In the coming months, we are hoping to evolve this space so that we can give you inside information on the players so that you can make better choices on who is playing well or about to play well.
This week is the Ryder Cup, but before that, we want to look at what has happened in the last couple of weeks and how these events will shape the Ryder Cup.
— Ryder Cup Europe (@RyderCupEurope) September 28, 2023
Sahith Theegala won the Fortinet Championship. He is a very popular winner, winning his first title in 74 events at the age of 25. Theegala finished a disappointing 31st on the FedExCup playoff list and did not qualify for the Tour Championship. He made up for it at the Fortinet, shooting 267, which equaled the lowest score since the Fortinet moved to Silverado in 2014. The victory made him the second Indian golfer to win on the PGA Tour, the first being Arjun Atwal at the 2010 Wyndham Championship. The key to Sahith’s good play was putting. He was 2nd in Strokes Gained Putting as he was 1st in putting inside ten feet, making 62 of 64 putts from ten feet in. As we look forward to 2024, we must put Sahith on our list of players who will have a great year.
It’s no surprise to see S.H. Kim finish 2nd, Cam Davis finish 3rd, and Eric Cole finish 4th. For Davis, it was his fourth top-10 finish in his last five PGA starts (3M Open/T10th, Wyndham Championship/T7th, FedEx St. Jude Championship/T6th, BMW Championship/40th, Fortinet Championship/3rd). Cole’s 4th place finish was his 4th top-ten of the year and solidified him as the Rookie of the Year, which will be voted after the fall events.
The big news from Fortinet was Justin Thomas, who has become a controversial Ryder Cup captain’s pick who may have found some form going into the Ryder Cup. I have to say this, the Fortinet Championship has been a good event for him to play in, in his previous times playing in Napa, he was T-3rd in 2016, T-8th in 2017, and T-4th in 2020. So it wasn’t a surprise to see him play well and finish 5th. The good news, going into the Fortinet, it was reported that Thomas had jettisoned putting coach John Graham and distancing himself from his father Mike, who has been his only swing coach. Justin confirmed that Graham was gone, but nothing was said about his dad, who its been reported will still help Justin, but that Justin was going to take more responsibility over his game. At the same time, Justin showed up to Napa with a longer driver, using a 45.625-inch Graphite Design VF 5X shaft in his 10-degree Titleist TSR3. The good news was with the driver, Thomas was 2nd in strokes gained off-the-tee and 1st in driving distance during the second round, indicative of his confidence with the change. For the week, he was 37th in strokes gained off-the-tee and 3rd in driving distance. Going into the event, he was 59th for the year in strokes gained off-the-tee and 38th for the year in driving distance, so there was some significant improvement from the results at Fortinet.
Still, what does that mean going into the Ryder Cup? Thomas had been one of the most solid players in two Ryder Cups with a 6-2-1 record, which includes two single wins and a 10-3-2 record in the Presidents Cup but a 0-3-0 singles record. So we have to figure that USA captain Zach Johnson has made a very savvy choice in Thomas despite his poor year. So look for Thomas having a great Ryder Cup. We have to think that his Foursome partnership with Jordan Spieth will continue. Look for Thomas to play in all Foursome matches and one Four-ball with either Spieth or Patrick Cantlay.
One last piece of news from the Fortinet was Max Homa finishing T-7th. The finish was a disappointment, considering he won the previous two Fortinet Championships. The good news going into his first Ryder Cup, he enters the matches, finishing in the top 12 in his last five events. He should be one of Zach Johnson’s hidden gems when you consider that in last year’s Presidents Cup, Homa was 4-0-0 and played well at the WGC-Dell Match Play last March, winning all three of his matches in group play but lost in the round of 16 to Mackenzie Hughes 3 & 2.
BMW PGA Championship:
In the most significant event on the DP World Tour, Ryan Fox won thanks to a birdie on the final hole. Trailing by three shots heading into Sunday’s final round, Fox suffered an early blow to his hopes of victory with a triple-bogey seven at the third. But Fox covered his last 13 holes in eight under par to win by shot from English duo Tyrrell Hatton andAaron Rai, who lipped out for an eagle on the 72nd green. For Fox, it was his fourth DP World Tour victory.
