Deutsche Bank Championship: In-form, top-class scramblers fit the bill in Boston

Patrick Reed ticks all the boxes this week
Patrick Reed ticks all the boxes this week

The FedEx Cup final series rolls into TPC Boston for a birdie-fest where the cream usually rises to the top. Steve Rawlings has all the essential info you need to know before striking a Deutsche Bank bet in his weekly preview...

"Last year's winner, Rickie Fowler, ranked number one for Scrambling. The previous four winners had ranked third, second, sixth and fourth for Scrambling and 22nd (Charley Hoffman in 2010) is the worst any winner has ranked for that stat."

Tournament History

First staged as recently as 2003, the Deutsche Bank Championship is one of the youngest events on the PGA Tour. Since 2007, it's been the second leg of the FedEx Cup Playoff series and the field is made up entirely of the top-100 on the FedEx Cup standings after last week's Barclays.

It's Labor Day in the States next weekend so as it does every year, the tournament runs from Friday to Monday.


Venue

TPC Boston, Norton, Massachusetts


Course Details

Par 71, 7,242 yards
Stroke index in 2015 - 70.96

The Arnold Palmer-designed TPC Boston only opened in 2002 but it's been tweaked a bit already.

Gil Hanse, who designed the Olympic Course in Rio, with help from Brad Faxon, made changes to the track in 2007, reducing the length of the course by around 200 yards. The biggest change came at the 4th hole which was converted into a drivable par 4 and further changes were made prior to the 2012 renewal, in an attempt to toughen-up the 18th. The green was raised by a couple of feet and it was halved in size but it didn't make an awful lot of difference, it's still a very good chance to end your round with at least a birdie and only the 4th played easier last year.

Here's what Phil Mickelson had to say about the place a few years ago: "This is one of my favourite courses we play on Tour. I think it's one of the best courses we play.

"It's got a lot of character and definition, but more than that it's got a great mixture of holes, from long par-5s to reachable par-5s to drivable par-4s to really long par-4s, the fescue grass, the rough. It's just a wonderful way to play the game where you have such a great mixture of every club in your bag.

"You have birdie opportunities; you have tough pars as opposed to some courses nowadays where it's just hard, hard, hard. Hard is hard, but it's not great, it's not fun. But this golf course is a great golf course, and it's a fun golf course to play."

The bent grass greens are always highly praised and they usually run at around 11.5 on the stimpmeter.

Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky all four days, starting on Friday


Last Five Winners

2015 - Rickie Fowler -15
2014 - Chris Kirk -15
2013 - Henrik Stenson -22
2012 - Rory McIlroy -20
2011 - Webb Simpson -15 (playoff)


What Will it Take to Win The Deutsche Bank Championship?

Last year's winner, Rickie Fowler, ranked 30th for Driving Distance and 26th for Driving Accuracy and that was fairly apt given the averages of the previous ten winners for those two stats was 25.6 for DD and 25.8 for DA.

The previous ten winners had an average Greens In Regulation ranking of 17.6, so Fowler brought that down a bit by ranking sixth. Runner-up, Henrik Stenson, ranked third for GIR 12 months ago and Jim Furyk, who finished tied for fourth, ranked number one so GIR looks a more important statistic that either of the two tee-shot indicators but to succeed here you need to putt well and scramble even better. Fowler's Putting Average ranking was fifth and he was the ninth winner in ten years to rank inside the top-seven for that stat and he ranked number one for Scrambling. Fowler got up-and-down time and time and again and he made 14 putts of ten feet or more.

The previous four winners had ranked third, second, sixth and fourth for Scrambling and 22nd (Charley Hoffman in 2010) is the worst any winner has ranked for that stat.


Is There an Angle In?

To have reached the top 100 in the standings and to be in the line-up for the second FedEx Cup Series event, everyone in the field has had a fairly decent year but to win this event, unless your name's Chris Kirk, you need to be in really good form. The out-of-form Kirk was a huge outsider and a shock winner in 2014 but even he'd won earlier in the season but just about every winner here has been very much in-form.

The week before winning this, Fowler had missed the cut at The Barclays, but he'd been enjoying himself before that with a win at the Players Championship in May, victory at the Scottish Open in July and a second place finish in the Quicken Loans National in August. The 2013 winner, Henrik Stenson, hadn't won prior to wining here and, like Kirk in 2014, he'd finished down the field at The Barclays the week before but he'd been in red-hot form before that having finished second at the Open Championship and the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational and third in the USPGA Championship, and four of the five winners before him had won an event in the weeks leading up to this event.

In 2012, Rory McIlroy, who finished only 24th at The Barclays, had won the USPGA Championship. The 2011 champ, Webb Simpson, had won the Wyndham Championship in his penultimate start and the 2010 winner, Charley Hoffman, had finished inside the top-ten in three of his previous five starts, Steve Stricker had claimed victory at the John Deere Classic and he'd been second the week before at The Barclays. In 2009 and in 2008, Vijay Singh was making it back-to-back wins, having won The Barclays.

