2017 Waste Management Phoenix Open: Preview

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The Farmers Insurance Open is over, and what a sweet finish it was, with Jon Rahm sinking a downhill, double-breaking, 60-foot putt for eagle, and turning a come-from-behind into a three-stroke victory. Okay, we’ll bite… Yes, we did feature Jon Rahm, and did predict a slow and steady climb toward Sunday contention. But in all fairness, we were not the only ones on Rahm. In fact, most everyone in the golfing world has been as high or higher on Rahm, and now you see why. Spoiler alert: we’re back on the Arizona State grad this week as he gets to build on his momentum from the win by essentially having a home field tournament with a significantly Sun Devil-partial crowd.

But aside from Rahm, there were a lot of casualties – as there often are – at Torrey Pines, and our picks were far from unscathed. So we’re not here to gloat. We’re here to show humility, show our respect to the fantasy gods, and to always keep working at improving our craft. So with that, it’s another week, another dollar.

This week the PGA Tour heads to Phoenix, Arizona to take on TPC Scottsdale, in what is easily one of our top five favorite non-majors of the season. Boasting “The loudest hole in golf,” and the “greenest show on grass,” the Waste Management Phoenix Open helps bridge the gap between golf and football on a Superbowl weekend like no other tournament could. The WMPO not only attracts the largest crowd of any golf tournament, at times making the action look more like a scene from Happy Gilmore than a traditional tournament, it is the most sustainable and charitable tournament of the year.

It also has begun attracting deeper and deeper fields, meaning lots of great players to pick from, so let’s get after it.

Waste Management Phoenix Open

TPC Scottsdale Course History

Pick of The Week

Jon:

Brendan Steele $8,200 – Hideki is clearly the course horse at TPC Scottsdale, but Brendan Steele is the guy I’m going to be on this week. Currently sitting at 4th in the Fedex Cup standings, Steele has made 6 of 6 cuts this year, and has not finished lower than 31st. He has great course history at TPC Scottsdale, notching two top-10’s in the last 5 years. Couple that with a high strokes gained, total driving, and GIR %, and I have my golfer of the week.

Tom:

Brooks Koepka $9,100 – Last week, I cautioned that my pick of the week (Jimmy Walker) could blow up in my face. It did. This week, I’m picking a guy who was also in that list of notable golfers who missed the cut last week (which included Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, and Tiger Woods). Koepka struggled in his title defense of this tournament last year, but it was the site of his breakthrough PGA win in 2015, and since, Koepka has been one of the higher-level golfers on tour, culminating in a Ryder Cup appearance this past fall. I see Koepka as a top-tier option who may have actually fallen a bit under the radar (I’m hoping for <20% ownership), and who’s length can absolutely dominate this course.

Thick Steak Plays

Jon:

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Source: Arizona Sports

Hideki Matsuyama $11,700 – One of us has to put him in here. Hideki will most likely be the highest owned player in the field, and rightfully so. He’s a past winner and has finished in top 10 positions in multiple years. He just seems to really like this course, and we wouldn’t be doing our job if we told you to fade him (unless Tom can find a reason). He’s a course horse for a reason.

Jon Rahm $9,700 – Last week’s winner returns to his college state of Arizona. I typically will stay away from last week’s winner, but after watching that 60-foot eagle putt to win, I’m a believer. Rahm ranks high in strokes gained categories, as well as birdie or better percentage. Again, as an Arizona State Alumnus, I see Rahm having another big week.

Tom:

Justin Thomas $11,500 – Elephant in the room: Justin Thomas is teeing it up for the first time since many in the golf world started crowning him as the “next big thing” in golf after two dominant wins in Hawaii, and already three on the season. Whether you buy into that story line or think it’s far-fetched and premature, the dude’s golf game has been incendiary this year. TPC Scottsdale is not exactly the track to humble a hot golfer, either. So I expect JT will continue his birdie-busting play, even if he doesn’t ultimately win the tournament. From an ownership standpoint, though, I would caution overuse of Thomas. A good strategy would be to roll him out in 33-50% of your lineups, and be strategic about which lineups to omit him.

