The best players are resting this week. Most of them anyway. Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka headline the field of the Palmetto Championship at Congaree, a one-off stop in South Carolina filling in for the Canadian Open, which can’t be held due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The golf course is a gem. A Tom Fazio design with the Melbourne Sand Belt in mind. Firm, fast, wide fairways and undulating greens surrounded by sand. The course is a 7,655-yard, par 71 that is considered one of the top 100 courses in America by the raters and such.
New course, new tournament and what feels like an opposite-field event. If ever a tournament was wide open on a Thursday morning, this is it. Sources who have played the course tell us strong iron play and short game are imperative to successfully maneuver around this beauty. There will be 3-putts and greenside disasters. The Concession Club, which played host to the WGC-Workday Championship earlier this season comes to mind as a comparable course. Unfortunately, not many players who participated in that elite field have a tee time this week at Congaree.
RELATED: The Caddie Line homepage | Palmetto Championship at Congaree course preview
You’ll hear and see comparisons to Royal Melbourne. The general consensus is scoring will be relatively easy. Afternoon thunderstorms dot the forecast each day and the wind isn’t expected to be a significant factor. A dozen players or so are certain to capitalize on wide fairways, pure greens and calm conditions.
We’ve pegged players who have shown recent form or fared well on longer, firmer courses and don’t freak out when the Stimpmeter reaches the teens. We also examined the men on the bubble. The end of the 2020-21 season is also rapidly approaching. The players hovering around the magic 125 slot in the FedEx Cup rankings understand the opportunity ahead. The points available this week count the same as any other week and in theory are easier to attain with most of the superstars sitting at home and some who are here likely looking ahead to Southern California and the National Open.
Have some fun with your rosters this week. Don’t fear a longshot. We studied the middle of the pack, searching for value. The golf course, by all accounts, is a delight, and the club has been a tremendous addition to the Ridgeland community and surrounding areas. As always, good luck.
The Bargain Bin
- Kramer Hickok, Sung Kang, William McGirt, Bryson Nimmer, John Pak
Golfer power rankings
25. Adam Schenk – Folks, we have to take a few chances this week. Venture down a dark, untrodden road or two. Schenk last recorded a top 10 in 2019 but he putts well on Bermuda, ranks second in the field in proximity from 175-200 yards and is 13th in ballstriking over the last 12 rounds. He’s made seven of the last 10 cuts.
24. Martin Laird – Has made seven of the last eight cuts including a T-38 at the Masters and T-23 at the PGA where he led the field in SG: Approach. Makes birdies in bunches on longer courses (ninth in field) and ranks fourth in ballstriking over the last 12 rounds.
23. Seamus Power – Posted his best finish of the season in mid-May at the Byron Nelson (T-9) and is certainly itching to build upon that success. Thrives on and around the greens in fast, firm conditions. Has gained strokes on approach in each of his last three tournaments and played the weekend in four consecutive outings. Frequent 3-putter, though.
22. Harold Varner III – Posted a career best T-2 down the road in Hilton Head in April and has flourished from tee-to-green (fourth in the field over the last 50 rounds) throughout the season. Ranks 145th in the field on faster bermuda surfaces, which could keep him from contending.
21. Sungjae Im – The price is high on the young South Korean star this week considering he’s missed three of the last four cuts due to poor iron play. Still, he’s a Bermuda green master and finished T-17 at Kiawah last month. Among the best on longer courses in firm conditions.
20. Luke List – Held the course record at Congaree at one time and should enjoy blasting mammoth drives down the spacious fairways. Leads the field in par-5 scoring on longer courses and other than ranking 118th in putting has strong ballstriking metrics across the board. Scuffled since a T-6 at Wells Fargo (T-61 and two MCs).
19. Patton Kizzire – The Sea Island resident should feel comfortable at Congaree and his pure putting stroke thrives on slick surfaces (second in field). Collected a trio of top 10s in Texas in the last two months including T-3s at the Byron Nelson and Colonial.
18. Tommy Fleetwood – Hard to believe he’s finished in the top 10 in the U.S. only once in the last 15 months. Feels like this could be the course and low-key tournament to shake him out of a slumber. Desperate to build momentum entering the upcoming Opens. Many thought he would’ve won one by now.
17. Vincent Whaley – Riding a streak of nine consecutive cuts made and four top 30s in a row behind strong all-around play, gaining strokes in every measurable area. Loves to putt on Bermuda. He’s 124th in the FedEx Cup standings and in position to secure his place in the playoffs.
