This feels like John Snow’s return to Winterfell in the last season of Game of Thrones. If you don’t know what I’m talking about you’ve got some catching up to do. The King, The Chosen One, Tiger Woods, returns to the South Course of Firestone Country Club, a place he has won 8 times in 15 attempts, and 7 out of 9 between 2000 and 2009. He wins more than half of the times he plays here. No more famous than in 2000 when he threw a dart in the dark on 18 to finish his tournament off with a birdie. That birdie was the exclamation point on a 21 under par victory and continued his incredible run in 2000. He had won the PGA Championship at Valhalla the week before. The man was unbeatable. Flash forward back to 2018, Tiger is in a little different stage in his career however, he is rounding into form nicely for a late season push.
The South Course played hard for the majority of the field last season, except for Hideki. He ran away with it shooting a -9, 61 final round propelling him to a 5 shot win over Zach Johnson. I pray that the course holds up tough this year, as most of the field was only a few strokes over par last year. The model that picked DJ to win last week doesn’t even have Matsuyama finishing in the top 10 this year. This isn’t a surprise considering he missed the cut at The Open and The Players, and really hasn’t been in the thick of it since January. Alright let’s get into some picks.
Sleeping Giant: Justin Thomas ($8,800 on Draft Kings)
It is hard to say someone has been quiet lately when they have 2 wins on the year and ranked 2nd the FedEx Cup Standings. I think it speaks more volumes to the caliber player he is and what we have come to expect out of him. The run he had between his win at the Honda Classic, followed by 2nd place finish in Mexico and then a 4th place at the Match Play, was something special and what propelled him to #1 in the world for a brief stint. JT finished T-28 last year but he improved in every round of the week. He started off with a 3 over 73, followed by rounds of 70, 69 and finished off with a -3 67. That type of improvement builds confidence and shows that he really was getting a feel for the course by the end of the week. JT is my dark horse to win this week in Akron.
Non-Major Winner: Xander Schauffele ($7,900 on Draft Kings)
Xander has had a great Sophomore season out on Tour including T-2 finishes at both the Players and The Open. It goes without saying that he is in good form as he sits 23rd in the FedEx Cup rankings and up to 18 in the OWGR. He had a share of the lead at The Open and squandered that with a tough round on Sunday. I feel like that experience is going to help him moving forward into this event, and the rest of the season. Xander earns his keep of the tee, as he is one of the young bombers on tour but the key for him is picking up shots on and around the green. Schauffele also had a solid showing here last year, finishing T-13. Look for him to build on that and be in the hunt on the weekend.
International Choice: Adam Scott ($7,500 on Draft Kings)
Haven’t heard the sweet swinging Adam Scott’s name in quite some time. The 13-time winner on the PGA Tour, currently sits 77th in the OWGR and 116th in the FedEx Cup. If you look at his stats, he should have more than just 1 Top 10 thus far. He’s 26th in SG Off-The-Tee, 10th SG Approach, 47th SG Around the Green, 7th Tee to Green, and 37th in Total Strokes Gained. So, what’s the issue? The man can’t putt a lick this year. He is 196th on tour in SG Putting. You may be asking, well then why in the hell am I going to pick him. Even though he doesn’t have a ton of top 10’s, despite his putting woes, he has 6 top-25’s and has made 13/16 cuts on the year. He has some form, and if he can putt average maybe even just below average, he will give himself a chance this week. The Aussie played well at the Open Championship a couple weeks back, finished T-13 here last year and also won the event with Tiger’s old Caddie Stevie Williams in 2011. He’s a good pick for the money this week.
Winner: Tiger Woods ($10,800 on Draft Kings)
Yep, I’m going to pick him every week guys but this week shouldn’t come as a surprise considering his track record in this event. The man has dominated this golf course, with an average finish position of 1.4. I repeat 1.4. Tiger flat out owns this golf course, there is no question about that. After seeing a new Tiger that isn’t just happy to be back but someone who wants to show his kids what he used to be, it’s time for him to win. He was hitting and pulling off shot’s we hadn’t seen since 2013. This is one of 3 courses he has won at 8 times in his career so you know the Big Cat is licking his chops ready for a steak dinner. With a combined 102 under par in this event thru his career, I have every expectation he is going to add to this. The key for Tiger this week is hitting fairways off the tee. Weather that’s with the driver, 3-metal or that nasty driving iron he has in the bag. We know he can hit his irons as good as anyone so he just needs to not penalize himself by hitting it into the thick stuff. I think Tiger goes wire to wire and wins by 2 shots to bring home his 9th Bridgestone Invitational in it’s final season at Firestone Country Club. LETS GO!
