Palmetto Championship: Back Hatton in Matchups

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The PGA Tour will head to Congaree Golf Club in Ridgeland, South Carolina for the Palmetto Championship. This will be the first and only edition of the tournament due to COVID-19 complications, as the Canadian Open had to be relocated to the United States. This week will present a number of unknowns as players tee it up one last time before the year’s third major.

Stretching out to nearly 7,700 yards, this Tom Fazio design is sure to be a brute. While firm and fast in the low country of South Carolina, many have said that Congaree does not typically play to its scorecard yardage. This week, it may. With rain in the forecast, this par-71 has the potential to play every bit of 7,700 yards and should test these players. So that begs the question, what statistics are conducive to good play at Congaree?

In these situations, I typically play it safe and side with those players who are striking the ball the best. It’s not all that different than most weeks, but ball-striking is weighed a touch more than usual. With wide fairways and potentially soft conditions, I’ll also be avoiding the really short hitters as many of the par-4's are north of 450 yards.

I’ve seen rumblings of slick run-off areas around the greens as well, but I’m hoping our players will simply find greens in regulation and forgo having to deal with awkward chip shots. It’ll still be factored in, but won't be my primary focus.

The oddsmakers at PointsBet Sportsbook have priced the head-to-head matchups a bit earlier this week giving us a head start on them. With one of the weaker fields of the year, these matchups can present a great opportunity to target players you typically wouldn’t.

Head-to-Head Matchups (odds via PointsBet):

Lucas Glover (-115) over Patton Kizzire

There aren’t too many players in the field that have ample experience around Congaree. However, Glover does. A course ambassador to Congaree, Glover has numerous rounds under his belt on this property. That could be a distinct advantage this week or could mean next to nothing, but it’s just one of the reasons that I like Glover at the Palmetto Championship.

Last week at the Memorial, Glover had his worst iron performance of the season. He ended up losing 4.5 Strokes Gained: Approach, most of which occurred in the final two rounds. The Clemson product was able to tread water thanks to his short-game as he gained nearly five strokes around-the-green. I expect his iron-play to return to its usual, steady self at Congaree. If that’s the case, combined with the form he’s been showing with his chipping and pitching, then Glover should have a solid week at a familiar track.

The volatility associated with Kizzire is too much to side with him at Congaree. While he does boast two top-5 finishes in the month of May, both of those occurred in the state of Texas. Outside of the Lonestar State, Kizzire’s best finish since April is a T-58 finish at the Wells Fargo Championship. During that same period outside of Texas, he’s lost strokes tee-to-green in each start, including -6.7 SG: Tee-to-Green last week at Muirfield Village.

Tyrrell Hatton (+100) over Dustin Johnson

I am treading lightly when it comes to the world No. 1 this week. After dominating in the fall of 2020, Johnson has not looked the same in 2021. He has not posted a top-10 finish since the Genesis Invitational in late February and I am not sure that streak will end at the Palmetto Championship. While his driving has been strong, the irons and short-game have lagged behind. This was epitomized at the Ocean Course, where Johnson lost a combined three-strokes with his irons and around-the-green en route to a missed cut in his home state.

While it is always scary to bet against the top-ranked played in the world, Hatton at plus money provides more than enough value for me. I’ve had a hard time figuring out the fiery Englishman, but when looking at his season as a whole, he’s actually been quite steady. He hasn’t been negative in total strokes gained since the 2020 Masters. While he has struggled with certain aspects of his game during this stretch, primarily around-the-green or putting, he has still found a way to get the job done week in and week out.

Hatton now comes to Congaree off a top-40 finish at the PGA Championship where he posted 4.3 SG: Tee-to-Green. It felt like he underperformed at Kiawah Island to tell you the truth as he was inside the top-20 for most of the week. It’s likely his main focus is to ready himself for next week’s U.S. Open, but I still like him in preparation mode over an uncertain Johnson.

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Sungjae Im (+115) over Matthew Fitzpatrick

Based on my research, Fazio drew inspiration from the Australian Sand Belt when designing Congaree. When looking at the wide fairways, sandy areas throughout the course, and slippery run-off areas it’s easy to see. When I first think of the Australian Sand Belt, the 2019 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne comes to mind. Leading the International Team in points that week were two rookies, Abraham Ancer and Sungjae Im.

Royal Melbourne correlated nicely to Augusta National the following year, as Im finished runner-up to Johnson. And while Im appears to be in a bit of a mini slump, having missed the cut in three of his last four starts, this week may serve as a bounce back spot. He’s been strong off-the-tee and around-the-green, but the irons have disappointed. That’s typically not the case for Im, so I’m hoping he can figure out those clubs this week.

For one reason or another, I always having trouble siding with Fitzpatrick. He’s lost strokes on approach in five of his last seven starts and is typically over reliant on his flat stick. He’ll likely need to gain north of five-strokes on the greens in order to contend and on a course that he hasn’t seen before, I just don’t see that happening.

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