The PGA Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s slate, using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics to highlight notable golfers.
The Quicken Loans National is over, and we’re onto the Greenbrier Classic. It’s a relatively weak field again: Just eight golfers in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Rankings — and nine of the FedExCup’s top 30 — are playing.
As always, I back-tested various metrics within our PGA Models to find out which have been the most valuable at The Old White. Per the Trends tool, here is how the top 20% of golfers in various metrics have done (in Plus/Minus valuation) at this course. Historically, the tournament has yielded averages of 48.11 DraftKings points and a -0.01 Plus/Minus with a 47.2% Consistency Rating to the field.
I’m listing only the metrics that tested positively above the baseline:
- Recent Greens in Regulation: +11.07
- Long-Term Eagles: +10.96
- Course Driving Distance: +6.85
- Long-Term Driving Distance: +6.12
- Recent Birdies: +5.56
- Long-Term Birdies: +5.56
- Long-Term Par 4 Scoring: +5.08
- Long-Term Bogies: +4.83
- Recent Driving Distance: +3.62
- Recent Par 3 Scoring: +3.29
- Recent Bogies: +3.28
- Recent Adjusted Round Score: +2.98
- Course Driving Accuracy: +2.93
- Long-Term Tournament Count: +2.77
- Long-Term Scrambling: +2.24
- Long-Term Par 3 Scoring: +2.23
- Course Birdies: +2.17
- Recent Par 4 Scoring: +1.72
- Recent Tournament Count: +1.38
- Long-Term Greens In Regulation: +0.70
- Recent Scrambling: +0.67
- Long-Term Adjusted Round Score: +0.62
- Long-Term Par 5 Scoring: +0.55
- Course Missed Cuts: +0.16
The Old White TPC is a par-70,7,286-yard course. It sits roughly 2,000 feet above sea level, so the rise in elevation should benefit some of the golfers who aren’t quite as long off the tee. There is an abundance of metrics that back-tested well here, but only a handful stand out. As always, targeting great ball-strikers should be a priority. Long hitters will also be rewarded, and they don’t necessarily need to be accurate since Old White features wide fairways. With four Par 4s sitting at 415 yards or less, long hitters will have an advantage being able to approach the greens with their precision clubs. Additionally, there are 12 par 4s here, and just two par 5s (both on the back nine), so par-4 scoring will be a key factor. Targeting golfers who excel at birdie or better scoring, along with great ball-strikers seems to be a solid approach this week.
Tony Finau ($11,500) checks in with this week’s highest salary, highest odds to win (7.7%), along with the best Long-Term Adjusted Round Score (LT Adj Rd Score). This course is a perfect fit for Finau considering driving accuracy isn’t as important off the tee. He’s absurdly long of the tee (310.7-yard LT DD) and his 67.9% LT GIR is one of the best marks in the field. Additionally, Finau’s LT Birdies and average adjusted strokes on par-5s are top-three in the field. He’s also no stranger to this course, finishing seventh and 13th in his two appearances at Old White.
Russell Henley ($10,400) possesses an excellent 68.1 Recent Adjusted Round Score. Over the past six weeks, Henley is doing all the right things: He’s hit 70.5% of GIR, averaging 14.8 birdies per tournament, and he has yet to miss cut since The Players. Henley’s putting still could use some improvement (29.5 putts per round in both the long and short-term), but considering Henly owns back-to-back fifth-place finishes at The Old White, riding his recent form doesn’t seem like an awful idea.
The rest of the top-priced guys: Bubba Watson ($11,000), Webb Simpson ($10,700), and Xander Schauffle ($10,200) all seem to be a mixed bag. None of them quite stand out. It’s difficult to fathom paying $11,000 for Watson even though he’s in decent recent form (68.4 Recent Adj Rd Score) and he has yet to miss a cut at Old White. Simpson boasts a solid 68.8 LT Adj Rd Score and has a balanced game that could fare well here: He also three top-10 finishes and a top-15 in his past six appearances here, but Simpson has struggled since winning The Players, evidenced by his 69.9 Recent Adj Rd Score. While Schauffle won this tournament last year, he’s in awful recent form, missing cuts in three of his past four events and underperforming his salary-based expectation by an average of -19.16 points per tournament.