After Fox’s victory, the big storyline was that all 12 European Ryder Cup team members played. The entire team made the cut, with many in contention for victory across the weekend over the West Course. The good news was that Tyrrell Hatton finished T-2nd, Jon Rahm finished 4th, Viktor Hovland finished 5th, Tommy Fleetwood finished 6th, Rory McIlroy finished T-7th and Ludvig Aberg finished T-10th.
For Aberg, he has been the big surprise for the European squad. His selection to make the team came just a day after he claimed his first DP World Tour title in Switzerland. His pick was remarkable as he will be the first player in modern Ryder Cup history (since 1979) to make the team before playing in his first major championship.
Aberg secured fully exempt status on the PGA Tour through the 2024 season by finishing on top of the 2022–23 PGA Tour University rankings, becoming the first player to earn this exemption. He turned professional in June 2023, ending his amateur career ranked first on the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He was T-25th in his first professional event at the RBC Canadian Open and then T-24th the following week at the Travelers. He shot a final round 63 at the John Deere Classic to finish T-4th. After finishing T-14th at the Wyndham Championship, he went to Europe and was T-4th at the D+D Real Czech Masters and won the Omega European Masters, which helped earn his captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup. At the BMW PGA Championship, Aberg had a two-shot lead going into the final round but had his worst round as a professional, shooting 76 to finish T-10th.
In a bit of a surprise move, Aberg decided not to prep for the Ryder Cup at the Cazoo Open de France but go to Spain to watch the Solheim Cup. Aberg’s caddie, Jack Clarke, is fiancee to Madelene Sagstrom, who played for the European team. Aberg told the Chipping Forecast podcast. “We are going to be down there playing and practicing, so it made a lot of sense for us to go there for a few days. I am really looking forward to it. I’ll be their biggest fan.”
So, seeing how Aberg plays this week in Rome will be interesting.
As for the rest of the European Ryder Cup team members playing in the BMW PGA, Sepp Straka finished T-10th, Matt Fitzpatrick and Shane Lowry finished T-18th, Justin Rose finished T-6th, Nicolai Hojgaard and Robert MacIntyre finished T-45th.
Cazoo Open De France:
Ryo Hisatsune was a two-shot winner. Of those playing in the Ryder Cup, Rasmus Hojgaard was 4th, and Robert MacIntyre missed the cut. Of all the players at the Ryder Cup, MacIntyre comes in with the worst record over the last month.
Talking about betting propositions, the Ryder Cup has a wide range of ways of betting. With 28 matches, it makes it possible to bet in 28 games over three days.
The biggest bet has to be who will win the Cup this week. We saw a lot of excitement last week in Spain as the Solheim Cup ended in a 14-14 tie. This showed how closely matched those teams are; the same could happen this week in Rome.
The biggest story will be if the American squad can get off the mat to win the Cup for the first time in 30 years on foreign soil. When I returned home after the United States won the Cup at the Belfry in 1993, a month later, my daughter was born. Next month Sammy turns 30 and in her life, team USA has not won in Europe. They are 0-6, losing in 1997 in Spain, in 2002 back at the Belfry, in 2006 at the K Club in Ireland, in 2010 at Celtica Manor in Wales, in 2014 at Gleneagles in Scotland, and in 2018 in Paris.
Of the 24 players in the matches this week, only 13 players Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Shane Lowry, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Sepp Straka, Patrick Cantlay, Rickie Fowler, Brian Harman, Max Homa, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas where alive when team USA won in 1993. At 43, Justin Rose is the oldest player in the Ryder Cup, and he was 13. Of the 24 players, seven were still in diapers.
