx Cup champion will receive a cool $10 million, whilst the runner-up receives £3 million. 30th place (Tour Championship qualifier in last spot) receives $175,000 with the 125th ranked player after this week receiving $70,000. Qualifier Rickie Fowler does not play at Ridgewood due to a right oblique injury. Rory McIlroy is resting till Boston next week, plus both Bud Cauley and Patrick Rodgers are non-starters. Henrik Stenson also withdrew on Monday nursing an injured wrist, leaving a field of 120.
Over on the European Tour, Paul Williams previews the D+D Real Czech Masters – you can read his thoughts on that event here.
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Course Guide: The course at Ridgewood is actually a hybrid of the toughest holes across 3 9-hole courses, namely the East, Center and West Courses located at the Country Club. The A.W. Tillinghast design is a truly classical test with plenty of dogleg holes which shape both ways, tree-lined fairways and tough bunkering. The greens this week are the smallest that the players will have faced since Colonial and feature a fast, undulating Bentgrass/Poa Annua mix putting surface.
Ridgewood Country Club, Paramus, New Jersey: Designer: A.W. Tillinghast 1929 with Rees Jones re-design 1988 & Hanse re-design 2010 & 2015; Course Type: Classical; Par: 71; Length: 7,385 yards; Water Hazards: 1; Fairways: Bent Ryegrass Poa Annua; Rough: Kentucky Bluegrass Per Rye 3.5″; Greens: 5,605 sq.ft average featuring Poa Annua with 10% Bentgrass; Stimpmeter: 11ft; Scoring Avg 2008: 71.41 (+0.41), Rank 24 of 54 courses. 2010: 70.97 (-0.03), Rank 24 of 54 courses. 2014: 70.81 (-0.19), Rank 31 of 48 courses.
Ridgewood Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for Ridgewood CC and how they compare to recent courses that we’ve seen on Tour:
- 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.
- TPC Southwind: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:29; 300:28; 325:31; 350:25.
- Muirfield Village: 250 yards from the tee: 36 yards wide; 275:35; 300:31; 325:26; 350:30.
- Colonial: 250 yards from tee: 28 yards wide; 275:26; 300:27; 325:26; 350:23.
Course Designer Links: For research purposes other A.W. Tillinghast designs include:
- Baltusrol GC – 2005 & 2016 PGA Championship • Bethpage Black – 2009 U.S. Open, plus 2012 & 2016 The Barclays
- Pinehurst Number 2 – 2014 US Open
- East Course at Oak Hill – 2013 PGA Championship
- Winged Foot – West Course – 2006 U.S. Open
- East Lake – Tour Championship
Course Overview: The Ridgewood we see this week will be slightly different to the one we last saw back in 2014. A Gil Hanse-led renovation post-2014 has seen the continuation of the course move back towards its A.W. Tillinghast roots. New tees have been constructed, adding 66 yards to the course. 15,000 square feet of original greens have been recovered, taking the average green size up to over 5,600 square feet. Bunkers have been re-shaped taking them back to their Tillinghast roots, with fescue areas added on a few holes.
Ridgewood is a fair, classical test that appeals to the best all-round players. The course plays as a par 35-36=71 at a modest 7,385 yards, but winning scores of -8 (Singh), -12 (Kuchar) and -14 (Mahan) highlight that the course can’t be purely overpowered. Fairways are fairly tight and are tree-lined, so the penalty for missing them is often a blocked second shot. Green complexes may be slightly larger in 2018, but are very well defended. Indeed the main characteristic of the course are the 78 bunkers which are deep and feature steep faces. Fairway and green bunkering is tough and that in combination with small contoured green complexes makes achieving greens in regulation critical. Throw in a set of 3 long par-5s which were some of the hardest outside of the Major Championships in 2014 and you have a difficult golf course to master. Statistically the par-5s ranked as the 7th hardest on the PGA tour in 2014.
Ridgewood’s defence tends to be greens that are difficult to hit allied to a predominant Poa Annua putting surface that isn’t every player’s cup of tea. Greens with Poa Annua are renowned for becoming increasingly difficult as play progresses and a real feature of the last 2 renewals here is that putting from within 10 feet is difficult. On a course where Going for the Green on the par-5s is the tallest of orders, look out for players who can convert and score well on a mixed difficulty set of par-4s. Kuchar, who went into the tournament off the back of 9 top 10 finishes (Singh had 6 T10s including a win at Firestone) on the PGA Tour, shot -7/-6 across the par-4s/5s to win a play-off from long term leader Martin Laird in 2010. Hunter Mahan who had 4 T10s in 2014 including 7th at the PGA Championship before arriving in New Jersey, shot -7/-4 across the par-4s/5s.
