We witnessed something quite special last week in Scotland as Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson delivered one of the best final day battles in major golf that we have seen for some time. In all honesty I’m not sure just where it lies in history though as Troon was undoubtedly playing pretty easy before it gave up two 63s during the week. That’s not to take anything away from Stenson or Mickelson however and the very fact that they finished 11 and 14 strokes ahead of 3rd tells us just how brilliant they were. I’m convinced though that the fact they only played somewhere between 18-27 holes in anything like tough conditions gave them a massive advantage and while it was playing soft it was still by no means going to be an easy course to chase two World-Class players down and a lot of the field knew that only too well.
It was a poor week for the blog with all 23 pts going and it is something that I am only too aware of. The major weeks have been poor with the exception of last year’s US PGA so I’m definitely going to review how I have approached the opening 3 majors this year prior to next week’s preview.
The results are as follows;
Total points advised – 715.50pts
Total points returned – 780.79
ROI – 9.15%
Meanwhile it’s back to the humdrum of a normal Tour week as we head to Oakville, Ontario for the Canadian Open. It’s just a one week hiatus from major golf however as we have the US PGA Championship to look forward to next week.
The course is Glen Abbey Golf Club and it has been the off and on host over the last 15 years but was the regular stop throughout the 80’s and 90’s so there is a decent amount of form to look at. I’m going to pay closest attention to the four most recent editions, 2008 won by Chez Reavie, 2009 won by Nathan Green, 2013 won by Brandt Snedeker and finally last year’s which was won by Jason Day who returns this week to defend.
It plays as a 7273 yard par 72 course and with some fairly short Par 5s it plays rather easy. The last 4 winning scores have been -17, -16, -18 and -17 so birdies and eagles are very much the order of the week. The course is a lush green parkland one with water in play and lots of elevation changes. The rough while being green and lush isn’t as deep as it used to be as those in charge decided that 6” rough was removing some of the excitement so it is kept at a more playable 3” and that may help explain the two men on top of the leaderboard last year, Jason Day and Bubba Watson. They both repeatedly got their driver out as far as possible knowing that they would be able to find the green from the shorter rough.
That’s not the only recent changes however as all the poa annua greens have been replaced with bentgrass since last year’s competition. It has been a gradual changeover however as last year half the greens had already been changed. While the two surfaces are quite different, last year a lot of care went into ensuring that they played to the same speed at least and there didn’t appear to be any complaints.
From looking at the stats of the last four tournaments at Glen Abbey there aren’t any real standouts other than total putting. I guess that is to be expected when scoring is low but they really did all putt brilliantly with their rankings for the week reading 2nd, 1st, 5th and 9th. Other than putting there was a mix of attributes with Day not ranking too highly in GIR but Bubba the runner-up ranking 2nd. It was more of the same for the other three runnings so I delved a little deeper and discovered that the one thing they all seemed to do well was get the ball close to the pin from the rough at both the 50-75 yards and 175-200 ranges. On first thought that seemed a little random when we have 4 fairly different winners but perhaps it is maybe not that strange. Bombers will be left with the 50-75 yard range a lot when letting rip on the Par 4s and the shorter hitters will be left with the same sort of distance for their 3rd shot on the Par 5s. The players will also be in the rough a lot knowing that it isn’t too penal so it figures that those who have better proximity figures out of the rough should go well.
Glen Abbey also has a couple of strong course correlations that come to mind for me; Riviera, home of the Northern Trust Open and Torrey Pines, home of the Farmers Insurance Open. Quite how much that has been down to the poa annua greens in the past I’m not sure but they also appear similar visually. Riviera also has some huge changes in elevation and some blind shots making distance control extremely important. Torrey Pines has lots of water in play and also features a rolling landscape. The most pertinent link comes from the list of winners and the last two at Glen Abbey were also the last two winners at Torrey Pines. Besides his win, Nathan Green only has one runner-up finish and that was at Torrey Pines in 2006. Chez Reavie very nearly won at Riviera this season before giving way to some world-class players on the Sunday.
With the greens no longer poa annua it is hard to say how much these course links will stand up in the future but I’d certainly view it as a positive if they have done well at Riviera or Torrey Pines. Moreover having played Glen Abbey before also looks vital as only Reavie out of the last 8 winners hadn’t played the course before.
