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  • Writer's pictureNate (@WeKnowFantasy)

Out of the Rough: Grant Thornton Invitational (2023)

The QBE Shootout is no more and in its place comes the inaugural installment of the Grant Thornton Invitational.

This is a very unique format for multiple reasons but none more notable than it being a mixed invitational with stars from both the PGA and LPGA Tours teaming up to take to the Tiburon Golf Club in Naples Florida.

The combination of members of both the men’s and women’s tours is a common practice on the DP World Tour but this will be the first time in 24 years, since the JC Penney Classic in 1999, that such a format will take place on the PGA Tour.

The Format

On top of the uniqueness of the men and women playing together, this event will be played over three days with each day featuring a different playing format.

On Friday, the duos will play a scramble. Here, each player will hit a tee shot and each team selects what ball to use. From there, players hit their next shot and continue the process until the hole is complete.

On Saturday, teams then take part in a more traditional, foursome format. This is a format we see at the Ryder and Solheim Cups. Essentially, each golfer alternates shots until the hole is complete. Additionally, one golfer tees off on odd holes as the other tees off on even holes.

The tournament finishes on Sunday with a modified four-balls format. This format is new to team play and adds some flair to the traditional four-ball format. In this format, both golfers tee off but then they switch balls for their second shots. They then use the same ball from their second shot to complete the hole. The lowest score of the two is used on that respective hole.

The Field

The field this week is headlined by stars of both the PGA and LPGA Tours.

One of the most notable pairings is Charley Hull and Justin Rose who were both part of the Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup victories for Team Europe.

Rising PGA star Ludvig Aberg and fellow Swede Madelene Sagstrom will be teaming up this week as well. They too were part of Team Europe’s triumphs at the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup.

Nelly Korda will be partnering with Tony Finau in arguably the most star-studded group of the week.

Current women’s World No. 1 Lilia Vu will be teaming up with PGA fan-favorite Joel Dahmen as well.

The other groups playing this week include Levi Thompson and Rickie Fowler, Megan Khang and Denny McCarthy, Rose Zhang and Sahith Theegala, Lydia Ko and Jason Day, Corey Conners and Brooke Henderson, Celine Boutier and Harris English, Andrea Lee and Billy Horschel, Mel Reid and Russell Henley, Cheyenne Knight and Tom Hoge, Allisen Corpuz and Cameron Champ, Ruoning Yin and Nick Taylor, Leona Maguire and Lucas Glover.

The Course

Although this event and format is new to the PGA and LPGA Tours, this week’s host course is not.

Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida was the host of the now debunked QBE Shootout from 2001 to 2022. Additionally, it serves as the LPGA’s season-closing CME Group Tour Championship and has since 2013.

It plays as a Par 72 at 7,382 yards.

Tiburon Golf Club is a Greg Norman design and was opened in 1998.

It is part of the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort and is surrounded by a pristine natural setting.

Off the tee, golfers will be challenged on nearly every hole. The course itself is littered with waste areas and water comes into play on 13 holes. In lieu of conventional rough, this course features coquina shell waste areas.

There are also 50 sand bunkers featured among the course this week.

Speaking of the bunkers, all of the greenside bunkers were reconditioned and reconstructed a few years back. They now feature stacked sod bunker walls.

A creative short game is required for success here this week with the multitude of waste areas, water hazards and bunkers.

The greens this week are both large and undulating and are laid with Bermuda grass.

In all, this is not a course for the big hitters off the tee and features an even mix of birdie holes and much more challenging holes.

The Weather

As of the time of writing this, only Sunday calls for a chance of precipitation this week with a 40-percent chance. There is a chance for a light thunderstorm on Sunday as well. Friday and Saturday currently call for a zero-percent chance of precipitation. Winds will range from nine-to-12 miles-per-hour across the three days. Highs will begin at 74-degrees on Friday before peaking at 78-degrees on Saturday and 77-degrees on Sunday. There won’t be much in terms of sunshine this week as Friday will be cloudy, Saturday will be partly cloudy and Sunday will be cloudy with the chance of a light thunderstorm.

Key Stats

  • Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (SG: OTT) / Driving Accuracy

  • Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)

  • Strokes Gained: Around the Green (SG: ATG)

  • Sand Saves Percentage

  • Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: PUTT)

Betting Card

Justin Rose & Charley Hull (+1000)

With just a 16-team field, I will be playing just two bets this week. Leading the way is the English duo of Rose and Hull. Rose is my overall favorite male in this week’s field and Hull is my ninth favorite female. Rose finished the 2022-2023 PGA Tour season second in sand saves percentage, 17th in SG: APP, 20th in SG: ATG, 26th in SG: PUTT, 54th in driving accuracy and 115th in SG: OTT. Hull finished the past LPGA season 12th in SG: PUTT, 15th in overall scoring average, 23rd in sand saves percentage, 61st in GIR% and 112th in driving accuracy. I think these two complement each other very well and for a course that requires a great short and around-the-green game, I like their chances. I’m playing three units on them this week.

Denny McCarthy & Megan Khang (+1600)

Per my model this week, this is the combined overall favorite to win. When it comes to short tracks that require crisp iron play combined with large greens that demand good putting, you have to talk about Denny McCarthy. McCarthy finished the past PGA Tour season third in SG: PUTT, 47th in sand saves, 58th in SG: ATG, 73rd in driving accuracy, 85th in SG: APP and 90th in SG: OTT. Khang finished the past LPGA season fifth in sand saves percentage, seventh in GIR%, 12th in overall scoring average, 15th in driving accuracy and 98th in SG: PUTT. McCarthy’s biggest issue this week is accuracy off the tee and Khang is elite there. Khang’s biggest downfall this week is putting and McCarthy is elite there. I think these two players complement each other’s weaknesses very well. For that, I’m playing two units of them.

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