Kevin Chappell finally gets the monkey off his back at the Valero and cashes in on an exceptional week of play to hold off the hard charging Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau. Needing a birdie to close it out on 18, Chappell put his approach tight and sunk the putt of his life! Very exciting to see Chappell break through. Grace who started off hot fire, fizzled on the weekend with a lackluster putting performance. The tournament proved yet again to be a difficult one with the wind shifting directions and thrashing the players on Saturday. The Valero put on a show this week and holding true to history, crowned another 1st time winner. Congrats to Kevin but the tour is moving on and the coming week is a bit different for the golf community as the Zurich Classic of New Orleans has gone rouge this year with a new team format. We will dig into this later. We also have a euro event taking place in China for the folks that are interested in that. Due to the irregularities with the schedule and event, I am going to do a rundown of both courses for you! That’s right a 2 for 1 value this week so you don’t miss a thing. First, we will start with the team event in Louisiana for the Zurich followed by a preview of Topwin GC in China for the Volvo China Open.
With the change in formats for the team event looking at stats will be fruitless this week given the wild variations in skill levels & strengths not only of the teams but of the players within their teams. The challenge of assessing teams doesn’t stop there, we also must consider the shifting format round by round. Rounds 1 & 3 will be alternate shot while rounds 2 & 4 will be a best ball format. So even if we have a player fit well statistically, half the time he won’t even be playing his own ball and the other half of the time that he is, the type of shot and decision making are greatly affected by the relative position of his playing partner. Team decision making is crucial this week. We will touch on the specific teams in another piece later this week but for now let’s see what kind of course they will be playing and where the scoring will likely take place.
TPC Louisiana is a par 72 track that stretches out to 7,400+ yards and is annually one of the easier courses on tour, making it a perfect venue for a team event and the firepower these guys are gonna bring. Sporting Mini-Verde Bermuda greens that are a scant 5,700 square feet, on the smaller side for tour standards. TPC Louisiana is a difficult driving & approach course, as with most Dye designs. Requiring one shot shape off the tee and another for the ideal approach into the green, a signature feature of Dye courses. To be more course specific, TPC Louisiana predominately favors a draw off the tee and a fade into the greens. While not universal on this track, it sure seems like a baby draw off the tee is better suited for positioning around TPC Louisiana. The course itself usually plays a bit softer and slower due to the region of the country and the usual weather patterns, but look for that to change a bit as the week wears on and the winds dry out TPC Louisiana.
Having a quick glance at our weekly Win/Cut chart we can see that in 2012 the tournament took a turn for the easier after some renovations in 2011 that made the course a bit more open and score able (also technology helps) but we also had a rain shortened 54-hole event last year that got sloppy. As with any shortened event the number of birdies, bogeys, and the like are lessened. For the scorecard a bit later I have removed the 2015 results to get a better idea of true scoring around TPC Louisiana.
In a normal week, I would say to expect a cut line around the average but with these teams and the way they will play the course differently each day due to the formatting, I am gonna go out on a limb and say that the cut score and winning score will be lower than any previous year. I expect to see these teams taking risk whenever and wherever possible this week to push the scoring. Annually we see a cut line 2-4 under par and winning score close to 20 under, expect the cut to be closer to the 2015 -5 and the winning score to be around 20-22 under par. The weather projected to move in on the weekend will have some effect on the scoring conditions post cut that could keep it from going deep to a -25 or -26. More on the weather later, for now let’s look at the scorecard and see where the birdies are going to come from this week.
As with most par 72’s layouts, the par 5’s will be supremely important this week and even more so with the team formatting. 3 of the 4 par 5’s should be reachable this week and the field will find birdies and eagles at a high rate. All the par 5’s average 34% or better in birdies and will be the source of the most consistent scoring this week, with the 7th seeing close to 50% of the field birdie or eagle. Better make sure your team scores here, otherwise you are literally giving up a shot to half the field!
Note: I removed the 2016 results from this due to the weather shortened event.