J.B. Holmes $8,800 – I’m not going to lie, thick steak plays are not my favorite this week, and having already used one up as my pick of the week in Koepka, it was hard for me to even choose a second here who I strongly endorse. But as I looked into Holmes a bit more, I may have sold myself. Much like Koepka, J.B. has the length to get into scoring position early and often in Phoenix. On top of that, he’s played this tournament many, many times, has made the cut three years in a row, has two top 10s here (including a T6 last year), and is coming off a Sunday 68 at Torrey Pines. So I like his momentum, and love his history in Phoenix, and finally, believe he will go largely overlooked.

Still, I plan to craft most lineups this week that will pass up the high $ players, and focus on the 7k-low-8k range guys.

Middle of The Road

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Source: Arizona Progress Gazette

 

Jon:

Ryan Moore $8,600 – Another cut-maker of 2017. Moore has great course history here, and like him to round out some lineups. I think Moore has the potential to win here, but overall, I think he’s just a darn safe play. He’s finished with multiple top 10s the past few years at TPC Scottsdale, and ranks well in key metrics that I’m looking at.

Pat Perez $8,000 – Where the F did Perez come from? Tom picked him last week, and I am all in on Perez this week. Again, he has yet to miss a cut, and also has great course history here, coming in notching a bunch of top 50 showings. Following a missed cut last year, I look for Perez to give the course the business, and have a very strong showing at 2017’s version of the Phoenix Open. Oh, and it helps he was born in Phoenix, Arizona.

Tom:

Scott Piercy $7,900 – Piercy is a chalky play this week. First, he is 6 out of 7 in this tournament, including three top 10s and another T15 (granted, these high finishes go back a few years). Second, he has made the cut in every tournament he’s entered this season. There is a lot of clutter (that we will talk about) in this mid-range, so a steady hand like Piercy’s is preferable to taking a flyer on someone near his price.

Cody Gribble $7,100 – Gribble is my example of a sneaky play this week. Jon talked about him at the beginning of the season, as were most of the golf talking heads at that point. Gribble is a rookie from University of Texas who already won (Sanderson Farms Championship), back when most of us were not yet playing fantasy golf. He followed up that win with a couple top 15s, then missed the cut at the Sony Open, and then took a couple weeks off. It is pretty rare for a rookie to get a break like that early in the season, but the win granted Gribble that fortune, and thus I like his chances as he returns to the action this week.

Tom’s Fade of The Week

Rickie Fowler $9,500 and Bubba Watson $8,300 – These are probably considered bolder-than-usual fades, but that’s the kind of fade I like! Both Fowler and Watson are course horses at TPC Scottsdale (Fowler of course losing to Matsuyama in a playoff last year), both are extremely popular in the golfing world (especially with the casual fan), and – although it’s not relevant here – they are both really good friends! What that means is that they will likely carry high ownership, and because of their track records, that could really hurt if you fade them and they both end up contending. It ALSO, of course, means that a fade that pans out could give you an especially strong edge, so be bold, and fade the golf boys!

Jon’s Flyer of the Week

Lucas Glover $6,500 – I can almost guarantee that even mentioning Lucas Glover will draw groans from the DFS crowd. To this day, I have not mentioned Glover’s name without some sort of “really?” from Tom. And it’s true, Glover’s putter may as well be the wrong end of a ball-peen hammer, but the guy has been getting it done this year! He’s been cut once this year — back in October, mind you — and since then has done no worse than a 41st place. He ranks high in strokes gained tee-to-green, and GIR%, which are both metrics that he’ll need this week. I’m not saying Glover comes out ready to hit the winners circle, but I think he could be a sneaky, sneaky play.

BONUS! “7 and 7”

We’re going to add a little section this week (named after one of Tom’s favorite drinks) because frankly, the prices on DK are extremely bizarre for this tournament. It was going to be a tough week to judge anyway, as there is a predicted uptick in players transitioning from daily NFL leagues, and these prices are just adding to the challenge.

For instance: As we’ve continued to gather data on DK GPP leagues, including both our own lineups and others that finish at the top, one theme has become clear: lineups are often won and lost with how you pick players in the 7k range.

