After a long hiatus the tour is finally heading back to TPC Potomac and a completely revamped layout since the last time the tour laid eyes on it. A par 70 that barely eclipses the 7,000 yard mark and is accentuated by Scottish style bunkering throughout the new course layout. Situated just outside Washington proper and directly across the street from last year’s venue (Congressional CC), this will be the first time since 2006 that the tour has set foot on TPC Potomac.
The former home of the Booz Allen Classic was abandoned due to massive player dislike for the course (just google some of the old comments, they are pretty funny) along with a number of other issues (most notable were the constant drainage issues) that caused the tours departure. Since that time, TPC Potomac embarked on a journey to completely revamp their golf course. There are numerous and un-specificed number of changes that took place all throughout the property from re routing holes, converting it from a par 71 to a par 70, installing new bunkering (Scottish style) throughout the course, improving drainage, and adding a bunch of wetlands to help restore the Rock Run Stream valley. They also remodeled their club house and in general threw a TON of $$$ at this place to make it suck less and lure the PGA Tour back. It seems to have worked since “We Here” this week, so let’s get to figuring out what kind of course we have now since it has been so long.
Since it has been so long since the tour stopped coming here and the changes they made are so significant that we are basically dealing with a brand new course. That said, we do have some data to draw upon and start to extrapolate some conclusions about what to expect this week. Just like at Erin Hills a couple of weeks ago, we have some data from a lower tier of competition that should help us out some and give us some reference points.
TPC Potomac in it’s quest to host a Tour event again, was able to make some test runs and promotional pitches to the tour by securing a couple of Web.com events as well as a senior event. The relative success of these events is what led the tour back, so we are going to use the data from the 2 Web.com events in 2012 and 2013 to get an idea of how the course played for them and since it is a lower tier of players I have also included the tour average for those years as well to give you an idea of how the course played in comparison to their normal result. Also, I say relative success because based on what I can see in the scoring and results…these were some boring ass golf tournaments and I am kind of expecting the same with the pros this week…a lot of boring golf. I certainly hope that isn’t the case but I guess we are just going to have to wait and see, until then let’s dig in.
The Win/Cut chart is a bit different this week given that it is a brand new course with Web.com tour data driving it but all in all it is the same data the we normally look at, just from a lesser tour. To start though, we want to look at what kind of course this used to be back in the day.
In 2006 this ranked as one of the easier courses on tour and averaged a a half stroke under par. We will see later in the ATK Card from 2006 that the half stroke under par likely comes from the additional par 5, which has since been removed and the course turned into a par 70. I think it is safe to say that we likely won’t see this course average a half stroke under par anymore…not when you look up and see the Web,com results.
In 2012 and 2013 the Web.com boys played this track and as you can see it proved to be a bear! Ranking 1st most difficult in 13 and 2nd in 12, granted this is the lesser tour and we should expect that the PGA Tour will fair a bit better in overall scoring. While that certainly might be the case this week, it is important to see how this course stacked up the rest of the Web.com courses and averages to get an idea of just how much more difficult this course is compared to the rest of the courses at the level.
The results are in the Course vs Tour Avg row should help out. Starting with length, the course is right on par with the average those years. It is safe to say that the course didn’t play as difficult as it did those years because of the length. Moving on, we can see that TPC Potomac averaged a full 1 1/4 strokes more difficult that the rest of the Web.com tour courses those years that allowed significantly less scoring than the average on that tour. Given those details about how the Web.com boys played when they were here, we can expect a difficult test for the Tour players this coming week. With winning scores in the single digits and the cut line a plus par affair, I doubt we see the birdie fest that we are getting this week.
So digging into the ATK card using the scoring from the Web.com boys we can at least get an idea of what holes should be scoring holes and trouble holes for the PGA guys, even if we expect them to overall perform a bit better than the Web.com scoring averages seen above.
Right off the bat, hole #11 jumps right off the page here! A lengthy par 4 with a creek running along the left side with a dogleg mixed in as well. For the Web.com guys it was easily the most difficult hole and I would bet that it will also be the most difficult this week for the Pros too.
Interesting note here, while TPC Potomac played very difficult in total for the Web,com boys. It can also claim that 9 of the most difficult holes on the entire Web.com tour during 2013 came from this very golf course…holes 3/4/6/7/8/11/15/17/18 all ranked inside the top 50 most difficult holes on the Web.tour that year.
