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The Field

There is a reduced field this week.  As this is an “Invitational”, there are only 120 golfers in the field (down from the regular 150+) and so the chances of your golfer making the cut this week for fantasy purposes increase exponentially.  The cut will remain the same and take place Friday and include the top 70 and ties.  The strength of field this week is solid but not overly spectacular.  Justin Rose is competing (he was last year’s champion) and both Ricky Fowler and Jimmy Walker are in the field as well.  There aren’t a huge number of top ranked players other than those three however so many of the middle tier and up and coming players will likely be looking for a big week at this event.  It should also be noted that the Tiger Woods Foundation is a part sponsor of this event and so Tiger Woods naturally is in the field.  It will be interesting to see how he rebounds from a bad showing at St. Andrews.

The Course

Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, Gainesville, Virginia

Par 71, 7300-7400 yards

This is a new venue for this event and the first time this course will be played by PGA professionals outside of some past President Cups.  Basically we are all flying blind this week in terms of course history and so getting to know the course might actually be more important this week than others.

The course this week is decently long for a par 71, although it’s not obscenely so and so I’m not sure if the bombers will have a huge advantage.  The fairways are also not obscenely tight and there seems to have been some change in that regard after the 1995 Presidents Cup.  This does favour the bombers but there are also some factors here that would suggest accurate players will have an advantage.   The first is the obvious fact that there are only three par 5’s and thus long hitters will only have 3 instead of 4 chances to reach these holes in two and look for an easy birdie or eagle.  The second is the fact that the greens seem to be quite complex and thus favour accurate approaches.  Players who have accuracy off the tee and with their irons might be favoured as they won’t have to deal with the entirety of the undulating green complexes on every hole.  The course is also lined with water and has a decent amount of trees and foliage lining the fairways and so accuracy in that regard should also help players stay out of trouble and avoid costly penalty strokes.USATSI_8700450_168381090_lowres

Past 5 winners

Justin Rose—2014 (Congressional)
Tiger Woods—2013 (Congressional)
Nick Watney—2012 (Aronimink Golf Club)
Bill Haas—2011 (Aronimink Golf Club)
Justin Rose—2010 (Congressional)

Weather

The weather looks mostly very good for this event and like last week I doubt it will be an issue.  There is some possibility of rain on Thursday afternoon however.  If that continues to be a threat throughout the week it might be worth fading some of the Thursday afternoon wave, however right now I don’t think it’s going to be enough of an issue.  Check the forecast Wednesday to see if Thursday afternoon is indeed going to be a real threat.

What will it take to succeed at Robert Trent Jones Golf Course?

I would suggest a pretty decent all-around game is still going to be needed to win this week.  Powerful hitters should carry some kind of advantage off the tee on the longer par 4’s and par 5’s but accurate approach shots and good putting will still be needed.  Similarly a player can get into trouble here with all the water if they are spraying their tee ball.  Instead of looking for a standout in one area focus on players who are solid everywhere and who should be able to handle the new challenge that awaits them this week.

What stats are important this week?

Again, since it’s a new course with barely any history with PGA professionals this is a week where sticking with the basics should play dividends.  If you are looking for stats to focus on this week I’d suggest the following:

Strokes gained: tee to green
Proximity to the hole
Par 4 scoring

A player who ranks well in all three categories, or highly in 2 of the three should have a better chance this week than most.  As mentioned before this course does seem like good ball striking will be required and those with solid tee to green games and approaches should prosper.

Who has been hot recently?

With no course history this week I am simply reviewing recent form to determine who might be worth a play based on their play in their past few tournaments
  • Johnson Wagner has now made his last four cuts with his worst finish in that stretch being a 32nd. He’s driving the ball phenomenally right now and has two top ten’s in his past three starts.
  • Pat Perez is playing extremely consistent golf right now. He hasn’t missed a cut in forever and has a 5th, a 22nd and an 18th place finish all within the past 3 months.
  • Scott Langley has now made 6 cuts in a row and has finishes of 25th or better in that same span. He’s simmering and could be due for a top finish very soon.
  • Chris Stroud may have missed the cut last week but before that he had made 4 cuts in a row and landed himself a 5th and 10th place in that span.
  Who has been cold recently?
  • Patrick Rodgers came onto tour like a house on fire but recently he’s had problems. He’s missed two cuts in a row and his best finish over his last four tourneys is 39th
  • Sean O’Hair still seems to be struggling. He’s now missed four of his last five cuts and can’t seem to put enough consistent rounds together to be a force like he was at the start of the year.
  • Martin Laird is another player who started off hot but can’t seem to pull it together. He’s missed two cuts in a row now and 4 of his last 6.
  • Charles Howell III has cooled off a lot. After a fine start to the season he’s now failed to crack the top 30 in a tournament in his last 8 attempts.
  • Tiger Woods has missed the cut in his last two majors and only has a 32nd from the Greenbrier as his best finish over the past two months. He’s risky to say the least.
My Recommendation

This field is extremely thin.  A lot of players dropped out at the last minute to save energy for the PGA and WGC events.  I’d look for some lower ranked players who have played well in recent weeks and try to ride their hot streak in this weaker field event.  With a higher percentage of players making the cut this week (70 out of 120) a stars and scrubs approach to lineup building is probably not a bad way to go.

My Pick: Shawn Stefani

Stefani has knocked on the door a few times on the PGA tour and even finished second at this event last year (albeit on a different course).  I think he’s got the right type of tee to green game to compete on this course and the weak field means this might be his best chance in a while to get it done.