Onto the third leg of the FedEx Cup play-offs, and we are now down to 70 players. One final event remains for those outside the top-70 to fight their way into the coveted top-30, in order to play the Tour Championship at East Lake.
Bryson DeChambeau made it two wins in a row last week, making Jim Furyk’s Ryder Cup wildcard decision even easier. Bryson had arguably done enough to be in the team anyway, after securing his second win of the season at the Northern Trust, but backing it up with a win this past weekend at the Dell Technologies, will have no doubt secured his position.
With a lot of players impressing, and equally some of the top players struggling this past weekend, this promises to be a great event, as players have half an eye, not only on the FedEx Cup finale, but the Ryder Cup in Paris also.
The Course and what it will take to win
Aronimink Golf Club, 7,237 Yards, Par 70
Two years of course form, from way back in 2010/2011 is not really enough to go by, in order to critique this field, as many were not even on Tour then. Looking at those that previously won or contended here though, should give you an insight on who you can expect to feature here.
In 2010 Justin Rose beat Ryan Moore by a stroke, and a year later, Nick Watney shot a course-record 62 in the third round, followed by a final-round 66 to secure a two-stroke victory over KJ Choi.
Rose is the only one of the four that will be playing this week, as Watney played his way out of field this past weekend, whilst Moore faced an uphill battle and Choi playing a lot less these days.
A course which favours accuracy over distance, finding plenty of fairways and greens will be the order of the day.
With it being a Par 70, Par 4 Scoring will also be key. Those that rank highly, both in accuracy off the tee and in Greens in Regulation, as well as scoring well on Par 4’s this season will be top of the bill.
Rose won in 2010, ranking 10th in Greens in Regulation, 15th in Driving Accuracy and 3rd in Par 4 Performance.
Ryan Moore ranked 21st in Greens in Regulation, 23rd in Driving Accuracy and 2nd in Par 4 Performance when finishing 2nd.
Watney won in 2011 ranking 27th in Greens in Regulation, 10th in Driving Accuracy and 1st in Par 4 Performance
KJ Choi ranked 13th in Greens in Regulation, 4th in Driving Accuracy and 6th in Par 4 Performance when finishing 2nd.
Limiting mistakes on the Par 3’s here will also be key here, as those that finished inside the top-2 across both 2010 and 2011, both finished +1 or better on the Par 3’s, ranking no worse than 16th in this category.
With Aronimink being a Donald Ross design, form at the following courses is worth considering:
East Lake (Tour Championship)
Oakland Hills (1996 U.S. Open, 2008 PGA Championship)
Pinehurst No.2 (1995, 2005, 2014 U.S. Open)
Plainfield (2011 and 2015 Barclays)
Oak Hill (2013 PGA Championship)
Form at this stage of the season is key, and if a player has got off to a bad start across both of the first two events, there is obvious reasons for concerns. They may well feel the need to force it, in order to make it to East Lake, whilst those that are set to feature at the Ryder Cup in a fortnight’s time, may well be searching for form.
Justin Rose 14/1 (Betfair and PaddyPower) 4 pts win:
The most obvious pick of the week, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore him. After a fine season, in which Rose has won four times worldwide, Rose doesn’t look to be done yet.
A 2nd place finish behind DeChambeau last week, suggests he’s still in fine fettle, despite missing the cut at the Northern Trust a fortnight ago.
Rose has made 22 starts since last year’s Tour Championship and in that time has finished inside the top-10 15 times (68%) and won 4 times (18%), so his consistency is clearly phenomenal.
Returning to a course where he not only won in 2010, but followed that up a year later with a T15 finish, it is clear that Rose is the man to beat this week, despite Dustin Johnson lining up as favourite again.
There are very little weaknesses in Rose’s game these days, with his previous short-game demons almost a non-factor, as he’s matured into an elite talent.
Rose hits his fair share of fairways and greens, such is his consistency all round, and he ranks 2nd in Par 4 Scoring Average and 3rd in Par 4 Birdie or Better %, so will not mind a Par 70 layout, especially one he’s already familiar with, one bit.
When it comes to Donald Ross designs, Rose can boast a decent record also. At the 2011 and 2015 Barclays, Rose finished 6th and 16th respectively at Plainfield. A 9th place finish at the 2008 PGA Championship (Oakland Hills) and a 12th place finish at the 2014 U.S Open (Pinehurst No.2) are further evidence that he likes Ross’ layouts.
