PGA – A Thinking Man’s Guide: The Webbies – Consolidated (Premium)

A Wicked Web: The 25 and The Data Gap WITH UPDATED STATS 10/31/2017

*One quick word of advice and some notes about this article: I think most of the Web Tour graduates are probably beyond exhausted.  If you watched any of the qualifying events then you know what I mean.  These guys have been working their tails off for their entire life; getting their PGA Tour card is the pinnacle of their professional career. I just don’t see how they could get up for the Safeway Open?  Also, I combined last week and this week’s article into one piece.  There are less golfers included in this article but I took a much deeper dive into their prospects as we enter the swing season.  A comprehensive stat spreadsheet can be found here for the Web.com players

 

A Wicked Web: The 25 and The Data Gap

Unlike any other sport, the PGA Tour does not have an offseason.  The Safeway Open begins October 5th.  Golf between now and January-ish on the PGA Tour is known as the “swing-season”.  Some golfers take this entire period off, while others only enter those tournaments with optimal “course fit”.

Less-talented golfers, and the new cohort of PGA Tour card-holders, play these events to accrue as many FedEx Cup points (and money) as possible before the elite arrive.

I was prepared to discuss how these guys won their cards but I’d rather explain quantum physics…it’s confusing and unnecessary for our purposes. If you read the PGA site regarding the myriad exemptions and prioritizations for entering the weekly events, you’ll lose 20 minutes of precious life.

A utilitarian synopsis would read something like this: There will be 50 new PGA Tour card members in 2018.  There are two groups.  “The 25” top money winners during the WEB.COM Tour regular season and the top 25 money winners during the the WEB.COM FINALS.

For more information/confusion about the myriad of exemptions and priority lists, feel free to peruse:  click here

 

It is important to remember that having this new influx of golfers presents us with several issues regarding “data” and “methods” used to create player pools and build rosters. Most importantly “ShotLink” isn’t recorded on the Web.com.  Therefore, “Strokes Gained” statistics are also not available for most of these golfers, I have included SG stats where it was possible.

Therefore, we have to analyze these golfers based on “count” or summary data such as DD (Driving Distance), DA (Driving Accuracy), GIR (Greens in Regulation), Putting, and Sand Save Percentage. By the end of the “swing season” (January) we should have the appropriate sample size (50 rounds is what the PGA uses as a threshold) to use Strokes Gained Data.

We can use DD and DA as a proxy for SG: OTT (Strokes Gained Off the Tee). GIR (Greens in Regulation), for SG: Approach and SG: Ball Striking, and Sand Save Percentage and SC (Scrambling) can be used as a proxy for Strokes Gained Around the Green.  For each new golfer I have compiled this data into the attached spreadsheet*.

I compiled all the data in the spreadsheet manually, so please let me know if you find any errors.  It is sortable and it can still be used to create a somewhat reasonable “course fit” until we have Strokes Gained data.  In addition, I’ve included previous PGA appearances and “Cuts Made”.  I will be updating the spreadsheet with new and relevant data throughout the Fall.

I’m including 11 golfers of interest that qualified through the Web.com Tour Finals.  Last week I wrote about the guys that won their cards during the regular season and they are integrated into this article at the bottom.  Good Luck this week.

Arron Wise’s Tee to Green game reminds me of a certain lad from Northern Ireland.  Like Rory, Wise absolutely crushes the ball, averaging 315 yards per drive.  That would be good for second place on the PGA Tour (Second to Rory’s DD: 317 Yds.) However, among active Web.com Tour members Wise’s DD score was only good enough for 14th.

Wise’s ability to score should make him a valuable DFS asset even at courses we don’t think he will place very well.  He’s ranked 9th in scoring, 14th in Birdie average, and 1st in Eagles this year; he went under par on 26% of all holes he played last year.

Unfortunately, Wise is not eligible for Rookie of the Year.  He is a former US Amateur and has been playing PGA Tour events by invitation since he was a young buck.  He has already played 8 Tour events, made 5 cuts, has a T10, won over a quarter Million dollars in “non-PGA Member money”, and has already carded a low round of 63 at the John Deere.

Wise is famous for his work ethic and competitive will. The South African and former Oregon Duck, led his team to victory in the NCAA Championships and snagged the individual championships by beating the Longhorn’s Beau Hossler (also awarded his PGA Tour card this year), Euro standout (and future legend) Thomas Detry, and some guy named John Rahm (?) to claim the title as a Sophomore.

As you might expect from someone that hits ball further than 3 football fields, Wise isn’t that accurate off the tee, with a Driving Accuracy (DA) score of 59% on the Web.com and 54% in six PGA events. However, he has made some changes to his swing this Summer that lead to a victory and a couple T10’s.  Also, his overall ball-striking ability and tee to green game can often mollify the problems arising from being inaccurate.

If we look at GIR and the limited SG Approach data that we have at our disposal, it suggests that Wise is incredibly well rounded.  Indeed, according to the six tournaments (and only 13 measured rounds) of ShotLink data he is ranked top ten in most approach shot distances.

