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.
Last week sure felt a lot like a major championship with some of the biggest names in golf all up or near the lead at various points in the tournament. The course also played very major championship like and sent many good players home before the weekend, including world # 1 Jordan Spieth, who came out of the gates in terrible form could not recover in round 2. This week another tough test awaits, as the players travel across the country to Florida for the beginning of a three tournament swing.
The field this week is again around 140 or so players and once again features a regular cut rule where the top 70 players and ties will get to play the weekend. While the field isn’t quite as good as last week it’s not far off and some bigger names are returning to action after a week or two off. Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka and Kevin Kisner will all be here alongside international stars Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama. Seeing how many of these top players actually perform this week will be interesting to watch as recent incarnations of this event have seen lessor knowns come through for the win. Don’t be shocked if there’s a few big names who miss the cut here (again) as this course will play tough and weed out the players who are not on top of their game.
PGA National—Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Par 70, 7200-7300 yards
PGA National was redesigned in 1990 by Jack Nicklaus and has been the host course of this event since 2007. The course itself is tough and the last three years have all seen the winning score end up at under double digits (-9 or worse). Last year high winds caused fits for the players early and made the tournament an outright war of attrition with the cut line ending up at +4 and the winning score at -6. Wind could play a factor again, although it should not be as harsh this time around as it was in the last edition.
The course itself plays as a par 70 that comes in around 7200 yards, or just over that at its longest. There are only two par 5’s on the course for the players this week and both will need to be taken advantage of if players want to end the week under par. The course is really a tail of two nines as the front nine is much easier and features a couple easier “scoring holes” with less penalization for mistakes, while the back is basically one challenging shot after another where a mistake can cost you double-bogey or worse. As a fantasy player you’re definitely going to want to take note of which 9 holes your player is on before celebrating too much this week.
Water is in play on 13 of the holes and features prominently in the famous “Bear Trap” (a three hole finishing stretch—15, 16, 17) which requires players to hit three quality shots into open greens which are surrounded by water, and hard to escape sand traps. This course has a lot of sand on it, over 100 bunkers in total to be exact, and like the water these traps penalize players who miss off the tee or on their approaches into the green. All in all, expect some high scores again this week and a close tournament decided by whoever can remain the calmest on the back nine this Sunday.
Last 5 winners
– Four of the last five winners ranked 44th or better in sand save percentage in the year of their victory at PGA National.
– Recent form doesn’t appear to be as large a factor this week as three of the last five winners were coming off a 56th place or a missed cut the week prior to their win here
Par 4 scoring
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
Sand Save Percentage
I’m not super interested in what players do off the tee this week as shorter hitters and longer hitters have both seemed to prosper at this course. This is very much a second shot course in that most of the trouble comes into play as you approach the green. As such approach proximity is a stat to consider this week and it’s of no surprise to me that two of last years’ top 5 finishers at this event (Paul Casey and Russell Knox) ranked inside the top ten for the year in approach proximity on tour. I’d also consider looking at proximity from longer distances (175-200 and 200+) as many of the most challenging shots on PGA National will fall into that range for many of the players.
I’m also into looking at Par 4 scoring stats and Strokes Gained: tee to green this week. The real difficultly of this course lies in its longer par 4’s and given that there are only two par 5’s on the entire course I think looking at par 4 scoring is again a good idea. The players who can navigate the par 4’s in par or better this week will have a large advantage on the field and should be set up to do well on this tougher par 70. Last year four of the top 5 players at this event ranked 1st, 2nd 3rd and 7th in strokes gained: tee to green for the week showing how important strong ball striking is at this event. I’d definitely consider using this category which is a great indicator of who is swinging the club consistently and possibly ready to take on a tougher test like PGA National.
