The tour is wrapping up their inaugural team event at the weather affected Zurich Classic and currently the 3 round domination of team Blixt/Smith is in question with the Tuesday Hero team of Kisner/Brown making a charge to take the lead by 1 only 6 holes in on Sunday.  Blixt/Smith have been ham and egging it well all week before opening up a 4 shot lead after 54 holes, but starting off slowly only 1 under through 6 while the charging Kisner/Brown team is blistering the course at 6 under through 6 and 4 shots clear of 3rd place.  Last week we highlighted Team Tuesday Heroes in The Winning Element, hopefully you took note.  It should be an exciting close to an entertaining week and the start of a new tradition down in New Orleans for the coming years.  As we leave the alligator infested waters of Louisiana and trade them for the marshes of coastal North Carolina this week.

The tour had to make some adjustments for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship due to the normal course (Quail Hollow) being under construction in preparation for this years PGA Championship.  With Quail Hollow unavailable the tour turned to Eagle Point in Wilmington, NC to fill in for the one year hiatus.  Of note, it is apparently due in no small part to the efforts of Webb Simpson (EP & QH Member) to bring the tour to Eagle Point.  With this being the one and only crack the pros will get at a slightly revamped Eagle Point, team course history is going to have sit this one out.  Not a single shred of professional competitive golf having been played on the grounds at Eagle Point, by all accounts only a few have ever strolled these grounds let alone struck a shot here.  We have surprisingly little information to go from but we are going to do our best at breaking down a brand new course and see what to expect this week here in the First Cut and then be sure to look for The Yardage Book with exclusive on course reporting about conditions and how the course is playing.  The Yardage Book will give you an unparalleled look into this brand new course on Tuesday.  This course is so exclusive that today they opened up the grounds and merchandise tents to the locals and the on the ground report is that people who have lived in the community and been avid golfers their entire lives, have never until today set foot upon these grounds.  By all accounts this place is uber exclusive and will likely be a treat for the pros to play this week. I say, it will be a treat but only in the sense that few will ever get the chance to play here again; make no mistake Eagle Point is a Big Boy golf course and it will play like one this week.

Eagle Point (EP) is a par 72 that has been lengthened some 500 yards to accommodate the big hitting tour players this week and it should play right at 7,396 yards, according to the official PGA Media Scorecard. Eagle Point is a traditional par 72 in that is home to 4 par 5’s, 4 par 3’s and 10 par 4’s, with bent grass greens; located right on the inter coastal water way that separates the main land from Figure 8 Island *(home to the 2nd most expensive coastal real estate in the country behind the Hamptons).  Generally, Eagle Point appears to be open both off the tee and in approach shots and given the inter coastal location players should expect a decent bit of wind.  Eagle Point sports plenty of water both off the tee and on approach, coming into play on 6 holes.  There are also 66 bunkers to contend with this week, all having been redone back in 2015 with new sand.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves let’s take a quick look at how Quail Hollow has played in the past.  It’s just a hunch but I am betting that the PGA Tour chose Eagle Point because of the course type, similar in length and the ability of the superintendents and grounds crew that will make this place play fairly similar to Quail Hollow in terms of its relation to par and where the cut line should be.

Historically, Quail Hollow has played either mid pack or very difficult with regard to the relative difficulty of tour courses, I expect Eagle Point to setup in a similar fashion.  They will want to keep the field from going crazy low but if the winds pick up, expect this the scoring to trend towards the plus par side on average.  Even during the really easy years, Quail Hollow played pretty close to par with a cut line that averages over par.  While I think Eagle Point will play a bit easier, I don’t think it will be by much (and they probably have less eagles too)

The Card

I know, you are used to seeing a lot more detail when it comes to our card but this week, we are left to fend for ourselves when it comes to course details because we have no scoring history.  So instead of looking back to try and see how each hole is going to play, I am going to run down some of what I think are going to be the key holes this week.

Obviously, since we are dealing with a par 72 again the par 5’s are vitally important to staying ahead of the pack this week.  What is different is that one of them is over 600 yards long, clocking in at 640 yards to be exact.  I feel pretty confident in saying that there may only be 5 guys in this field that have a legit shot of hitting this green in two.  So the scoring on this beast should be interesting this week but don’t expect too much carnage as most guys will have a tidy wedge in hand for this lengthy hole and keep birdie squarely in play for over 30% of the field.

