Quicken Loans National: Texas form could be the key for tough Maryland test

Bill Haas – fancied to go well by The Punter
Bill Haas – fancied to go well by The Punter

We're off to Maryland on the PGA Tour this week to a reworked venue - TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm. Read what our man thinks of the new course layout ahead of Thursday's start here...


“With two wins in 2010 and one each in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015, Haas is prolific enough and he tends to perform well in the same events. He’s won the Humana Challenge twice and his form figures in this tournament over the last four years read a blindingly obvious 1-30-4-3. I thought 29.028/1 was more than fair.”

Tournament History

Formerly the AT&T National, the Quicken Loans National replaced the old Colorado-based stapleford event called the International on the PGA Tour. K.J Choi won the first renewal as recently as 2007.

It's Tiger Woods' tournament and the Tiger Woods Foundation is the charity that benefits but whether we'll see anything of the former world number one this time around is debatable given his personal problems.


Venue

TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, Maryland.


Course Details

Par 70, 7,139 yards

The Quicken Loans National moved to Aronimink for the 2010 and 2011 editions, while its usual host venue, Congressional, was used for the 2011 US Open (won by Rory McIlroy) and it was played at the Robert Trent Jones Course in Virginia two years ago. The Congressional members have decided that they don't want the upheaval of staging a PGA Tour event every year so we're changing venue again for this, the 11th renewal, to TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm.

TPC Potomac used to be known as TPC Avenel and it was the host course for the now defunct Booz Allen Classic between 1987 and 2006, with the exception of 2005, when the tournament was staged at Congressional, while Avenel underwent a redesign. Situated between a housing development and a sewage works, Avenel was almost universally disliked and it was considered a much inferior venue to the tournament's previous hosts, Congressional and Quail Hollow (this year's USPGA Championship venue).

The Booz Allen tumbled in stature until it eventually died a death and after the final renewal in '06, the course underwent a substantial renovation lasting two years and the course was renamed and rebranded.

All the greens, tees and fairways were rebuilt with Bentgrass (previously poa annua) and a new irrigation and drainage system. The greens were re-orientated and re-contoured, and all bunkers were re-positioned and re-shaped, adding tall fescue grasses to some. All holes were re-graded and had their fairways reduced to approximately 30 to 35 yards. Accent features like stone walls and eight timber bridges create an older feel and charm.

To help make TPC Potomac a better course for hosting a PGA TOUR event, all of the spectator mounds were lowered to create a more natural look, with views of multiple holes available from singular locations.

At the 2006 Booz Allen, the course was set up as a 6,987 yard par 71 so around 150 yards have been added and the par has been reduced. The par five sixth is now a par four.

The course in its old guise wasn't a tough examination and Ben Curtis won the final Booz Allen with a 20-under-par total but we can expect a much tougher task this week.

TPC Potomac hosted the 2010 Senior Players Championship, won by Mark O'Meara in a playoff with a seven-under-par total and was also the venue for the last two editions of the now defunct Mid-Atlantic Championship on the web.com Tour. David Lingmerth won with an eight-under-par total in 2012 and Michael Putnam took the title 12 months later with a seven-under-par winning score.

The TPC website has much more on the venue here and the hole descriptions for the 2013 event on the Web.com Tour are here.


Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 20:30 UK and Ireland time on Thursday.


Last Five Winners

2016 - Billy Hurley -17
2015 - Troy Merritt -18 (Robert Trent Jones Golf Club)
2014 - Justin Rose -4 (playoff)
2013 - Bill Hass -12
2012 - Tiger Woods -8


What Will it Take to Win the Quicken Loans National?


It sounds like the venue is going to be unrecognisable to the one encountered in 2006 so the Booz Allen form is worthless and if the scoring at the three events held here since the redesign are anything to go by, we're going to get a tough test.

The first and second at the Mid-Atlantic Championship in 2013, Putnam and Chesson Hadley, were the only two in the field to limit bogeys to a single figure total and a year earlier, the first five home all kept their bogey tallies below 10. With very little to go on, the Bogey Avoidance stats here may provide some sort of guidance.


Is There an Angle In?


It really is a tough job to know what to expect here but it might pay to check out form at other par 70 courses with bentgrass greens that tend to produce low winning totals. The WGC Bridgestone Invitational venue, Firestone, is the most obvious and Colonial Country Club, home of the Dean & Deluca Invitational, looks a great comparison but next week's venue, the Greenbrier's Old White, and TPC Four Season, where the Byron Nelson has been played may also be worth looking at, although the scoring at those two tracks tends to be a bit higher.


