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Thomas top pick as PGA Tour hits Ohio

By Wes Reynolds  (Point Spread Weekly) 

July 8, 2020 12:02 AM
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Justin Thomas
© Imagn

Having shot a combined 46 under par in the three events since the resumption of PGA Tour play, it was really just a matter of time before Bryson DeChambeau was hoisting a trophy and getting back into the winner’s circle. That’s exactly what he did. As the 6/1 odds-on tournament favorite, he shot 23 under and won last weekend’s Rocket Mortgage Classic by three strokes. Matthew Wolff made a combined 31 birdies and eagles to lead the field but still lost by three. DeChambeau took the old adage “drive for show and putt for dough” to the utmost by leading the field in Strokes Gained Off The Tee and Strokes Gained Putting. He led the field in average driving distance at 350.6 yards, the highest ever in the category for a PGA Tour event winner. The record had been held by Tiger Woods at 341.5 yards during the 2005 British Open at St. Andrews. DeChambeau hit 47 tee shots of 300 yards or more, the most by a PGA Tour event winner since J.B. Holmes did it in Phoenix in 2006. DeChambeau will take this week off after playing four consecutive weeks, but almost half of the Official World Golf Ranking top 50 will tee it up this week for the Workday Charity Open in Columbus, Ohio. 

No. 5 Justin Thomas tops the market at 10/1, looking to rebound from a missed cut two weeks ago at the Travelers. Jon Rahm (12/1) is the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 2, but he has been a bit slow out of the gate since the restart. Reigning Memorial Tournament champion Patrick Cantlay will look to defend his title next week and slots in as the third choice this week at 14/1. Brooks Koepka and Hideki Matsuyama round out the top five on the odds board at 16/1. 

The Event

The Workday Charity Open starts back-to-back weeks in Columbus ahead of the Jack Nicklaus-hosted Memorial Tournament next week. The Workday will also be held at Muirfield Village, which has hosted the Memorial every year since 1976. This is scheduled to be a one-time event taking the John Deere Classic’s spot on the schedule, since that tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No spectators will be at either Columbus event. This week’s field of 156 will play for a $6.2 million purse, with 24 of the top 50 in the OWGR among the contenders.

The Course

Muirfield Village Golf Club hosts the one-time Workday Charity Open. The course is in Dublin, Ohio, about 20 miles north of Columbus, where the course designer played his collegiate golf at Ohio State. Jack Nicklaus designed Muirfield Village in 1974. The track plays as a par-72 and will measure 7,456 yards, lengthened slightly from what the players will see next week at the Memorial. The par-3 eighth has been extended 17 yards to play at 202 yards, the par-5 11th has been extended 17 yards to 583 and the par-5 15th has been extended 31 yards to 560. The mix of Kentucky Bluegrass, Ryegrass and Fescue rough will be lower this week, and the Bentgrass/Poa Annua greens will play slower (11 feet) versus the 13 feet on the Stimpmeter next week. The Memorial usually features some of the fastest greens the players will see all year. The layout contains 73 bunkers and 13 water hazards in play over 11 holes. Muirfield Village is a classic second-shot course. The fairways average 35 yards wide and are relatively easy to find, but it’s not a track where players can just grip it and rip it like last week in Detroit. Nevertheless, with slower greens and shorter rough, scoring conditions should be more favorable than next week at the Memorial. 

While Muirfield Village is unique, a number of Nicklaus designs could provide some correlations:

— Annandale Golf Club (Sanderson Farms Championship through 2013)

— Glen Abbey (2008-09, 2012, 2015-18 RBC Canadian Open)

— Montreux GCC (Barracuda Championship)

— PGA National (Honda Classic)

— PGA West, Tournament Course (The American Express)

— PGA West, Nicklaus Private (Humana Challenge through 2015)

— Sherwood Country Club, Thousand Oaks (World Challenge through 2013)

— Valhalla Golf Club (2014 PGA Championship)

Recent History/Winners

Note: These are results from the Memorial Tournament. 

2019: Patrick Cantlay (-19/269) 18/1

2018: Bryson DeChambeau (-15/273)* 55/1

2017: Jason Dufner (-13/275) 66/1

2016: William McGirt (-15/273)** 200/1

2015: David Lingmerth (-15/273)*** 250/1

2014: Hideki Matsuyama (-13/275)**** 66/1

2013: Matt Kuchar (-12/276) 22/1

2012: Tiger Woods (-9/279) 16/1

2011: Steve Stricker (-16/272) 28/1

2010: Justin Rose (-18/270) 80/1

* - playoff win over Byeong Hun An and Kyle Stanley

** - playoff win over Jon Curran

*** - playoff win over Justin Rose

**** - playoff win over Kevin Na

Workday Trends and Angles

The last three Memorial Tournament winners have rated second or better in the field for scrambling during their winning weeks. The winners are usually at least near the bottom of the top 10 for GIR, SG: Approach and Proximity to the Hole. Driving distance also doesn’t matter a ton here as the field average was only 284 yards, ninth lowest on the PGA Tour last year. This is a second-shot course, so GIR and SG: Approach will matter this week. 

