From Nance to Nicklaus and from Kyle Stanley to DFS Jimmie, the game of golf has seen some great personalities, some lasting and some fleeting. I am happy to announce that Kyle Stanley is here to stay with his strong playoff victory this weekend in our Nation’s Capital. I am, however, sad to report that DFS Jimmie will no longer author this piece for Tour Level Fantasy. It will be my aim to continue the rich history started by Jimmie and provide readers with a course breakdown and early look into the upcoming PGA tournament as it relates to Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS). My name is Joshua Grenier and I hope that you enjoy a more simplified breakdown, as I get my feet wet in the DFS research and analysis community. Now, with that slightly awkward transition done with and my first bad Greenbriar water pun accomplished, lets get to the golf!
The Greenbrier Classic
As many of you already know, the tournament was cancelled last year due to the effects of severe flooding in June. Prior to last year, the Greenbriar Classic had been a consistent tour stop since making its debut in 2010 when it replaced the long-standing Buick Open in Flint, Michigan on the tour schedule. Past champions include: Stuart Appleby (2010), Scott Stallings (2011), Ted Potter Jr. (2012), Jonas Blixt (2013), Angel Cabrera (2014) and Danny Lee (2015).
The tournament is played on The Old White TPC at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia and will be there for the foreseeable future since the original six-year contract with the PGA Tour was extended another six years, through 2021.
The original course opened in 1914 and the Old White course joined the growing TPC network of courses in March 2011. This is now our third TPC course in as many weeks, which on its face seems less than advantageous. Although, as we delve deeper into the course and its history I think you will see that this course is a unique TPC course, even more so than the last two (Hartford and DC), which both seemed slightly off brand as the more vapid TPC designs we have come to know and love. “Old White” was extended to 7,287 yards in 2013 at an average elevation of approximately 1,850 feet above sea level.
Golf Course Architect – CB Macdonald (1914)
The Old White was designed by Charles Blair Macdonald and opened for play in 1914. Macdonald is considered by many to be the father of American golf course architecture and most of his courses feature holes modeled from some of the most famous holes throughout Europe. For example: At the Old White, the 8th hole was styled after the “Redan” at North Berwick, the 13th after the “Alps” at Prestwick, and the 15th after the “Eden” at St. Andrews. Macdonald often worked with his apprentice and associate, Seth Raynor, who assisted in the course construction and returned in the 1920s to oversee updates to the golf course. Between 2004 and 2006 the course underwent a complete restoration to return it to it’ original Macdonald/Raynor design. If anyone has a budding interest in golf course architecture, it would be a good idea to get familiar with Raynor- Macdonald and follow their #1 fanboy, Zach Blair on twitter @z_blair.
After the flood of 2016, which forced the cancellation of The Greenbrier Classic, the golf course was closed and completely restored by noted architect Keith Foster. While the routing plan and hole concepts were retained, every green complex, fairway, and bunker were rebuilt, while trees were selectively thinned to reintroduce unbelievable views and sight lines not seen for decades.
According to tournament officials, many changes were made to the course, but fans that attend this week’s events will notice the biggest difference on the 18th hole. The 18th used to have a big hump in the middle of the green that ran all the way across, but that has been removed and now looks like a horseshoe in the middle. It’s likely this hole is going to bring some really ace opportunities. Therefore, those looking to make a prop bet, or those who like to complain about DK hole-in-one scoring should get ready and plan accordingly.
The Numbers – Old White TPC, 7,287 yards, par 70
At Par 70, the course only features two par 5s, and both come on the back nine. The second, the 17th, plays over 600 yards and thus, is not reachable in two for most players. In addition, three of the four par 3s are over 200 yards in length and also not considered “scoring holes”. This puts the primary focus on the 12 par 4s on the course, which average just under 440 yards. This very logical conclusion is bolstered by the fact that of all the players who finished in the top-10 since the tournament started in 2010, the strongest correlation with tournament finish has been success on the par 4s.
Player Type – Par 4 Scoring
Other similar stat categories, which arguably relate to par 4 scoring and Par 70 courses are: Bogey Avoidance, Scrambling and, Approach/Proximity Under 100 yards. All three of these stat categories have seen somewhat strong correlation with player success since 2010, albeit none reach the strength of par 4 scoring.
In my opinion, the course sets up in a similar fashion to last week, where ball striking, accuracy off the tee, and the ability to “grind” will play a key factor in determining who is successful this week.
The cut line has historically been within one shot of par and never lower than three-under, so the course often tests player’s ability to shoot par. This is not to say that a stat like Birdie or Better Percentage (BOB%) cannot be helpful, however there is no strong statistical correlation with success. If you are a BOB truther and feel the need to include it in your model or analysis, my recommendation would be to use similar statistical measure that has seen a small correlation to success over the years.
Player Type – Scoring Average
This continues the common narrative for Par 70 tracks and is supported by the Par 4 scoring focus above. The course will demand ball striking and big mistake mitigation. Furthermore if there were ever a week where a “ball strikers” focus was vindicated, it is this week, coming off Kyle Stanley’s victory and Sunday leaderboard, which featured players like Martin Lard, CH3, and Lingmerth, among others.
Similar stat categories include: Fed Ex Points and Fed Ex Rank, both of which have also seen somewhat strong correlation with player success since 2010 and speak to long-term player skill and form.
The course is beatable if players can remain sharp and not let a few loose swings color their scorecards with big numbers. Statistically speaking there are fewer correlations with past success this week versus the typical week. Add in the fact that this course was completely rebuilt in the past year and the focus should be on what we know versus what we think we know. Facts: It’s a Par 70, meaning more Par 4s. That cannot be denied. Keeping that focus cannot hurt you in developing the player focus you want this week. Outside of that, both from a statistical perspective and intuitively, it may benefit you to focus on players who have very good current form and those who have shown a track record to grind out solid rounds no matter the field or course. Best of luck to you all.
 “Old White” was coincidentally also the nickname I gave to my landlord in college. He lived below me, he would go out and get his newspaper every morning in nothing but his tighty whiteys and untied bathrobe. I nicknamed him Old White because he was in fact very old and very white; the course was named for the well-known Old White Hotel, which stood on the grounds from 1858 through 1922.