16. Jhonnatan Vegas – He’s second in the field in ballstriking over the last 12 rounds anywhere and 21st in putting over the last 24 rounds on fast greens. Aggressive nature should produce plenty of birdies. Has made 9 of the last 10 cuts and at 103rd in the FedEx Cup can solidify his playoff plans.
15. Doc Redman – It’s been a disappointing 2021 for the North Carolina native and former Clemson star. But we still believe Redman has time to rebound. He’s made progress on approach shots in the last three tournaments and has a T-9 at the Byron Nelson as proof.
14. Rafa Cabrera Bello – Started strong at Memorial before fading to T-37, unable to recover from a 78 in the third round. Has gained strokes on approach, around the greens and with the putter in the last five tournaments. Tends to play his best on longer, firmer courses.
13. Nate Lashley – The putter has been the problem since his late collapse at Pebble Beach but despite losing 2.2 strokes on the greens finished T-32 at the Colonial to snap a string of three missed cuts. History says he’ll find the touch this week – ranks 12th in the field on ultra fast greens.
12. Ben Martin – Needs a strong late push to earn exempt status for the 2021-22 season (160th in FedEx Cup) but the game is trending upward at the right time. Finished T-11 and T-26 on two long golf courses in Dallas and Charlotte. The former Clemson standout has played well on the Carolina coast in the past and ranks seventh in the field in SG: Ballstriking over the last 12 rounds. Rarely 3-putts.
11. Pat Perez – Has missed only one cut in the last eight starts but the driver has deterred his march up the leaderboard. That should be less of a factor at Congaree. Bermuda is his favorite surface and his iron play and short game are consistently strong.
10. Vaughn Taylor – Among the best in the field at firing precise iron shots from 175-225 yards. Putts well on fast Bermuda and handles the par 5s (20th in the field). All-or-nothing of late sandwiching a T-6 at Valspar and T-18 at Memorial around two missed cuts.
9. Brandt Snedeker – Have always enjoyed how Snedeker plays the game and a strategic course like Congaree should let his creativity and short game shine. Surprisingly, only his putter (101st in field on fast or lightning greens) is holding him back. A trio of top 20s in his last five outings.
8. Harris English – Went from automatic pick to forgotten man for a few months but game is rounding into form again and he’s another Sea Island resident who should feel super comfortable in South Carolina. Gained 2.3 strokes on approach at Kiawah and his short game is sharp.
7. Dustin Johnson – The Vegas favorite is here because he’s a South Carolina native and because he hasn’t played since missing the PGA cut at Kiawah two weeks ago. Trying to find some form before he heads west in search of a second U.S. Open title. I’m taking a wait-and-see approach with the bookmakers and in fantasy formats. But he’s always dangerous. Leads the field in SG: Total on long courses in firm conditions over his last 24 rounds.
6. Keith Mitchell – Birdie machine putts his best on slick surfaces and enjoys ample opportunities because of radar iron shots when conditions are firm. Gained 7.4 strokes Off-the-Tee in his third-place finish at Quail Hollow last month and could enjoy similar success driving down these boulevards.
5. Tyrrell Hatton – Hatton has everything required to win golf tournaments in the U.S. except for consistently putting well on fast greens (105th in the field). He’s top five in the field in SG: Ballstriking over the last 50 rounds and one of golf’s elite iron players.
4. Lucas Glover – A national ambassador for Congaree, not many in the field will better understand the angles, nuance and speed of the Fazio layout. He’s not searching for form either having missed only one cut in the last 10 tournaments and notching two top 10s in the span.
3. Brooks Koepka – The four-time major champion had the loudest week off in pro golf history. Wish I had a time machine because I’d pay to watch a winner-take-all cage match between Brooks, Bryson, Bill Glasson and Jim Dent when each was at his physical peak. Ol Brooksy is gonna ballstrike his way around the place (leads the field) but hopefully he spent some time on the greens in between Tweets last week.
2. Ian Poulter – Probably the best top-shelf value on the fantasy board this week. It’s a Ryder Cup year and yet again Poulter has found magic in his bag, grinding out solid finishes week after week, most recently a T-3 at Colonial, where he gained 3.9 strokes on approach.
1. Matt Fitzpatrick – Besides waking up and wondering why he’s 3,000 miles away from next week’s U.S. Open Fitzpatrick must relish the challenge presented on this course. He’s a crafty shotmaker and brilliant putter on fast greens. We’re writing off last week’s MC at Memorial to an uncharacteristic poor performance with his irons.