2017 Arnold Palmer Invitational: preview

Things we Learned:

  • Adam Hadwin was due to have a good year. He was on the trajectory to back up a solid 2016 showing, with some 2017 magic and he hasn’t disappointed. Maybe all he needed was a fiance to show him the way.
  • Remember Patrick Cantlay’s name. He was ranked as the world’s #1 amateur before injuring his back, which sent him into a spiral of multiple years where he tried to jump start his PGA Tour career, but could not overcome the injury. Well, he seems to be okay on the injury front now, so maybe we are finally going to see the star that was first hyped as an amateur in 2011.
  • Henrik Stenson was indeed sick at the WGC, because he is once again playing like the high-caliber player he is.
  • Stats become more useful for both picking and fading as the season goes on. Obviously, there is more meat that comes with the stats with every tournament played. This can play to your advantage in two ways, though. First, the obvious ability to find sleeper picks based on key stats – this is especially important when it comes to finding those bargain-bin players who are more likely to make a cut and return value. Second, you can really gain a competitve edge by cross checking key-stats against course history/performance on similar courses. This paid off at the Valspar when looking at players who putt better on Bermuda greens, or are accurate on courses that demand accuracy (vs. overall accuracy). This approach allows you to see the clearest picture, where most players stick with just course history or just key stats/current form.

Pick of The Week

Jon:

Henrik Stenson $11,500 – I can’t get more chalky than this, and I honestly struggled because the Pick of The Week should really be reserved for someone who is not totally on the radar and adds value to the roster. But in the spirit of the late, great Arnold Palmer who was on everyone’s radar when he was playing, I am going with  as my pick of the week. I am 100% calling my shot here, and pointing to the fences — I will have 100% exposure to Henrik. Why? T3, 2, T5, T8, T15, T47, T52, and that my friend is what we call a negative regression (which in golf is a good thing). The other major stat Stenson has going for him was his -8 on par-5s at The Valspar – which is a stat that is an absolute must at Bay Hill.

Tom:

Brandt Snedeker $9,000 – Sneds is a risky pick which, as you will see, becomes a trend in this week’s picks. My main concern is putting. Snedeker is known to excel on Poa Annua greens, and this will be his first tournament on Bermuda, which has caused mixed results through the past few years. However, those mixed results also yielded mixed results in this tournament. Snedeker has two top 10s and another T13 to his name at the Arnold Palmer in the past 5 years, and has gained strokes putting  each time. More interestingly, he gained strokes putting even in his two missed cuts, and only lost strokes putting once in the past five attempts. With the consistent golf Snedeker is playing this season, I’m betting on him to have confidence with the putter and find his way back into contention.

As always, we look forward to the golf that will be played this weekend, but in this case, it will be a special tournament no matter what happens from tee to green, because of the opportunity to pay tribute to the late Arnold Palmer.

Thick Steak Plays

Jon:

Justin Rose $9,500 – Mr. Consistent for 2017. Rose has yet to miss a cut this year, and has great course history at Bay Hill. He also brings with him some great par-5 scoring. Another reason I love Rose is because his ownership is typically lower than it should be and at $9,500, I think he’s a good pivot off of some of the double digit guys.

Rickie Fowler $9,900 – I love this price for Fowler, it is too expensive to keep the sharks away, but is too close to some of the guys named Matsuyama and Day for people to sink to. In my mind this means Rickie gets low ownership yet again. It’s a Florida course, so you know Rickie is good to go there, as proven with his win at The Honda Classic. Additionally, you get to roster the #1 putter on tour right now.

Tom:

With Jon deciding to take the chalkiest of picks in Stenson and Rose, and then taking a great pivot-pick in Fowler, he didn’t really leave his partner much other than steak scrap plays. So I’ll instead just go on a little tangent about picking chalky and high-end golfers. The strategy worked out last week with chalky picks and “course-horses,” but we did predict that would be the case in an overall weak field.

This week could be a different story, though, as the stars and international players alike are showing up to pay tribute to the King in the first Arnold Palmer Invitational since his passing in 2016. As a result of a stronger and much more diverse field, it will probably be important to figure out which chalk to play and which to fade, but I would still strongly support any of Jon’s picks above.