Of course, many theories have been about why Team USA hasn’t won. But I feel that this is going to change this year. Many will disagree with me, stating that the secret to the Europeans winning is the course. Yes, the six courses that have hosted the Ryder Cup aren’t what you call great courses or the type of courses to hold a big event. Valderrama is considered the best course in Spain and had over a dozen PGA and European Tour events. The same with the Belfry, the K Club, which held the Irish Open just a few weeks back. The Celtic Manor Resort held the annual Wales Open, and the Le Golf National in Paris held the French Open. Even the Marco Simone course has held a few Italian Opens, but all the courses are not stellar tests. But what makes them work for the European Tour is the setup of the course. They all had brutal rough and gave Team Europe a significant advantage, especially in the team format. In the last six Ryder Cups played in Europe, of the 24-team series played, team Europe has won 14. Even worse, of the 12 Foursomes series teams, Europe has won nine of the 12.
But I have a better theory on why Team USA has come up short in the last six European matches. That is, they were just bone tired. With the advent of the FedExCup playoffs in 2007 and the way the schedule has fallen, the FedEx Cup has had four events played before the Ryder Cup, and I feel the American players were just tired. A perfect example of this was in 2018 in France. Tiger Woods was off his great Tour Championship victory, and many thought he was peaking going into France. But for Tiger, this was his fifth straight event, which he never did before, and he lost all four matches in Paris. This is the first year the schedule has opened up, and the FedExCup playoffs were four weeks ago. So, with that out of the way, I think the American players will have more time to rest and prepare better for the Ryder Cup. Last week, we only saw two of the 24 players in a tournament, so most of the players will be well-rested.
Now, the one player I worry a bit about is Jordan Spieth. On September 12th, his wife Annie delivered the couple’s second child with the arrival of a baby girl. Because of the birth, Jordan missed the team trip to Rome to prep for the Cup. So we will worry if Jordan will be ready to go. Since finishing 2nd at the RBC Heritage, Spieth struggled and was T-34th at the BMW Championship and 27th at the Tour Championship. So it will be interesting to see what kind of form Spieth will have.
The same with Brooks Koepka. He made the team thanks to his win at the PGA Championship, but between April and May, he played great, including a win at the LIV golf Orlando event. But after finishing T-64th at the British Open, he was 41st at Greenbrier, 38th at Bedminster, and 26th at Chicago. On August 3rd, his wife Jena delivered their first child, a boy, so I have to wonder how he is doing. Koepka doesn’t have a great record in team events; in three Ryder Cups, his record is 6-5-1, and in one Presidents Cup, he is 2-2-0. Koepka is great in majors but seems to have little interest after that. He says he is really looking forward to this Ryder Cup and wants to play well. The good news is that Koepka is a great driver of the ball, and that will play in his favor for the Ryder Cup.
Another reason I think Team USA will win this week is the abstinence of Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, and Lee Westwood. All three have played a major role in the European team’s win in Europe, and for the first time, they won’t be in Rome. The odds for them making the team this year weren’t great; even on LIV Golf, they haven’t played great. Typically, men of honor like Garcia, Poulter, and Westwood would play a part as co-captains, but with their participation in LIV golf, they won’t be allowed in Rome. I think that will hurt Team Europe.
Still, despite the advantage of the course, team USA will be well-rested and ready to go. Before we go on, I have to mention some things about the course Marco Simone. The land is historic. In the middle of the 1400s, they built a stone tower, and in its dungeon house, the remains of fossils that are 300,000 years old. The castle and the property fell into complete disrepair for most of the 20th century until a famous Italian fashion designer and her husband took an interest and bought it in 1978. They renovated the castle and then, in 1989, built a golf course. When the course got the Ryder Cup, it was redone. Water only comes into play on four holes: 5, 8, 16, and 18. Seventy-eight bunkers are scattered throughout the course. Now, the course is going to be tricky due to the rough. Supposedly, it was so long and brutal that when the European Team played the course a few weeks back, they asked Captain Luke Donald to make the rough easier and cut the grass. So look for straight hitters doing well.