At 14/1 bettors may prefer to look elsewhere, but there is a lot that points towards a second victory at this course for Rose.
Tyrrell Hatton 50/1 (General) 1pt e/w:
Hatton has been in good form of late and despite a frustrating final-round 74 last week, I can see him going well again here.
At the Northern Trust two weeks ago, Hatton ranked 5th in SG: Approach and 8th in SG: Tee-to-Green, striking the ball beautifully but “only” finished T20. Last week he wasn’t quite as good in these areas, ranking 22nd in Approach and 21st Tee-to-Green, but improved on the leaderboard, finishing T12.
Well known for his frustrations on the greens, if he can get the ball rolling nicely this week, he’s going to be a threat once again, continuing his red-hot form that started right back at the U.S. Open.
Since finishing T6 at the U.S. Open, Hatton’s form reads T16-T9-T51-T28-T10-T20-T12, and a bit more patience, and a slight improvement in key areas will see those top finished turn into another win, and his first state-side.
At 50/1 he is a fair price to go well, on a course that should certainly play to his strengths.
Cameron Smith 50/1 (General) 1pt e/w:
There always seems to be a player who makes a somewhat unexpected run during these FedEx Cup play-offs, and whilst we are all aware of Cameron Smith’s ability, back-to-back 3rd place finishes this past fortnight has certainly surpassed expectations.
Since finishing T5 at Augusta back in April, Smith had just one T25 finish to his name, before the start of the FedEx Cup. A 23rd place finish in a limited field at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational (71 players) was still not enough to suggest he was going to put together a run quite like he has.
A player who can sometimes find consistency hard to come by, putting back-to-back performances together as he has over the last two weeks, should certainly grab some attention, given his recent past.
To start his 2017/18 season, Smith finished 3rd at the CJ Cup and 4th at the Emirates Australian Open, before winning the Australian PGA Championship. With such similar form shown in the last two events, there is every reason to suspect another win may not be far away.
Given a poor run of form between the Masters and the Northern Trust (T32-MC-MC-MC-MC-T42-78-23-T56) his statistics have taken a plunge, but one thing that has remained consistent is his short game.
33rd in SG: Around-the-Green and 38th in SG: Putting, Smith has been solid throughout the season on and around the greens and with his ball-striking improving, he looks a lively contender here.
Smith ranked 4th in SG: Approach at the Northern Trust and 25th last week at the Dell Tech, whilst also ranking 17th and 20th in SG: Tee-to-Green respectively.
Also despite a mid-season slump, Smith ranks 33rd in Par 4 Scoring Average, so will enjoy the emphasis on the intermediate holes.
At 50/1 I am happy to chance a player that has two 3rd place finishes in the last two weeks, and has already rode a similar wave of form to victory this season.
C.T Pan 110/1 (Betfair, PaddyPower and Unibet) 1pt e/w:
C.T Pan has emerged as a fine player as the season has progressed, and currently ranks 5th in Greens in Regulation, which is ideal ahead of the test he’ll face at Aronimink this week.
A T60 finish at the Northern Trust two weeks ago was not the best start to his FedEx Cup run, but a final-round 67 may well have been a clue that finer things were on the horizon for Pan, at the Dell Technologies Championship.
Last week, the man from Taiwan finished in a tie for 4th with Hideki Matsuyama and Tony Finau, finishing four strokes behind DeChamebeau.
This was Pan’s second top-4 finish in three starts, after finishing T2, behind eventual winner, Brandt Snedeker. His good play at the Wyndham followed a T11 finish at the Barracuda Championship, and all in all, Pan has finished inside the top-20 nine times this season.
With 6 of those 9 top-20 finishes coming in his last 10 starts, it is clear that Pan has found something in his game to step up to another level, and a first PGA Tour win is surely not too far away.
Whether he can find his first win in an elite field such as this, under the pressures of the FedEx Cup remains to be seen, but there is every chance he gives it a good go, given his current form and course suitability.
At 110/1 Pan is at least double the price I would make him this week, and I certainly believe he can at least place whilst in the form that he is.
Total Points staked this week: 10
Profit/Loss for 2018: -140