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Favorites, Longshots and Fantasy Plays for the PGA, LPGA and European Tours

By: Kyle Cunningham-Rhoads

The course is filled with risk-reward opportunities, including five reachable par 5s and water in play on eight holes. Ordinarily played in Japan, the ZOZO Championship is making a one-time stop at Sherwood Country Club this weekend.

Sherwood is a par 72 playing just over 7,000 yards, which makes it the shortest course per stroke since the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands. It’s also a Jack Nicklaus design, and Jack is all about smart, placement golf.

Sherwood hasn’t been played in tournament stroke-play since a 2016 Champions tour event, so we don’t have much in terms of course history. We can, however, look at the design of each hole and analyze player performance on other holes of that type. Due to the short length of the course, we can expect an average score of about 2-under par.

What the model doesn’t account for is how Jack Nicklaus sets up his courses, and how the difficulty can dramatically change based on tee boxes and pin placement. Look no further than Muirfield Village, where Collin Morikawa shot 19-under to win the Workday Charity Open earlier this year and Jon Rahm fired a 9-under in a better field to win the Memorial Tournament the following week.

The course is so short that distance off the tee almost means less than placement off the tee. If we go back to Memorial, the strongest correlators to finishing position were Strokes Gained: Approach and Strokes Gained: Putting. If we look at the nine players who finished under par, all of them gained strokes putting, and only two gained fewer than five strokes putting.

The Workday Charity Open followed almost the same template. We’ll be looking for players who excel with irons and putters this week.

Sherwood Country Club

PICK TO WIN

JON RAHM

He’s the favorite this week, and we believe it’s justified. He excels in all facets of the game, has a history of success at Nicklaus courses, and has all the tools to pull off as many of the risk/reward situations as possible. Rahm and Xander Schauffele are the only players on tour who are above average in our version of Fairways Gained, Distance, Greens in Regulation Gained, Putts per Round, and Putts per GIR. Our model gives him a 5.6% chance of winning this weekend.

OTHER FAVORITES WHO COULD TRIUMPH

TYRRELL HATTON

One of the biggest on-course characters on tour, Hatton is in fine form. Coming off a win on the European Tour at the BMW PGA Championship two weeks ago and a top-three finish last weekend, Hatton may actually be able to get some rest this week. He gained an average of two greens per round last weekend but fell off during a very poor round with the putter on Saturday. He kills par 3s, playing them bogey-free at 6-under par last weekend, and now gets a course with five of them. He’s trending upwards and he could break through with another win.

DANIEL BERGER

When talking about placement off the tee, Berger has the goods. He gains an average of 0.789 strokes per round off the tee, all while averaging less than 300 yards. He pounds fairways, and while his iron game leaves a little to be desired, he’s great on the greens, especially from distance. With an average green size of 7,200 square feet, there could be many occasions when golfers are lining up putts from 60 feet or more this week and Berger’s ability to minimize damage from three-putting is not to be overlooked.

LONGSHOTS WHO COULD SURPRISE

BILLY HORSCHEL 

Not often a “longshot,” Billy Ho acquires the tag in strong fields such as this. Horschel is essentially Berger-lite (values are relative to competition and adjusted to league average):

Any time we like Berger, we like Horschel.

CategoryBergerHorschel
Fairways63.7%63.8%
Distance298.1300.0
Putts/Rd28.128.8
Putts/GIR1.71.7
GIR68.0%67.4%

MACKENZIE HUGHES

It wouldn’t be a conversation about putting without Hughes. Hughes does have a tendency to get into trouble off the tee, which can lead to some ugly numbers. But on a course where we’re not so much concerned about proximity to the hole with the irons as we are about manufacturing birdies once the ball on the green, Hughes and his putting wizardry should perform well.

RYAN PALMER

Palmer and Hughes have a lot in common. While Palmer isn’t as good of a putter as Hughes (no one is), he gets a slight edge in Greens in Regulation and Driving Distance. Palmer puts it a little closer to the pin, which evens out Hughes’ putting advantage a bit. He finished runner-up at the Memorial and we like him this week on another Jack course.

