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Course Spotlight: Targeting the most powerful pairing at Tiburón

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Course Spotlight: Targeting the most powerful pairing at Tiburón

    Written by Keith Stewart @KJStewartpga

    The 2023 Grant Thorton Invitational will include 16 teams made up of one PGA TOUR player and one LPGA player. The mixed field is set to compete for $4 million dollars. The 54-hole team birdie-fest will implement a different format for each of the three rounds.

    • Round one – Scramble
    • Round two – Foursomes (alternate shot)
    • Round three – Modified Four-Ball

    Each format choice forces both players to contribute. The Modified Four-ball on Sunday’s final round is brand new. Both players tee off, and then they switch balls for their second shots and play that same ball until it is holed. The lower score of the partners is then counted as the team score for the hole. So how can we handicap the course when half the field is from another tour?

    The host venue of the LPGA’s season-ending CME Group Tour Championship for the past decade is also the Gold Course at Tiburón. We have analytics from both tours and can make a very educated prediction on what type(s) of male and female players succeed in southwest Florida. The average winning score of the CME Group finale is 18-under par over the past 10 years.

    Averaging 10 under (per round) takes an elite pairing. One player cannot carry the team from a ball-striking or putting perspective. The two must complement one another and it cannot be an opposite skill set situation. We don’t want a good driver with a good iron player. Teams must be well-rounded and when you combine 2023 tee-to-green season analytics, the best pairings in the field are Tony Finau and Nelly Korda (+500 betting favorites at BetMGM Sportsbook), followed by Corey Conners and Brooke Henderson, and Nick Taylor and Ruoning Yin.

    In order to birdie more than half the holes, you will need a scorching hot putter. Combining the putting stats between the two players reveals a completely different leaderboard. Harris English leads the flatstick list with his partner, Celene Boutier, who won four times in 2023. Justin Rose and Charley Hull (+900) are next, and then Rickie Fowler and Lexi Thompson.

    The Gold Course presents generous landing areas off the tee. The ball-striking success requires consistent, close proximity on approach. The winners of the LPGA’s tour championship gained an average of 3.5 strokes against the field. With their iron game, they also gain an average of three more strokes with the putter. We know the Grant Thornton winners are gaining in the same categories, but what team(s) combine these skills the best? Rose and Hull have the best-combined resume. Not only did Rose lead the field in putting last week at the Hero World Challenge, but Hull has won at Tiburón and finished in the top 15 in three of her last four starts.

    Justin Rose holes 20-footer for eagle at Hero World Challenge

    Another team that collectively catches my eye is Ludvig Åberg and Madelene Sagstrom (+600). They rank second when you combine tee-to-green talent and putting acumen. Åberg is arguably the hottest golfer in the world, and Sagstrom has a sneaky good record on the Gold Course with four straight top-16 finishes. I know these teams all have short odds – there are only 16 teams, after all. Eleven of the 16 women are ranked in the top 30 in the Rolex World Rankings and 11 of the 16 men are ranked in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking.

    Ludvig Åberg’s winning highlights from The RSM Classic

    Embrace the chalk that makes the most sense. Take the FedExCup Fall’s best and combine it with a proven LPGA Gold Course champion. From this pro’s perspective, the best course fit comes when the pairing can positively push each other into the winner’s circle.

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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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