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.
Well last week we all got to see the rise and fall of an icon. For those of us that used Phil in DFS his Sunday meltdown wasn’t fun to watch but I wouldn’t count him out for the year just yet. He’s swinging it better than he has been in a long time and putted great up until that last hole. For the players who went with Vaughn Taylor, we saw firsthand how huge a low-owned player can be in big fantasy tournaments. At 2.5% owned those who used Taylor got a huge boost and dominated the leaderboards on DraftKings for the week. This week a much different tournament awaits though as the players travel to LA to tackle one of the most popular and oldest courses on tour. This is one of my favorite tournaments of the year and it should be a great week.
The field this week is around 140 or so players and so the field is still large but it isn’t quite as big as many regular tour events which host 150 + players. This week also doesn’t have a pro-am feature (Pebble Beach was the last one) and so players will only play on one course this week and the cut will go back to being completed after Friday’s round. The top 70 players and ties will get to play the weekend and with a slightly smaller field there should be a few more teams with 5 or 6 players making it through in DFS this week. As far as the competition goes, this is a very elite field and has an almost World Golf Championship quality field. Top international players Rory McIlroy, Charl Schwartzel and Sergio Garcia are all in the field this week along with US stars Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson. This is setting up like a quality event and I’d expect many big names in contention on Sunday.
Riviera CC, Pacific Palisades, California
Par 71, 7300-7350 yards
Riviera is one of the older courses on tour and has hosted this event pretty much every year since 1973. As an older style course it has a lot of more mature trees that line the fairway and also features a lot of doglegs. As such, the fairways at Riviera can be tough to hit—especially if they’re firm which they apparently are this week—and so I’d expect even the most accurate players to be hitting out of the rough more than usual. The strains of grass at Riviera are also fairly unique as the fairways and rough are Kikuyu which tends to be quite difficult to play out of when left to grow. As such, players with better distance and the strength to get the ball up and out of the thick grass will have an advantage. The greens are a mixture of poa annua and bentgrass, and so for some players there will at least be some similarity to previous West Coast stops in that regard.
In general, the course plays quite long and quite tough. There’s a short drivable par 4—the famous tenth—that actually plays over par many years because of its impossible to hit green. There’s a very short and easy par 5 the players start on, but two other long par 5’s which are anything but automatic birdies. There’s also numerous long and winding par 4’s which the players must navigate if they wish to move up the leaderboard. Many of these holes require good shots off the tee and long approaches making them difficult to score on for all but the longest and straightest hitters. All in all, Riviera is a tough test of golf that generally rewards players who are in good form, expect a tough test and worthy champion come Sunday.
Last 5 winners
James Hahn — 2015
Bubba Watson — 2014
John Merrick — 2013
Bill Haas — 2012
Aaron Baddeley — 2011
– Four of the last six winners of this event have ranked inside the top ten on tour in par 4 scoring in the year of their victory.
– Recent form is also important this week: each of the last 5 winners have placed 29th or better in the week preceding their victory at Riviera
Par 4 Scoring
Strokes gained: tee to green
With the way the course is set up to challenge players—with many tough approach shots and longer par 4’s—par 4 scoring is definitely a stat I’d pay attention to this week. As mentioned above four of the last six winners of this event have ranked as some of the best on par 4’s in the year they won at Riviera. There’s few courses where not losing ground on the par 4’s will be as vital as it is this week.
I also like looking at the ball striking category which measures players total driving ability, and their ability to hit greens in regulation. Riviera requires players to hit demanding tee shots and approach shots and players who rank highly in this category will genuinely be proficient in both. It’s a good place to find players who could thrive on a course like this. For that same reason I’d also definitely take a look at the strokes gained: tee to green category. Players who have played well here and won in past versions of this event haven’t necessarily been the greatest putters in the world, but they have almost always come in with solid tee to green games. This was best evidenced by last year’s winner James Hahn who only ranked 50th in strokes gained: putting last year for the week but was second overall in strokes gained: tee to green. Overall I’d emphasize stats which show how well a player is hitting the ball and look for players with solid recent form in some of the aforementioned categories.
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.
|Harris English||56-1 (Average)||$8,100||Ryan Moore $8200 and 81-1
Branden Steele $8300 and 65-1
Justin Thomas $8500 and 56-1
|Keegan Bradley||67-1 (Average)||$7,800||Danny Lee $7800 and 71-1
Billy Horschel $7900 and 71-1
Bernd Wiesberger $7600 and 91-1
|Patrick Rodgers||101-1||$7,300||Bryce Molder $7200 and 140-1
Tony Finau $7400 and 126-1
Will Wilcox $7300 and 126-1
HORSES FOR COURSES
– K.J. Choi has an amazingly consistent record at this event as he’s now made the cut every year he’s played since 2001. He’s also recorded numerous top finishes and looks like a solid option for cash games this week.
– Keegan Bradley doesn’t have as long a record here but he loves the course and has made four straight cuts, along with finishes of 4th and 2nd place in that span.
– Bill Haas is a former winner of this event in 2012 and also has finishes of 12th and 3rd place in his last four appearances. He fits the horse for a course characterization this week.
– Dustin Johnson once again makes this list as he’s put together two 2nd places, a 3rd, a 4th and a 10th place finish here since 2009. He’ll once again be looking to break through for his first NTO win.
This field is very deep and while there’s a lot of talent at the top levels there’s also a ton of solid plays in the 7k range as well. This should mean you can make pretty quality 6 man rosters without having to delve too deep into the nether-regions of DraftKings salary charts. I’d definitely recommend scoping out as many value plays in the 7-8k ranges and making more balanced rosters this week as there’s players with legitimate shots to win this tournament lurking under the 9k range. Take advantage of the talent in this deep field.
Top Performing Studs from recent weeks
o Hideki Matsuyama
o Justin Rose
o J.B. Holmes
Top Performing Value plays from recent weeks
o Si Woo Kim
o Vaughn Taylor
o John Huh
MY PICK: Bubba Watson – $10,400
Bubba is probably not in the good graces of many a DFS player right now, especially after under performing at Phoenix and then missing the cut last week. The truth is though that he’s really not playing poorly. Watson ranked 3rd in strokes gained: tee to green at the Waste Management Open and if it wasn’t for a cold putter probably would have been in the mix there. He’s also 4th overall in ball striking for the year and has generally been one of the best on par 4 players on tour over his career. I think he’ll be more than happy to put last week behind him and should benefit from playing a course he knows extremely well and plays more to his strengths. If his putter gets hot look for him to challenge for the win this week, he’s my pick to take down an awfully strong field.
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: Scott Pinckney – $6,900
Sleeper Qualification: must be under $7000 in salary and projected by me to be less than 10% owned
Picking a sleeper was really tough this week as the field thins out a lot under 7k. Scott Pinckney stands out though as a player who I think can go well at this course. On top of being a pretty long hitter (43rd in driving distance) he’s been striking the ball extremely well so far in 2016 and ranks 12th in ball striking for 2016. He’s coming off a pretty solid performance at the Waste Management open where he played consistent golf for four rounds on a pretty tough course. At $6500 I think he’s playing well enough to take on Riviera and get you four solid rounds of fantasy scoring in, while possibly even challenging for a top 20. He’s my sleeper play in DFS for this week.
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)