Si Woo Kim gets the job done against what proved to be an interesting leaderboard by the end of the week and some EPIC meltdowns as well as the albatross for Rafa Cabrera Bello. Kim was able to hold off a resurgent Ian Poulter who is certainly making the most of a second chance this year while J.B. slid back as the sins of an erratic Tee 2 Green game finally caught up to him Sunday. The top of the board had some mixed results as Spieth misses his 3rd straight cut at The Players but DJ finished T12 on a Sunday Surge. Golden Boy, Jon Rahm ballons on Saturday to MDF; a fate that also befell the heavily owned/touted player in Justin Thomas. The other guy who along with Kim all of a sudden found his game is Louis Oosthuizen, the South African showed up for another big tournament and his 6th 2nd place finish of his career. Great showing but there’s a good chance I’ll be off him the next time we have the chance to roster him. Congrats to Si Woo on a HUGE win!
The tour moves back to Texas for a couple of weeks in the wind, starting with The AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Four Seasons in Irving, TX. A Moorish designed par 70 that layouts out to only 7,166 yards, featuring elevation change throughout the course that challenges the distance control aspect of the players game into the Bentgrass greens that usually run on the slower side as far as tour standards go. Playing as one of the shorter courses on tour, TPC Four Seasons makes up for its length with difficult to hit greens and plenty of water on what is normally a firm and fast golf course that can see some really low scores as well as some very big scores.
This tournament is another one that seems to be annually affected by the weather with the 2015 was out and the wind fest that saw a plus 3 cut line, the weather is a factor in Texas. We will get into the weather a bit later but generally speaking it plays a role out here each year.
As you can see TPC Four Seasons can play relatively easy or it can play brutal and merciless. Generally speaking however, it ranks in the top 20 most difficult courses on tour. We should expect to see a cut line close to par if history holds true here. That said if last year is any indication of the new trend, -1 is probably the favorite this week. We will get a better idea in The Yardage Book after we get eyes on the course and see what the conditions are but for now lets assume that the course is going to play to its average of even par.
We should also expect to see more birdies and eagles than we did in 2015, due to the severe rains holes were changed and scoring was drastically affected. 2011 jumps out as well but that was the year of Keegan and the Wind, that saw him best a very tough course that year. Hopefully we don’t have that kind of wind again, but we could see Keegan do well again here. Apparently he really likes to putt these greens…
Anyway, on to the card and our deep dive into TPC Four Seasons.
While considered a “Resort” course TPC Four Seasons averages a 0.5 stroke over par annually, it certainly plays to the more difficult end of the resort spectrum. While that trend will probably hold true again this year, don’t be fooled you will need birdies to win out here. We will see in our key stats later how important birdies are to finishing inside the top 10. The Resort nature of the course comes in the form of a driveable par 4 and two very reachable par 5’s that enhance the scoring prospects on an otherwise bogey prevalent landscape.
So with our par 70 setup at TPC Four Seasons this week, scoring both on the course and in your lineups is going to be a bit different than in weeks past with the Par 72 layouts. You probably noticed the 2 bright green columns, indicating the preferred scoring for the field on the 2 very reachable par 5’s this week. The field is going to be burning the edges for eagles all week on number 7 and expect plenty of kick in birdies as well, at only 542 yards and relatively open the 7th will help the scorecards more than any other hole this week.
The par 5 16th is a bit less likely to see an eagle compared to the 7th but will still see the field walk away with a birdie more than a 1/3 of the time. Deep bunkering defines the short landing zone for layups as well as provides protection to an elevated green with closely trimmed run off areas. Bombers that can hold this green in 2 will likely make up a significant portion of the 36% that birdie this hole.
I mentioned a driveable par 4 and it is the 11th, only 323 yards but with water guarding the entire left side of a hole that doglegs around the water. A back left pin requires a gutsy carry across water to an elevated green and a large bunkers that act like matching catchers mitts guarding front and rear of the green (neither desirable). Meanwhile a front right pin can easily be accessed by most of the field. This should make for an interesting hole this week and depending on the wind and pin placement you will see plenty of guys going to this green and trying to pick up a birdie to start the back nine.
The back nine starts with 2 of the easier par 4s on the course and can really set the tone for players as the make the turn and find some scoring opportunities. Followed up by the easiest par 3 on the course at 13, a good start to the back nine is crucial since we don’t have any additional par 5’s this week.
While we are missing par 5’s on the scorecard this week, the distance is not missing. Holes 3 and 15 are 500+ yard par 4’s…so don’t expect too many birdies here. In fact there are 5 hole around TPC Four Seasons that will have players making bogey or worse 20+% of the time. Holes 3/8/14/15/18 all average over 20% in bogey rate and collectively play a full 1.07 strokes over par. Meanwhile the 5 “scoring” holes around TPC Four Seasons only average -0.91 strokes under par, leaving a 0.16 net stroke difference. Basically from a field perspective all the strokes players pick up on the 5 scoring holes will be erased and then some by the 5 Bogey holes. The trick this week will be finding the guys that can out perform the field on the other 8 holes that include medium length par 4’s and 3 long par 3’s.
