The PGA Course Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s slate, using the Fantasy Labs Trends Tool and metrics to highlight stats for the upcoming tournament.
The first leg of the FedExCup Playoffs has arrived. The first event will feature 122 players and the top 70 and ties will advance to the next round.
Let’s dive in.
The first round will be hosted at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey. Since this course hasn’t hosted an event since 2013 (The Barclays), we don’t have any data within our database like we usually do. Normally when this is the case, I stick to the basics on which metrics to key in on, but let’s dive into the course.
Liberty National checks in as par-71, 7,370-yard course, per the PGA media site. There are some hazards scattered throughout the course with 90 bunkers and 10 water hazards coming into play. With the bunkers and water hazards, it’ll be important to keep the ball in play off the tee.
Gary Woodland emphasized the importance of this:
“You’ve got to drive the ball in play,” said Woodland. “The greens are usually perfect and there’s some slope on them, so if you drive the ball into the fairway you can attack from the fairway, make sure you get the par fives and keep the ball in the fairway.”
Woodland also thinks the course is similar to Pebble Beach in the way you attack Liberty National.
“I don’t hit a lot of drivers there,” Woodland said. “But when I do I think it’s a huge advantage. Similar, I guess, to Pebble from that standpoint where I hit a lot of irons off tees to get the ball in play and attack it from there.”
So at first glance, targeting golfers who are strong off the tee is a good place to start because if they’re hitting errant tee shots into these fairway bunkers or water hazards, they won’t stand much of a chance at making birdies.
Additionally, approach shots into greens will be just as crucial, as it is most weeks. Adam Scott mentioned hitting greens is important as the greens tend to be on the tricker side of things:
“Probably hitting greens,” Scott said, when asked what it takes to play the course well. “Of course, there’s a lot of water and it’s obvious you’ve got to keep it out of the water, but I feel like it’s a little trickier around the greens than it really looks.”
If the greens are on the difficult side, it also won’t hurt to target golfers who are strong scramblers, especially with the abundance of bunkers that are out there.
There’s a long par 3 out there, checking in at 250 yards, but I’ll be focusing most of my attention on the par 4s and 5s. The No. 16 par 4 is possible to drive for some of the longer hitters considering it is just 325 yards. And there are two other short par 4s that are under 400 yards.
Taking advantage of the short par 4s and the par 5s will be a key this week as the four par 4s that are over 470 yards could prove to be more difficult. Two of those par 4s are close to hitting 500 yards as No. 10 and No. 18 check in at 496 and 490 yards.
One example of someone who stands out as an excellent course fit is Patrick Cantlay. Over the past 75 weeks, Cantlay has averaged -1.1 and -4.7 adjusted strokes on par 4s and par 5s, along with a 61.9% scrambling rate.
Additionally, over his last 50 rounds, Cantlay ranks eighth in par-4 efficiency from 450-500 yards, and 11th and 13th in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and Strokes Gained: Approach. He checks all the boxes we’re looking for.
On the other side, Jordan Spieth might not be the best fit. Over the last 75 weeks, he’s averaged +0.3 adjusted strokes on par 4s and has hit just 65.2% of GIR. He had a meltdown on Saturday last week and ended up losing 6.2 strokes on approach and 3.9 strokes off the tee overall at the Wyndham Championship.
Furthermore, over his last 50 rounds, he ranks 115th and 119th in Strokes Gained: Approach and Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee. If his struggles continue outside of his putting and short game, it could be a long week for him.
Key metrics: Par 4 and par 5 scoring, greens in regulation, Strokes Gained: Approach, Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, scrambling.
And as usual, I like Long-Term (LT) and Recent Adjusted Round Score (Adj Rd Score) as catch-all metrics.
Strokes Gained data via Fantasy National
Pictured above: Patrick Cantlay and Jordan Spieth
Photo credit: Ian Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports