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Fort Worth Invitational preview

Aussie golfer Adam Scott. (Photo: AP)
Roar Guru
23rd May, 2018
1

Last week, young American Aaron Wise broke through for his first PGA Tour victory, outlasting Australian Marc Leishman in Texas. This week, the tour moves down the road to the fabled Colonial CC.

Colonial is a 7200-yard par 70, including the infamous ‘horrible horseshoe’ – made up of Holes 3, 4 and 5 –  one of the toughest three-hole stretches in golf and regularly the site of carnage.

The fairways are incredibly narrow and lined by a collection of thick and mature trees. The greens are bent grass and some of the smallest on tour. The course shares many similarities to Copperhead and Harbour Town, the host venues of the Valspar and RBC Heritage, respectively.

The Dallas course has historically been dominated by players who hit the ball an average length off the tee but dominate with their irons and wedges.

In past events, strokes gained approach has been three times as predictive as strokes gained off the tee, and five times to that of strokes gained around the green.

Players like Webb Simpson, Jordan Spieth and Zach Johnson are phenomenal iron players and have subsequently seen success here in the past.

Over the last 24 rounds, the top ten in strokes gained approach are:
1. Scott Piercy
2. Adam Hadwin
3. Jordan Spieth
4. Bryson DeChambeau
5. Stewart Cink
6. Adam Scott
7. Emiliano Grillo
8. Chesson Hadley
9. Patton Kizzire
10. JJ Spaun

Another crucial statistic this week is fairways gained, which measures driving accuracy relative to the field, as opposed to driving accuracy percentage, which measures a cumulative total.

The rough at Colonial is penal, and the fairways tight, highlighted by almost ten per cent fewer fairways hit here than the tour average.

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Past champions, such as Steve Stricker, Adam Scott and Chris Kirk, have historically excelled in this category.

Over the last 24 rounds, the top ten in fairways gained are:
1. Emiliano Grillo
2. Kevin Streelman
3. Chez Reavie
4. Patrick Cantlay
5. Shubhankar Sharma
6. Jon Rahm
7. Aaron Wise
8. Bryson DeChambeau
9. Austin Cook
10. Rickie Fowler

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Due to the tightness of the fairways, longer hitters will often dial down and hit few drivers. The average driving distance is 275 yards, almost ten yards less than the Tour average. As a result, many players play their approach shots from similar distances from the green.

Approach shots are almost 30 per cent more likely to be played from 150-175 yards than any other yardage group.

Over the last 24 rounds, the top ten in proximity from 150-175 yards are:
1. Emiliano Grillo
2. John Huh
3. Kevin Na
4. Bryson DeChambeau
5. Cody Gribble
6. Zach Johnson
7. Adam Scott
8. Anirban Lahiri
9. JJ Spaun
10. Ted Potter Jr

Predictions
Emiliano Grillo should be a favourite, excelling in all the vital statistics. A phenomenal ball-striker who has always been one of the tour’s best approaching the green, although if there is one mark on the Argentine, it is his putting. However, he putts substantially better on bent grass and any other.

Grillo has made a phenomenal 16 straight cuts, and over his last ten tournaments has gained an average 5.2 strokes on the field.

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He has made the cut at this event in the two times he has played, his game is red hot, and he is perfect for this course.

Adam Scott has been predictably incredible from tee-to-green so far this year, ranking sixth in strokes gained approach and seventh in proximity from 150-175 yards. The 2014 champion has made eight of his last nine cuts, including a ninth and 11th in the previous two weeks. He gained almost 12 strokes tee-to-green last week, and only a lousy putter held him back. Scott returned to the long-putter a couple of weeks ago and before last week, had produced two positive putting weeks.

Adam Hadwin fits the mould of many past champions and in his three starts at Colonial, he has made three cuts – including a fifth in 2015. Over the last five tournaments, the Canadian has gained 5.9 strokes on the field from tee-to-green, 3.8 of which have come approaching the green.

So far this year on courses below 7400 yards, Hadwin is third in strokes gained tee-to-green, 12th in strokes gained total, and ranks first in strokes gained around the green over the last 24 rounds. If the course becomes wind-swept, Hadwin’s short game will be invaluable.

Bryson DeChambeau, one of the hottest players on the planet, sits third in strokes gained over the last 24 rounds. Bryson has three top-five finishes in his previous five tournaments, including a third-place finish at the comparable Habour Town Golf Links.

Over his last five starts, Bryson has gained an average of eight strokes on the field.

Bryson features in the top-ten of all three key statistics, and despite missing the cut at Colonial the last two years, his game has improved exponentially in the last year.