The Northern Trust at Ridgewood Country Club
The Ridgewood Country Club is one of the oldest country clubs in America. Ridgewood was host to the 1935 Ryder Cup, many US Amateur events, Senior US Open & PGA Championship and the first tournament of the FedEx Cup in 2008, 2010 and 2014. Ridgewood is a A.W. Tillinghast design. Tillie has helped design around 265 different golf courses, but he is most well-known for the Black Course at Bethpage State Park. Past winners & leaderboard;
2014: Hunter Mahan (-14), Stuart Appleby, Jason Day, Cameron Tringale (-12), Els, Kuchar, & McGirt (-11), Jim Furyk (-10), Fowler, Kevin Na, Patrick Reed, (-9)
2010: Matt Kuchar [W], Party Marty (-12), Streelman, Stricker (-10), Jason Day, Ryan Palmer, Rory Sabbatini, Vaughn Taylor (-9), Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott, Heath Slocum (-8)
2008: Vijay Singh [W], Sergio Garcia, Kevin Sutherland (-8), Ben Curtis, Mathew Goggin, Kevin Streelman (-7), Paul Casey, Martin Laird, Justin Leonard, Nick Thompson, Mike Weir (-6)
Scoring Relative to par = Average
Greens = Bent/Poa mix
Green firmness = medium to soft
Green speed = Fast
Hitting Fairways = Average
Rough Length (2014) = Long
Strokes Gained Tee to Green (Positive Trends)
Total Driving (Distance + Accuracy)
Proximity to the Hole
Strokes Gained Putting (Positive S-T Trends)
Tee to Green & Putting (reverse regression targets)
A quick note on course form for this week, everyone has access to the same data, but it comes down to accurately leveraging the data to obtain an edge. Instead of looking at a players ‘strokes gained tee to green over the last 24 rounds’, I’ve broken things down in my model to segment L4 rounds, L8 rounds, L12 rounds all the way to their L50 rounds to use as a benchmark. Long story short, we can use this data to better find positive and negative regression spots.
A perfect storm could be brewing. . .
From his win at Valspar in March of 2015 up until his open championship victory in July of 2017, Spieth was arguably the most dominant player on the planet. Through that period, Spieth had 10 wins, three major championships, six 2nd place finishes, and more top ten finishes than I can count. During this stretch, we know Spieth as a consistent ball striker who tends to putt better as the pressure increases. That is what we know and saw, but what story do his numbers tell us? During his most dominant stretch, he excelled in every facet of the game. However, Spieth has never been a player to gain an enormous number of strokes off the tee. While at his best, Spieth was gaining his strokes in his overall tee to green play combined with his elite putting skills. To further illustrate this, from January 2017 up to his win in July, he lost strokes off the tee in eight out of twelve events. During that same span, Spieth had three wins, six top 10’s and many more finishes inside the top 25.
So, what has happened in 2018? Spieth has been the tale of two people and neither being that once dominant player we all knew. Spieth began his 2018 season dominating in strokes gained tee to green but lost strokes putting in eight of his first ten events. At the Houston Open, Spieth gained almost 14 strokes tee to green while losing 3.2 strokes putting. In May, at the Memorial, everything flipped on Jordan. He lost strokes tee to green over his next three events while gaining strokes putting in each one.
Below are two graphs comparing strokes gained tee to green & putting against itself over said players last four rounds all the way to the last 50.
Spieth’s last 36 & 50 rounds of SGP is diluted from his stretch of putting owes this year. More recently, he is trending in a very positive direction and has been the most dominant putter out of this elite group (note graph1). When we look at Spieth’s tee to green game we can see he is by far the outlier in this group. If I push this graph out to over his last 100 rounds tee to green, his base point would be a 7th place ranking in this category. What I am getting at, it appears he has (literally) made it over that hump and is trending back in the right direction. What would it look like if this trend continues in a positive manner. . . ?
Now factor in the course conditions; hitting fairways isn’t too difficult, scoring is average, and the greens have typically been a mix bentgrass and poa that typically plays soft to average. With all things considered, I pose this thought once again, is a Spieth storm brewing or will his 2018 owes continue into the playoffs? If Spieth two metrics I cited above continue to trend in a positive direction, he will for sure be in contention to win the first leg of the playoffs.
Performance relative to L50 rounds (cite graphs above)
Dustin Johnson, 11,500 = DJ’s short-term trend is well above his L50 round average in SGT2G & SGP. Ownership tends to closely follow these short-term trends, which means a lower owned DJ would not surprise me this week. I also expect DJ’s stats to revert back to his 50-round mean.
Justin Thomas, 11,200 = JT has been a ball striking, tee to green monster all year. His consistency in that area of his game, especially his distance control on approach shots, is very impressive. As you can visually see in the graph, his little bit of volatility comes on the putting green. I think JT is fairly priced relative to his current form and performance YTD.
Jason Day, 10,700 = The case for Day is an interesting one. His tee to green game is very much in line with his 50-round average. Day’s T2G game is average relative to this elite group, he tends to rely on his putting skills to put him into contention. Back in 2014, Day was on a very poor putting streak but turned everything around on these Ridgewood greens gaining over 9 strokes putting. Year to date, Day’s T2G skills are far better than his stretch in 2014, if he gets his putter back on track he will be right there come Sunday. Day’s appears to be overvalued at his current price; all things considered, he makes for a fine GPP play this week.