Line Up Fillers ($50,000 Budget)
Branden Grace ($7,600), Tyrell Hatton ($7,400)
MMC Golf Weekly:
It kind of started as a joke last year, but it was the beginning of my golf writing. We started playing once every other week after work with about 8-10 guys from the office. There are a wide range of ages, skill levels, handicaps, etc. so we typically break into groups of 3 or 4 to scramble. I would then write an email recapping the previous evenings events covering the other groups as best I could while beating everyone like a drum with my own group. To this day I still hold an undefeated record in our after work outings. Yesterday evening marked the first outing of this golf season for the Montgomery Martin crew so things were interesting.
Cherokee Valley Golf Club, located in Olive Branch, Mississippi laid host to yesterday’s match. Playing a respectable 3,054 yards from the men’s tees, the front nine consists of 2 par 5’s 2 par 3’s and 5 par 4’s. The teams are as follows; Team A is myself, Adam, and William, with Andrew, Trey and Stephen making up Team B. The teams are about as even as I thought they could be but some of the crew had some rust. Come to find out Andrew hasn’t hardly played much this year and as the anchor of their team I think it may have hurt them a little.
My team tee’s off first on #1, this is a weird short par 5 that has water straight away about 225 yards out in the fat part of the fairway. There are two big bunkers at about 250 yards on the right side of the fairway with a large oak tree right behind them that somewhat guards you from playing out way right. Adam pop’s his drive up, William hits his over the tree and a little right and I hit a high draw that stays out of the water somehow. We play Williams ball as it is a little closer to the hole. Adam and William leave their approach shots short and I just get mine on the green from about 100 out. We get up to the green and it is in great shape. Joel had warned me of a fungus problem they had back in the early summer but there are no signs of that. I get a good read on it and show Adam where to aim. Call me freaking Bones because he drained it for a Big Bird, Eagle on the first. Needless to say, I let our opponents behind us know with a nice full extension wing flap. I looked like TO scoring a touchdown in Philly. Nothing better than opening up with an Eagle. The other group hits a nice drive and get’s up and down for their birdie, to get to -1. That unfortunately would be short lived.
We move to the 2nd hole which is a 340-yard par 4, we all hit good drives but Adam unloaded on a drive leaving us only about 35 yards into the green. It should be known that Adam is a shut faced player and not one like Dustin Johnson who has it closed at the top of the golf swing. Adam, sets up with his face almost turned shut 45 degrees trying to “prevent a slice”. The guy is a CrossFit grinder and former baseball player so if he makes square contact by the grace of God, it’s going somewhere. I’m the only one to get his approach shot on the green and we clean up for a 2-putt par. Andrew and the gang, make par as well keeping us only one shot ahead going into the Par 4 third. The third is a blind tee shot that drops off at the landing area, leaving you an uphill 2nd shot to the green. There are a lot of elevated greens on this course which really makes you control distance and spin. I don’t do well with the distance, leaving us about 25 feet for birdie. We lag up and make our par, still stuck on two under for the 9. On the par 3 4th I leave a nine iron short, Adam catches a piece of the fringe right and William misses to the right. We two putt for our par, with William draining a clutch 8-footer. We can’t seem to pull away just yet. The fifth is a 380-yard par 4 with a bunker on the right side of the fairway near the landing area. We all hit solid drives but elect to hit Williams because of his position at 115 yards and in the fairway. None of us do much with our second shots, with mine being the best after flying the back-hole location by about 4 yards. William hits a nice chip and we clean-up for par. Our counterparts finished with a par as well. This is where things start to get interesting.