Is There an Identikit Winner?


Having previously dismissed form at the venue before the redesign, it's perhaps a bit disingenuous to now mention that many of the winners of the Booz Allen were getting off the mark for the first time and I wouldn't have mentioned it had I not been highlighting the fact that the last two event winners were first-timers too.

If Troy Merritt and Billy Hurley have started a trend then first timers at huge prices may be one way of playing this week. Merritt was matched at 800.0799/1 before the off and Hurley 400.0399/1.

Those two renewals could be a blip though and prior to Merrit's success, the winners were all fairly well-fancied and very much in-form. All eight had already shown plenty of form earlier in the season - regardless of venue. The first six winners had all won earlier in the season and the two winners before Merritt, Justin Rose and Bill Haas, had both recorded a couple of top-five finishes.


In-Play Tactics


Putnam started slowly in 2013, sitting tied for 48th and six adrift after round one but like the two previous course winners since the redesign, he was inside the top three and within two of the lead at halfway.

Again, I'm arguably being a bit hypocritical to look at the Booz Allen results having claimed earlier that the form is worthless but if it is worth anything at all, winners tended to be right up with the pace very early on in that event too. In fact, seven of the last eight Booz Allen winners sat first or second at halfway.


Market Leaders


Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed dominate the betting but I'm more than happy to swerve all three. At various points throughout the week, all three were in the think of it at the US Open at Erin Hills and that has to be a negative.

Although I haven't mentioned as a metric to steer us before now, Par 4 Performance or Par 4 Scoring are always good stats to peruse whenever we encounter a par 70 with only two par fives so that's a box emphatically ticked for Thomas who is 41-under-par on the par fours so far this season. That sees him top the Par 4 Performance stats quite comfortably with a scoring average of 3.9 but it's not a great stat for Fowler and Reed.

Fowler, who ranks 42nd, is +8 with an average of 4.02 and Reed, who ranks way down in 89th, is 25-over-par with an average of 4.03 and it was their performances on the par fours that did for their chances at the US Open. They were the only two players in the top-15 at Erin Hills to play the par fours in over-par.

Fowler, whose bottle was again questioned after the US Open, wasn't at his best after the opening round and he finished placed because of some spectacular scrambling and because of his play on the long holes. He played the par fives better than anyone in 11-under-par.

This is Fowler's first start since his disappointing result at Erin Hills and Thomas showed us last week at the Travelers Championship, where he missed the cut, just how hard it is to pick yourself up after a big disappointment.

Reed did okay at the Travelers, finishing tied for fifth, but that was the latest in a run of events where he's got in to contention but flopped and as I am with Fowler and Thomas, I'm happy to leave him out.


Selections


Although they didn't quite fit the course profile I was looking at, both Riviera (par 71) and East Lake (par 70) are tough courses and Bill Haas has won at both. He's also been beaten in a playoff at the Greenbrier Classic (see above) and he arrives here on the back of a stress-free fifth at Erin Hills.

Haas' record in majors used to be legendarily bad until he finished tied ninth at the Open last year so his fifth from off the pace in the US Open two weeks ago was eye-catching and his best in a major. And it's bound to serve as a fillip going forward.

With two wins in 2010 and one each in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015, Haas is prolific enough and he tends to perform well in the same events. He's won the Humana Challenge twice and his form figures in this tournament over the last four years read a blindingly obvious 1-30-4-3. Haas is currently ranked third in the Bogey Avoidance stats and I thought 29.028/1 was more than fair.

Danny Lee has understandably shortened up given his sole victory to date came in the aforementioned Greenbrier Classic and his recent form is striking. His fifth in the Byron Nelson and his sixth in the Dean & Deluca read especially well given the possible course correlation and after a couple of top-40s at the Memorial and the St Jude, he bounced back to finish tied for third last week at the Travelers. Given how well he's playing, how likely the course is to suit him, and that there are seven places on offer, the 40/1 with the Sportsbook looks dandy.

James Hahn - who is Dave Tindall's headline selection this week - is hard to catch right but he's too big at 80.079/1 given the course should suit and that he's just sandwiched a missed cut at the Dean & Deluca with a third in the Byron Nelson and a sixth in the Memorial Tournament. And last but not least, just in case we do get another first time winner, I've thrown a few pounds at Morgan Hoffman, who was sixth at the venue in 2012.


Selections:
Bill Haas @ 29.028/1
Danny Lee (each-way) @ 40/1 (Sportsbook)
James Hahn @ 80.079/1
Morgan Hoffman @ 120.0119/1


I'll be back on Friday with the In-Play Blog.



*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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