Branden Grace

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.

Set your lineups here: PGA TOUR $525K Drive the Green [$100K to 1st]


The Field

The field this week consists of 154 players. All of the players will be paired with a celebrity Pro-Am partner for the first three rounds and will play in foursomes. You’ll likely see more of the celebrity shots than the pros the first three days, which is kind of a downer if you actually like to watch professional golf. The pros take over on Sunday, though, as only the top 60 players and ties will be allowed to play the final round which takes place on iconic Pebble Beach. Field-wise, we lose a few more of the big names this week, but there are some solid past champions playing, including Dustin Johnson (2009), Phil Mickelson (2012), Jordan Spieth (2017) and Brandt Snedeker (2015 and 2013). Some bigger international names are also attending, including former U.S. Open champion (Pebble Beach) Graeme McDowell, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Branden Grace.


The Courses

Pebble Beach (main course), par 72, 6800-6900 yards
Spyglass Hill par 72, 6900-7000 yards
Monterey Peninsula, par 71, 6800-6900 yards

As mentioned above, golfers will rotate between these three courses before the cut and then those who make the cut will play Pebble again on Sunday. All three of the Pro-Am venues often rank as some of the easiest on Tour, although Spyglass Hill generally plays a little tougher than the other two. Weather conditions can make things tricky early on and last year poor weather actually led to Pebble Beach playing as the 12th toughest venue on Tour during the Pro-Am. Even though Spyglass Hill can play tougher, it is more wind protected than Pebble and Monterey, so having your player there on a windy day isn’t such a bad thing.

As far as layout goes, the host course (Pebble Beach) is a traditional par 72 with four 5s and four par 3s. Three of the four par 5s often play at under 550 yards in length and only one par 3 is over 200 yards. Even though there are some longer Par 4s to deal with, length off the tee isn’t all that essential this week and the average driving distance for the field here is generally 10-15 yards lower than the average PGA event, as many of the holes force players to club down off the tee. There is still plenty of trouble lurking around Pebble (most people remember the famous cliffs on 18) but the course also allows for aggressive play in a lot of spots if you’re accurate with your tee ball. One thing is certain — conditions will much easier than they were during the U.S. Open last June when rough and lightning greens made Pebble play much tougher.

One final note, with a three-course rotation a lot can depend on the weather and wind patterns and avoiding players who are out on Pebble on the windy days can sometimes be a decent strategy to employ for DFS. The weather looks decent this year (see below) but keeping an eye on it up to Wednesday is probably a good idea this week.

2020 Weather/Outlook: Much like the last two weeks there doesn’t appear to be a ton of bad weather to worry about here, but cold temperatures could still be a factor in keeping scores a little higher than usual. Lows in the morning are forecasted to be in the high 40s, with afternoon highs topping out in the low 60s on Sunday. The cold weather will be mitigated by a lack of rain in the forecast, but the wind is expected to pick up on the weekend with gusts in the 15 mph range set for Saturday and possibly even bigger on Sunday. Early starters on the weekend could be more valuable in your showdown and weekend golf lineups so make sure to check if this trend of increasing afternoon wind holds up for weekend play.


Last 5 winners

2019—Phil Mickelson -19 (over Paul Casey -16)
2018—Ted Potter Jr. -17 (over Dustin Johnson -14)
2017—Jordan Spieth -19 (over Kelly Kraft -15)
2016—Vaughn Taylor -17 (over Phil Mickelson -16)
2015—Brandt Snedeker -22 (over Nick Watney -19)


Winning Trends

– Since 2000, the winner at Pebble (including U.S. Open) had a T16 or better in one (or both) of his previous two starts at Pebble Beach — courtesy of @Jude_UT4 on twitter.
– Recent form is also important this week — six of the last nine winners recorded a top 10 or better in their previous two starts on Tour before winning here.


Statistics

*Past Winners stats


2019: Phil Mickelson

SG: Off the Tee—26th

SG: Approach—1st

SG: Tee to Green—2nd

SG: Putting—20th

Driving Distance—25th

Scrambling—51st
2018: Ted Potter Jr.

SG: Off the Tee—15th

SG: Approach—19th

SG: Tee to Green—7th

SG: Putting—24th

Driving Distance—67th

Scrambling—19th
2017: Jordan Spieth

SG: Off the Tee—45th

SG: Approach—12th

SG: Tee to Green—22nd

SG: Putting—4th

Driving Distance—18th

Scrambling—4th
SG: Tee to Green is again a metric to emphasize, although you can definitely look to approaches here more than off the tee play. We only have two measured rounds (both on Pebble) to go off for our winner’s stats, but the past three winners here ranked no worse than T19 in Approaches.

This event does tend to yield a ton of birdies compared to the average event as well, so high birdie makers can be emphasized in DraftKings format. It’s also worth noting that a good putting week is essential here, given the easier setup, and with the greens changing back to Poa Annua this week, players with good putting trends at this event or on this surface, in general, should be viewed favorably as well.


Finding Values

Odds 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 Odds DraftKings Price Comparable
Tom Hoge  

55-1

 
 

$7,900

 
–      Kurt Kitayama $8,000 and 60-1

–      Adam Hadwin $8,100 and 55-1

–      Max Homa $8,300 and 55-1
Matt Kuchar 22-1 $9,900 –      Jason Day $10,300 and 28-1 –      Brandt Snedeker $10,100 and 28-1
 


Horses for Courses

1. Dustin Johnson (best finishes: win-2009, T2-2018, 2014): DJ has a long and mostly successful history at Pebble (bar one U.S. Open Sunday meltdown in 2010). In 11 appearances, he now has six top 5s and two wins (including a T2 from 2018). It is worth noting that he did struggle a little here last season (T45) after playing in Saudi Arabia, where he also played last week.

