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- Professional golfer
It's a familiar event but a change of scenery for the 2021 edition.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, something we are used to hearing by now, the WGC-Mexico Championship has been moved Stateside this year. The Concession Golf Club and Workday both stepped up to the plate on short notice, to make sure this event would still run this year.
Sticking to the WGC outline, this event hosts a limited (72-man) field with everyone guaranteed to play all four rounds, barring a WD.
The Concession Golf Club is making its PGA TOUR debut as a host venue this week. It's located in Bradenton, Florida.
For gamers looking for any semblance of course history, check out the 2015 NCAA Championships which were hosted at Concession Golf Club and won by Bryson DeChambeau.
Without any tournament history, we have to make some educational guesses this week.
When I take a GPS tour it becomes very clear, very quickly, that bunkers and water are heavily in play. Water is in play on 8-to-12 holes (depending on how liberal you want to be in your interpretation of "in-play") and there are 73 bunkers scattered across the property.
This private course, and its membership, takes pride in the difficulty of the layout. The course features the highest course rating (76.7) and slope (153) of any course in the Tampa Bay area. We know that pros are a different breed, but this should still be a tricky test for the field this week.
When you look all of the water that comes into play you are instantly drawn to making the comparison to other Florida courses like Bay Hill, TPC Sawgrass, or PGA National. If a golfer has a good track record on those courses then in theory they should fit well this week, as well.
For turf, golfers will see wall-to-wall bermudagrass with average-sized greens (6,000 square feet) that are prepped to run around 12 feet on the stimpmeter.
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Sifting through some past quotes, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play.
C.T. Pan (at 2015 NCAAs): " The course is obviously hard, and it's in well condition. The way I played, I played well the last four days. I made some big mistakes on each round. For example, first round I hit my 3‑wood one hole, hit two balls in the water, and second round I made double, I almost shanked it... Oh, it's totally, like a perfect place for the championship venue. I think the course is hard but doable. I mean, I think every major championship should be like this. It's hard, super hard, but it's still doable, and I think 8‑under is a great score to win a championship like this. "
Paul Azinger: "I think everyone that's ever played The Concession, all the locals, all the folks from this area, cannot wait to see what kind of scores they're going to shoot here. We're all of the impression that it's virtually impossible to shoot a great score at this golf course... It's the kind of a golf course that will eat your lunch."
Bruce Cassidy (President of The Concession Golf Club): "It's a strategic course. You really have to think about where you want to hit it, what club you want to hit, It’s not always bombs away."
The early consensus seems to suggest this will be a tough test. Make sure you monitor the early-week pressers to make sure the golfers are saying the same thing in the lead-up, based on the current state of the course.
Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week:
Bay Hill Club and Lodge
PGA National (Champion)
Muirfield Village GC
The theme I'm going with this week is bermudagrass with lots of water in play. Muirfiled Village joins the list because there is plenty of water in play and it's another Nicklaus design.
Thursday: Sunny with a high of 76 degrees. Winds at 8 to 12 MPH.
Friday: Sunny with a high of 82 degrees. Winds at 8 to 15 MPH.
It's a beautiful golf forecast this week in the Tampa Bay area. It makes me want to move from Minnesota to Florida.
Golfers to Watch
He's been the best player in the world since the restart but his driver looked out of sorts last week at Riv. It caught up with him down the stretch and he faded on Sunday. Concession looks like a course where you can really implode if the driver is not tuned in. Lucky for DJ, he has one of the shortest memories in all of golf and he's usually pretty quick at making swing corrections.
The big hitter did not have an ideal tune-up last week at Riviera CC. He lost strokes off-the-tee, on approach, and putting, en route to a missed cut. That was his first event losing strokes off-the-tee since the 2019 Northern Trust. Just a blip on the radar or the start of a serious problem? Working in his favor, he won the 2015 NCAA Championships which were hosted at The Concession Golf Club. He'll have some good vibes when stepping on the property this week.
He won in Phoenix but had a bit of a letdown week at the Genesis. It wasn't all bad, but he did fade to 38th place by week's end. On the bright side, he landed more GIR per round compared to the field and now he's back on bermuda where he grew up.
If you told me he gained over four strokes putting in any event then I'd assume he won, or was in contention. That wasn't the case last week as he gained 4.1 SGP but settled for a T38 finish at Riviera CC. It will be interesting to see if his iron play can bounce back this week. The Aussie has wins at TPC Sawgrass, PGA National, and Doral, so he knows how to navigate a brutal Florida course with lots of water in play.
He looked poise for a big rebound after slumping last season but then he went and lost 2.6 strokes tee-to-green at Riviera CC and another 4.3 strokes lost putting. Perhaps a return home to Florida will kick him back into gear. Similar to Scott, he's won more than his fair share in Florida. McIlroy has picked up trophies at TPC Sawgrass, Bay Hill, and PGA National.
It feels like something is wrong whenever Im skips an event so it's very rare to see him sit out two weeks in a row. He did set up shop in Atlanta last fall so this may be the new norm, taking a few more breathers. Or maybe he's played enough events now to realize so much of his good work is done on bermudagrass. Seven of his top 10 finishes on TOUR have come on bermudagrass which is what he'll see this week (and for the foreseeable future). He's not in my top 20 this week but that doesn't mean I'm going to ignore him in weekly fantasy leagues. It says more about the strength of this week's field, if anything.
Another Florida native who was happy to rest after his big win instead of taking on poa annua greens for a second week in a row. Back on a course with bermuda with lots of water hazards, he should be in his comfort zone this week, and arriving with a full tank of confidence after the win at Pebble.
Ranking the Field
1. Dustin Johnson
2. Xander Schauffele
3. Jon Rahm
4. Justin Thomas
5. Patrick Cantlay
6. Rory McIlroy
7. Tyrrell Hatton
8. Daniel Berger
9. Tony Finau
10. Bryson DeChambeau
11. Viktor Hovland
12. Webb Simpson
13. Patrick Reed
14. Will Zalatoris
15. Joaquin Niemann
16. Brooks Koepka
17. Scottie Scheffler
18. Collin Morikawa
19. Kevin Kisner
20. Abraham Ancer