The 18th green.

This weekend the tour makes its annual Labor Day pilgrimage to the Northeast, stopping in Norton, Massachusetts for the Deutsche Bank Championship. It’s one of only two Friday-Monday tournaments in the rotation, with the other being Kapalua’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Labor Day always feels like the official end of summer to me, and as August closes faster than an elite NFL corner, I still exhibit low-level PTSD symptoms whenever I see a back to school commercial.

Of course, the upside is three days of work-free golf, and it’s shaping up to be some good golf. Jason Day comes in on the kind of hot streak usually reserved for one-namers like Tiger and Rory – T9 – T4 – 1 – T12 – 1 – 1 starting with his vertigo-thwarted effort at Chambers Bay. Speaking of Rory, he’ll be teeing it up at TPC Boston, looking to improve his FedEx Cup standings and back up his world number 1 ranking, which he re-captured from his couch by virtue of Jordan Spieth’s OMG-he’s-human MC at the Barclays last week.

Since being yoked to the FedEx Cup cash cow in 2007, the DBC has turned into a premiere stop on the tour, with the top 100 players in the FedEx Cup standings competing for a $7 million purse. That means that nearly every big name on tour will be out there, with the notable exceptions of Tiger Woods (178th in the FedEx Cup points standings) and Sergio Garcia (just kind of skipping it).

The strength of this field has usually produced a top-notch champion with Phil, Vijay, Steve Stricker, Rory, and Henrik Stenson among the winners since ’07. Big Cat took the title in ’06 and Adam Scott scored his first pro win here in the inaugural DBC way back in 2003, a year before the Curse of the Bambino was lifted.


TPC Boston

The par-3 16th

TPC Boston checks off a lot of the quirks and design features that typify a New England golf course – exposed rocks and stone walls; sand traps and waste areas edged with uncut fescue; blind approach shots; and relatively small, challenging greens. Gil Hanse has worked with local, semi-legend Brad Faxon to bring these attributes out of a course that was once your run-of-the-mill well-kept Tour stop. The best bit of work they did was to eliminate many fairway bunkers in favor of the more traditional grassy mounds found at courses ’round these parts. The one thing they couldn’t (or chose not to) incorporate was elevation change – the track plays relatively flat the whole way through, which is characteristic of the terrain in the low-lying Norton area but not at all representative of New England as a whole. Many of the more dramatic courses in the Northeast, such as The Country Club in Brookline and Granite Links in Quincy, get much of their character from being routed through and across the rolling New England topography.

At more than 7,200 yards, this par-71 has the bones to test the best players in the world, though the course usually gives up some low numbers. The tournament scoring record is a blistering 262 (-22), shared by Vijay, Stenson, and Charley Hoffman. Having played this course a few times myself, I’d have to say that the buzzword for the weekend (other than ‘fall-line’) is precision. Bombers will have a few chances to let loose with no regard for human life, particularly on the front 9, where 2, 7, and 8 all reward long tee balls without offering too much trouble. But many holes feature cross bunkers, doglegs, and funky looks into greens that slope in odd directions and open at strange angles to the fairway. You need to know your numbers here, and often the best line into the green forces players to find weird corners of the fairway that the average hack (read: me) wouldn’t think to aim for.

Your author taking far too much turf on 17


Though I’ve lived in or around Boston my whole life, I’ve never attended the Deutsche Bank (until this year – look out on Sunday for these sweet buckets). A friend of mine is a member, and his invite to the pre-tourney member-guest last year was the reason for the grandstands in the above photo. I imagine a lot of his type of dudes will be patrolling the grounds – Vineyard Vines, boat shoes, Ray Bans… think JFK in this clip. Also, feel free to insert any generic drunk Irish stereotype you may have here, some real ‘Gems‘ should be on patrol.

Last Year

Everyone remembers last year’s tournament for two things: BillyHo’s Chunk Heard ‘Round the World, and Chris Kirk doing everything short of shining Tom Watson’s shoes (and texting him at 3am) in an effort to make the Ryder Cup squad. Notice that four of the top 5 finishers went low in the final round, and beat out heavyweights like Rory, Day, and the precise, German engineering of Martin Kaymer. This is one of those events where you have to go bird hunting on Monday to put yourself in position to win – there aren’t a ton of holes where they can hide the pin and make par a good score.

