WGC WORKDAY CHAMPIONSHIP: With the pandemic and its related complications making things difficult for a renewal of the WGC Mexico Championship this year, a new WGC event has taken its place on the schedule, kicking off a lucrative 4-week stretch in Florida in which the players will compete for over $40 million in prize money.
The PGA Tour has staged events on dozens of Florida courses over the years, but this is the first time a professional tournament will be held at The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, a Jack Nicklaus/Tony Jacklin-designed track that is said to feature wide fairways and tricky, undulating green complexes. Other than those broad descriptors, we really don’t know much about Concession, but the course has impressed the powers that be enough to reference it in the official name of this tournament– WGC Workday Championship at The Concession– so I’m expecting a fairly spectacular layout. Based on what the players have been saying early in the week, the greens are going to be firm and fast, and chipping/pitching will be at a premium due to all the segmentation and undulation. At 7,474 yards, the course certainly isn’t short, but multiple par-5s appear to be reachable and if the fairways dry out we could see a lot of short irons, as always seems to be the case in today’s game. One thing we know that everyone will have to deal with this week is tee-to-green Bermuda grass, and some players certainly have an easier time with the Bermuda than others. Keep that in mind.
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson heads BETDAQ’s Win Market this week at 8.7, an awfully short price for a guy who has had considerable difficulty winning in the Sunshine State over the years. I’ve decided to avoid the top of the market entirely on account of the unpredictability that accompanies a new course… and with a field this strong, you know there’s plenty of value a little further down the board. Speaking of value, we struck gold with Max Homa last week at 82.0, so we’re playing with a bit of house money and feeling pretty good about these three selections:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Daniel Berger (37.0)- This will be Berger’s first start since his victory at Pebble Beach, and given his trajectory over the last couple of months– top-10 finishes in 4 of his past 5 events, top-25s in 6 of his past 7– there’s no reason to expect him to slow down now. He’s been striking the ball beautifully this season, ranking 22nd on the PGA Tour in total strokes gained, but the true reason behind this current white-hot stretch has been his putting– once a bit shaky on the greens, Berger now ranks 15th on Tour in strokes gained putting and 11th in total putting. A Florida native who played collegiately at Florida State, he’s been a cash machine in the Sunshine State throughout his career, and prior to his recent win at the AT&T all three of his professional victories had come on Bermuda grass, so he should feel right at home at Concession. The market isn’t giving him quite the respect he deserves this week, and I believe he should be backed enthusiastically at a price like 37.0.
Sungjae Im (52.0)- If you’re looking for players who should see an uptick in their performance in the PGA Tour’s 4-week Florida Swing, Im should be right at the top of your list. He’s really made a name for himself in the Florida events over the past couple of years, finishing 3rd at Bay Hill in both 2019 and 2020, 4th at the Valspar in 2019, and picking up his lone PGA Tour victory at last year’s Honda Classic. There’s no doubt that more wins are in the 22-year-old’s future, and after his runner-up performance in November’s Masters there shouldn’t be any concern about his ability to thrive in elite fields and high-pressure environments. He hasn’t played since a T17 in Phoenix three weeks ago, but he’s found the top-20 in 3 of his 5 starts this year, so we know his game is in good shape. I’ll gladly take my chances on an in-form Im teeing it up in Florida… especially at better than 50/1.
Will Zalatoris (90.0)- Though still an unknown to many casual golf fans, Zalatoris has exploded onto the scene over the past 5 months, displaying machine-like consistency in reeling off 7 top-20 finishes in 10 PGA Tour starts, including four top-10s. The Korn Ferry Tour player of the year in 2020, he’s know for his brilliant iron play, ranking 9th on Tour in strokes gained on approach and 13th in strokes gained tee-to-green, and that should serve him well at Concession, where precision is said to be required when approaching the small, segmented greens. Considering Zalatoris has had tremendous success over the past few months when seeing every course for the first time in competition, while the majority of his competitors had familiarity with the courses, I think the fact that most everyone starts with a clean slate this week– no intimate course knowledge– should work in his favor. With his talent and a price like 90.0, I think he’s worth a shot here.