Being sandwiched between two majors it probably isn’t the week to go getting too involved in, especially not at short prices. So while Jason Day and Dustin Johnson are some way ahead of this field, I expect them to be far more focussed on the US PGA Championship next week so I’m happy to let them go un-backed.
The next three in the market are a little harder to dismiss at their prices but it is too tempting to take some of the fancier prices down the field, despite Brandt Snedeker, Matt Kuchar and Jim Furyk being a step above the rest of the field. With 32 PGA Tour wins between them I expect them to be going all out for the win here but having played all four rounds in at Troon I think there might be others better prepared.
William McGirt finally got his first win in May at the Memorial around Muirfield Village. That of course is another Jack Nicklaus design and there are many players over the years that have won on both. McGirt has some solid Glen Abbey form too with a 2nd and a 34th and he arrives in good form despite missing the cut on his Open debut last week. The change from poa annua grass to bentgrass might just be the push over the line here that McGirt needs to follow-up with another win. He is a good putter and currently ranks 26th in Strokes Gained:Putting but a lot of his best work comes on the slicker bentgrass surface (Muirfield) and despite playing well at Glen Abbey he never fared too well on the greens.
The rest of his game reads well statistically too as he ranks 15th in total driving over the last 3 months and sits 32nd in scrambling, 53rd in approaches from 175-200 in the rough and 51st in approaches from 50-75 yards in the rough.
Prior to his win he had three runner-up finishes on Tour and two of them were not only in Canada but in Ontario. He was 2nd to Snedeker here in 2013 and also 2nd to Scott Piercy 30 minutes down the road at Hamilton Country Club.
Having only played two rounds in Scotland he will be better prepared for this week than the 5 market principals and he has already qualified for next week’s PGA Championship so he will be playing with out any pressure. He hasn’t really done that in a normal PGA Tour field since his win in early June as his next three starts were the US Open, WGC Bridgestone and The Open. Stepping down a grade and as a recent winner I think McGirt looks to be about the best piece of value in the field this week.
Tony Finau putted very well on the slower greens at Troon last week on his way to an 18th place finish and he is already making a name for himself with some good major performances early in his career. That was his 3rd Top 20 in from just 4 majors and he looks to have a very bright future. Finau won earlier in the season in Puerto Rico so he is another player that willo be looking to follow-up quickly with a 2nd win and firmly establish himself on Tour.
Glen Abbey looks a good fit for him as we know that bombers can fare well. He also finished 22nd here last year and has played well twice at Torrey Pines (18th and 24th). The Hawaiian powerhouse also ranked 18th in total driving last week and he currently sits in 6th place in approaches from 200-225 yards in the rough, which will no doubt help him on the Par 5s at Glen Abbey.
While there is plenty of fancy prices down the field I think this looks like a week where the 2nd tier of proven winners in the market could go well. Finau seems to fit a decent profile for the week and will be riding high with confidence after being on the leaderboard for 3 rounds at Troon.
It was the Glen Abbey/Riviera link that led me to Chez Reavie for the Northern Trust Open in February and despite him finishing in 7th I think I need to give him another go at the site of his only PGA Tour win. Reavie is an extremely accurate driver with a great short game but his iron play isn’t always the best. He is however better than most out of the rough and this year he ranks 23rd in proximity to the hole from the rough . He also sits in his usual high spot in the scrambling department ranking 7th. If he take advantage of the Par 5s this week then he can give us a good run at a decent enough price.
Michael Thompson came back to form impressively last week at the Barbasol and he is a player that did me a huge favour 4 years ago at the US Open when landing 1st round leader at a fancy price. He often starts quickly and he looks a very decent price to carry that on here this week. Thompson didn’t even putt very well last week so if he any small improvement with the short stick could see him contend early on as he will arrive in confident mood after ranking 1st in total driving and 3rd in GIR.
Summary of bets
William McGirt – 1pt ew @ 50/1
Tony Finau – 1pt ew @ 40/1
Chez Reavie – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1
Michael Thompson – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1 1st round leader
Weekly pts – 6pts
Total pts – 715.50