2016 WGC Bridgestone Invitational Preview

Firestone

The best pros in the world tee it up at Firestone CC for the WGC Bridgestone Invitational this week. Photo courtesy of zimbio.com.

We’re getting to the point in the season where the impact of golf returning to the Olympics can be felt. It doesn’t help that in the past two weeks, the Olympics lost two of the highest profile players in Jason Day and Rory McIlroy, as well as the next two Irishmen in Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell.

As for the schedule, this week’s WGC Bridgestone Invitational has been moved up over a month earlier than its usual place in early August, which of course is right when the Olympics will take place. Forced to conflict with the French Open on the European Tour, this WGC will actually not be recognized by the Euros, which means that several of their top players are staying overseas where they can compete for coveted Ryder Cup points. That list includes Rory McIlroy, Danny Willett, Matthew Fitzpatrick, and Rafa Cabrera Bello, among others. Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson are also taking the week off in general.

So what does that leave us with in Akron at Firestone CC? Well, we’ve still got the likes of Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, and Justin Rose (injury status still uncertain). Last year’s champ Shane Lowry will also return to defend his title, despite lots of incentives to tee it up in France.

So like any other WGC, there is a bevy of elite players from start to finish, and lots of tough choices in terms of building a roster. There is also the complication of no cut line this week, with the shortened field, so every player will get four rounds regardless. We will go through our usual high end, value, and fade picks this week, but also talk a little strategy.

High End Plays

As for any strong field, the immediate question becomes, ‘who do you pick between Day, Spieth, and McIlroy?’ With McIlroy across the pond, we will substitute DJ into this question, who actually passed McIlroy in the world rankings, and passes Spieth in salary this week anyway.

DJ could go either way – I personally get nervous about players coming off such a mentally and physically draining win like the U.S. Open, and DJ surprisingly has a poor track record here. On the flip side, he is playing mind-boggling golf right now and is rested headed onto a course that demands length as much as any on tour.

Jon’s note: I really like Dustin this week if for no other reason than his length off the tee. This course is a 7,400 yard par 70…it’s really long. DJ’s essentially handicaps the field against him, as he can make those long holes that much easier

Between Day and Spieth, you can’t overthink it – look no further than the scoreboard. Though Spieth hasn’t been a bust this season by any means, Day has been solid, especially on the biggest stages this year. He already has one WGC title (the match play) this season, and of course the Players victory. Day also rallied back from his opening 76 at Oakmont to finish T8. I endorse Day highly, and will probably roster him 2 to 1 over Spieth (who you have to try in at least one lineup, always), but will also save several lineups to avoid these top players altogether.

Moving down to the 9-10K range, our top picks are:

WGC Bridgestone

61 of the best players in the world will try to hoist this trophy, which Shane Lowry will defend in Akron. Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report.

Brooks Koepka, 9.9K. Koepka seems to be a favorite of many, including Rob Bolton of PGATour.com. So you may be getting in a high ownership line, but we think its better than staying out of the line because Koepka has been solid this season, solid in his debut in this tourney last year (T6), and should feel incredibly comfortable on this “bomber course.” The key is that he ranks 35th in Strokes Gained Putting, and 13th in total SG.

Hideki Matsuyama 9.3K. We are adding Matsuyama to the list NOT as an endorsement to build your lineups around him. In fact Matsuyama has turned a highly impressive season into a disappointing one as of late, and seems to be in a funk since the Players. This just means to us that the Japanese talent will be a popular fade, and based on his salary relative to his ability, he is worth throwing into a few lineups as a contrarian play.

Marc Leishman 8.1K. Call him a favorite of ours, because he is. Leishman always seems like a steady play, and especially without a cut, we feel that he can stay in the mix even if he doesn’t put 4 rounds together. The script for the Aussie typically revolves around par 4 scoring, so at one of the most challenging par 70 courses on tour, par 4 performance is critical, and Leishman is again in the top 10 in this stat (7).

