Dell Technologies Championship Preview

This week we return to TPC Boston which has hosted this event since the inception of the FedEx Cup play-offs in 2007. The event changed title sponsors this year, but was previously known as the Deutsche Bank Championship.

The field this week was reduced to 100 players following the ranking cut-off that followed the Northern Trust but with Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey withdrawing and Brandt Snedeker and Scott Piercy already shutting down their seasons due to injury, the field currently stands at 96.

After his win last week, Dustin Johnson moved to the top of the FedEx Cup standings and kept his spot atop the World Rankings, a position he has held since winning the Genesis Open back in February.

Jordan Spieth has been putting Johnson and his World No.1 spot under immense pressure in the last couple of months and Johnson had to hold him off yet again as the pair went to a play-off to decide the Northern Trust last week.

With his effort last week, Spieth overtook Hideki Matsuyama to reclaim the 2nd spot in the Official World Golf Rankings, a spot Matsuyama has found himself in after 3 of his last 6 starts. He was temporarily in that position again after the PGA Championship, where he came 5th but a missed cut last week saw him fall behind Spieth once again.

The Course and what it will take to win the Dell Technologies Championship

TPC Boston, 7,342 Yards, Par 71

With this course being used on Tour since 2003, we have a fairly large amount of course form to go by. This helps identify what sort of player goes on to win here, and also any trends statistically.

The first thing that does stand out is the fact that a fair few of those that have won here, can certainly get their ball out their off the tee. Rory McIlroy has won here twice in the last five years at TPC Boston, whilst Phil Mickelson won the inaugural staging of this event since it became part of the FedEx Cup play-offs. Other winners at this course include, Adam Scott, Charley Hoffmann, Henrik Stenson, Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods all of whom were known for their power off the tee at the time of their win here.

Of course, the likes of Chris Kirk, Steve Stricker and Webb Simpson have also won here since 2009, negating the “distance is necessary” theory somewhat but it does appear that generally, the big hitters prosper at this golf course. With that in mind it is at least worth having one bigger hitter on side this week, even if the rest of those you do like are not the longest off the tee.

Despite TPC Boston originally being designed by Arnold Palmer, it was redesigned by Gill Hanse with the help of Brad Faxon in 2007. Other Gill Hanse courses used across both the major tours include, Castle Stuart Golf Links which hosted the Scottish Open from 2011-2013 and again in 2016 as well as the Olympic Golf Course in Rio. Hanse was also responsible for the redesign of the Blue Monster course at Trump Doral in 2013, so form at the WGC- Cadillac Championship from 2014-2016 may be worth a quick glance, even if not particularly similar to TPC Boston.

To win here, you need to go low with the winning score being -15 or lower in all but one year at this course. The exception was when Olin Browne won with a score of -14, but -15 has to be considered the benchmark score this week. The winning score has been -15 in each of the last three straight renewals but this came after Stenson matched Singh’s -22 record-winning score in 2013, so plenty of birdies will have to be made this week.

In order to go this low you need to sink plenty of putts which is made easier when your approach play is on point. With this in mind I am going to look at Strokes Gained: Approach-The-Green as well as Birdie Average and Strokes Gained: Tee-To-green (T2G) this week. A good putting week will also be required, so it may be worth looking at who’s been hot on the greens in recent weeks and hope that continues here at TPC Boston.

Of course it is always nice to know a player is going to be good with the putter each week and some do remain near the top of the putting statistics all-year round but generally speaking putting is one of the more variable stats week-to-week. To gauge a player’s confidence with the putter, I would rather look at how they have performed on the greens in more recent weeks to see if there has been an improvement or oppositely a drop-off in putt conversions. With players being comfortable on one type of putting surface over another, it is very difficult to pinhole how well a player will putt ahead of each week.

From 2007-2010 not one of the winners ranked better than 20th in Strokes Gained: Putting the week they won, but in the last six renewals only Stenson (10th) has ranked outside the top-5, so it is turning into a putting event in recent years and a hot run on the greens is clearly required these days.

A players’ ball-striking however tends to hold up, at least over a good few weeks and I would rather bet on a player’s putting coming together for one week than for someone to finally realise how to flush their tee shots or irons into the green all of a sudden. To conclude it is definitely worth looking at players who have struck the ball well for an extended period of time and look for any improvement on the greens as it may all come together on any given week.

Dating back to 2007, each winner here has ended the season ranked 56th or better in Strokes Gained: Approach. McIlroy ranked 2nd in 2012, Stricker 2nd in 2009, Stenson 6th in 2013, Mickelson 9th in 2007, Webb Simpson 11th in 2011, Fowler 14th in 2015 and Singh 16th in 2008.

Chris Kirk ended the year 56th in 2014, Charley Hoffmann 47th in 2010 and McIlroy 31st in 2016, so it is not always the case that the very best approach players over the course of the season win here, it does appear to be a pretty good indicator. Even ranking 56th or better in Strokes Gained: Approach is no small feat, considering the number of players on Tour so these three players can still be considered amongst the better players in that category on the given seasons.

Also in terms of Approach, of the winners from 2007-2016 only Kirk (34th), Simpson (25th) and Mickelson (53rd) ranked outside the top-10 for Strokes Gained: Approach the week they won.

For Birdie Average only Kirk (T40) and Singh (28th) ranked outside the top-25 for Birdie Average at the end of the season, with Rory (twice), Simpson, Hoffmann and Stricker all finishing the season inside the top-10 the year they won this event.

From 2007-2016, Simpson (20th) was the only winner ranked outside the top-11 for Strokes Gained: T2G the week they won, with seven of the winners ranking inside the top-3, making this perhaps the most consistent stat of all mentioned.

Strokes Gained T2G is another stat that held up over the course of the season too. Only Fowler (26th in 2015), Kirk (50th in 2014) and Hoffman (16th in 2013) ranked outside the top-3 in Strokes Gained: T2G the year they won this event. This further confirms this event is a true test of ball striking, which is why you have got a list of major champions and elite players on the honours roll in this event.

There are two players who currently rank inside the top-10 for Birdie Average, Strokes Gained: Approach and Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green so far this season and they are last week’s play-off protagonists, Jordan Spieth (1st Birdie Average, 2nd Approach, 6th T2G) and Dustin Johnson (9th Birdie Average, 4th Approach, 1st T2G).

An honourable mention must go Justin Thomas who ranks 2nd in Birdie Average and 10th in Approach, but just missed the list ranking 11th in T2G.

All three players are amongst the very best in the world, and are now all major champions after Thomas’ victory at the PGA Championship.

Both Johnson and Spieth have top-10’s at TPC Boston, with Johnson boasting three top-10’s in seven starts at this course, whereas Spieth has just the one in his four starts here and also has a missed cut. Thomas has not enjoyed TPC Boston at all so far, with a 56th and a MC in his first two starts in this event but could easily turn that around this week.

With all this in mind, here are my picks for the 2017 Dell Technologies Championship.

Louis Oosthuizen 35/1 (Betfred, 5 places) 33/1 (General, 6 places) 1pt e/w:

Louis Oosthuizen has been in good form over the last couple of weeks and has very good form at this course, to boot.

In three appearances at TPC Boston, Oosthuizen has three top-12’s, including a runner-up finish behind Rory McIlroy in 2012. He only finished a shot shy of McIlroy that week, shooting -19 which would have been good enough to win this event on six separate occasions since the FedEx Cup era.

Last week, the South African finished 10th, which followed up his 2nd place finish at the PGA Championship earlier this month.

Over the course of the season, he has ranked 18th in Strokes Gained: T2G and 33rd in Strokes Gained: Approach, but last week he surpassed his season-long ranking in both at the Northern Trust.

Oosthuizen ranked 16th in Strokes Gained: T2G and 10th Strokes Gained: Approach but ranking 27th in Strokes Gained: Putting held him back from improving on his T10 finish.

Everyone is aware of Oosthuizen’s ability but he has never won a regular PGA Tour event and whilst he has of course won The Open Championship and finished runner-up at every other major, he will be desperate to add a regular PGA Tour event to his collection. On top of that, winning here is exceptionally good financially also.

Should he improve his putting this week, I expect him to be strongly involved at the top of the leaderboard for a third start in a row.

Patrick Reed 35/1 (StanJames) 1pt e/w:

Patrick Reed has finally started to get his season going in recent weeks and after a T2 at the PGA Championship alongside Oosthuizen, it looks as though he can win again soon.

After winning The Barclays in 2016, many expected him to contend last week and for the most part he played well, finishing T20.

In four starts at this event, Reed has endured mixed fortunes but the last two starts have given plenty of hope ahead of this week. After finishing 70th on his debut at TPC Boston, and missing the cut the following year, Reed turned his form around on his next two starts.

In 2015, Reed finished 4th here and backed that up a year later with a 5th place finish, so it is clear he now has an affinity with this golf course.

If he can keep up his good form around TPC Boston this week, he is in a good position to win his second play-off event and his sixth PGA Tour title overall.