2. Phil Mickelson (best finishes: win-2012, 2007, 2005): Phil is now a four-time winner of this event after taking it again last year. He also almost won the event in 2016, but was hunted down by an out of nowhere winner in Vaughn Taylor. Mickelson has the most experience of anyone in the field at this event/venue but hasn’t finished better than T18 on the PGA since last year’s Masters.

3. Brandt Snedeker (best finishes: win-2015, 2013): Two-time winner who loves this layout. Snedeker has thrived at this shorter venue which features tough to putt on Poa greens. Since 2013 he has missed the cut here twice but also has the two wins and two other top 20 finishes in that span as well.

4. Jimmy Walker (best finishes: win-2014, T8-2018): Walker has been extremely consistent at this event over his career. He won it back in 2014 when he was in the best form of his career and has only missed the cut here once since 2011 (last year). In his past nine starts at Pebble he’s only finished outside the top 12 three times.

5. Jason Day (best finishes: T2-2018, T4-2014): Day’s record here can be easy to overlook as he’s never won this event. Still, the Aussie has finished T6 or better in five of his past seven starts at Pebble Beach and has dominated West Coast events that feature Poa greens over his career. He started the season well with a T16 at the Farmers and could be primed to finally breakthrough this season.


Top Recent Form

1. Graeme McDowell: Coming into this week off a win in Saudi Arabia, McDowell has shown some serious form of late as he also recorded a T4 in his only start on the PGA at the Sony Open. He won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 2010 and should be looking to double up this week.

2. Matthew Fitzpatrick: He has been insanely consistent over the past four months or so, posting a runner-up and three top 10 finishes now over his past four starts. He hasn’t missed a cut in over seven months.

3. Matt Kuchar: Kuchar won against an admittedly weak field two starts ago in Singapore, but also followed that effort up with a decent T16 last week in Phoenix. Finished T16 at Pebble Beach at last year’s U.S. Open.

4. Max Homa: Homa has started 2020 off nicely, with three straight made cuts and is coming in off of back-to-back top 10 finishes, including a T6 last week in Phoenix where he ranked 13th in SG: Tee to Green play for the week.

5. Russel Knox: Knox has been a model of consistency, coming into this week off of 11 straight made cuts. He’s now gone T37-T21-T16 in his first three events of 2020 and has finished inside the top 15 at Pebble the past two seasons.

DFS Strategy

Cash Games: Kuchar and Casey an affordable duo

While there’s no harm in paying all the way for betting favorite Dustin Johnson ($11,600), both Paul Casey ($10,500) and Matt Kuchar ($9,900) offer a good discount and solid blend of recent form and course history here. Kuchar finished T16 at last year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, while Casey has now finished second and T8 at this event the past two years. After them the likes of Russell Knox ($8,600), Max Homa ($8,300) and Adam Hadwin ($8,100) all look like solid $8K plays, while Scott Piercy ($7,800), who is coming off a top 10 in Phoenix and finished T10 here last season, looks like great value at sub-$8K. Other potential cash targets include Maverik McNealy ($7,300), Jimmy Walker ($7,200) and Mark Hubbard ($7,100).

Tournaments: Grace and Noren potential pivot plays this week

Noren ($8,700) will be playing this week’s event for the first time, which should help keep his ownership levels down. He nearly won in his first attempt at the Farmers,, though, a couple of years back and has putted well on Poa greens in the past. Grace slots in between some experienced players and may get overlooked as a result (see below for more on him). Below him, JB Holmes ($7,900) has a ton of experience playing Pebble and also looks like a good target for this format as his two MCs in a row at this event could keep people off him. Other potential targets for large field GPPs include Scott Stallings ($7,600), Patrick Rodgers ($7,400), Aaron Wise ($7,200), JJ Spaun ($6,800) and Zac Blair ($6,700).


MY PICK: Branden Grace ($9,300)

Grace has had a huge start to his 2020 season, capturing the South African Open title in his home country in early January and has followed that effort up with two more solid efforts, including a T9 last week in Phoenix. The South African is coming off a disastrous year and a half, which saw him drop out of the world’s top 100 players, but his recent form suggests he’s nearly back to the form which saw him capture four top 5 finishes in majors between 2015-2016. Grace ranked ninth in SG: Approaches last week in Phoenix and fifth in SG: Tee to Green play, giving us a good sense that his ball-striking is indeed where it needs to be to contend again on Tour. He’ll be playing Pebble Beach for the third time in his career and has already produced results of T20 and T28 here over the past two seasons. Already a winner on Tour at Hilton Head, another shorter “seaside” venue that also features smaller than usual greens, Grace looks like a great target here for big GPPs given where his price falls compared to other elite players.


MY SLEEPER: Kevin Chappell ($6,800)

Coming in off three straight missed cuts dating back to the Fall swing, there’s no doubt that Chappell represents a risky DFS proposition this week. The former winner of the Valero Texas Open, Chappell sat out most of 2019 but made his return during the fall swing at the Greenbrier and promptly shot a 59 in round two of that event. It’s been tough sledding for the American since that time though as he’s only managed four sub-70 scores over his past 17 official rounds on Tour. Still, there’s reason to think the more laidback atmosphere of a Pro-Am might bring around some good play from Chappell, who grew up on the West Coast and has played at Pebble Beach in nine of the past 10 seasons, notching a career best T8 finish here on his last attempt in 2018. Chappell has gained on his approaches in two of his past three measured rounds and may find the slower greens at Pebble a good tonic for his putter. He sets up as a nice boom or bust GPP target at an event which always seems to feature some surprise names near the top of the leaderboard on Sunday.


I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is wavegoodbye) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.