It's a familiar event but a change of scenery for the 2021 edition.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, something we are used to hearing by now, the WGC-Mexico Championship has been moved Stateside this year. The Concession Golf Club and Workday both stepped up to the plate on short notice, to make sure this event would still run this year.
Sticking to the WGC outline, this event hosts a limited (72-man) field with everyone guaranteed to play all four rounds, barring a WD.
The Concession Golf Club is making its PGA TOUR debut as a host venue this week. It's located in Bradenton, Florida.
For gamers looking for any semblance of course history, check out the 2015 NCAA Championships which were hosted at Concession Golf Club and won by Bryson DeChambeau.
Without any tournament history, we have to make some educational guesses this week.
When I take a GPS tour it becomes very clear, very quickly, that bunkers and water are heavily in play. Water is in play on 8-to-12 holes (depending on how liberal you want to be in your interpretation of "in-play") and there are 73 bunkers scattered across the property.
This private course, and its membership, takes pride in the difficulty of the layout. The course features the highest course rating (76.7) and slope (153) of any course in the Tampa Bay area. We know that pros are a different breed, but this should still be a tricky test for the field this week.
When you look all of the water that comes into play you are instantly drawn to making the comparison to other Florida courses like Bay Hill, TPC Sawgrass, or PGA National. If a golfer has a good track record on those courses then in theory they should fit well this week, as well.
For turf, golfers will see wall-to-wall bermudagrass with average-sized greens (6,000 square feet) that are prepped to run around 12 feet on the stimpmeter.
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Sifting through some past quotes, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play.
C.T. Pan (at 2015 NCAAs): " The course is obviously hard, and it's in well condition. The way I played, I played well the last four days. I made some big mistakes on each round. For example, first round I hit my 3‑wood one hole, hit two balls in the water, and second round I made double, I almost shanked it... Oh, it's totally, like a perfect place for the championship venue. I think the course is hard but doable. I mean, I think every major championship should be like this. It's hard, super hard, but it's still doable, and I think 8‑under is a great score to win a championship like this. "
Paul Azinger: "I think everyone that's ever played The Concession, all the locals, all the folks from this area, cannot wait to see what kind of scores they're going to shoot here. We're all of the impression that it's virtually impossible to shoot a great score at this golf course... It's the kind of a golf course that will eat your lunch."
Bruce Cassidy (President of The Concession Golf Club): "It's a strategic course. You really have to think about where you want to hit it, what club you want to hit, It’s not always bombs away."
The early consensus seems to suggest this will be a tough test. Make sure you monitor the early-week pressers to make sure the golfers are saying the same thing in the lead-up, based on the current state of the course.
Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week:
Bay Hill Club and Lodge
PGA National (Champion)
Muirfield Village GC
The theme I'm going with this week is bermudagrass with lots of water in play. Muirfiled Village joins the list because there is plenty of water in play and it's another Nicklaus design.
Thursday: Sunny with a high of 76 degrees. Winds at 8 to 12 MPH.
Friday: Sunny with a high of 82 degrees. Winds at 8 to 15 MPH.
It's a beautiful golf forecast this week in the Tampa Bay area. It makes me want to move from Minnesota to Florida.