The best players in the world all collide at a new venue as the PGA TOUR joins the other world tours in putting together the World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at The Concession.
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With a field so deep – the top 15 in the world are all in Bradenton – every group could fit into the featured groups lineup. Defending FedExCup champion and world No.1 Dustin Johnson leads the pack while Bryson DeChambeau returns to the course where he claimed the NCAA Individual title.
There are so many great storylines amongst the stars featured on PGA TOUR LIVE who will offer early-round coverage of the featured groups. Will Tony Finau bounce back? Will DeChambeau have the advantage of course knowledge? What role has Rory McIlroy just taken on that holds heavy influence in the running of the TOUR and how will he fare? Is Daniel Berger taking it up a notch? To get you ready for LIVE’s coverage, we convened our experts for a roundtable discussion on each group. Enjoy.
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Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Daniel Berger
The “U” word came up after Berger won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am recently, as in underrated. He comes into the WGC with a TOUR-leading 26 straight rounds of par or better, and cracked the FedExCup top 10 with his fourth victory, but seems destined to always play in the shadow of fellow Class of 2011 grads Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele. What will it take for Berger to get his due?
BEN EVERILL: I think this is as “simple” as winning something from the season of championships. If Berger wins a WGC, THE PLAYERS, a major or the FedExCup he will make waves in the consciousness of more than just the core fans.
CAMERON MORFIT: The fact that Berger is underrated goes back to two things, and neither is easily changed. His swing is slightly unconventional, and Spieth got an early jump on him (and everyone else). Thomas has almost caught up, while Schauffele and Berger still have a lot of work to do. Winning this week and/or THE PLAYERS Championship would help move the needle.
JEFF BABINEAU: Berger came out of the blocks a little later than Spieth and Thomas, had a wrist injury to overcome (as did Thomas, to be fair), and will seemingly be in “catch up” mode until he starts to become a factor on the bigger stages. If healthy, he will play all four majors for the first time since 2018, when he posted a T6 (U.S. Open) and T12 (PGA). Berger has only two top 10s in 18 major starts, but with an improved and expanded short game, there is no reason he cannot be more impactful. He has watched others in the Class of 2011 (adding in Shauffele here) step up in big events. Why not him?
ROB BOLTON: I’m confused. Being underrated is a good thing. He’s stealthy and the focus is elsewhere. That allows him to go about his business with fewer distractions. Even so, the only expectations he should have should be his own, not someone else’s in the context of a special class of talent that hit the scene at the same time. That’s nothing more than a convenient narrative. And if it’s considered underrated to have four PGA TOUR titles at the age of 27, most of his fellow members with thinner résumés happily would trade for the label and for what’s to follow.
Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Max Homa
Rory McIlroy was just named chairman of the Players Advisory Council (PAC) – the first non-American player to hold that role. What do you expect McIlroy can bring to this position that will strengthen the TOUR?
BEN EVERILL: While confessing to not knowing the inner workings of the PAC I will say that McIlroy has matured into one of the sports best thinkers over recent years. He genuinely looks at both sides of most stories or predicaments thrown his way and is not afraid to admit when he feels he was wrong based on evidence gathering. I believe the appointment to be an inspired one from the players.
CAMERON MORFIT: I agree that McIlroy has a thoughtful, reasoned take that will be invaluable. For an upcoming story I’ve been looking hard at last year’s aborted PLAYERS Championship and what a crazy time that was, and he was one of the first ones who said that if they could just get all the players and caddies tested they should keep playing. People looked at him like he was nuts; how on earth could anyone test that number of people every week? Well, that’s exactly the testing program we have today.
JEFF BABINEAU: It’s great that Rory McIlroy has been named chairman of the PAC. It’s a significant role. As a top-of-the-world competitor, he certainly will be challenged to view issues and challenges the way a player ranked 130th in FedExCup points might. But he’s thoughtful and continues to grow into more of a leadership role as he matures. There’s history there for great players. Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus not only collected trophies in their day, but were pivotal in decision-making and shaping the future of their tour. Good on Rory.
ROB BOLTON: It’s probably not a coincidence that he has the chair after publicly turning away interest in a new league overseas. Loyalty and dedication are required for the position, but the stance signified a different layer of a commitment. Overall, because of his makeup, he’ll listen and learn (which is my Rule No. 2 of fantasy golf, by the way!). His platform as a megastar is a massive bonus, and he’s young. Checks all of the boxes.
Patrick Reed, Viktor Hovland, Bryson DeChambeau
Bryson DeChambeau won the NCAA individual title at The Concession. How much of an advantage, if any, does that give him this week? In general, does winning on a course as an amateur hold much weight in the professional game?
