With Tiger Woods hosting, we’d expect a stronger field this week at The National. But instead, we’re treated to one of the weakest full-field events of the PGA Tour season.
Rickie Fowler opens as the +650 pre-tournament favorite on Bovada. Woods is next in line at +1200. Only three other golfers — Marc Leishman, Kyle Stanley and Francesco Molinari — are +2000 or less. So yeah, weak field outside Washington, D.C. this week.
All odds as of Monday afternoon.
This is just the second time TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm will host the event after the tournament moved there a year ago. It will move to Detroit in 2019.
The 7,107-yard, par-70 course played the fourth-most difficult on tour last year. Kyle Stanley and Charles Howell III set the pace at 7-under par before Stanley won the event with a par on the first playoff hole.
Outside of 2017, we don’t have any other history to draw from the last decade. But just looking at those results and seeing how the course was set up, a couple of things were clear.
Precision off the tee is required for success. The fairways aren’t very wide, and there is little margin for error, with thick rough waiting to swallow up errant drives. Bunkers surround speedy bentgrass greens, putting an importance on the iron game, as well.
We’re going to be looking for players who can gain ground off the tee without necessarily hitting it a long way, because the bomb-and-gouge technique isn’t really going to work here. Players will need to combine that with a dialed-in approach game.
Fowler tops the betting odds. He finished two shots back in third here last year and is the strongest player in the field. But at +650, there is zero value for a guy who has four wins in 207 starts. Can he win? Of course, but you can’t make money long term betting Fowler at that number.
Woods is next at +1200, and the same thing applies here as it does with Fowler. Woods can win this, but there’s no value at this number. If he can’t keep his drives in the fairway, he’ll struggle to score.
If you’re looking for a play at the top of the board, I’d lean toward Molinari at +2000. He’s coming off the biggest win of his career a few weeks ago at the BMW PGA Championship in England. He backed that up with a runner-up finish in Europe and a Top 25 at the U.S. Open. He’s one of the more accurate drivers in the world and fourth in this field in fairways gained. He’s also eighth on tour this year in strokes gained off the tee.