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Quicken Loans National: Preview & DFS Picks

Following an exciting Sunday highlighted by Bubba Watson’s 3rd win of the season at the Travelers Championship, the PGA Tour heads to our nation’s capitol this week for the Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm. This is the 2nd year in a row TPC Potomac will host the event, which it has shared with Bethesda-neighbor Congressional Country Club, Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Virginia, and Aronimink Golf Club in Pennsylvania since the tournament began under it’s present name in 2007. Tournament host Tiger Woods will highlight the event, with proceeds also benefiting his TW Foundation. Other notables in the field this week include fan favorite Rickie Fowler, Marc Leishman and Francesco Molinari. The invitational field of just 120 players (as opposed to the typical 156 size which included “Monday Qualifying”) will allow fans to see some young stars budding on Tour, such as Joaquin Niemann and Beau Hossler. Also important to note- many European players have ventured back home this week to compete in the Open de France, which is hosted by Le Golf National golf course aka the site of the 2019 Ryder Cup. Stars like Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Sergio Garcia, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Alex Noren, and even American and world #2 Justin Thomas will tee it up in France Thursday morning.

TPC Potomac is a 7,100 yard, par-70 course that is one of the toughest non-major hosts each season. Kyle Stanley’s -7 finish to win there last year was the highest score to par to win an event on Tour in 2017. Many players commented last year that the course layout is suitable to host a US Open or PGA Championship- as it features narrow fairways and thick rough while still measuring out to over 7,000 yards with just 2 par-5s. Surprisingly, the 2 par-5s are some of the hardest holes on the course, and metrics suggest the easier holes to score on will be the par-3s and several shorter par-4s. In his press conference Wednesday, 2-time champ Tiger Woods explained what one has to do to have a chance. “This golf course, it’s very simple: You have to drive it well. You cannot play out of this rough, you have to hit a lot of fairways. The greens are tough to get to if you don’t hit fairways.” In that regard, ball strikers will be favored this week, especially those who can equally hit fairways AND greens. It’s no surprise that Kyle Stanley was victorious here last year- in 2018 he is 3rd in both driving accuracy and greens in regulation percentage. Yesterday Stanley spoke to the press about the challenges TPC Potomac presented last season, “Yeah, the course played very tough. The rough was up, the greens were pretty quick, a lot of par 4s out here can play fairly difficult. Probably a golf course that caters to a guy that’s going to hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens, pretty difficult to play out of this rough. [S]ome of the par 4s being challenging, if you can play a lot of your second shots out of the fairway, you’ll set yourself up for a pretty good week.”

But the future of this event and golf in the DMV is hazy. Quicken Loans only jumped on as a sponsor on May 30th, and the PGA Tour already bought out Congressional Country Club’s contract for this year and 2020. The event has seen 4 course hosts in 11 years, and it’s scheduling position between the US Open and the Open Championship has led to a series of weaker, and smaller, fields as of late. Earlier in May the Detroit Free News reported that the PGA Tour was “close” to signing a deal with Detroit Golf Club to bring an event to Michigan for the first time since 2009, when the Buick Open was played for the last time in Grand Blanc at Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club. Dan Gilbert, the founder of Quicken Loans and the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, has tried to bring golf to his native Detroit for years- including an event in 2016 that was expected to bring in Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Mark Wahlberg and Justin Timberlake, but was never finalized after negotiations stalled in March of that year. On Wednesday Rickie Fowler spoke to the media about the future of the tournament and his thoughts on the DC fanbase. “I think this is a great golf area, the fans have been great here, so we’ll see. I know we try and do the best that we can as far as touching all the markets. If this event potentially goes up to Detroit, it’s an area that really hasn’t had an event in a long time, it could be very beneficial up there, too. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Vegas Odds

Rickie Fowler 7-1
Tiger Woods 12-1
Marc Leishman 18-1
Francesco Molinari 18-1
Kyle Stanley 20-1
Charles Howell 25-1
J.B. Holmes 25-1
Jimmy Walker 30-1
Beau Hossler 30-1
Kiradech Aphibarnrat 30-1
Joaquin Niemann 30-1
Byeonghun An 33-1
Kevin Na 35-1
Patrick Rodgers 40-1
Chesson Hadley 40-1
Gary Woodland 40-1

Power Rankings

5. Bill Haas 

My darkhorse pick is outside the Vegas odds this week and understandably so. Bill Haas has had a rough year both on and off the golf course. He had a streak of 3 missed cuts to begin his 2018 campaign before getting into a car crash in mid-February near Riviera Country Club, where the driver of his car tragically died at the scene. Since then he has only finished inside the top-25 twice and missed 4 cuts over that stretch, including this past week at the Travelers. However, he did have a good run up until last Friday, making 3 straight cuts including a T14 at the Fort Worth Invitational and more recently a T36 finish at the US Open despite an opening round 76. That’s been the story for much of his 2018- Haas’ inability to string 4 solid rounds of gold together. And while he sits outside the top-100 in strokes gained: off the tee, approaching the green, putting and overall, he has had great touch around the green (7th in SG: around the green). But the pick this week is not because of his performance this year necessarily, but rather the fact that in the past 5 years, no one has played as well at this tournament as Haas has. In 2013 he won the event, and from 2014 to 2017 he has rattled off finishes of T30, T4, T3 and T13. Sometimes a familiar setting can turn a season around; let’s see if Haas can make a run at TPC Potomac this week.

