What’s going on people! I am reporting live from New Jersey’s Crystal Springs Resort in the midst of a little golf getaway weekend. The scores have not been great so far, and the worse I continue to play, the more I will continue to drink, so that may have some residual effects on the quality of this preview. Depending on how coherent this article does or does not get, you should have a pretty good sense of how my performance on the courses went this weekend.
Speaking of mediocrity on the golf course however (man I’m nailing this so far), holy crap what a horrible field we have in store for the Palmetto Championship at Congaree Golf Club, stepping in for the Canadian Open’s usual stop on the Tour schedule. If we were to assume the 65 best players in the field advance to the weekend, then based on SG: TOT over the last 36 rounds, Jonathan Byrd, who has 1 T25 finish over the last 2 years, would be expected to make it through the cut. To put that into perspective, Adam Scott was the 65th ranked player in the field at the Memorial, so yeah, it’s quite a dip looking at the depth of talent in this week’s field. The players who are not awful in this week’s field each fall into one of the following categories:
- South Carolina natives playing for their home town (Dustin Johnson)
- International players stuck in America for the Major swing, looking to kill some time before the US Open next week (Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood)
- Looking for a tune up round between the PGA Championship and US Open (Brooks Koepke)
Don’t let the abysmal cast of players this week fool you though, Congaree is an absolutely stunning golf course, and should win over fans from the get go with its unique design characteristics. This Tom Fazio designed course ranks #39 on Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses in America, ahead of other notable Tour courses like Bethpage Black, Winged Foot, and Erin Hills, so you know we’re in for a treat to watch along this week. Fazio has prominently featured sand and other natural hazards throughout the course as a nod to the local South Carolina terrain and made Congaree in the image of Australia’s Royal Melbourne.
In short, this looks to be a second shot course that favors, but does not require distance, and will ultimately come down to who can putt best on extremely firm, fast, and large pure Bermuda greens. Let’s dive on in to everything there is to know about Congaree!
Congaree Golf Club Course Specs
- Yards: 7,655
- Par: 71 (4x 3’s / 11x 4’s / 3x 5’s)
- Hole By Hole Breakdown
- Greens: Bermuda
- Architect: Tom Fazio
- Comp Courses: Royal Melbourne, Sea Island Resort (Seaside), Kiawah Island, Congressional, Corales, Monterey Peninsula, PGA National, Karsten Creek
The course is long, but with wide fairways and large greens, it should favor bombers and, to an extent, level the playing field for middling Approach players, as long as they are strong in 3-putt avoidance. The exact distance of this course is going to vary depending where you look, and that’s because traditionally Congaree is played without exact tee markers, encouraging more of a match play format from its members. In any case, we know there’s plenty of space on this track to set this up to play as long as they want it to.
The 8th hole is the signature at Congaree, and several professionals who have played the course have emphatically claimed it to be the hardest par 4 in the world, playing at 540 yards. The hole requires long carry off the tee that demands an aggressive line, features prominent waste area bunkers throughout, and approaches are hit into a tricky elevated green. Considering how awful the talent of this field is, we should be in for some real carnage on this hole throughout the week. Similar to the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, a neighboring South Carolina track, the sand featured throughout the course is considered a natural waste area, and will allow players to ground their club when in them (too bad Patrick Reed isn’t here to capitalize).
Given the length, this looks to be another week to emphasize Proximity from 200+. The Top 10 players from that range in this field are Tyrrell Hatton, Charley Hoffman, Sungjae Im, Vaughn Taylor, Hank Lebioda, Scott Stallings, Brooks Koepke, Kristoffer Ventura, Michael Kim, and John Pak (have I mentioned how much this field stinks yet?).
Tom Fazio is the course designer, and beyond Congaree, we’ve also seen his work on Tour at courses like Congressional, Greenbrier, Moneterey Peninsula, PGA National, Corales, Sea Island (Seaside), and Shadow Creek. He also designed Karsten Creek, the home course for the Oklahoma State golf team, so perhaps there’s a slight edge to be given to the Cowboys in the field, Kristoffer Ventura, Alex Noren, Peter Uihlein, and Hunter Mahan. The Top 10 players SG: TOT across each of the above Comp Courses to Congaree are Tyrrell Hatton, Luke List, Brooks Koepke, Charley Hoffman, Sungjae Im, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Ian Poulter, Keith Mitchell, Andrew Putnam, and Dustin Johnson. Congaree is a very unique course, and there are only bits and pieces from each of these comps that really will mirror what we see this week, but the best holistic comp to Congaree in my opinion is Sea Island Resort, host of the RSM Classic. Sea Island features fairly similar terrain and conditions on Bermuda greens and historically has favored locals in the area who grew up playing these styles of courses. Tyler Duncan, Kevin Kisner, Henrik Norlander, Patrick Rodgers, Luke List, and Ryan Blaum each have T5 finishes at the RSM Classic over the last 3 years.
