We had two events going on last week, although the only one that mattered for fantasy was the Puerto Rico Open. Tony Finau took down a weakened field for his first win on tour and looks to be fulfilling some of that promise people had been praising him for the past couple of years. Finau barely held on for the win, and just about gave it away late to a charging Steve Marino, but the result is all that matters and now he’ll get access to a lot of higher profile events in the near future as a result. Meanwhile Jason Day destroyed the match play event for his second win in a row but is taking this week off to rest. There’s a lot of elite players using this event though as their last tune up before Augusta and that should make it extra intriguing as a result.

Overview

The Field

The field is loaded with potential Augusta contenders and some lesser known players as well, which should only add to the drama come Sunday. Elite players with something to prove like Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson will all be using this week to prepare for Augusta, while others like Charles Howell III, Graham DeLaet and Kevin Chappell will all be chasing a win and the last potential spot into the Masters. The field this week is set at just under 150 golfers making it quite a bit bigger than last week. Getting 6/6 players through for daily fantasy purposes will thereby be more difficult as only the top 70 players and ties will make it through to Saturday. This should be a good fantasy warmup for Augusta as many players will want to go into the years first major on a high note.

The Course

The Golf Course of Houston (Redstone)—Humble, Texas
Par 72, 7400-7500 yards

This course was built specifically for this tournament some eleven years ago and has hosted this event since its inauguration. It’s a longish par 72 course that generally plays between 7400-7500 yards but has seen its fair share of shorter hitters play well here over time. As we saw in last years’ final round, when JB Holmes sprayed it all over the place off the tee but still managed to win the tournament, the fairways are wide and forgiving and the rough isn’t a hard to deal with. What is a huge deal though is the water, which comes into play on over ten holes on the course. However even with the hazards low scores here, the norm and the winners the past three or four years have all been in the mid teen range (-15 to -16).

“The course features four par 4’s which stretch over 450 yards…”

The greens are Bermuda but seeded with some Bentgrass and set up very fast to mimic Augusta. As a result, a lot of what is needed to play well at Augusta is needed here as well. The par 5’s are all good scoring chances and will need to be played in well under par by any player hoping for a successful week. That being said par 4 scoring here has been just as important in past incarnations. The course features four par 4’s which stretch over 450 yards and require some pretty accurate tee shots followed by a long iron approach. The course in general is a great mix of challenging holes and scoring opportunities which should make for an exciting finish on Sunday and possibly some pretty big fantasy point totals as well.


Trends and Stats

Last 5 Winners

Below are the last 5 winners at this event:

YearWinner
2015JB Holmes
2014Matt Jones
2013DA Points
2012Hunter Mahan
2011Phil Mickelson

Winning Trends

  • 5 of the last 7 winners of this event had recorded a top 5 in a PGA tour event at some point in the year of their victory before winning here
  • 4 of the last 5 winners ranked 61st or better in the year of their victory at the Shell Houston Open

Key Statistics

Below are the three most important statistics for the Shell Houston Open:

#1) Driving Distance
#2) Par 4 Scoring
#3) Birdie Average

Putting does seem to be a big factor here and in 2014 the top three payers all ranked very highly in strokes gained putting for the week. However, I couldn’t find a corollary stat for putting and instead looked at birdie average, a stat the past 5-7 winners have ranked highly in either in the year of their victory or at some points in their career. JB Holmes, Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim all have dominated this category at some point or another and I think this is a good spot to start when making lineups this weekend.

Another important stat is undoubtedly driving distance. While shorter hitters have gone well at this event, overall length really does factor in here. The fairways are very wide and very forgiving, making accuracy almost a non-issue on many holes. We all saw JB Holmes put together a great final round last year to snatch the win and with bigger hitters like Anthony Kim and Paul Casey also on the winners list, you have to give an edge to players who can get it out there off the tee this week.

The final stat I looked at this week was par 4 scoring. While the course sets up like Augusta, in the sense that players will need to play the par 5’s in well under par to win, it also carries some very difficult par 4’s as well, making those who handle the tougher holes a pretty good commodity. Most of the players won’t have issues scoring on the par 5’s this week and so instead of looking at that category I’d rather lean towards looking at players who rank highly in par 4 scoring, as it should be a better indicator of who will be able to tackle these tough holes in a decent score. Past winners have generally ranked well in this area overall for their career, and last year the three men in the playoff played these holes (par 4’s) better than almost everyone for the week.

Vegas Values

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.

