The most important tool for the professional golfer when they are on the course besides their caddie is their yardage book. You know, that little book they pull out of their pocket with all the numbers, formulas, and lines. Tour players study it feverishly prior to each shot and with their caddies base all their on-course decisions from this little book. Ever wonder what’s inside that yardage book and how the Tour Player approaches dissecting the course?
Each week I am going inside the ropes and dissecting the course with the specific focus on breaking down how the Tour Player approaches to each hole and giving you a one of a kind look at the golf course and their strategy each week. Specifically, we are going give you elevation changes, wind charts, ideal shot shapes, approach distance by hole for the shorter and longer hitters, what kind of trouble will be specific to each group of players and where on the course they might struggle. All based on real time on course updates from the Pros. We will also give you the on-course notes for all the “Danger Zones” on the key holes and which players they are most likely to affect.
This week the PGA Tour has gone rogue with a new team event this week, true to form Tour Level takes you were the Tour takes us and we are going inside the mind of one of the teams and present their perspectives on how the course is playing and what kind of strategy goes into preparing for an event like this and more importantly, how will those strategies be implemented on a changing golf course this week.
Quickly, TPC Louisiana is 7,400+ yard par 72 that is technical in nature (being a Dye design) but scoreable at the same time. With the team format being Alternate shot during rounds 1/3 and Best Ball during rounds 2/4 it sets up for some interesting strategy. During the 1st and 3rd rounds the groups will be less worried about making birdie and more worried about keeping a clean scorecard, choosing their scoring opportunities carefully. Meanwhile, during rounds 2/4 the guys will be looking to dominate the course at every possible turn. The way the course is playing this week, expect to see the first guy take on the risk and rely on the second guy to layup if needed. The layups are easy here but the deep drives both demanding and rewarding, if the 1st is good the second will go for it all. If the 1st tee ball is bad, the layups around TPC Louisiana are very easily executed. Prudent planning and a solid driving game will set teams up for success this week.
That’s right driving is the most important stat this week, specifically Total Driving from the Tour Pro perspective. Total driving is combination of Driving Distance and Driving Accuracy to yield a total driving rank. Why is it important this week? Because of Pete Dye, that’s why! Big drives are required on a few holes and give those capable, a significant advantage on others. Long and straight is a big benefit, especially in the once again expected high winds!
Course Condition Report:
The course is very grainy with the lack of rain lately. The lack of rain means the overseed didn’t take in as thick and lush as usual. This course normally is soft and damp, but this year it is dry and running out and will likely stay this way throughout the tournament weekend. The putting will be bouncier than players like and look for plenty of guys to be pointing at a spot on the green where their ball took a bounce for the worse.
Here we go again folks, the winds are up in New Orleans this week. I know last week I said that those were likely some of the windiest conditions they would face all year? That was until I looked at this week’s forecast! The winds are expected to steadily increase all week, presumably at the same rate as the player’s frustration levels.
Thursday the players better make hay while they can, with the winds calm throughout the day. Possibility of light rain and brief 15 mph winds in the early morning, but otherwise a great golfing day. The same cannot be said about Friday, as the winds start steady at 15 mph with gusts of 20+ mph right out of the gate at 7am and increase to a steady 20 mph breeze with gusts creeping past the 25 mph mark. Hold on to you hats if your team makes the cut, the fans get turned on even higher for those trying to claim a title.
Saturday greets the players with gale forces gusts of 30+ mph starting early with sustained winds of 20+ virtually all day. The steady winds out of the south are at least blowing in the normal direction for the course, bringing some interesting choices for the players when they end up with short holes and big winds at their back = Fireworks. Sunday continues with conditions worsening, as winds increase to a steady 25 mph, and touching 30 mph late in the day with gusts consistently exceeding the 35 mph mark as rains could move in later in the afternoon. Look for officials to potentially move up the start times on Sunday to avoid the possible threat of play stopping weather.
Before we get into the yardage book I want to touch a bit on general strategy for alternate shot. If player A tees off on the 1st hole, they will tee off on all odd numbered holes. Vice versa for player B. Knowing that we can breakdown the holes a bit better later in the article.
Once you read through it and see the kind of thought process that goes into approaching each hole, take a step back and visualize only hitting the tee shot on the odd holes or the even holes. You might notice a pattern. On the front nine the player hitting first on the even holes will likely have the most difficult and demanding iron shots but the easiest drives. Meanwhile, player teeing off first on the even number holes has the most difficult drives.
Move to the back nine and the odd hole player once again seems to get the easier drives while the even number player must keep positioning his drives precisely. From a strategy standpoint, expect players to try and exploit this in their planning by having the stronger driver of the ball play first on the even numbered holes.
The other big strategic takeaway is in the way each day is going to play. Generally speaking teams will look to take on much less risk during the alternate shot format. This isn’t where the tournament is going to be won but it certainly will be where teams lose it! Look for some of the lesser teams in the field to take some early risk in alternate shot, if they have glanced at the weather forecast. They will know there is a certain benefit to getting a hot start this week as the weather deteriorates, the scoring conditions usually follow.
To wrap it up, golf is a highly variant sport on a normal week…let alone a team event in high winds. This could literally be anyone’s tournament as the team aspect really changes the way a guy will play. Don’t be surprised to see a long shot team or two going deep into the weekend with this crazy new format. I don’t know what to expect necessarily, but I am excited nonetheless for golf to start venturing out of its traditional comfort zone.
Good Luck this week!