Table of Contents
By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast
PALM TREE SHOOTOUT
As we continue to get silly during the mid-season break in PGA Tour action, golf becomes a team game for a week in Naples, FL for the QBE Shootout. Twelve pre-selected two-person teams are set to tee it up, and they mix in three formats over the three-round event. Friday begins with a classic two-man scramble, Saturday is a modified alternate shot and Sunday is a better ball format finish to see who takes home the trophy and some holiday cash.
Though this is as far from an official event as you can get, there are absolutely betting odds out there and with such a limited field, a winner can easily be plucked this week with just 12 teams competing. If you’re needing a W for your December balance, this just might be your ticket to better gifts going under the tree.
Tiburon Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples is a familiar sight and the host track of this friendly event since 2001. It also now annually plays host to the LPGA Tour’s CME Group Tour Championship, won by Lydia Ko a couple of weeks ago. The grandstands stay up and the golf party continues for one more week. Having walked the track it presents like any lush resort course in Southwest Florida – pure green grass wet from a heavy hurricane season, zero rough anywhere to be seen, and some devilish bunkers and water hazards that lurk around every corner.
The teams headlining the field are truly a mixed bag, from the young-old combo of Steve Stricker and Cameron Young to “Team Jokester” – Kevin Kisner and Max Homa. Across the 24 faces playing there’s a mix of young guns, established vets like the Harris English-Matt Kuchar pairing that’s won this event three times, and even two teams featuring LPGA Tour pros Lexi Tompson and Nelly Korda teeing it up at a course they just played in tournament conditions.
FORECASTING THE QBE
There are two aspects to forecasting who takes the trophy home this week – the first is finding the best combo of players that are in form to take this down, but there’s also a complimentary aspect to this team format. Since the formats are mixed, it takes a certain yin and yang to balance the two team members and their games need to be complimentary at the right moments. Also, this tends to devolve into a putting contest on Sunday.
I’m prefacing my weekly picks based on exactly what I value the most. With every play I make, I’m always taking into account these factors and for the QBE Shootout, I’m sticking with who I’ve seen recently play well and who the best complimentary team are.
1. Who’s hot and trending – recent high finishes, top-10 streaks, and consistent play are never a bad thing.
2. Horses for courses – players love certain courses and course familiarity and experience are invaluable in a field of the world’s best.
3. What the numbers tell you this week – while I’m far from analytical, there’s always a tournament darling or two scattered across the golf talk stratosphere that stuns on paper.
4. Intangibles – while this allows for theater of the mind, there’s a mysterious optimism surrounding that feels “due” or if the price looks just right for buying.
At the Hero World Challenge, I nailed the winner in Viktor Hovland defending his crown and had two others in the top 5 in Cam Young and JT. Obviously, it’s a smaller field of just 20 golfers, but picking the outright winner still counts for something. It was an A-week for the picks!
(Wanna start a Pick-X pool with your friends? Learn more here! Or, if you’re looking to start your own PGA One-and-Done pool, check those out here) (Hint: the main difference between the two is how many players you’ll pick each week)
1: Harrish English + Matt Kuchar – As boring as this team might be, I’ll take the 2020 champs as the third favorites, they have a big-time affinity for the course.
2: Corey Conners + K.H. Lee – A pair of International Team President cuppers look to tag team for a win in Florida – I like the combo in playing styles.
3: Steve Stricker + Cameron Young – Age is nothing but a number for Strick, and this Tiburon track fits into Stricker’s wheelhouse of fairways and greens. Pair him with one of the hottest golfers in the world and you have a contender!
4: Maverick McNealy + Lexi Thompson – Lexi has competed at this exact course in LPGA events and hits it a mile. Pair her with a great putter like McNealy and good things could happen for the biggest longshot in the field!
RYP One and Done Pick: N/A
Where to watch: Golf Channel and NBC all weekend – it’s a pretty passive viewing experience but the NBC crew will have fun with the team aspect.
Why to watch: If you’re a die-hard like me then you’re absolutely tuning in to cash a December winner and watch two-person teams tear up a beautiful course.
What to eat: I’m down in Southwest Florida enough to know that it’s always smart to go with seafood – let’s get some conch fritters and stone crabs like the locals do.
Purse: $3.8 million
Winner’s Share: $1 million (for the team)