From a scoring stand point, there are 2 other holes that will factor most heavily into the equation this week, the sub 400-yard par 4’s at the 8th and 13th. The 8th is only 372 yards and has seen a 25% birdie rate in the past, expect that number to increase this week as players go for it all, knowing their partner has their back. The same can be said for the 13th a drive able par 4 that will be getting bombed on this week and should yield birdies at an impressive 30+% clip, almost the same rate the par 5’s this week.
The scoring will come down to 6 holes or a 1/3 of the course, so what does that mean for the other 2/3’s? Good question and this week, not too much in my opinion. With the team format, the bogeys seem a bit less likely during alternate shot and virtually nonexistent during the best ball format. Sure, players/teams will struggle on the long par 4’s over 450 yards but I expect the teams to have a plan for each hole that will play to their collective strengths and atop that list for every team will be avoiding bogey on the obvious non-scoring holes like 4, 6, 12, 15 holes (all 450+ yard par 4’s) that will likely require a long iron approach to the small and tiered greens of TPC Louisiana. Remember that TPC Louisiana is not one of the more difficult tracks each year, expect these teams to play the difficult holes with an eye on par and keep the tournament out in front of them.
A quick note on the par 3’s this week, with an average length of 215 yards and all playing at or above par historically, I don’t really expect this to change this week. Long approaches are not where the pros are looking to score but, during the best ball days if they have a ball in play then look for the other teammate to go flag hunting (no matter what club is in their hands), just don’t expect those opportunities to convert into a plethora of birdies.
Since we don’t have key stats to work with this week, I am going to go ahead and make some general inferences from history here and how the course usually plays.
From a fairways and greens standpoint, TPC Louisiana sees and average of 64% of fairways hit and 67% of Greens in regulation. The fairway percent is right on par with the tour average but the sightlines Dye is famous for make for some unsettling looks off the tee. We can see a lot of players take less than driver off the tee here with an average driving distance here of 277yds. This tells me two things. 1st position > distance as with most Dye tracks and that the amount of water off the tee keeps the players honest. Expect that dynamic to change a bit this week. The greens get hit at an above average rate here, which makes sense as players favor position off the tee.
From a team perspective, I would favor a team of strong putters. With team hitting lots of greens here and guys going for broke to get home in two, scoring opportunities will be abound! It’s going to come down to teams that are sinking putts, since it seems like all the teams will be hitting greens this week.
Ideal team make up this week in my opinion will include a player that averages 295 + off the tee, a strong player from 150 yards and in (both 125-150 and <125 yards) and both above average putters. These are the categories that will yield the most scoring opportunities around TPC Louisiana this week. An interesting stat to check out this week is scoring average, take the average for each team and you will get a better idea of total team talent. This could also apply to strokes gained against field average.
Last year this tournament was a washout but provided for some entertaining social media banter during the extended rain delays. Hopefully we don’t have too many delays this year but it does look like weather is going to play a factor again this year.
Thursday looks to have the best overall weather but a chance of rain in the morning and slight chance of passing shower in the afternoon with winds averaging only 8 mph but picking up slightly in the afternoon. Friday starting a stretch of wind that is going to plague the players the remainder of the week if the forecast holds. Winds averaging 15-20 throughout the day but spiking to consistent winds of 20 mph at 1 pm with gusts of 20-26 mph the remainder of the day. The wind will definitely effect the cut line late Friday, as the field is whittled down to 35 teams.
Saturday will see winds sustained throughout the day in excess of 20 mph and gusts up to 30 mph…a generally less than ideal golfing forecast in every sense. Sunday is basically the exact same with winds of 18-20 mph sustained throughout the day and gusting up to 30 again! The weekend weather forecast could really separate this field with tough winds during both the alternate shot and best ball rounds but will certainly make for an interesting finish to an interesting new tournament.
Look for a detailed weather update in the Tee 2 Green: Yardage Book edition every Tuesday.
All in all, while there is no Draftkings for PGA this week as a golf fan I am excited for this new format and I am sure the players are ready for a bit of a shakeup. I hope this new format takes off and brings some new fans into the golfing community fold. Good luck this week in Louisiana, we will have some team evaluation a bit later this week in another article but we are gonna keep going and dive into the Euro event this week.
