Golf Digest Tournament Predictor: 2017 Quicken Loans National
Welcome to the Golf Digest Tournament Predictor. Each week we'll pit a machine's tournament forecast against our expert's picks. Follow along and watch for the chance to play along in the near future.
Professor Lucius Riccio's Model picked the winner for the second straight week in Jordan Spieth, with three top-five picks and four top-10s. However, though machine was a blowout winner at Erin Hills, man came out on top at the Travelers Championship, as our expert not only picked Spieth, but runner-up Daniel Berger as well, finishing with four top-fives to squeak out the W.
The PGA Tour turns its attention to TPC Potomac for the Quicken Loans National. The course, which hosted the Kemper Open once upon a time, underwent a major facelift since the tour last visited. All 18 holes at Avenel Farm have been restructured to some degree, highlighted by a complete overhaul of holes 10, 11 and 13. Bunkers have been added, the course lengthened and par changed from 71 to 70.
TPC Potomac surrendered a 20-under-par winning score in its last PGA Tour event; factoring in the upgrades, expect that number to be cut in half this week.
Though the Quicken Loans doesn't boast the strongest of fields, it does have a handful of big names in Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed. It's also one of just five tour events with invitational status, meaning a truncated field (120 players).
Byeong Hun An
Professor's Explanation: This week’s event is at another TPC course which provides enough variety to enable many players to be competitive. So I think my list of ten players may not look as conventional as other weeks. My top pick, Rickie Fowler has (according to the Model) three times the chance of winning as the next pick, and the difference in winning probability between the Model’s second and tenth picks is less than one and half percent.
Expert Analysis: Frankly, I'm just glad Lou didn't go all chalk again. I'm all for a breezy task, but scrutinizing his picks was easier than dunking on a Little Tykes hoop. (Just kidding, professor.)
I like the Fowler pick; the new layout should put an emphasis on shotmaking, and few are better than Fowler. Same goes with Patrick Reed, who's coming off impressive displays at Erin Hills and TPC River Highlands. If the renovations achieve their intended results, this week's winner will be one who can keep the ball in the short stuff, an attribute both players command.
After that, however, the selections become questionable.
In one regard, credit to the Model for going off the grid. In that same tone, we're struggling to understand the basis for its belief. Hudson Swafford enters with four missed cuts in his past five outings, and shortcomings in his iron accuracy and short game don't seem to forecast success at this relatively short track. Also drawing a curious look is Luke List, who's one of the more dazzling players off the tee but has struggled -- five missed cuts in last seven outings -- as of late. Finally, while Graham DeLaet has been rejuvenated in 2017 and is a nice long-shot, selecting the Canadian as the second-best pick is a head-scratcher.
And yes, I realize the hypocrisy of hammering Lou for picking all favorites in the first two weeks, only to turn around and ridicule his dark horses. What can I say, this is war.
Charles Howell III
Si Woo Kim
Expert Analysis: Thomas and Fowler seem like copouts, but with a limited field -- both in size and prestige -- the cream should rise to the top. Look for Thomas to bounce-back from an early exit at the Travelers.
Chappell has followed up his win in Texas with a T-4 in Memphis and a top-25 finish at the U.S. Open. His approach performance hasn't lived up to last year's breakout standards, but Chappell remains an assassin with an iron in his hands and warrants a spot in your fantasy lineup.
While Bill Haas is 41st in strokes gained/approach, he does rank eighth in greens in regulation. Coupled with his scoring average (13th) and recent hot streak (T-12 at Colonial, T-4 at Erin Hills), Haas is a safe pick for another fine showing this week.
As for the wild cards, Si Woo Kim proved he's not a one-hit wonder at the U.S. Open with a respectable T-13. If Kim can avoid the big numbers -- and just as importantly, back aggravation -- he should be in the mix come the weekend. And though Lovemark's inconsistency is maddening, he does have reps at this course, playing it twice on the Web.com circuit. Look for that experience to pay off.