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||Vegas Odds||DraftKings Price||Comparables|
|Sergio Garcia||35-1||$9,300||Paul Casey $9700 and 40-1
Russell Knox $9500 and 40-1
Kevin Kisner $9900 and 45-1
|Emiliano Grillo||81-1||$7,700||M. Fitzpatrick $7800 and 91-1
Russell Henley $7900 and 91-1
Andy Sullivan $7600 and 91-1
|Jamie Lovemark||100-1||$7,200||Robert Streb $7300 and 125-1
J. Donaldson $7200 and 126-1
Tony Finau $7200 and 126-1
HORSES FOR COURSES
Luke Donald has a great history on this course. Since 2008 he’s played here four times and amassed finishes of 10th, 9th, 3rd and 2nd.
Fredrik Jacobson has only missed one cut in seven appearances at this course and has four finishes of 12th or better. He’s playing better this year and sets up well for this course.
Graeme McDowell has played here six times and recorded three top tens in that span against just one missed cut. He’s a good wind player and has handled bad weather here well in the past.
Russell Knox doesn’t have a huge history on this course but he sure seems to fit it well. In two appearances (2014 and 2015) he’s amassed finishes of 2nd and 3rd place and his strong play gets him the nod for the final horse for the course spot this week.
There’s a lot of talent spread across the entire salary range on DraftKings this week. At the upper ends you have a lot of players who are coming off of strong performances and at the lower ends you have a lot of players that are undervalued after a couple mediocre performances—but who otherwise might have the game to compete at PGA National. This is definitely a week where using some of those players near the bottom of the salary structure isn’t a bad idea as this event as seen some unsung and long-shot winners in recent incarnations. Identifying who amoung the cheaper players has the game and course experience to rise up so to speak and net a good fantasy performance will be key as it will allow the creation of some super rosters which feature more than one of the top players. I’d definitely look to go for a stars and scrubs approach in tournaments as I think the upside with many lower priced players is higher than usual this week.
Top Performing Studs from recent weeks
o Hideki Matsuyama
o Patrick Reed
o Phil Mickelson
Top Performing Value plays from recent weeks
o Jason Kokrak
o Jamie Lovemark
o Jonas Blixt
MY PICK: Brooks Koepka ($10,500)
I waffled back and forth this week on whether to go with Patrick Reed (who I still like) or Brooks Koepka and finally settled on Koepka, who will be playing in front of friends and family here. Koepka is a great young player who found his form recently at Pebble Beach with an 8th place finish and should come in with confidence. Last year he scorched the course with a 64 in round two (playing in high winds) and I think—given how familiar he is with Florida weather and greens—he’s got the ability to take it low here at any time. Koepka’s length should also make some of the tougher approach shots on this course a little easier for him than other players and I love the fact that he generally plays par 4’s better than almost anyone on tour (5th in par 4 scoring in 2016). He’s my pick to head the pack this week.
Northern Trust Open: Bubba Watson (Win)
Pebble Beach: J.B. Holmes (11th)
WMO Phoenix: Justin Thomas (MC)
Farmers Pick: Jimmy Walker (T4)
CareerBuilder Pick: Graham DeLaet (T42)
Sony Open Pick: Danny Lee (T33)
MY SLEEPER: Jon Curran ($6400)
Sleeper Qualification: must be under $7000 in salary and projected by me to be less than 10% owned
Jon Curran has started out 2016 with some really solid results—26th at NTO, 11th at Phoenix—and should be well suited to the course this week. He’s a great bunker player (7th best on tour in SS%) which should help his cause at PGA National and has performed well the last couple of years at the Puerto Rico Open, an event which generally see’s its fair share of wind as well. Curran made the cut here last year in horrid conditions and I think given how well he’s played to start the season he could really take to this course and put up a surprising result. He’s my sleeper pick and I’ll be looking for him to challenge to get into the top 20 this weekend
Northern Trust Open: Scott Pinckney (MC)
Pebble Beach: Alex Prugh (MC)
WMO Phoenix: Jason Kokrak (MC)
Farmers Sleeper: Robert Garrigus (T50)
CareerBuilder Sleeper: Chez Revie (T17)
Sony Open Sleeper: Daniel Summerhays (T13)