One more thing to discuss is the putting of Scottie Scheffler:
He has had a stellar year. In 24 starts, he has only been out of the top ten six times. In 42 stats categories, Scheffler leads 11 of them and is in the top ten in more than half of them. The difference between his great year and making it a memorable year was his putting. He is 151st in Strokes Gained putting, 138th in one-putt percentage, 174th in putting from 4 to 8 feet, 147th in putting inside ten feet, and T-136th in Average Distance of Putts Made. So there is a big problem with his putting.
So, we give him credit for trying to improve it before the Ryder Cup. In Rome, he was on the putting green working with his new coach, Phil Kenyon. It seems the pair started working together in Dallas in the last couple of weeks.
Scheffler has a larger putting grip on his putter and is choking down more on the grip. In videos, it looks like he is aligning the putter with his forearms. In his press conference, he explained that he knew what he was doing wrong but fixed it incorrectly, worsening the situation. He feels he has a newfound confidence that he is on the right track. The only problem that may arise is Scheffler’s new coach, Phil Kenyon, has been working with Tommy Fleetwood, so this could bring on some interesting things, especially if Fleetwood and Scheffler are playing each other.
Some will say it’s not a good time to redo something like putting, but Scheffler was so bad it couldn’t get worse. And we saw how much it worked for Lucas Glover, who went from a very poor putter to a great putter in a matter of a week or so.
One last thing about Scheffler: his tee-to-green game is so solid he will probably play all five matches, so if he could improve his putting a little, it could be a big deal for Team USA.
So, what should we look for this week?
Can Rory McIlroy be the leader of Team Europe and help carry them over the edge? I feel that Viktor Hovland, Jon Rahm, and Ludvig Aberg will carry the team for the Europeans. Matt Fitzpatrick has struggled in his Ryder Cup play. Over two matches, he has played in 8 games and not won. But both of his matches came in America. Maybe a change to a European course with tight fairways will help him. Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton are the two most important players for Team Europe. If these two struggle, Europe may struggle. I don’t expect much from Nicolai Hojgaard, Sepp Straka, Shane Lowry, and Robert MacIntyre. Last is Justin Rose, who has a lot of experience but, at age 43, will only play in the two Foursomes matches and singles. If he finds some form, he could greatly help the Europeans.
How about Team USA?
I feel that the heroes for the USA team will be Max Homa, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas, and Scottie Scheffler. They all have played great in past Ryder and Presidents Cups, and if these five are on their game, they will be unbeatable.Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka will be tossups for me. Both are great in clutch situations and if they can find their games after the birth of their babies a month ago, they could take Team USA over the top. I don’t have much faith in Sam Burns, Wyndham Clark, and Brian Harman. All are Ryder Cup rookies and could be lost this week. Patrick Cantlay will be solid, but the question will be if he can play in more than three matches this week. He did play in four at Whistling Straits and had a 3-0-1 record.
This is our first insider newsletter and we hope you will tell your friends about it if you like it. We plan on doing more of this. The next Insider will be on Saturday and looking at the singles of the Ryder Cup.
With that, we want to share some exciting updates with you. First, we are exploring doing a weekly podcast to help point out the secrets of the course they are playing and who is best suited to play well that week. This Inside newsletter will explore what is happening in the week and how this will affect picks in determining who is best suited for the week and those to avoid. We are also putting together a comprehensive guide to the 2024 season. Many of you will remember we did this 12 years ago, which was trendy. We will have more details in the coming weeks, but as a tease, the book will be like the football and baseball pre-season guides you see in bookstores. Our Golfstats Guide will have a section for each of the tournaments of 2024 and will have an extensive view of the top 70 players off the 2023 FedEx point list, along with players that will join the PGA Tour in the coming weeks off the fall schedule. It will have the most comprehensive stats for the players in the book, and the tournaments played in 2024.
This guide will be published in late December and will be free for everyone with a one-year subscription to Golfstats.com.
We’re committed to making GolfStats.com your go-to research hub for fantasy and gaming predictions.
Your input matters to us. We invite you to share your suggestions for further enhancements at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sal and Jason