My preferred play this week will be to start most lineups with Rose at $9,500 (which leaves an average of $8,100 for your 5 remaining players), but use Stenson in a couple safety lineups (because he is so overwhelmingly perfect on paper), and maybe go for the Stenson-Rose combo in one lineup (which drops your remaining average per player to $7,250) by adding a few value plays, of which there are several because of the depth of field.

To end the tangent, I would not sleep on McIlroy or Matsuyama either, who might lose some ownership because of Stenson and Rose, but my biggest caution is Day who will be balancing continued rust with the defending champion obligations and pressures.

Middle of the Road:

Jon

Paul Casey  $8,800 – I know, I know, this is only a middle of the road play based on a technicality of Casey being priced just inside the 8k range. However, I think Casey is a good pick in an otherwise dead range. I see people either dipping down to hop on the Hadwin train (way over priced IMO), or hitting the 9k range with Oosthuizen, Snedeker, and a recent favorite, Hatton. Casey hits all the major stats except par 5-BoB, but if he gets that going then I could easily see Casey winning.

Hudson Swafford $7,200 – A recent winner on the PGA Tour, Swafford has all the makings of a stud. His form since The Career Builder hasn’t been great, but he does seem to have the right makeup to contend at Bay Hill. The biggest thing I like about Swafford his stat line for the Valspar looks eerily similar to the stat line of some of the recent winners at Bay Hill. If I haven’t said it enough: Par-5 scoring is going to be key.

Tom:

Kevin Chappell $8,000 – This doubles as a flyer pick for sure, as Chappell’s form continues to look terrible this season. However, his price spiked due to awesome course history, including a runner-up here last year, and thus I think it’s the best time to take a gamble on DJ Decaf (credit: ZH, thanks!). The price and recent form should be enough to keep people away despite his course history, but there’s nothing wrong with a struggling golfer returning to a comfortable track. So let me be clear, I’m thinking 1 or 2 entries max for this risky pick, but I want to be one of the few who picks Chappell in his first strong finish of the season, and if I’m really lucky, first win of his career.

Tommy Fleetwood $7,200 – This pick is in keeping with the gutsy calls, as Fleetwood does not often tee it up on the PGA Tour, and does not have a lot of data to back how he might perform. There are far more stable plays in the mid-range, but if you move over to ESPN where you can check Fleetwood’s performance on the European Tour, you’ll see that he has played high-level, albeit streaky golf (a 12th place finish and a win at Abu Dhabi sandwich two missed cuts in 2017. And obviously he made a splash with that runner-up finish at the WGC Mexico Championship. Fleetwood’s name has been around for a few years in Majors and WGCs, so you’re not guaranteed to get a bargain on him in terms of ownership, but I just feel good about riding a hot hand in this case.

**I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the ridiculousness of the 6k range this week. Most of the grossly under-priced players of the week fall right there at 6.8 and 6.7k. Including but not limited to: Marc Leishman, Graham DeLaet, Will McGirt, Chris Kirk, and Brian Harman. Leishman and DeLaet especially might be used more than the aforementioned Fleetwood in my lineups this week, just to allow more ownership of the higher end players.

Tom’s Fade of The Week

Tyrrell Hatton $9,100 – Hatton is a different kind of fade for me this week based primarily on ownership. His popularity has skyrocketed, and granted it’s because he’s had incredible results on the PGA and especially European tours throughout his short time as a pro, I not my head to the golf gods and respect the variance of the game of golf. Knowing that Hatton is probably the next biggest buzz player to Jon Rahm right now, I’d like to play the percentage game in that a fade and an off week would return much more value than a play and a solid finish. I accept that Hatton could easily win and pop a huge hole in this strategy, but again, let’s try to play the percentages and hope for the best.

Jon’s Flyer of The Week

Roberto Castro $6,900 – Castro has quietly made 6/8 cuts this year, and though he hasn’t hit a top-10 yet, he seems to be trying to put everything together. This week, I like his strokes gained putting and his top-10 ranking in proximity stats. He also made the cut here last year as well. I do want to be perfectly clear on this pick – this is an ownership based flyer. There are plenty of solid picks in the 6k range – Lahiri, Howell & Leishman, to name a few. However, I predict those three will all be heavily owned. So if you want to take a chance on a low ownership FLYER, then I’m suggesting Castro.

