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« Phil On 670-Yard 16th: 

"It's definitely the hardest -- arguably the worst." | Main | Bubba: Setup Forcing Bombing-And-Gouging »
Tuesday
Jun122012

Handicapping Olympic: Who The Course Favors

When putting together pools and picks for the 112th U.S. Open I tend to look at past performances on golf courses, yet with so few in this week's field having played at Olympic Club in 1998, I would take a look at how this golf course plays. And more than most courses, Olympic seems to emphasize ball-striking to an extreme, strategic thinking less so.

"You have to curve it more off the tees here than any other golf course that we play," Tiger Woods said Tuesday.

On paper, the tee shots look like a pretty even breakdown between needing to play a right-to-left shot, left-to-right shot and a dead-straight-to-not-hit-overhanging-limbs shot.

"There was no preference on either shot," Billy Casper said today of the course in '66 and today. "Because you had so many holes that had doglegs right, you had so many holes that you had doglegs left and you had so many holes where the fairway sloped from right‑to‑left and holes where you had the fairway slope from left‑to‑right. It required good stroke making to be able to play the golf course."

However, approach shots at Olympic Club tend to favor a left-to-right shot either because of green angles or the combination of fairway slope, green size and green firmness.

"Even to the greens, you've got right‑to‑left slopes of, let's say right‑to‑left slopes of fairways and greens, and you have to cut it, so you're going against the grain."

This is why I continue to feel like Tiger is an overwhelming favorite. Throw in the lack of driver holes, his preference for bent over poa greens, strong fan support in this area, a familiarity with California golf and a continuation of the predominantly left-to-right ball striking on display two weeks ago at the Memorial, and you have a deserving favorite.

And Tiger the little-known historian seems to have done his homework on this front.

"I was reading something a long time ago about Arnold playing this event," he said Tuesday. "He likes to draw the ball.  But he learned how to hit a cut just for this event."

Who else works the ball left to right? Phil Mickelson, Tiger's playing partner the first two days, can certainly do so and should Lee Westwood, who once tried to change his swing to hit a draw but has wisely gone back to a fade shot shape, leaps out as someone who should thrive here.

But this is Olympic. And history tells us there's another less famous, supreme ball-striking, cut-shot artist out there who will spoil the affair. But who?

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Reader Comments (21)

Not a Tiger fan but if he gets a good first round in, he is going to be tough. Contended at Pebble with less form .
I got a bad feeling about this.
06.12.2012 | Unregistered Commenterjjshaka
The US Open is a stringent mental test.....think Phil is all rested and refreshed?

On that topic, why the heck do they pair him and Tiger with each other? Seems like doing so is a bit of a disservice to both and nobody attracts more lousy photographers (legit or otherwise) than Tiger, which doesn't bode well for Phil.

Rory, how about him flinging his club down on the 72nd at Memphis last week, and he kind of kicked at it too (certainly not with the gusto and effectiveness as Tiger, but it was a kick none-the-less). Doesn't seem like the club fling police have levied a charge on that one, where do we stand?

OK, who's the favorite?

Mine's Tiger.

If we get a dark horse winner (defined as anyone outside the top-5 in the OWGR**) I expect him to come from this group:

> Dufner...no explanation needed. Probably wouldn't actually be considered much of a dark horse.

> Tim Clark...3 straight cuts made and he's a grinder, loves tough conditions a la Dufner.

> J. Byrd...hard for me to put my finger on why I think he will do well, but I do. In or around the top-10 his last 4 events, all on courses that demand solid ball-striking -- this he can do.

> M.A. Jiminez...they call him The Mechanic for a reason. Well, I guess it's a different reason, but he works his shots, and ball, around a golf course, as well as anyone. I would LOVE to see him win!

> Z. Johnson...prob not much explanation needed here either. Wonder if the Lord Saviour chooses to walk with someone else now that Zach also has Reverend Green looking out for him too?!?

> M. Kuchar...again, little to no explanation needed. Had success here as an Am, playing well, a technician, great attitude. Good on him.

> S. Stricker...again, would LOVE to see him win. Recent results trend him down but with ball-striking, wedge play and putting at a huge premium, have to think Strick will be in there.

> D. Toms...again, recent results trend him down but his eyes light up when a course equalizes him with long hitters. He's 3rd in fairways this year, but WAY down the list on putting, I think the smooth & fast greens will allow him to find his stroke.

Last, and least of all...

> Ben Crane...this guy would fulfill the "unpopular winner" theory at Olympic and the awards ceremony will probably done in the last rays of sunlight, on Monday!

But he certainly has the right attitude and if the Lord Saviour chooses to walk with Ben instead of Zach...well...we'll be half way to a Thumper Slam!!

Asides....

Rory 3-1 to miss the cut and 12-1 to put up a score that begins with an 8. (and I mean total score, not a hole score)

**Alternative definition for dark horse winner: anyone other than Tiger.
06.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
The US Open is a stringent mental test.....think Phil is all rested and refreshed?

On that topic, why the heck do they pair him and Tiger with each other? Seems like doing so is a disservice to both and nobody attracts more lousy photographers (legit or otherwise) than Tiger, this doesn't bode well for Phil.

Rory, how about him flinging his club down on the 72nd at Memphis last week, and he kind of kicked at it too (certainly not with the gusto and effectiveness as Tiger, but it was a kick none-the-less)? Doesn't seem like the club fling police have levied a charge on that one, where do we stand?

OK, who's the favorite?

Mine's Tiger.

If we get a dark horse winner (defined as anyone outside the top-5 in the OWGR**) I expect him to come from this group:

> Dufner...no explanation needed. Probably wouldn't actually be considered much of a dark horse.

> Tim Clark...3 straight cuts made and he's a grinder, loves tough conditions a la Dufner.

> J. Byrd...hard for me to put my finger on why I think he will do well, but I do. In or around the top-10 his last 4 events, all on courses that demand solid ball-striking -- this he can do.

> M.A. Jiminez...they call him The Mechanic for a reason. Well, I guess it's a different reason, but he works his shots, and ball, around a golf course, as well as anyone. I would LOVE to see him win!

> Z. Johnson...prob not much explanation needed here either. Wonder if the Lord Saviour chooses to walk with someone else now that Zach also has Reverend Green looking out for him too?!?

> M. Kuchar...again, little to no explanation needed. Had success here as an Am, playing well, a technician, great attitude. Good on him.

> S. Stricker...again, would LOVE to see him win. Recent results trend him down but with ball-striking, wedge play and putting at a huge premium, have to think Strick will be in there.

> D. Toms...again, recent results trend him down but his eyes light up when a course equalizes him with long hitters. He's 3rd in fairways this year, but WAY down the list on putting, I think the smooth & fast greens will allow him to find his stroke.

Last, and least of all...

> Ben Crane...this guy would fulfill the "unpopular winner" theory at Olympic and the awards ceremony will probably done in the last rays of sunlight, on Monday!

But he certainly has the right attitude and if the Lord Saviour chooses to walk with Ben instead of Zach...well...we'll be half way to a Thumper Slam!!

Asides....

Rory 3-1 to miss the cut and 12-1 to put up a score that begins with an 8. (and I mean total score, not a hole score)

**Alternative definition for dark horse winner: anyone other than Tiger.
06.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Sorry for the duplicate, maybe you can eliminate one?
06.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
I'm rooting for Jeff Curl or Brian Gaffney, solely for the reaction from Dan Jenkins.
06.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJW
@DTF
Good eval, even if duplicated.
06.12.2012 | Unregistered Commentergov. lepetomane
Spencer Levin will Top 10 at worst. Westwood to win.
06.12.2012 | Unregistered Commenterjgw
I like Hunter Mahan.
06.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Z
"But this is Olympic. And history tells us there's another less famous, supreme ball-striking, cut-shot artist out there who will spoil the affair. But who?"

That would be Kaymer wouldn't it? I think he's slipped back to a "less famous" level ;-)
06.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Nice work( if you can get it) DTF. Thought I was hallucinating (again) but I see you duplicated posting.

Overall evals are good, but God favors no one, in spite of the common thanks given by so many- I think your sarcasm at these players relating a Savior to their ball striking diminishes all your hard work (in my eyes- for future reference, if you care)

I see a few things differently.

The ''done'' list - these guys are forked
Stricker, Kuch, Toms,Kaymer

The ''could-if'' guys
Zach, Westwood, Luke,Mahan, Rory, others

The sleeper- Crane or ?

My 3 who mays, will he? (get it?)
darn -
PM, TW, or Duf.

Or somebody else, though I don't think so.

I really lace MY darkhorse as Bubba, the only guy who can do the slam.
06.12.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
Carl Petterssen can cut it with the best of them!
06.13.2012 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Morris
DTF picks Tiger - wow, that's a shock. I believe you had him winning the Masters by five. What, no prediction of stroke margin of victory this time?

With this open, there is too much hype on recent winners over the last two months. As a result, expect someone under the radar, a la the Masters. My Pick 3 includes Brandon Grace (extremely underrated and over looked), Adam Scott (way off anyone's radar), Lucas Glover (the current-day version of Lee Janzen).
06.13.2012 | Unregistered CommenterHole in Three
Yup, H.i.T., I did pick him for the Masters, I was wrong. I also said I thought he'd "win Doral or Bay Hill, more likely Bay Hill", and that one worked out for me.

How about a 4 shot margin here at Olympic, that's my prediction.

So who do you think the absolute favorite is? If you were forced to put $10,000 on a single player to win, who would that be?