The 6th hole will be interesting this week with the wind coming across, it will help players avoid trouble on the tee shot but then will be pushing less than purely struck golf shots towards trouble on the 2nd & 3rd shots into this green.  The creek that protects this hole, starts on the players left and then cuts across the fairway mid way and ends on the right side of the hole, emptying into a lake the protects the side and rear of the green.  The par 5’s at Eagle Point are gorgeous but fraught with trouble.  The par 5’s here don’t seem like the kind that can be over powered.

That said, the 12th hole will be the par 5 with all the fireworks by the week’s end.  A reachable par 5 that brings danger into play with a narrow and diagonally situated green hugged right and rear by water, it will be interesting to see how the pro’s attack this hole.  A lot will have to do with the pin placement and wind direction of the day.  If the pin is up and wind is down, this hole will see a lot of birdies.  Pin back and wind up, we could see a lot of doubles if guys get reckless and go for it.

It is always nice when a course closes with a par 5 and gives the chasing pack a chance to catch at the last.  The 18th at Eagle Point is no picnic and slightly reminiscent of the 18th at TPC San Antonio in the sense that it is reachable in two depending on the wind.  When it isn’t reachable, it sets players up for a difficult layup and approach shot.

The rest of the scoring will likely come from the shorter par 4’s scattered around Eagle Point in the form of the 3rd, 7th, & 13th. The 3rd being the shortest of the bunch, requires a solid approach to the right side of a severely sloped green that if not on the right level turns a short birdie hole into a a bogey quickly.

The 7th will have plenty of action this week, depending on the pin placement and tee configuration this hole will play as short as 317 yards.  Most guys will be hitting away to get close and do their best to make a birdie on a hole that should see 40% or more of the field scoring.

The 13th is another birdie hole that players will be licking their chops over!  Any smooth drive finding the fairway will leave a short iron or wedge into another hole that should see birdies at a decent clip.  I am guessing around 28-30% of the field will score here as well.

As for the rest of the course, it is basically a bogey waiting to happen.  Long par 4’s with either tight tree lined fairways at the 8th & 16th or long par 3’s that aren’t considered very score able.  Watch out for the par 3’s this week.  All but one are long and the short one is very dangerous with water in front, expect all the par 3’s to play over par this week.

Key Stats

You might have noticed the lack of a key stats chart like normal…that’s because we don’t have one!  You are going to have to rely on my experience and skills to determine the correct stats to target for this week (sorry about your luck). That’s only partially true because we will have some exclusive on site correspondence and reporting from the course to get the inside scoop on what the pros think about Eagle Point and how its is going to play in The Yardage Book.  We will dig deeper into the key stats in that article series this week, once we have some more info directly from those people on site.

In the mean time, you are stuck with me…so let’s start with some general observations about Eagle Point that I have picked up in my research and then we will try to make some inferences from there.

  1. Fairway bunkers appear to be fairly deep with decent lips.  If you find yourself in a fairway bunker this week, you will likely be thankful to save par.
  2. It appears that virtually every green has closely trimmed run off areas and plenty of false fronts.
  3. The greens have distinct and severe undulation throughout the course.
  4. Water is squarely in play on 6 holes (1/3) and it’s presence on a couple of key holes will definitely impact player’s decision making this week.
  5. The wind will play a factor, since the course is located right on the coast.
  6. Marsh Benson, 27 yr Augusta National Director of Course & Grounds was brought in several years ago to prepare the course….references the closely cropped run off areas listed above.

Starting with number 6, Marsh Benson’s involvement tells me a couple of things in general about what to expect this week.  First of all, the course will be immaculate!  Benson will tolerate nothing less and his crew should have complete control of this course each day.  Secondly, it tells me just how serious Eagle Point is about putting on a top notch show in their one and only shot…Extremely Serious.

That transitions nicely to the closely trimmed run off areas and a quote about Eagle Point I read on GolfCourseGurus.com, “Eagle Point is like a poor man’s Augusta National”  I’m not sure if this quote was made before or after the involvement of Benson (nor would I dare call Eagle Point poor by any stretch) but clearly, Eagle Point had lofty goals from the start.  Marsh should feel right at home maintaining these collection areas.  The undulating greens will only aid in either funneling well struck balls towards the pins or poorly struck ones away from them towards the collections areas.  The greens and exposed nature of the course are the main defenses of Eagle Point (oh and a 640 yard par 5).