 

 

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2017 Valspar Championship: Preview

Image result for Valspar championship

Things we have learned in 2017:

  • Dustin Johnson is not just a “bomber” anymore. The dude has an all-around game that is just further supplemented by his ability to drive the ball far. There is a reason he is officially now the number 1 golfer in the world.
  • Alexander Noren is not Tyrrell Hatton. No matter what every other DFS insider says, Hatton’s game is on a better level – at least right now than Noren.
  • Big name + first calendar event played = WD – looking at you Grace and Stenson…
  • There is something supremely wrong with the 2017 versions of Russell Knox, Patrick Reed, and Kevin Chappell.
  • The top ranked golfers, especially of the younger variety, have showed up to play this season, and do not want to share the wins with anyone else. This might push you toward stars + scrubs lineups, or at least making sure you anchor each lineup with one of the top names.

Now onto the preview of THE VALSPAR CHAMPIONSHIP (We previously got our calendars mixed up and said this week was the Arnold Palmer Invitational instead of next). The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort hosts this too-often overlooked tournament, because it is purely underrated for the quality of course.

A par 71, Copperhead is known as one of the tougher tests on the PGA Tour, especially the final stretch that is so challenging it was dubbed “the Snake Pit” (not that coming up with catchy nicknames for a stretch of holes is a new concept *cough* Amen Corner *cough* Bear Trap *cough* Green Mile *cough* Blue Monster *cough* I hope you get the idea).

Oh look, it’s another fearful nickname on a golf course! The Snake Pit, to be fair, is in fact one of the most devilish stretches of golf on the PGA Tour

Any who… This tournament is a fun and fair contest that never gets the strength of field it deserves, thanks to a pair of WGC events, the PGAs tribute to Arnold Palmer, and prep for the season’s quickly approaching first major causing many of the elite to circle this week as a perfect week off from golf. The result of a weaker field is that there will be some especially chalky picks, which is reflected a little bit in our advice below, as we are not going to be the fools who overthink our lineups, pass on obvious choices, and get burned on the weekend.

So with that, here is what we’re thinking for the Valspar:

Pick of The Week

Jon:

Ryan Moore $9,000 – I had Ryan Moore pegged for a solid 2017 season, and I think he starts to get that going at the Valspar. Moore has gone back-to-back top-10s here in the past two years, and I think he can get it done again in 2017. He had a quietly good wrap around season, and I’m throwing out the cut at Riviera, and chalking it up to weather. Driving accuracy is what shows up the most for his stats, in terms of where he’s been shining. On a difficult course, I think Moore has all the tools, and the history to put together a solid performance at Innisbrook.

Tom:

Graham DeLaet $8,400 – The Canadian is skating his way into my pick of the week (see what I did there) because of the sneaky good golf he is playing of late. DeLaet has made four cuts in a row, and hasn’t finished outside the top 20 since January (in three tries).

One thing you look for in fantasy golf is when course history collides with recent form, setting off fantasy fireworks, as the metaphor might go. Well, DeLaet combines the form described above with two top 10s and one top 20 in his three previous starts. When it comes to the volatile DeLaet, the plan could always backfire, but I am still going to take the reassuring resume on this one.

Thick Steak Plays

Jon:

Bill Haas $9,200 – Haas to me is a “can’t miss play” this week, which probably means he’ll shoot an 82 and withdraw — based on other “can’t miss plays,” like Grace and Stenson. Haas checks all the boxes in regard to Copperhead. After finishing 2nd in a playoff, I think Haas will be hungry to seal the deal this year. He hasn’t missed a cut and should be a staple in most cash lineups. The thing that’s great about Haas is that he is a GIR maker, and when he’s not hitting greens, he can back it up with being the #1 scrambler.

