Congrats to Marc Leishman for a come from behind victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. After a solid three rounds he fired a comfortable 69 (nice) thanks to a bomb of an eagle on Sunday to pass Kevin Kisner, who fired a disappointing 73 Suinday. Leishman qualifies for the Masters with the well deserved win.
It was a great tournament capped off by a very entertaining Sunday. Adam Hadwin got into the mix once again and is someone everyone should be looking out for. Rory with a huge charge on Saturday and Sunday but falling just short and finishing 4th. Grillo blew himself up on Saturday but then fired a 68 on Sunday to finish T7, if he could just put four consecutive rounds together –> watch out.
My players to watch results: (Skip below to the WBC preview)
Jason Day: Played alright but the big thing is seeing that he is healthy. Day finished -2 and tied for 23rd.
Matt Every: T62, Fell apart over the weekend but making the cut is nice to see, good luck to him going forward.
Bubba: Even for the tournament but, like Grillo, he blew up on Saturday. He’s getting things shaped up for the Masters which is his best shot at a major but he needs to get his putting stroke down. He just seems to lack confidence with the flat-stick right now so if he can get that figured out he may sneak into the top 10 at the Masters.
Hideki: +2. Never got things going but the course played tough despite the winning score, he’s still a stud and a top 5 player in the world.
Grillo: See Above
Rickie: Played well and fired a solid 65 on Saturday. Had 7 birdies and an eagle, albeit with a double, that day and crushed the look. Finished -5 and in 12th place. Rickie looked Swagged out and played that way on Saturday
Lahiri: Missed the cut, bad pick
Winning Score: I picked -12 and -11 won, that’s not bad, eh?
Now to the interesting WGC at the Austin CC. Why is it interesting? It’s a match play format instead of traditional stroke play. Jason Day won this event in 2016 and 2014 so he’s obviously comfortable with both match play and with the Austin CC layout (Austin CC took over this event in 2016). Austin CC plays to 7,108 yards and a par 71 so it’s no pushover.
There are 64 players divided into 16 groups. Each group plays a round robin match play with one winner moving on. Each group winner then advances to single elimination bracket over Saturday and Sunday.
The groups play Wednesday, Thursday, Friday before the winner advancing to the next round. After advancing the group winner will play single elimination with 2 possible matches on Saturday and 2 possible matches on Sunday. Seems like its going to be a TON of golf but these guys are athletes and can handle it. If Day or Rory get to Sunday they may cool off a bit since they are coming back from illness/injury.
Jordan Spieth, Ryan Moore, Yuta Ikeda and Hideto Tanihara: Spieth-obviously. He’s playing well and though I do like Ryan Moore’s game it’s going to be tough to compete with Jordan. Spieth is also very familiar with this course which has its advantages.
Hideki Matsuyama, Louis Oosthuizen, Ross Fisher, Jim Furyk: Hideki-Obviously, he just makes birdies all day, which are more important in match play. (Someone who makes 9 birdies and 9 bogeys will have better luck in match play than someone who makes 18 pars for example). I just don’t see anyone else in this group that can match his ball-striking ability and though Louis has one of the smoothest swings on tour hasn’t performed lately.
Rory McIlroy, Emiliano Grillo, Gary Woodland, Soren Kjeldsen: Grillo may be the most underrated player right now. His betting odds are terrible but that may be because Rory is in his group. Rory is the favorite for the whole tournament and the obvious pick. He’s shown no ill-effects from his injury earlier in the year and just finished fourth at the API. The reason I pick Grillo is because he is the ultimate longshot (66/1). In the past 3 events he’s carded a 77, 77, and 78 but also a 65, 67, and 3 68s. I admit I am an irrational fan of Grillo so I’m taking him even though the smart money is on Rory advancing. Watch out for Gary Woodland who has potential to advance as well. He’s so fucking long which will translate well to match play and help pull off an upset.
Tyrrell Hatton, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Jeunghun Wang, Charles Howell III: Hatton has played extremely well of late, but no one is really talking about him for some reason. He has 8 top 10s in his last 11 starts so probably should be the favorite in this group. CH3 has played well especially out in Calirfornia. He was on the NLU podcast last summer and it is a MUST listen.