With so little historical stat information, I am going to lean heavily this week on SG Off the Tee and SG Approach.  Approach is going to be key this week with so much undulation, being on the wrong side of a green will bring 3 putt into play more often than we would like.  Target players that are dialed in with their approaches recently, this should lead to some shorter putts on unfamiliar greens and likely more birdies.  Missing on the wrong side of these holes will be treacherous this week, hitting the right spots on approaches will be the difference maker this week.

I mentioned 3 putts previously and will be giving a bit of consideration to 3 putt avoidance in my models this week simply due to what appears to be a good bit of undulation in the greens combined with unfamiliarity for the players with these greens.  With a cut line projected close to par, guys will need to save every stroke they can around Eagle Point.

Strokes gained off the tee will be important this week as well because it captures both driving distance and efficiency against the field all at once.  Length is certainly a factor with a course touching 7,400 yards, those that can be long and in play this week will have a big advantage around Eagle Point…suddenly Dustin Johnson & Jon Rahm come to mind?!

I am also going to weight Strokes Gained Around the Green heavier than normal this week due to the Augusta like nature of the green complexes…heavy undulation and tightly trimmed run offs.  Kinda sounds like Pinehurst a bit as well, either way guys are going to miss greens or run through greens this week and find themselves 20 yards away down a swale and short sided.  I  want a guy that knows how to get up and down more often than not on my teams this week.

The last stat I am going to look for is short iron and wedge play distances inside 150 yards.  The course is 7,400 yards, why are you looking at that?  Because guys aren’t getting home in two on a couple of these par 5’s leaving them with wedges needed to score as well as a couple of the shorter par 4’s.  Generally speaking a player is not looking to birdie a hole that they have to hit a long iron into, thus not a scoring hole.  On the other hand, when a pro gets an 9 or less in their hand…they are looking to stick it!  In short, the approach distances to target for birdie making (DK point scoring) are inside 150.  If you are targeting distances outside 150 yards, players might excel in that area but being ranked 1st and 3 feet closer at an average approach distance of 40 feet doesn’t mean a whole lot when it comes to making the putt and scoring.  That is why I like to target the scoring yardages a bit more, don’t get me wrong long iron play will be important this week for success but less important with regard to Draftkings scoring.

Birdie or better will make it into the model once again, more birdies means more DK points.

Core Stats

  1. Strokes Gained: Approach
  2. Strokes Gained: Off the Tee
  3. Birdie or Better %

Satellite Stats

  1. Strokes Gained: Around the Green
  2. Par 5 Scoring
  3. 3 Putt Avoidance

 

Major Facts

If you have been reading my article for any length of time, you have probably figured out that just like the rest of golf fans out there…I LOVE the MAJORS!!!  The Majors represent the 4 greatest sporting events each year for a golf nut like me and being right in the middle of the best season of the year (Major Season).  I am going to start including a little fact about the next major each week and keep your thirst for the Majors alive.

As you may know the next major is the U.S. Open and this year it will be hosted at a first time venue.  Erin Hills.  A couple of unique things about Erin Hills.  First of all, the official tournament length is rumored to be just over 7,700 yards with the potential to be stretched out to 7,900 yards should officials choose to do so during tournament week this year.  At those ridiculous kind of yardages, Erin Hills is on pace to become the longest course top host a major!

Hot Tip: If you are taking any early looks at the likely field for Erin Hills, only a handful of guys have the kind of off the tee game necessary to compete at a course that is 7,700 yards…

Good luck this week as you and your golfers tackle Eagle Point!  Make sure you check out all our exclusive content throughout the week.  From The Yardage Book with insider course info and a pros perspective, to Against The Grain GPP strategy, Making the Cut for your cash game locks and finally The Winning Element where we project our top 25 Sunday Leaderboard.  I haven’t even mentioned out completely unique Tour Model and Cheatsheets, every stat you could ever need to make better player analysis decisions.

*Per tour director Kym Hougham, during conversation.