The second stop for the FedEx Cup playoffs will take place at a new venue: Caves Valley Golf Club in Owning Mills, Maryland. The course will play as a Par 72, measuring 7,552 yards. The greens this week will be bentgrass.
The field has slimmed down to the top 70 in FedEx Cup standings, and with no cut here (or next week), golfers will have four rounds to make it in the top 30 for the PGA TOUR Championship at East Lake.
This Tom Fazio course design has previously hosted amateur and Champions Tour tournaments, but was recently lengthened to host its first PGA TOUR event. Six Par 4’s measure between 450-to-500 yards, and three step off under 400 yards. As a stock Par 72, there will be four Par 5’s, and with the shorter Par 4’s, proximity with short irons and wedges will be a priority this week. It’s never a bad idea to roster golfers who are elite ball-strikers on a course we’ve never seen before. The 2020 renovations conducted by Logan Fazio included tightening the landing area in the fairways to about 25 yards in width. Fairways are also guarded by thick fescue rough, so driving accuracy on this long course will undoubtedly help the 70 golfers navigate Caves Valley. These greens are bigger than last week, but are still on the smaller side overall (average 5,200 sq ft.), putting even more emphasis on ball-striking to ensure golfers don’t end up in the thick rough or fairway bunkers. At just over 7,500 yards, proximity with long irons and Par 4 efficiency on holes measuring 450-to-500 yards should also be key statistics when deciding to roster your golfers.
With two tournaments left in the season and no cut this week or next, it’s imperative to rosters golfers who’ve shown the ability to perform in similar situations. WGCs, the Olympics and the PGA TOUR Championship are some courses with similar formats and should provide insight into who could play well this week. The top 5 (in descending order) in Strokes Gained: Total in no-cut events over the previous 24 rounds are Jason Kokrak (+8000; $7,800), Jon Rahm (+550; $11,700), Justin Thomas (+2000; $10,600), Russell Henley (+6500; $7,800) and Dustin Johnson (+2200; $10,400).
Primarily for GPPs, consider Morikawa this week and take his missed cut as a blessing in disguise. He’s $400 cheaper than last week and may come in at a lower ownership than he should at this price tag. THE NORTHERN TRUST was Morikiawa’s first missed cut in 16 starts, and he has only missed back-to-back cuts once in his PGA TOUR career. Morikawa’s first round at Liberty National set him back a touch, and maybe some of the pre-tournament obligations as the then leader of the FedEx Cup standings distracted him. While there’s no way to know for sure, a bounce-back in Round 2 was on display, as he gained 2.06 strokes ball-striking, most of it coming from Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (+1.71). I’m not fond of his outright number — especially when he’s lost strokes on the greens in six of his previous seven events — still, for GPPs, Morikawa could present some leverage at the top. Also, consider Bryson DeChambeau (+2500, $9,300) because these prices won’t last for very long if he’s able to use his Off-the-Tee game to his advantage this week. At Liberty National, he gained 5.17 strokes with his drives, which ranked third in the field, and was a scoring machine, recording 25 birdies and one eagle.
Like Tony Finau (+2800, $9,800), Conners’ putting holds him back from winning more often on the PGA TOUR. His ball-striking is world-class, and it showed last week. Conners ranked fifth Off-the-Tee and fourth in approach at Liberty National, but lost 2.13 strokes around the greens and 1.20 on them. A longer course with potentially more accessible greens than Liberty National could be the recipe Conners needs to grab his second-career win, just like Finau.
Three out of the last four weeks have been positive in the ball-striking department for Homa, but, like the golfers mentioned above, he can’t seem to get his putter right. Over his last 10 tournaments, Homa’s only gained strokes on the greens in two of them. The silver lining on his putting woes is his week at Muirfield Village, where he gained 6.5 strokes on bentgrass greens — the fourth-best putting performance of his career on the PGA TOUR. He was solid Tee-to-Green last week, and he needs a strong performance here to ensure a spot in the Top 30 next week for the PGA TOUR Championship.
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