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2018 Fort Worth Invitational Picks And Preview

2018 Fort Worth Invitational Picks and Preview

This week marks the final stop in the southern portion of the schedule before the PGA Tour heads back up north, as the pros tee it up at the famed Colonial Country Club for the Fort Worth Invitational.

Anyone who played the AT&T Byron Nelson is about to experience a complete 180 in terms of design and architecture, as they’ll go from a modern and minimalist style to a more classic track. The Colonial Country Club was built in 1936 on what was essentially an effort to prove naysayers wrong. It was speculated that bentgrass (grass utilized at places like Augusta National) was too fragile to withstand the hot Texas heat, and most golf courses in the area strictly utilized the native bermudagrass (a heartier, bumpier grass). Taking up the challenge, club founder and golf nut Marvin Leonard constructed the grounds entirely of bentgrass and with that, the golf course was born.

Unfortunately, the first incarnation to create a sustainable bentgrass golf course in Texas failed and the fairways and rough were converted back to Bermuda. However, the greens remain comprised with bentgrass and are some of the best maintained greens offered on the PGA Tour. Unlike other Texas golf courses, Colonial also features sloping fairways and some elevation changes, which will force the golfers to accommodate for uneven lies several times a round.

Colonial runs about 7,200 yards on the scorecard as a Par 70. The golf course is designed with narrow fairways and strategically placed doglegs and bunkers that should help take the driver out of some players hands this weekend. Typically, the type of golfer that has fared well at Colonial are those who are tremendous iron players (particularly on shots under 150 yards) and can take advantage of greens that run pure.

Unlike other courses on the schedule with inferior greens that level out the playing field, the greens at Colonial are so well conditioned that better putters can take advantage of them to gain strokes on the field. While we saw Jon Rahm last year attempt to bomb and gauge Colonial to pretty good results, typically driving distance isn’t a good metric to evaluate who to put your bets on or fill your DraftKings lineup with. In fact, of the 25 or so stats I look at weekly to handicap a tournament, the driving distance was dead last among recent Top 10 players at Colonial.

Here’s who I have my eye on this week (with DraftKings values and odds courtesy of mybookie.ag)

The Favorites

  • Jordan Spieth – 9/1, $11,700
  • Jon Rahm – 14/1, $10,600
  • Justin Rose – 18/1, $10,600
  • Webb Simpson – 18/1, $10,200
  • Rickie Fowler – 20/1, $10,400
  • Matt Kuchar – 25/1, $9,300

Jordan Spieth’s woes with the putter continue. At the Players, he opened his tournament by three putting from six feet, and then ended his tournament by three putting from six feet. Last week at the Byron Nelson was no better for him on the short grass either. Spieth ranked 6th in Strokes Gained Tee to Green by gaining 2.1 strokes/round on the field in that category. However, he lost a stroke per round on the greens and had to settle for a T21 finish. He’s pretty much in the same place he was heading into The Masters, a place with similar bentgrass greens.

And like Augusta, Colonial is a place he has tremendous course history at and is somewhere that will instantly raise his confidence. In interviews this week he once again acknowledged that he’s having problems with the putter, but Colonial is a place he knows he can turn it around. I tend to agree with him and feel like a very good performance is in order. While 9/1 isn’t very good value on a futures bet, he’s only -125 to finish in the Top 10 this week per mybookie.ag. I’ll be booking that bet and looking to cash in on a win bet somewhere else.

Rickie Fowler really surprised me when he missed the cut at TPC Sawgrass a few weeks back. So what went wrong? Looking at the strokes gained stats, Rickie took himself out of the tournament off the tee as he lost two strokes a round in that department on Thursday and Friday. It’s important to keep the ball in play at Colonial off the tee but his performance at TPC Sawgrass seems to be a bit of an anomaly. It was by far his worst performance in Strokes Gained Off the Tee all year, and he’s had only had one tournament this year in which he had a negative performance in that metric. Where he’s struggled this year has actually been a traditional place of strength – putting. He ranks only 133rd in Strokes Gained Putting on the PGA Tour. Like Spieth, though, I think Fowler can turn it around on bentgrass greens, which is a surface he’s had tremendous success on in his career.

Speaking of surprises, what the hell happened to Matt Kuchar last week? He was a very popular pick to win at Trinity Forest as it seemed like the wide open American Links track would be perfect for him. Instead, Kuchar complained about the course set up and was a mess everywhere but in his scrambling statistics. Maybe a return to friendlier and more familiar confines is in order for Kuch, but he’ll have to be better with his ball striking than he was last week.

While he hasn’t been great when asked to hit the ball close on longer approaches, he ranks 23rd on the PGA Tour in scoring on approaches under 150 yards. That’s a common approach shot distance on many holes this week. He also has a great history at Colonial, ranking 8th all time in Total Strokes Gained at the course (since these stats have been tracked). Kuchar hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since 2014, but he’ll be my pick of the favorites to slip on the Plaid Jacket on Sunday at 25/1.

Contenders

  • Jimmy Walker – 28/1, $9,500
  • Bryson DeChambeau – 35/1, $8,800
  • Chesson Hadley – 45/1, $8,300

It’s been a long road back for Jimmy Walker, who’s been in golf purgatory ever since he won the 2016 PGA Championship. Walker was diagnosed with lyme disease last year and it sapped both his energy and his form out of him. He seems to be fully recovered and is playing his best golf in 18 months. He’s had three straight top 10’s on the PGA Tour and there’s nothing to suggest in his game that he can’t post another solid finish once again at Colonial.

I’m not all that crazy about his Top 10 or Win odds, but he should be a very solid anchor to a DraftKings lineup or someone you should target on a matchup prop. A common matchup I’ve seen on some books is him against Adam Scott at -110. Against a golfer who’s struggled with his shorter irons and around the greens like Adam Scott has, I’d give the edge to Walker this week.

I love Le Artiste this week. Bryson DeChambeau notched his first PGA Tour victory at Deere Run last year and that’s a track that has similar features to Colonial. Both feature strategically placed dog legs and uneven lies in the fairway and require precision irons to score well. That’s exactly what DeChambeau has done on the PGA Tour this season. DeChambeau missed the cut in his first appearance at Colonial last year, but that was during a stretch where he missed seven straight cuts and was still finding his way on the professional circuit.

This year he’s been much better with three Top 5’s in his last five starts on the strength of ranking 17th in Strokes Gained on Approach and 12th in Strokes Gained Tee to Green. I like sprinkling some capital on him at 35/1 to win the tournament and in certain matchup plays if you can get him up against someone favorable.

Chesson Hadley has been one of the most solid and consistent golfers over the last two months as he’s posted five straight Top 20 finishes. He’s played well on any type of course that’s been thrown at him, be it a bombers paradise like Quail Hollow or a small ballpark like Harbour Town. His consistency at multiple styles of tracks has helped him rejuvenate his career after being sent back down to the minors following his disastrous 2016 season.

Not only is he 32nd in Strokes Gained Tee to Green this season, he’s also 17th in Strokes Gained Putting. Colonial is one of those places where complete golfers often rise to the top of the leaderboard, so as long as his ball striking and putting matches what it’s been all year he should have a great weekend in Fort Worth.

Longshots

  • Kevin Na – 55/1, $7,800
  • Brian Harman – 66/1, $7,800

Kevin Na, my bugaboo in my picks column this year. I haven’t bothered to look back at all the times I featured him in this space this season, but I know for sure he’s consistently let me down. Like a true degenerate who doesn’t know when to quit on a bad horse, I’m going to hop on the Na Train one more time before it might be time to go get some counseling.

His game fits the type that plays well there, and it shows with his history at Colonial where he’s gained on average a stroke a round over his opponent. Last week Na notched a Top 10 finish thanks to performing very well on his approach shots, and if he can carry that over to this week he should post another strong performance. While his futures odds for the win and Top 10 don’t scream value, he should be a pretty good option in DraftKings as you look to fill your lineup with cheaper, quality options.

Brian Harman is in a bit of a slump. His last two starts feature a missed cut at TPC Sawgrass and a 74th place finish at Quail Hollow. Despite this, I’m banking on a turnaround at a place that fits his eye a little better than those two venues. The last classic, small venue he played at was Harbour Town, and while he only finished T23 he gained a combined 1.3 strokes per round off the tee and on his approach shots.

While he’s struggled in overall Strokes Gained on Approach this season, he’s been very good on his iron shots inside 150 yards, which as mentioned is a common approach distance for the players this weekend. Harman’s natural ball flight is left to right, and several tee shots and approach shots should favor that trajectory. Currently, his Top 10 odds are 5/1, which is fairly intriguing to me this week.

Deep Sleepers

  • John Huh – 170/1, $6,700
  • Patton Kizzire – 250/1, $7,000

Listen, no matter how far I reach into my bag of linguistic tricks there’s no way I can make a guy like John Huh sound sexy. So I’ll just get to the point that Huh is a very good putter and has scored well when asked to hit approaches 150 yards and in this season. He’s missed three straight cuts so his form is complete garbage, but he fired off an opening round 66 at Harbour Town. That’s a similar track that elevates good putters to the top of the leaderboard and values golfers who can set themselves up with good scoring opportunities with shorter irons.

Plus, while his recent performances at Colonial haven’t been too great, he does have a T5 and two other Top 20 finishes to his credit there. Not only is he a dirt cheap option on DraftKings and have very low ownership, he’s also a reasonable 8.5/1 for a Top 20 finish. I think his missed cut streak comes to an end this weekend and he flirts with a Top 20 finish when it’s all said and done.

Speaking of a guy who forms is complete trash right now, may I present to you two-time winner on the PGA Tour this season Patton Kizzire. Kizzire has missed the cut in six of his last eight tournaments, primarily because he can’t hit the broad side of a barn off the tee lately. So why do I like him? Despite his struggles off the tee, his iron play remains pretty good and he’s been a fairly good putter all year.

He also won the Sony Open this year in an event that, like Colonial, favors golfers that hit their approaches well and are better putters than the field. Like Huh, he’s also 8.5/1 for a Top 20 finish, and if you’re looking for a cheap DraftKings option with low ownership he should fit the billing.

Fort Worth Invitational DraftKings Lineup #1

  • Webb Simpson – $10,200
  • Emiliano Grillo – $8,600
  • Chesson Hadley – $8,300
  • Brian Harman – $7,800
  • Kevin Na – $7,800
  • Pat Perez – $7,300

Fort Worth Invitational DraftKings Lineup #2

  • Rickie Fowler – $10,400
  • Bryson DeChambeau – $8,800
  • Zach Johnson – $8,500
  • Ollie Schniederjans – $8,000
  • Nick Watney – $7,300
  • Patton Kizzire – $7,000

Fort Worth Invitational DraftKings Lineup #3

  • Jimmy Walker – $9,500
  • Matt Kuchar – $9,300
  • Patrick Cantlay – $9,000
  • Steve Stricker – $7,900
  • Adam Hadwin – $7,600
  • John Huh – $6,700

Golf analyst for SportsGamblingPodcast.com, providing insight on news and betting tips for the PGA Tour, as well as commentary and banter on the World of Sports. Follow him on Twitter @SteveSchirmer

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