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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