Jon’s note: Here it comes. I’m all in on Rickie Fowler this week. At 9k, he’s essentially a steal from where he’s been typically priced in the 10k and above range. To top it off, his course history here is pretty remarkable with a number of top-10 performances at Firestone. Adam Scott also has remarkable history here with a win and a few top-10’s at well.

Value Plays

We have discussed the fact that on one hand, options seem extremely limited beneath 7k, despite the overall depth of the field. However, almost any player in that 7k range could make a strong pick, so we believe this is the range that will make or break your lineups. Especially if you look to roster any of the elite players, you will probably need to have 3-4 players from the 7k range to make it work. Here are our favorites:

Bill Haas 7.9K. Tom says yes, Jon perhaps says no… The argument for Haas lies in his form. He scored 4 rounds in the 60s at Congressional, and went an incredible 62 holes without a bogey to finish (he made only two bogeys all week, both early in his first round). The argument against him is that he has not been as strong this year in the best fields, and his tee to green style game isn’t the ideal fit for Firestone.

Danny Lee 7.4K. Ever since his win at the Greenbrier last year, Lee has been waiting, and seemingly ready, to burst through on a bigger stage. He’s made 7-straight cuts, though only one (Wells Fargo) going for a top 10, and we trust his patience and steady play to help take advantage of four guaranteed rounds.

Harris English 7.3K. Few were on English for his solo 2nd at the Dean and Deluca, while many jumped on him for his relatively disappointing T26 at the Fed Ex St. Jude. Followed by a ho-hum T37 at the U.S. Open, we feel English will be slipping back under the radar this week. His game – 6th in SG-Putting, and averaging just under 300 yards off the tee – should allow him to contend this week.

Jon’s note: David Lingmerth, 7.6K,  is my guy down here. Again, multiple top-10’s, and he’s been no slouch this year. I think he’s got a good shot, however he’s definitely a GPP play only.

Fades

Bubba Watson 10.1K. Bubba figures to be a popular pick because one would think he should overpower this course, then that one might look up course history and see the bulldog finished runner up to Shane Lowry here last year. However, his best finish here in the past 5 years, aside from the last, was a T19 in 2012. Overall, this course seems to cause Bubba fits, likely because of the precision it demands off the tee (not just raw length).

Kevin Chappell 7.4K. Reaching much lower, Kevin Chappell has been a popular pick all season because of his good, consistent play. So naturally, we’re going to fade the guy we call “DJ Lite,” because there are simply more elite players for a similar price, and this field will be too much for Chappell to compete. Let’s hope that DFSers simply stick with him when they see the price cut and don’t realize the strength of this tournament…

Advertisements

2016 Quicken Loans National Preview

Quicken Loans NationalHooray for Dustin! Hooray for Golf! Hooray for Fox refusing to take the camera off of Dustin and Paulina during the walk to the clubhouse, despite what Paulina Gretsky was wearing! Not so much hooray for the USGA, though… Seriously, the USGA was the biggest loser at the U.S. Open with how they chose to handle DJs potential rules infraction. Rory McIlroy, too, was a loser at Oakmont when he missed the cut by two strokes, but I guess we’ll hold on talking about him until next week at the WGC Bridgestone.

But with or without the USGA’s unfortunate intrusion into DJ’s final round, Dustin could not be stopped en route to finally winning his first major. Electrifying with his tee ball as usual, and uncommonly in control of his short game led to a 3-shot win for the South Carolina native.

And now it is on to the Quicken Loans National. After deviating from its usual venue, and place in the calendar, the QLN returns to Congressional in late June. Unfortunately, the shuffling in the PGA schedule has moved the WGC Bridgestone up to next week, which has caused this field to be abnormally weak. Rickie Fowler, coming off of 3-straight missed cuts (starting with his Players title defense), headlines a very ho-hum field.

Justin Rose, the most recent winner at Congressional, is still nursing an injury that has caused him to WD, so Bill Haas will come in as the reigning winner at this track. Other notables in the field include Patrick Reed, Justin Thomas, and Jim Furyk who comes off of a rallying T2 at the U.S. Open.

So without a lot of fire power to choose from, let’s talk chalk, good plays, and wise fades.

Byeong Hun An

Does Byeong Hun An have what it takes to conquer The Blue Course at CC?

Best High End Plays

Tom:

I actually do like Rickie Fowler this week – you just don’t expect a player of his caliber to keep missing cuts, and he is by far the best player in the field. However, when prices are so inflated that Marc Leishman (who has done virtually nothing this year) costs 10.9K, I will be looking at mid range lineups featuring golfers in the 7-10K range.

The first of whom I will endorse is Byeong-Hun An. An emerging talent in the PGA world, An had his first win last year in the European Tour’s flagship event, and has had success this year including a playoff loss at the Zurich, a T11 at the Memorial, and a T23 at the U.S. Open (his last two starts). Congressional is another U.S. Open track with lots of challenges, and a player like An should separate himself from the pack. Finally, I like Jamie Lovemark at 8.2K. He is having a hot season, he’s rested since the Memorial, and his stats line up well – 10 in driving distance, 50 in strokes gained tee-to-green, and 37 in strokes gained overall.

Jon:

My pick of the week is going to be Mr. Ryan Palmer. Palmer has been playing well as of late, aside from St. Jude’s which I will chalk up to the pressure of trying to make the U.S. Open. His stats lineup nicely for this former U.S. Open course. If DJ taught us one thing last week, it’s that strokes gained off-the-tee matter, and Ryan ranks nicely at 8 in that category.

Quicken Loans National Stats

Quicken Loans National top-30 stats

Kevin Chappell is my other high end play. What do you do after DJ wins his first major? Roster DJ-lite in a weak ass field. With his high strokes gained tee-to-green and also a top-10 here in the past, Chappell seems poised for another go at CC(Blue). Tom totally jacked my Lovemark pick too – he’s been playing wonderful golf all year, and I wouldn’t bet against him here.

Congressional Country ClubValue Plays

Tom: Again, due to weak field inflation, I’m looking for value plays in the sub-7K range. The first name I come across is Ben Martin at 6.6K. While Martin has had an up and down season (6 MCs in 18 starts), he returns to Congressional where he finished T3 in his only try (2014), and has been relatively better this year on tougher golf courses.

Dipping way down, I really like Luke List as my sleeper pick of the week. Like Lovemark, this decision is influenced mostly by stats. List has only made 9 of 19 cuts on the season, but those include two top 10s, and a T20 at the Northern Trust which is a similar course/challenge to Congressional, and he currently ranks 8 in driving distance, as well as 23 in strokes gained tee-to-green.

Jon:

Time and time again Tom laughs at me when I say Lucas Glover’s name — mainly because I ask if he’s related to Danny Glover (I’m hilarious) — Glover’s putter is seemingly the only thing keeping him from taking his game to the next level, which I would guess he has heard many times. This course bodes well for a ball-striker, and look no father than the Glove-doctor.

Robert Garrigus also seems poised to play well this week. Once again the stats lineup for someone in his price range: GIR/Fringe rank – 20, SGT2G rank – 28, and SGOT rank – 55. Couple that with multiple top-10’s on the course, and I’ll definitely take him this week.

And for your high risk/high reward play of the week, look no further than Greg Owen. He’s horrible with his putter, but he can hit GIR’s and is a great ball-striker. That said, having a 50% cut’s made percentage does not exactly scream, “Save a roster spot for this guy!” – GPP play only.

**Loupe is $5,600, just saying…

Fades of the Week

 

Tom: I’ve only got one true fade this week, and it’s one of my favorite golfers: Jimmy Furyk. My reasoning is twofold. 1. He is coming off a huge Sunday at the U.S. Open meaning that his ownership will probably skyrocket as Furyk is typically one of the most reliable fantasy golfers. 2. He has a pretty bad record at Congressional, including it being 1 of only 2 U.S. Open venues where he missed the cut in the past 10 years. Combine those two points, and I am staying away from Furyk, who despite notching another strong U.S. Open showing, has not entirely proved that he’s back into mid season form following his surgery.

