The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course information, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.
The field this week comprises only the top 125 golfers in the FedEx Cup standings, but the cut procedure will be the same with the top 70 and ties making the weekend. After this event the top 70 golfers in the FedEx Cup standings will qualify for the next event (the BMW Championship). Nearly all the top names in golf are here this week with only a few exceptions. Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey (rest) are missing despite qualifying for this week and Sam Burns (injury) has ended his season early. This means the actual field will be set at 122 as there are no alternates in this playoff format. For DFS purposes, getting 6/6 through the cut-line statistically will be easier this week but also more essential for landing a high finish in a large-field tournament.
Liberty National, Jersey City, New Jersey
Par 71—7,380 yards
The Northern Trust remains as the first playoff event this season and is hosted by rotating venues in the New York/Boston area. This year it returns to Liberty National for the first time since 2013, when Adam Scott won this same event at 11-under.
The venue was designed by Tom Kite and Robert Cupp and also hosted this event back in 2009 but subsequently was redesigned after numerous complaints by the players. Better reviews were had in 2013 and the venue also hosted the 2017 Presidents Cup. At its core, Liberty National is quite open, although it doesn’t necessarily rate out as a true links test. Fairways are quite large in places, though, and driving accuracy stats for the top players were up here in 2013. One of the main defenses of the course, and what sets it apart from links venues, is its smaller-than-average Bentgrass greens that will put an emphasis on approach games. In 2013 the venue played slightly over par to a 71.1 scoring average and ranked as the 22nd toughest venue on tour.
Liberty National plays as a true par 71 with three par 5s — one of which looks set to play well over 600 yards. Players will need to take advantage of the easier par 5s as there are plenty of longer par 4s to contend with here. At least five of the 11 par 4s will stretch more than 450 yards in length so players will need more than just a simple fairway wood and wedge game to be successful week. Look for good long iron play and long, straight drivers of the ball to flourish at what should be one of the more challenging tee-to-green tests of the season.
2019 Weather Report: There’s a touch of rain in the forecast early in the week, which could help soften the course a bit, but Thursday onward looks sunny and hot. Highs will be in the mid to high-80s, which should mean the course will play faster as the week progresses. There isn’t a ton of wind to worry about, but given that it’s an open venue, even a little will make a difference. The biggest gusts look set for Friday afternoon, with winds topping out at 10-12 mph. Thursday looks slightly calmer but also is set to see winds rise in the p.m. Look for the course to play tougher as the week progresses and watch the later in the week forecasts in case the wind shifts.
Past Six winners
2018—Bryson DeChambeau -18 (Tony Finau -14)
2017—Dustin Johnson -13 (in playoff over Jordan Spieth)
2016—Patrick Reed -9 (Over Sean O’Hair -8)
2015—Jason Day -19 (over Henrik Stenson -13)
2014—Hunter Mahan -14 (over 3 players at -12)
2013—Adam Scott -11 (over 4 players at -10)**played at Liberty National
— Six out of the past nine winners of this event finished T22 or better in their previous start before winning.
— Five of the past six winners of this event have finished T13 or better at the year’s final major championship.
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
Strokes Gained: Approaches
Approaches over 200 yards
Since we don’t have a ton of past data to rely on, other then the 2013 version of this event that was played at Liberty National, we’ll keep things simple. The 2013 winner, Adam Scott, ranked second in SG: Tee to Green for the week and seventh in approaches. Runner-up Justin Rose also led the field in SG: TTG, so we’re pretty sure emphasizing elite ball-strikers is the right play. Both tee-to-green and approach stats should be emphasized here.
Since we want to keep the focus on ball-striking, looking at a specific approach-proximity stats seems relevant. Adam Scott was top-15 in pretty much every approach category over 200 yards at Liberty in 2013, and given the number of long approaches and longer par 4s on the course, looking at approach proximity over 200 makes sense here.
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful of 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: Jordan Spieth
Odds to Win: 50-1
DraftKings Price: $8,000
Patrick Reed; $8,200 and 50-1
Tony Finau; $8,300 and 50-1
Hideki Matsuyama; $8,400 and 50-1
Player: Tiger Woods
Odds to Win: 25-1
DraftKings Price: $9,000
Matt Kuchar; $9,100 and 45-1
Webb Simpson; $9,400 and 25-1
Tommy Fleetwood; $9,800 and 25-1
1. Brooks Koepka: Koepka dominated the WGC FedEx St. Jude and enters this event with a win, a T4 and a second-place finish in his past five starts. He enters the week ninth in SG: Tee to Green, 10th in approaches and first in FedEx Cup standing points and the World Golf Rankings.
2. Webb Simpson: Simpson has finished solo runner-up at each of the past two events and shot 69 or better in each of his past eight rounds. Still without a win on the season, Simpson ranks 14th in SG: Tee to Green on the year and ninth in FedEx Cup points.
3. Tommy Fleetwood: Fleetwood followed up his solo second-place finish at the Open Championship with a solid T4 finish at the WGC FedEx St. Jude, where he ranked first for the week in SG: Tee to Green. He comes in ranked 19th in FedEx Cup points.
4. Jon Rahm: Rahm’s run over the summer has been fun to watch. He followed up his Irish Open win with a T11 at the Open Championship and a seventh-place finish at the WGC FedEx St. Jude.
5. Brice Garnett: Garnett’s had a nice run in these mid-summer, easy-field events, posting five straight made cuts along with four finishes of T23 or better, including a T6 last week. The 35-year-old ranked seventh in SG: Putting last week and will hope to keep that club working in the first playoff event.
Top Strokes Gained: Tee to Green (Season)
1. Rory McIlroy
2. Justin Thomas
3. Patrick Cantlay
4. Dustin Johnson
5. Hideki Matsuyama
Top Strokes Gained: Approach (Season)
1. Justin Thomas
2. Emiliano Grillo
3. Hideki Matsuyama
4. Adam Scott
5. Jason Kokrak
Cash Games: In a deeper field you could consider one of the top three players in this format, but with so much top-end talent in the $9K range, I like starting there. World No. 4 Justin Rose ($9,600) is in decent enough form and underpriced this week. He finished T2 at this event/venue back in 2013 and makes for a solid anchor play. I like pairing him with one or both of Rickie Fowler ($9,300) and Patrick Cantlay ($9,200), who are quite easy to fit in at their low-$9K price point. Tony Finau ($8,300) and Patrick Reed ($8,100) also would rate out as solid plays for me, and I also think looking for value in the low-$7K range to high-$6K range makes sense this week given the field. The likes of Kyle Stanley ($7,200), Emiliano Grillo ($7,000), Corey Conners ($6,500) and Cameron Tringale ($6,600) can be considered here.
Tournaments: I have no issues paying up for Brooks Koepka ($12,000) this week. We’ve seen players finish off great seasons with great playoffs, and Koepka is in the midst of a great season. After him, the aforementioned Fowler and the unpredictable Tiger Woods ($9,000) should also be on your radar in GPPs. Woods doesn’t have much tournament play over the past couple months but has finished T2 at this venue twice and been a steady playoff performer even in down years. Both Louis Oosthuizen ($7,900) and Byeong Hun-An ($7,800) rate out as decent potential low-ownership moves here with An bringing in great form after last week. Lower down the likes of Scott Piercy ($7,300), Bubba Watson ($7,400), Keith Mitchell ($6,500) and Joel Dahmen ($6,300) rate out as interesting GPP pivots.
MY PICK: Rickie Fowler ($9,300)
Fowler enters this year’s playoffs off the back of a top-10 finish at the Open, where he displayed great ball-striking throughout the week. The American’s been a solid playoff player performer his entire career, posting nine top-10 finishes in 17 starts since 2014, so the recent trend up in form is a good sign. Liberty National should be a solid venue for Fowler to maintain this run in form, too, as he’s got solid experience at the venue. Rickie was undefeated in President Cup action at Liberty National in 2017, going 3-0-1 for the week and also finished T9 at the course in 2013, shooting a 64 in Round 2.
Unlike most of the top players, Fowler skipped the easy cash grab at Memphis and will come in extra rested for the playoff run. Given Rickie’s cheaper price and the fact he’s unlikely to be highly owned given the recent form and high positive sentiment of some of the other players in his range, I like making him a core target on DraftKings this week. His playoff history, course history, recent form and ownership projection all suggest a positive week ahead.
MY SLEEPER: Keith Mitchell ($6,500)
There are a couple players in the low-$6K range garnering some attention this week, and while I wouldn’t put anyone off Cameron Tringale ($6,600) or Corey Conners ($6,500), Mitchell sets up as a potentially perfect pivot play (say that four-times fast) for large-field GPPs. Mitchell has ridden a bit of a slump into the summer but enters the first playoff event ranked 37th in the FedEx Cup standings and off a T39 finish in Memphis. It was his play in Memphis that should get us excited for his chances this week as the Honda Classic champion finished with a 63, gaining more than four strokes on the field Sunday with his iron and off-the-tee play alone.
Mitchell finished that event ranked first in SG: Off the Tee and was able to improve his approaches there every round. Given that Liberty National sets up to be a true tee-to-green test, where elite ball-striking should be emphasized, you have to love the momentum that Mitchell enters with this week. He’s a legit sleeper who should carry lower levels of ownership than other players in his range.
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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.