Matt Kuchar $10,200 – Kuch is the only other guy I like in this high range, and it’s mainly because he’s played this event every year since 2011 without missing a cut. He’s got some stats to back it up too, including scrambling, and driving accuracy. With how Kuch has been playing this year, and his dramatic price increase, I like Kuch to be a solid play with lower ownership.

Image result for matt kuchar 2016

We are in agreement on Kuchar this week, who always fits the “consistent category,” and could be commonly passed over due to prices this week

Tom:

Henrik Stenson $11,700 – I originally thought Stenson would be a great play from an ownership standpoint. His WD in Mexico burned an exorbitant number of players, and likely incited fears of a nagging or serious injury. However, it was well-reported that Stenson’s reason for withdrawing was a stomach issue, and that fact was reinforced when PGATour.com’s Rob Bolton made Stenson his number one on the power rankings this week. So instead of Stenson being a sneaky play, I see him instead as a defensive play, as I do like the Swede to bounce back and return to his usual, elite ball striking ways.

Matt Kuchar $10,200 – Here is something I usually try to avoid, repeating a pick of Jon’s. I just couldn’t get around it this week though, as I was highly considering Kuchar to be my pick of the week. Circle the last two words of Jon’s breakdown: low ownership. A big reason why I love Kuchar this week is the strategy side of it. With the firepower of Justin Thomas and Henrik Stenson, compared to the relative weakness of the remaining field, I see A LOT of lineups moving past Kuchar. Given his identity as one of the most consistent finishers on the PGA, I will take what other DK players leave me.

Middle of the Road

Jon:

Luke Donald $7,800 – Donald is my sneaky play this week. He seemingly loves this course, and has been having a quietly solid year. Donald has been lights out with his putter, and I think that will be what separates him this time around. He also has the added bonus of being a winner here, back in 2012 when it was The Transitions Championship.

Jim Furyk $7,200 – Furyk seems like kind of a no-brainer at $7,200. He’s got good course history here, and also has the stats — albeit a limited number of recorded rounds — to back it up. He’s a great scrambler, and his short game in general is something he can lean on. I like the Furyk pick in both cash and GPP

Tom:

Russell Henley $7,700 – People sometimes forget the talent that Russell Henley has and has shown on tour since winning the Sony Open in his 2013 pro debut. He followed that up by surviving a 4-man playoff at the Honda Classic in 2014, beating the likes of Ryan Palmer, Russell Knox, and another R-named golfer you’ve probably heard of, Rory McIlroy.

After that second win, Henley was just ahead of the pace of Jordan Spieth, who was in his second season and would later earn his second PGA win. Needless to say, the golfing careers have taken different turns, as Henley has not won again since, but this shows you just how much talent the former Georgia Bulldog has.

His Achilles-heel has been streaky play, which bodes well for Henley this week, because he is atop the stat pages in strokes-gained putting, par-breaker %, and overall birdie numbers. Hopefully the preferred Bermuda greens will get Henley back into the win column here.

Adam Hadwin $6,800 – Jon will go on to reference his support for Hadwin despite his course history being “patently disgusting.” I think that is a bit of an overreaction because he’s such a young golfer… However, it is true that Hadwin has yet to figure out Copperhead after two tries. What I like is that he finally broke 70 on Friday last year, albeit it followed a Thursday 79 that essentially eliminated him from the cut.

Hadwin, like DeLaet (and I just realized I’m leaning on the Canadians this week – must be a fellow snow bird, mutual understanding kind of thing), comes in with great form. Hadwin, in fact, has yet to miss a cut since the season opener. So when you cannot align recent form with course history, I lean a little more often toward strong recent form.

Tom’s Fade of the Week

Charl Schwartzel $8,800 – Take the rationale above: Recent form > course history. Schwartzel has looked plain-bad in his one European Tour and three PGA Tour events in 2017. Not to mention, his history at this tournament is nonexistent outside of an unexpected win here last year. So as a defending champion, I think Schwartzel fits the perfect category as one to fade. Especially after you look through the South African’s career and see that it is really just comprised of his fluky Masters win in 2011 and his fluky win here last season. And really his European Tour history, though bolstered with a few more wins, is nothing to get too excited about.