Jon: I love Tom’s hot-take. That’s the kind of fade that can make or break you. I’m not going to go so bold, as I’m saying Smylie Kaufman is my fade of the week. Don’t get me wrong. I am absolutely stoked to watch Smylie, JT, and Rickie paired together, but just like what I said about Rickie last week, this game takes focus, and I think Smylie will be having too much fun, and to quote a famous professor, “true focus lies between serenity and rage.”

2016 U.S. Open At Oakmont Country Club

2016 U.S. Open At Oakmont Country Club

Oakmont Country Club

Oakmont CC will play host to the 2016 U.S. Open

We’re on to our 2nd major of the year with the U.S. Open!! This year the U.S. Open returns to Oakmont with it’s treacherous greens, bunkers, and rough. When we say this course is difficult, we mean it is about as hard as they come. Grinders are the main players we are targeting this week, and there are some good ones in this field. Putting and driving accuracy will be key, as anyone in the rough is bound to give up a stroke or two.

At The Top

1, 2, and 3. There they are, Day, Spieth, and McIlroy. I don’t think you can really go wrong with either. If I had to rank them right now, I think I would go Spieth, Day, and McIlroy, and I will tell you why. Rory brings up the rear as he has been switching his putter grip throughout the year, and he seemingly hasn’t put together a complete tournament this year. Yes, he has a Euro victory, but his putter is the reason he falls to third on this list. Day and Spieth are virtually interchangeable. The only reason I have Day behind Spieth is because of the flu rumors. I fully admit it’s tinfoil hatting, but the disease that has been making its way around the folks in my life, has had them bed-ridden for no less than 4-5 days. I don’t know if it’s the same thing, but I know if things don’t go his way, it is easier to get frustrated while also feeling like shit. Spieth is Spieth, you know he’s going to compete in a major, and if there is one thing that he has above the rest is fast-green putting. Of the three, I will be overweight on Spieth.

 

 

Fade of the Week

I hate doing this but I’m fading Rickie Fowler again this week, and I have a very weird reason why: His snapchat game. I would like to

Jordan Spieth

Can Jordan Spieth repeat as the U.S. Open Champion?

put one disclaimer here: I love Rickie’s snapchat. I think it’s good for the game, and I think it shows kids that golf is cool, and gives access that fans would otherwise not have. With that being said, I don’t think Rickie is getting dialed in. I know golf is supposed to be fun, but when he’s whipping his phone out during practice rounds, taking snaps of Rory, he looks more like a fan than a player, which is totally fine, but I’m not going to put my money on him.

 

My other bold fade would be Adam Scott, mainly because putting is a big struggle of his, and I expect that to have an impact this week.

High-End Plays

Dustin Johnson – This goes against one of my chief DFS principles: Don’t chase a narrative. Would it be great for Dustin Johnson to come in and get his first major win by conquering an event that he seemingly had in the bag last year, only to three putt it all away?  Yes. Does it mean that it will happen? Absolutely not, especially because it’s nowhere near the same course. That being sad, I can’t ignore DJ’s form coming into this event. No missed cuts, and his putting is actually much improved. If he can be smart, club down and keep it in the fairway, then I think Dustin could have a shot.

Justin Rose – Everything I’ve read about Rose is that all he’s been doing since withdrawing from the BMW is getting ready for the U.S. Open. As a former U.S. Open winner, he’s proven that he has what it takes to get it done.  Rose also seems like he is mentally primed for a grind it out tournament, and could be in a great spot to get it done.

Danny Willet – Fine, I’ll bite. The Masters winner has been churning out Top-10’s this year, including a T3 at The BMW. Yes, the cut at The Players is not comforting, but this kind of course seems to suit Danny’s style a little more. Also if Danny is in contention, you know his brother will be live tweeting, which makes it all the better.

 

U.S. Open Stats

Our top 30 stats list for the U.S. Open. Green names are quick greens specialist, while red names mean they typically struggle on quick greens.