The problem with this week is… there are a whopping 47 golfers in this range! So Tom is going to highlight 7 golfers to consider, and 7 to avoid in the 7k range. They are as follows:

Yay:

Tony Finau ($7,600), Matt Kuchar ($7,400) – this is almost a defensive pick, because Kuch will likely be a huge favorite at this ridiculously low of a price, Luke List ($7,400), William McGirt ($7,400), Ryan Palmer ($7,100), Byeong-Hun An ($7,100), and Marc Leishman ($7,000).

Nay:

Webb Simpson ($7,900), Kevin Na ($7,500) – this is partially a strategy play (unlike the yay for Kuch) based on projecting high ownership, James Hahn ($7,300), Robert Garrigus ($7,300), Jason Kokrak ($7,100), Graham DeLaet ($7,100), and Daniel Berger ($7,000).

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Career Builder Challenge

704x422Justin Thomas is hot hot hot right now, with PGATour.com already asking, if his “best is yet to come?” It’s always fun when the first full-field tournament of the year results in history being made. However, not as fun when 17 lineups between 2 novice daily fantasy golf players only feature Justin Thomas once, so let’s put Hawaii behind us and move on to the California swing. The Career Builder Challenge at PGA West is a unique event to say the least. It has never been quite the same since the five-day birdie fest known as the Bob Hope Challenge, but it is still played as a pro-am, still is played on three different courses, and although it’s been dialed back to the traditional four days, it is still typically a shoot out affair. There are not a ton of big names signed up this year, with Patrick Reed being the odds-on favorite to win, and Lefty getting his start on the 2017 season.

Statistic-based strategy is a little “iffy” right now, with the data pool in 2017 being inherently shallow, and so course history and current form are perhaps the best indicators of how players can fair. 2016 stats are great to look at, but often don’t often tell the whole story. So, without further ado, here are some of our picks for The Career Builder Challenge.

**Check out the first installment of a consistent “Tom’s Fade of The Week,” and “Jon’s Flyer of The Week.” Playing to our strengths, Tom has often picked high-level fades to avoid, while Jon has a knack for finding those guys near the bottom of the barrel who can rise up the leaderboard and win you some money.

Pick of the week

Jon:

Bill Haas $10,500. This took a lot for me to put Mr. Haas up as my pick of the week. And he very well could let me down just like Chris Kirk did last week. However, history speaks for itself. Haas clearly knows how to play this work, notching a win here, back when it was the Humana challenge, and following that up with a t9 finish last year. He seems to have figured out this course, and I like that he was able chip in on 18 at Waialae to build momentum.

Tom:

 

Kevin Na $8,800. Is Patrick Reed my favorite player of the week? Naaaa… Okay, that was too obvious, but so is picking Kevin Na this week, in my opinion. Na had a steady week with four rounds in the 60s at the Sony Open, and is ready to pop in 2017. He has made the cut here in La Quinta the past three tries, including his best finish at T3 last year. My only caution any time that I endorse Na is ownership percentage. For whatever reason, Na is always incredibly popular on Draft Kings. I think it is because of his well-known battle with nerves and anxiety, that reflects that of the average DK player trying to create winning lineups: he’s the every man golfer. But I don’t care if everyone takes him this week, because I feel so strongly about a top 10 finish this week.

 

Thick Steak Plays:

Jon:

Zach Johnson $10,200. As mentioned previously, stats are a little harder to look at with a such a small data pool. We then have to guess based on 2016 and current form. ZJ certainly showed that he could go low in Hawaii, and I’d look for him to continue at PGA West. GIR’s and Putts are huge – I’ll say it all week. Those stats are going to lead to low rounds, and Johnson has proven more than capable in those areas.

Emiliano Grillo $9,800. If Tom doesn’t mention Jon Rahm as either his pick of the week, or at least one of his picks, then we’ll have words. Aside from Rahm though, I like Grillo to build on an impressive 2016 rookie campaign. He finished high in driving accuracy, GIR percentage, strokes-gained, and our going low composite stats. The concern is he has no course history here, but that didn’t stop him from making 22 cuts last year as a rookie.

