Waste Management Open: Preview

This week the PGA Tour heads to Scottsdale for one of the most fun events of the year.  The spectacle of the 16th hole can often overshadow what is typically a tightly contested event featuring low scores and, more often than not, a stalwart in the game crowned champion.  Having played the course a handful of times, including once when all of the infrastructure was already built for the tournament, the atmosphere truly is special.  Also, it serves as a good reminder of how talented these pros are, as I shot 78 from the semi-tips as a 4 handicap and thought I had done really well.  On a longer course with tougher greens and tighter pins, 65 will not be an uncommon score this week.  These guys are, in fact, good!

DraftKings Lineup:

Hideki Matsuyama – defending champion, who was also runner up two years ago, finished calendar 2016 as the hottest player in the world.  There’s some worry about fatigue or his play tailing off a bit, but his strong record here makes him the play over similarly priced Jordan Spieth.

Jon Rahm – coming off first career win, don’t expect a letdown.  Finished T-5 as an amateur in 2015 and fits the aggressive bomber mentality that succeeds here.

Tony Finau – another bomber who has played well to start 2017, finishing T9, T20, and T4 in his three events.

Ollie Schniederjans – another young player with star potential, Ollie has started the year making 4 straights cuts, culminating in a T9 finish at Torrey Pines.

Kyle Stanley – hasn’t been able to build on his breakout win here in 2012, but is starting to play with some more consistency.  A bit of a high variance play but the upside is worth it.

Steve Stricker – perennially a Tour leader in birdie average in his prime, the condensed schedule hasn’t had much affect on his results.  Some worry about rust as this is his first official event since the 2016 FedEx Cup, but for the price he’s worth the risk.

We’ll be back for a tournament recap on Monday (maybe sooner if something newsworthy happens during the event).  For some thoughts during play follow @PushPowerFade on Twitter.  Thanks for reading!

 

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Farmers Insurance Open: Thoughts

It’s always fun to see a young prodigy break through so quickly to earn his first PGA Tour win.  As is evident by now, winning on Tour is very hard and often takes a while to learn.  Another young future star, Patrick Rodgers, couldn’t hold his 54 hole lead, and looked like the pressure to earn that first win had gotten to him.  Getting those reps near the top of the leaderboard will only help, as Rahm mentioned to Dottie Pepper after his win.  He noted that he played a little too safe when in contention last year at the Quicken Loans National and RBC Canadian Open, and knew that in the final round at Torrey he need to specifically putt more aggressively if he needed to win.

A quick note on Rahm’s win at such an early stage in his career.  With so many young players getting wins in the past few years, it’s easy to lose context of how impressive this is.  For comparison, here’s how many Tour events it took for some of the other young stars to notch their first win:

  • Rickie Fowler: 71
  • Jason Day: 66
  • Justin Thomas: 40
  • Patrick Reed: 35
  • Hideki Matsuyama: 22
  • Brooks Koepka: 21
  • Jordan Spieth: 17
  • Rory McIlroy: 16
  • Jon Rahm: 13

Of course, other players like Russell Henley and Jhonattan Vegas won very early and have yet to become stars.  But, given Rahm’s other results and his ability to finish his final 9 in 30 on a very tough course, it’s hard not to imagine an incredible future for this kid.

Will #59Watch Ever Stop Trending?

The calendar 2017 golf season has started off with a bang, with two rounds of 59 posted and a few other close calls.  That has lead to some questions among the golf press, and let’s address one of them: is carding a 59 losing some of its luster?

The short answer here is no.  The longer answer is no, but context is will matter.

For example, a final round sub-60 score that results in a tournament win will, almost certainly, be appropriately revered as an amazing achievement in the golf history books.  But as more of these birdie bonanzas occur, there will be some nit picking about the greatness of the round.  Some of the fair contextualizing items include:

  • Scoring conditions that day.  Paul Goydos shooting a 59 does lose a bit of significance when a 60 was posted that same day in afternoon conditions.
  • Impact on the tournament.  Jim Furyk’s 58 is the lowest score in PGA Tour history and a remarkable round, but he went off in one of the earliest groups on Sunday morning.  There was no tournament pressure on his round.  Obviously there was the pressure of shooting a 58. but it’s unlikely that pressure mounted until his final handful of holes.
  • Par of the course.  It is true that par is just a number, but there is a difference between playing a single round of golf in 11 under versus 13 under.

In all, don’t expect the fuss over a 59 to end anytime soon.  A round that good has earned the attention, much like a perfect game in baseball or a 60 point binge in basketball.  But, as these scores accumulate, so will the scrutiny around each particular round.