Reed could only rank 40th in both SG: Approach and SG: Putting last week, but he did rank a promising 17th in SG: T2G, so should he improve on the other two areas he will find himself well in the mix come Sunday.

Jhonattan Vegas 80/1 (General) 0.5pt e/w:

Vegas is enjoying another good year, after showing a resurgence back in 2016 and that can continue this week.

The Venezuelan successfully defended the RBC Canadian Open last month, the event he won during that resurgence last year and he can add to that this week. This event looks tailor-made for his style of play this season and given how he played last week I expect him to continue his rise back to the top of world golf.

He currently ranks 28th in Strokes Gained: Approach and 29th in Stroked Gained: T2G, despite missing five straight cuts between his T35 finish at the Byron Nelson and his win at the Canadian Open, so he is clearly doing something right.

Vegas showed his ball-striking prowess once again last week, ranking 9th in Strokes Gained: T2G and 15th in Strokes Gained: Approach. Add to this excellent effort on the greens (4th in Strokes Gained: Putting) and it easy to see why he finished 3rd behind only Johnson and Spieth at the Northern Trust.

In two starts at TPC Boston, Vegas has finished 42nd (2011) and 33rd (2016), but I think he can build in those two efforts considerably this week.

Emiliano Grillo 175/1 (Bet365) 0.5pt e/w:

One player who will be very dissapointed if he doesn’t turn his fortunes around in he next couple of weeks is Emiliano Grillo.

The Argentinian won the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year last season, largely thanks to his win at the Frys.Com Open, a wrap-around season event. A good way to turn his second season around in style is to win a much bigger event, during the FedEX cup play-offs.

Grillo finished inside the top-17 of three of the four major championships last season, and whilst he has missed three cuts in the majors this season, I still think he’s a big-time player.

He finished T2 at The Barclays last season and also went on to finish 10th at the Tour Champonship last year, whilst also finishing 32nd and 33rd in the other two play-off events.

Grillo got his FedEx Cup play-off series off to a similar start this season, finishing 29th at the Northern Trust last week and there’s every reason to believe he can improve again this week.

Last week, despite ranking a lowly 53rd in Strokes Gained: Putting, Grillo still managed to finish inside the top-30 (T29) and that was largely thanks to his efforts elsewhere.

He ranked 5th in Strokes Gained: Approach and 11th in Strokes Gained: T2G which is a huge improvement on his season-long standings in both. Grillo is currently sitting T42 in Strokes Gained: T2G and 44th in Strokes Gained: Approach, so his showing last week gives huge reason for optimism.

Like I said earlier, putting can change week-to-week and Grillo is certainly the sort of player that can get hot with the putter at any point.

Grillo won on the Web.com in 2015 and again on the PGA Tour last season and he will have every hope of winning for a third straight year. At 175/1 I am happy to chance he can hit the ball in the same way he did last week and get hot with the putter in order to improve on his T33 finish at this event last season.

Kyle Stanley 200/1 (Coral & PaddyPower 5 places 1/4 odds) 0.5pt e/w:

If you could have built a player for this golf course this season, Kyle Stanley would be right up there with the very best. Over the course of the season, Stanley has ranked 7th in Strokes Gained: Approach and is currently 9th in Strokes Gained: T2G, and was ranked 6th up until last week. I say up until last week because he was below-par by his standards in that category last week (44th) and that ultimately cost him a much better finish.

At the Northern Trust last week, Stanley finished a respectable 25th which was an improvement on his recent efforts, since getting his second PGA Tour win at the Quicken Loans National. After getting his win, Stanley missed three of his next five cuts before arriving in New York last week.

Stanley was statistically sound in two key areas last week, Strokes Gained: Approach (16th) and Strokes Gained: Putting (8th) so if he could have been anything slightly better tee-to-green it could have been another huge week for him.

Despite the disappointment tee-to-green last week, he should take a lot of confidence to TPC Boston, given the way he hit his approaches as converted them on the greens. Despite a three-year absence, Stanley does also have three years’ worth of form of this event to mull over also.

Back in 2011, Stanley finished inside the top-10 here and whilst he has not backed that up, going 42-MC since, he should be confident of at least replicating that top-10 given his form and ball-striking this season.

Given how well he has ranked tee-to-green for the majority of the season, I am hoping for a return to form in that aspect this week and should he roll the ball as well as he did last week on the greens, there is no reason not to expect a much better showing than his 200/1 odds suggest.

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Whilst none of the players I have selected this week rank highly in Birdie Average this season (Stanley the highest at T34), I have every confidence in their ability to make birdies at a course that is succeptible to given them up to good ball strikers.

Total Points Staked this week: 7

Profit/Loss for 2017: -22