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Handicapping

Dean & Deluca Invitational Predictions

Event: Dean & Deluca Invitational
When: May 25-28, 2017
Where: Colonial CC Ė Ft. Worth, TX
TV: The Golf Channel/CBS
by: Evergreen of Predictem.com

With just three weeks remaining before the U.S. Open takes center stage, the PGA begins a solid month of top-tier golf events, starting with this weekís Dean & Deluca Invitational. While the title sponsor is just two years old, the event itself dates back to 1946 and was popularly known as the Crowne Plaza for many years. Colonial Country Club has been a staple of the Tour rotation since hosting the 1941 U.S. Open and a PGA Event has visited the Ft. Worth area every year since 1946. We go to Jackís Place next week and swing by the St. Judeís before heading north to Wisconsin for the Open so this really is a nice four week stretch of championship golf. Jordan Spieth will defend his 2016 title this week and he highlights a strong field that is a little short due to the invitational status of the event. Players will have earned their spot in the field and that tends to make invitationals a little more wide open in terms of who may win. There is a history of players winning multiple times with Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Corey Pavin all hoisting the trophy twice. That is good news for Spiethís chances to go back-to-back and that would be a nice value given his current 11 to 1 listed at most online betting sites.

Colonial CC was built to be a long course by the standards that existed in 1936. The 7,204 yard, par-70 layout was a monster in those days but is rather short by todayís standards. The course has held up well over the years and turned into a test of ballstriking prowess over pure power. If Corey Pavin can win here, you know it isnít a bombers course. Guys like Steve Stricker have routinely done well in years past so it is far better to be in control of your approach shots and have a handy putter than it is to aggressively attack the course off the tee. Look for fast starts from players as both #1 and #2 are relatively easy birdie chances. There is some trouble through the rest of the way out but the back offers more quality birdie opportunities, including the 635-yard, par-5, at eleven. A deft touch is nice to have around these greens as well and saving key pars will be necessary throughout the week. This event isnít quite a true shootout but donít be surprised to see low individual rounds each day and a winning total around 15-under or better.

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Jason Dufner (25 to 1 odds to win)
Dufner should be on the short list to win any event that is categorized as a ballstriking tournament. With solid drives and quality approach shots, Jason is a factor when raw power is not the main factor. He was T6 here last year and is having a nice season with just one missed cut in thirteen starts. He hasnít pushed that winning envelope just yet in 2017 but four of his last six finishes have been T12 or better. Dufner brings top-35 ranks in fairways, putting average, 1-putt percentage and proximity of approach to make a nice overall stat sheet for Colonial.

Pat Perez (33 to 1)
Perez is one of those guys that is always cashing checks yet you canít really remember seeing him on TV that much. He hasnít missed a cut by performance this season at all with a 1st round W/D in Phoenix as his only non-Sunday finish in sixteen starts. He won the Mayakoba and took 3rd at the T.O.C. the next week so he can get on hot streaks. He was T2 at the Wells Fargo and T22 at a very difficult Sawgrass course so perhaps he is one the verge of riding hot again. Pat is not the longest or most accurate driver of the ball so his total driving stats do not appear to mesh with what Colonial demands but his greens hit are above average and he makes up for some ballstriking inconsistencies with a strong putting game. He nets the 15th best birdie average from the 13th ranked putting average and that work on the greens also helps him to a top-35 rank in scrambling. If he has a plus week off the tee, expect to see his name near the top.

Graham DeLaet (80 to 1)
DeLaet is a rightful longshot this week simply based on the fact that he has missed six cuts in just fifteen starts this season. You donít like that high of a bust rate when picking a winner but Graham gets it done when he does make the weekend. In his nine made cuts, DeLaet has seven top-25 finishes and four top-10ís to give him one of the better average finishes in events where the cut is made. He could burn you with another trunk slam but I think he is made for a course like Colonial and he does have a T14 and T22 here to back that up to some degree. DeLaet is 17th in both total driving and greens hits to be one of the better pure ballstrikers in the field. He has respectable top-40 ranks in birdies and scoring, as well as approach proximity so he is at an advantage over the field in many categories. The problems come in when Graham misses the greens. He doesnít really have a PGA level short game and loses strokes to the field often with a 179th rated scrambling game and the 200th best sand save percentage. The big ďifĒ here is that he wonít have to deal with those par save chances if he hits his fair share of greens and then some.

Head-to-Head Matches

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Webb Simpson v. Adam Hadwin (pick to win: Hadwin)
I like both of these players. Simpson is a vastly underrated player overall and Hadwin is an up-and-comer stuck in the shadows of some more high profile names. Both players are good guys to bet on in head-to-heads as they rarely trainwreck and always make their opponents put in four solid days to get a win against them. It is tough to handicap them when paired like this but I like Hadwin at Colonial as he is longer than Simpson while still hitting the same amount of fairways. Bubba Watson-level power isnít necessary here but Hadwin is straight enough and has that little extra pop to bring an advantage in this matchup. Simpson is pretty good at getting birdie looks but has slipped outside the top-150 in putting average and gives up almost 150 spots to Hadwin who enters the week 29th in strokes gained-putting.
Jordan Spieth v. Jon Rahm (pick to win: Spieth)

Spieth is coming off one of the worst stretches in his career and the books know it. Rahm is hot but this matchup is listed as even which is odd considering Spieth has been a favorite in just about every head-to-head over the last few years. Despite back-to-back missed cuts, I am going with Spieth as he isnít too far off from where he needs to be and he gets another of tremendous support as a local favorite. Jordan isnít at his vintage level but he still ranks 2nd in birdies and 5th in scoring average, both are better than where Rahm is now. Rahm has the edge as the 2nd ranked tee-to-green player thus far but Spieth is a more than respectable 17th and he is supposedly slapping it all over the yard. It will click back in a big way for Spieth and soon. He should be motivated to peak for the Open and he should be comfortable as the defending champ. His little swoon of late only makes him a better value play than in most weeks.

Good luck and good golf.

2017 Dean & Deluca Invitational Odds

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