Winners: 2017: Dustin Johnson (-13); 2016: Patrick Reed (-9); 2015: Jason Day (-19); 2014: Hunter Mahan (-14); 2013: Adam Scott (-11); 2012: Nick Watney (-10); 2011: Dustin Johnson (-19); 2010: Matt Kuchar (-12).
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 Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Ryan Moore, Patrick Reed and Hideki Matsuyama.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the U.S. 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) Louis Oosthuizen / J.J. Spaun; 3) Emiliano Grillo; 4) James Hahn; 5) Ryan Moore; 6) Russell Knox; 7) Brian Gay; 8) Russell Henley / Justin Rose; 10) Austin Cook; 11) Kelly Kraft; 12) Ian Poulter / Kyle Stanley; 14) Ryan Armour; 15) Tommy Fleetwood; 16) Danny Lee; 17) Ted Potter Jnr / Sam Ryder; 19) Tyler Duncan; 20) Keegan Bradley / Dustin Johnson / Francesco Molinari.
- Greens in Regulation: 1) Billy Horschel / Louis Oosthuizen; 3) Patrick Cantlay; 4) Tyler Duncan; 5) Francesco Molinari; 6) Gary Woodland; 7) Tony Finau; 8) Tyrrell Hatton / Jon Rahm / Sam Ryder; 11) Paul Casey; 12) Tommy Fleetwood; 13) Justin Rose; 14) C.T. Pan / Scott Stallings; 16) Webb Simpson / Kevin Streelman; 18) Stewart Cink / Russell Knox / Dustin Johnson.
- Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Tiger Woods; 2) Jordan Spieth; 3) Francesco Molinari; 4) Brooks Koepka / Dustin Johnson; 6) Brian Gay; 7) Ted Potter Jnr; 8) Joel Dahmen / Tony Finau / Xander Schauffele; 11) Zach Johnson; 12) Austin Cook / Anirban Lahiri / Pat Perez / Justin Rose / Adam Scott; 17) Kevin Chappell / Charl Schwartzel / Webb Simpson; 20) Jason Day / Whee Kim.
Winners & Prices: 2017: Dustin Johnson 14/1; 2016: Reed 50/1; 2015: Day 10/1; 2014: Mahan 50/1; 2013: Scott 16/1; 2012: Watney 70/1; 2011: D Johnson 35/1; 2010: Kuchar 40/1. Average: 36/1. Past 4 Renewals Average: 31/1.
- 2014: Thursday: Mostly cloudy, with a high of 82. Wind SSE at 10 mph. Friday: Mostly cloudy, with a high of 79. Wind ESE at 10 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy, with a high of 75. Wind SE at 10 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 82. Wind SE 8-10 mph.
- 2010: Thursday: Partly sunny. High of 83. Winds NW at 8-20 mph. Players were allowed preferred lies in closely mown areas due to heavy rains in recent days. Friday: Sunny, with comfortable temperatures and low humidity. High near 80, with NW winds at 6-12 mph. Saturday: Sunny and pleasant. High in the low-80s. Winds NNW at 4-8 mph. Sunday: Sunny. High in the lower-90s. Winds WNW at 5-10 mph.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Paramus, New Jersey, is here. I’m expecting soft conditions again this week in New Jersey – a theme we’ve seen across recent weeks. 43mm of rain fell last week and in total there’s been 140mm in early August. With up to 80% chance of thunderstorms on Pro-Am Wednesday, I think Ridgewood is going to be a very receptive golf course this week. With dry and warm – up to 29 degrees Celsius – conditions forecast and no wind to trouble the best golfers in the world, I’d expect another mid-score golf tournament this week at the tight, but scoreable Ridgewood.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the past 3 winners here, gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
- 2014, Hunter Mahan (-14). 285 yards (18th), 62.5% fairways (37th), 80.6% greens in regulation (1st), proximity to hole 33’0″ (34th), 57.1 % scrambling (50th), 1.66 putts per GIR (10th).
- 2010, Matt Kuchar (-12). 278yards (34th), 64.3% fairways (30th), 70.8% greens in regulation (15th), proximity to hole 30’3″ (16th), 71.4 % scrambling (6th), 1.66 putts per GIR (6th).