Mid-Range Plays

Henrik Stenson – Another player whose performance at The Players was rather disturbing, couple that with the cut at Wells Fargo, and I would expect his ownership to be rather low. However, Stenson has a game that is geared toward this type of course. He’s incredibly accurate off the tee, while staying long. He’s got great strokes gained tee-to-green stats, and he tends to putt well on quick greens. I like Henrik as a nice GPP play

Patrick Reed – Doesn’t he just feel due for a major win? The Villain has been playing great golf, he has wonderful strokes gained stats, and his putting isn’t too shabby either. Couple that with his great scrambling ability and it looks like he has what it takes to win. The biggest concern with P.Reed is his driving accuracy, which hopefully can be fixed if he clubs down. The only other knock I have is Reed loves to hit the draw which tends to run a little farther than a cut, and not stick as well, which is what he’s going to need this week to make these shots stay on the fairway, let alone the green.

Matt Kuchar – Kuch just makes cut after cut after cut. And surprise, surprise he is tops in our statistics model, coming in top-50 in all of our key stats this week. If ever there was a set up for a winner, it’s Kuch. He’s a smart player, and seems to take the negative emotion out of the game. I absolutely love Kuch this week, and therefore I am making Kuch my pick of the week.

Brandt Snedeker – A sneaky, sneaky GPP play. The thing about majors is that the good ones tend to show up, and there is no doubt that Brandt is a good one. His putting has always been what sets him apart, and his putting is what should help him make his mark here at Oakmont.

 

U.S. Open Weather

Snapshot of the predicted weather at Oakmont

Lower-End Plays

Charl Schwartzel – Talk about a discount for a guy who has been playing wonderful golf. This week Charl statistically looks like Matt Kuchar-lite. Charl has had multiple top-10’s in U.S. Open’s, and I would look for him to continue to do so here at Oakmont.

Shane Lowry – I’ll call picking the Irishman a little bold. He had a nice finish at The Players. I like him better on a links style course however. He also comes in decently high in our model, ranked 48th over all, right below Branden Grace, who seems to be a favorite this week. Hopefully Lowry can find a little Irish luck for a good finish.

Graeme McDowell – The putter is the only thing that worries me about G-Mac, as it seems he can struggle with it at times. However, he has wonderful driving accuracy off the tee, which should help mitigate his putting struggles. He’s had a top-10 in a U.S. Open before, and I’d like to see him notch another.

Emiliano Grillo – Another bold pick, but that’s what we’re doing down here. He had a good Memorial Tournament finish, and I like the rookie to continue grinding and adding to his impressive 2016 campaign. Like Graeme, Grillo’s impressive 70% of fairways hit off the tee puts him on this list.

Danny Lee – As long as Lee can stay out of the sand, he’s got a shot. Lee, like Kuchar, seems to be another smart player. He’ll hit his fairways, and his putter really can heat up. He was cut in last years version of the U.S. Open, however Lee has really made strides in his game, as he seems to be a name that continues to pop up. If he can fire a few 74/75’s I think he’d be in great shape.

 

Look out for the Thursday early morning, and the Friday night weather as this course plays monumentally easier when it’s wet vs dry. It could definitely impact scoring, depending on how much it rains.

Who’s ready for an awesome U.S. Open??!

 

2016 Memorial Tournament Preview

2016 Memorial Tournament Preview

Memorial TournamentHelllloo Columbus! Tom and I are both hometown boys, so this is one of our favorite events all year. Muirfield typically rewards course managers, like past winners Hideki Matsuyama and Matt Kuchar. However, that’s not to say that length doesn’t help with some reachable par 5’s. Course history is also good to take a look at as well, as typically those players who have played well here, continue to do so COUGHRyanMooreCOUGH. With the added bonus of having a stacked field, the Memorial Tournament is sure to be a must-watch this weekend.

