With the FedEx Cup now over a new season on the US PGA Tour begins this week with the Frys.com Open. The objective for players appearing is to start accumulating FedEx points for next year. Billy Horschel has the ability to win at this level and take an early lead in the standings. The European Tour reconvenes with the Portugal Masters and Simon Dyson has the profile to win for the first time since 2011.
The US Tour has been restructured this year and the Fall Series has been replaced by six events that will influence which players gain some ground early for the start of the second phase of the schedule in January. The prize funds on offer take a dip after the Tour Championship and that is reflected in the quality of the field assembled at the CordeValle Golf Club that hosts the event for the fourth year in succession.
At over 7300 yards CordeValle is about average in length by modern standards. A course of this length usually favours the big hitters but this track puts a premium on accuracy over distance. The designer is Robert Trent Jones who brings an influence of Scottish links courses to his work. Club selection and course management will be key attributes this week.
As with British links courses wind could be a factor and the demands of the course can change from one day to the next due to the severity of the wind. Conditions can change during the day which means special attention must be paid to the local weather forecast in California and tee times. Players will begin their rounds in two rafts and one area of the draw could have a significant advantage over the rest if the wind is not a factor.
It was only three weeks ago that Henrik Stenson won the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup. For the field of 132 players this week FedEx Cup points and a place in the US Masters are on the table and these incentives will play a part in the fall part of the calendar for the first time. A win will also bring a two year exemption so there is plenty for an average field to play for this week.
CordeValle has a par of 71, split into two nines of 35 and 36. The field in 2012 averaged 70.256 which made the course third easiest of the par 71s last season. The key stats and nature of the course suggest that accuracy over distance will be a key factor this week. Distance averages are relatively low so good ball strikers rather than long hitters will have an advantage over the rest of the field.
Horschel had the longest unbroken run of cuts made of any player on Tour last season. After several high finishes he finally won his first main Tour event at the Zurich Classic in April. His form dipped somewhat after that maiden win but he did figure at the US Open by finishing fourth to record his best finish in a major to date.
Horschel is one of just two players in the field who qualified for the Tour Championship (Gary Woodland is the other) which indicates he was one the best 30 players on Tour. He has also built up a decent bank of course form and is currently in the top 50 for both driving accuracy and greens in regulation.
The European Tour is now building to the season ending finals and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai next month. Dyson needs a strong month to qualify for the play-offs and can begin that process with a high finish this week. He was a multiple winner on Tour two years ago but his last title at the Dutch Open in July 2011 has been followed by a dip in form.
Dyson’s missed cut in the Alfred Dunhill Championship followed five weeks in which he played over the weekend. The pro-am format in the Dunhill event may not have suited his temperament so he can be forgiven a poor week. His overall form makes him a leading contender this week especially as the Oceanico Victoria course on the Algarve suits his accurate rather than long hitting game.
Miguel Angel Jimenez is now a veteran of the Tour but can still be competitive on relatively courses like this one in Portugal. He is probably now preparing to play on the Seniors Tour in less than two years but his excellent all round game gives him a chance this week but his profile is not as strong as that of Horschel and Dyson in the context of winning events this week on the two main Tours.