- 2008, Vijay Singh (-8). 289 yards (13th), 48.2% fairways (66th), 73.6% greens in regulation (6th), proximity to hole 31’8″ (17th), 63.2 % scrambling (11th), 1.74 putts per GIR (32nd).
Tournament Skill Averages:
- Driving Distance: 22nd, Driving Accuracy: 44th, Greens in Regulation: 7th, Proximity to Hole: 22nd, Scrambling: 22nd, Putting Average 16th.
So let’s take a view from players as to how Ridgewood Country Club has set up in the past and what specific skills it requires:
Hunter Mahan: “Yeah, this is kind of a no‑nonsense golf course. You’ve got to hit it well off the tee. I think of all the tournaments we probably played this year, this one is the most demanding off the tee. You’ve got to really hit it in the fairway. You can’t play out of the rough on this golf course. The rough is too thick and you can’t attack the greens. Even if you do get a decent lie, it’s pretty tough to get it anywhere near a hole. So hit fairways, hitting greens, giving yourself a lot of good looks is‑‑ like everyone says, it’s the best way to play this golf course. Even if it’s pretty safe off the tee, greens are so big, you still can be somewhat aggressive on your seconds. But if you don’t place it in the fairway, you’re not going to score out here.“
Jim Furyk: “It’s a great golf course. I think it’s the best of the four we play. There’s really no weak golf course in this rotation and obviously Bethpage hosting a couple U.S. Opens, and I think the PGA‑to be and is a wonderful golf course in its own right. But this is my favourite of the bunch. It’s still got a lot of length in the middle of it. Holes, say, 6 through 13, there’s a lot of length in those holes and you have to play well through those. The golf course is in great shape. I’m a big fan of Tillinghast work, but I just find it’s got a great mix of holes, it’s got some short holes, it’s got some long. I think it’s the prettiest of the four golf courses as far as from tee‑to‑green. It’s got a mix of flat greens and it’s got some really severe. But it probably just looks the best to my eye if that makes sense. I like Plainfield and I’ve played well at Liberty National and Bethpage is a great golf course, but in my opinion, this is maybe not the hardest of the four, I mean, Bethpage is probably the hardest. But I think it’s the best and the best test of golf in my opinion for shot value.“
Bubba Watson: “Played 18 holes this morning. It’s very, very tough. It’s a great golf course. If you’re hitting in the fairways, you’re going to make some birdies and you’re going to play the golf course very well. If you miss the fairways, it’s very tough. This is U.S. Open‑type rough. Very beautiful golf course. I don’t think we’ve seen a course in this perfect of shape in a long time. The greens were perfect. Everything was great except the rough was really, really high. This is a U.S. Open‑type rough. So it’s going to be very good; if you miss the fairways, it’s going to be very tough.“
Matt Kuchar: “Old‑style golf, I think it’s classic. Every hole is framed, whether it’s by rough or trees or bunkers. You just have everything framed very well. I feel like I’ve had success on courses like this, and it’s not a‑ I don’t know if I can pinpoint it exactly other than I step up on a hole and I know exactly what I’m supposed to do when I tee off here. Some places, you don’t have quite as good of eye line, some places just don’t feel right and something about the framing of kind of tree‑lined fairways that just I love, whether it’s Hilton Head, you see trees on each side of you. Here, same way. It just really gives you a good idea of what you’re supposed to do and I feel like I drive the ball, it’s one of my strengths is putting the ball in the fairway and I think here that’s a premium. So always feel a little more comfortable on the difficult driving golf courses.“
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 8 winners of this event:
- 2017 – Dustin Johnson: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 2nd.
- 2016 – Patrick Reed: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 2nd.
- 2015 – Jason Day: Round 1: 18th, Round 2: 8th, Round 3: 1st.
- 2014 – Hunter Mahan: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 12th, Round 3: 3rd.
- 2013 – Adam Scott: Round 1: 32nd, Round 2: 4th, Round 3: 13th.
- 2012 – Nick Watney: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 2nd.
- 2011 – Dustin Johnson: Round 1: 8th, Round 2: 2nd
- 2010 – Matt Kuchar – Round 1: 20th, Round 2: 7th, Round 3: 5th.
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
- Dustin Johnson: 13th PGA/17th Bridgestone/8th Canada/ 54th Open.
