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.
With two weeks to go until Augusta, we’re now heading into the final homestretch of tournaments before the year’s first major. Last week we saw one of the most dominant players in 2015 get his game in order and get his 6th victory on the PGA in the past 15 months. Jason Day’s dominance at the Arnold Palmer Invitational only adds to the intrigue for the Masters, as it appears the Aussie superstar is going to be peaking just in time for the first major of 2016. We still have two more weeks of play before the first major, though, and with most of the top names at the WGC matchplay this week, our fantasy focus will be on the Puerto Rico Open, an alternate field event which features a lot of tour grinders, rookies, and some international names looking to make their mark on the PGA.
The field this week is definitely the weakest overall we’ve seen all year. As of now there’s about 125-130 players set to tee it up at the Puerto Rico Open, and most of them will be names you haven’t heard much from this year. Leading the field will be players like Graham DeLaet, Ian Poulter, and William McGirt, golfers many fantasy players will know, but not ones we’d describe as elite by any means. The rest of the field is a mix of some interesting young talent (Patrick Rodgers and Tony Finau), older veterans (Jerry Kelly and Fred Funk), and an eclectic group of international players (Hiroshi Iwata and Dean Burmester). The prize pool is much smaller this week for the golfers — about half the size of a regular tour stop — but the prestige and perks of winning are still the same. The cut will still take place on Friday, and the top 70 and ties will make the weekend. In a smaller field, getting 6 of 6 through will be statistically easier for DFS but will be made more difficult no doubt by the fact extra research may be required on many players.
Coco Beach Golf Club— Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
Par 72, 7,500 yards
Coco Beach Golf Club (formerly Trump International) is a seaside course which generally plays fairly easy for the modern PGA Tour pro but can really get tricky if the wind gets up (as we saw last year). For the most part, the winning scores here have been between -15 and -20, but last year poor conditions saw Alex Cjeka win in a five-way playoff at -7. Coco Beach is long, but it’s not necessarily length that scores well here. Past winners have generally been on the shorter side (Scott Brown, George McNeil, Alex Cjeka) off the tee, and that’s probably because positioning here is important if you want to avoid the hazards or many of the tricky bunkers that line the course. Hitting greens and fairways here seems to be the best way to score, and an inaccuracy can result in a big number.
That’s also not to say long players won’t have an advantage of some kind. The course can play over 7,500 yards and features four par 5’s that play between 530 yards and 630 yards, longer hitters will have an easier time on the approach into these greens, and in general on the longer holes. Speaking of greens, they’re paspalum grass, which is found in more tropical environments and also used at the CIMB classic, so player’s familiar with that course might have an advantage here too. A lot depends on the weather, but generally, this is a pretty interesting course that challenges players with tougher approaches, but that isn’t super difficult if the wind stays down. A birdie fest is the most likely scenario, as winds appear steady throughout the week but are not looking super brutal.
Last 5 winners
– Four of the past five winners of this event had recorded a 13th place or better in a previous year at this event before winning.
Truth be told, I think this is a great week not to worry too much about player stats and rely more on factors like course history. That being said, there has been some trends that stick out among past winners and top finishers here to take note of. Recent winners, or top finishers, here have tended to rank higher than normal in both (or either) proximity to the hole and scrambling, and with the emphasis this course tends to put on approach shots, this trend seems to make sense. Player’s have stressed the need for precise approach shots here in the past, and while the course isn’t difficult, the green complexes are tricky, especially for first timers. Looking for players with decent scrambling and proximity stats probably isn’t a bad way to start the week.
While I hate using Driving Accuracy as a moniker, this week it’s hard to ignore the fact most of the players who have done well here have been better in this category than most others. Last year, the playoff included three players ranked inside the top 70 on tour in accuracy and another who was known for being accurate over being long for most of his career. I’m not huge on driving stats here, but accuracy trumps distance for me this week. In general, I’d just remind people to adjust expectations when looking at statistics this week. Most players wont be near the top ten of any category, but relative to the field they’re playing in, could still be strong plays given the weakness of their competition.
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.
|Derek Fathauer||55-1||$7,800||Kyle Stanley $8000 and 80-1
Jon Curran $8400 and 60-1
Bryce Molder $7700 and 70-1
|Peter Malnati||100-1||$6,400||Luke Guthrie $6,900 and 100-1
Rory Sabbatini $6,600 and 110-1
Scott Pinckney $6,800 and 100-1
HORSES FOR COURSES
– Scott Brown is a former winner of this event who in four attempts has only finished outside of the top ten once. He’s in decent form and deserves to be one of the favorites this week.
– Boo Weekly hasn’t had much success in 2016, but he’s never had issues playing well in Puerto Rico, as he’s gone 6th-8th-3rd in his last three visits.
– Brendon de Jonge is another playing who’s truly had a horrible 2016, but he’s made five straight cuts at this event and only finished outside the top 15 once.
– Michael Bradley is a two-time winner of this event who rarely plays on tour any more. Still, it’s interesting to note that he’s made 6 of 7 cuts at this event overall and is the only two-time winner.
This isn’t a week where I think you need to roster any of the most expensive golfers but can definitely take some chances with lessor known players. There’s always a ton of different names that seem to pop up on the leaderboard of this event, and the weather and uniqueness of this course gives veteran players an advantage — although the lack of talent means anyone could legitimately rise to the top this week. Look to experienced golfers who have made coming to Puerto Rico a yearly event when filling out your roster, as they should be able to overcome the lack of depth in this field and put together a solid week. Since we haven’t seen a lot from many of these players, yet in 2016 this is definitely not a bad event to rely on course history a little more than normal.
Top Performing Studs from recent weeks
– Graham DeLaet
– William McGirt
– Retief Goosen
Top Performing Value plays from recent weeks
– Derek Fathauer
– Will MacKenzie
– Kyle Reifers
MY PICK: Freddie Jacobson ($10,400)
Jacobson has really had a great start to his 2016 season and has already accumulated three top 5 finishes on tour this year. After a rough 2015, he seems driven to getting back on track in 2016, and in a weaker field event like this, I think he can do just that. Jacobson had some success earlier this year at seaside courses (like Pebble Beach) and also handled the elements very well at the Farmers. On a windy course that does require some strategy, I think Jacobson is the type of player who could grind out four really solid rounds and sneak out a win. Of the top plays, I think he’s arguably been the most consistent of the bunch and is someone who might be overlooked this week. He’s my pick to take this one down.
Arnold Palmer Invitational: Rory McIlroy (28th)
Cadillac Championships: Henrik Stenson (28th)
Honda Classic: Brooks Koepka (26th)
Northern Trust Open: Bubba Watson (Win)
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 Langley ($6,100)
Sleeper Qualification: must be under $7,000 in salary and projected by me to be less than 10% owned
Langley’s a former PGA tour member who doesn’t have full status this year and has been splitting time between tours. However, he was a pretty stout amateur player who has also been in contention down the stretch of a few big events over his career. He’s also tended to play well at windy venues and relies more on accuracy and a good short game to get around. I like the fact Langley’s coming off a decent showing last week at the Web.com (20th) and has played this course each of the past two seasons. He’s someone whose experience should help out here and who could rise up for a big week in a field that shouldn’t be as intimidating as most PGA events.
Arnold Palmer Invitational: Harold Varner III (MC)
Valspar Championship: George McNeil (11th)
Cadillac Championships: Daniel Berger (28th)
Honda Classic: Jon Curran (MC)
Northern Trust Open: Scott Pinckney (MC)
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)