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Course Spotlight: Building a game plan for 20+ birdies at TPC Craig Ranch

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Course Spotlight: Building a game plan for 20+ birdies at TPC Craig Ranch

    Written by Keith Stewart @KJStewartpga

    K.H. Lee has made 53 birdies and two eagles at TPC Craig Ranch over the past two years. The two-time defending champion brings scoring to another level when he arrives in Texas. Most fans see his prolific totals and think he got hot with the putter, but I have news for you: no putter is that hot!

    The truth is, to accumulate that many low scores, each PGA TOUR player enters a week like the AT&T Byron Nelson with a very specific scoring game plan.

    As a PGA coach, I see three specific scoring opportunities on this course. TPC Craig Ranch is a par 71 Tom Weiskopf design that stretches 7,414 yards. A quick glance at the scorecard and it is tough to see those birdies being produced by “TPC” Lee. Amateurs tend to look at the numbers instead of inside them. Start with the par 5s, TPC Craig Ranch has three of them. For TOUR players, these are the best scoring zones. TPC Craig Ranch also has two very short par 4s.

    Those five holes account for nearly 30% of the holes (20) these players will see over four rounds. Dylan Wu (+9000 at BetMGM Sportsbook) is ranked third in the field for Birdie or Better % (BoB%) and sixth in par-5 scoring. He scores on holes like this at will. If he makes birdie or better on 75% of these simple scoring opportunities, he will be 15 under par. I’m not trying to oversimplify it, but this is how a PGA TOUR coach and player set a blueprint for the week. Wu shot his career low at The American Express in January (61) by taking advantage of the easy opportunities.

    It makes sense that wedge play is crucial to going deep on the scoreboard. TPC Craig Ranch gives you a couple of golden opportunities with those scoring irons over four days. Two par 4s are around 425 yards. Sam Stevens (+6600) is first in the field for creating birdie opportunities on the green (or fringe) inside 15 feet from the hole. His wedge game allows him to capitalize on medium-length par 4s. Stevens is ranked fifth in this field for BoB%. The last time he played in Texas (Valero Texas Open) he finished second with 23 birdies and two eagles!

    Those two scoring areas account for about 40% of the holes these guys will play in Dallas. If our blueprint includes those birdie holes, you better believe they are listed on everyone’s game plan.

    Players also need a scoring opportunity to differentiate themselves from the field. Par 3s tend to separate great iron players from average ones. Three par 3s at TPC Craig Ranch are over 215 yards. Imagine coaching Hideki Matsuyama (+2200) about where he might look to gain an edge. Matsuyama is second in par-3 scoring in the field and 14th on TOUR for making putts in the 10-15 foot range. Those three par 3s add up to 12 more birdie chances. Matsuyama’s career low came in 2017 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he shot 61.

    Together these specific scoring chances equal more than 50% of the holes these men will face. By separating the scorecard and making a birdie blueprint, we begin to see how K.H. Lee captured so many low scores – and how players this week might be able to plot a (viable) path to 20-plus birdies.

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    Keith Stewart is a five-time award winning PGA Professional who covers the PGA TOUR and LPGA from a betting perspective. Founder of Read The Line, he is also published by Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News. Follow Keith Stewart on Twitter.

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