By Tyler Duke
Each week, we will highlight our top players on the PGA Tour in order of likeliness to win the tournament.
Factors coming into play on the rankings are (in no order):
- Recent form: How the player has performed in various aspects of his game in recent weeks.
- Course history: How the player has performed at the host course if he has played there in the past.
- Course fit: Used as a secondary or backup to course history, fit looks at certain skills that translate to success on the host course.
- Strokes gained: Strokes gained will come into play in all of the factors above. Unless otherwise noted, strokes gained stats are taken from the player’s last 50 rounds.
Using the guidelines above, value can be found in the betting market by highlighting players whose outlook for the tournament may be flying under the radar to the general public.
The weighted model this week is:
- 30% SG: Approach
- 15% SG: Off the Tee
- 15% SG: Around The Green
- 15% Driving Distance
- 15% Proximity: 200+ Yards
- 10% SG: Par 5
This week: WGC Workday Championship
- Date: February 25-28, 2021
- Location: Bradenton, Florida
- Course: The Concession Golf Club
- How to watch: NBC, Golf Channel, PGA Tour Live
- Purse: $10,500,000
- Defending champ: Patrick Reed
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Course preview: The Concession Golf Club
The PGA Tour finally says goodbye to the West Coast and makes its trip to Florida a week earlier than usual for the World Golf Championship event. Typically in Mexico, the PGA Tour moved it this week to Florida to limit travel and the current struggles of going outside of the country. The tournament will be held at The Concession Golf Club, which has never held a Tour event.
Riviera provided fantastic entertainment as it usually does for The Genesis Invitational. As one of the best designs played every year on Tour, you can always expect it to hold its own and require the best out of players. Tony Finau made a Sunday charge but couldn’t get it done in a playoff at the end against the local Max Homa. That makes it two wins now for Homa in strong events at big-time courses.
The Concession Golf Club was designed in 2006 by Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin. As you can tell, it was named after the famous concession made by Nicklaus to Jacklin in the 1969 Ryder Cup. It’s the only codesign by the two Hall of Famers. As a Par 72 at 7,474 yards, it should be a long and stern test for the pros at low elevation. Based near Tampa, the greens should be fast Bermuda greens, which will be a change from most of the Poa Annua courses we’ve seen lately.
We simply don’t know very much about Concession. This will be the first Tour tournament hosted by the course, and with its very private nature, there aren’t too many reports coming out either. It did host the 2015 NCAA Championship, which Bryson DeChambeau edged out C.T. Pan in. From the limited shots we can see of the course, we see plenty of hazards like Nicklaus loves to use. There are tons of penalizing fairway and greenside bunkers and a lot of water in play. The greens also appear to be perched with a lot of shaven runoffs around the complexes.
Since we don’t know much, we’ll keep the statistics used this week pretty simple. We’re also going to turn down the sample size of rounds used pretty low. Form has looked very important so far this year, and we’re seeing a lot of guys ride hot streaks into contention – Homa for example. With so many rounds from guys taking place in the late Summer or Fall of 2020 if the sample is 36 or 50 rounds, we’re going to limit it to 24 for now until the distribution is mostly from 2021 play.
The four main stats we’ll use this week are the ones that are generally the most important at most courses – SG: Approach, SG: Off the Tee, SG: Around the Green and Driving Distance. These are all predictive of success and needed anywhere you play. It’s a long course, so the driving stats will always be important. Approach stats will generally be the most important and predictive at any course on tour. And while around the green numbers can be less important at some places, the difficulty of Concession and the shaved runoffs around the greens makes me think scrambling could be key this week.
The only other two statistics used in the model this week are both simple ones based off the course scorecard and the little we know about it. The Par 5s are rumored to be difficult at Concession, and they’re extremely long on average. Any time there are four Par 5s at a course, I like to use SG: Par 5 due to how important it is to score well on those opportunities. That should be even more of a key this week with the added difficulty. Finally, I’m using Proximity: 200+ yards as the main approach number. All four Par 3s at Concession are extremely long and will mostly play from 200+ yards. On top of that, all four Par 5s will likely be approached from more than 200 yards, and some of the forced layups off the tee on Par 4s should add even more approaches from that number. Players locked in on long irons should have a big advantage this week.
The field at the WGC event will be completely loaded as we’d expect. All of the top ranked players from the European Tour have made their way over except for Paul Casey. And Tiger Woods is the only other highly ranked name we won’t be seeing in Bradenton. Patrick Reed will be defending his title as the No. 11 ranked player in the world.
WGC Workday Championship Power Rankings
20. Webb Simpson: Been a weird year for him so far. He’s played much less golf than most top-ranked players – only 3 tournaments. He had 2 mediocre results and a 4th at Sony. He’s a great Bermuda player, so he should enjoy getting back to Florida. Ranks 6th in Prox. 200+.
19. Scottie Scheffler: Gets back on his favorite putting grass, as evidenced by his 7th in Phoenix with 5 strokes gained on the greens. Already has another 3 top 20s this year and has been scorching hot in opening rounds. Ranked 8th in SG: ARG and 11th in SG: OTT.
18. Patrick Reed: I always struggle with his ranking. He basically never grades out well in models and doesn’t jump out in any statistic except putting. But when he gets hot, he seems to always win. Doesn’t love Bermuda though. Ranks 9th in SG: Par 5.
17. Ryan Palmer: Hasn’t played since Phoenix, but he has really been on a roll as of late with 3 Top 5s in his last 5 events. And now he gets to Florida where he has putted very well on Bermuda greens. Ranks 2nd in Prox. 200+, 10th in SG: Par 5 and 10th in SG: APP.