In a small sample of 6 PGA events, Wise is currently ranked T14 in proximity from the fairway, all distances included.  Surprisingly he ranks T10 or better in “Approaches Shot From…” five key distances: 1st in approaches from 175-200, 225-250 yards and 3rd from 100-125, 150-175 yards.  I realize that there are issues with “proximity” as a predictive stat and we know that our sample is too small.  It does suggest that Wise might be much more than a bomber; and is more than likely a once in a generation golfer, if he can hit more fairways.

Things to look for early:  Monitor his ball striking and SG:OTT data.  If he can make the adjustments necessary to keep his ball in the fairway in PGA tournaments, then he might be a golfer that we can roster in DFS on shorter and more technical courses. We should learn a lot about Mr. Wise this weekend.  If you don’t hit the fairways here you get cut. Wise knows this as well as anyone, having already missed the cut here.  I wouldn’t roster this weekend, his status as chalk is unwarranted this weekend and he makes a great fade. But I will be watching closely to see how he handles the course.  He’s a valuable golfer to roster during the November events, hopefully he misses a couple of cuts before the OHL Classic.  I wouldn’t hesitate to use him during the California/Hawaii Swing also.

Peter Uihlein is the former US Amateur champion and is the 74th ranked golfer in the world. Uihlein has intentionally spent the last couple of years in Europe perfecting his game. The fact that he had to qualify at the Web.com Tour is still bizarre to me.

He turned pro in 2010; he is one of the best golfers in the world and has played in 30 PGA Tour events. Since 2014, he has 6 top 25s and 3 T10s on the PGA Tour.  He smashes the ball (DD 321 Yds. During the Web Finals). But he’s not just a bomber.  He’s an efficient bomber gaining .663 strokes OTT.  He is a prolific scorer averaging an Eagle and 13+ Birdies per tournament.

Things to watch for:   Where is Peter?  1. He is quite the worldly mensch.  He literally plays or will play golf in every country they have contests.  I’m including links to interviews at the end of the article and in the cheat sheet companion to this article.  He was asked if he would settle down now that he has his card.  He says that he loves his lifestyle and no intention of changing it.  There are obvious ownership implications of his “popping up every now and then”.  2. Don’t get duped by the “shiny new toy” every time he happens to be available; he still struggles stateside, in strong fields, and more technical courses.  3. He is streaky.  He rarely misses value just once, rights the ship, and everything is ok.  His “fails” tend to come in batches of two or three.  I weight Uihlein’s recent form more than other Golfers.  4. He tends to garner high ownership regardless of course fit or history, don’t be afraid to fade him at the appropriate time.

Keith Mitchell is part of a group of golfers that have been playing together since they were small children. Many of them attended Baylor High School in Chattanooga Tennessee ( Luke List, Stephen Jaeger, Harris English)

He has been on fire this year.  In his last nine events he has 3 T6s, a T11, an a T3.

In his only PGA Tour event, Mitchell placed T11 at the Valspar earlier this year.  This is an impressive feat for a young man that has never played there.  Innisbrook Resort: Copperhead Course is one of the most technical courses on tour; many pros (especially the bombers) take the Valspar off because they don’t want to get embarrassed on National television. Yet this “bomber” tamed the Snake Pit.

Mitchell has spent three years grinding mini-tours, rather successfully.  There is a clear trajectory of improved ball-striking, increased distance and lower scoring since Mitchell graduate from the University of Georgia. Like I did with Aaron Wise, I went over this guy’s stats ten different times, they’re just too good to believe.  His average driving distance this year is 321 Yds. (only good enough for 4th place this year!?!?)  In addition, he’s more accurate than the average PGA professional.

You just don’t see this combination ever on Tour.  Yet, this year we have an influx of at least 15 golfers that are driving the ball over 315 yards and putting it in the fairway more than 2/3s of the time.  He is someone that I will roster early and often, starting with the Safeway Open.

Mitchell is clearly one of the best in class.   He ranks 4th in DD, 2nd in Birdies, 3rd in Eagles, and 36th in putting.  His consistency is also admirable.  The Web is such a grind, many of these kids lose interest.  Mitchell grinded a one year stint on the Latino American tour on top of his time on the Web tour.

Things to look for:  Eagles, Birdies and Ws.  Not sure if there is a type of course I wouldn’t play Mitchell on.  Don’t go crazy and stuff him in cash games or go overweight yet.  He is safe to roster this week because he WD from the Finals as soon as he knew he had his card secured. I would be real leery about rostering any of the these other golfers.  They have to be emotionally fried after the qualifying experience.

Seamus Power. A rookie on the PGA Tour last year, the native of Ireland just missed the FedEx Cup playoffs by 5 spots.  He regained his card by coming in 25th place in the Web.com Finals.  Powers has above average distance (DD: 300 yards) and he ranked in the top half of the tour last year in most key stats.  Despite his distance he gained strokes everywhere but off the tee (SG:OTT -.067).  This seems to be a common theme amongst first year graduates.

