The PGA Tour stays north and heads to Minnesota for the second new event on a new course in a row. Last week was a birdie-fest, and many people are assuming this week will be a lot of the same, especially because the Champions Tour guys the last few years were racking up birdies all over the place on this course. Because, you know, if old guys can do it then the young guys can do it better, right? However, it’s playing significantly longer than what the seniors played, plus it’s been raining and will likely continue to rain here and there throughout the weekend, so the ball isn’t going to roll out much. This course is going to play LONG. I posted a fairly detailed article on the course yesterday after I walked all 18 holes, check that out if you want to know more specifics about the course. I think the guys that are long off the tee are going to have a big advantage being able to reach all three par 5’s. I also think there will be 6 or 7, if not more, holes where these guys will have approaches into the green of over 200 yards (this includes three of the par 3’s), so I’m going to focus my attention on the long hitters and the guys that approach well from long distance. Here’s who I like this week:
Sure Play: Hideki Matsuyama (DK 11,100 / FD 11,500)
Not a whole lot to dislike about Hideki this week unless you are really worried about his putting. If you have read any of my articles in the past, you’re well aware by now that a lot of the guys I pick every week are horrible putters, so that obviously doesn’t bother me. Maybe it should! Anyways, Hideki has a long made-cut streak going and this field is pretty soft so it would be really surprising if he missed the cut. Not that just making the cut is acceptable at his price, but a consistent cut maker is never going to hurt you. He’s 25th on tour in driving distance this year, which is plenty long, and he’s 13th in approaches from over 200 yards. He’s a long hitter and an unbelievably good iron player which should really suit him well this week. The greens are large, receptive, and don’t have a whole lot of twists and turns on them, so unless he really just can’t hit a putt straight, his putting issues shouldn’t hurt him much this week.
Hit or Miss: Bryson DeChambeau (DK 10,500 / FD 11,000)
Bryson has finally started to show some life after a pretty long streak of disappointing finishes based on how good of a player he is. Maybe the middle of the season was his time to tweak and dissect every tiny piece of his game like only the scientist would know how, but it looks like he’s started to figure things out. He’s 41st in Driving Distance and 77th in 200-yard approaches, so clearly doesn’t fit a piece of the stats model I mentioned, but I think as he’s been tweaking his game that his stats have suffered and my thought is he is much better in both of those than what the stats indicate. Plus, he’s a scorer and if anyone is going to have a new course mapped and planned out down to a science, it’s Bryson. It’s also entirely possible he’s still trying new things out and his last couple events were more luck than anything and we could see another rough outing and possible missed cut. It’s not a safe play by any means, but Bryson has shown upside of being one of the top golfers in the world and may be worth pulling the trigger on him in this weak of a field.
Mid-Tier Favorites: Tony Finau (DK 9,200 / FD 10,600) Viktor Hovland (DK 9,100 / FD 10,100) Phil Mickelson (DK 8,500 / FD 10,100)
Finau: Surprise! Long hitter and bad putter! Tony is sixth on tour in driving distance and he should really be able to overpower this course. I don’t imagine he will have any problems reaching all three 600 yard par 5’s, and he’ll be able to knock out a significant portion of a lot of the long par 4’s as well. Like I mentioned with Hideki, the greens are big and relatively flat so I wouldn’t expect him to have a lot of putting issues. He’s also likely to go lower owned than he normally is since he’s missed three cuts in a row and priced around guys that are playing really well right now. I personally think the last three tournaments he’s played have not set up well for the long hitters, and he should be able to get himself back on track on a long, wet course that could have a lot of birdies to be had.
Hovland: He’s a monster off the tee and the last few tournaments he’s been at the top of the field in a lot of the off-the-tee categories. I’ll take a guy that can hit it far and straight any day, and especially at this tournament. Since turning pro he’s put up solid finishes and a lot of good single rounds. As he’s learning his way through the tour he’ll eventually put four of these good rounds together and crush one of these fields, and this week could easily be that week.
Phil: Seems like Phil may have taken this “hit bombs” thing a little too far and lost the rest of his game. Other than a top 20 at The Masters, he hasn’t played even decent golf since February. However, he’s still one of the all-time greats and he’s in a field that’s not very deep on a course that will likely suit the things he’s been good at. He definitely has been “hitting bombs”, ranking 20th on tour in driving distance. He’s also 23rd on tour in Approaches from 200 yards. He’s extremely wild off the tee, but from the eye test, he tends to leak his ball left, which I think is better than a lot of these righties that leak the ball right. On a lot of the holes with out of bounds or water trouble, a miss to the right is where the danger is, so if Phil is leaking the ball left he’s at least going to be safe the majority of the time. He can make birdies with the best of them, and if he can putt somewhat decent on these greens I think he could find himself with a good finish in this tournament.
Other Favorites: Luke List (DK 7,400 / FD 8,800) Sam Burns (DK 7,300 / FD 8,500) Wyndham Clark (DK 7,100 / FD 8,300)
List: Another long hitter, bad putter? You guessed it! I liked him last week in anticipation of a week that I thought would favor bombers, so going right back to him this week. It appears last week was meant for the shorter hitters, and the last few tournaments he previously played were meant for that type of player as well, which I think explains his bad recent finishes. However, that’s likely not the case this week. He’s third on tour in driving distance and 23rd on tour in approaches from 200, plus he scores well on long holes (especially par 5’s), so he should be a great fit for this long and wet course. He may have a handful of short putts that are missed, but he can fill up the scorecard with birdies too which should keep him in contention.
Burns: He’s got two made cuts since an injury forced him to withdraw from the Memorial tournament. Maybe shaking off the rust, two events should be enough as he heads into an event that should suit his power. He’s 18th on tour in driving distance, and in this field that will make him one of the longest hitters in the field. If you remove the couple tournaments he couldn’t finish due to injury from his year, he’s a pretty solid guy to make cuts and finish at least in the top 30. In a brand new event on a new course, a lineup with six guys to make the cut is likely going to be hard to come by and as long as the injury bug stays away, signs point to him making it through to the weekend, at least.
Clark: Another bomber, and a guy that’s played well recently after having played a handful of courses that didn’t really suit his power. He’s seventh on tour in driving distance, right behind Finau and not too far behind List, so he should be able to cut this course down significantly and give himself chances at eagles and easy birdies that the short hitters won’t as easily get. Although I mentioned with those other guys that hopefully putting doesn’t matter because of how easy the greens appear to be, Clark is one of the better putters on tour, so I wouldn’t expect him to give away many of the chances that those other guys might. For how well he’s played a lot of this year, his price is surprisingly low and doesn’t really move from week to week, and this might be the week to take advantage of that low price on a course that should be good to him.
Good Luck! I’ll be at the tournament on Saturday if others are there, happy to meet up and watch and talk golf!