Greens In Regulation

1. Jim Furyk (1) 76.44%

2. Corey Conners (2) 74.44%

3. Emiliano Grillo (3) 73.24%

4. Patrick Cantlay (T4) 73.15%

5. Xander Schauffele (T4) 73.15%

6. Gary Woodland (7) 72.50%

7. Aaron Wise (9) 72.36%

8. Adam Hadwin (T10) 72.22%

9. Hideki Matsuyama (13) 71.64%

10. Kyle Stanley (14) 71.60%

11. Justin Thomas (17) 71.49%

Strokes Gained: Approach

1. Marc Leishman (1) 1.119

2. Collin Morikawa (3) 0.976

3. Patrick Cantlay (5) 0.926

4. Hideki Matsuyama (6) 0.914

5. Justin Thomas (7) 0.892

6. Viktor Hovland (8) 0.855

7. Gary Woodland (10) 0.798

8. Cameron Percy (12) 0.725

9. Emiliano Grillo (T13) 0.719

10. Joel Dahmen (T13) 0.719

11. Russell Henley (T13) 0.719

Selections

Hideki Matsuyama 16/1

The price is not generous but the fit looks right this week. Matsuyama ranks second on tour and first in this week’s field for SG: Tee-To-Green (+ 1.728), sixth in SG: Approach (+ 0.914), 13th in Greens In Regulation (71.64%) and 13th in Birdie Average (4.35). 

Matsuyama won the Memorial Tournament in 2014 and has had a long record of high-end play at Muirfield Village. He ranks as one of the top five players in terms of Average Strokes Gained:

Average Strokes Gained at Muirfield Village GC (Minimum 10 Rounds)

1. Patrick Cantlay + 3.23 (12 rounds)

2. Matt Kuchar + 2.75 (46)

3. Justin Rose + 2.39 (46)

4. Hideki Matsuyama + 2.13 (22)

5. Rory Sabbatini + 2.00 (34)

6. Emiliano Grillo + 1.96 (16)

7. Byeong Hun An + 1.93 (18)

8. Rickie Fowler + 1.75 (34)

9. Steve Stricker + 1.72 (34)

10. Jim Furyk/Stewart Cink + 1.66 (54)

Brooks Koepka 19/1

The three-month pause in PGA Tour action is starting to look like it helped Koepka. First, he had not been playing that well in 2020, and he made a trip to Las Vegas before the Players Championship to see Butch Harmon, whose son, Claude Harmon III, is Koepka’s regular swing coach. The Harmons’ main advice was essentially to keep it simple. Two weeks ago, Koepka did exactly that and finished seventh, his best effort since taking fourth at the Tour Championship last August. He led the field in SG: Off The Tee (+ 1.73) and ranked in the top 20 in the field for SG: Tee-To-Green and SG: Putting on a course and in an event he was playing for the first time. 

Koepka was tipped, along with eventual winner Dustin Johnson, in this column two weeks ago for the Travelers, but he was a late withdrawal when caddie Ricky Elliott tested positive for COVID-19. However, he’s back this week. Koepka’s best finish in two trips to the Memorial is a nondescript 31st, but he looks motivated to get a result. The “Koepka only cares about the majors” mantra has long been overblown. He has some motivation seeing fellow “Bash Brother” Johnson win two weeks ago. A little over a year ago, Koepka was the talk of the golf world, and now it’s DeChambeau. This could be the week he says, “I’m still here.” 

Koepka is feeling better physically and mentally. “This is the best my body’s felt in years,” Koepka told the Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard after the RBC Heritage. “It’s been a long road. It just feels like I haven’t been healthy for a very long time. My body feels great. I feel like I can really move through the golf ball.” 

It also helps that he’s putting well again. Before the hiatus, Koepka rated 208th in SG: Putting (-0.71 per round), but since the restart he rates fourth (+ 1.06 per round). 

Justin Rose 26/1

Despite a missed cut at the Travelers two weeks ago, Rose started relatively strong out of the gate after the tour returned by posting a third at Colonial and a 14th at the RBC Heritage. Rose is a horse for the course here, with a victory in 2010 and continued solid form since. 

Rose has made a lot of changes in his game during the pause in play. He ended his multimillion-dollar equipment deal with Honma and now looks to have his trusty Taylor Mades back in the bag, though he doesn’t have an official equipment deal at the moment. Rose also recently split with longtime swing coach Sean Foley. Under Foley, Rose won all 10 of his PGA Tour titles, including his first major championship at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion. So Rose has yet to prove he can win without Foley, but sometimes things can get stale, and going out on his own might be just what Rose needed. This change could be exciting for Rose and force more accountability by taking over his own game. 

Gary Woodland 50/1

Woodland hasn’t exactly set the world on fire since winning the U.S. Open last summer, but he does have two top-5s and six top-10s, including one this year at the Honda Classic at the Nicklaus-designed PGA National. 