4. Kyle Stanley

Last year’s winner sets up well to win again this week as he ranks 3rd in both driving accuracy and GIR this season. Despite coming up short in big events this year (missed cuts at The Players and US Open plus 52nd at The Masters), Stanley still boasts 4 top-10s in 2018 including a runner-up finish at the Memorial. Despite not being a long driver of the golf ball (125th in driving distance), Stanley is 23rd in strokes gained: off the tee. He’s even putted well this year at +.328 stokes gained. His only true weakness has been his chipping and short game, where he ranks 182nd in strokes gained: around the green. His par-4 scoring average is 17th best this year on Tour, but on par-3s he drops down to 163rd. If he can step up his iron game this week and hit greens, Stanley has a great chance of picking up his 3rd career win on the PGA Tour and 2nd at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm.

3. Tiger Woods

Tee-to-green this year, Woods has been one of the best on Tour- ranking 5th in strokes gained. He also ranks in the top-10 in strokes gained: around the green, approaching the green, and overall. However, two stats pretty much sum up his woes this year- driving accuracy and putting. Hitting less than 55% of fairways this season, Tiger is an abysmal 184th in driving accuracy in 2018. Woods’ struggles with the flat stick have been well documented as well (89th in strokes gained: putting). “I’ve had to just log in time and putt for hours to try to figure it out. You know, I hadn’t putted well for, what, about four tournaments now. I had a run at The Players, but I made some putts that didn’t just quite feel right but they were going in. But other than that, I’ve struggled. The West Coast and early Florida I putted well, but just haven’t done it the last four events.” You should still bet on the 2009 and 2012 winner simply because of the small/weak field, but it’s going to come down to his ability to hit fairways if he wants to contend this week. He’s going to have to figure it out with the putter and ignore the past few weeks if Woods wants a shot at redemption.

2. Francesco Molinari

The Italian is coming off a good start 2 weeks ago at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club where he finished T25. He previously finished solo 2nd at the Italian Open and won the BMW PGA Championship (European Tour) in his previous 2 tournaments. But on US soil this year, Molinari has been terrible with his putter, ranking 203rd in strokes gained: putting. Luckily for Molinari, TPC Potomac is fairly easier on the green- it’s much more difficult getting there then it is to actually play the greens. That bodes well for him as he ranks 16th in strokes gained: tee to green this season on the PGA Tour. He ranks outside the T125 in actual scoring average and birdie average, and his best round on US soil is just a 68, but on a course that features US Open style scoring where players will need to grind out pars, expect the red hot Molinari to quietly contend over the weekend. If he can remain in contention on Sunday, expect a run as he ranks 12th this season in final round performance.

1. Rickie Fowler

Fowler is the favorite this week in a relatively weak field and it’s no surprise why. Following a cut at The Players Championship back in May, Rickie has rattled off three straight top-20 finishes including a T20 at Shinnecock Hills, where he followed a 3rd round 84 with a Sunday 65. In his last 4 starts at The National, he has finished T21 (2013), 2nd (2015), T44 (2016) and T3 (2017). Commenting on his season thus far, Fowler told reporters Wednesday, “It’s been okay. It was obviously nice to do what we did at the Masters. I was really looking forward to kind of taking advantage of that and building on that going into Shinnecock. Obviously I didn’t do myself any favors on Saturday. I feel like we’re obviously over that. Played nice the next day and I felt like we got some good work in.” His accuracy both off the tee and from the fairway has helped him greatly this year. He’s hit 65% of fairways and ranks 21st in greens in regulation (69.93%). Despite ranking 24th in strokes gained: around the green and 26th in strokes gained: total, he has struggled with the putter this year at just .160 strokes gained putting. At 30th in par-3 scoring average and 5th in par-4 scoring average, the world #8 should pull out a W this week in Bethesda.

DFS Picks

Rickie Fowler -> $11,700

Kiradech Aphibarnrat -> $9,200

Bill Haas -> $7,800

Richy Werenski -> $7,200

Fabian Gomez -> $7,100

Kelly Kraft -> $7,000

Remaining Salary -> $0

This week COO Austin Meo and Writer Jake Rona will be in Bethesda, Maryland to cover the Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac at Avenel Park from Friday, June 29th to Sunday, July 1st. Follow The Wrightway Network on Twitter (@WrightwayNet) and Instagram (@TheWrightwaySportsNetwork) for live coverage from the grand stands and for the 1st time this season inside the media center.

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