Matt Kuchar, Tommy Fleetwood, Zach Johnson, Brendan Steele: Kind of boring group here, though Fleetwood is playing well. Kuch is the favorite and should advance. This group really doesn’t interest me that much.
Justin Thomas, Matt Fitzpatrick, Kevin Na, Chris Wood: JT is going to be the favorite since he’s won 3x already this year. Thomas is the ideal Match play guy, big risk and big reward on each hole. He’s been dialed in and should get through this group pretty easily.
Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm, Kevin Chappell, Shane Lowry: The Spanish boys with Sergio and Rahm will be extremely interesting. Can Sergio get hot before the masters? Can Rahm become the new go-to Spaniard? We will see. I’d take Rahm here but that’s just because he’s longer, though Sergio is so good Tee to Green it’s going to be close.
Alex Noren, Francesco Molinari, Bernd Wiesberger, Thongchai Jaidee: Snooze. Molinari even though he doesn’t have that great of a match play record. Oh well let’s go with him.
Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka, Kevin Kisner, Jason Dufner: WOOF. Reed/Koepka is going to be so tough. Kisner and Dufs don’t have the length to keep up with these guys. Koepka is one of my favorite players to watch and Reed gets so into it during the Ryder Cup/match play that I really am pumped to watch this. Taking Koepka here to advance.
Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Martin Kaymer, Webb Simpson: DJ is just too long and too good. Kaymer doesn’t have the iron/driver game that DJ has but can DJ keep that short-game going? DJ will advance and if he doesn’t I’ll be shocked.
Jason Day, Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood, Pat Perez: Day is the obvious favorite as one of the best ball-strikers and one of the best putters in the world. He’s working himself back into shape after a nasty double-ear infection combined with the flu. He played last week at the API and did well so he’s looking to continue that momentum leading up to the masters. Leishman obviously just won the API so clearly he’s playing well, but I have to go with Day here. He’s just too good not to pick.
Danny Willett, Russell Knox, Bill Haas, K.T. Kim: Another boring group. Let’s go with Russell Knox. He has his fare share of bogeys and doubles but with that comes the birdie and eagle upside. Willett can’t figure it out right now so don’t pick him.
Paul Casey, Charl Schwartzel, Byeong-Hun An, Joost Luiten: Paul Casey. A great player to watch play with a smooth swing. This is another boring group and picking Casey is kind of a cop out. Oh well he should advance.
Bubba Watson, Thomas Pieters, Scott Piercy, Jhonattan Vegas: Now this is a group that will hit the ball far. Bubba, Pieters, Piercy and Vegas all bomb the ball 294 or more according to PGAtour.com. I honestly have no clue who to pick. Bubba can’t make a putt, Pieters just went 76,77 at the API to miss the cut, Vegas skipped the API and finished T38 at the WGC while Pieters finished T5, and Piercy has only scored in red figures for a whole round twice in the last 11 events. I have to go with Pieters based on his WGC results but this really can be anyone’s group.
Phil Mickelson, J.B. Holmes, Daniel Berger, Si Woo Kim: This is going to be a fun group. You know Phil is going to be entertaining, you know Holmes and Berger will be birdie hunting after bombing the ball down the fairway, and it’s going to be funny to see Kim 50 yards short of JB and Berger every hole. I‘ll take the young kid, Berger, to barely eek is out over Phil. Phil may get a little too driver happy and spray the ball all over the place. Pray for bones this weekend.
Branden Grace, Brandt Snedeker, Will McGirt, Andy Sullivan: Love me some Andy Sullivan. The Englishman is not a household name so maybe he is perfect as a longshot? Probably not but I’d like to see him advance. Not a huge fan of McGirt but am a fan of Grace and Sneds. Grace is up and down while Sneds is a pretty consistent player. Not sure which Grace we see this week and maybe Sullivan can sneak by Sneds, but this group is going to be a toss up.
Pick to win: Grillo at 66/1 is pretty tempting to put some money on. I’m shying away from Day and Rory because they are coming back from illness and injury and may burn out by Saturday afternoon. (Obviously Grillo and Rory both can’t advance)
DJ and Spieth are some good chalk picks. Obviously some pretty differing styles of play with DJ being more the bomber and Spieth more the short-game/putting guru. DJ has been putting better since Oakmont and Spieth has been striking the ball way way way better since the Ryder Cup. Those combinations make both of these guys scary.