BEN EVERILL: In truth, the only real advantage is likely in the mental side of the game. Good memories of a place always start you off in a positive frame of mind and that might just be a difference maker to a player’s week. Reality is it doesn’t take the best players in the world long to scout a course over a practice round or two to come up with an effective game plan. They just have to execute it. As far as amateur success – well Bryson won the U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields but was 50th there in the BMW Championship last year.
CAMERON MORFIT: Good point about Olympia Fields, Ben. I don’t think it has any bearing on this week that Bryson won here six years and 60 pounds ago. Also, the man is coming off a missed cut at The Genesis, so there’s that. I put form way ahead of course knowledge. I also believe guys peak at certain times of year, which is one reason why I have Puerto Rico Open champ Hovland on my fantasy team this week.
JEFF BABINEAU: Bryson is definitely a changed player, especially physically, as he returns to The Concession. But heading back to a golf course where you’ve won a trophy at any level has to carry some weight. Winning isn’t easy to do anywhere, at any level. DeChambeau is going to have a good feeling when he pulls into the parking lot. Just look at all the players who competed at the NCAA Div. 1 Championships at Riviera CC in 2012 – Max Homa, Tyler McCumber, Patrick Cantlay, Jordan Spieth – and how well they played that golf course last week. Good memories never hurt.
ROB BOLTON: Two big questions to unpack, so I’ll be uncharacteristically brief. It’s an advantage only in the context of his peace of mind upon arrival. It can’t be discounted but it’s also not advised to shove all your chips into his direction. As for an amateur returning to the scene where he’s won, it’s golfer-specific, but Cam’s point about current form applies to all, even though I’ve seen Cam’s fantasy performances.
Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Tony Finau
In the wake of Finau’s 21st top-5 finish without a win since the 2017-18 season the question has to be asked – when do you think this prodigious talent will win again? Be as specific as you like but will it be this season, next season, within five years, 10… or not at all? Also, Matsuyama’s five starts in 2021 have yet to yield a top 10. Rahm’s four starts have three top 10s and a T13. What comes first – a top 10 for Hideki or a win for Rahm?
BEN EVERILL: Finau will win this season. Perhaps even this week. His performance in the playoff at Riviera last week concerns me – missing the putts when they mattered – but the good news is how he got himself there. Instead of a Sunday where he folded under the heat Finau shot a final round 64 in pretty tough conditions on a very good golf course. That will stand him in good stead going forward. As for the other question – I’ll channel my inner Rob Bolton and go by some numbers instead of gut feel. Rahm has won 5.1 percent of his TOUR starts while Hideki has a top 10 in just a touch under 26 percent of starts. So while gut says Rahm win is coming soon, I’ll stick with Hideki.
CAMERON MORFIT: Finau just HAD to win that one Sunday. He just had to. So I don’t know. I want to say one is eventually going to fall in his lap, but I’d like to see him step up to an eight-footer he has to have and make it. I’ll say he gets another W in 2021, but it might take some time to get over L.A. As for Rahm and Matsuyama, Rahm will win again before Matsuyama has another top-10 finish. It might even be this week, given that Rahm is one of five players who come to The Concession with course knowledge after playing in the 2015 NCAAs.
JEFF BABINEAU: Sunday marked a perfect setup for Finau. He began the day four shots out of the lead and had to play aggressively, as opposed to maybe sleeping on/protecting a lead. He shot 64 on a very tough golf course (positive), but failed to convert with a wedge in his hands on the 72nd hole and missed a golden chance to win on the first hole of a playoff (negative). Tony Finau with just one PGA TOUR victory is one of those odd stats that simply makes no sense. Too much talent. He’ll win this season. As for Matsuyama and Rahm, I’m going to say Rahm will win before Hideki gets his top 10. Matsuyama has been in a funk, though missing a cut last week was rare. In the past year, since a T6 at WGC-Mexico, Matsuyama has two top 10s in 21 global starts. Rahm’s T5 on Sunday was his eighth top 10 dating to last season’s Genesis. He’s knocking. Every part of his game points to him winning again soon.
ROB BOLTON: While we can dissect a single stroke of Finau’s on a Sunday, he’s really not losing tournaments on Sundays. Rather, he’s putting himself into a position to need too much of a surge (Farmers, Genesis), or he’s just getting flat-out beat (Amex, Saudi Arabia). My problem thinking ahead is that the fields deepen beginning last week, and he’s going to be in all of them, so the law of averages is against him as much as it is against anyone else. This is to say that if you eliminated the drought from the equation, it’s a tough ask to win any of the biggies. As for the Rahm v. Matsuyama prop, when it concerns notables no matter the recent struggles, always always always invest in the top 10 over any win. Cue the exhale because I thought that I was going to need to prescribe something for Ben’s “inner Rob Bolton.” Heck, even I don’t have a cure for that.