The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.
The FieldThe field this week is set at 140 players. The Houston Open is making its return to the PGA schedule this week after being removed from its usual spot right before the Masters. The venue this year will be the same as before, although there will be a change in that regard next season. The change in schedule also means a weaker field, as several big names have chosen to skip this week. Leading the charge in terms of world rankings here will be 34th ranked Henrik Stenson. After him, the next highest player in the field is Keegan Bradley (43rd in the world) and Lucas Bjerregaard (59th in the world), which gives you an idea of how lacking in top-tier talent this event is. Still, big opportunities arise for younger players like Scottie Scheffler and Denny McCarthy, who are both playing well and looking for their first wins. The cut will see the top-65 players and ties advancing after Friday with no MDF (secondary cut).
The CourseThe Golf Course of Houston (Redstone)—Humble, Texas
Par 72, 7400-7500yards
This course was built specifically for this tournament some twelve years ago and has hosted this event since its inauguration, it’s almost always been played on the week before the Masters but its new spot on the schedule means we could see a slightly different conditions this year.
The GC of Houston is a longish par 72 course that generally plays longer, between 7400-7500 yards, but has seen its fair share of shorter hitters play well here over time too. As we saw in 2015’s final round—when JB Holmes sprayed it all over the place off the tee but still managed to win the tournament—the fairways are wide and forgiving and the rough usually isn’t overly hard to deal with. What is a huge deal though is the water, which comes into play on over ten holes. However even with the hazards lower scores here are the norm and the winners over the past four years have all been in the mid-teen range (-15 to -16) with 2018 winner Ian Poulter winning in a playoff at 19-under-par.
The greens are Bermuda, they used to feature a bentgrass mix/overseed to mimic Augusta greens, but the tournament stopped doing that due to the move in schedule. The par 5’s are all good scoring chances and will need to be played in well under par by any player hoping for a successful week—as will the drivable par 4-12, which dares players to challenge a water protected green off the tee. That being said par 4 scoring here as been just as important in past incarnations, mainly due to the course featuring four par 4’s which stretch over 450 yards. The toughest of these is generally the 18th which is a long winding hole with a tough tee shot over water. Overall, winners here have averaged slightly more in distance off the tee compared to winners at other venues but approach shots and greens in regulation have been more key statistics to build off here.
2019 Outlook: The weather begins hot, with temperatures expected to reach the low 90’s on Day 1. Things look like they could cool off dramatically after that though with some scattered T-Storms and rain scheduled for Friday afternoon. The wind isn’t expected to be dramatic on Friday but a delay is possible and it might be worth monitoring that day to see if an advantage for one wave or the other develops. Given the drop in temperature scheduled for the weekend, Friday AM players may get better conditions if there is a delay for Round 2 in the PM. The wind is expected to reach 10-12 mph on Saturday afternoon, giving AM players a possible advantage, but fall off on Sunday where calm but cooler conditions are expected for the final round.
Last Five winners2018 — Ian Poulter -19 (over Beau Hossler playoff)
2017 — Russell Henley -20 (over Sung Kang -17)
2016 — Jim Herman -15 (over Henrik Stenson -14)
2015 — JB Holmes -16 (over Jordan Spieth and Johnson Wagner playoff)
2014 — Matt Jones -15 (over Matt Kuchar playoff)
Winning Trends– The past five winners have ranked no worse than 10th in Greens in Regulation percentage during the week of their win.
– Six of the last seven winners had a top 20 finish or better in one of their previous four starts before winning this event.
Greens in Regulation
Strokes Gained: Approaches
Par 4 Scoring
Birdie or Better %
Since 2012 no winner of this event has finished outside the top ten in Greens in Regulation for the week—Henley was fourth in 2017 as was Poulter in 2018. With a lot of trouble (water) around the course and some tougher green complexes emphasizing this stat makes sense. In 2017, four of the top six players ended the week inside the top ten in this stat and in 2015 the three playoff participants ranked 10th and T3 in this stat. In a similar vein Approaches can also be emphasized in the Strokes Gained category.
Since 2012 the winner of this event has not ranked worse than fifth for the week in Par 4 scoring and in 2016, four of the top six players were ranked fifth or better in this stat for the week. 2018 winner Ian Poulter ranked first the week in this stat. The par 5’s are more straightforward so strong Par 4 scoring can often help separate players.
This is also a place where we can look to weigh Birdie or Better % more heavily. The past six winners have all reached -15 or better and players will have to make a lot of birdies to keep up with the field this week. Defending champion Ian Poulter led the field in this stat in 2018.
Finding ValuesOdds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their odds of winning this week.
