A Military Tribute At The Greenbrier
So after the success of Bubba last week unfortunately it wasn’t our week at the Quicken Loans National.
Things started promisingly on Thursday, particularly with Putnam’s opening 64, however it was all downhill for our main team from there on in and by the time Sunday came around we were purely interested spectators.
The silver lining on the week was the performance of our trader Sam Ryder who was matched on the exchanges as low as 46 early in his third round, so at least we recouped something there.
As for the winner’s performance, well what can you say. Francesco basically put on a clinic and took the course apart. Outstanding stuff!
Moving on and the tour heads a further 250 miles South from Washington DC to White Sulphur Springs, W Virginia to The Old White TPC, home of A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier.
The tournament was first held in 2010 and initially was played at the end of July. In 2012 however the event moved to its current early July slot.
The original 6yr contract with the PGA Tour has been extended for another 6yrs so the tournament will be on the calendar until at least 2021.
In 2016 the tournament was cancelled as a result of severe flooding.
This year the event has been renamed ‘A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier’ and will honour the Military.
All active Military and Veterans will be admitted to the tournament free of charge and there will be a Military appreciation day on Tuesday July 3rd prior to the event.
Similarly to last week in all honesty the field is a fairly weak one.
Bubba Watson who owns a second home locally and offered great support in the aftermath of the 2016 floods heads things up along with Phil Mickelson [who is a Greenbrier Resort Ambassador], who makes his first start since his ‘moment of madness’ at the US Open.
Beyond that several ‘young guns’ such as defending champion Xander Schauffele, Bryson Dechambeau and Tony Finau are in attendance.
The Old White TPC is a Par 70 measuring at just under 7300 yards.
The greens are Bentgrass.
The course was co designed by Charles Blair MacDonald and Seth Raynor [who also designed Waialae Country Club home of the Sony Open] and was officially opened in 1914.
Raynor then returned in the 1920s to oversee updates to the course.
Following the horrendous flooding in the area which lead to the cancellation of the 2016 event a full renovation project was undertaken under the supervision of architect Keith Foster.
This included the whole course being re-seeded with all greens being re-contoured, re-surfaced and re-seeded.
All the bunkers on the course were also rebuilt.
The course has tree lined fairways and is seen as a classical test.
Allowing for the cancelled event in 2016 we have seen seven editions of the Greenbrier since it first graced the tour in 2010.
If we look at the roll of honour over this time it must be said that at first glance there is nothing that you would say particularly links the winners together.
The players who have got there name on the trophy are as follows;
2010 S Appleby
2011 S Stallings
2012 T Potter Jnr
2013 J Blixt
2014 A Cabrera
2015 D Lee
2017 X Schauffele
Having scoured this list this is the bit where you then expect me to say that “on a closer glance etc, etc”….however try as I might I am unable to find a glaringly obvious link between them. In fact I actually think the tactic this week that may well pay dividends is to look at the link between what they all hadn’t done!
Let me explain…
Firstly of these seven winners all of them apart from Danny Lee were making their debut in the event the year that they won. Now obviously this would have been a given for Appleby in 2010 and statistically a fair bet for the next year with Stallings but since then Potter Jnr, Blixt, Cabrera and Schauffele were all seeing The Old White in tournament play for the first time.
To stretch this further Stallings, Potter Jnr and Schauffele were all rookies on tour.
The one player who wasn’t playing the event for the first time, Danny Lee had finished 16th here the year before and had missed the cut on his only previous visit to that. Clearly therefore previous course form is not an issue.
Next lets look at recent form. Well having gone through the previous seven winners I can tell you that only one player, Xander Schauffele had a top 10 in any of their previous three starts. He had finished 5th three events prior at the US Open.
Conversely though it’s worth noting that the last four winners had at least all made their previous cut finishing between 24th and 43rd between them in their last outings prior to this event.
In general though based on past history it would appear that the route to success this week is no previous course form, and no high finishes in their last couple of starts!
From a winning score point of view the course has been toughened up since Stuart Appleby closed with a 59 in the inaugural year on his way to shooting -22 and lifting the trophy and for the past 5yrs we have seen winning scores between -13 and -16.
Still though this obviously good going and the winner will in all likelihood need a hot putter and to shoot four rounds in the 60s.
It looks like the players are in for another warm week.
The early part of the week looks to be dry as well, however at the time of writing all four event days show the possibility of thunderstorms, so we could be in for some disruptions.
If the storms do come to fruition we will be looking at a soft course and with no win at all in the forecast for the first three days it will be a birdie fest.