 

Memorial Tournament ranking

Our top-25 Composite Ranking this week

The Top 3

What to do with Rory, Day and Spieth? I’m tempted to say fade them all, however then I start sounding like the Mad King — “FADE THEM ALL!” — Of the three, I think Spieth is the most likely to go top-10, if only to prove that he can dominate a “Augustesque” course (see hole 12 at Muirfield Village). Day is a member at Muirfield, so in theory, he should have that home-course swag, but we all saw how that can turn out with Webb Simpson at Quail Hollow. I could see Day getting into the “trying too hard” mentality and start really feeling some quick sand. Rory actually lines up pretty well for Muirfield, and will most likely be the lowest owned among the three. I could see him getting it done, but I will probably have very little stock in the OWGR top 3.

Fade Train

Rickie Fowler – He’s up, he’s down, he’s winning, he’s cut. He’s like a penny stock, and course history would suggest his position isn’t skyrocketing this week. Boom, faded.

Phil Mickelson – Speaking of stocks…nothing like playing in front of bunch of people who think you’re a crook. Top that off with Phil being overtly critical of the Muirfield fans taking pictures of him and boom, faded.

 

Muirfield Village

Can Hideki win another at Muirfield Village

High End Plays

Hideki Matsuyama – This is far and away my play of the week — along with everyone else on the planet I’m sure. I will be building all sorts of lineups around Matsuyama. He’s definitely the chalk play, but he’s the chalk play for a reason. He’s got great form coming in, great course history, and played well at a similar course this year, Augusta. I’m all chalked up for Mr. Matsuyama.

Dustin Johnson – I actually really like DJ this week. His ability to bomb, makes those reachable par-5’s all the more easier, and I can see him gaining some a lot of strokes there. Remember when DJ was cut this year? Yeah, me neither. He has been trending upwards at this tournament as well, with a nice T13 last year. I really like the DJ play this week.

Bubba Watson – In the same vein as DJ, Bubba has been playing great golf, and can make those par-5’s a lot easier with his distance. He also hasn’t missed a cut this year. The only thing I worry about with Bubba is a little rust, not having played since The Players back in mid-May. Still though, Bubba looks like a nice GPP play.

Matt Kuchar – Not much else to say other then he’s a cut making machine. Comes in with great form, and good course history. Cash game play for sure. Ownership might dictate that you stay away from him in GPP’s.

Memorial Tournament

Recent Course History at The Memorial Tournament

Mid Range Plays

Paul Casey – I really like Paul Casey this week. I think his Masters showing, makes him look like a solid play here. Definitely a little worried about some rust, but he should be well rested, and ready to play this week. Slightly worried about his ownership, as I think people may look at his Masters finish and think they’re being sneaky.

Charl Schwartzel – $8,000 really? talk about a discount. There’s a lot of guys that should be in the 8k range, but I don’t think Charl is one of them. He’s notched a few top-20’s at The Memorial and comes in with perfectly fine form. I could see him shaking Jack’s hand on Sunday.

Daniel Berger – Berger is another name that seems to be totally discounted. Once again form would dictate that he is ready to go this week, and notching top-10’s at both The Masters and The Players would suggest he’s not afraid of the field.

Kevin Chappell – If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a hundred times. I love the bounce back play. How many people did Chappell burn last week to see his price go back to its average? I like DJ-lite at The Memorial. He’s shown he can get it done here, and is probably just seething knowing Webb Simpson somehow got it going last week, when Chappell couldn’t.

Other names I like: Marc Leishman, Jason Dufner, Bill Haas, Russel Knox, Ryan Moore.

Low End Plays

Daniel Summerhays – Summerhays has quietly been having a solid year. He’s got decent course history and I would look for him to come out and contend. The only worry is the strength of field but I wouldn’t be surprised with a top-10 from Dan The Man.

Adam Hadwin – Surprise, surprise, Adam Hadwin shows up again in this list. He’s been making cut after cut, and he just cruises with his putter week in week out. His ownership is growing every week. I could definitely see Hadwin coming out of nowhere and surprising everyone with a win.

Will McGirt – Tom, my co-author, who happens to be on the road, really called it saying McGirt plays his best when he’s in a field with the top guys. Well guess what, he’s in a field with top guys. The price tag dictates that he should be a nice value play this week, and a good guy to use to fill out some roster spots.