WATCH: PRICE CHECK – HONDA CLASSIC
The PGA Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help with roster selection.
Dustin Johnson was the second top player in a row to absolutely lay waste to a field last week. After getting beaten handily by Jordan Spieth at Pebble Beach, Johnson returned the favor and won by five strokes at Riviera — and was leading by much more at one point before giving back a few shots on the final nine. Johnson has now ascended to the number one player in the world, bumping off Jason Day who certainly looked rattled throughout much of the week. The Genesis Open was the last stop on the West Coast swing as the Tour now heads to Florida. There are now only six events left before the first major of the year — The Masters.
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. Rickie Fowler, Russell Knox and 2016 Masters Champion Danny Willett will all be in action, as well as Justin Thomas and Adam Scott. With the Tour now heading across the country to Florida (warmer weather), and the Masters getting closer, expect to see more and more big names from across the sea as well. This week Louis Oosthuizen, Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Tyrell Hatton are all in the field, giving this tournament more of an international flare. With the winners from the past two weeks sitting this one out, this tournament looks wide open, and we should be in for an exciting week.
PGA National — Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Par 70, 7,200-7,300 yards
PGA National was redesigned in 1990 by Jack Nicklaus and has been the host of this event since 2007. The course itself is tough and has ranked as the fourth and fifth toughest course on Tour over the past two seasons, with the winning score here failing to pass -9 since 2012. In 2015, 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. Last year, wind was a big factor yet again, and only two players ended up better than -5 for the week. Wind could play a factor in 2017, as there is some poor weather in the forecast for Thursday and Friday, although things do look like they’ll clear up on the weekend.
PGA National plays as a par 70 that comes in around 7,200 yards, or just over that, at it’s longest. There are only two par fives 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 easier “scoring holes” with less penalization for mistakes, while the back is basically one challenging shot after another where a mistake can mean 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. 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 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. 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
- 2016 — Adam Scott -9 (over Sergio Garcia -8)
- 2015 — Padraig Harrington -6 (over Daniel Berger playoff)
- 2014 — Russell Henley -8 (over Rory McIlroy, Russell Knox and Ryan Palmer playoff)
- 2013 — Michael Thompson -8 (over Geoff Ogilvy -7)
- 2012 — Rory McIlroy -12 (over Tiger Woods -10)
- Four of the last six winners ranked 44th or better in Sand Save Percentage in the year of their victory at PGA National.
- Four of the past five winners had finishes of 13th or better in previous years at this event before their win, while all five had made the cut here at least once here before their win.
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
Sand Save Percentage
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 definitely a stat to consider this week. 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 last year’s winner Adam Scott, actually led the field in that stat for the year in 2016. Scott also finished second in Proximity for the week at the Honda last season behind T3 finisher Justin Thomas.
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green is also a stat to weigh heavily this week. In 2015, four of the top five 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. In 2016, the top four finishers finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 7th in this stat for the week.
Finally, while sand-save stats can be a little volatile, targeting players who are adept from the beach isn’t a bad idea this week. Players who are adept out of the sand have faired well at this event, and it’s not a huge surprise as to why. There are over 100 bunkers on the course, and at some point, that part of a player’s game will be tested.
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.
|Graeme McDowell||67-1||$7,300||Cameron Tringale $7,400 and 125-1
Graham DeLaet $7,400 and 80-1
Ryan Palmer $7,500 and 80-1
|Thomas Pieters||40-1||$7,700||Martin Kaymer $7,700 and 67-1
Russell Henley $7,900 and 50-1
Danny Willett $7,800 and 50-1
HORSES FOR COURSES
Luke Donald has a great history on this course. Since 2007 he’s played here six times and amassed finishes of 10th, 9th, 3rd and 2nd. Donald has performed well the past couple of events and looks to be in good form for another run at the title here.
Graeme McDowell has played here seven times and recorded four 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. McDowell is in sneaky good form right now too, as he’s made three straight cuts to start 2017.
Russell Knox doesn’t have a deep history at this course but he sure seems to fit it well. In three appearances (2014-16) he’s amassed finishes of 26th, 2nd and 3rd. He’s coming off a slow start to the year, but this course is right in his wheelhouse.
Ryan Palmer has played in this event in each of the past five seasons and has yet to miss the cut. He has four finishes of 26th or better and a runner-up finish from 2014 where he had a putt to win the tournament. He finally made a cut last week and should be eager to keep the momentum rolling.
Cash Games: With the top six players in the world all skipping this event, there feels like less of an incentive to pay up for the highest priced players here. Scott, Garcia, Fowler and Thomas are all in various degrees of decent form but feel like less than sure things this week – at least compared to the dominance Spieth, Matsuyama and Johnson have shown recently. There is also a glut of talent between $7,300 and $10k which makes a balanced approach seem very appealing. Taking advantage of lower prices on consistent players like Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Kevin Kisner makes a lot of sense, while other talented players like Thomas Pieters ($7,700), Louis Oosthuizen ($9,400) and Daniel Berger ($8,900) can also be considered.
Tournaments: Based on their finish last year, I expect Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott to be fairly popular, making Rickie Fowler a decent GPP play. However, given the spread out nature of this strong field, I don’t expect ownership to be super high on anyone. European Tour regulars in good form, who could be under-owned this week, include Matthew Fitzpatrick (T5 in his last start), Louis Oosthuizen (-28 in his last seven rounds) and Danny Willett (see my write-up at the end). Some other potentially overlooked plays this week include Zach Johnson ($9,700), Jimmy Walker ($8,200), Luke Donald ($7,600) and Sean O’Hair ($7,500).
Top Strokes Gained: Tee to Green from Last Week
1. Charley Hoffman
2. Dustin Johnson
3. Sung Kang
Top Strokes Gained: Putting from Last Week
1. Scott Brown
2. Kevin Na
3. Dustin Johnson
Top Recent Form
1. Tyrell Hatton — is -40 in his last three events and has finishes of T2-T13-T3 in that same span
2. Louis Oosthuizen — is -28 overall in last seven round of stroke play
3. Charles Howell — has not finished worse than T15 in his last eight starts
MY PICK: Danny Willett ($7,800)
While pricing is a bit tighter this week, one of the biggest discrepancies between DraftKings prices and actual world golf rankings leads me straight to Danny Willett. The Englishman is actually the 13th ranked golfer in the world at the moment, and the 4th highest ranked golfer in the field this week, but only the 18th most expensive golfer on DraftKings. Willett has struggled since his Masters win — which has something to do with his pricing here — but he’s also shown glimpses of his former self lately with two finishes of 6th or better in his last four starts, including a 5th place in Malaysia his last time out. Willett’s a strong bunker player who thrived in tough conditions at Augusta last year and should find the conditions and course to his liking this week. He’s definitely one of my favorite picks in a very intriguing field.
MY SLEEPER: Daniel Summerhays ($6,700)
On a tough course where even par might actually land a player inside the top 20 at the end of the week, Summerhays sticks out to me as a nice value under $7k. He has not started out the season in great form, but he’s made three of five cuts in 2017, and has shown good form at these shorter, shotmaker style courses over his career. Summerhays also has a very consistent record at PGA National over the past three seasons with finishes of 37th, 17th and 12th, and he hasn’t shot worse than 72 here in his last 12 rounds, a great feat when you consider the cut line can approach +4 or worse here. At $6,700 Summerhays offers a great shot at getting you four solid, “non-blow-up rounds” which is pretty much all you’re going to want from your players at one of the toughest tracks on Tour.
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