Sunday however does show the possibility of some gusts of up to 20mph so this may slow the scoring down a bit.
I have gone with five players this week as follows;
RUSSELL HENLEY –20-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 10th
So, having said everything I’ve said about this event seeming to throw up winners who are course debutants with no really strong recent form, as is my want I am going to rip up that protocol and go with the complete opposite for my first pick and go with Russell Henley, an in form player who loves the course!
Obviously I am a fan of historical tournament trends and there will be plenty of room for picks later in the preview that fit the past winners profile however I think it would be foolish to ignore the obvious claims of Henley this week.
The case for Henley is a pretty straightforward one. Firstly having finished 5th here on his last two visits he is clearly a big fan of the course. He also finished 30th on his only other visit here prior to that.
Also as I noted earlier the course was co designed by Seth Raynor who also designed Waialae Country Club and this is of course where Russell hacked up for his maiden PGA Tour victory and I therefore doubt that his liking for the Old White is a coincidence.
Secondly Henley is clearly trending very nicely in the right direction at the moment with form figures of 58, 29, 25 & 6 in his last four starts.
We saw with the Georgia Bulldog when he notched his last victory on tour at the Houston Open that it pays to follow him on courses he has shown a liking for when he is also in good nick, and his profile coming in this week is incredibly similar to the one he arrived at Houston with last year.
Henley has always been known as a strong putter, however surprisingly this is the area of his game that he has struggled with so far this season and at present he sits 70th in SGP on tour.
Last time out however whilst he struggled with the putter on Sunday there were definite signs of improvement with the flat stick over the week and he finished the week 30th in SGP.
The ability to ‘go low’ will be a key to victory this week and Henley has shown in the past that he has the ability to make birdies in abundance.
Therefore if he can get the flat stick to work this week it is hard to not seeing him being in the mix come Sunday and I can see Russell picking up his fourth tour win.
WESLEY BRYAN – 100 -1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 26th
I mentioned earlier that steady if unspectacular form coming in appears to be the order of the day this week and one man that catches my eye in that vein at the moment is Wesley Bryan.
Since Bryan notched his first PGA Tour win in his home state of South Carolina last year things haven’t exactly gone to plan for him.
For the remainder of the 2016/17 season Wes only notched one more top 20 finish which was a 3rd place at the John Deere.
Similarly after a string of mid division finishes earlier this season he struggled again from early February right through to The Players Championship making only 1 cut in 8 starts.
Since then though he has steadied the ship a bit and posted his best finish of the season a couple of starts ago with a 12th place at the Fedex St Jude.
Whilst Bryan is making his debut here this week I can’t help but think this is the sort of track that will suit him.
My logic for this is that to win the event you will most likely have to shoot four rounds in the 60s and finish somewhere around -14 and Wes has shown with his win and his next best finish on tour that this is where his strengths lie.
In addition all of Wes’ eight previous top 15 finishes on tour have come either on par 70 or par 71 tracks.
When you look at the fact that Bryan is currently sitting 190th on Driving Distance on tour this fact is hardly surprising as you can basically rule him out on any par 72 with a succession of 480 yard par 4s & 600yd Par 5s.
The Old White however I believe will strongly play to Wes’ strength which is basically his short game and I am optimistic he can contend here this week.
OLLIE SCHNEIDERJANS – 80-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 26th
People who have been following my picks for a while may well have fond memories of this event from last year as we were on the winner Xander Schauffele.
My logic for backing Xander last year was quite simple really. He was a good young player who was in good form and who looked like they had what it takes to win on tour.
Obviously that line of thought went pretty well and the same thought pattern brings me to Ollie Schneiderjans this year.
Now the first thing to say is that Ollie is not quite in the vein of form that Xander was in last year when he arrived here, however there were enough positives in his 32nd place finish at the Quicken Loans last week to think he may have turned a corner.
The main stumbling block for Ollie this season has been his long game. To be honest ever since he came on tour he has been way down the field in the Driving Accuracy stakes and this season is no different as he currently ranks 190th on this front. This year though to compound things his GIR stats have also fallen of the chart.
All in all therefore in principal this does not make particularly good reading however a bit like Wes Bryan [albeit for different reasons] it is noticeable that Ollie seems to play his best golf on shorter par 70 or par 71 courses.
We saw this last year with his top 5 finishes at the Wyndham where he shot -21 to finish 2nd , and with his 3rd place finish at the Heritage.
We have also seen it with his 7th place finish at the Seth Raynor designed Sony this year.
