The WGC Workday Championship kicks off a four-week long Florida Swing for the PGA on Thursday and Steve Rawlings goes in-depth to preview the tournament...
"Patrick Reed comes to the fore in these big events and if I'm correct about this course having a similar feel to Copperhead, he might just take to the place. Reed finished second to Paul Casey there in 2018."
Due to the pandemic, and the difficulty surrounding travel, the Florida-based WGC Workday Championship, based in Florida is this year replacing what would have been the fifth edition of the WGC Mexico Championship.
The WGC Mexico started life as the WGC-American Express in 1999 and it's also been called the WGC-CA Championship and between 2011 and 2016, prior to its move from Doral to Mexico, the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
Moving to Florida makes perfect sense given it's position in the PGA Tour schedule and the WGC Workday Championship now kicks off a four-week long swing in America's Sunshine State.
The Workday is a limited field event with no halfway cut.
The Concession Golf Club, Bradenton, Florida
Par 72, 7,474 yards
Opened in 2006, the Concession Club is named after one of the game's most sporting moments. It occurred in 1969 when Jack Nicklaus famously conceded a putt to Tony Jacklin that resulted in the Ryder Cup being a tie for the first time in its history.
"I don't believe you would have missed that, but I'd never give you the opportunity in these circumstances," Nicklaus is said to have told Jacklin.
The two men collaborated on the Concession, although it appears Nicklaus had the heavier influence.
Like other Nicklaus tracks, the fairways are generous enough and that the Concession is a second shot course with segmented and undulating TifEagle bermuda greens that will be set at 12 on the stimpmeter.
This will be the first time the Concession Club will be used on the PGA Tour. It did, however, host course the 2015 NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championship which was won by Bryson DeChambeau.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, beginning with Featured Group coverage at 16:00 on Thursday. Full coverage starts at 18:00 UK time
Last five winners with pre-event Exchange prices
2020 - Patrick Reed -18 55.054/1
2019 - Dustin Johnson -19 12.011/1
2018 - Phil Mickelson 2017 -16 (playoff) 36.035/1
2017 - Dustin Johnson -14 8.27/1
2016 - Adam Scott -12 (Doral) 15.014/1
Is there an angle in?
Given this is the first event staged at the Concession Club, we're in the dark to a certain degree.
Visually, the course is somewhat similar in appearance to Copperhead, which hosts the Valspar Championship. The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook is positioned further up the west coast of Florida but like the Concession, it's inland and it's not a typical Floridian layout. It's more natural in appearance and less exposed.
Form at Copperhead could be worth looking at and so too could form at a couple of other Nicklaus courses - Muirfield Village, home of The Memorial Tournament and the PGA National, which hosts the Honda Classic - but until we actually get to see the course in play and hear what the players think of it, it's all guesswork to at least some extent.
Is there an identikit winner?
The last four editions of this event were played at the tree-lined Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico and between 2007 and 2016, the tournament was staged at Doral in South Florida so it's been staged at two very different courses over the last eight years. But that hasn't stopped a strong trend from emerging.
Each of the last eight editions of the tournament have been won by a US Masters champion and, had Justin Rose beaten Sergio Garcia in the 2017 playoff at Augusta, it would have been nine.
As you'd expect - given the last eight renewals have been won by a Masters champ and only one of the event's previous winners hasn't won a major championship - outsiders don't have a great record.
Nick Watney, who won at Doral in 2011, is the only winner not to have won a major. A few months before taking this title, however, he'd taken a three-stroke lead into the final round of the US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits where he traded at odds-on before collapsing after a triple-bogey at the par three seventh. The poor man shot 81 to finish tied for 18th.
Given we haven't yet seen the course, there's not much to report but the par four 18th looks a brute at nearly 500 yards long. The green is guarded by bunkers and there's water to the right so if someone's safely in the house and level with anyone that still has 18 to play, they'll be the one to side with.
Dustin Johnson has already taken this title three times previously and, having won in 2015, 2017 and 2019, victory this time around would keep the sequence going nicely. But he's short enough for several reasons and looks opposable.
He won in Saudi despite his putting, not because of it, two starts ago and he finished poorly at Riviera on Sunday. But the big negative is the Californian's poor record in Florida. His victory at Doral in this event six years ago is his sole success in the Sunshine State in 29 attempts and that's more than enough to put me off.
Only the unlucky loser, Tony Finau, shot a better round on Sunday than Jon Rahm at Riviera and his fifth placed finish was an eye-catching and welcome performance after a string of lacklustre efforts by his very high standards.
The world number two hasn't has won since August and since finishing second at the ZOZO Championship in October, he hadn't bettered seventh in four outings before the Genesis Invitational last week. An equipment change and preparing to become a father, probably haven't helped but he looked back in the groove on Sunday and given he's won the aforementioned Memorial Tournament, as well as the Desert Classic (which uses a Nicklaus design course) the venue could well suit him.
Rory McIlroy's record in Florida knocks spots of DJ's. He's won the Honda Classic, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Players Championship and it looks like we can even view last week' weekend off at Riviera (his first missed cut since the 2019 Open Championship) as a positive rather than a negative's given Justin Ray's tweet:
Rory's last 5 finishes in the start following a missed cut:? Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) February 22, 2021
At the time of writing, Rory's trading at the same price as Xander Schauffele and it's interesting to compare the two. Rory hasn't been anywhere near as consistent as Xander of late and both are looking for their first victories in some time. Rory has a far better strike-rate, though, and if forced to pick one it would be the Irishman.
Patrick Cantlay is again strongly fancied but he continues to disappoint in-contention and the only course winner in the field, Bryson DeChambeau, doesn't look himself after a poor run of form and a missed cut last week.
It took me a little time to wind down after Sunday's frantic finale to the Genesis Invitational on Sunday night/Monday morning. So I had a little scroll through the market for this event in the early hours and I couldn't resist the 32.031/1 available about the bang-in-form Norwegian, Viktor Hovland, who had finished a very impressive tied fifth at Riviera in his first ever Genesis (had played Riv as an amateur).
I couldn't see how he could be any bigger than that given his form, which reads 1-3-31-2-6-5 and my plan was to lay the bet back if anything came to light that might put me off but that hasn't happened.
Having looked at the venue in a bit more detail, one could easily theorise that getting-up-and down around the green could be a big factor this week. That would have been enough to put me off Hovland but for last week.
I wrote back in December, after he'd won in Mexico, about how poor his game around the green was and that it was a huge area for improvement. Maybe he was reading because it looks as though there's been plenty of improvement.
Hovland ranked number one for Scrambling at Riviera last week and if he's sorted out his chipping around the greens the sky really is the limit. To put that into context, when he won the Mayakoba in December he ranked 70th for Scrambling and, when second to Patrick Reed at Torrey Pines at the start of the month, he ranked 71st.
Given the new venue and the competitive field, I fully expected Hovland to be my only wager before the off but I can't leave out the defending champ, Patrick Reed, at 36.035/1, who also won the event in 2014 at Doral when he famously told everyone how good he was. He wasn't wrong.
Reed comes to the fore in these big events and if I'm correct about this course having a similar feel to Copperhead, he might just take to the place. Reed finished second to Paul Casey there in 2018.
I'll be back later with my Puerto Rico Open preview.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter