There is a lot of monotony on the PGA TOUR so it's always exciting when a new course joins the mix.
That is the case this week, as Trinity Forest Golf Club takes over hosting duties from TPC Four Seasons which had previously been a part of every edition of this event since 1983.
Let's try to break down the new layout and see who might enjoy this unique test.
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Trinity Forest Golf Club will make its debut this week. Notable members include Tony Romo, Jordan Spieth, Hunter Mahan, and Beau Hossler.
This links-style course was designed by the duo of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (also responsible for Kapalua). The course was built within the last five years and it was built on top of an old landfill, similar to Liberty National. One man's trash is another man's treasure.
Similar to their layout for the Tournament of Champions, golfers will see wide fairways and plenty of undulations from tee-to-green. Coore and Crenshaw say the natural ripples are very reminiscent of Pinehurst No. 2 which is another course they've laid their hands on in terms of renovation.
Don't mistake wide fairways for easy targets. Space and Angles will be key this week because landing on different sides of the fairways will set up how easy or difficult the second shot will become. There are also more than 80 bunkers in play to divert golfers from the task at hand.
On a hole-by-hole basis there aren't many short holes and this course looks a bit long on paper but that is a bit deceiving. Trinity Forest is designed to be played firm and fast and they get a big assist in that regard from the grass type used in the fairways. From tee-to-green, they have Trinity Zoysia while the greens are Champion Bermuda. The zoysia plays very firm as it doesn't require a lot of water to stay alive.
There is no maintained rough (only natural grasses or native areas to punish errant tee balls). That combination of Zoysia & Bermuda is used on other courses like TPC Southwind, East Lake, and Atlanta Athletic Club. The greens are only set to a target of 10.5 feet on the stimpmeter which tells us they likely have some extreme slopes so ramping up the speeds would turn putting into a nightmare.
Back to the firm and fast talk. The course superintendent, Kasey Kauff said Trinity Forest will "without question be the firmest and fastest course seen in America on the PGA TOUR this year." That means short knockers can just smack it down the fairway and let it roll. You might say "Grandpa Golf" will be able to compete with the big hitters this week.
While short knockers might keep up off-the-tee, strong approach play is still crucial. According to Trinity Forest member, Jordan Spieth, he says "You'd kind of got to play it from the air, not really a bounce the ball up kind of links."
Golfers that just faced off with TPC Sawgrass will be happy to hear there are no water hazards in play.
Sifting through some past quotes over at the Fantasy Golfanac, let's try to break down the courses to see how they will play...
Jordan Spieth: "It’s like an American links. You’ve kind of got to play it from the air, not really a bounce the ball up kind of links, but it is still a links-looking golf course. So it’s weird, it’s unique. Birkdale was kind of the closest comparison I’ve found to a links course that you kind of have to attack from the air."
Geoff Ogilvy: "Trinity Forest will make us use our brains a little bit… you have to work out where your best angles are… One side of the fairway is easy, the other side is going to be difficult. Your mistakes are magnified, but your good stuff is magnified as well. Sometimes here are Trinity, the pin isn’t necessarily the target."
Jordan Spieth: "It’s a second shot course, where you’ve got to really think about where you’re leaving the ball, because everything looks very spacious. There are no trees, you can work different [ball] flights, but it’s very challenging if you’re not really focused."
Kasey Kauff: "Whenever you’re trying for tight grass around a green, there’s a balance. If it’s not tight enough, every pro will just hit a wedge from it. If’ it’s too tight, every pro will simply putt from it. I think we’ve found the perfect height of cut with Trinity that will make pros stop and debate whether to chip or putt."
Kasey Kauff: "A lot of golf courses on the Tour reward the guy who hits the ball the furthest. Our course doesn’t do that. Our course rewards the guy who hits the best second shot, not the best drive, so those guys who hit the ball out there further are now, instead of hitting a six iron into the green, maybe they’re hitting an eight or a nine iron. So now the chances of winning are better for most of the field."
Overview: Spieth and Ogilvy both suggest that Trinity Forest promotes brains over brawn. The superintendent backs that up when he says that Trinity Forest doesn't reward the golfers that hit the ball the furthest.
With no history to work with, I've picked out a few angles to target and here are some events/courses that fit with those angles:
The Open Championship
East Lake GC
TPC San Antonio
Kapalua is another heavily undulated, Coore & Crenshaw design. The Open Championship will lean us to golfers that favor links-style courses. TPC Southwind and East Lake both have zoysia fairways with bermuda greens. TPC San Antonio brings the Texas elements into play while it has very little water in play which is good for this week since Trinity Forest has no water in play.