Brooks Koepka, 10,500 = Koepka’s tee to green game is significantly outperforming his 50-round average. His putter tends to show up when it matters the most. Any reversion to his 50-round mean will most likely lead to an average performance at the Northern Trust. BK is currently a fade candidate given these figures and coming off his PGA Championship win.
Tiger Woods, 10,100 = Tiger gained 8.8 strokes tee to green at the PGA Championship, and all those strokes came from his approach game. He gained another 5.1 strokes putting. This course isn’t crazy long and the fairways aren’t too difficult to hit. It isn’t a major, but you have to think a guy like Tiger is treating each one of these events like a major. He wants that win more than anyone and we all know its coming.
Justin Rose, 9,900 = Rose’s tee to green game is very concerning relative to his 50-round average. Rose can turn it on at any point, but my concern is with his distance control & proximity on his approaches. Like we have seen with Rory, this isn’t an easy quick fix. Given these factors, Rose is a fade candidate for me this week.
Jon Rahm, 9,700 = We don’t think of Rahm as your elite tee to green player but his performance has been very consistent with his 50 round average. Rahm relies on his bomb and gauge approach to gain strokes off the tee. Rahm’s volatility comes on the putting greens. Do note, Rahm was incredible in the playoffs last year. He finished 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 7th at the Tour Championship. Rahm’s putter was great last week, and I think he carries that momentum into the playoffs.
Jordan Spieth, 9,600 = So why the 3-4 paragraphs on Spieth to start my blog? After evaluating this top tier group, Spieth will easily be the forgotten guy. And sometimes a perfect storm brews around that forgotten guy. A 5% owned Brandt Snedeker showed us that last week as he ran away with the tournament in the first round. My other point was to highlight a few areas where Spieth is trending in the right direction. Spieth is my GPP leverage play of the week.
A few trends to note in the mid-tier
Strokes gained putting (top) & Strokes gained tee to green (bottom)
Adam Scott, 8,900 = Scott’s tee to green figures are very much in line with his 50-round average. His putting figures, in the very short term, are significantly out performing his 50-round average. This appears to be a classic over valued spot and I expect some regression with his putter.
Hideki Matsuyama, 8,800 = In his prime, he solely relied on his elite ball striking and tee to green skills to get him in contention. His tee to green figures is in a very positive trend. The extreme variance in Matsu’s putting figures show that he is either having a very elite putting week or very poor one. This, combine with his tee to green form improving, makes him an excellent GPP target.
Tony Finau, 8,500 = I’m really curious to see where ownership projections fall for Tony this week. Tony faded in the first two events of the playoffs last year but came on strong at the BMW and Tour Championship. The concerning stat with Finau is he has really relied on his putter to make cuts the past few events. I’d love to put Tony down as a GPP play given his recent form, but he is always so chalky, which would make him a fade candidate in GPPs.
Patrick Reed, 8,400 = Reed is another guy coming in with all around poor form. All around (T2G + Putting) his recent performance is significantly under performing his 50-round average. Reed is a guy who can turn it around quickly and always plays with a chip on his shoulder in bigger events. I have Reed pegged as an under valued risky GPP play.
Paul Casey, 8,300 = Casey is known for his elite tee to green and ball striking skills. I find it very concerning that his form in that area of his game is just completely gone. This plus his recent putting owes have him in my fade category.
Value’s with positive trends
Ian Poulter, 7,600 = Poulter’s tee to green numbers are very much in line with his longer-term averages. His putting has also been trending in the right direction, the only thing lagging is his price. For example, if Paul Casey and Ian Poulter were the same price, I’d still be playing Poulter given his recent excellent form.
Ryan Moore, 7,500 = Moore has always been a tee to green specialist. He hits fairways and greens, that is what he does. His putting has always been the question-mark, but we have seen some improvements in putting form over his last 12 rounds. He should have no problem hitting these fairways and greens this week. I view Moore as a safe, cash type of play.
Stewart Cink, 7,500 = Cink is another tee to green specialist who’s recent t2g form is out performing his 50-round average. I have some regression concerns with Cink this week. He tends to fade at the end of the season, obviously we didn’t see that at the PGA Championship. At 7,500, his price is rightfully catching up to him, and I will be hopping off the Cink train if he is pegged to be popular.
Billy Horschel, 7,300 = Horschel is really coming into form to end the 2018 season. His tee to green trend shows very little signs of any hiccups over his recent events. His one hiccup being at the RBC event, otherwise he is gaining strokes tee to green with the best of them. Now here is the interesting thing, Billy’s 50-round SGP average is 14th in the field. His recent putting performance is horrible. If he can maintain his tee to green form and find his putter, he is looking at a finish inside the top 10 this week.
Keegan Bradley, 7,000 = Keegan is a tee to green specialist who struggles with the putter. Outside of his last four rounds, I have absolutely no issue with his tee to green game. Keegan will have no issues finding these fairways and greens this week. I really like Keegan because we have seen his putter start to pop sporadically throughout his last 12 rounds. I put Keegan in a similar category as Matsuyama. An elite ball striker who is volatile on the putting greens.
Plays = Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Jason Day, Tiger Woods, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed, Ian Poulter, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel, Keegan Bradley (more to come, check the playbook)
Fade Candidates = Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Tony Finau, Paul Casey, & Stewart Cink