Golf365 Analysis: Tiger ready to flourish in Florida

After spending the first six weeks of 2019 in Hawaii, California, Arizona and Mexico, the PGA Tour heads to east for the Florida Swing.

And for Tiger Woods, it could where the sparks really start to fly.

On the face of it, his early-season results look extremely promising, a continuation of the big comeback he made it 2018 which culminated in those wild scenes at East Lake when the 14-time major signed off with victory in the Tour Championship – his first win for five years – making the nj sports betting going into the tour increasingly interesting.

Tiger started 2019 with tied 20th in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, improved to tied 15th in the Genesis Open at Riviera and kicked on again with tied 10th at last week’s WGC-Mexico Championship.

There was much to enjoy, especially that crazy bunker shot in Mexico which defied belief.

Much of Woods’ game has looked good but the one thing letting him down is his putter.

He couldn’t stop three-putting at Riviera and the malaise on the greens continued in Mexico. A tweet from the Golf Channel’s Justin Ray summed it up: “Tiger Woods: 66 putts in rounds 3 and 4, his most over the closing 2 rounds of a non-major on the PGA Tour since the 2002 Players.”

But… the switch to Florida could just solve Tiger’s problem for him.

Despite growing up in California, Tiger’s prowess on West Coast Poa Annua greens seems to have faded.

The good news is that in Florida he’ll get to putt on Bermuda greens and these grainier surfaces have proved much more to his liking in recent years – perhaps not a surprise given that Tiger has made his home in the Sunshine State and practises on them all the time.

To put some hard numbers behind it, we spoke to golf writer Josh Culp, who runs the website Future of Fantasy.

FoF breaks down performance by various categories, coming up with a list of best performers in each.

Josh explains more below and reveals why Tiger looks ready to roar.

Golf365: Hi Josh. Looking at your various lists, it says stats are time-weighted as well as being adjusted to the strength of competition. Can you just expand a little on those two points…

JC: When looking at long-term stats it’s a bit of common sense that more recent results should matter more. There are many cases in professional golf where a golfer gets hot for a year or two then flames out. We don’t want to keep hanging on to those results from five years ago and weigh them equally to something that happened last month. That’s a long way of saying that all of the results get included but more recent results get weighted a little more heavily. As for strength of competition, I look at the baseline performance of everyone in the field they face each week and then adjust their raw strokes gained numbers to account for that. Using a recent example we can look at T6 finishes from Charl Schwartzel (Puerto Rico Open) and Cam Smith (WGC-Mexico). They are both T6s on the form sheet but with adjusted strokes gained I can say that Smith’s was a little more than four shots better on the week, compared to Schwartzel.

Golf365: Tiger doesn’t make the top 25 in your Florida list but I’m guessing due to not playing enough to meet the qualification criteria (30 rounds). But he’s historically been a superb performer in the Sunshine State with multiple wins and last year Woods made the top 12 in all four Florida starts, including a second place in the Valspar Championship. Do you have some recent Tiger data/numbers for Florida?

JC: You are exactly right with your assumption that Tiger doesn’t meet the 30-round qualification since 2014. He’s played just 27 rounds in Florida over that stretch but if I were to set the round threshold to 25 he would be ranked No.1 in Florida Performance (+3.097 Adjusted SG per Round)!

Golf365: Is there a player (or players) you expect to come to life in Florida this year after not really making much of impression on the West Coast?

JC: First is the man you just mentioned, Tiger Woods. In an interview after the WGC-Mexico he said he was glad to be off Poa. The next few months present a great chance for him to pick up another win. After that, a few names that pop to mind are Luke List, Emiliano Grillo, and Keith Mitchell. All three of them are gaining strokes in the long game (off-the-tee plus approach) in more than 67% or their 2019 rounds but really struggling in the short-game department. All three have ties to Florida or Georgia so I’m expecting the short-game numbers to rise during the Florida Swing while there is no reason to expect a dip in the ball-striking numbers.

Golf365: Jordan Spieth ranks 13th on your list of Anti-Specialists. Like Tiger, he’s not playing this week but, given his struggles so far this season, do you expect his slump to continue through Florida?

JC: The important thing to note about Anti-Specialists is it looks at performance relative to a golfer’s baseline. As for Spieth, his baseline is high to begin with so any underperformance is going to stick out more easily. When I dive deeper into his Florida performance since 2014 I see that three of his starts have come at Doral (bomber’s paradise) and five have come at TPC Sawgrass (can trip anyone up). His other three Florida starts have come at the Valspar which is played on Bermudagrass that gets overseeded with Ryegrass and Poa Trivialis. That seems to fit his game better as his results there since 2014 are 3-for-4 including a win in 2015. TPC Sawgrass is not a venue you want to arrive with any holes in your game so unless he adds Bay Hill to his schedule then I’d expect some struggles at The Players Championship before a bounce-back week at the Valspar.

Golf365: Looking at your list, four of the top 10 are playing this week – Adam Scott, Justin Thomas, Sergio Garcia and Luke List. A smart move to have all four in our fantasy/betting line-ups for the Honda Classic?

JC: There is a lot to like about all four of these golfers at the Honda Classic. Scott switched to the arm-locked putting grip at Torrey Pines and has gained strokes putting in seven of his eight measured rounds since. He also has a shiny resume at PGA National with five top 15s in seven visits including a win in 2016.

JT is a local and the defending champ. It looked like he was out of gas last week (potentially from Riviera where he dealt with rain delays and being in contention) before his closing 62. Sort of in a similar situation as Phil Mickelson last week where he may not show up if he weren’t the defending champ and/or a local. Potential for a letdown this week but we’ve also seen him win during a week that he was running on fumes (2017 CJ Cup).

Garcia is 8-for-8 at the Honda Classic. He found his form right before the Ryder Cup and hasn’t really looked back since. The Saudi incident seems to already be in the past for him.

Lastly, Luke List grew up in Georgia so these Bermudagrass greens treat him well. Three of his four podium finishes on tour have come on Bermudagrass with the fourth coming on Overseeded Bermuda. That includes a playoff loss last year at the Honda Classic which was his second top 10 at PGA National in four tries.

Top 25 Performers on Florida Courses since 2014 (must have played at least 30 rounds)

Adam Scott (2.896 sg:total)
Jason Day (2.732 sg:total)
Rory McIlroy (2.626 sg:total)
Henrik Stenson (2.558 sg:total)
Justin Rose (2.515 sg:total)
Dustin Johnson (2.507 sg:total)
Paul Casey (2.491 sg:total)
Justin Thomas (2.487 sg:total)
Sergio Garcia (2.424 sg:total)
Luke List (2.378 sg:total)
Francesco Molinari (2.31 sg:total)
Rickie Fowler (2.249 sg:total)
Webb Simpson (2.225 sg:total)
Patrick Reed (2.221 sg:total)
Steve Stricker (2.209 sg:total)
Adam Hadwin (2.147 sg:total)
Jason Dufner (2.086 sg:total)
Emiliano Grillo (2.072 sg:total)
Matt Kuchar (2.002 sg:total)
Kevin Chappell (1.966 sg:total)
Jamie Lovemark (1.943 sg:total)
Jamie Donaldson (1.938 sg:total)
Marc Leishman (1.935 sg:total)
Hideki Matsuyama (1.917 sg:total)
Louis Oosthuizen (1.907 sg:total)

Check out more lists on Josh’s Future of Fantasy website.