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 is set at approximately 156 players with the usual cut rules applying — top 70 and ties play the weekend. With this event being a new stop on the PGA this year, and right between two majors, the field admittedly is a little weaker than normal. The biggest headliners are undoubtedly Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson, who both will be looking to add to their career win totals this week as they prep for the year’s final major. Joining them as draws will be Hideki Matsuyama and Bubba Watson, who both are looking for their first wins of the season. We also will be getting our second look at newly turned pros Victor Hovland and Matthew Wolff after their pro debuts at the Travelers last week. Other names sure to draw some interest from fantasy players include the likes of Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker and newly crowned US Open champion Gary Woodland, who is making his first start since winning at Pebble Beach two weeks ago.
Detroit Golf Club (North Course), Detroit, Michigan
Par 72, 7,300 yards (approximately)
Detroit Golf Club will host a PGA event for the first time ever this week at the newly created Rocket Mortgage Classic, an event that essentially is replacing the old Quicken Loans event. The venue will be using the North Course at DGC, and the venue has been retrofitted dramatically in order to be ready to give PGA professionals a true test.
The North Course at the Detroit Golf Club is an original Donald Ross design and has history back as early as 1916. The venue has seen lots of renovations since that time, and in order to prepare for this year’s event, several holes were altered, lengthened or even moved around. Some highlights of the reconfigured venue include a long par 5 that is set to play at 625 yards for the week and a closing stretch of holes that includes a solid risk-reward par 5 (the 14th) with water guarding the green, another reachable par 5 (17th) where eagle opportunities might be had and a tough finishing hole with a massive putting surface, which likely will include a tough pin placement Sunday.
For fantasy players looking at possible correlations between this venue and other Donald Ross designed venues on tour, results from courses like Pinehurst #2, Plainview, East Lake and Sedgefield might be good starting points. There will be a lot of unknowns about this venue going into the week, but it should play as a fairly straightforward par 72, with the par 5s representing decent scoring opportunities and some tougher par 4 and par 3 setups, which players will have to navigate properly in order to ensure they don’t lose strokes to the field.
2019 Weather Report: The weather is heating up with highs expected to be in the mid-80s for most of the tournament. The wind doesn’t expect to be much of a factor this week as gusts aren’t expected to get above 8 mph on either of the first two days. The only hint of poor weather is the possibility of thunderstorms, which always seem to exist around this time of year. Even if it does rain a bit, though, expect the hot weather to dry the course out quickly. I’d expect a fast course this year and the possibility exists this track plays slightly tougher than advertised in Year 1 as organizers try to give players a true test in hot conditions.
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (distance)
Par 4 Scoring
This is the first year Detroit Golf Club will used to host a PGA event, so we’re flying a tad blind. That being said, the venue this week should share some similarities with other Donald Ross designs. Emphasizing Strokes Gained: Tee to Green seems relevant as the course has some longer holes but plays fairly straight forward without many quirky designs — outside of a couple small doglegs. A good tee-to-green game figures to be rewarded handsomely this week.
Additionally, the venue doesn’t have a ton of huge doglegs and that should help players with strong off-the-tee stats as well. With four par 5s and four par 4s more than 450 yards in length, this appears like it will be a driver-heavy venue favoring players with good SG: OTT play, with an emphasis on Driving Distance.
Finally, while there are four par 5s on this course, three of them figure to be birdie opportunities for the players. The meat of the course lies in the 12 par 4s of which four play between 350-400 yards and four play more than 450 yards. Par 4 Scoring should be emphasized as well.
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: Kevin Tway
Odds to win: 50-1
DraftKings price: $8,100
Aaron Wise; 50-1; $8,200
Jason Kokrak; 60-1; $8,300
Victor Hovland; 50-1; $8,400
Player: Nick Watney
Odds to win: 70-1
DraftKings price: $7,600
Jimmy Walker; 70-1; $7,700
Luke List; 70-1; $7,700
Keith Mitchell; 70-1; $7,800
1. Chez Reavie: He’s coming off a top-10 finish at the US Open and his first win in 11 years last week at the Travelers. Reavie’s a ball-striking machine when he’s on and has finished T18 or better in four of his past five starts.
2. Gary Woodland: This will be his first start since his outstanding win at the US Open two weeks ago. Woodland has been up and down all season but has a win and a T8 in his past two starts. He ranks eighth in SG: Tee to Green on tour for the year.
3. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama has made the cut in nine straight starts going back 16 weeks. He’s been solid but not overly impressive this season, yet you get the feeling big things are coming eventually. He ranks fourth in SG: Approach and fifth in SG: Tee to Green on the season.
4. Joaquin Niemann: The youngster looks like he’s re-found his game of late. He shot a bogey-free 66 to end his tournament last week in a T4 position and has made four straight cuts, all with finishes of T31 or better.
5. Rory Sabbatini: It wouldn’t be a recent form section without Sabbatini these days. The Slovakian finished T43 at the year’s third major to keep his made-cut streak alive at 12. Overall, he has four top-10s in his past seven starts.
Cash Games: I like starting cash games this week with Hideki Matsuyama ($10,200), who has a decent salary given the overall weakness of this field. Ranked fifth in SG: Tee to Green on the season, you’re getting one of the best ball-strikers in the game as your anchor. Below him, Donald Ross course expert Billy Horschel ($9,000) has been playing well of late, as has Kevin Tway ($8,100), who ranked 12th in off-the-tee stats last week. Other potential cash-game targets this week include Ryan Moore ($9,500), Kyle Stanley ($7,700), Nick Watney ($7,600) and Robert Streb ($6,800).
Tournaments: This field has a limited upper tier of players at the top, so I don’t mind taking a shot in big tournaments with Brandt Snedeker ($9,900), whose price is inflated based on his world ranking. He should remain lower-owned as a result of his price increase and carries an excellent record at Donald Ross-designed venues. My favorite tournament target this week is Aaron Wise ($8,200), who should have some confidence after getting himself in the mix briefly at the US Open and has massive upside whenever he tees it up in a weaker field event like the one we’re getting this week. Other big-field GPP targets include: Sungjae Im ($8,800), Byeong Hun-An ($7,900), Stephen Jaeger ($7,100) and Tyler Duncan ($6,600).
MY PICK: Billy Horschel ($9,000)
I love this week’s setup for Horschel, who has proven himself to be a Donald Ross course specialist during his time on tour. Horschel has played well at nearly every Ross-designed course on tour, with finishes of T2 last year at both Aronimink (BMW Championships) and East Lake (Tour Championship), a win at East Lake in 2014, a T23 at Pinehurst #2 in 2014 and a T5 at Sedgefield (Wyndham Championship) in 2016. In short, the man knows how to get around a Ross-designed venue, and he comes into this year’s inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic with some pretty solid recent form, too.
Horschel’s made seven straight cuts in a row coming into this week, with T23 and T32 finishes at the year’s past two majors. He was first in off-the-tee stats at Colonial a month ago, seventh in approaches at the Memorial and put in a solid effort at Pebble Beach despite not having much course history there. At $9,000, he’s still quite affordable and is a player who looks set to take advantage of the kind of weaker field we’re getting in Detroit.
MY SLEEPER: Stephen Jaeger ($7,100)
Jaeger came through for us in this column three weeks ago in Canada, where he fired a second-round 64 and rode that to a T14 finish. The German, whose been a mainstay on American pro-tours the past few years, has picked up his game nicely in the middle of the season and last week made his third straight cut in a row at the Travelers, where he finished T30. Known more for his great scrambling ability — sixth on the season in Strokes Gained: Around the Green — his ball-striking caught the eye last week as he ranked a solid 12th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and 18th in Driving Distance.
While he’s never been known for his consistency, it’s interesting to note Jaeger has shot par or better in 10 of his past 12 rounds coming into the week and ended last week with just six bogies and zero double-bogies or worse on the card. With the mistakes being limited, this might be the week to bank on his putter getting hot and riding his expected low-ownership in GPPs. His game is trending up, and in a weaker field like the one we’re getting this week, he’s the type of player who could pop-up with a big week.
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