Some smaller sample comps might include Pinehurst No. 2, Chambers Bay, Erin Hills, Atlanta Athletic Club, or the Rio Olympic Games.
Thursday: Partly sunny with a high of 93 degrees. Calm winds.
Friday: Sunny with a high near 94 degrees. South wind at 5-to-15 MPH with gusts potentially reaching 20 MPH.
Weekend: More HEAT over the weekend but not a huge amount of winds.
I was watching the Dallas weather last week and it would have been much more exciting with winds in the 20 MPH+ range. Let's check back on Wednesday to see if the wind forecast changes at all. It is Texas, after all, so I'm not expecting calm conditions for the entire event.
Playing in 90-degree weather on a course with no trees does not sound like a good time. Not a fun week to be a caddie.
Golfers to Watch
Born-and-bred Texan who is also a member at this week's course. He's also the class of the field. Combine the two and Spieth is easily the man to beat this week.
Practices out of Trinity Forest so he might be more familiar with this week's layout than anyone else in the field. This youngster had a close call in Houston this year. Hossler is a good play on paper without the course knowledge. Add the knowledge to his 2018 form and this makes for a great chance for Hossler to earn his maiden win.
Another member at Trinity Forest. This one is still searching for some lost form. On the bright side, he's earned three straight paychecks. That streak has been buoyed by off-the-tee and putting. If Trinity Forest is truly a second-shot course than his off-the-tee play will get negated a bit. His familiarity with the layout might offset that, though. A high-risk, high-reward option for gamers this week.
Not sure if he's a Trinity Forest member but he is, or at least was, a part of Cameron McCormick's teaching stable. McCormick now calls Trinity Forest home which also means Willy Z probably has some decent exposure to this links layout. This also helps explain the Zalatoris-Romo pairing from the Pebble Beach Pro-Am since Romo is also a member here. Zalatoris was a four-time winner while at Wake Forest and also beat Bill Haas' school scoring record so the pedigree is there. So far he's just 1-for-4 on the PGA TOUR but this youngster has all the tools to pop on the big stage. Very high-risk dart throw but might be worth a shot for DFS gamers.
When I think bermudagrass, Murray is one of the first names that pop to my head. He's an elite fantasy scorer and bermuda is his preferred surface. I will certainly give him a run this week.
Firm and fast in Texas screams AUSSIES. Scott would be at the top of the list, right next to Marc Leishman. Scott recently went back to the long putter (not anchored) at the Wells Fargo and he's rattled off two straight starts with positive strokes gained putting. Don't look now, but he might be on to something. He also owns the Texas Slam so we know these conditions suit him. He also has a Claret....oh wait, he's somehow managed to not win The Open Championship despite a few close calls. Still a solid links golfer.
I was willing to ignore his implosion at the Masters but he's now lost strokes to the field in three straight events. Will this slump continue or is it a great week to hop back on board? I wish I had the answer but he always brings winning upside, given his elite ball-striking skills.
A Texan who hasn't done much this season but he could benefit from a return to the heat of Texas. Should be a good fit on paper but like I said, no real form in 2018. Same goes for Kelly Kraft as a golfer who wouldn't surprise me if he popped into the top 10 but missed cuts are far too frequent to trust.
We've been waiting for the breakout win for Saunders. Posted a top 10 at Quail Hollow in his latest start. Very comfy on bermuda and his mindset is focused on finding the winner's circle. I like that combination which should help him land onto some of my DFS lineups.
This rookie has been T12 or better after R1 in 12 events this season! It's hard to miss the cut when you get off to those fast starts. Reminds me of Hudson Swafford early in his career. He also seemed to post an ultra-low round but couldn't piece together four rounds. That should change eventually as he gets more experience on TOUR. Ranks 12th on TOUR in total birdies and 16th in total eagles. That scoring makes him an easy target for DFS gamers.
Ranking the Field
1. Jordan Spieth
2. Matt Kuchar
3. Beau Hossler
4. Adam Scott
5. Branden Grace
6. Hideki Matsuyama
7. Jimmy Walker
8. Grayson Murray
9. Charles Howell III
10. Sergio Garcia
11. Marc Leishman
12. Billy Horschel
13. Sam Saunders
14. J.B. Holmes
15. Bill Haas
16. Martin Laird
17. Keith Mitchell
18. Graeme Mcdowell
19. Rory Sabbatini
20. Scott Piercy
21. Joaquin Niemann
22. Aaron Wise
23. Harris English
24. Ryan Palmer
25. Kevin Tway
Head over to Dave Tindall's Belgian Knockout Preview for more information on that. Check back on Tuesday afternoon for our Expert Picks and Wednesday for the DFS Dish.