Course: Glen Oaks Club (Old Westbury, New York)
Yardage: 7,350 – Par 70
Purse : 8.75M
Field: Top 125 players in FedEx Cup points to date
Strokes gained: off-the-tee
Par 4 Scoring
Par 4 450-500 yard scoring
Approach proximity 175-200 yards
Strokes gained: Approach
Hideki Matsuyama ($11,500) & Rory McIlroy ($10,800)
I’m going with the same picks I made as my anchors for the PGA Championship. Matsuyama has been in peak form for the last few weeks, save for a few holes down the stretch that we can chalk up to nerves. We can all agree that Matsuyama has more than enough talent to win any tournament he enters. The question is whether or not he will gain that special something that it takes to win a major. Well, this week isn’t a major and Matsuyama’s swing is still in peak form. He ranks in the Top 10 on Tour in both strokes gained: approach, and off the tee. He’s also in the Top 10 in par 4 scoring and approach proximity from 175-200 yards. This course will favor the best ball strikers with its length and precision needed off the tee, which is a big reason why I couldn’t help myself from picking my other anchor, Rory McIlroy. McIlroy comes with the risk of his ribs flaring up as they did during the final round of the PGA Championship. Would you go against Lebron James or Mike Trout if they had an “injury” that wasn’t bad enough to keep them out? The news of the injury will be enough to keep some owners away, so you’ll get him a few hundred dollars cheaper and most likely have lower ownership than usual, but those aren’t the reasons I’m picking McIlroy. I’m picking McIlroy for two reasons. One of the most important things players will need to do well is get off the tee. McIlroy doesn’t have enough rounds played to qualify him on the PGA’s statistics this season, but in the rounds he’s played he gains 1.445 shots per round off the tee. Dustin Johnson ranks number one in that statistic gaining 1.029 shots per round. That’s a huge difference. McIlroy will smash the ball around this course while still keeping it in safe places, something that no one else does nearly as well. Reason number two, this is Rory’s time of year. Four of his thirteen wins have come during the FedEx Cup Playoffs. If Rory gets rolling, I’ll be riding him all the way through the Tour Championship.
Upper Tier ($8,500-9,900)
Henrik Stenson ($9,800) & Brooks Koepka ($9,100)
Henrik Stenson is another guy like McIlroy who can really turn it on this time of year, as in 2013 when he won the Tour Championship. After an up and down beginning to his season, Stenson has been looking better and better each week for over a month with six straight Top 26 finishes culminating in a win last week at the Wyndham Championship. Stenson’s smooth ball striking will come in handy this week; he is one of the best at striking the ball from the 175-200 yard range, which is where he should be residing all week. Brooks Koepka actually leads the PGA in proximity to the hole from that distance. Koepka has been consistently finishing in the Top 20 since his U.S Open win. Koepka ranks ninth in driving distance and 31st in strokes gained: off-the-tee. His stellar game off the tee should give him a distinct advantage on most of the field.
Lower Tier ($7,000-$8,400)
Jason Dufner ($7,600) Keegan Bradley ($7,500) J.B Holmes ($7,200) Gary Woodland ($7,000)
Jason Dufner has been inconsistent this year, but he still is one of the best on Tour in both strokes gained: off-the-tee and strokes gained: approach. He ranked fifth last week in strokes gained: off-the-tee, and strokes gained: tee-to-green. So his swing is looking just fine, he just needs to gain a little confidence with the flat stick. He’s already won one event this year in a field similar to this one. Keegan Bradley has been slowly figuring it out all year long gaining steam as the season goes along. Bradley ranks in the Top 10 on Tour in both par 4 scoring, and strokes gained: off-the-tee. With his improving game, he’s due for a breakout performance. J.B Holmes has been playing well since the U.S Open, he hasn’t missed any cuts in that time. He ranks in the Top 30 in both strokes gained: off the tee, and approach proximity from 175-200 yards. He’s also one of the longest hitters on Tour, which is why I chose my last pick in this bracket, Gary Woodland. Woodland also looks great on paper this week, ranking in the Top 20 in strokes gained: off the tee and approach, driving distance, and approach proximity from 175-200.
Branden Grace ($6,900) Bud Cauley ($6,900) Jason Kokrak ($6,900)
Branden Grace just seems to be vastly underpriced for a guy who has the talent to win a major. If not for a drive on the railroad tracks at Chambers Bay, he’d have won the U.S Open instead of Spieth. I know this might not be a Branden Grace type of track, but if he can shoot a 62 at Royal Birkdale, he can outplay a $6,900 price tag in Long Island. Bud Cauley has had a nice year so far. He ranks in the upper-middle of the pack in the driving categories and ranks in the Top 40 in par 4 scoring, and the Top 15 in strokes gained: approach. He has had some great rounds this year, and will need just one of those to be worth his price this week. Jason Kokrak excels at courses where there is a premium on driving the golf ball. He ranks 14th on Tour in strokes gained: off-the-tee, and 18th in driving distance. He’s a longshot, but this is the week to gamble on him.