DELL TECHNOLOGIES CHAMPIONSHIP: The FedEx Cup Playoffs roll on to their second week, as the top 100 in the standings head to TPC Boston for the Dell Technologies Championship, with the top-70 at the conclusion of this week’s play advancing to next week’s BMW Championship. The whole “playoff” format makes things quirky enough (though based on recent news reports, we ain’t seen nothing yet on that front– link), but this event takes the quirkiness up a notch by starting on Friday and wrapping up on Monday, which is Labor Day here in the States (hellooo, three-day weekend!).
Still, it’s tough to complain about a field like this– Rickie Fowler (strained oblique) and Francesco Molinari (rest) are the only top-100 players missing, and each of the top six players in BETDAQ’s Win Market have recorded at least one top-10 over their past three starts. And the course, TPC Boston, has developed a reputation for producing big-name winners, with Justin Thomas getting the job done last year, Rory McIlroy in 2016, Fowler in 2015, and Henrik Stenson in 2013.
TPC Boston is an Arnold Palmer design that’s relatively new, opening just after the turn of the century before being renovated by Gil Hanse in 2007. It’s a par-71 that measures around 7,350 yards from all the way back, but Zach Johnson was quoted this week as saying that he’ll likely be coming into the greens with 8-iron or less on at least 11 holes, so there are scoring opportunities regardless of how far you hit the ball. That being said, bombers have fared really well in this event over the past few years, and looking at both past results and various player reactions this week it seems clear that length off the tee provides a significant advantage at TPC Boston. The course can be unmanned if someone like Justin Thomas gets into a rhythm with the driver, and in Thomas’s 3-shot victory last year he became the 12th straight tournament champion to finish the week at 15-under or better. If you want to win this week, you’d better bring your birdies.
The usual suspects top BETDAQ’s Win Market, with Dustin Johnson (9.0) at the head of the class, followed by Thomas (13.0), Brooks Koepka (13.5), Jason Day (16.5), and Rory McIlroy (17.0). Last week’s winner Bryson DeChambeau can currently be had at a very ripe-looking 41.0, and he’s not the only temptation this week– as is always the case with a field of this caliber, there are plenty of big-time players with nice, fat prices next to their names, so there’s no shortage of (seemingly) worthwhile options. Here’s what I’m thinking:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Justin Thomas (13.0)- While it’s tempting to opt for juicer prices in an event of this sort, history suggests that the winner this week will come from the top of the market. And though it’s notoriously difficult to defend on the PGA Tour, Thomas has already shown that he can do it by going back-to-back at the CIMB Classic in 2015-16, and his streakiness is undeniable– who could forget his white-hot stretch in Hawaii a couple of Januarys ago, or his August-September stretch last year? With a victory at the WGC-Bridgestone three starts ago followed by a 6th-place finish at the PGA Championship and another top-10 at last week’s Northern Trust, it certainly appears as though Thomas is in the midst of another one of his runs. He’s got a top gear that only a couple of guys in the sport can match, he’s playing a course he dominated 12 months ago, and he’s riding a streak of 12 consecutive sub-70 rounds. There’s a lot to like here.
Hideki Matsuyama (41.0)- It’s been a rough year for Matsuyama, but he’s quietly been returning to form these past few weeks and he has a nice record at this event, finding the top-25 in each of his past three appearances and shooting par or better in 13 of his past 15 competitive rounds at TPC Boston. The small, segmented greens at TPC Boston require precision with the short and mid-irons, and Matsuyama has produced some great ball-striking stats over the past two weeks while recording top-15 finishes in both the Wyndham Championship and The Northern Trust. In other words, he’s back to being himself– or at least close to it. He’s always fared well in big events like this, so he’ll be plenty comfortable around the leaders should he find himself there on Sunday. I’ve avoided Matsuyama all year, but at 40/1 and with his game coming around, I think now is the right time to hop aboard.
Kyle Stanley (108.0)- TPC Boston is a ball-striker’s track that requires accuracy off the tee and precision with the irons, so it should be a perfect fit for Stanley, who currently ranks 5th on the PGA Tour in Driving Accuracy Percentage and 6th in GIR Percentage. He played fairly well here last year, finishing 25th despite shooting 72-73 over the weekend, and he’s been impressive over the past few weeks, finishing runner-up at the WGC Bridgestone and 28th in The Northern Trust last week. Making enough putts is always the issue for Stanley, but he’s excelled on bentgrass greens throughout his career, so he should be comfortable on the smallish, slick bentgrass greens at TPC Boston. If he makes a few putts, he’ll be right there fighting it out with the leaders on Sunday. That sounds pretty good for a guy who can currently be had at better than 100/1.
TOURNAMENT MATCH BETS
Brooks Koepka (1.81) vs. Rory McIlroy (2.02)
Koepka has been on a tear, so it’s no surprise that he’s the favorite here and many will be understandably shy about betting against him in a head-to-head matchup. But his record at TPC Boston isn’t great– MC-T57-T18 in three career appearances at this event. McIlroy, on the other hand, is a past champion here who has been playing some pretty good golf himself, with three top-12 finishes in his last four starts, including his runner-up at the Open. I think I’ll take my chances here with Rory at better than even money. Recommendation: McIlroy at 2.02
Jon Rahm (1.91) vs. Tony Finau (1.91)
Finau is having a terrific season and he’s coming off a runner-up finish at The Northern Trust, so he seems like the obvious play here, as Rahm has missed 3 cuts in his past 5 starts. But Rahm has shown the ability to turn things around on a dime– he finished 4th at the PGA after missing two cuts in his previous three starts, and back in May his 5th-place showing at Colonial was preceded by a two-week stretch of MC-T63. Plus, Rahm finished 4th in this tournament last year and has had nothing but positive things to say about TPC Boston, while Finau has gone MC-T24-65 in his three appearances here. Recommendation: Rahm at 1.91