Now that we have covered the big red line in the middle of the chart, let’s look at the course in a more general sense before we dig into the specific holes.
We only have 2 par 5’s this week and one of them plays over 600 yards and scores more like a par 4 than a par 5. The birdie rate is just a touch over 20%, not exactly what you expect from a par 5. The other par is has a birdie rate right at 30%, also low for a par 5, especially a reachable 560 yard one. All in all, don’t count on a whole lot of eagle looks this week and as you can see at the bottom on the right, 62% of the DK points this week are going to be coming from the par 4’s, with less than 20% of points coming from the 2 par 5’s. Hint: I doubt I’ll be focusing much of par 5 scoring in my models this week, ok maybe only a little.
As we already saw; the par 4’s account for most of the scoring around this track and while that is not surprising for a par 70, what is surprising is that 3 of the 12 par 4’s around TPC Potomac average a higher than/equal to the birdie rate of both the par 5’s. That is unusual and not something we normally see on the tour.
Starting on the front nine, there are only 2 holes that average under par. The par 5 2nd and the short par 4 5th make up the likely birdie holes on the front nine. With only two holes averaging under par, the remainder of the front is basically an exercise in bogey avoidance….at least it was for the Web.com boys. The most likely bogeys will come from holes 1/3/4/6/7/8 all averaging a bogey rate above 20%…basically the only non scoring & non bogey hole on the front is the 9th hole, a medium length par 3. Long story short, so far this course appears to be Arch Nemesis of birdies.
Moving on to the back nine, things improve a bit from a scoring perspective as it averages a 1/10 of a stroke less than the front nine. The folks starting on 10 this week will need to be hot out of the gate on this course with so little scoring in the works, the reachable 10th will set the tone for the round when starting off that tee. A reachable par 5 that averages a 30% birdie rate, this is a must birdie hole everyday this week if you plan on contending. We already talked about the 11th, expect a bogey and hope you avoid a double. There are two more holes on the back nine that average a birdie rate better than 20%, shockingly they are the shortest par 4;s on the card. The 13th should yield a birdie rate of 23%, while the 14th is a driveable par 4 that should give up the most scoring of any hole on the course this week at a 35+% birdie rate.
Even though it is the easier side and we should see more birdies, there is plenty of carnage to be had on the back nine at TPC Potomac. Starting with the 11th that will see less than half the field saving par with a 1/3 of the field finding a bogey! Assuming you guys are lucky enough to get past the 11th unscathed, they will still have to face the 15th and 18th. Both are 450+ yard par 4’s that will dole out bogeys to roughly 30% of the field each. Between 3 holes on the back nine, 90+% of the field will suffer a dropped shot or worse.
Now that we know scoring will be scant around TPC Potomac this week, what does that mean for average DK scoring? Well, the course itself should yield roughly 45 points but where does that rank? To put that in perspective, TPC River Highlands last week yields 60+ points. Roughly a 15 points difference or a 25% difference in DK points yielded on average between the two courses. The short story is that we shouldnt be treating this course like a birdie fest…we likely will see a winning score right around -10 or -11 with a cut line that is right around par or just over par.
While we don’t have the key stats for when the Web.com boys played this course in 2012/13 we do have some old stats about what was relevant at the course for a single year (2006) when it was played in the old par 71 format but at least we have some idea of how the course played and what was relevant and not.
NOTE: The course has changed significantly since these stats, so trust in them only to get a general idea.
Starting on the left it appears that a solid wedge game is crucial to succeeding around this track with 100-125 coming in as the most significantly relevant stats from back then. While I do think that the course is overall set up for the guys to have shorter irons in their hands for the most part, I think that with the changes to the course we will see more shots coming from the 125-150 range this week as opposed to the 100-125 range. The wedges will be important on the driveable par 4’s and the long par 5 2nd this week…as we will see in the Yardage Book just below.