The Value Plays
One way to find value is to leverage our Long Term Adjusted Round Score metric. If you sort the field by LT Adj Rd Score, you are looking at a list of players who have been the best golfers over the past 75 weeks. Among these golfers, those who have low salaries make great value plays.
Andrew Putnam ($7,800) is crushing over his past 10 tournaments, averaging a +16.73 DraftKings Plus/Minus with 70% Consistency. He’s in tremendous recent form with a 68.0 Recent Adj Rd Score, which is tied with Finau for the second-best mark in the field. During that time frame, Putnam hit 72.7% of GIR, while avoiding bogey or worse on 70.4% of holes. Putnam looks to be another building block this week as he’s one of three players to have gained strokes on par 3s, par 4s, and par 5s over the past 75 weeks.
I’m going to double down on Ryan Armour ($7,700) once again considering his price hasn’t increased that much, and he’s been incredibly consistent over his past 10 tournaments:
Armour hasn’t missed a cut in his past four tournaments, and within that time frame, he owns a great 68.1 Recent Adj Rd Score, hitting 70.1% of GIR, along with averaging -4.0 average adjusted strokes on par 4s, and -4.5 average adjusted strokes on par 5s.
Over his past five weeks, Brandon Harkins ($7,100) doesn’t have any high finishes (32-38-37-66), but at least he’s only missed one cut.
While Harkins’ overall metrics don’t jump off the page, he’s hit a respectable amount of GIR over the past 75 weeks (67.1), and he’s long off the tee (308.6-yard LT DD). Furthermore, Harkins’ 13.8 birdies per tournament within the same time frame is tied for the fifth-best mark in the field. There is some volatility within Harkins given his 34% missed-cut rate, but the upside is there with his distance off the tee and his birdie-making ability.
The Bump and Run
In his short PGA career, the 19-year-old Joaquin Niemann ($9,700) has either missed the cut or finished in the top 20 on tour this season:
Over his past four tournaments, he’s missed the cut just once. Within that time frame, Niemann is hitting an exceptional amount of GIR (71.5%), while averaging a stellar 16.5 birdies per tournament. Not to mention he’s destroying par 3s (-2.3 average adjusted strokes), par 4s (-2.8 average adjusted strokes), while also gaining -1.8 average adjusted strokes on par 5s. This could be a fun course to watch the youngster (wow I’m old), especially since Niemann is long off the tee (307.6-yard LT DD).
Charles Howell III ($9,300) is a poster boy for consistency with his 10% missed-cut rate over the past 75 weeks. In his past 10 tournaments, he’s averaging a +13.71 DraftKings Plus/Minus with an 80% Consistency Rating. His last missed cut since January 14 was at the Honda Classic back in February.
Given that accuracy isn’t a factor like it was last week, J.B. Holmes ($9,000) is interesting with his 306.9-yard LT DD, along with his $1,000 price decrease from last week. He’s also made the cut in five of his past six appearances at Old White, along with a ninth-place finish last year. Before his missed cut last week, Holmes had been playing relatively consistent, finishing second at the Travelers, third at St. Jude and 13th at the Memorial.
Rostering Keegan Bradley ($8,500) never feels good, but he’s a decent fit this week. He’s long off the tee (300.3-yard LT DD) and his 70.8% GIR over the past six weeks is one of the best marks in the field. Bradley’s awful putting of late (31.9 putts per round) has been his greatest weakness.
Corey Connors ($7,000) is an intriguing punt play if you’re in need of salary relief. He’s hit a field-best 72% of GIR over the past 75 weeks, and he’s long off the tee (304.9-yard LT DD). The only thing holding him back is his putter, averaging an atrocious 30.3 putts per round in his past 45 tournaments.
Good luck, and be sure to check out The Action Network if you’re looking for more golf coverage!
Pictured above: Joaquin Niemann
Photo credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports