WATCH: PRICE CHECK – THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP
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.
At the Wells Fargo Championship, Brian Harman held off some of the biggest names on the PGA Tour to capture his second tour win. Harman’s late/long birdie on 18 vaulted him past Jon Rahm, Pat Perez and Dustin Johnson and gave the lefty, who had been heating up of late, a great mid-season boost. For fantasy purposes most of the big names played well, although Kevin Kisner was a high-owned stud who missed the weekend. Dustin Johnson made a triumphant return to play and just missed winning his fourth tournament in a row.
This field is stacked from top to bottom. While THE PLAYERS isn’t technically a major championship, it might actually have the strongest field of any golf tournament in the world. There’s no amateur invites or over-the-hill past champions this week, only card-carrying tour members and some select international players or qualifiers, who are generally all high-up in the world rankings. All of the top five players in the world are in attendance and it will be nice to finally see Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day in competition at a major event together. Some other international names who qualified and might fly under the radar a bit here are Bernd Wiesberger (winner in China three weeks ago), Matthew Fitzpatrick and Tommy Fleetwood. Barring any more withdraws (Charles Howell is no longer playing), the field this week is set at 146 players and the normal cut rules apply (top 70 and ties make the weekend). Regardless of whether you think this should be classified as a major championship or not (it should be!) there’s no doubting that this event almost always produces a great week of golf, and a great week for Daily Fantasy sweats too.
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 in 1981. It was designed by Pete Dye, who has also designed a lot of courses on the tour rotation, including some of the more recent ones at the RBC Heritage and Zurich Classic. TPC Sawgrass features hard to hit, smaller than normal greens, quite a bit of water and quite a few doglegs too, which will make accurate iron play essential this week. While accuracy will be at a premium, length can still be an asset to the players on the par 5s and some of the long par 4s (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 set-up as a traditional par 72 (four par 5s and four par 3s) 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 drive by players just to hit the fairway. The rest of the course is made up of risk/reward par 5s that require placement over power off the tee and a couple other treacherous, if less well known, par 3s. As for the par 4s, five of them come in at 450 yards or more and tend to stress long iron approaches, while three will actually play at under 400 for the week, with the new par-4 12th (see below) being very reachable by most.
2017 Changes: TPC Sawgrass did see some renovations this year, the largest of which is the remodeling of the 12th hole, which used to be a simple mid/short-range par 4. The hole was actually shortened in the renovation to play anywhere between 285-358 yards and will be a welcome change to what was once a fairly boring hole. The 12th features a lagoon to the direct left of a smaller green which slopes off towards the water. It should present players with an opportunity for birdie or even eagle while equally bringing bogey or worse into play more often as well. The other big change to the course is the replacement of the greens themselves. Last year saw the burned out greens begin to show their age and were a somewhat negative storyline on the event. All of the complexes were rebuilt for this season with TifEagle Bermuda, which should provide a better experience overall but will obviously require some adjustment for players.
Last five winners
- 2016 — Jason Day -15 (over Kevin Chappell -11)
- 2015 — Rickie Fowler -12 (over Kevin Kisner playoff)
- 2014 — Martin Kaymer -13 (over Jim Furyk -12)
- 2013 — Tiger Woods -13 (over David Lingmerth -11)
- 2012 — Matt Kuchar -13 (over four players -11)
- Six of the last seven winners of THE PLAYERS had a T3 or better on tour in the year of their victory.
- The last 10 winners of this event had a finish of 16th or better at THE PLAYERS in a previous year.
- Five of the last six winners of THE PLAYERS finished T12 or better in the Masters in the year of their victory.
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
Strokes Gained: Approach
Even though it’s a shorter course, TPC Sawgrass is very much what some would refer to as a “ball-striker” course. While a variety of different types of players have won this event, the winner has generally been one of the best in the field in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green for the week, giving some credence to that theory. Since 2011, none of the winners have finished outside the top 10 for the week in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, making it a great category to weigh heavily this week.
The other Strokes Gained area to look at this week is approaches. TPC Sawgrass is also sometimes referred to as a second-shot course, meaning what you do off the tee here isn’t as important as what you do on your approaches. This generalization actually shows somewhat in the stats as many of the winners and high finishers have ranked consistently outside of the top-20 in off the tee stats but inside the top 10 in Strokes Gained: Approaches. In fact, the last three winners didn’t crack the top 20 in off the tee stats for the week of their win but were all inside the top 10 in Strokes Gained: Approaches.
With smaller greens, TPC Sawgrass also tends to emphasize a player’s short-game at some point in the week, and it’s no shock to find the winners here usually have had good-to-great weeks getting the ball up and down from off the green. Since 2010, the worst a winner has finished in Scrambling for the week is Matt Kuchar in 2012, who was 12th.
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.
|Phil Mickelson||60-1||$7,400||Lee Westwood $7,500 and 80-1
Russell Knox $7,600 and 100-1
Ryan Palmer $7,600 and 100-1
|Branden Grace||80-1||$6,800||Rod Pampling $6,900 and 500-1
Spencer Levin $6,900 and 500-1
Cody Gribble $6,900 and 500-1
HORSES FOR COURSES
- Sergio Garcia is now 12 for his last 12 attempts at TPC Sawgrass in terms of making the cut and has a win (2008) and two runner-up finishes to his credit here as well. The knock on Sergio this year is the fact that he hasn’t played at all since his historic win at Augusta in April; the good news is that he’s coming in with confidence he’s never had before.
- Martin Kaymer has a great record at this event; one which often bamboozles some of the best players in the world. The 2014 champion has played TPC Sawgrass eight times and never missed the cut. The German is playing well coming in but hasn’t won since his victory at the US Open in 2014.
- Zach Johnson has been at THE PLAYERS every year since 2005 and only missed one cut in that span. ZJ has never won THE PLAYERS but he’s come close, having finished second here in 2012 and eighth back in 2005. He showed some life last week at the Wells Fargo with a T18 finish and his first made cut in three starts.
- Matt Kuchar has a shiny history at TPC Sawgrass. The ever-smiling Kooch has made the cut in seven of his nine appearances and also has a win to his credit from back in 2012 (easily the biggest of his career). With a T4 at Augusta already in 2017, he’ll be looking to add another top finish to his resume.
1. Kevin Chappell: In his last two solo outings he has a win and a T7. The T7 finish was at Augusta in his first appearance at the course.
2. Brooks Koepka: He’s heating up quickly as he finished T11 at Augusta, his best ever finish there in three attempts, and finished solo second in Texas two weeks ago.
3. Bernd Wiesberger: Wiesberger has been killing it overseas of late. He finished 43rd at Augusta but won his next time out in China, and finished T4 the following week in another event in the same country.
Top Strokes Gained: Tee to Green (on season)
1. Dustin Johnson
2. Jon Rahm
3. Sergio Garcia
Top Strokes Gained: Putting
1. Tyrell Hatton
2. Luke Donald
3. Michael Thompson
Cash Games: In a deep field there really are good value plays at every single salary-level this week. Most of the time that would mean it’s easy to simply begin lineups by targeting the number-one player in the world in Dustin Johnson, but I actually prefer going with the likes of Jordan Spieth, John Rahm and Hideki Matsuyama over DJ here; mainly due to a combination of course history and salary. Regardless of who you go with at the top, after picking your studs the $7k range really should be your next stop as Matt Kuchar ($7,900), Jason Dufner ($7,800), Kevin Kisner ($7,700), Francesco Molinari ($7,700), Martin Kaymer ($7,300) and Zach Johnson ($7,200) all make for good targets.
Tournaments: Based on course history and recent form I think Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia will both be heavily owned, meaning both Matsuyama and Spieth should be good for GPPs as well. Jason Day is a potential GPP target here too, although if looking for likely lower ownership I’d rather venture down and hope for a bounce back from Henrik Stenson at a much cheaper price. Paul Casey (see below), Patrick Cantlay, Ryan Palmer, Ian Poulter (see below) and Bubba Watson are also on my radar for large scale GPPs. Bubba is particularly interesting as he doesn’t have a great history at this venue but has picked up his play of late.
MY PICK: Paul Casey ($8,300)
If you’ve played Paul Casey a lot this year, you’ve likely done alright as the Englishman has now made eight straight cuts in a row and reeled off top 20s in four of his last five starts. While we love consistency in DFS, we also love upside and the monster week from Casey has yet to materialize in 2017; this may be the week that changes. After a great Masters, where he finished inside the top six for the third year in a row, Casey followed up a three-week break with a T12 last week at the Wells Fargo, where he ranked T10 in Strokes Gained: Approaches, T2 in greens hit and was a collective 6-under for his final two rounds of play. While he lacks any high finishes at TPC Sawgrass, Casey does have a T14 from back in 2009 to his credit and posted his best finish here in a while last year with a T23. As he’s often struggled on the greens at TPC Sawgrass, the change to a newer type of Bermuda grass might be the jolt he needs to get over the hump at this event. He’s coming in with as consistent a record as anyone on tour this season and definitely has the game to challenge on a tougher sort of venue which stresses approach shots and accuracy. I think he picks up his second PGA title this week, and biggest win of his career.
MY SLEEPER: Ian Poulter ($6,600)
Poulter is an easy person to overlook this week in DFS given the quality of THE PLAYERS field, but at $6,600 he makes for the perfect likely low-owned tournament target. The Englishman recently got some good news as his T11 finish at the RBC Heritage was deemed as just good enough to meet his medical exemption requirement, allowing him to retain his tour-card until at least the end of this season. With that drama now behind him Poulter should be free to “swing freely” at this event, where he’s had some success in the past, including a runner-up finish from 2009. What I like most about Poulter here though is his recent form. While he had a bad missed cut at the Valero, he performed great at the RBC Heritage (on another Pete Dye course) where he ranked eighth in Strokes Gained: Approaches for the week, and also had a nice week at the team event on another Dye design, at the Zurich Classic. While I’m not expecting Poulter to win this week, a top 10 is very possible given his recent form and history at this venue and that sort of upside makes him an exceptional GPP target.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is wavegoodbye) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.