FAVORITE DRAFTKINGS GPP PLAYS

John Rahm ($11,000)

Tyrrell Hatton ($10,000)

Daniel Berger ($8,900)

Harris English ($8,800)

Matthew Fitzpatrick ($8,300)

Abraham Ancer ($7,800)

Billy Horschel ($7,400)

Brian Harman ($7,300)

Talor Gooch ($7,100)

Matt Kuchar ($6,800)

Mackenzie Hughes ($6,500)

ITALIAN OPEN PICKS

Hosted by the Chervo Golf Club in Brescia, Italy, the Italian Open will be a par 72 at 7,434 yards. The course has not seen a European Tour event, so we have to find some other courses with similar builds. The strongest correlated course is The Celtic Manor Resort, which hosted both the Celtic Classic and the Wales Open in August. The strongest correlators to success are Scrambling, Greens in Regulation, and Putting.

It’s important to note that statistics are aggregates of performance vs. field round average, and then normalized to tour average.

MARTIN KAYMER

Kaymer has one of the most polarizing game logs you’ll ever see. In 2020, he’s missed five of 10 cuts, but his worst finish after making the cut is 13th. His variability is almost entirely off the tee. He has decent length, but he hits only about half of fairways. If there is a lot of penalty area on a course or really thick rough, he can get into trouble. However, Kaymer is strong in every other aspect of the game. He’s more than a full standard deviation above average in Greens in Regulation and Scrambling and more than two above average in Putts per Green in Regulation.

CHRIS PAISLEY

Paisley gets his work done around the greens. He averages just 28.2 putts per round while converting 62.9% of scrambles. While his lack of length will probably prevent him from having the low round of the tournament, he could string together four rounds of 68 for a strong finish.

DAVID HORSEY

Horsey isn’t a long-hitter, but that’s been the extent of his weaknesses lately. He has one of the best short games on tour, converting scrambles 61.4% of the time and averaging just 28.8 putts per round. Horsey is a model of consistency, and with three top 15s in his last four tournaments, he’s primed for a top finish on a course that should suit him.

ALEJANDRO CANIZARES

Sticking with our trend, Canizares is a short-hitter who does everything else rather well. He’s the longest longshot of this group, but his consistency around the greens is not to be overlooked this week.

LPGA DRIVE ON CHAMPIONSHIP — REYNOLDS LAKE OCONEE

Played at Great Waters Course in Eatonton, Georgia, this weekend’s LPGA tournament plays 6,664 yards at par 72. It has a well-balanced mix of holes and should highlight the most well-balanced golfers on tour.

If we look at the top 15 players in odds this weekend with their field ranks in each metric, we can see a few players who excel in all facets.

WinnerFairway%Dist.GIR%Putts/GIRPutts/Rd
Danielle Kang36305410
Minjee Lee4657211411
Lexi Thompson83465170
Lydia Ko813820913
Carlota Ciganda631013663
Jennifer Song56403338
Moriya Jutanugarn3078152023
Mel Reid82925286
Jennifer Kupcho37545782
Caroline Masson3279292819
Ally McDonald423675387
Sophia Popov51218216
Stacy Lewis867102751
Jessica Korda777502136
Yu Liu7222233247

DANIELLE KANG

She’s the favorite this weekend, and our model gives her the best chance of winning at 7.2%. She ranks in the top 40 in the field in every meaningful category and top 10 in the three most important ones.

SOPHIA POPOV

Her win at the Women’s British Open was a real shocker, but her underlying data shows it was no fluke. Her iron play has been great, and she backs it up with excellent putting and acceptable work off the tee. It’s a field we think she competes in, and the data points to success this week.

XIYU LIN

If the course plays as a ball-strikers’ course, Lin is always in play. Her putting is her biggest weakness, ranking 60th in the field in total putts per round, but she ranks in the top 30 in all other metrics.

KELLY TAN

She’s made five straight cuts, finishing 49th, 37th, 24th, 18th and sixth. She keeps getting better, and her metrics mirror Kang’s almost perfectly – albeit lower across the board. Her best work is done with her irons, where she hits 70.5% of greens.

 

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