Tom:

 

Brendan Steele $9,300. Jon’s reference to Rahm comes from the fact that he was my prized third-round pick in our season-long league, as a guy I think can end up top 10 on the money list in a breakout year. But let me be clear: I plan on taking a wait-and-see approach with Rahm this week. Granted, it’s easy for me to do that because I am hedging, and will benefit from Rahm winning even if I don’t play him much in DK lineups. So instead, I’m picking some more obvious, chalky fruit in Brendan Steele. Steele won the Safeway Open to kick off the 2016-17 season, he’s coming off a T6 finish in the Tournament of Champions, and is known for great play in California. Done.

Scott Piercy $8,300. As you can see, I have skipped over a lot of the thickest of steak players this week, and am including a moderately thick play in Scott Piercy. That brings up a good tid-bit on contrarian lineup strategy. By far, and especially when talking about other novice players, the most common strategy lineup is to pick one or two players >9,000, two <7,000, and sprinkle in the mid-range plays to round it out. Thus, in weeks where you don’t love the high-end plays, a great strategy is to make some lineups with all 7,000-9,000 players, as you will likely create unique combinations that way. Piercy is a perfect anchor for this approach at the CareerBuilder, as he also is a steady cut-maker with top 10 upside, and a history of good play early in the season.

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Career Builder History

Middle of the Road:

Jon:

Chez Reavie $7,500. While not as cheap as I would have hoped, I like Reavie this week. Chez had himself quite a day on Sunday of the Sony Open. In a similar “go low” style of  course, I think Chez can build on his Hawaiian momentum in California. If he can continue trending upward on his strokes gained approaching the green, then I think he is certainly capable of making those eagle putts that he has become recently accustomed to making.

Adam Hadwin $7,500. My love for Adam Hadwin knows no bounds. This guy is a birdie monster – ranking 12 in total birdies for 2012. He has had relatively good success recently at PGA West, and I would look for him to build on a good 2016 season, and come out and start making birdies left and right as he’s known to do. In terms of DFS scoring, Hadwin is like going to Hyde Park Steakhouse during happy hour: It’s a damn good deal.

Tom:

Ryan Palmer $8,000. No tricks or gimmicks here, Ryan Palmer is up there with Mickelson and Haas as the biggest horse the course this week. He has finished no worse than T17 here in the past four years, and his success at this event dates back to the Bob Hope classic. Palmer had a disappointing 75 on Friday to miss the cut last week, but he did open with a 66, and should be able to bounce back in California.

Harold Varner III $7,200. Let me preface by saying: I am not picking Varner for a guarantee of a T25 finish, or even a guarantee of a made cut. I am picking Varner because he’s a young player with boatloads of talent, and is bound to go off eventually. He hasn’t done much since debuting as a rookie last year, but he did make 18/28 cuts, and converted 4 into top 10 finishes. What I like about Varner is that he’s known for making birdies, and he will get three rounds to do so before the cut, as the cut will occur on Saturday this week, after each player gets a shot at each course. People should be off of Varner after back-to-back missed cuts, which is why he is risky, but also a potentially sneaky pick.

Tom’s Fade of The Week

Jamie Lovemark $9,600. There are two main reasons to fade a player: his cost does not match your assessment of his value, or you perceive his ownership to be higher than your assessment of his value. Lovemark checks both of these boxes for me. On one hand, I  think he fits the bill as a great play – long off the tee, capable of going low, and coming in with form (T4 and T6 in previous two starts) + history (T6 here last year). Wait a second, wow, Lovemark sounds like a perfect pick! The only problem is, Draft Kings also picked up on this, and consequently inflated his price to 9,600, and there is no doubt the public will pick up on this and lead to high ownership. So with a guy who is still relatively unproven, in a game that is incredibly difficult to achieve consistency, I see Lovemark as both a strategic and logical fade this week.