The par 4, 6th hole is a 388 yard straight away Par 4 with OB hugging the left side of the fairway making every drawer of the ball nervous. Throw in a bunker on the left and right that edge into the fairway and you’ve got yourself a tough tee shot. I stripe mine down the pipe and only have about 100 yards in again. Instead of hitting a 60 degree, I use my sand wedge and try to hit a nipper just short of the hole. I execute the shot just like I wanted except I land it a foot to short on the up slope, which makes it spin even more back to the front fringe. I’m left with about 25 feet for birdie and we elect to putt from my ball because it’s uphill and of equal distance as William’s. I’m first to go and hit a solid putt. With about 4 feet out I could tell it had a chance and it dropped. Boom! We move to -3 and there was no looking back. Trey, Andrew and Stephen all hit their drives OB which leads to a double bogey, dropping them back to +1. Next up is the Par 3 7th, a nice 137 yard hole over water and guarded by bunkers in front and OB long. The green is tiered working down hill from left to right. I hit a cut 9 iron into the green and spin it back down the ridge a little, leaving about 12 feet for another birdie, I putt second after reading the putt for William. He misses on the pro side and I step up and drain it for our 2nd birdie in a row. The 8th Tee is right by the 6th green and 7th tee boxes so of course I’m going to see where they are at. Sarcastically I ask “How many under are y’all?” and I immediately can tell there is little wind left in their sails. We watch Trey and Andrew both miss the green right and then hit our tee shots, on the Par 5 Eighth hole. William’s goes left, Adam’s right, and mine finishes just short of the fairway bunker on the right. I block my second shot OB, Adam follow suit and Will “The Thrill” comes up clutch laying up to about 30 yards keeping our birdie chances alive. Our 3rd shot into the back pin location is blind, to an elevated green. I take my lob wedge and put it back in my stance to flight it in low, hoping for a 1 hop and stop shot. I do just that leaving us about 5 feet for another birdie. Adam knocks it in. Three birdies in a row and we are home free. Trey’s new M4’s seem to be keeping them at +1 but aren’t making any big moves down the stretch.
The 9th is an uphill 362-yard par 4, William and I hit drives that are within feet of each other. Adam tried to hit the club house with his drive instead he hits it out of right field at Wrigley. None of us hit great approach shots and we play mine, which spun back about 8 feet leaving us about 20 for birdie. These Vice Pro Plus balls I’m playing for the first time have impressed me. More on that later, none of us can knock down the birdie put so we finish up with a par. We are in with a -5, 31 and it’s safe to say we ran away with the thing. I try to go and get a beer as we wait on the other group to finish up but I’m informed that they have closed it down for the night. Funny thing is that when William goes in to buy a Titleist Cub’s hat, they sell him that. A victory beer is what I wanted and I was deprived. I will know better next time and buy them on the front end.
I’ve played this course numerous times throughout the years, most memorable was a 3rd place finish in the TJGA event here. The course was in the best shape I had seen it in years. The rough was full and thick, fairways were lush pulling your cart in every direction and the greens, though only about a 9 on the stimp after the rain, rolled true and showed no worn signs. I wish we would have played from the tips but I’m sure when Joel get’s back from vacation, he will make sure I play from the back. I always enjoy getting out on the course with the guys that I work with. It allows us to let loose a little bit and enjoy an evening not worrying about subcontractors, fee’s, and emails. Evenings like this are where friendships and relationships grow, one of the main reasons I love the game of golf.
Product Review: Vice Pro Plus
Like I mentioned on Monday, I played with some buddies on Sunday and one of them was playing the Vice Pro Plus’. If you follow any golf accounts on Instagram then you have seen these guys on your sponsored ads. I’ll admit I have turned my nose up to them as a Pro V1x user but when I saw Maddox using them I thought, maybe they are as good as advertised. He gave me a sleeve to try so I put them in play this evening. I played very well with them. I saw no change in distance, saw more spin with my irons and wedges, and really liked the thicker straight line on the ball to line up putts. The best part about them is that a dozen starts off $10 cheaper than my prized Pro V1x’s. Even better, if you order through their website each additional box you add makes the price decrease. If you order 5 boxes, you will get them at a price of $29.95/box. That’s a steal for a ball that doesn’t feel different, sound different, or play any different. I’m going to order a couple of boxes, play them coming up and give them a full test. Thus far I like them. For anyone who hasn’t changed balls in a while and is looking for a different option, I highly recommend this one.
I will have the MCC Grand Nassau and Course Review up on Friday. Until then, hit’em straight and look out for Tight Lies.
Images by Golf Monthly, Vice Golf, ThoughtCo