16. Daniel Berger: He’s done a lot of his damage with the putter as of late, which limits him in the model a bit. But he’s a solid Bermuda putter – not as good as Poa – and tends to enjoy a tough golf course. Ranks 20th in SG: APP.
15. Collin Morikawa: Brought out a new putting grip at Riviera which clearly didn’t get the job done as he lost 7.6 strokes on the greens. But he’s now gained an incredible 16 strokes on approach in his last 2 PGA Tour events. Just needs to figure out something with the short game. Ranks 1st in SG: APP.
14. Rory McIlroy: He missed his first cut in a long time at Riviera last week thanks to a nightmare week on the greens. He tends to putt really well on Bermuda, so playing in the south for a while should solve that issue. But the irons still haven’t made the leap to greatness we’ve been waiting for. Ranks 1st in SG: OTT and 2nd in Driving Distance.
13. Viktor Hovland: Had a very quiet 5th place finish at Riviera to follow up the 2nd at Torrey Pines. He clearly likes California and had nice results on Poa greens. Now he’ll need to show he can putt on Bermuda, where he’s been terrible. Ranks 4th in SG: OTT.
12. Bryson DeChambeau: The only man in the field with a big win at Concession – he won the individual NCAA Championship here in 2015. Obviously a completely different player now, this doesn’t seem like a course you’ll do well on while hitting it all over the park like he did last week. Ranks 2nd in SG: OTT and 4th in Driving Distance.
11. Sergio Garcia: The putter has unfortunately been so, so bad for him, which has masked some incredible results off the tee and from around the greens. He will now get to Bermuda greens though, which he has historically favored throughout his career. Ranks 2nd in SG: OTT, 3rd in SG: Par 5 and 13th in SG: ARG.
10. Brooks Koepka: He won in Phoenix on Bermuda, and now he’s heading to Florida where he has putted so well on Bermuda greens. We know he loves a stern test and the bigger events. Ranks 10th in Driving Distance and 12th in SG: APP.
9. Justin Thomas: It’s been a rough go for him lately – both due to his own actions and with things out of his control – and now the Tiger Woods car crash will likely have his mind on other things again. But he’s still been hitting the ball exceptionally and has some nice results in Florida throughout his career. Ranks 7th in SG: APP and 9th in SG: ARG.
8. Patrick Cantlay: Was in contention again at Riviera before sliding away a bit due to a rare below average week putting. He’s one of the better players on average at difficult courses, and his ball striking has consistently been strong to start the year. Ranks 2nd in SG: ARG and 9th in SG: OTT.
7. Joaquin Niemann: Once again contended at Riviera and looked as if he could make it 3 Top 5s in 3 tries to start the year … but the irons faltered on the weekend and he dropped all the way to 43rd. He’s yet to contend at all in Florida and hasn’t been good on Bermuda, so this month should be a good test. Ranks 5th in Driving Distance, 8th in SG: OTT and 9th in SG: APP.
6. Will Zalatoris: Solid Top 15 at Riviera continues to show that he shows up at the biggest events already in his young career. Finishes of 6th 7th and 15th at Winged Foot, Torrey Pines and Riviera is quite impressive. The rumors of what this course could be fit to his game perfectly. Ranks 3rd in SG: APP, 5th in SG: Par 5 and 4th in the model.
5. Xander Schauffele: He’s now finished outside the Top 25 once since the 2020 Farmers and has the longest cut streak on Tour. He does tend to struggle on Bermuda though and has mostly stayed away from Florida throughout his career. Ranks 2nd in SG: Par 5 and 6th in SG: APP.
4. Tyrrell Hatton: The No. 5 ranked player in the world comes in on quite the heater from Europe, and he also happens to be exceptional on Bermuda greens. In limited time in Florida, he has a pair of 4th place finishes at the Honda and API and added a victory at the API last year. Ranks 1st in Prox. 200+ and 8th in SG: APP.
3. Dustin Johnson: Looked as if he may just stroll to another win at Riviera last week, but he couldn’t get the putter going. Still, it’s hard to imagine him not contending with the current state of his game, and he also happens to be unstoppable in WGC events. Ranks 2nd in SG: APP, 3rd in Driving Distance and 6th in SG: ARG.
2. Tony Finau: His last 3 PGA Tour events have now ended with finishes of 4th, 2nd and 2nd. He also added a 2nd in Saudi Arabia which makes it 3 straight finishes of 2nd. His game has really rounded into him being exceptional at all phases of golf, and the wins are definitely going to come. Ranks 5th in SG: APP and 2nd in the model.
1. Jon Rahm: Had another quiet 5th place finish at Riviera which makes it 12 straight tournaments in the Top 25 and 8 of those are inside the Top 7. He’s been steadily lurking, and it feels like he’s due to breakout. The putter was oddly cold out west, so maybe the change to Bermuda will help. Ranks 4th in SG: APP, 4th in SG: Par 5, 5th in Prox. 200+ and 5th in SG: OTT.
*All stats are from a player’s last 24 rounds.
WGC Workday Championship betting odds
Up next on the PGA Tour
Up Next: The PGA Tour will stay in Florida and begin its typically scheduled Florida Swing with the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard at the famous Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando. The API is another invitational event, giving it a huge purse and likely a loaded field. Some players may take the week off to avoid three straight tournaments with The Players the week after … but I’d expect some top names and most of the European players to be in attendance. Tyrrell Hatton will defend his title as the No. 5 ranked player in the world.