Palmetto Championship: Congaree a course to savour

Golfer Dustin Johnson
Palmetto Championship favourite, Dustin Johnson, in action

With just a week to go before the US Open at Torrey Pines, the PGA Tour returns to South Carolina for the sole edition of the Palmetto Championship and our man's back with the lowdown here...

"I suspect approach play is going to be key and the final leaderboard will be littered by players ranking highly for Greens In Regulation and Strokes Gained Approach."

Tournament History

The Palmetto Championship is a brand-new, one-off tournament staged on the PGA Tour to replace the RBC Canadian Open which is the latest tournament to be lost due to the pandemic.

Venue

Congaree Golf Club, Gillsonville, South Carolina.

Course Details

Par 71, 7,655 yards

Congaree is a unique-looking Tom Fazio design that only opened in 2017. It was voted Golf Digest's best new private course for 2018, as well as being named the best golf course built during the decade of 2010-19.

Situated around 40 miles north of Harbour Town, home of the RBC Heritage, Congaree was designed and built to resemble the courses found across the Sandbelt region of Melbourne, Australia.

Sitting within a 3,200 acre site that was once an 18th-century rice plantation, thousands of pine trees were removed to create playing corridors that are sand capped to promote firm and fast playing conditions and a number of open expanses were created to produce large, sandy expanses.

Large, open-fronted greens with closely mown runoff areas should see players putting from off the greens, although it's not an entirely links-like scenario as some greens are said to be elevated.

Water is in play on ten holes and there is no rough but as you'll see here in the PGA Tour's hole-by-hole flyover, there's plenty of sand!

With Bermuda fairways and greens, Congaree looks like a cross between a links style course and the US Open venue, Pinehurst, where Martin Kaymer cruised to victory in 2014.

It really does look like an unusual and unique looking track and it's one I'm very much looking forward to seeing.

Weather Forecast

TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 20:00 on Thursday.

What Will it Take to Win the Palmetto Championship?

With no previous course form to ponder, we're in the dark statistically.

Dave Tindall has some good quotes from the Managing Director of Congaree GC in his each-way piece but it's very difficult to know which sort of player is going to be suited to the track.

I suspect links form may be of some use and although long on paper, I don't think it's going to reward the big hitters. In all likelihood, the course will be set up shorter than the official yardage and with two of the three par fives appearing to be three-shot holes for everyone, bombing it off the tee isn't going to be a tremendous benefit.

I suspect approach play is going to be key and the final leaderboard will be littered by players ranking highly for Greens In Regulation and Strokes Gained Approach.

Is There an Angle In?

The only Tom Fazio designed course that we visit every season at present is the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship course in the Dominican Republic but he's been responsible for redesigns at Quail Hollow (home of the Wells Fargo Championship), Riviera Country Club (Genesis Invitational) and the Seaside Course at Sea Island which hosts the RSM Classic.

Quail and Riviera bear no resemblance to Congaree but Sea Island, which is situated some 40 miles south of Congaree, may be worth consideration. Of the four mentioned, that track would resemble Congaree the closest.

Florida form worthy of consideration

Anyone with form in South Carolina will be worthy of close inspection and those that putt well on Bermuda should come to the fore.

That brings Quail Hollow back into the conversation again and most of the courses the PGA Tour visits in Florida are Bermuda but one Floridian track in-particular that I thought may correlate better than most is the Concession Club that was used recently for another one-off event - the WGC Workday Championship in February.

Like Congaree, the Concession Club has a natural look and feel with Bermuda greens set to run at 12 on the Stimpmeter. It's all guesswork to a degree but I thought form at that event may hold up well here.

Should we swerve the US Open qualifiers?

With the US Open at Torrey Pines now just a week away, as many as nine different qualifiers were staged on Monday and two of them - one in Ohio and one California - are yet to finish thanks to poor weather.

The results and scores for the nine are all listed here on the US Open website so it may be worth just checking if someone you like has been involved.

Quite what you do with that info is anyone's guess though as it's impossible to gauge how individuals will react. Qualification for next week's major should, in theory, be a tremendous boost for anyone playing this week and vice versa, the disappointment of failure may drag others down but it's probably not that simple.

Market Leaders

The world number one, Dustin Johnson, is from South Carolina and I thought this venue would suit him nicely but his form has fallen off a cliff of late and he's hard to fancy after a missed cut in his home state at the USPGA Championship last time out.

Of the market leaders, Brooks Koepka is the one I came closest to backing. He finished second to Phil Mickelson last time out in the USPGA and he also finished second at the aforementioned Concession Club in February.

Brooks Koepka at the USPGA.jpg

Koepka tends to find his form at the time of the majors, winning and placing either side of previous championships, and if his post-op knee doesn't trouble him I can see him contending, provided he can keep his mind on the job in hand and not his childish feud with Bryson DeChambeau.

Although I'm a big Tyrrell Hatton fan, and that this venue will suit him, I'm not convinced he's playing well enough to side with at around 15.014/1 and I'm very surprised to see fellow Englishman, Matt Fitzpatrick trading at not much bigger given he's yet to win on the PGA Tour. It's not the strongest of fields but he looks very short.

Selections

I've got a couple I like at a triple-figure price but I'll save them for tomorrow's Find Me a 100 Winner column.

I was tempted by Keith Mitchell, who won the Honda Classic on Bermuda greens a couple of years ago, but he's short enough at 50.049/1 and with so many unknowns, be it the course, the reaction by so many to Monday's US Open qualifiers, or indeed, how much of an eye the field will have on next week's major, this makes for a very tricky puzzle to solve so I'm more than happy to take it steady before the off.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

Palmetto Championship 2021: Palmetto Championship 2021 (Winner)

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Sunday 13 June, 12.30pm

Market rules

Back Lay
Chesson Hadley
Harris English
Dustin Johnson
Garrick Higgo
Tyrrell Hatton
Jhonattan Vegas
Danny Lee
Seamus Power
Doc Redman
Bo Van Pelt
Bryson Nimmer
Pat Perez
Joseph Bramlett
Scott Piercy
Tain Lee
Wes Roach
Luke Donald
Chase Seiffert
Rob Oppenheim
Scott Harrington
Davis Thompson
Matt Fitzpatrick
Erik Van Rooyen
Hudson Swafford
David Lipsky
Kevin Chappell
Patrick Rodgers
Satoshi Kodaira
Ian Poulter
C.T. Pan
Aaron Baddeley
Tommy Fleetwood
Sungjae Im
Chez Reavie
Brandt Snedeker
Byeong Hun An
Andrew Putnam
J.B. Holmes
Nick Taylor
Vaughn Taylor
Russell Knox
Tyler Duncan
Robby Shelton
Mark Hubbard
Beau Hossler
Henrik Norlander
Matthew NeSmith
Adam Schenk
Ryan Armour
Sam Ryder
Roger Sloan
Hank Lebioda
Austin Cook
Peter Uihlein
Josh Teater
Rhein Gibson
Michael Gellerman
Chris Baker
Anirban Lahiri
Jonathan Byrd
Bill Haas
Rafael Campos
Wilco Nienaber
Ben Taylor
Will Gordon
Broc Everett
Richard S. Johnson
Robert Garrigus
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