Grant Thornton Invitational 2023 Tips: Two for PGA/LPGA tournament

 | December 05 | 

8 mins read

jamie worsley pga tour

The second of our unofficial events stateside takes us to Tiburon Golf Club in Florida, for the inaugural edition of the Grant Thornton Invitational; a co-sanctioned team event between the PGA Tour and LPGA.

Grant Thornton Invitational Tips

  • 2 pts Jason Day & Lydia Ko each way (1/5 - 4 places) - 12/1 
  • 2 pts Denny McCarthy & Megan Khang each way (1/5 - 4 places) - 14/1 

TOURNAMENT HISTORY

This event represents the first time we’ve seen a co-sanctioned team event between the premier tours in both the men’s and women’s games since the final staging of the JCPenney Classic in 1999.

It replaces the QBE Shootout – a similar team-event largely played by PGA Tour players only – which was first staged in 1989 and also took place at Tiburon since 2001.

With the success of events such as the Scandinavian Mixed on the DP World Tour/Ladies European Tour and several other mixed-gender events across the world, it is exciting to see these two huge tours enter the mix and I look forward to what should be a fun week in Florida.

FORMAT

The three-day event will see sixteen teams of two – one PGA Tour and one LPGA player – compete in three different formats over the three days.

Round 1: Scramble
Both players hit tee shots and the duo chooses which ball to use for the next stroke. Each player then hits their next shots from that spot and this process continues until the ball is holed.

Round 2: Foursomes (alternate shot)
Both players play the same ball, alternating from shot-to-shot.

Round 3: Modified fourball
Both hit tee shots and then switch balls for their second shots, playing that same ball until the end of the hole.

THE COURSE

Yardages:

PGA TOUR – 7382-yard par 72; ten par 4s (350-485 yards), four par 5s (559-600 yards) & four par 3s (175-225 yards)

LPGA – 6595-yard par 72; ten par 4s (320-425 yards), four par 5s (485-544 yards) & four par 3s (150-190 yards)

The Greg Norman-designed Gold Course at Tiburon Golf Club should be familiar to most. As well as hosting the previous iteration of this event as the QBE Shootout since 2001, the course has also welcomed the best players of the LPGA in the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship since 2013 – which was won this year by Korea’s Amy Yang in a record -27 winning score.

The course is relatively flat, with little in the way of elevation changes and features very wide, gently rolling fairways; framed by tall pine and cypress trees on most holes. There is no rough, with large bunkers and coquina waste areas – which are littered with native foliage – lining the fairways instead.

Water is also a constant threat, in-play on fifteen holes and there are several out-of-bounds areas for those straying too far from the short grass.

The often elevated and angled bermudagrass greens are large and undulating. Whilst run-off areas offer some protection, it is the substantial, steep-faced sod-wall bunkers that are most intimidating around the greens; proving devilishly difficult to play out of.

There is a lot of risk/reward about the Gold Course, which is evident right at the very start on the par 5 1st. After hitting a drive into a generous fairway, players who then go for the green in two can shorten the hole significantly, but will need to carry water that sits short and left of the putting surface. This is a theme that runs throughout the course.

THE STATS

Key Stats:

  • SG: Putting (Bermudagrass)
  • SG: Approach
  • Sand Save %

We have the benefit of tournament-specific strokes-gained data for the last two renewals of the CME Group Tour Championship to help give us an idea of what works best at Tiburon, which has me looking towards the strongest putters and iron players this week.

Amy Yang produced quality in both of these areas when winning that event this year, ranking 3rd in putting and 5th in approach. Alison Lee in T2 led the field in approach and Nasa Hataoka (also T2) ranked top 8 in both areas.

This follows on from the 2022 edition, where each of the top 3 ranked inside the top 5 in putting. Winner, Lydia Ko ranked 2nd; runner-up, Leona Maguire ranked 3rd and Anna Nordqvist in 3rd was 5th on the greens. In addition to that, each ranked top 18 in approach

The greenside bunkers are one of the biggest defences at this course, therefore I’m also keen to look at pairings who play well out of the sand. Lydia Ko and Leona Maguire were 1st and 2nd in that event in 2022 and are both strong out of the sand.

THE WEATHER

Conditions are set to be clear and pleasant over the opening two rounds on Friday/Saturday, though there is rain forecast for Sunday’s final round.