Let’s take a look at the key stats and see what has been successful here in the past.
Upon first glance the stats this week don’t seem to make anything really jump out besides par 70 scoring, birdies or better, a weak field, and fed ex cup points. We are going to be using some of those this week, I think it is also very important to dig a bit deeper and interpret what that historical stats could be telling us about leads to success here.
Let’s start on the left side this week with the approach distances, based on the lack on green anywhere on the left side none of these distances seems distinctly important to success but the most interesting one it <100. The winner has averaged a rank of 101 in wedges inside 100 yards while significantly better wedge players rounded out the rest of the top 10. Meanwhile the winner was much more proficient with their 150-175 yard shots than those that rounded out the top 10. These two approach distance and the variation between winning and finishing top 10 is the difference in performance on the remaining 8 holes I talk about earlier. A bomber on mid length par 4’s who is hitting the fairway and can attack a few more of the par 4’s or stick an iron the par 3 consistently this week will be the difference.
The other thing to take away from this is that guys are going to bomb their way around here as much as possible, with the rough proximity being more relevant than overall proximity it usually means that if guys are going to be missing fairways anyway…they might as well be further ahead. Thus the <100 yard stat for finishing top 10, bombers get wedges into the greens more often around here.
Moving to the right the first little bit of pastel green we see is Sand Save % and Strokes Gained around the green. With 68 bunkers in play around the course, many of them surrounding the slightly elevated greens are deep and demanding. They will also be a popular bailout spot on the very long par 4’s this week, so guys will likely find themselves in them more than they would like. Saving par from the sand will be a required skill to success this week.
The raised greens and trimmed run off areas will bring the strokes gained around the green stat into play as well. Depending on the weather and how firm the greens get, these collection areas could see a lot of action. With tiered fast greens, players will have very small spots to hit and hope to hold some of these greens. Even slight misses will results in a missed green and difficult up and downs depending on the pin positon but short sided misses around here can turn into double bogeys quickly.
Par 70 scoring is the most relevant stat to success at this tournament according to the stats. Not surprising, since it is basically a collection of good par 4 scorers that also manage to score on the gettable par 5’s. We will pick this up in our par 4 scoring.
As we move right, driving accuracy is quickly dismissed as being relevant at all and replaced instead with distance! That’s right, its a bombers course! Historically longer than average hitters have done well around TPC Four Seasons since they can access the driveable 11th and will have significantly shorter clubs into the 2 500+ yard par 4’s. The fairway are hard to hit and having 2-3 clubs less into the greens will certainly help the bombers scoring chances. That said, we have seen plenty of good long iron players that hit lots of fairways succeed here as well, but they really have to be dialed in all week since they don’t have the distance to help them overcome a mistake.
The bomber and shorter hitters alike will all be susceptible to the 8 lakes that are present here and routinely create problems for the players. The 14th is a great example due to it’s forced lay up and high potential for a big score! No matter who you are this week, players need to be looking out for the big numbers. That said I am going to be looking at bounce back a bit this week. Players will definitely face some tilting bogeys this week and I am interested in find the guys that can bounce back and make a birdie right after.
Birdie of Better comes up high once again this week and it will be heavily weighted in my model. With a winning score in the teens and plenty of opportunity to give strokes away, guys will need to make an offsetting amount of birdies to stay in contention this week and we want them all in our lineups.
Putts per Round shows up a bit this week, a stat we haven’t seen in a while. There is probably something too that considering Keegan likes to putt here! Good putters have fared well here in the past here and I will be weighing Putts per round in my satellite stats.
To close out the stats preview, Strokes gained against the field average and scoring average are closely related to success. Weight those how you wish, but a word of caution. Since they are an aggregate talent stat and cumulative, a heavy weight can make it difficult to see guys that are starting to trend. By weighting these a bit low on the first models you build can help you identify some of the lower tier guys that pop in a specific stat category but haven’t quite put it all together yet and then weight in the SDFA a bit heavier in the later model to round out your overall ranking without missing some of the “diamonds in the rough”
- Birdie or Better %
- Putts Per Round
- Par 4 Scoring / Par 70
- < 100
- Sand Save %
- SG OTT
- SG: Around the Green
- Driving Distance
- Bounce back
- SG T2G
Well it looks like the weather is going to play a factor yet again this year. We are still a ways out and this is Texas so it is bound to change but right now we are looking at fairly average winds for the area in 8-12 mph steady throughout the week with gusts up into the low-mid 20 mph range for the pre cut rounds. Rain is in the forecast for Friday afternoon/evening and on into Saturday morning. There is potential for the timing of that front to change and really affect the cut line but certainly it should soften up the course for the weekend rounds.
I will update the weather and go in depth as well as dig into any potential tee time advantages, etc in The Yardage Book on Tuesday evening, until then stay tuned and good luck. The Tour Level Cheat Sheets should be out later today once pricing gets released.
As always, good luck this week!