When Mickelson won here in 2007, he'd finished seventh at The Barclays the previous week and the 2006 winner, Tiger Woods, was winning his fifth event in-a-row! Singh had won both the Buick Open and the USPGA Championship in the month before he won here in 2004 and in the 13 renewals to date, only Kirk two years ago, the inaugural winner, Adam Scott, and shock winner Olin Browne in 2005 can't be described as being at the very top of their game.

Stricker once said of this venue, "It's a fun course ... I think it's a good test. It's one of those if you're playing well, you can shoot a good number." And that sums it up perfectly. It's somewhere where low numbers are the norm (the course record is 61 shot by two men, Vijay Singh and Mike Weir) and you need to be at your best concentrating on in-form players might make sense but I'd definitely forgive a poor week at The Barclays.

The last four winners have all had a sizable blip in the first Playoff Series event and it's as if that has woken them up again. Reading backwards, here's how the last six have performed in that event - MC-53-43-24-10-27. They're poor figures given all bar Kirk was in really great form.


Is There an Identikit Winner?

With a tournament's as young as this, we can look at its history in its entirety and so far 10 of the 13 winners have been fairly well fancied. That's no surprise given how so many of the winners have been in fine fettle but we've still had three shock winners. Kirk was matched at 250.0249/1 before the off two years ago and very few would have fancied Olin Browne in 2005 or Hoffman in 2010.


In-Play Tactics

Having opened up with a four-under-par 67, Fowler sat second after round one last year and he was never outside the front-three places all week long, but a sluggish start can be overcome here.

Kirk's win was quite bizarre in 2014 - he shot 73 on day one, trailed by ten, and was matched at 1000.0 and he's not the only winner to start slowly. Inaugural winner, Scott, was six back and tied for 23rd, Mickelson was seven adrift after an opening 70 in 2007, and both Simpson and Stenson were outside the top-20 and four adrift after the first round when they won.

Ten of the 13 winners to date have been inside the top six places at halfway and no winner has been more than five strokes adrift at that stage so you do need to be up there after 36 holes but being in front with a round to go is far from ideal. Steve Stricker was tied for the lead when he won in 2009 but we have to go all the way back to 2005 to find the last solo 54 hole leader to win and Stenson, 12 months ago, became the ninth sole third round leader to get beat in-a-row!


Market Leaders

I was quite confident Jason Day would kick on nicely when he hit the front during round two of The Barclays last week but a bogey-double bogey-bogey run around the turn severely hampered momentum and in the end he did well to finish just two strokes behind Patrick Reed given how poorly the word number one drove the ball.

Day has form figures here reading 50-19-2-3-51-13-7-12 so it's a venue he enjoys and I wouldn't put anyone off backing him. Driving the ball straight is certainly not vital this week, but he'll nevertheless have to improve in that department to figure.

Dustin Johnson fits the mould given recent winners have been in form but they've had a disappointing week at The Barclays. His 18th there might prove to be a lovely warm-up and prior to his missed cut at the USPGA Championship he was in sparkling form. His course form figures read 4-57-42-4-27-44 so, although he's had chances to win here, he hasn't always played well and the fact that he currently sits 70th on the PGA Tour's Scrambling stats list doesn't bode especially well either.

The 2012 winner, Rory McIlroy, is yet again easy to dismiss. He was in the form of his life when he took the title four years ago and he's a long way from that level at present. He too ranks lowly for Scrambling (74th) and I'm more than happy to pass him over.

Jordan Spieth missed the cut here last year and he was only 29th in 2014 but he finished fourth here on debut in 2013 and he's the sort of short-game wizard to prosper here. His 10th at The Barclays last week was a decent effort and he has to be respected but he hasn't been at his best for much of 2016 and I'm happy to leave him out also.

Henrik Stenson ticks all the right boxes. He's was playing brilliantly before he withdrew from The Barclays with pain in his knee and so that's obviously a risk but he withdrew from the US Open before winning the Open Championship so we perhaps shouldn't read too much into it. The 2013 winner pushed Rickie Fowler all the way last year and so this course clearly fits his eye and he might be worth chancing if he drifts before the off.

Selections

There are numerous examples of back-to-back FedEx Cup Playoff winners so I'm going to chance last week's winner, Patrick Reed. The Texan is a brilliant scrambler with course form already in the bank. He finished fourth last year and could be value to go three places better this time around.

My only other pick is Brandt Snedeker, who looks a great fit. He was disappointing last week when finishing 48th but he was in fine fettle before that and he finished placed here for three years in-a-row between 2010 and 2012. Snedeker currently ranks 20th for Scrambling and he loks a decent price to bounce-back and contend again.

Selections:
Patrick Reed @ 25/1 (Sportsbook)
Brandt Snedeker @ 50/1 (Sportsbook)

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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