The Volvo China Open
Course: Topwin Golf & CC
While the Volvo China Open has been around in the Orient for years, it recently found a new home at Topwin in 2016. Since this is China we are talking about…information about this course is extremely prevalent and detailed. I’m kidding of course, with almost no details online and a brief 1 year of history to operate from I had to make some educated guesses about this place based on little information.
Topwin is an ultra-exclusive parkland style golf resort set with gorgeous mountain backdrops, with what appear to be generous fairways and few trees to get in the way of a stress-free rounds of golf. Located just outside Beijing, Topwin exists solely to cater to the high-end golfing experience and lifestyle. So much so the clubhouse comes with its own dedicated chess room. Chess is apparently much more popular in Chinese culture than I had anticipated, but it also speaks to the amenities of this place. Specifically crafted to make use of the full 3,000-acre property, Topwin evokes thoughts of Golfing Heaven! The pros feel the same way with regard to how it is going play! Resort style courses are easy, and this being the most luxurious of them all likely means that it will play exactly like its built…for rich people that aren’t good at golf but want to have fun.
Topwin a par 72 that is only listed at 6,639 total yards!!! That’s right folks 4 par 5’s on a course less than 6,700 yards, this should immediately make you think of a birdie fest. If last year’s winning score of 22 under par is anything to go by, we are in for a 4x par 5 in 2, 4x drivable par 4, birdie and eagle fest kind of euro substitute week!!! Yes, you heard me right, there appear to be 4 legit drivable par 4’s on this course and all the par 5’s appear to be reachable in two by 1/3 of the field. Since we are going to be in a mountainous setting based on some of the pictures I found, I would expect some elevation change to be relevant on some of these short holes as well. There is a bit of trouble around Topwin as you might expect but most of it appears extremely manageable given the distance of this course. There are 74 bunkers dotted around the property and but only impeding approach shots and angles on 3-4 holes based on pin placements. The big hazard this week around Topwin is water, it makes an appearance on 2/3 of the course (12 holes). While it is more prevalent than players might like off the tee it should only come into play on 5-6 holes. Players will need to be pretty far offline here to get into trouble off the tee. Let’s check out the card.
The longest par 5 is only 563 yards and will be slightly out of range for some of the field, the rest all appear to be in range and all should play well below par this week. Moving on to the par 4’s. The drivable ones appear to be 5, 7, 11, & 15, with 11 and 15 both playing under 300 yards. We have seen par 3’s in majors play longer than the 11th will play this week. So ya, I don’t think it is a stretch to say you need to find good scorers here at Topwin to contend this week. Not much else to say for a course that doesn’t appear to require anything specific other than good golf.
Since, the stats in Euro are nowhere near what they are on the PGA side be wary of how heavily you rely on them. This week above all else I would favor form, guys that are on with their approach (irons) are going to score more. Sounds simple right? Right…
But since you are going to be using stats, I’ll give you what I would look for this week.
Scoring average should be the most significant because it captures the only scoring metric and gives the only baseline of statistical talent from the euro stats. Next I am weighing greens in regulation & 1 Putt rank equally with driving distance being the last one.
The rationale behind greens in regulation and 1 Putt is that if a player is hitting a lot of greens in regulation and he has a high 1 putt rank, then there is a decent chance that his 1 putt success is due more to solid approaches close to the pin and less from good chips from the fringe that settle close. But a player must rank highly in both for this to be significant (at least in one and above field avg in the other). Finally, driving distance because being longer than the other guy never hurt and this week with the drivable par 4’s in play…I’ll take the guy that can get there.
Be on the lookout for our Euro player article later this week, we also give some takes on the Zurich Classic Team Event and will have a course update in the Yardage Book.
Good luck out there this week, whichever event you decide to participate in!
If you like what you’ve just read, you’ll want to check out my other article, The Winning Element, and cheat sheets included in our premium Edge package. There, I take a deep dive into the 2017 course setup from a Tour player’s perspective and use the key stats from this article and breakdown the Tour Level Leaderboard projection. The bottom line, we tell you which players we are keying in on to be your top tournament contenders and make sure to follow me @DFSJimmie and follow us @Tourlvlfantasy.