- Patrick Reed: 22nd Wyndham/11th Olympic/11th Travelers/13th PGA.
- Jason Day: 1st PGA/12th Bridgestone/1st Canada/4th Open.
- Hunter Mahan: 7th PGA/15th Bridgestone/MC Canada/32nd Open.
- Adam Scott: 5th PGA/14th Bridgestone/3rd Open/57th Quicken National.
- Nick Watney: 31st Wyndham/MC PGA/19th Bridgestone/23rd Open.
- Dustin Johnson: MC PGA/48th Bridgestone/6th Nordea/2nd Open.
- Matt Kuchar: 10th PGA/9th Bridgestone/21st Greenbrier/4th Canada
First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010.
- 2017 – Henley – AM -6/64 – 125/1.
- 2016 – Laird/Reed – Both AM -5/66.
- 2015 – Finau/Levin/Villegas/Watson – 3AM/1PM -5/65.
- 2014 – Van Pelt – PM -6/65.
- 2013 – Stadler – AM -7/64.
- 2012 – Harrington – AM -7/64.
- 2011 – Kuchar – PM -8/63.
- 2010 – Taylor/Woods – Both AM -6/65.
For the record, here’s the breakdown of pure Poa Annua and Bentgrass/Poa Annua mix PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
- 9 – Dustin Johnson.
- 6 – Bubba Watson.
- 4 – Jason Day, Phil Mickelson, Brandt, Snedeker, Tiger Woods.
- 3 – Jimmy Walker.
- 2 – Scott Piercy, Jordan Spieth, Brendan Steele.
- 1 – Keegan Bradley, Bryson DeChambeau, Jason Dufner, Emiliano Grillo, James Hahn, Billy Horschel, Russell Knox, Brooks Koepka, Matt Kuchar, Hideki Matsuyama, William McGirt, Sean O’Hair, Ted Potter Jnr, Jon Rahm, Patrick Reed, Adam Scott, Scott Stallings, Vaughn Taylor, Justin Thomas, Gary Woodland.
The Ryder Cup will also have an impact across both The Northern Trust and the Deutsche Bank Championship next week. We already know the 8 automatic qualifiers for the American team, but automatic qualification is still available into Team Europe for 8 players across the European and World points standings. Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose are all locks, with the other 2 automatic spots up for grabs between Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Paul Casey, Thorbjorn Olesen, Ian Poulter and Russell Knox. 2018 sees automatic qualification for Team Europe being completed after the Deutsche Bank / Made in Denmark.
With 3 (Team USA) and 4 (Team Europe) Captain’s Picks also being announced after Boston. It’s noticeable that Jhonattan Vegas (entered tournament at position 9 in President’s Cup rankings), Patrick Reed (made Ryder Cup Captain’s Pick), Hunter Mahan (made Ryder Cup Captain’s Pick), Graham Delaet (made President’s Cup), Nick Watney (failed) and Brandt Snedeker (made Ryder Cup Captain’s Pick) across the past 7 renewals all produced late charges to make their respective Ryder Cup / President’s Cup teams.
In terms of other factors to look out for, the initial FedEx Cup Playoff tournament since 2009 – when the current structure was put in place – has been won by players ranked 124th, 9th, 19th, 49th, 11th, 62nd, 2nd, 7th and 4th going into the tournament. Jason Day (FEC Rank 2) changed the dynamics 3 years ago winning The Barclays (as it was then) 2 weeks after capturing his first Major Championship at Whistling Straits, but his closest rival at Plainfield was Henrik Stenson who was ranked a lowly (for him) 41st in the FedEx Cup. That trend continued last year at Glen Oaks when Dustin Johnson (FEC Rank 4) won in a play off from Jordan Spieth (FEC Rank 2).
So in essence the tournament tends to be a stake in the ground for a player in the FEC top 5 arriving in New York or an early ‘moving week’ for high quality players who enter the week playing well and who need to position themselves for later Playoff events or Ryder Cup/Presidents Cup selection.
These events are big tournaments to win and all Barclays/Northern Trust winners in the Playoff era have been multiple PGA Tour event winners, with 7 of the past 8 renewals all being won by players who had previous ‘up-state’ victories on the PGA Tour in North America. Patrick Reed broke that trend in 2016, but the Texan had already finished 4th at Firestone, 4th at TPC Boston and 9th in this tournament previous to locking up his Ryder Cup spot when winning at Bethpage Black.
My selections are as follows: