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.
DOES RICKIE FOWLER DESERVE TO HAVE BETTER ODDS AT THE HONDA CLASSIC?
Set your lineups here: PGA TOUR $555K Drive the Green [$100K to 1st]
The field this week will be set at around 140 players and once again features a regular cut rule where the top 65 players and ties will get to play the weekend. We’re seeing some of the bigger names take the week off here to get some rest in before THE PLAYERS in two weeks, but there’s still plenty of interesting names attached. Both Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka will be in the field and they’ll be joined by the likes of Tommy Fleetwood, Gary Woodland and Justin Rose. The event only has one top 10 player in it, but it is buoyed by having some strong young names like Viktor Hovland — fresh off a win last week in Puerto Rico — Matthew Wolff and Wyndham Clark attached. The list of past champions here includes the likes of Fowler (2017), Russell Henley (2014), Michael Thompson (2013), Padraig Harington (2015) and Keith Mitchell (2019). A stiff test awaits this wide-open field where another long-shot winner could easily emerge.
PGA National—Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Par 70, 7100-7200 yards
PGA National was redesigned in 1990 by Jack Nicklaus and has been the host of this event since 2007. The course always plays as one of the toughest on Tour and was ranked as the fifth-hardest venue on Tour last year, and the second-hardest the year prior. Since 2012, the winning score at PGA National has failed to pass 9-under-par giving you some idea of what’s in store this week. Weather is also almost always a factor here and this year wind and some unseasonable cold temperatures will likely make this venue play more difficult than it already is.
As for setup, PGA National plays as a par 70 that comes in around 7,200 yards, or just over that at its longest setup. The greens are Tifeagle Bermuda (a stark change from the West Coast) and can play quite fast if the weather gets hot. There are only two Par 5s in play this week and both will need to be taken advantage of if players want to end the tournament under par. The course is really a tail of two nines as the front nine is much easier and features a couple “scoring holes” with less penalization for mistakes, while the back is basically one challenging shot after another with water in play around almost every green. Water is in play on 13 of the holes and features prominently in the famous “Bear Trap” (a three hole finishing stretch of 15, 16, 17) which requires players to hit three quality shots into open greens surrounded by water and hard to escape sand traps.
This course also has a lot of sand on it, close to 100 bunkers in total, and like the water these traps penalize players who miss off the tee or on their approaches into the green. Driving distance is less important here, but good iron play is essential as winners have typically gained more on approaches here than at other PGA venues.
2020 outlook: The wind will again be an issue at PGA National for players this week. While there’s no hurricane-style gusts in the forecast yet, you can expect consistent winds over 10 mph for most of the week. Thursday morning may actually open up as the windiest wave of the first two days, with gusts approaching 15-18 mph. Things are expected to die down a bit on Friday before the wind picks up slightly again on the weekend. Cold temperatures could also play a factor, as afternoon highs aren’t expected to creep much past the low 70s this week and morning lows could start in the mid-to-high-50s. The good news is that there’s no rain in the forecast but ever-changing wind-gusts and cool temperatures are still likely to put a cap on scoring here.
Last Five winners
2019—Keith Mitchell -9 (over Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka -8)
2018—Justin Thomas -8 (over Luke List playoff)
2017—Rickie Fowler -9 (over Gary Woodland -8)
2016—Adam Scott -9 (over Sergio Garcia -8)
2015—Padraig Harrington -6 (over Daniel Berger playoff)
– Six of the last eight winners ranked 44th or better in sand save percentage in the year of their victory at PGA National (2018 champion Rickie Fowler was ranked first in this stat for 2017).
– Seven of the past nine winners had a finish of 13th or better in a previous year at this event before their win, while eight of the past nine had made the cut here at least once in a previous year before their win.
Statistics**Last three winners stats for the week of their win
|2019: Keith Mitchell
SG: Off the Tee—12th
SG: Tee to Green—1st
|2018: Justin Thomas
SG: Off the Tee—13th
SG: Tee to Green—1st
|2017: Rickie Fowler
SG: Off the Tee—10th
SG: Tee to Green—10th
This is very much a second shot course in that most of the trouble comes into play as you approach the green. As such Strokes Gained: Approach and Approach Proximity are both stats to consider here. In 2015, two of the top five finishers at this event (Paul Casey and Russell Knox) ranked inside the top ten for the year in approach proximity on tour, while 2016 winner Adam Scott actually led the Tour in that stat for the year in 2016. Players will need to hit quality iron shots all week here to have a shot on Sunday.
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green this week is also a stat to weigh heavily. In 2016, the top four finishers finished first, second, third and seventh in this stat for the week. In 2018, the playoff combatants ranked first (Justin Thomas) and fourth (Luke List) in this stat.
Players will need solid ball-striking, but also good around the green play. Solid scrambling and good bunker play are a near must around PGA National as tough to hit fairways and constant wind means missed greens will be a reality for everyone. The past three winners have an average ranking of fifth in scrambling for the week of their win.
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.
|Daniel Berger||+3500||$8,900||– Shane Lowry ($9,100) and +3500
– Erik van Rooyen ($9,000) and +5500– Billy Horschel ($9,200) and +3500
|Russell Knox||+7000||$7,600||– Harris English ($7,800) and +7000
– Corey Conners ($8,000) and +7000
– Kevin Streelman ($7,900) and +8500
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Rickie Fowler (best finishes: win-2017): Fowler enters this year’s event having finished T6 or better in three of his past four starts at PGA National. The 2017 champion came close last season when he finished T2 and has only missed the cut here once in his past eight visits.
2. Ryan Palmer (best finishes: T2-2014): Palmer has made the cut at this notoriously tough venue in seven of the past eight seasons and lost out in a four-man playoff here back in 2014. He also shot a final round 63 at this venue last season and comes in this year off the back of some solid early season results.
3. Lucas Glover (best finish: T4-2013 and 2019): Glover has flashed solid upside at this week’s event, finishing T4 here twice now and going T21-T17-T4 at this venue over the past three years. He’s not shown his best stuff yet in 2020 but could come alive this week.
4. Gary Woodland (best finish: T3-2018): Woodland has been a solid start at PGA National, making the cut here in each of his past six attempts. He’s also flashed good upside, posting a T6 back in 2011 and a T2 back in 2017.
5. Daniel Berger (best finish: Second-2015): Berger has tons of experience playing at PGA National, as he grew up around this week’s venue. The two-time PGA winner lost in a playoff here on his first competitive visit back in 2015 and has finished T36-T29 here the past two seasons. He enters off a solid West Coast swing and has looked great at times in 2020.
Cash Games: Woodland setting up as a solid anchor play
Woodland ($10,300) comes into the Honda Classic off a solid week of play in Mexico and sporting a six for six record in terms of made cuts at PGA National. As the fourth most expensive player, he gives you good upside and flexibility for the rest of your roster. Things get sketchy quickly under him in price, but Daniel Berger ($8,900) should also be included as a target here given the form he showed out West. After Berger, we can also look at Lee Westwood ($7,800) and Ian Poulter ($8,500) as potential veterans who know what it takes to get in four rounds at the tough PGA National. Other targets for this format include Talor Gooch ($7,200) and Sam Burns ($7,100), two good young players with cheap salaries.
Tournaments: Koepka an expensive, but explosive wildcard this week
Koepka comes into this week’s event off of a T43 finish in his last outing at Riviera. The start was still somewhat encouraging for Koepka who gained over a stroke with his approaches there in three of four rounds. He finished T2 here last season and could be on his way back to full strength soon. Further down, another major winner, Open champion Shane Lowry ($9,100), also looks like he’s rounding into form and may be on the verge of a big week. He was 21st on approaches last week and has played this event twice in the past. Byeong Hun-An ($8,800, see below) and Harris English ($7,800) are two players who could also make a short list of GPP targets, as could the likes of Keith Mitchell ($7,300), Bud Cauley ($7,200) and Sean O’Hair ($7,000, see below).
Top Recent Form
1. Viktor Hovland: Hovland has started to heat up in a big way. The second-year Tour player is coming off a win in Puerto Rico last week, where he buried a long birdie on the last hole to win. He finished T38 at Pebble Beach prior to winning.
2. Tommy Fleetwood: Fleetwood finished T2 and T11 in two European Tour starts earlier in the year before heading across the pond and ending up with a T18 finish at the WGC-Mexico last week. He’s one of the few top 20 players in attendance this week and comes in with decent form.
3. Billy Horschel: Horschel finished a solid T9 at the Phoenix Open four weeks ago, an event where he led after 18 holes. He managed to follow that up with another T9 finish in Mexico last week, where he closed with a 65.
4. Daniel Berger: Berger has taken the last couple weeks off, but heads into this week’s first Florida event in good form. The former FedEx St. Jude winner finished T9 in Phoenix, before reeling off a T5 finish at his last event in Pebble Beach.
5. Talor Gooch: Gooch hasn’t gotten himself into contention yet, but he’s been very consistent to start the year. The 28-year-old has now made five straight cuts and is coming in off a T10 finish at Riviera, his best result of 2020.
MY PICK: Byeong Hun An ($8,800)
South Korean Benny An is coming in off a wild week in Mexico where he shot a four-over 75 in the first round, while losing an incredible -6.3 strokes with the putter. An would recover later in the week and finished nicely on Sunday with a six-under 65 to end the event in T29 position. The 29-year-old has had an up-and-down start to 2020, but the signs are there that a big week may be ahead. An has now gained over 1.2 strokes with his irons in three of his past eight competitive rounds and this week will also mark An’s third appearance at the Honda Classic. A T5 in his debut here in 2018 was followed up by a T36 finish here last season, and it’s worth noting that An ranked a solid T6 and T12 in SG: Approaches for the week in these two appearances. A fantastic around the green and bunker player, who ranked first in SG: Around the Green stats on Tour last season, An has the tools to handle PGA National’s tricky green complexes and bunkering and has also traditionally putted better on Bermuda greens. Showing signs of more consistent ball-striking of late, An’s may be set to finally break through here in a wide-open field devoid of a lot of big names.
MY SLEEPER: Sean O’Hair ($7,000)
O’Hair has been playing his way back into shape in early 2020 after taking most of 2019 off due to a torn oblique muscle. The 37-year-old has already landed T4 and T13 finishes in two Korn Ferry starts and also made the cut the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where he shot a second round 65, led the field in Greens in Regulation for the week and also showed decent form off the tee, ranking 22nd and 25th in DD and DA. With his game rounding into form this week’s event could be the right time to take a shot on him for DFS purposes. He’s been a solid Florida competitor over his career, showing consistent upside at both this week’s venue and throughout the rest of the Florida swing. O’Hair has now played PGA National eight times since 2011 and recorded five top 25 finishes over that span, including T14 and T11 finishes from 2016 and 2017. With a $7K salary and this field a little weaker than usual, he’s a veteran player who could easily slip through the cracks here and grind out a big week on one of the tougher venues on Tour.
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