Jon’s Flyer of The Week

Peter Malnati $6,300. Malnati is my flyer of the week. Malnati shot in the 60’s all last week at Waialae good for a T27. I look for Malnati to continue to go low this week at PGA West. Malnati has proven he can make his birdies, and his weakness comes when he has a bad day and can’t recover. With the set-up of the Career Builder (cut on the last day), Malnati’s value is understated at his current price. I look to Malnati to have a good few days at PGA West, and hopefully be in contention come Sunday.

 

 

 

Zurich Classic Preview

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.

 

WGC Cadillac: Preview and Predictions

Donald Trump, the tournament sponsor, always presents the trophy, and most likely thinks getting to shake his hand is the ultimate prize. Photo courtesy of sportsworldreport.com.

Donald Trump, the tournament sponsor, always presents the trophy, and most likely thinks getting to shake his hand is the ultimate prize. Photo courtesy of sportsworldreport.com.

Let’s just start off by saying that these three WGC events are not counted in our year-long draft league, because they are shortened fields and do not have a cut. But I suppose that does not mean we get the week off – we still need to make picks for weekly leagues. After the results at the Honda, trust me, we would like the week off. Though to be fair, every fantasy expert and blog I follow has expressed the same exact sentiments in regard to last week’s picks and results. Anyway, enough dwelling on what was and what should never be.

Full field or not, this tournament is one of the most exciting events of the year. Mostly because it by definition puts the best players in the world up against each other, the leaderboard is always strong and entertaining to follow (note: this is also the first we will see from Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, and a red-hot Branden Grace in the states). And when you head to a course nicknamed “the blue monster,” you know you will get a high level of golf due to a high level of difficulty.

Trump National at Doral is a course owned by, you guessed it, Donald Trump. Because of this, you can bet that it is a course in pristine condition, in which – as John Hammond from Jurassic Park would say – they spared no expense in course redesigns and maintenance. You’d be hard-pressed to find a “horse for the course,” because of the significant changes made last year, and the depth of the field yields a very unique leaderboard every year it seems (not to mention several players go in and out of qualification each year).

As for the top golfers in the world, really any one of them could win. Whether it be McIlroy, Watson, Day, Rose, Spieth, Kuchar, or defending champion Patrick Reed, you can almost pick names out of a hat from the top 16 in the world to make your picks this week. The only ones that concern us are Stenson and Scott, because they haven’t been playing much, and Kaymer and Fowler because they seem like they still need to wake up and snap into form.

We will be hanging our hats on Gallacher's performance this week. If he does well, we look smart, if not, it could be another week of apologizing for our picks. Photo courtesy of lakegardagolf.com.

We will be hanging our hats on Gallacher’s performance this week. If he does well, we look smart, if not, it could be another week of apologizing for our picks. Photo courtesy of lakegardagolf.com.

The scary thing is that there are a lot of other golfers in the field who we really like. Jamie Donaldson, Luke Donald, and Joost Luiten impressed us last week with their strong finishes in harsh conditions (6, T7, and T11, respectively). Paul Casey had a second-straight run for the title. Then you’ve got several players, like Brooks Koepka, Ryan Palmer, Shane Lowry, and Branden Grace, who are just in great form right now. A lot of ways to go this week. So without further ado, we try to rebound from the worst week ever:

PGATour.com

Jordan SpiethOf all the “big names” this week, we are not hearing a lot about Spieth. You all know everything you need to know about this guy. Sure, he’s not lights out every week, but who is (see Rory’s missed cut last week)? He’s proven in the Masters, the Hero World Challenge, and other tournaments early in his career that he can rise to the occasion on the biggest stages. If we have a chance to be in the minority by picking Spieth this week, we will take it.

Jim Furyk. Another player who isn’t getting a lot of attention, yet it would shock no one if he finished in the top 5. Still, given the other options this week, we consider Furyk to be a definite risk. That is a theme in our PGATour picks this week – we’d like to make up some ground by going for guys that aren’t popular picks this week.

Stephen GallacherThe Scot will be our only “double-dip” pick of the week, and we are doing this for good reason, as he is our sleeper pick to win the whole tournament. Gallacher earned our respect in the Ryder Cup, and we think he will garner even more attention in the WGC’s and majors this year. Truly, picking him in the first WGC of the year is a bit of a gamble, as it would be nice to see how he performs on U.S. soil first, but after last week we are thinking “why the hell not?”

Joost LuitenAnother pick that qualifies as a sleeper, but Luiten did finish in a T11 last week and a T13 in this tournament last year. A staple on the European tour, we think Luiten can carryover his momentum from PGA National to Doral.

Golf Channel

Jason DayHard to bet against a healthy Day. Well, when your other options include Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, and Adam Scott, it may not be THAT hard… Still, we’ll take Day to keep making a push toward unseating Rory for best player in the world. He has the game, the consistency, and the composure to win here.

Matt KucharOnly in a WGC, and possibly the majors, will Kuchar drop to the second tier. We will take advantage. He comes as close to the definition of “stalwart” – coincidentally a great GRE word – as any golfer does in terms of fantasy golf. Of course, there were many, many options in the second tier, but it’s impossible to not feel comfortable with Kuch.

Stephen Gallacher. Again, we passed on many great options because we’re just going for it with Gallacher this week. Please, please, please don’t let us down Stephen!

Russell Henley. Because of the field, golfers like Jason Dufner and Webb Simpson fell to the bottom tier this week, which makes the Golf Channel format all the more challenging. We are going with Henley on the hope that he finds the poise that has him ranked 56 in the world, and a two-time winner on the PGA Tour in just his second season as a pro. With Henley, you truly never know what you’re going to get, but if he’s on his game, he can beat anyone in the world.

The Honda Classic: Recap

The elements were at full force during the Honda Classic, with so many delays that Harrington could not hoist the trophy until early Monday afternoon. Photo courtesy of PGATour.com.

The elements were at full force during the Honda Classic, with so many delays that Harrington could not hoist the trophy until early Monday afternoon. Photo courtesy of PGATour.com.

Woof. The Florida swing started off with a punch in the gut-check for the PGA, as well as for our fantasy predictions. Rain, lightning, a lot of wind, and a lot of rain all added up into a Monday finish and 5 brutal days of hang-on-for-dear-life golf that at times made the best golfers in the world look downright silly (see: Poulter, Ian).

This resulted in making our picks look downright silly. We knew something had to be going on – we had picked the winner on at least one of our teams in 4 out of the first 6 weeks. Between Hawaii, Arizona, and the California swing, we got accustomed to the relative predictability of the fields, and walked into the Florida swing like big men on campus, feeling like we owned the place. Okay, that may be an exaggeration… we only earned one “A” grade on picks in the first 6 weeks after all, but now we just want to set you up for the sorry grades you are about to see.

So here’s what we did know about the Honda Classic: There was the strongest field by far, with 16 of the top 25 golfers teeing it up. There was also a huge showing of elite European players, including Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, and Victor Dubuisson playing their first U.S. tournaments. Sergio was coming off a T4 finish at Riviera, and Justin Rose, Jamie Donaldson, and Ian Poulter were back in the field.

It would have been wise to target some European players, because the tournament was ultimately won by Padraig Harrington, and Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Russell Knox, Jamie Donaldson, and Luke Donald all finished in the top 10. However, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, and Graeme McDowell, among other Europeans, failed to make the cut. So even that strategy would have had its pitfalls. As for Americans, much like in the Ryder Cup, Patrick Reed was the only elite player to make a run at it. Mickelson showed some promise before sputtering with a +3 in his final round, finishing in a T17.

And finally, I think it is time we mentioned a guy named Daniel Berger. Have you heard of him? Well, if you’ve been paying attention to golf in 2015 you have by now. Berger is a 21 year old rookie from Florida State who has now had the best overall finishes of any rookie in 2015. Though you hear mostly about Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Carlos Ortiz, and maybe even Nick Taylor, here are Berger’s finishes so far in 2015, starting with the Sony Open: T13, MC, T10, T24, T10, T10, skipped Northern Trust, solo 2 (playoff loss). That is pretty impressive, especially considering all of the talent that did NOT make it into a playoff at the Honda Classic this past week. Berger is definitely a guy to watch out for.

Now, without further ado, here are our results:

PGATour.com: Rory McIlroy (Cut/0 points), Keegan Bradley (Cut/0 points), Charl Schwartzel (Cut/0 points), Billy Horschel (Cut/0 points). Overall grade – F

There it is. 0 for 4. Is that even possible?? Seriously, this might be a more impressive feat than picking Padraig Harrington to win and Daniel Berger to show would have been. Aside from McIlroy, these picks admittedly were far-fetched, but it is still almost unheard of to not have a single guy make the cut. We apologize to anyone who read and comprehended these picks last week.

Golf Channel: Sergio Garcia (T31), Keegan Bradley (Cut), Russell Knox (T3), Mark Wilson (Cut). Total Earnings: $349,652. Overall Grade – C

Russell Knox saved us here. One shining star out of 7 golfers picked. Mark Wilson? WTF?? That pick was like a basketball player taking an ill-advised three. If it goes in you are celebrated, if it doesn’t, you’re benched. Well, we may deserve to ride the bench after this week, but fantasy golf takes no breaks! Let’s see if we can right the ship after such a blunder-filled week.

Northern Trust Open: Recap

James Hahn kept his cool on Sunday, and enters the ranks of a PGA winner after an impressive playoff performance. Photo courtesy of skysports.com

James Hahn kept his cool on Sunday, and enters the ranks of a PGA winner after an impressive playoff performance. Photo courtesy of skysports.com

Whenever the eventual winner of a tournament ends two strokes higher than the leader going into Sunday, you can bet there was some excitement along the way. Sunday at Riviera Country Club certainly provided that excitement. Several players, including Sergio Garcia in his first tournament back (much like Furyk last week), had a share or the outright lead at some point through out the day. Sang-Moon Bae, another one of our picks, was right in the thick of it despite the mental distraction over a looming military service requirement in Korea.

But at the end of the day, it came down to a three-way playoff between Paul Casey, Dustin Johnson, and eventual winner James Hahn. Hahn earned his first PGA Tour victory by outperforming Casey on the second playoff hole, and outlasting Dustin Johnson on the third. As is often the case, it was Hahn’s short game that kept him standing at the end. After putting well throughout the day, Hahn sank an incredible birdie putt on the par 3 14th hole, which was one better than DJ could manage.

Both Hahn and Johnson were in trouble on the 10th, their second playoff hole, but both consecutively hit clutch flop shots from the deep rough to both get inside Casey’s ball and knock the Englishman out of the running. The poise and competitiveness demonstrated by Hahn may have been expected more out of Johnson than the 297th ranked golfer in the world, but it is Hahn who came up clutch and ultimately hoisted the trophy.

After the most exciting playoff of the season so far, let’s look at how our picks held up:

PGATour.com: Jimmy Walker (T41/28 points), Bill Haas (Cut/0 points), Sergio Garcia (T4/108 points), Sang-Moon Bae (T8/77 points). Overall Grade – B-

3/4 made the cut, two top 10s = not bad. Enough to keep you relevant, we like to think. Especially when the winner, James Hahn, was probably picked by next to nobody. Because Walker and Haas let us down with our two safest picks, we consider this a B- instead of a B, but we will certainly take 50% top 10s each week.

Golf Channel: Jim Furyk (T14), Harris English (T30), Brian Harman (Cut), Charlie Beljan (T69). Total Earnings: $162,066. Overall Grade – C-

We are now on a 3 week trend of our Golf Channel grade being a full letter grade or more lower than our PGATour team. Perhaps it is time to adjust our strategy, or put a little more thought into this 4-tier format. Especially when you consider Hahn was there for the taking in the bottom tier. Still, 3/4 making the cut, and a respectable T14 from Furyk saved us from a D.

Northern Trust Open: Preview and Predictions

Riviera

Riviera CC has one of the best amphitheater-style closing holes in PGA Golf. Photo courtesy of arnieskingdom.com

Well I’ve said it before, and am perhaps bordering on “broken record” status, but this week’s field appears to be the most solid one yet. They just keep getting better and better, what am I to do!? I guess just wait for the Valspar Championship. Okay I’m sorry, that was harsh (I kid because it’s true).