I look forward to tracking your picks and getting back to you on them ;-)

And seriously, Adam "Hands of Stone" Scott...really?!? He's only broken par twice in his last 8 rounds, his short game blows, he's only made 2 cuts in the last 5 US Open's (even missed it at the Target Bethesda Beltway Open), and never even came close to contending in one....

....there are reasons, many reasons, he is "way off anyone's radar"!!
06.13.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
H.i.T....Branden Grace ("den") is a very interesting choice. Winning a US Open in his first major ever in the states, only his 2nd major since 2009, and his 4th major overall, will be a very tall order. But the kid has clearly developed a nose for winning and let's hope he does well!

Adam "H.o.S." Scott?!?
06.13.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
By describing howWoods will win, you are actually making a prediction as opposed to establishing probablilities. As a result, they word "favorite" is inappropriate.

A favorite is based on probablilities - if you were to run a series of 50 US Opens at Olympic, which player would likely have the most wins after the simulation. Would that be Woods? I my opinion, it would not be the current Tiger Woods at age 36. At this stage, I think after running a simulation of 50 US Opens at Olympic, he would be neck & neck with McIlroy and Donald. However, I certainly think Woods would make the most cuts, but they don't give trophies for that. In the end, McIlroy would be my probable favorite. He is very mercurial. This affects his consistency, but not his win rate. It is also important to note that McIlroy has produced the best clusters of rounds played in the post hydrant era. People quickly forget that Woods has not come close to the performances of the four rounds at Congressional or the final two rounds at the 2010 Quail Hollow. McIlroy's lows are lower than Woods in terms of missed cuts, but his highs are higher. Just as in the options market, BUY volatility when others are selling it cheap which is generally the mistake that golf writers and fans are making at the current time.
06.13.2012 | Unregistered CommenterHole in Three
In order for your modeling to be as accurate as possible you would need to include data for Tiger's entire career, not just the last 4 years. Did you ever run the simulation on jumbo jet crashes? If so, what kind of output did your modeling produce? See some clustering?

Let me try this another way, see if I can get you on the record -- if I handed you a $10,000,000 bill that you could keep, but the stipulation of the gift was you must bet the entire $10,000,000 on one player in this US Open and you own any possible returns from that bet, but conversely if your guy does not win you get nothing...

...who would that player be?

PS...your high/low vol argument on Rory vs. Tiger is void. Unless that is the bet is "will this player shoot 80 after sleeping on the lead of a major'?
06.13.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Gary Player said in 1965 (I believe) when asked about who a certain USGA Open setup favored and long hitters were suggested to him as likely,

His answer rings true today, "the guy with the best short game."

I've picked Phil elsewhere, may as well be consistent here.
06.13.2012 | Unregistered CommenterGolfFan
DTF - you are the classic small investor in this scenario. Small players anchor to many of their conclusions on out-dated data. What Tiger did at 32 has much less bearing on decisions that are made now. Casinos cash in on the tendency of "hopers & wishers" to overweight based on long memories.

I would still take Rory for the $10 mil. General acsendency vs Tigers gerneral decline plus higher highs at this stage of their careers - volatilty is embraced by the greatest investors and punters, and ignored by the amateurs.
06.13.2012 | Unregistered CommenterHole in Three
Yup H.i.T., I'm the guy that likes picking up nickels in front of a steamroller. I'll run a matched book and always live to fight another day by using prudent risk management, and considering a many variables as possible, over as much time as possible. I'll do a lot of research on strategy, management, historical behaviour, exogenous factors, etc... I might lose a finger sometime but I'll always live.

You embody The London Whale who has currently put Jamie in a real pickle. You'll fire up your black box simulator that ignores fundamentals but is big on trend analysis other quant related indicators that are picked at random by people with no experience in golf at the highest levels (like yourself). And you might make a little money for a little while but then you'll size up your bets and WHAM, you're dead.

I'd love to bet against your "simulations" all day, every day! Just like a series of "small investors" did opposite the London Whale and he made a number of already rich people a fair bit richer.

So, let's assume your position of only including near-term results is prudent for modeling purposes.

Rory has played 11 events this year and won 1...in those 11 he's missed 3 cuts.

In Tiger's last 11 events he has won 3...missed 1 cut.

Model that. Heck, Stricker has won 5 times in just over 2 calendar years (same as Rory's whole career if you give him credit for Euro wins) and only missed 1 cut in 50 starts....where does Sticker sort out in your simulator?

And seriously, did your simulator really spit out Adam Scott as a potential winner?!?

BTW, if you really do work at JPM, please get your act together, I'm a shareholder.
06.13.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
I chose Jonathan Byrd in my site's staff predictions. Which, as I also said in the article, means it's virtually certain he'll MC.
06.13.2012 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
So much for the simulator.....LMAO.
06.16.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDTF

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