- Recent Form (SG: T2G)
- SG: APP / SG: BS
- Driving Distance
- Prox 200+
- Opportunities Gained
- SG: Putting (Bermuda)
- SG: P (Firm & Fast) / 3 Putt Avoidance
- Comp Course History
Stats To Avoid
- Fairways Gained / SG: OTT
- Course History
Beautiful, thoughtful course. Terrible, heinous field. You can choose to tune in for the former or fade completely for the latter, and I couldn’t blame you either way. The general consensus when handicapping a brand new course on Tour, especially one week before a Major, is to fade and look ahead. Easy as it is to follow along that mentality, these are typically the best opportunities to gain an edge on the public if you really want to sink your teeth into it, whether it be in DFS or with bets. From everything I’ve read up on about this course, you will absolutely need to be strong on Firm & Fast Bermuda greens, somewhat familiar with the unique, local South Carolina terrain, and be solid on Approach with this shaping up to be a second shot course. There are only 3 players in the field who rank Top 50 in SG: APP, SG: P – Bermuda, and SG: P Firm & Fast Greens: Charley Hoffman, Chase Seiffert, and Camilo Villegas. Given the size and speed of these greens, I’m also putting a strong emphasis on 3 Putt Avoidance in my models. The Top 10 players in 3 Putt Avoidance are Luke Donald, Ricky Barnes, Michael Kim, Peter Uihlein, Chez Reavie, JB Holmes, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Sungjae Im, Pat Perez, and Kevin Tway.
Distance is not a pre-requisite this week, but with the fairways as wide as they’re reported to be and the yardages really adding up on the scorecard, I’m definitely weighting Distance over Accuracy or general SG: OTT in my modeling this week. I think Above Average ranks in Distance, Approach, 3-Putt Avoidance, and SG: P on Bermuda & Firm/Fast Greens should be the general blueprint to narrow down a player pool this week. There are just 4 players in the field who meet that criteria: Dustin Johnson, Charley Hoffman, James Hahn, and Harris English. For what it’s worth, Davis Thompson, Garrick Higgo, and John Pak also meet the same criteria, but with just 4 rounds under their belts over the past year.
Spotlight: Patton Kizzire
Somebody bad is going to win the Palmetto Championship, I do firmly believe that. The good players in this field are few and far between, and each and every one of them has one foot out the door thinking about the US Open at Torrey Pines the following week. So if motivation and talent are equal parts hard to come by, then finding a player with both should really help narrow things down. This week, Patton Kizzire leads that shortlist.
Kizzire is a #SeaIslandBoy who rides in with some excellent form, and unless he goes out and wins this event (which he may well do) his plans next week are wide open, as he isn’t coming close to qualifying for the US Open. I still don’t understand how or why Kizzire became chalk last week, ranking 111th in Driving Accuracy in a field of 120 on a course in Muirfield Village that cannot be played out of the rough, but in any case, many DFS players and bettors will be turned off from Kizzire’s previous week’s performance enough to fade him. To me, this is a great buy low spot on a guy leaving a bad course fit and entering a great one.
I knew I was going to like Patton Kizzire’s fit before even running my model, so seeing him rate out at #7 overall for me this week after that was all said and done was great validation. That’s a credit to him ranking #2 SG: APP, #11 SG: P on Bermuda, #15 3-Putt Avoidance, and #13 Prox 200+. Prior to the Memorial, Kizzire delivered back to back 3rd place finishes at the Charles Schwab and Byron Nelson, each coming on Bent Grass. With Bermuda being his preferred putting surface, this should be a welcomed (pseudo) homecoming for the Sea Island Native looking for his first win since the 2018 Sony Open.
What To Look Out For at the 2021 Palmetto Championship
I will be rooting for the course this week, not necessarily the players. Just as we saw with the AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch, this is a bad field playing what may very well become a pretty scorable course, which means there’s a ton of volatility in the air, before we even begin to speculate motivation at the top of the board. If a prop exists to take the Field 50/1+ versus the Field sub-50/1, I would take the former without hesitation. I generally treat the week before a Major just like the players do, as a tune-up, so I keep my units and overall action to a minimum in order to reserve more funds for the following week. That’s at least what I try to convince myself every Sunday anyway, regardless if that still rings true come Wednesday night.
With all the course fit profiles in mind this week, I’m leaning early towards the below player pool, broken out by projected pricing/odds tier.
My model this week is weighted in the following order (all L36): SG: T2G, SG: APP, SG: P – Firm & Fast, SG: P – Bermuda, 3 Putt Avoidance, Opportunities Gained, Driving Distance, Prox 200+, and Comp Course History. The clear cut leader of the pack this week was Tyrrell Hatton. He’s followed by a motley crew of Dustin Johnson, Charley Hoffman, Brooks Koepke, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Ricky Barnes, Patton Kizzire, Harold Varner III, Sungjae Im, and Pat Perez to round out the Top 10.