Wow… I think I just sold myself on the argument that Charl Schwartzel is the most overrated golfer in the world (shots fired, cue the PGATour.com survey and puff piece), but for the sake of this article that is a moot point. For now I will just consider him to be a justifiable fade of the week.

Here’s Your Flyer

Robert Garrigus $6,800 – I can’t even believe I’m writing this, and let me also premise this by saying there are A LOT of good players in the 7-8k range, and the only reason to play Garrigus would be to differentiate yourself in a GPP. THIS IS NOT A SAFE CASH PLAY. I was between Garrigus and Hadwin this week, and Hadwin’s course history here is patently disgusting. Garrigus however, has notched two top 10’s in the past five years. If he’s going to contend it’s going to be because of his GIR%, and the fact that he can stick it close to the hole. Again, I can’t believe I’ve written Garrigus’ name down, so take it for what you will, but here is your flyer of the week.

 

 

 

 

2017 WGC-Mexico: Preview

wgc-mexico-championship-logo-990x556For the first time, this WGC event will be hosted at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City, as the event has moved from Trump Doral in an undeniable twist of irony. Because this is the first time the event will be played in Mexico City, Tom and I are going to go with a different format for picks. Instead of our tiered breakdown, we are going to do a little bit of a round table discussion about what should be a really interesting WGC event.

WGC Mexico

Club De Golf Chapultepec reaches elevations as high as 7,835 feet above sea level Source: Talens Magazine

At first glance this course is long (par 5’s of 625 & 622, and par 3’s of 235 & 225), however it also has short par 4’s sprinkled throughout. Additionally, at 1+ miles of elevation, how do you attack this course? And does this give an advantage to the bombers?

Jon: At first glance early in the week, I thought this was going to be a bombers paradise based on yardage alone. Then I read a little physics about altitude and its affect on drag and magnus force, and suddenly had a change of heart. The best way I can put this is that in higher spots on the course there is less air resistance, making the balls retain speed at a higher rate throughout their flight. Additionally, they are playing in Mexico, which means it will get hot, which reduces the air density even more. The big takeaway being that bombers will have a slight advantage in reaching some of the shorter par 4’s, but it will be to a negligible degree. BIG, big takeaway — your short iron players are the guys to target.

Tom: I do not want to read into this too much – when you look at Jon’s description, I focus on the word negligible because it just seems like there are too many variables. When I looked through the course breakdown on PGATour.com (a good practice that is accessible information to everyone), what stuck out to me most was how tight a lot of the holes look. So maybe total driving (a stat that measures driving distance + driving accuracy). Rickie Fowler is obviously driving the ball well, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose also come to mind (especially if Stenson can use his favorite club, the 3 wood), and interestingly, Bubba Watson is very accurate off the tee so far this season – but somehow is also in terrible form, so he would be a risky play to consider.