Perhaps most excitingly, this will be the first week to see Sergio Garcia tee it up on U.S. soil. Love the guy or hate the guy, he’s always one of those highly anticipated players (thanks to often being in the hunt, yet rarely winning). He did not come to Riviera last year, but finished T13 and T4 in his last two appearances.

The obvious storylines include Bubba defending his incredible 64-64 finish to win last year’s tournament, Dustin Johnson entering his third week back at a second-straight place he’s had past success, and coming off T4 last week, and perhaps a great chance to see the first two-time winner of the season (11/14 eligible players: Sang-Moon Bae, Ben Martin, Robert Streb, Ryan Moore, Bubba Watson, Nick Taylor, Charley Hoffman, Jordan Spieth, Jimmy Walker, Bill Haas, and Brandt Snedeker). If you are a man who likes patterns, DJ would not be a good pick as his past 5 results are as follows in reverse order: 2, MC, T4, MC, T3. Sure, he’s a horse for the course, but oddly seems to only do it in even numbered years? We don’t tend to factor in those random stats, but thought it was curious enough to share, especially given that DJ is still “working his way back” to competitive golf.

sergio

Can Sergio Garcia get back to where he left things in 2014? We are betting on the Spaniard to get right back into contention in his 2015 PGA debut. Photo courtesy of sportycious.com

Anywho, enough random knowledge… time to get to our picks. Coming off a successful week with an A- and a B-, it’s hard to not get over confident, well, until you remember how much of a crapshoot it is to pick fantasy golfers! We will of course make some wise, “safe” picks, but also hope to continue to find some sleepers to keep things interesting. Here we go:

PGATour.com:

Jimmy WalkerWe are burning our 4th out of 10 picks with Walker this week, for two reasons. 1. The man is straight money this time of year. 2. Because of a disappointing finish, we expect people to wane off Jimmy this week, even though we think the likelihood of a bounce back week is high (keep in mind, we’re talking about a bounce back from a T21, that’s how high his expectations are).

Bill HaasHaas, with a win under his belt and great history on the course (beat Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson in a playoff in 2012, returned for a T3 in 2013), is the main “defensive” pick for us this week.

Sergio GarciaThere, we are just going to do it. The recent results here are promising, as is the notion that Garcia is well-rested and coming off one of his best PGA seasons ever, despite no wins. Garcia could be the ultimate Furyk of this week, getting right into contention after a long break from the PGA.

Sang-Moon Bae. Our concerns over Bae continue as he continues to deal with the cloud of uncertainty regarding his Visa status. But he’s a true professional, and as long as he’s cleared to be in the field, we’re clearing our doubt that he’ll do anything other than play as well as he’s capable of playing. The man also happens to have a T12 and a T8 in his last two starts here.

Golf Channel:

Jim FurykThere were only six options in the first tier (including Walker and Garcia from above), so you have to think about what the field is likely to do. Many will pick defending champ Bubba Watson, and Hideki Matsuyama was intriguing, but we’re going with the Fury, who’s shown time after time that he can shake off an unfortunate week where he’s in contention, but can’t win. Not only do we think he can get back into contention, we know that any given week he can break that curse and get back in the winner’s circle.

Harris EnglishAfter a break and hopefully some home remedies to forget about a tough playoff loss, English seems like a good bet to get back into the mix. His swing is one of the smoothest on Tour, and his stock is high for this season.

Brian HarmanThe third tier was surprisingly stacked, which is bound to happen in a deep field. But we mainly narrowed down the selection to Matt Every and Brian Harman, both first-time winners last year, who got their seasons started on the right foot with top 10 finishes here. Out of the two, we’re going with Harman (who we also picked at the Waste Management) because he’s rested, and has proven to be a gritty player.

Charlie Beljan. We wasted the ideal opportunity to pick him last week, so we are going with Beljan and asking for forgiveness. He also has a stronger-than-average pedigree in this tournament for someone in the lowest tier – as he lost in a playoff in 2013 and followed it up with a T12 last year.