Quicken Loans “The National” Invitational 2018 Preview

Course: TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, Potomac, Maryland

-Par 70, 7107 yards

-Fairways: Bentgrass

-Rough: Bluegrass and Rye

-Greens: Bentgrass

-Field: 120 players; Cut is Top 70 and ties with possible MDF

– Played as the 4th hardest course on tour in 2017

After a stacked field at the Travelers that saw Bubba triumph over the gutless Casey for Bubba’s 3rd win this year (ties his career high in a year on tour) we get a horrific field that is highlighted by none other than TIGER MOTHERF***ING WOODS. I get excited when I get to watch Tiger. But seriously this field sucks as Rickie is showing up, Marc Leishman, last year’s winner Kyle Stanley, and hey, David Hearn!!!!! Since this is one of the tournaments with “invitational” status on tour the field is only about 120 players this week with a cut still at Top 70 and ties making the weekend. Last year was the first time this tournament was played at TPC Potomac but there have been 2 Web.com events held here in 2012 and 2013. David Lingmerth won in 2012, Tom Hoge and Sam Saunders finished T8, and if you’re looking past those finishes as you start your research, then good luck to you. In 2013, MICHAEL Putnam won, as Pat Mayo informed me, not ANDREW Putnam, who is in the field this week. Chesson Hadley finished solo 2nd, Sung Kang, who’s had a rough streak recently of missing his last 7 of 9 cuts and in the two events he made the cut finished 42nd and 57th, did finish T6 in 2013. Finally, Si WOOOOOOOOOOO Kim finished T11 and like I said above, if you’re looking past those finishes to find winners, then good luck to you. Let’s also keep in mind that the course was renovated pretty heavily in 2015 as a few greens (7th and 16th) were flattened out and several fairways, mainly the 5th and 6th, were widened. I think through all of this we can deduce that those wins and top 10 finishes are impressive in a vacuum but I wouldn’t rely heavily on that “history.”

TPC Potomac

This TPC course played as one of the toughest on tour in 2017 (4th) and features 6 Par 4’s from 450-500 yards with another 2 just under at around 440 yards. Both Par 5’s are over 550 yards with Hole 2 clocking in at about 619 yards. Not that longer courses are that big of a deal unless you’re short hitting Webb Simpson but making pars here and taking advantage of the limited Par 5’s and few short par 4’s (Holes 13 and 14) will be key to success here.  Holes #2 and #13 saw 26% of the field making birdies as two of the easier holes while Hole #14 saw 42% of the field making birdies. As is the case with select holes each week, for guys in contention, not making BoB on these holes is like losing a stroke to the field. When it comes to bogey avoidance, all last year players said #11 was one of the hardest of any hole on tour. Averaging over half a stroke over par, players see deep rough on the right and trees lining the left side from the tee box. A misplaced tee shot yields thick rough, or worse the trees, in which a bogey or double is easily in play. Below we can see the hardest and easiest holes RTP last year.

Hole Par Length Rank Avg Strokes. O/U Par
1 4 440 11 4.094 0.094
2 5 619 17 4.859 -0.141
3 3 225 7 3.149 0.149
4 4 440 2 4.249 0.249
5 4 365 14 3.932 -0.068
6 4 484 4 4.217 0.217
7 4 452 8 4.147 0.147
8 4 467 3 4.246 0.246
9 3 201 12 3.01 0.01
10 5 560 15 4.927 -0.073
11 4 470 1 4.521 0.521
12 3 168 13 2.982 -0.018
13 4 360 16 3.88 -0.12
14 4 299 18 3.639 -0.361
15 4 490 5 4.204 0.204
16 4 412 10 4.097 0.097
17 3 190 6 3.175 0.175
18 4 465 9 4.131 0.131
70 7107 71.459

This course is very tight and is a ball-striker’s paradise. As I mentioned on my twitter (@sscherman), keeping it in the fairway is paramount as Kyle Stanley ranked 1st in SG: OTT last year en route to victory, 1st in SG: T2G, and 4th in SG: APP. Stanley actually lost -1.1 strokes to the field putting for the week, while superstar T2G man Keegan Bradley finished T5 while losing -2.3 strokes putting to the field. Elite ball strikers will certainly be aided by strong putting but as we can see it is not as crucial as other weeks.

Key Stats to Target

As I mentioned above, hitting fairways and greens while being able to scramble will be key to not only making the cut but finishing up top this week. Via fantasynational.com, the average Driving Accuracy % for tour events is around 61% while TPC Potomac is about 57%. Average GIR % for tour events is about 65% while TPC Potomac is 60%. Finally, the average scrambling % is about 57% for tour events while here is around 52%. I think this shows the difficult of key areas and what it will take to minimize big numbers while also setting up for birdie opportunities. When I look at landing zones as well as last year’s Approach Shot Distribution (via fantasynational.com) I see about 10-12 approaches, including Par 3 tee shots, should come between 150-200 yards which is the emphasis I’ll put on Approach game this week.

So, what’s it going to take to compete? Stats I think I’ll be targeting include SG: Ball Striking (Player’s rank in both total driving AND GIR), SG: APP (with emphasis on 150-200 yards), Par 4 Efficiency from 450-500 yards, Scrambling, BoB (Birdie-Or-Better) Gained, GIRs Gained, and Fairways Gained. Please note that there should always be some emphasis on SG: T2G but since that is used each and every week I don’t include it in stats that I’m “targeting.” I will go into more depth on my finalized stats, players who’s form I like, course history, and more in my DFS article in the next day or two.

Bonus – A few early week bets I like (haven’t bet anything yet)

Joaquin Niemann: 40/1; seems like value in this weak field plus the kid has been HOT

Chesson Hadley: 50/1; started at 55/1 and I’m sure being bet down due to 2013 finish but in this field that’s a decent number

Kevin Tway: 50/1; Bovada is annoying so I’m pretty sure he’s 60/1 most places but Tway has been playing well with 3 Top 10s in his last 5 starts

*All odds from Bovada; I’m sure there are better numbers out there on various sites*

That’s all for the course preview! Follow me on Twitter @sscherman and follow @AmateurHour_Pod too for picks, podcasts with FIRE guests, and weekly picks to win.

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