Player: Lanto Griffin
DraftKings Price: $8,000
Aaron Baddely $8,100 and 70-1
Carlos Ortiz $8,200 and 60-1
Beau Hossler $8,300 and 50-1
Player: Tom Lewis
DraftKings Price: $7,500
Richy Werenski $7,700 and 70-1
Robby Shelton $7,900 and 70-1
Zhang Xinjun $8,000 and 75-1
HORSES FOR COURSES1. Russell Henley (best finish: win-2017): Henley has developed quite the liking for Houston GC over the past few years. In six starts he’s never missed the cut and finished 8th/1st/5th/4th/7th at this event the past five seasons. He shouldn’t be ignored here even at an elevated price.
2. Keegan Bradley (best finish: T4-2012, T5-2015): Bradley’s also a strong horse this week. He missed the cut here in 2016 but bounced back with a T15 in 2017 and a T43 last year. Overall, he has three finishes of T10 or better in his last seven starts in Houston.
3. Henrik Stenson (best finish: 2nd-2016): Stenson has been a little boom or bust at this week’s venue but in seven starts since 2009 the Swede has finished T6 or better in four of those starts. He’s never won here but finished a close runner-up in 2016 and is clearly best player in the field this week.
4. Daniel Berger (best finish: T5-2016, 2017): Berger has played this week’s venue four straight years and never missed the cut. He finished T5 here in back-to-back years in 2016 and 2017, before falling back a little in 2018 with a T18. He’s been playing better of late and will be eyeing a turn-around win in a weaker field this week.
5. Cameron Tringale (best finish: T4-2014): Tringale has missed the cut at this week’s venue in his last two starts but in eight starts overall at the Golf Club of Houston Tringale has recorded three top-10’s, including a T4 finish from 2014. He’s got solid upside at this venue.
DFS STRATEGYCash Games: At just over 11k, and clearly the top-ranked player in the field, Henrik Stenson ($11,400) is extremely easy to fit in this week. If you don’t like paying, going with a combo of Scottie Scheffler ($9,900) and Russell Henley ($10,100) also makes some sense based on recent form and Henley’s amazing course history. After those two you have a multitude of mid-tier options to choose from but Harris English ($8,900), Keegan Bradley ($9,000), Cameron Tringale and Robby Shelton ($7,900) all rank out as solid targets here.
Tournaments: I’m not sure how many people will be taking a swipe at Pat Perez ($9,700) at nearly 10k in salary but he’s worth a look at potentially lower ownership levels. Coming off a T3 where he ranked T4 in Greens in Regulation, Perez has gone T11-T27-T12 in his last three trips to Houston. After Perez both Aaron Baddeley ($8,100) and Zhang Xinjun ($7,900) are worth looks in GPPs too. Baddeley has put up some solid finishes at this venue in the past, while Zhang is striking it extremely well right now. Other potential targets for this format include Brice Garnett ($7,700), Matt NeSmith ($7,100), Doug Ghim ($6,800) and Bo Hoag ($6,700).
Recent Form1. Brian Harman: Has made five cuts in a row entering this week with just one finish outside the top-20 in that span. Top-20 in SG: Putting and Tee to Green play on the season.
2. Denny McCarthy: Has missed just one cut in his last seven starts, with plenty of strong finishes along the way, including a T9 from last week and T18 from three weeks prior.
3. Zhang Xinjun: T16 and T7 in his last two starts in the Fall season. Ranked 10th in SG: Tee to Green stats last year and looking to make his mark on the Tour early on in the new year.
4. Carlos Ortiz: A player to keep an eye on. The former KF Tour money winner has finished T37-T40-T4 over his last two starts. He’s showing more consistency of late and could surprise again in a weaker field.
5. Richy Werenski: Finished T18-T3-T7 in his last three starts before taking two weeks off. His form is marked by a hot putter which has him ranked fifth in SG: Putting for the season.
MY PICK: Harris English ($8,900)I’m going back to a player I recommended a couple weeks ago in Harris English here. English has started the season well and, as I documented for the Safeway Open, his off the tee game has shown significant improvement over his last three starts—to where he now ranks over a 100-spots higher in SG: Off the Tee than he did last season. That’s not the only area he’s succeeding in though as he also ranks ninth in Greens in regulation and 7th in Birdie or Better % on the Fall swing. His putter was a little quiet in his last start which dropped him to T33 finish, but that only means we’re getting a great price on him this week at under 9k in an extremely weak field. A winner on Bermuda greens before at TPC Southwind, English has made the cut at the Golf Course of Houston in four of five starts here and comes into this year’s version firing on all cylinders.
MY SLEEPER: Matt NeSmith ($7,100)NeSmith is an interesting target in this week’s field. A winner in the Korn Ferry Tour playoffs in Boise a month or so ago, NeSmith enters this week off his first made cut on the PGA after a T18 finish last week in Las Vegas, where he shot 65 in round three. He’ll be making his first start at the Golf Course of Houston this week but could find early success given his strong iron play. NeSmith ranked first on the KF Tour last season in Greens in Regulation and, despite some early season struggles, may be a good fit for this week’s venue which has favored strong approach play in past winners. The 26-year-old looks like a decent upside play for DFS and is coming off his best finish ever on the PGA where he ranked first in Driving Accuracy in the field.
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