2016 Zurich Classic Preview

Zurich ClassicTo our legions of followers who grew accustomed to our weekly fantasy golf predictions before we so mysteriously disappeared… We are back! And better than ever! Or at least, we are trying harder than ever. Seriously, we apologize for the hiatus and are excited to reenter our sincere (and hopefully sometimes astute) advice into the fantasy golf world.

What brought us back here? Well that of course would be the emerging, wonderful world of daily fantasy sports. As novice Draft Kings fantasy golf players, we are returning to the website to offer our weekly thoughts about trends, smart plays, sneaky plays, wise fades, and anything else that crosses our minds pertaining to the PGA and fantasy golf.

So we begin with the Zurich Classic. Which begs the question – where do you begin with the Zurich Classic? Played at TPC Louisiana, just outside of New Orleans, the Zurich has been known for two things in recent history: Being one of the easiest courses/yielding among the lowest winning scores during the “meat” of the PGA schedule (between the Masters and the Fed Ex Cup Championship), and producing a lot of first-time winners. While most tournament’s winning scores during late spring and throughout the dog days of summer fall between the upper single-digits and lower teens, the average winning score in the last 5 years at the Zurich has been -19. Also, in the past 10 years, 6 of the champions were claiming their first win on tour – the list including Chris Couch (2006), Nick Watney (2007), Andres Romero (2008), Jason Dufner (2012), Billy Horschel (2013), and Seung-yul Noh (2014).

TPC Louisiana is a Pete Dye course, as well. As we know, several of the courses played on tour are Pete Dye courses, TPC at Sawgrass (host of the Players) being the most famous, and Harbour Town Golf Links (host of the RBC Heritage) being the most recent. As you see the winning scores above, this is probably one of the most get-able Dye courses out there, but it is a course that will still play like a typical Dye course – which means it is a shot-makers course. All of the recent winners have been players who can throw darts with their irons when they’re hot, and can make a lot of birdies when it’s needed, and this week, it will be needed. Length off the tee has perhaps been less important than Greens in Regulation, but anyone who can get it into ideal position with wedges in will, as is usually the case, have a definite advantage.

In terms of the field this week, there’s not a lot of star power, with Day, Rose, and Fowler headlining the event. The money to be made has to then fall to the lesser-known players and the value picks. I will tell you right now, I don’t know if I can bring myself to pay up for anyone except for maybe Marc Leishman and maybe Justin Rose, but that price ($11,800) is just a little outrageous.

Fades

Jon: I can tell you right now I’m fading Charley Hoffman hard. This might be a bad move, but let me make analogy about the worst hangover I’ve ever had: I was a couple years removed from college, and on a camping trip with some friends. Perhaps thinking that in college this would have been an easy task, I decided to go drink for drink with one friend in particular, a 6’7”, 280 lb male. I did so with poise and gusto, but needless to say, at 5’6″ and 150 lbs, the next day was the most brutal I’ve experienced in my post-grad life. I equate this to Charley Hoffman, coming off his 4th PGA win, and first in a year and a half. He showed everyone he could go shot for shot with guys like Billy Horschel and Patrick Reed, and even sink a putt on 18 to win, but I think it took everything Charley had in the tank. So I’m fading him this week because he wreaks of a massive hangover.

Rickie Fowler

Rickie Fowler’s Regression

Speaking of hangovers, I’ve had a tough time figuring out what to do with tricky Rickie Fowler after his #SB2K16 blowout, that made my life look like it was painted in taupe. Rickie ranks tops in almost all of our key stats, however his overall results have been regressing since February, culminating with his cut at The Masters. The trick is to figure out whether or not Rickie is the kind of guy who plays better after a vacation spent messing around on a golf course, or if he’s going to figure out how to take it seriously. I’m on the fade train for Rickie, and could see him taking down a number of players, based on his price, and key stats rankings. On a related side note, I am also fading Smylie for similar reasons.

Now we get to the real meat and potatoes of this tournament. I honestly don’t even know what I’m looking at with Daniel Berger, Chris Kirk, and Billy Horschel rated in the 9-10k range. I guess Kirk and Horschel could be okay cash game plays, but the pricing seems like a Zack Snyder movie — way too high for a mediocre product. That’s not to say they aren’t good plays. I know Jason Sobel from ESPN picked Horschel to win, Berger has been hot, and Kirk has been consistent. But here’s the thing, everyone who has done even a little research is going to be all over these guys. They’ve been made to look like high-end plays, when there is just as much value in lower-priced players.

Tom: Although I agree with the names above, here are a few additional thoughts regarding good fades for this week. I did not want to say Hoffman would be worth the fade, because people don’t like picking players coming off a win, and there’s no reason Charley should play anything other than relaxed this week. But his price, much like the rent, is too damn high. Really, it’s shocking that Charley could ever be the fourth highest-priced player in a field.

