WGC – Workday Championship At The Concession.
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It wasn’t our week again at the Genesis Invitational as the two members of our team, Dustin Johnson and Patrick Cantlay, who headed in to Sunday with a good chance both stalled and in the end we came away with nothing.
The tournament was won by the in form Max Homa who pipped the perennial bridesmaid Tony Finau in a play off, meaning the ‘Finau debate’ will rage on.
While Finau ultimately came up short again we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that he produced a great Sunday charge shooting 64 so there are certainly big positives for him to take.
Looking back and after four weeks on the West Coast, while the last three weeks were frustrating we can’t complain too much about the West Coast swing as week one saw us bag a very nice winner with Si Woo Kim.
So still in good spirits we move on and it is now time for the first WGC of the year. Normally this would entail a trip south of the border in to Mexico however due to issues around the Covid-19 pandemic Club Chapultepec is unfortunately unable to host the event this year.
As a result the event this year will be held at the Concession GC in Bradenton, Florida meaning this week signals the start of a four week Florida swing taking us through the API, The players and The Honda.
Workday who stepped in to sponsor the one off event held at Muirfield Village last year have once more saved the day and the event this year will therefore have the full title of World Golf Championships – Workday Championship At The Concession.
The top 50 in the OWGR gain automatic entry. The field is then topped up through qualifiers last seasons Fedex Cup and Race to Dubai rankings before being made up with qualifiers from the Japan, Australasian, Sunshine and Asian Tour Order of Merits.
As you would expect for a WGC the field is a strong one with only Paul Casey, Tiger Woods and Brandon Stone absent from those who are eligible.
The market is headed up by Dustin Johnson. DJ is then followed by Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay and Bryson Dechambeau.
Concession GC is situated in Bradenton, Florida, which is about 45 miles south of Tampa and just north of Sarasota.
The course was designed by Jack Nicklaus & Tony Jacklin and opened for play in 2006.
The course takes its name from when Nicklaus conceded a 4ft putt on the final hole of the 1969 Ryder Cup to Jacklin at Royal Birkdale.
The course is a par 72 playing to just over 7400 yds.
The greens are Bermuda.
Whilst based in Florida the course has been described as having a ‘Carolina’s feel’ to it with its tree lined fairways and from that point of view it may well be worth looking at history at venues like Qual Hollow and also the Valspar championship, which is played 40 minutes up the road at Innisbrook in Tampa and is often described in the same way.
In addition with the Nicklaus stamp being on the venue it is certainly worth looking at history on other Nicklaus designs used on tour including Muirfield Village, home of the Memorial and PGA National home of the Honda.
In addition having seen a flyover of areas of the course it would also seem the greens are very much what you would expect of a Nicklaus design, meaning they are large with plenty of undulation conjuring up something of an Augusta feel, where playing to the right spots is important.
There is certainly a lot of speculation involved this week, however my hunch is that this will be, like an Augusta or Muirfield Village, a second shot course, where life gets harder the closer you get to the pin.
Finally while the course has never hosted a PGA Tour event it did play host to the 2015 NCAA’s, an event, which was one by Bryson Dechambeau.
With the event being held at a different venue this year there is no point in looking at the winners at Club Chapultepec over the past four years.
From a more general point of view though I shall make the same observation I always make when a WGC comes around, which is they are almost exclusively the domain of the games biggest names.
To flesh this out further in the last eight years DJ has six WGC’s to his name, Rory three, Hideki two, Tiger two, Bubba two, Justin Thomas two, Patrick reed two and Jason Day two, with others being won by, Koepka, Scott, Rose, Kuchar, Mickelson and Schauffele.
Indeed the only three winners of WGC’s over the past eight years who could be seen as more left field would be Shane Lowry [at the time], Russell Knox and Kevin Kisner at the 2019 Matchplay.
On the flip side of this because the betting market is so heavily dominated by the big names if you do fancy a lesser name to go well you can get some fancy e/w something I benefitted from a few years ago when an in form Tommy Fleetwood grabbed us a place at a now unthinkable 200-1.
Players should find conditions to their liking this week with all four days looking to be dry and sunny with temperatures set to be in the high 70s to low 80s.
Wind could be a slight issue over the week with forecasts showing 10-15mph gusts possible over the first three days and up to 20mph on Sunday.
As I always say though this could all change!
Before we get started with this weeks picks just another reminder to take a look at what’s on offer at our partners Sounder Golf. Just copy and paste the link below and the exclusive 10% discount will automatically be applied to any purchases you make.
I have gone with three players this week as follows;
BRYSON DECHAMBEAU – 20-1 – 2pts e/w – 1/5 odds 1st 7. - FINISHED 22nd
It’s always a tricky business finding the right strategy in these WGC events, something, which gets even trickier when you have a new course to get to grips with!
As highlighted above the winner is most likely to come from one of the elite players in the field, however from a betting point of view the limited field size, coupled with the fact that a chunk of the participants who have qualified via worldwide order of merit finishes can’t realistically be considered as winners, means you aren’t going to be getting any favours from the bookies on the market leaders prices.
So where do we start?, well with so little to go on I have decided to hang my hat on what course form and correlating course form lines we have and start this week with Bryson Dechambeau.
Bryson’s performance at Riviera it would be fair to say was eye catching for the wrong reasons and I will admit to having been happy to wonder out loud on social media on Thursday his lack of a plan b as he continued to bludgeon the ball 50 yards wide off the fairway from the tee.
Whatever you think of Bryson though and his overall strategy on the game, there are three things, which can’t be disputed, one is his undoubted talent and self-belief, two is that he is an incredibly hard worker and three is that he is a serial winner, something, which is proven by the fact that he has seven PGA tour titles to his name including a US Open of course in just over four years.
Focusing on his hard work ethic for a moment and Bryson was seen on the range long in to the night at Riviera on Thursday after his shocker of an opening round and it is therefore well worth noting that while he missed the cut, Friday’s 69 was a far better effort than Thursday’s horror show and he actually gained over four strokes on the field from tee to green on day two.
Despite this much improved effort in round two the US Open Champion still ended up with the weekend off, however I am quite sure he will have put this to good use to further iron out the issues from last week.
On to this weeks venue then and this is where things get interesting with regards to the case for Bryson.
Firstly, as I’m sure will be well documented coming in to this week Bryson was triumphant in the 2015 NCAA’s here at Concession winning the individual event and that surely will be a huge positive for him coming in to this week, particularly on a course many in the field will be unfamiliar with.
Secondly Bryson can call on a victory at the Jack Nicklaus designed Muirfield Village, which one again would hope would give him positive vibes heading in to this week.
Looking at this weeks set up, a par 72 with four par fives and at least one driveable par four it looks to be right in Bryson’s wheelhouse, something, which can be seen not only from his win at Memorial but his strong record on other par 72s like Bay Hill, Quail Hollow and Detroit GC home of the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
Furthermore lets not forget it is only three months since the golfing world thought Bryson was a perfect fit for Augusta, another course, which I suspect may have similarities to this week’s venue.
Ultimately It may just actually be in the end be that the extra time to work on his game instead of battling the challenges of a tough and no doubt draining Riviera over the weekend prove to work out in Bryson’s favour, and therefore in a week where we have little to go on I am happy to chance Bryson at slightly inflated odds based on that MC, on a course we know suits his game.
RORY McILROY – 16-1 - 2pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED T6th
Continuing my theme of big names who missed the cut last week I am going to take a chance on Rory McIlroy.
Away from McIlroy’s obvious talent and ability, which allows him to win any given event at any time my main logic with siding with Rory this week is his form line across Par 72 courses that I see as tying in to this week well.
Firstly, Rory is a past double Champion at Quail Hollow, a course which as mentioned earlier could fit well this week, then he has a great record at Bay Hill including a victory in 2018.
While yet to don a Green Jacket of course there is no doubt Rory has a perfect game for Augusta and again, as noted earlier, I believe this will tie in well this week.
Finally although not a par 72 of course he has a win and an overall strong record on the Nicklaus designed PGA National host of the Honda Classic.
There is no doubt that the Northern Irishman has been something of an enigma of late and his performance at Riviera was of course disappointing. However prior to that he had of course been in solid form.
McIlRoy’s missed cut at Riviera will surely have stung particularly as it brought to an end a ‘cuts made’ streak, which dated back to Portrush in 2019. Interestingly though if we go beyond this and look at Rory’s results when he has tee’d it up the week straight after a rare missed cut on the PGA Tour and we’ll see that in 2019 on the two occasions this happened he finished fourth in Memphis at the WGC the week after Portrush and he won in Canada the week after a MC at the Memorial.
Go back further then to 2018 and we see that on one of the two occasions he tee’d it up straight after a missed cut, which was at the Valspar, he won at Bay Hill.
So then that’s two wins in four starts over the past three seasons when he has played the week after missing the cut.
There’s no doubt there was plenty wrong in Rory’s game last week as he struggled with his approach play and particularly his putter. At the end of the day though I am going to take a leap of faith and trust that a return to Florida and bermuda greens coupled with a few extra days to iron out the issues will, in the same way I’m hoping with Bryson, allow Rory to bounce back in style.
SUNGJAE IM – 40-1 – 1.5pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 28th
For my final pick in this event I am going to side with a player wasn’t in LA at all last week Sungjae Im.
The young Korean last tee’d it up at Phoenix a couple of weeks ago where he turned in another solid performance finishing 17th.
Moving on to this week though and Im returns to Florida and his beloved Bermuda greens, a state and surface, which have seen him produce an incredibly strong set of results since he has been on tour.
To back this up let’s look at Sungjae’s record in Florida over the past two seasons since he became a full time member on the tour.
Honda Classic 51st, API 3rd, The Players MC, The Valspar 4th.
The Honda Classic Won, API 3rd.
So basically we have four top four finishes in six starts in Florida, impressive stuff!
If we then throw in the fact that Im’s win came on the Nicklaus designed PGA National and that he finished second at Augusta, and I believe we have a set of strong links that lead to him taking to Concession.
As noted earlier WGC’s are very much the domain of the biggest names in the game however in Sungjae we have an opportunity to back a player who is clearly on the cusp of, and heading to that level, at good each way odds.
On that basis in a week, which I acknowledge includes a lot of course speculation, I am happy to stick with just three players and finish off by including Im.