Wind should be a factor this week, with a constant 10-14mph breeze on show which could gust at up to 25mph over the course of the week.

THE TEAMS

PGA Tour (World Ranking) / LPGA (Rolex Ranking):

Tony Finau (21st) / Nelly Korda (5th)

Jason Day (19th) / Lydia Ko (11th)

Harris English (40th) / Celine Boutier (3rd)

Corey Conners (34th) / Brooke Henderson (12th)

Justin Rose (39th) / Charley Hull (8th)

Denny McCarthy (36th) / Megan Khang (14th)

Nick Taylor (51st) / Ruoning Yin (2nd)

Rickie Fowler (24th) / Lexi Thompson (31st)

Lucas Glover (30th) / Leona Maguire (25th)

Sahith Theegala (31st) / Rose Zhang (25th)

Ludvig Aberg (32nd) / Madelene Sagstrom (59th)

Billy Horschel (60th) / Andrea Lee (53rd)

Tom Hoge (63rd) / Cheyenne Knight (62nd)

Joel Dahmen (166th) / Lilia Vu (1st)

Russell Henley (25th) / Mel Reid (179th)

Cameron Champ (261st) / Allisen Corpuz (13th)

SELECTIONS

The top-ranked duo of Tony Finau and Nelly Korda head the betting at 6/1 and are followed by the all-Swede team of Ludvig Aberg and Madelene Sagstrom at 7/1.

However, it’s the Trans-Tasman team of Jason Day and Lydia Ko that appeal most and are my first selection at 12/1.

2 pts Jason Day & Lydia Ko each way (1/5 - 4 places) - 12/1 

Despite being the second-best team in the event when combining their respective world rankings, Day and Ko are priced as eighth-favourites here. Add in the putting prowess of the two, along with the fact both have tasted some success at Tiburon and they start to look like very strong contenders.

They have had differing seasons in terms of success, with Day winning his first PGA Tour event in five years at the AT&T Byron Nelson back in May, then going on to finish an excellent but distant 2nd in The Open a few months later.

Whereas Ko has largely struggled for form and failed to build on her Saudi Ladies International win at the start of the year. Though she did start to look better towards the end of the LPGA season, finishing 3rd on her second-to-last start in the BMW Ladies Championship and she’s started to find the quality in approach and putting that we’d become to expect of her.

Day of course is another excellent putter and looked good with his irons in last week’s Hero World Challenge. If both are at their best in these areas they should be able to score well here.

Each of these major winning golfers have recorded victories at Tiburon, with Ko a two-time winner of the CME Group Tour Championship, most recently in 2022, whilst Day won the QBE Shootout in 2014 when paired with Cameron Tringale.

They tick every box for this course as individuals and combine to produce the most compelling case of all the teams to win this inaugural Grant Thornton Invitational.

2 pts Denny McCarthy & Megan Khang each way (1/5 - 4 places) - 14/1 

Denny McCarthy and Megan Khang both come into this week off the back of best-ever seasons. With Khang’s elite-level approach play and McCarthy’s excellence on the greens, they can combine to sign off the year in style this week.

McCarthy has been a constant fixture on PGA Tour leaderboards this season, recording thirteen top 25s in twenty-three starts; turning seven of those into top 10s, including his last two starts when 10th in the BMW Championship and 5th in the RSM Classic.

He fell just short of claiming a breakthrough PGA Tour win when 2nd in the Memorial Tournament to Viktor Hovland, though that is something that Khang did achieve this year, as she recorded an overdue first pro win in the CPKC Women’s Open at the end of August.

That win was part of a broader impressive year for Khang, as she recorded three major top 10s – going closest when 3rd in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – and hit the top 10 a further three times over her last five starts of the year.

McCarthy’s ball-striking has been solid this year but it’s with the putter he’s once again excelled, ranking 3rd on tour, whilst he’s also a solid bunker player. Khang is also strong out of the sand, ranking 5th in sand saves on the LPGA last season and was an excellent 4th in approach.

Khang has played here often, finding a best of 5th in 2021. Meanwhile, Denny McCarthy finished 5th on his debut in last year’s QBE Shootout when paired with Nelly Korda. I expect a similarly strong performance this week from the new pairing.

You can read all Jamie Worsley's Golf Betting Tips on our Insights golf hub.

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