The drama of last year’s event was ratcheted up to about as high as it could go without a big-name shootout, as Tom Watson’s Ryder Cup captain’s picks came out the day after the final round. As described here last year, the shot-by-shot speculation on this matter was breathless to say the least, but it was all for naught as Ol’ Cap’n Tom took three guys (Mahan, Bradley, Simpson) heavy on experience and (with the notable exception of Keegles for Eagles) light on fiery competitiveness.

Fantasy/Gambling Insights

Here be the odds. Not much to quibble with, as Day (6/1) comes in as a slight favorite over Rory and Spieth (both 15/2). If your March Madness Final Fours tend to end up with three 1s and a 2, one of those three are your horses.

DJ at 14/1 is questionable for me, simply because I’m not convinced that he can keep the pedal to the metal and rack up birdies in the final round the way you need to here. Conversely, Stenson at 14/1 is a damn good play – he won the thing in 2013, and he’s gone T6-25-2 in his last three events. Also, if we’re going really deep here, 5 of his last 8 rounds at TPC Boston have been sub-67.

I’ll likely sprinkle some magic jinx-dust over several others as well:

  • Hideki Matsuyama (40/1) – He’s 17th in the OWGR, and although he hasn’t played well lately, he’s top 10 in strokes gained tee-to-green this season, which will be key when faced with TPC’s precise shotmaking challenges.
  • Robert Streb (50/1) – This is stealing. T9 here last year, top-20s in 8 of his last 10 events. #StrebNation (shout to @BigRandyNLU)
  • Tony Finau (66/1) – He’s been skyrocketing lately, and his length will help him get into short-yardage situations (yes, football is almost here) at some of these longer holes. He’s the newest tour #BombThreat
  • Justin Thomas (66/1) – I’ve become a fan of this pint-sized bomber right along with the NLU guys, and I can’t see a reason not to throw a few bucks on him here.
  • Keegan Bradley (80/1) – He’s from New Hampshire and he once gave me a glove because I wore his face on my shirt.

Honorable Mentions & Fantasy Fodder

I’m not sure anyone wants to hear too much about my fantasy team, as I’m currently bringing up the rear in my league. For what it’s worth, I’m going chalk with Rors, Spieth, and Day, and sticking Finau in the 4th slot hoping that this is his real, actual breakthrough. Other options that will probably work better involve Stenson up top, DJ and Justin Rose in the B slots, and our pal Patty Reed batting cleanup (confession: I ran out of starts for Reed about 6 weeks ago).

If you’re really itching to take a flyer on someone, I’d suggest checking out bomb squad member Gary Woodland (150/1), (Hot) hot Carl Pettersson (150/1, T9 last year), or DL3, who has recently re-entered the golf world’s collective consciousness and sits at 300/1.

The First Cut

  • Interestingly enough, the two events with Monday finishes are also the two PGA Tour stops furthest apart geographically from one another. It’s about 5,500 miles as the Titleist flies (or about two drivers and a strong 5-iron from Jason Day, if you’d believe the hype surrounding his distance lately).
  • Speaking of distance, this course is a bit of a misnomer. It’s closer to Providence than Boston, and sits basically in the middle of nowhere, Massachusetts. However, it’s within 10 minutes of the two biggest entertainment venues in the state – the Xfinity Center, an outdoor concert venue which hosts huge traveling showcases like Brad Paisley and Aziz Ansari; and Gillette Stadium, an outdoor concert venue which hosts huge traveling circuses like the New York Jets and Roger Goodell.
  • Though he came up juuuuuuuust a bit short of making the tourney field (210th in the FedEx Cup standings), Jim Renner is the Tour’s resident native son, and Barstool Sports did a great job in following him at the Travelers in June.
  • A bit of late-breaking news as this just came across my Twitter feed – apparently CBS Sports is not renewing David Feherty’s contract after 19 years with the network. Seems oddly familiar to another beloved broadcaster’s unceremonious dumping.

In the meantime, catch us on twitter for running commentary all weekend @NoLayingUp. Also, follow me @RobbieVogel14 if you’re itching for semi-cooked takes on golf, soccer (particularly Liverpool), and shitty pop music. Lastly, a huge thanks to the guys here at NLU for taking a flyer and giving this undrafted rookie a shot with “a small shop.”