His overall Tee to Green game is solid (SG:TG .364).  So, if he can hit some more fairways this year we can expect to see him making noise in weaker field events; especially at longer courses.  Powers excels on courses where the majority of approach shots come from >200 yards (30th on tour in proximity) or from <50 yards (1st in proximity).

Things to look for this fall:  If we see that Powers is hitting more fairways, then perhaps we can roster him at some of the more technical courses.  Until then he is a fade at tournaments like the Safeway Open (2 MC’s), The Honda. Regardless, he’s a great play at the OHL, Sanderson Farms and most of the Hawaii and California Swing (Sony, Career Builder, Pebble Beach)

Brice Garnett was the leading money winner on the WEB.COM tour this year. He lost his card after a two-year stint on the PGA Tour between 2014-2016.  During that time, he finished T10 or higher at four different events including a T7 at the Shell/Houston Open.  Garnett has competed on the PGA Tour 75 times.  Chesson Hadley and Garnett were the only two rookies to make the FedEx Cup Finals in 2014.  Unlike many other Web.commies we have some data from his previous appearances on the tour.  Garnett is an above average driver of the ball (309 yard Off the Tee) and very accurate with a Driving Accuracy (DA) score of 66.40.  He’s hitting his GIR (Greens in Regulation) at a robust (75%).  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Garnett win a swing tour event.  Born, raised, and living in Missouri, we should expect him to be making the cut during the Texas Swing.  He was the 36-hole leader in Dallas at the Colonial in 2016.

Adam Landry: Remember the tiny dude that set the one round record at the US Open?  I often wondered what happen to Landry.  In the 2016 US Open, Landry dropped a 66 at Oakmont; the hardest golf course in the world.  His first-round performance was legendary, Tiger Wood’s lowest score at Oakmont was 69. He almost shocked the world as he made the final pairing with DJ and ended up with a respectable T7.  Last year, Landry was the second most accurate golfer on the Web.com; hitting 71.48 percent of his fairways. He played one year on the PGA Tour 2015-1016. Expect him to make some cuts on courses that favor ball striking and possibly challenge at courses that favor “generalists”.

Chesson Hadley is a veteran of the PGA Tour and just might the best all-around golfer of the new crop. He’s already tasted victory on the PGA Tour, with two wins in 96 events. Just last year we saw him on some PGA Tour leaderboards. Why he lost his tour card is a bit of a mystery. Regardless, his combination of length (DD 311 yards), ball striking (72% GIR)  and exceptional around the green play (Sand Save Percentage 64.81) are all elite and I expect him to win an event during the swing season; perhaps at the Puerto Rico Open where he has already notched a victory.  Here’s his personal blog in case you’re “deep-diving”:  http://www.hadscorner.com/

Stephan Jaegar is probably most known for being paired with Steph Curry during the Warrior star’s WEB.COM attempt.  Jaegar was 6th on the money list last year.  Known as an exceptional putter, he was also ranked 8th in DA last year.  He has above average distance off the tee (300 yards) and has three professional wins under his belt at different levels.  His game reminds me of Louis Oosthuizen, he’s not great at any one facet of the game, just generally solid.

Talor Gooch made the cut at the US OPEN in 2017. He is a contemporary of JT, Speith, and the other “Tiger Slayers”.  I listened to some interviews and he has a chip on his shoulder and is incredibly driven.  He has the pedigree and raw talent to make some cuts and possibly win a tournament this year.  Watching some tape, he reminds me of a less talented Grayson Murray.

Brandon Harkins is a bomber (DD 316 yards) with above average DA, hitting his fairways 63% of the time. He ranked 1st in DD on the WEB.COM tour last year.

My sleeper picks for Rookie of the year next year will either be Sam Ryder (2nd on the money list, (DD 309 yards, DA 71%, and exceptional putting), Abraham Ancer (3rd on the money list, 70% DA, and 70% GIR, and 13th ranked putter on the WEB.COM last season). I say sleepers because it appears that Peter Uihlein is all but assured of acquiring his card as is Beef Johnston.

One of the things I noticed prepping for this is relative youth in this cohort compared to previous years.  Now this may change after the next 25 are granted cards, but a lot of the dead weight on The PGA Tour, the Ken Duke’s and Johnson Wagner’s of the tour, failed to make the first 25 and is currently struggling in the WEB.COM Finals.  For years it’s been assumed that the average DD on the PGA Tour is just over 280 yards.  However, only 4 of the golfers in this new cohort drive the ball less than 300 yards and none less than 295.  In contrast, only 17 of the 150 contestants at this year’s Bridgestone Classic came to the event driving ball further than 300 yards in their previous six events.  I expect golfers that lack distance this year to struggle to keep up even more than they do already.

One last thing, there is a podcast about the Web.Commies that are graduating to the PGA:  click here for podcast

There is a huge edge in golf DFS during the swing season, and into the coming year, if you take the time to get to know these new guys. The next Xander Schauffle is in this pool somewhere.  Good luck and remember that while the prize pools are smaller during the swing season this type of edge makes them extremely profitable.