Moving on we see that overall proximity is important to success here as well as strokes gained approach. Based on the information I could find about TPC Potomac is that generally it is an open golf course with little obstruction from tee to green with the difficulty being the lengthy Bluegrass/Fescue rough blend. Normally kept at 2.5′ and generally thick, the rough is the main defense off the tee at TPC Potomac. With 10 lakes on the property one might think the water is the greater threat to a tee shot here but they realistically only come into play on 6 tee shots and one of those is on a par 3. While there is certainly water to watch out for the rough is likely the far more penal of the two hazards this week. We see that rough proximity is marginally relevant this week and much more relevant than in most weeks. That indicates to me that more guys will be playing from the rough than they would like this week.
Moving on, with greens only averaging 5,300 sq ft at TPC Potomac…expect them to be missed plenty this week. Missed greens are what is driving the stats to bring scrambling and strokes gained around the green stats this week. While I won’t be weighing either of them highly, it is worth noting that scrambling will more marginally important this week in the stats model.
Finally we get into the off the tee portion of the chart and immediately see that driving distance means nothing at TPC Potomac. Coming in just a touch over 7,000 yards, length should be the last thing you are looking at this week. The driveable par 4’s should be reachable by most of the field and the long par 5′ will make it so that most aren’t going to go for the green…sorry Bombers. What is vitally important is the good drive % around here. This supports my claim earlier that guys will be coming out of the rough quite a bit here. Good drive % is a measure of drives that are in the fairway and when they miss the fairway are they able to hit the green in regulation. That is what we are looking for this week, guys that will hit a lot of fairways, but when they miss one occasionally are they able to get to the green in regulation. Usually this means one of two things, that when they miss off the tee, the miss isn’t too bad and easily recovered from or that they are really good out of the rough. Hint: it is more often than not about guys that don’t miss it too badly.
As we move over the the end of the chart, interestingly Bounce back and birdie or better % are ranked very low, further indicating to me that this will not be a birdie fest. I will be weighing BOB% in my models but the relationship between bounce back and BOB here tells me that in general this will was/will be a low scoring affair and likely a pretty boring tournament with a lot of pars.
Interestingly as we close out the key stats, par 3 scoring was the most relevant to success back in 2006 here, while par 4 and 5 scoring were almost insignificant with regard to a top 10 finish. Obviously this won’t be the case this year with all the changes that have taken place over the years but it is interesting because even today the par 3’s are on the longer side and in general are plus par holes. It could be that previously most of the field was losing strokes on the par 3’s and those that simply were able to par them around each day jumped ahead of the pack. It is hard to say why they were the most significant to success back then, but looking ahead the par 4’s will certainly be the most significant.
- Good Drive %
- Par 4 Scoring
- Birdie or Better %
- 125-150 yard approach
- GIR + F
- Bogey Avoidance
- Par 5 Scoring
- Total Putting
Normally this I would be wrapping this article up right about now but this week is a bit different with the new course and because we don’t have anyone on site this week for the brand new course, I am going to put up a portion of the Yardage Book in here. This should help you get a better idea of what kind of yardages these pros will be playing and also I detail so note about each hole and what to avoid or attack.
Yardage Book & Course Condition Report
after having a look at the Yardage Book above you can get a sense of the yardages for the bombers and non bombers and what kind of approaches they could be facing around TPC Potomac. Taking into account the Pro Visualizer ideal yardages you can see that this course is more about accuracy than about distance and after dissecting the course it is likely that most of the guys will be hitting from the same spots this week as it appears TPC Potomac is very much a positional golf course with little opportunity to leverage distance as a real weapon this week.
When you average all the approaches together for this week, the guys will be facing 145-165 yard shots most this week. The other other measure to take away from this is the average driving distance from Pro Visualizer, an average of 285 yards. This tells me that most of the bombers will be clubbing down plenty this week in order to find the fairway and the correct position.
Lastly we have the condition report:
In closing this week, I am hoping that the course provides an interesting test of golf for the Pros. While I am hopeful that the event goes well, I have my doubts about how exciting it will be…personally I am expecting a snooze fest of a golf tournament. There appears to be little to no stretches on the course that allow players to get on a run and that limits how far behind a guy can come from to challenge from what we have seen of the recent play from the Web,com guys, there is little to no room for errors on the course because there is no room to make up for them. Again, fingers crossed for an entertaining event…but I am not holding my breath. The tour left this place for a reason many years ago and while the changes made will certainly be an improvement upon the old venue, they should have stayed at Congressional.
Best of Luck this week.