It’s truly the dog days of summer, and just because the PGA Tour continues to churn out tournament after the tournament the road between the U.S. Open and the Open Championship is a slog.
While the Travelers at TPC River Highlands attracted an all-star field, The National at TPC Potomac begins a three-week stretch where the event will draw very little star power. Between the U.S. Open and the Tour Championship, there are two majors, a WGC and four FedEx Cup playoff events all played over a 14-week stretch (not to mention the Ryder Cup at the end of September). This part of the schedule marks where most top golfers take a much-needed breather to regain their energy for the more lucrative and noteworthy events they have ahead of them.
But it’s not just its place on the schedule that makes The National a B-minus caliber event – the tournament has seen no stability this decade. It originally was held in 2007 at Congressional Country Club but was moved to Aronimink Golf Club for two years before moving back to its original home after Congressional hosted the U.S. Open in 2011. In 2013, sponsorship of the tournament switched from AT&T to Quicken Loans, and the tournament was bounced around between Congressional, Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, and TPC Potomac, which plays host to the tournament for the second consecutive year.
More importantly was that from its inception this was “Tiger’s Tournament”. His foundation had a big presence at the event. While his foundation still has a presence, it’s much less so in 2018 and coupled with no flagship sponsorship the event holds an uncertain future. It’s speculated that this event will move once again to Detroit, Michigan as the city was tentatively awarded a PGA Tour stop in 2019. It is also likely that the event will not remain in its traditional pre-4th of July timeslot as the tour shakes up the schedule in 2019.
As TPC Potomac has only hosted the event once, there is not much data to work with in order to identify trends. For our picks this week, we’re going to keep it simple and rely on golfers in good form over the last 2 months and are striking the ball well, particularly on their approach shots. With a weak field, it also will be a challenge to try and find diamonds in the rough for your DraftKings lineups or for longshot Top 10 or 20 plays.
Here’s who I have an eye on this week (with DraftKings values and odds courtesy of mybookie.ag)
- Rickie Fowler – 6.5/1, $11,700
- Tiger Woods – 12/1, $11,100
- Marc Leishman – 18/1, $11,200
- Francesco Molinari – 22/1, $10,600
- Kyle Stanley – 22/1, $10,200
A rather uninspiring list of favorites, with Rickie Fowler as a massive favorite over the field at 6.5/1. It’s a terrible value in terms of a futures bet, but in DraftKings he has a little more allure. With such a weak field you can afford to build your lineup around Rickie Fowler and find quality ball-strikers between $7,000 and $8,000. While Rickie still is a bit down in the relative strokes gained statistics for the year, he is by far the most well-rounded player over the field. Between him and guys who are also playing well Tee-to-Green like Marc Leishman and Francesco Molinari over the last 2 months, they seem fairly safe choices for a DraftKings lineup.
And now, time for the contractually obligated “Will Tiger Woods Do Well” portion of the blog. With a weak field, even if he doesn’t have his A-game he could conceivably post a solid finish. And despite a poor showing at the U.S. Open he still ranks 5th in Strokes Gained Tee to Green and 4th in Strokes Gained on Approach for the season. Nevertheless, his momentum seems to be stalled as we head towards the summer schedule. I don’t like to take a lot of stock in just one tournament, but there’s no excuse for how poorly Tiger played with his irons at Shinnecock Hills. Tiger actually gained about half a stroke on the field off the tee on Thursday and Friday but squandered prime position in the fairways by some dreadful approach shots into greens. With his odds low and his DraftKings price so high, I’m back in a “prove-me-wrong” state with regards to handicapping the Big Cat.
- Jimmy Walker – 40/1, $9,600
- Chesson Hadley – 55/1, $8,400
Jimmy Walker was hanging around the Top 30 of the U.S. Open heading into the weekend but faltered to a T56 finish. Nevertheless, his ball-striking statistics for the event were on par to the solid play he was playing at leading up to the event. Over his last two months he’s averaged 1.65 Strokes Gained Tee to Green per round and 1.09 Strokes Gained On Approach in the same period with very little deviation or serious downswings. At a golf course with very little data to rely on, banking on a golfer who’s delivered a string of consistent ball-striking seems like a safe bet.
Like Tiger Woods, Chesson Hadley seems to have lost momentum from his strong play at the beginning of 2018. Hadley got off to a very fast start after regaining his PGA Tour card by posting ten Top 20 performances up until the Memorial. Hadley’s missed his last two cuts, but despite missing the cut last week he still posted 1.4 Strokes Gained Tee to Green. It was his putter that let him down. If he can turn that around this week, there’s no reason to think he can’t have a return to the Top 10 on the leaderboard at TPC Potomac.
- Adam Hadwin – 70/1, $7,300
- James Hahn – 100/1, $7,200
- Tom Hoge – 140/1, $7,200
- Robert Garrigus – 200/1, $6,700
Adam Hadwin and James Hahn both come into The National not in the greatest of form. Hadwin hasn’t posted a Top 10 on the PGA Tour since the WGC-Mexico, and James Hahn was just on a streak of five consecutive missed cuts before making the weekend at the St. Jude Classic and the Travelers last weekend. Despite their struggles, both still are good ball strikers in the fairway and may benefit from playing against a weaker field. It takes a bit of faith to ride with them this week, but each should be on bettors radar for a surprise Top 10 prop or as a cheap option in DraftKings to offset the high cost of golfers like Rickie Fowler or Marc Leishman.
Chances are you’re going to wince at some of the choices you’ll make on your DraftKings lineup this weekend. The key is to find cheap options down the board that won’t be highly owned but present a safe floor with solid ball striking. Enter Tom Hoge and Robert Garrigus. On the season, Hoge and Garrigus rank 44th and 17th, respectively, in Strokes Gained on Approach. There’s a lot of high variance for each, but with a weaker field either one of them could be in for a solid finish this weekend.
The National DraftKings Lineup #1
- Rickie Fowler – $11,700
- Kevin Na – $9,400
- Andrew Putnam – $7,900
- James Hahn – $7,200
- J.J. Spaun – $7,000
- Robert Garrigus – $6,700
The National DraftKings Lineup #2
- Jimmy Walker – $9,600
- Kevin Streelman – $8,700
- Byeong Hun An – $8,600
- Chesson Hadley – $8,400
- Adam Hadwin – $7,300
- Tom Hoge – $7,200