Moving down the list, we get to a Ricky Barnes at 7.8K who I think could actually be popular based on his consistent made-cuts and strong performance last week. Well let me just say, Ricky Barnes of late might be playing good golf, but he is not the same Ricky Barnes who once became a fairly recognizable name (and in fairness it was not solely due to the silly hats he wore). And even that Ricky Barnes never actually won a tournament. So when a player typically priced in the 6K range balloons up into the high 7s, I recommend you stay away. Honorable mention fades include Keegan Bradley at 7.7K because we, the fantasy golfing community, need to stop trying to convince ourselves each week that he will get back on track, and Patrick Rodgers because he looks like he ate Rory McIlroy hoping to get his muscles and his talent, but only got the muscles.

Zurich Classic Stats

Key Stats for Zurich Classic (rankings for GIR, strokes gained tee-to-green, strokes gained putting, and composite proximity ranking based on key distances for TPC Louisiana)

Top End Plays

Jon: Roses are red, Roses are blue, Rose is not going lower than t20 to screw you. Justin Rose has got to be THE high end play here for cash games. He’s been playing really well, and no one seems to be on him at all (is this true? I think people will be on him because of course history). Also sandwiched right in between Day and Fowler, I think Rose gets overlooked. I see Rose as basically the Charley Hoffman of last week. Great course history, great form, and in need of a win.

Tom: I agree with Jon’s call here, and is another reason why even though Rickie is not a bad play, you may as well just pay up for Rose. I do not, however, agree with Jon’s attempt at poetry.

Mid-Range

Cameron Tringale – Sets up nicely with stats, and a runner-up finish last year, plus some experts are fading.

Jamie Lovemark – Stats don’t lie… most of the time. 10/15 cuts made, and 4 top tens. Hello, nurse? I think I found a Lovemark.

Sean O’Hair – 72nd ranked in GIR’s and 37 in Strokes gained putting. Add a factor 35 average feet to the hole on this course, and Sean O’Hair looks like a solid cash play.

KJ Choi

If that face doesn’t scream winner, I don’t know what does

K.J. Choi – I’m convinced the only people playing Choi are the ones who are new to DFS. “Oh K.J. Choi, I know that name,” they say as they enter him into a lineup and reap the rewards.

Luke List – Weak fields are good for List. T6 at the Career Builder, T10 at the Honda Classic, and T15 at Puerto Rico. Couple that with a good showing at Valero last week and I believe the word you’re looking for is F-O-R-M. In addition, Listy comes in ranking high in GIR and strokes gained tee-to-green. If his putter gets going, look out for this guy.

Jhonattan Vegas – I was high on Vegas last week, and he burned me hard. I’m looking for a bounce back from him, and a nice value play with low ownership.

Low-Range

Robert Streb – Desperately looking for some form, Streb has missed his last 3 cuts (not including the Matchplay). That will be enough to scare most people off of him, but it shouldn’t. He handled his Fed Ex Cup lead well last year even when the big names returned to regular golf, has a strong GIR % (finished 23rd last season), and has proven himself on Dye courses – including a T30 in the Players last year and T10 in the PGA at Whistling Straits.

Tim Wilkinson – After Pat Mayo’s “I hate Tim Wilkinson” rant, I knew I had to have him in a lineup. When you feel good about someone’s stats and how they match up, and then a fantasy golf expert advises his followers to avoid him, they can make a great contrarian play. Unfortunately, my lineup with him included Phil and Jimmy Walker. The guy is probably not going to win you a tournament, but if he’s <2% ownership at $6,000 and performs, then he could be a nice GPP play.

Robert Garrigus – This is the most hit/miss pick I can think of. There’s a chance Garrigus goes 74-76, misses the cut, and retires from golf. The flip side of this is that he figures out his damn putter and starts draining from distance, and gets in contention or even runs away with his first victory since 2010.

Andrew Loupe – Like Vegas, Loupe burned more people than he should have last week. I’m going to say he’s another buy low option for a value play with low ownership. He’s still ranked 15 in birdie average and 13 in birdie or better percentage. Say it with me, “I.Like.Loupe…I.Like.Loupe.”

Adam Hadwin – Love the Hadwin play this week. The guy is a birdie streak freak, and a wizard with the putter. What’s more, is that he’s virtually dropped off the BoB% top 50 list, so I don’t think he’ll be highly owned, but we know he can make a lot of birdies. His strokes gained putting rank at 5 is also in line with past winners at this event.

**Note on Alex Cejka – You can look anywhere you want and this is THE GUY in the low end. His ownership percentage will reflect that.