Woodland rates in the top 10 on tour in Greens In Regulation (7th - 72.50%) and Strokes Gained Approach (10th - + 0.798) and just outside the top 10 in Scoring Average and Birdie Average. 

Byeong Hun An 82/1

He loves Nicklaus designs and has had numerous high finishes on such layouts, including a playoff loss to Bryson DeChambeau in 2018 at Muirfield Village. An also has two top-5 finishes, including earlier this season at the Honda Classic. He has five top-10s in his last 15 worldwide starts. 

Putting is always the drawback with An, who rates a poor 210th in SG: Putting. However, the slower greens this week may cure some of those woes.

Joel Dahmen 100/1

Dahmen rates in the top 15 on tour in SG: Approach and SG: Tee-To-Green. He also rates in the top 25 in SG: Off-The-Tee and scrambling. 

He has eight finishes of top-20 or better in his last 14 events dating to the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open last fall. 

Jhonattan Vegas 150/1

The Venezuelan’s best finish at Muirfield Village is just 40th, but he has been trending upward lately. He has made all three cuts since the restart, including two finishes in the top 25.

However, what catches the eye is his record on Nicklaus designs. Vegas is a two-time winner at the RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey in 2016-17. He also has a win at the Bob Hope Classic, which was played in part at the PGA West Nicklaus Private Course at the time. 

Austrian Open

March 8 was the last time the European Tour was in action, when Jorge Campillo won the Qatar Masters. After a four-month hiatus, the European Tour returns with the beginning of a two-week swing through Austria before a six-week UK swing. This week’s Austrian Open and next week’s event are co-sanctioned by the European Tour and the Challenge Tour, which is Europe’s answer to the Korn Ferry Tour. 

Joost Luiten is the short favorite at 6/1 and rightly so, considering he won the event in 2013 and has never finished worse than seventh here. Thomas Detry follows on the board at 8/1. Adri Arnaus (16/1) and Renato Paratore (20/1) are fellow players in their mid-20s with shorter prices. Former European Ryder Cupper Nicolas Colsaerts is also slotted at 20/1.

The Event

The Austrian Open was founded as a European Tour event in 1990 and held regularly until 1996 before dropping down to the Challenge Tour in 1997 and remaining there through 2005. The tournament returned to the main tour in 2006 and was held as a traditional open event through 2017. In 2018, the open became the Shot Clock Masters, the first major professional tournament to use a clock on every shot. Players were afforded 50 seconds to play an approach shot or par-3 tee shot, chip or putt. They were given a 40-second allowance to play a tee shot on a par-4 or par-5 or second or third approach shot, chip or putt. Those who failed to play within these limits incurred a one-shot penalty. Players had two 40-second extensions in each round. That format has gone away and the regular Austrian Open has returned after being absent from the 2019 schedule. Previous winners of this event include Bernhard Langer, Alex Čejka, Paul McGinley, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Bernd Wiesberger, Dylan Frittelli, Luiten and native Austrian Markus Brier, a three-time Austrian Open champion.

The Course

The Diamond Course at the Diamond Country Club in Atzenbrugg, about 75 minutes northwest of Vienna, hosts the Austrian Open. Diamond was designed in 2002 by Jeremy Pern, one of the more experienced golf course architects in Europe. The track is a relatively flat and exposed par-72 that measures 7,458 yards. Half the holes feature water, including two par-3s to island greens, and the premium is very much on finding greens in regulation after a successful tee shot into the fairway. Anything else will leave players struggling for par with tough scrambling conditions around the putting surfaces. The greens are a bent/poa mix and are very smooth. 

Recent History/Winners

2018 (Shot Clock Masters): Mikko Korhonen 28/1

2017 (Lyoness Open): Dylan Frittelli 40/1 

2016: Ashun Wu 160/1

2015: Chris Wood 12/1

2014: Mikael Lundberg 250/1

2013: Joost Luiten 25/1

2012: Bernd Wiesberger 25/1

2011 (Austrian Golf Open): Kenneth Ferrie 55/1

2010: Jose Manuel Lara 66/1

Selections

Rikard Karlberg 40/1

Scrambling has proved very important in determining the victor in this event recently. The winners over the last nine trips to Diamond CC have averaged seventh or better in the category and have been third or better in five of the last nine years. So we start with the top-ranked scrambler on tour in Karlberg. The Swede has to be as happy as anyone to get back on the course, considering the grind it took for him to regain his European Tour card. He had to hole a 50-footer on the final hole of qualifying school last winter to procure that card.

Antoine Rozner 50/1

Rozner ranks in the top 25 on the European Tour in SG: Off-The-Tee (14th), Driving Distance (20th) and Driving Accuracy (25th). He has also proven to be an adept ball striker this season, ranking ninth for Greens In Regulation, 13th in SG: Tee-To-Green and 28th in SG: Approach. 

Robin Sciot-Siegrist 80/1

The Frenchman already has two top-10s for the short season, with an eighth in Mauritius and a third in the Vic Open. He is a very straight hitter, ranking 10th in Driving Accuracy, and can get hot with the putter, ranking eighth in SG: Putting.

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