QUICKEN LOANS NATIONAL: The tournament now known as the Quicken Loans National has been around for 10 years and still boasts a strong field, but otherwise it seems to be losing a bit of its luster, as tournament host Tiger Woods is embroiled in yet another off-course scandal and the prestigious Congressional Country Club has opted out of hosting the event this year and beyond. It’s highly unlikely that Woods makes an appearance this week, opting instead for the comfort an in-patient treatment facility (according to his agent, anyway), and the players would surely prefer to be teeing it up at Congressional instead of TPC Potomac at Avenel Farms, but hey, it’s like I tell my wife: sometimes life is about settling.
And what we’re settling for this week is still pretty good: Rickie Fowler heads BETDAQ’s Win Market, and he’s joined in the field by other top players such as Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, and Bill Haas. TPC Potomac will be new to many, but it did play host to the Booz Allen Classic from 1987-2006, though the course has been extensively renovated since that time and is now supposedly quite different. In 2006, for example, TPC Avenel, as it was then known, was a par-71 that tipped out at just 6,987 yards. This year’s version is a 7,100-yard par-70 with tightened fairways and green complexes that have been re-sloped and re-countoured to be a bit more severe. The newly-christened TPC Potomac has hosted two Web.com Tour events in recent years and the winning score fell short of 10-under both times, so I expect the players to be challenged this week.
While a new venue certainly makes handicapping the field a bit more challenging, there a few things we know for sure: 1. the course isn’t particularly long; 2. there are only two par-5s; 3. David Lingmerth, a fairways-and-greens type of guy who is not known for his scrambling ability, won the Web.com Tour event here in 2012. That gives us something to go on, anyway.
Last week Jordan Spieth showed us why it’s often wise to go with class in mid-level events like this, even when the price may not excite you, but I’m not sure the top of the market this week warrants that type of respect. The value is a bit further down the board, I believe, and I’ve come up with three names who are, at the very least, worthy of a close examination:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
David Lingmerth (37.0)- Speaking of Lingmerth, he’s continued to improve since mastering TPC Potomac back in 2012, and after a slow start this year he’s really starting to heat up, finding the top-30 in six of his past seven starts, including a T12-T15-21-T26 run in his last four. He’s been rolling the rock this season, ranking 18th on Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting despite historically struggling in that area, and his recent string of good finishes is evidence that the tee-to-green consistency that has become his hallmark has returned. Lingmerth isn’t particularly long, but again– that doesn’t really matter this week. He’ll play his little fade– a shot that’s apparently quite handy at TPC Potomac, considering what we saw in 2012– and he’ll probably play conservative approaches, as is his custom, leaving himself plenty of birdie chances from the fat side of the green. This style of play has helped him succeed on some difficult courses, and this week’s venue had some serious teeth when the Web.com boys paid a visit. Don’t be surprised if Lingmerth finds success at TPC Potomac once again.
Si Woo Kim (43.0)- If he can finish, Kim is a threat. And I’m not talking “finish” in the sense of finishing a round or a tournament strong, I’m talking about finishing the tournament at all, as in completing all 72 holes. Kim has teed it up 21 times this season and had withdrawn 5 times mid-tournament, the most recent of which came three weeks ago at the Memorial, when he apparently hurt his ankle playing a bunker shot on the 17th hole of the third round. The ankle was fine by the U.S. Open, however, and Kim played quite well at Erin Hills, finishing 13th despite closing with a 75. He’s now finished 22nd or better in three of his past four completed tournaments (again, with him, “completed” is a caveat), a stretch which includes his win at the Players Championship. Clearly, Kim is an elite player with all the tools when he’s feeling right, and while the repeated withdrawals might understandably cause one to question his mental and physical toughness, there’s no particular reason to think that he’s going to be hampered by any sort of injury this week. This is a top-shelf talent at a midlevel price.
Grayson Murray (108.0)- This one’s more of a gut feeling than anything else, but young Murray has been gaining confidence over these past few weeks and feels primed for a breakout performance. He went through a miserable stretch in February and March in which he missed five consecutive cuts, but since then he’s made nine cuts in a row and has really stepped it up over the past month, finishing 35th or better in each of his past four starts. He’s a strong kid whose game relies on fearlessness and aggressiveness, and the confidence he’s built over theses past couple of months should serve him well this week and beyond. It’s anybody’s guess how Murray will take to TPC Potomac, but he’s a dangerous player and an interesting wild card at a price like 108.0.
TOURNAMENT MATCH BETS
Justin Thomas (1.91) vs. Patrick Reed (1.91)
I was very high on Thomas last week and he proceeded to lay a total egg, missing the cut at the Travelers. He could certainly get back on track with a big performance this week, but he’s been a little wild off the tee of late and TPC Potomac will make you pay for errant tee shots. Reed has been the picture of consistency over these past few weeks, making seven consecutive cuts and finding the top-25 six times in that stretch, and he’s coming off his best performance of the season, a 5th-place showing at the Travelers. Recommendation: Reed at 1.91
Bill Haas (1.91) vs. Marc Leishman (1.91)
Haas is a popular pick this week thanks to his recent good play– he’s coming off a top-5 at the U.S. Open– and the fact that he generally fares well on courses where ball-striking is important but length off the tee is not. Let’s not forget, however, that Haas was really struggling just a month ago, missing three consecutive cuts before breaking through with a T12 at the Dean & Deluca. Leishman, meanwhile, has been playing great golf for months, making 7 of 8 cuts and finding the top-35 five times since his win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational back in March. He’s the more consistent player and therefore the safer bet at a course that neither man has seen. Recommendation: Leishman at 1.91