PlayerVegas OddsDK SalaryComparables
Brendan Steele80-1$7,400Daniel Berger (80-1, $8,000)
Jason Kokrak (80-1, $8,000)
Jamie Lovemark (80-1, $7,900)
Kevin Chappell67-1$7,800Graham DeLaet (67-1, $8,700)
Keegan Bradley (67-1, $8,300)
Tony Finau (67-1, $8,100)


HORSES FOR COURSES

JB Holmes ($9,700)

JB Holmes has a great record here. On top of winning last year, he also lost in a playoff back in 2009. In his last five visits he’s only finished out of the top 12 once.

Keegan Bradley ($8,300)

Keegan Bradley is also a horse for the course this week—despite his inconsistent play of late. He’s 5/5 in cuts made here and has three top tens to his name in this event.

Cameron Tringale ($8,000)

Cameron Tringale is also 5/5 in cuts made here and also has a pretty up and down 2016 record. Still, with four straight top twenties at this event he clearly likes the greens and could post another decent result if his putter gets hot.

Ben Crane ($5,600)

Ben Crane is another short hitter who just seems comfortable playing on these greens. He’s 8/9 in cuts made here and also has a 4th place finish from back in 2013. A potential value pick this week for sure.


DFS STRATEGY

The salaries this week are really stretched out. Jordan Spieth comes in as top dog at just under $13k but there’s a bounty of interesting names coming in well under $6000 too. While there’s certainly plenty of interesting plays in the middle of these two groups this event has generally seen a lot of good results from the elite players as they ready their game for Augusta. I’d be quite happy to stack as many of the top players as possible this week—and take my chances with some of those lower names—than worry about being balanced though. With a winning score likely to be well into double digits taking a chance with some lower priced players with good birdie rates isn’t a bad way to go about it this week and could give you a shot at a real high score come Sunday afternoon.

Studs from Recent Weeks

  • #1) Henrik Stenson
  • #2) Charl Schwartzel
  • #3) Louis Oosthuizen

Values from Recent Weeks

  • #1) Derek Fathauer
  • #2) Ben Martin
  • #3) Retief Goosen


Pick to Win

Mar29 - Phil Mickelson

Phil may have gotten dusted in the match play by a hot Patrick Reed last week but this week were back to stroke play and back to a course that Phil has really taken to over the course of time. On top of winning here back in 2011 Phil has amassed five straight top twenty finishes at the Shell Houston Open and comes into this event in much better form than previous years. Mickelson is top 15 in both strokes gained: putting and tee to green right now, positions which are significantly better than where he was performing in those categories last season. His three putt avoidance is also way up this year which should help avoid bigger numbers on a course which does contain a tough stretch or two of holes. I think he’s been trending well all year and this is the type of course that is likely to yield him another top finish or win. He’s my pick this week at a bit of a deflated price.

Puerto Rico Open: Frederick Jacobson (14th)
Arnold Palmer Invitational: Rory McIlroy (28th)
Valspar Championships: Webb Simpson (MC)
Cadillac Championships: Daniel Berger (28th)
Honda Classic: Brooks Koepka (26th)
Northern Trust Open: Bubba Watson (Win)
Pebble Beach: JB Holmes (11th)
WMO Phoenix: Justin Thomas (MC)
Farmers Pick: Jimmy Walker (T4)
CareerBuilder Pick: Graham DeLaet (T42)
Sony Open Pick: Danny Lee (T33)

SLEEPER:

Sean O’Hair ($6800)

Sleeper Qualification: must be under $7000 in salary and projected by me to be less than 10% owned

O’Hair never seems to be that popular regardless of the week and given his recent withdraw at the Valspar I doubt that will change here. O’Hair had a decent bounce back at the Arnold Palmer though and comes into this week ranked inside the top 40 in driving distance, the top 20 in strokes gained: putting and 20th in par 4 scoring. In short O’Hair is just playing solid golf this year and is just a hot round or two away from a top finish it seems. The course history here (two withdraws in 2014 and 2013) doesn’t bode well, but he does have a 14th place finish from way back when (2007). As a Texas native, O’Hair should be at least somewhat comfortable in the conditions and, with the way he’s playing right now, I think he can be a factor most any field regardless of the course or the setup. I love his price, and the way he’s playing and am making him my pre-Masters sleeper. Let’s hope he lives up to his potential this week.

Puerto Rico Open: Scott Langley (T8)
Arnold Palmer Invitational: Harold Varner (MC)
Valspar Championships: George McNeil (T11)
Cadillac Championships: Daniel Berger (T28)
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)