Improved putter can help Jordan Spieth get back in the FedEx Cup mix
Matsuyama looks a contender
Live on Sky Sports Golf from 5.30pm Thursday
Tournament starts 1pm
The US Tour returns to Aronimink Golf Club for the first time since hosting the National in 2011, but the 70 players who remain in the hunt for the $10m FedEx Cup prize will find a different challenge awaiting them to the one which some of them experienced seven years ago.
The Donald Ross layout has undergone a facelift since Nick Watney shot 62 and 66 over the weekend to take the National title. The fairways have been widened and more than 100 bunkers have been added in order to restore the course to something close to Ross’s original design.
Bryson DeChambeau has never played Aronimink before, but he’s sprung clear in the FedEx Cup standings following back-to-back victories at the Northern Trust and the Dell Technologies Championship. It’s a case of catch me if you can for the leader.
Champion’s top tip
Jordan Spieth 22-1
While there are plenty of huge names in touch with DeChambeau heading into the third playoff event, you have to search way down the money list to find Jordan Spieth, which serves to underline just how much the three-time Major champion has struggled to find his A-game in 2018.
But it’s telling that Spieth has produced two of his best finishes at the Masters, an event where he has enjoyed substantial success in the past, and when defending the Open Championship. He might not have been playing well, but Spieth loves a battle in the biggest events and he has one of his hands if he’s to make it to the Tour Championship.
The Texan is ranked 27th in the FedEx Cup standings and only 30 will progress to East Lake, but it will come as a surprise if Spieth fails to produce a stellar showing this week as he bids to make certain of his place.
His usually brilliant putting was absent earlier in the year. The 25-year-old ranks 121st in strokes gained with the flat stick this season but his last three efforts, at the US PGA Championship, the Northern Trust and the Dell, have seen him ranked second, 24th and 37th in the putting ranks.
Three-week form figures of 12-25-12 do not scream an obvious winner but Aronimink demands accuracy into the greens and few possess the iron credentials of Spieth, whose tee-to-green game should be shown to best effect around a course which places emphasis on finding angles into the pin, a skill in which he tends to excel.
The widened fairways should help his sometimes errant driving while the confidence gained from another consistent week at TPC Boston will allow Spieth to attack pin positions on a course that is likely to be softened by rain.
Hideki Matsuyama 28-1
Like Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama has struggled to scale the heights of previous seasons but the Japanese superstar is finally finding his best golf as the US Tour season hits its thrilling crescendo. However, unlike Spieth, Matsuyama’s problems were physical rather than technical as he struggled to get over wrist trouble in the spring which forced him to withdraw from the defence of his Phoenix Open crown.
It has been a long road back for Matsuyama but the 26-year-old played well at the Northern Trust to share 15th place and was in even better form at the Dell where he finished in a tie for fourth, bettering his scores as the rounds went on before closing with a 65 on Monday.
That Boston result marked Matsuyama’s joint-best finish of the 2018 PGA Tour season and, considering so much of the year has been a write-off, he will be hungry to make it to East Lake - he is vulnerable at 28th in the standings.
He’s a brilliant ball-striker who won four titles when fit and firing in 2017 and should excel in his first spin around Aronimink. Donald Ross also designed Sedgefield Country Club, home of the Wyndham Championship where the Japanese finished third in 2016 and shot rounds of 64-65 over the weekend last month.
He also finished in a tie for 13th at the Barclays at Ross-designed Plainfield three years ago when far less experienced and there’s every reason to think that this rare talent, who ranked third in putting last week, is ready to win again following a spell in the doldrums.
Emiliano Grillo 100-1
Aronimink is a ball-strikers track and few can hit it more crisply than Emiliano Grillo when he’s in the mood.
The Argentinian has been playing well without contending in recent and put it all together at TPC Boston to finish in the top ten, taking a jump from 45th to 29th in the standings in the process.
He ranked seventh in both strokes gained tee-to-green and greens in regulation last week - a major improvement on his figures from the Northern Trust, and should go close if he can maintain those statistics in Pennsylvania.
Others to note
Bryson DeChambeau The most in-form golfer in the world has registered back-to-back victories without ever really looking in trouble, but winning three consecutive events against a field of this strength would be an incredible feat.
Dustin Johnson Has obvious claims as he bids to hold on to his number one status but the cool Carolinian has rarely threatened a victory in the biggest events and can be passed over at the prices.
Justin Rose Won the National in 2010 and had an excellent week in coming second at the Dell Technologies. Has every chance of contending again, although course form looks factored into his price despite potentially being irrelevant.
Rickie Fowler Missed the first two FedEx Cup playoff events with an oblique muscle injury. Has drifted in the betting and is likely to be rusty on return.
CT Pan Finished in a tie for second on a Ross-designed track at the Wyndham and again went close at the Dell. He is in terrific form and arguably being overlooked slightly.
2pts each-way 22-1 Betfred, BoyleSports
2pts each-way 28-1 Betfred, BoyleSports, Sky Bet
1pt each-way 100-1 Paddy Power
Course Aronimink Golf Club, Newtown Square, Pennsylvania
Prize money $9m ($1.575m to the winner)
Length 7,237 yards Par 70 Field 70
Course records – 72 holes 267 Nick Watney (2011) 18 holes 62 Nick Watney (2011)
Course winners taking part Justin Rose
When to bet By 1pm on Thursday
Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 5.30pm Thursday
Time difference Pennsylvania is five hours behind the UK and Ireland
Last week – Dell Technologies Championship 1 B DeChambeau (35-1), 2 J Rose (25-1), 3 C Smith (100-1), 4 T Finau (30-1), H Matsuyama (35-1) (CT Pan 200-1)
Course overview Aronimink was designed by Donald Ross and opened in 1928. It is an old-style parkland course where accuracy came to the fore when the National was staged there in 2010 and 2011 (Justin Rose and Nick Watney were the winners).
The course has since undergone a significant redesign by renowned architect Gil Hanse beginning in 2016 and completed in the spring. Hanse has widened the fairways and added more than 100 bunkers in a bid to bring the course closer to Ross’s original design.
He has also worked on restorations at Ridgewood and the Northern Trust, where the first two FedEx Cup playoff events were staged, so recent form could be important.
There are lots of run-off areas around the greens which makes scrambling tough and the dancefloors themselves are undulating and slick.
The story of last year Marc Leishman opened with a thrilling 62 at Conway Farms and followed with a Friday 64. He was never caught, winning by five shots from Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose.
Weather forecast Difficult conditions are forecast with rain likely throughout the week in Pennsylvania. Thunder and lightning could disrupt play on Thursday and Friday with early starters likely to have the best of the conditions on each day.
Type of player suited to challenge Accuracy off the tee proved to be pivotal when the National was staged at Aronimink but the widened fairways should encourage power hitting while putting a greater emphasis on the second shot. Players who rank high in greens hit in regulation are likely to factor.
Key attribute Power
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