- 2018 – Aaron Wise (-23)
Aaron Wise recorded his first win on the PGA Tour thanks to a strong performance off the tee, stellar iron play and a hot putter. Wise ranked 4th on the weekend in both Strokes Gained – Off-the-Tee and Strokes Gained – Approach, and 10th in Strokes Gained – Putting.
He also was 1st in the field in strokes gained from the Friend Zone.
Other notable players in the Top 10 of last year’s event include Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, and Adam Scott. Leishman led the field in Strokes Gained – Putting, Grace led the field in Strokes Gained – Around the Green and Adam Scott led the field in Strokes Gained – Tee-to-Green. It’s also no surprise these players performed well at Trinity Forest given they all grew up playing similar golf courses in their home countries of Australia and South Africa.
Trinity Forest plays toughest when the golf course is baked out, firm and fast. However to appease the players and avoid any criticism, the PGA Tour watered down the golf course before last year’s event to slow and soften it up. That led to astronomically low scores. The cut line was -3 and only two players who made the weekend finished over par. With a damp spring in the Dallas area and heavy rains in the forecast this week, expect similar soft conditions to keep scores low once again. The types of golfers who populated the top of the 2018 leaderboard should once again rise to the top in 2019 – players who perfectly blend length and accuracy off the tee who are striking their irons well and are comfortable chipping from tight lies.
Here’s who I like this week (with odds courtesy of mybookie.ag)
Hideki Matsuyama – 16/1: Last week’s recommendation of Hideki Matsuyama did not go well at all. Even with the mediocre performance, however, he still averaged 1.22 Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green at Quail Hollow. With strong ball-striking numbers he’s due to have some positive regression at a golf course that rewards solid shot making ability. I like a stronger performance out of Matsuyama this week as he looks to get some momentum heading into Bethpage Black for the PGA Championship.
Henrik Stenson – 25/1: While not long off the tee, Stenson is in total control over his irons at the moment. He leads the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained – Approach and has averaged just under 1.5 Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green on the field over his last four tournaments. With his powerful three wood, Stenson should have no trouble hitting the correct side of each fairway to set up the optimal approach shot into each green. While he has struggled a little bit with his scrambling, as long as his irons remain hot he should avoid having as many tricky up and downs as other contenders this weekend.
Keith Mitchell – 35/1: The Texas native showed well in last year’s tournament and his recent form suggests he’ll be in the mix to notch his second victory of the season. Over his last five tournaments he’s averaged over a stroke gained tee-to-green and over half a shot on the field with his approach shots. He was fantastic at Quail Hollow last week, and his combination of power and accuracy should put him in contention.
Other Longshots to Consider:
- Rory Sabbatini – 50/1: Sabbatini has revitalized his career with a string of solid performances and ball-striking in 2019. Though he now considers himself a proud son of the Czech Republic, the South African-born golfer should be on a familiar track for him this week.
- Matt Jones – 90/1: Jones showed very well in last year’s event before a final round 71 knocked him out of contention. On the week he averaged 1.95 Strokes Gained – Tee-to-Green and was quite comfortable chipping off tight lies around the greens. He’s once again showing solid ball-striking heading into the event and is poised to post another good finish.
- Dylan Frittelli – 90/1: The case was laid out for Fritteli in the DFS column this week.
Matt Jones -140 over Brian Gay: Matt Jones is a guy I liked above as a longshot winner of the event. As for Brian Gay, while he’s consistently making cuts he’s not someone who’s threatening or in contention. While he’s a good scrambler who should fare well on the tight lies around the green, his ball-striking has been very poor so far in 2019 and that should keep him from posting a good finish. Over his last five tournaments he’s only posted positive total strokes gained on the field in eight of 17 rounds, while Jones has done that sixteen of the his last 20 rounds. Jones should best him one-on-one this weekend at Trinity Forest.
Hideki Matsuyama -150 over Jordan Spieth: I laid out all the reasons why I like Matsuyama above. As for Spieth, while the fairways are quite generous at Trinity Forest, this is the wrong golf course to show a lack of control off the tee. Just because you hit the fairway at Trinity Forest still could mean your chance to card a birdie is all but eliminated. Some pin locations are almost completely inaccessible if one hits their approach from the wrong side of the short grass. While Spieth’s putting has improved and he has shown flashes of his old self with his irons, his performance off the tee is still woefully bad. Sometimes I wonder if he even knows where his tee-shot is going. Though he loves the golf course, I don’t think this will be week Spieth returns to form.
Keith Mitchell -125 over Branden Grace: I laid out the reasons why I like Mitchell above. As for Grace, while he did show very well in his debut at Trinity Forest last year, his game just hasn’t been very good since nearly winning out in Scottsdale in February. Over his last five stroke play events he’s only posted five rounds with positive strokes gained on the field. On the year, Grace ranks 87th in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green, 122nd on his approach shots and 93rd in around-the-green, which are a far cry from when he was considered one of the top players in the world. Mitchell should best him one-on-one this week.