 What do you think the winning score will be, and how does that correlate to your picks?
Jordan SpiethJon: After reading and listening to copious amounts of material, it sounds like this is going to be a low scoring affair, with chances early and often to make birdies. For me, that lends itself to picking players like Jordan Spieth, and Jon Rahm who can make birdies in bunches. Winning score –> -19
Tom: The weather report is also favorable, so that helps avoid additional variables that would affect scoring. Since every golfer is guaranteed four rounds, that should also drive scores lower. I’m not sure we will see them break -20 though, so in the interest of making this little mini-competition with Jon interesting, I’ll say -17. In general, I’m not worried about score, other than agreeing with the interest in birdie or better %, strokes-gained putting, etc. (stats that are almost always relevant).
This is essentially a brand new tournament, and also features players not typically found on a PGA event. With that said, what is your strategy for picking players, and for picking what DFS games to play?
Jon: There is definitely a different strategy to picking players in a small field event, filled with the worlds top golfers, and I think you have to have a “what have you done for me lately” attitude. That’s not to say you should shy away from guys coming in with less than stellar form (see below). With these WGC events, there is much less variability, and I really feel like the sharks smell blood in the water. People with the bankroll are going to enter multiple lineups, with little variability, simply because they can. Therefore I am playing small entry GPP games, to just have fun this week.
Tom: When it comes to a lot of unknowns, I take a little safer approach than normal. Not to say safe in terms of leaning on cash-game plays, but safe in terms of consistency with my own picks. I recommend leaning toward guys who you predict to have lower ownership, but stay consistent with your own picks. I think less variance in players than usual is important.
Does your approach to picking players change in a no-cut event?
Jon: To add to my explanation above, GPP’s are always hard to win (you should never expect to outright win a GPP), whereas cash games are typically easier, because of cutline.  Typically, if you get 6/6 through the cut, you’re going to win a cash game, and often if you get 5/6 through you’re going with win in cash. With these no cut games, it distorts who you should pick. You could theoretically pick all 6k guys, have them collectively average a 3+, and still win if they hit enough birdies. The distortion adds another dimension to DFS, which makes these no cut tournaments hard. It also makes ownership percentage paramount to winning; if you zig while others zag, you’ll be in good shape. I’d look for Russel Knox, Branden Grace, Bubba Watson, and Brooks Koepka to be the biggest names who are low owned this week, but that’s mainly because they’ve been in poor form, so you gotta pick your poison.
Tom: When it comes to WGC events, I think that most people salivate a little bit at the opportunity to not worry about their players getting cut. But this is the mirage that Draft Kings wants you to see. Simply put, WGCs are extremely difficult to gauge. You almost have to pick the winner, for starters. So the approach I’m taking this year is leaning on single-entry formats. I don’t want to enter any leagues where the sharks can really maximize their chances by playing the numbers, since there are fewer players and no cut. I want to be in tournaments where we all have the same competitive advantage in terms of entries. And like I said above, I want to go to the well early and often with my favorite players this week. For me that means Rickie Fowler to keep up his great form, Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker, and Louis Oosthuizen who I think will be underrated due to the WD fears.
Does history in this WGC event and others matter?
 Jon: I looked at little-to-no course history, and instead tried to focus on current form. Look, you have the worlds top ranked golfers here, so it’s hard to have a traditionally bad lineup, but with that said, I think that the players who are here on exemption, will fade to the back, unless your name is Will McGirt.
Tom: I would say yes and no. This particular event should be treated like a new tournament because of the very unusual course it is being played on, but you still have to factor in the stakes and features of the tournament. Some players simply rise to the occasion in these events, whether it is the relative competition with the best golfers in the world, or the ability to not worry about making a cut. Guys in that boat include Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed, and again Bubba Watson. And I will say, it is hard to bet against Spieth when he’s given four rounds, because he’s a virtual lock to go low in at least one.
Rory McIlRoy

Source: CBSSports

Since this event consists of the top golfers in the world, can you take a flier on just about anyone?

Jon: EF NO! Look at your injuries, current form, wedge play. Even though they are the best in the world, they are still competing against each other and they all do things vastly different. Spieth loves his putter, and prides himself on green reading. DJ, the perennial bomber is going to make his opportunities based on distance. Warren Buffet prides himself on doing his homework, and so should you. Branden Grace withdrew last week citing a rotator cuff injury, Rory is coming back from a rib injury, and also pretty much couldn’t figure out his putter last year. All of these are factors to consider when picking your players for Mexico.
Tom: I agree here: no. Sure, anyone in this tournament has the pedigree to win. But there are a lot of golfers coming in from other world tours who have never teed it up against the likes of a Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, of Dustin Johnson. It’s hard to translate your success in the face of players that bring the inherent intimidation that comes with their exposure in the media and the world of golf. There are also golfers who are simply not playing up to their world ranking currently. So as Jon mentioned, really lean on that current form, and don’t just throw guys in there who you know nothing about on the assumption that they will make decent contrarian plays.
***
Finally, good luck! Don’t over think your approach this week. It also might not be the week to go ham on your bank roll and bet a ton more money than usual. This is a common mistake people make in no cut events. But on the plus side of there being no cut, you should hopefully be able to stay entertained through Sunday no matter what happens on Thursday and Friday, so enjoy the viewing this weekend!
We apologize for getting this post out on the morning of the tournament, and expect to be back next week with our normal picks style for what will be an emotional and special installment of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.