The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy players with course info, golfer history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help with roster selection.
If you had told people that last week’s tournament would end with a playoff between two players priced under $6,500 in salary on DraftKings, you would probably have gotten a ton of laughs, especially with all the big names in the field. But that’s what happened. Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy fell short on Sunday and James Hahn sunk a 50-foot eagle putt and then defeated Roberto Castro in a playoff to claim his second title. Hahn had missed 7 straight cuts before winning last week, which is what makes his win so surprising. This week, we get another big event, one of the biggest of the year actually, as the self-proclaimed “fifth major” The PLAYERS Championship, takes center stage.
This field is stacked from top to bottom. While this isn’t technically a major championship, it might actually have the strongest field of any golf tournament in the world. There are no amateur invites or over the hill past champions in this field, only card carrying PGA tour members and some select international players who are high up in the world rankings. The “big three”, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth are all here, along with a few other top ten players like Adam Scott, Justin Rose and defending champ, Rickie Fowler. The field is littered with big names too, like former world number 1 Luke Donald, two-time major winner Martin Kaymer and the now healthy Jim Furyk. Because of the depth of this field, these sorts of players won’t end up costing you much in DFS this week. Unlike last week, where Hahn’s victory came out of nowhere, don’t be shocked if a lower priced player rises to prominence here as there is talent from top to bottom.
TPC Sawgrass (Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida)
Par 72, 7,200-7,300 yards depending on setup
TPC Sawgrass is a stadium course that was designed and created specifically for this event. It was designed by Pete Dye who also designed the courses at the RBC Heritage and Zurich Classic. This course features smaller than normal greens and quite a few doglegs on many of the holes which will mean some shot-shaping by the golfers. While accuracy is at a premium this week, length can still be an asset to the golfers on the par 5’s and some of the long par 4’s (most notably the 18th) where just getting par will be an accomplishment. TPC Sawgrass really is an all-around test of golf, and its past winners reflect that as it has seen a myriad of champions, all with different strengths to their game.
The course itself is split up as a traditional par 72 (four par 5’s and four par 3’s), but each hole presents a unique challenge to players. While the 17th island green can be tricky on Sunday, it’s actually the final hole (the 18th) that plays as one of hardest on the course every year and requires a pinpoint and mammoth drive by players just to hit the fairway. The rest of the course is made up of risk/reward par 5’s that require placement over power off the tee, and a few other treacherous par 3’s.
With the course not being super long (it’s almost always set up under 7,300 yards) many approach shots will be of the wedge and short iron variety making proximity from 150 and in a vital part of anyone’s game this week. Sawgrass is not a course that can or will yield to pure bombers (as evidenced by past winners), and you’ll want players with experience, whose games have more than one facet this week. Weaknesses are always exposed here, so expect a few fantasy casualties among the top players after Friday.
Last 5 Winners
- Rickie Fowler—2015
- Martin Kaymer—2014
- Tiger Woods—2013
- Matt Kuchar—2012
- K.J. Choi—2011
- 5 of the last 6 winners of the PLAYERS had a T3 or better on Tour in the year of their victory.
- The last 6 winners had a finish of 16th or better at the PLAYERS in a year preceding their victory.
Proximity 100-150 Yards
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
TPC Sawgrass has some of the smallest green complexes on Tour, and several holes are nearly impossible to hit without an extremely accurate approach. Looking at both Approach Proximity and Approach Proximity from 100 to 150 Yards seems to make a lot of sense as the golfers will not only be facing short approaches on several par 4’s, but the doglegs will force many to play the par 5’s as three shot holes as well. There’s also the short 17th hole to worry about as well. Players with accurate approach games have always prospered here, so looking at these sorts of stats is a great way to start research this week.
The other stats I’d weigh heavily here are Driving Accuracy and Strokes Gained: Tee to Green. While accuracy off the tee isn’t necessarily as important as what you do on your approach shots, many players with great records here have been ranked highly in Driving Accuracy. Setting yourself up off the tee makes life a whole lot easier on the approach shots, so looking at accuracy over distance makes sense this week for driving stats. Finally, this course requires solid ball striking, and while putting is always important it can also come and go for players and be hard to define. Looking at players with solid recent Tee to Green stats is a priority for me this week as those in good recent form in this category have tended to prosper here. A poor long game will get exposed by the challenging tee and approach shots eventually, and looking at Tee to Green stats is a good way to ensure your choice is up to snuff in that area.
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.
|Matt Kuchar||55-1||$8,100||Brandt Snedeker $8,100 and 60-1
Billy Horschel $8,200 and 55-1
Jimmy Walker $8,000 and 80-1
|J.B. Holmes||80-1||$7,400||Bill Haas $7,500 and 90-1
Byeong-Hun An $7,400 and 80-1
Danny Lee $7,500 and 100-1
HORSES FOR COURSES
- Luke Donald is 10 for 11 in cuts made at TPC Sawgrass, with his lone miss coming last year. However, Donald is in much better form this season, and with past finishes of 2nd, 4th and 6th at the PLAYERS, he definitely has the course knowledge to have a big week.
- Zach Johnson has played here every year since 2005 and only missed one cut in that span. Like Donald, he has some high finishes to rely on, as he’s posted 2nd, 8th and 12th place finishes at this event before.
- Sergio Garcia is now 11 for his last 11 attempts at TPC Sawgrass in terms of making the cut and has a win (2008) and two runner-up finishes to his credit here. While often volatile in form, there’s no other place Sergio feels more comfortable than here.
- Matt Kuchar missed the cut here last year, but before that he had made 5 straight cuts at this event and recorded a win back in 2012. He’ll look to restart his made cut streak this year on a course that definitely suits his eye and game.
- Henrik Stenson is another horse for the course and probably the biggest thoroughbred this week. He has made 8 of 10 cuts here and owns a win, a 3rd place finish, a T5 and numerous top twenties here, as well. He’ll make for one of the most popular and likely safest plays in cash games on DraftKings this week.
There is so much talent in this field that choosing teams is going to be difficult this week. The pricing on DraftKings is quite flexible, so fitting two or three big names in your lineup won’t be an issue, the issue will be choosing the correct players. While the elite nature of this field may make choosing players from the bottom seem counterproductive, the truth is, several lessor names have had monster performances at TPC Sawgrass over the years, and going with one or two lessor names to fit in the big ones you want is a fine strategy. I wouldn’t worry too much about structure this week and just go with who you like. There are good plays all around, and there is no need to worry about where they are coming from in the salary charts.
Top Performing Studs from Recent Weeks
- Hideki Matsuyama
- Daniel Berger
- Danny Willett
Top Performing Value Plays from Recent Weeks
- Fabian Gomez
- Bryce Molder
- Jhonattan Vegas
MY PICK: Rory McIlroy $11,700
This pick essentially goes against many of the traditional things you look for in a winner of the PLAYERS. Accuracy and course management aren’t exactly Rory’s strengths, but I think there are many reasons to think he might actually be the one to watch this week. First, he’s coming off a great week at the Wells Fargo, where he started slow but really found his form on Sunday and put together one of his best rounds of the year on a fast/tough playing course. TPC Sawgrass looks to be playing firm and fast this week as well, which should help McIlroy, who has the tenth highest Apex Height (he hits the ball high) on Tour.
Rory has also played much better at TPC Sawgrass the past few years, recording three straight top tens here with 4 of his last 12 rounds being 69 or better. He’s got a win in Florida at a similar course (Honda Classic) and seems to have finally accepted the fact that he can’t overpower TPC Sawgrass. Rory has been really close this season, and I think of all the top players coming in, he seems the hungriest for a win. Bombers don’t always prosper here, but a few have, and I think this might be Rory’s year to buck the trend. He’s my pick to get his first win of the year and first big victory in some time.
MY SLEEPER: David Hearn $6,100
Sleeper Qualification: must be under $7,000 in salary and projected by me to be less than 10% owned
Hearn is a player we’ve seen coming on for a few weeks now. Many might be put off by the fact that he missed the cut last week, but Quail Hollow is a long course and not as well suited for Hearn’s game as this one is. Hearn has made the cut the last three years at TPC Sawgrass and even has a 6th place finish here from back in 2014. What I love about Hearn this week though is that he’s accurate. He’s currently 2nd on Tour in proximity to the hole and 27th in off the tee in accuracy. While he might be coming off a missed cut, he went T20 and T13 in his last two starts meaning the recent form is there. Of his last 12 rounds at TPC Sawgrass, Hearn has shot par or better in 11 of them. At only $6,100 this week I think he’s a great low-priced option who has enough upside to help you win a big GPP this coming Sunday.