It is also worth noting that Ollie has shown on his short time on the PGA Tour that he can ‘click’ out of the blue at any stage. This was never more evident than with his -21 total for a 2nd place finish at the Wyndham last year, which came on the back of nothing better than a 39th place finish in his previous 6 starts.
Ollie has made one previous start in this event last year and he was actually DQ’d on completion of his second round after shooting 71, 69 which would have resulted in him missing the cut by 1 shot.
As I have said a couple of times already though course form this week is not a big concern for me.
Ollie putted nicely at the Quicken Loans last week and in a week where he can leave the driver in the bag most of the time I am hopeful this young star in the making can spring to life and get right in the hunt for his first PGA tour win.
STEPHAN JAEGER – 150-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 47th
Next up for me this week is one of our ‘six to follow’ for 2018 the German Stephan Jaeger.
Whilst as I said earlier there is no great link to the previous winners of this event one thing that does strike me about a fair few of them is they are what I would class as ‘streak’ players, or players who have an ability to get on a roll, or, to put it another way players who disappear and do nothing for ages and then suddenly get hot out of nowhere!
I would certainly put Appleby, Stallings, Potter Jnr and Cabrera in that category and this has brought me to Jaeger this week.
Those who have followed Jaeger’s career over the last two or three years on the Web.com will know that he is capable of some incredible bursts of scoring out of nowhere.
He most famously of course did this when shooting 58 in round 1 of the Ellie Mae Classic in 2016 before going on to win the event, having been in no great form coming in. He then produced a similar type of display last season to win the BMW Charity Pro-Am.
This season on the PGA Tour has been a struggle for Stephan although he did find time to drop down to the Web.com in June to win the Knoxville Open with back to back rounds of 64 over the weekend.
Last week at the Quicken Loans however on a course that I wouldn’t have necessarily seen as being up his street he saw a huge improvement to notch a 13th place finish.
This actually could and should have been a lot better but for a D Bogey, Bogey finish, however it was still a great weeks work.
It was interesting to me that that change in fortune came the week after he went home to Munich to play in the BMW and whilst he missed the cut there it is possible that some time back in his town of birth with family and friends may have helped him to recharge the batteries and get things back on track.
This is pure speculation of course however either way the German finished the week at TPC Potomac 9th in DA and 3rd in SGP and if he can continue this forward momentum this week I can see a big run coming on a track which should suit his aggressive style of play.
FABIAN GOMEZ – 250-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 6 FINISHED 56th
For my final pick this week I am going to look to South America or to be more precise Argentina and roll the dice with Fabian Gomez.
Those of you who have taken a closer look at the final leaderboards from the last three editions of this event will have noticed that in all three of them a South American player has featured prominently.
Most noticeably of course we saw Cabrera win in 2014, then in 2015 Andres Romero finished in a tie for 6th, whilst last year we saw Columbian Sebastian Munoz have a great chance to win going in to the final round before finishing 3rd.
Now there is every possibility this is nothing more than a big coincidence but it had me running through the list of South American’s in this years field to find the most likely to produce the goods and I was drawn to Gomez.
Along with the South American connection there are three other main things I like about Gomez this week. Firstly after an incredibly slow start to the season he has played solidly for the last four weeks to make four consecutive cuts with a best place of 19th at the Travelers. In other words the sort of form we have seen coming in from previous winners here.
Secondly, like our first selection Henley, he is a past winner of the Sony Open on the Seth Raynor designed Waialae Country Club.
Finally as a proven winner who has shown he can win when not in the greatest form coming in I am more than happy with the 250-1 on offer this week!
UPDATED - 4th JULY - TRADER
DOMINIC BOZZELLI FINISHED MC - BEST PRICE TRADED 210
In a week where there are a few speculative long shots we could have looked at for a trader I have chosen to roll the dice with Dominic Bozzelli.
At first glance there is not too much to get too excited about in Bozzelli's recent form however after three consecutive missed cuts from April in to May he has now strung four cuts together.
Two outings ago at the Travelers he posted a round of 64 and a closing 67 alongside two disappointing rounds in 70s, however taking the positives from this it shows he is 'not far away'.
Last week Dominic again played reasonably solidly to make the cut.
The Auburn grad has made one previous start at the Greenbrier last year and although he missed the cut he shot a second round of 66 so this shows he can handle the course.
Currently languishing down in the 160s in the Fex Cup standings if Dominic wants to make the play offs and avoid a trip back to the Web.com finals we are getting towards crunch time for him and my hope is that he can build on the last few weeks play and get himself in to the mix this week.
CURRENTLY TRADING @ 420+