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.
The season opens up with a smaller field event in Hawaii. The Hyundai Tournament of Champions is an event which features only players who won an official PGA Tour event last season. As you can imagine the field here is generally pretty elite and this year is no exception. Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Bubba Watson are all here and many other big names are in the field as well. Being such a small event, this tournament features no mid-way cut and so all 32 players will play four days barring of course an injury or disqualification.
The Plantation Course, Kapula, Maui (Hawaii)
Par 73, 7400-7500 yards
Before we go any further, no that is not a mis-print… this course is actually a par 73 and is the only one of its kind of the PGA Tour. There are four par 5’s on the Plantation course but only three par 3’s which accounts for the odd total. While this track is certainly what you could call, wind exposed, that hasn’t stopped players from absolutely blitzing it every year and last season it was ranked as the easiest on tour, with all players averaging three strokes below par for the tournament (69.93 stroke index). The course is sloping but its also extremely wide open and very un-punishing to players off the tee. While length can help the truth is what the players do off the tee this week isn’t hugely important as it will be their play around and approaching the greens that make the difference. This is a fun course that really emphasizes the need for scoring.
Last 5 winners
– The last 5 winners of this event had all played this event at least once prior to their victory
– The last 5 winners all ranked inside the top 50 in putting from inside 10 feet in the year prior to their victory
– Defending Champions have faired very well at this event, with the last four all finishing 7th or better in their title defense
Par 5 scoring
Being a small field I don’t want to overload people with statistics this week, as many players will be at or near the tops of many of these lists already, but I would emphasize a couple spots right off the bat. Par 5 scoring is obviously important this week given the easiness of the course and all of the Par 5’s ranked inside the top 8 holes in terms of easiness of play in this tournament last season. Last year 5 of the top 7 players at this tournament ranked inside the top 30 of par 5 scoring for the year and past winners have traditionally all been ranked highly in this category.
As far as other categories go I would emphasize stats that look at scoring this week over off the tee play. Scrambling may not seem important on a course as easy as this, but it comes into play a lot when players are trying to get up and down for birdie on a par 5 or short par 4. Patrick Reed ranked second in that category last year for the week and a look back at past winners finds players like Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker who are more known for their work around and on the green than off the tee.
Putting wise there is a ton of categories you could look into as a hot putter is almost a must here if a player is going to excel in a birdie fest type of event such as this. Still, rather than cherry pick any putting stat, I might be tempted just to use birdie average as an overall marker instead. 6 of the top 7 from last year at this event finished inside the Top 30 in that category last year.
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 ($8500) is priced at $8500 this week and has Vegas odds hovering around 25-1. This puts him in the same range as players like Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka who are all priced around the same (25-1). However, McDowell is priced at only $8500 on DraftKings this week, $200 cheaper than Thomas and $400 cheaper than Koepka. It’s not huge savings but in a small field it can make a difference.
– Scott Piercy ($7100) is priced at $7100 this week and has Vegas odds hovering around 67-1. This puts him in the same price range as players like Chris Kirk and David Lingmerth who are slightly more expensive than him at $7200 and $7300 respectively. However, Piercy is also only 100$ more to roster than Smylie Kaufman and Alex Cejka who are both sitting 100-1 in terms of odds to win this week. Piercy looks like good value at the bottom end of the price range according the Vegas odds this week.
You can fit in more than one big player this week if you leave out one of the big two (Day or Spieth) this week. Given some of the choices near the bottom I am definitely leaning towards that approach for myself for cash game purposes. There are a few solid options at the low 7k mark but once you go under that mark the players get less reliable for scoring.
I would probably reserve the stars and scrubs approach for tournaments only this week. A Day or Spieth victory could set you apart very quickly but picking and choosing which sub 7k players will be reliable is difficult. Even though everyone plays 4 rounds this week you’ll still need a decent placing from all 6 of your players to make hay in GPPs.
My Pick: Graeme McDowell
McDowell was revitalized in the Fall wrap-around season landing himself a victory and a second place as well. He very encouragingly placed 3rd here in his only appearance which came on the back of a final round 62 in 2011. Right now McDowell is at or near the front of a lot of major statistical categories for 2016, and while the sample size is small, it’s still very encouraging to see. He’s my choice to start the new year off with a win.
My Sleeper: Chris Kirk
I waffled a lot on this pick and like Scott Piercy almost as much this week for DFS purposes but I think Kirk makes for an intriguing play. Kirk has beaten elite fields before, and took down the second leg of the FedEx playoffs in 2014. He’s not great off the tee but his great short game and putting means he can get hot in a hurry. While his par 5 scoring rank wasn’t great in 2015 in 2014 he actually placed 22nd in that category. If there was an upset winner here I wouldn’t be shocked if Kirk was it, I really like him for DFS purposes this week.