World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play - Day Three
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As we creep closer to the 105th PGA Championship it is important to pay attention to the venues on the PGA TOUR. They will provide clues we can use to handicap 2023’s next major championship. The Zurich Classic is a unique event. Most focus on the format and forget to really dig into the skill set needed to contend at TPC Louisiana. Unlike Pete Dye’s design at Harbour Town, we experienced a week ago, his bayou venue is much bigger.

Thirty percent of the approach shots at the Zurich tested the players from over 200 yards. That is considerably more than the PGA TOUR average of 23%. Oak Hill’s East Course will have a similar allotment of long iron play. The competitors will face two par 3s over 230 yards and seven par 4s over 460! The par 70 course extends over 7,400 yards. We are also heading to upstate New York in May where morning and evening conditions will be cool and the ground far from fast and firm.

Since long iron acumen will be a differentiating skill, the contenders at the Zurich Classic caught my attention. Since only 16 of the Top 50 in the OWGR played in the PGA TOUR’s team event, we have a nice opportunity to look down the futures board at some who could muster the magic of another unknown like Shaun Micheel.

  • No better place to start than with Davis Riley. The first time PGA TOUR winner is an excellent approach player. Riley is ranked twenty second for strokes gained approach (SG:APP). His skill showed in New Orleans as he and Nick Hardy set a new tournament scoring record of 30 under par. Riley ranks above average in approaches from 225-250 yards and hits 68.3% of his greens in regulation (GIR). FanDuel’s odds for him are +19000. He’s one whose odds will drop in the weeks to come. 
  • Tom Hoge finished tied for thirteenth with partner Harris English. Much like Micheel’s amazing approach on the last hole of the 2003 PGA, Hoge hits his irons like that all the time. Hoge is ranked second on TOUR for SG:APP and secures just under 70% of his GIRs. One specific strength is approaches from 200-225 yards where he ranks third on the PGA TOUR. FanDuel’s futures on Hoge are +16000 and sure to lower a little once everyone figures out the skills needed to contend at Oak Hill.  
  • A week ago, Nick Hardy was not in the PGA Championship. His win alongside Davis Riley earned him a spot. Zurich’s team format showed both Hardy and Riley are great iron players. Hardy is rankled eleventh SG:APP. His average rank for proximity from 200-225 and 225-250 yards is eighteenth! He’s an excellent long iron player and will be one of a handful of young players who can handle the East Course’s elongated approaches. The futures boards will add him this week, and when they do my eyes will be on him. 
  • One player who didn’t go to New Orleans but is playing in Mexico this week is Gary Woodland. Woodland has successfully navigated four straight cuts through tough tests such as THE PLAYERS and the Masters. Woodland’s iron play is leading the way toward his recent success. The second ranked iron player from 200-225 yards on TOUR is also ranked twentieth SG:APP. PointsBet has pushed Woodland out at +15000 on their futures board.

The field at Oak Hill in four weeks will have 156 players. Less than twenty-five of them have the talent needed to hit these extra-long approaches. Three of these four men are playing in the Mexico Open at Vidanta. PointsBet’s betting board lists Davis Riley (+3300), Gary Woodland (+3500), and Nick Hardy (+7000) across the middle tier. Vidanta Vallarta is well over 7,400 yards. Long irons will be tested again. Now you know who to watch as we continue to walk up toward the season’s next major.

Keith Stewart, PGA covers the PGA TOUR and LPGA from a betting perspective. Published by Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, and PGA TOUR, Keith is also the founder of a golf betting media company called Read The Line. 

The Professional Golfers’ Association of America (“PGA”) is not an online gambling operator, and is not a gambling site of any kind. Odds are provided for information and entertainment purposes only. Odds were sourced from PointsBet and FanDuel and last updated 11 p.m. EST April 23, 2023. PGA makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of information given.

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