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.
Jordan Spieth decimated a weak field at Colonial and punished the DFS players who decided to give up on him after his weak finish at the Byron Nelson. Spieth proved once again that his bounce back ability is stronger than perhaps any player in the game at the moment, and he’s not to be discounted even after a couple weak showings. This week, however, the field gets a lot stronger as we head into one of the strongest regular season tournaments of the year. The Memorial is an invitational status tournament which gets great attendance due to the fact Jack Nicklaus is the man overseeing the course and event every year. This week should be a war and a great warmup before the US Open in two weeks.
The field this week looks surprisingly close in strength to what we saw at The PLAYERS. Almost all of the top players are here, including the big three, McIlroy, Day and Spieth. Beneath them there are a plethora of hungry golfers as well including Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed who are all looking for their first PGA Tour win on the year. This is quite simply a major championship like field, and there are also a ton of great international players here as well — like Francesco Molinari and Thorbjorn Olesen — that could go overlooked. The field is again only around 120 golfers which means that getting 6/6 through might be slightly easier for DFS, and you will really need your golfers to perform well for four days. The top 70 players and ties will move on to the weekend here while anyone caught outside that will miss the cut and get you nothing in terms of fantasy points.
Muirfield Village—Dublin, Ohio
Muirfield Village is a true championship course. It was built in 1972, named after Jack Nicklaus’ favorite Open Venue (Muirfield), and has some design similarities to Augusta National. Like Augusta, Muirfield Village is a par 72 and carries four par 5’s that are all very reachable in two by many of the players. However, outside of these holes, scoring opportunities become limited. So playing these par 5’s in well under par for the week is often crucial to success at Muirfield. Last year’s runner up, Justin Rose played the par 5’s in -10 for the week, and players like Bubba Watson, who can really tear up short par 5’s, will have more upside than usual in this venue as a result.
Outside of the Par 5’s the rest of the course can be quite challenging. The Bentgrass greens play smaller than normal and often play extremely fast with severe sloping that makes getting up and down on them consistently extremely tough. Additionally, the rough here is bluegrass and often plays quite thick. The fairways are wider than a normal Tour course in many spots, but there’s still plenty of trouble off the fairway, as water comes into play on 10 or more holes as well.
As for the rest of the holes, the par 4’s vary in length, but five of them play at 450 yards or greater and require a tough and usually long approach shot, which will be made even harder if your player hits it in the rough. For the longer hitters (the ones who can keep it in the fairways, or can handle approaches from the thick stuff) will have a huge advantage on these holes. Still, accuracy shouldn’t be discounted this week as the green complexes make hitting greens an absolute must. Missing greens in the wrong spots will cost players more than a stroke in several areas at Muirfield Village.
Last 5 winners
- David Lingmerth — 2015 (-15 over Justin Rose in Playoff)
- Hideki Matsuyama — 2014 (-12 over Kevin Na in Playoff)
- Matt Kuchar — 2013 (-12 over Kevin Chappell -10)
- Tiger Woods — 2012 (-9 over Andrés Romero and Rory Sabbatini -7)
- Steve Stricker — 2011 (-16 over Brandt Jobe and Matt Kuchar -15)
- 8 of the last 9 winners had a top 5 finish on Tour in the year of their victory before winning the Memorial.
- Of the last 9 winners of the Memorial, David Lingmerth is the only one to rank outside the top 15 in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green at the end of the season of his win (54th)
- Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and Approach
- Par 4 Scoring
- Par 5 Scoring
- Approach Proximity
I discussed above how essential a good tee to green game was at Memorial for past champs, and given the rankings of past winners and high finishers, it seems ludicrous to ignore. However, while that stat should be telling this week also look at the newly tracked Strokes Gained on Approach as well. Muirfield Village has smaller than normal greens which require insane accuracy and since 2013 the top three players have all ranked inside the top 50 in this stat (SG: Approach) for the year they finished T3 or better. I’d consider both rankings as good indicators this week.
Another important area to consider this week is scoring ranks on the par 4’s and 5’s. Since 2013 no player inside the top three has ranked worse than 50th for the year in Par 4 Scoring and 52nd for Par 5 Scoring. The idea this week will essentially be to hold serve on the tougher par 4’s and score extremely well on the short par 5’s. Those ranked highly in both these categories may be able to do just that and could be good sources of value for DFS.
Finally, there’s also Approach Proximity as a stat to consider. As mentioned previously, the greens here are small and penal, and missing in the wrong spots can mean certain destruction. Since 2013, only one player who finished the tournament in the top 3 (Kyle Stanley) has ranked worse than 50th in this category. I’d advise looking at Approach Proximity between 175-200 yards this week too since that is the range many of the par 3’s fall under. Either way, accurate approach shots will be needed, and those showing up highly in proximity should be trusted.
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful of 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.
|Russell Knox||67-1||$7,600||Rafael Cabrera Bello $7,900 and 70-1
Webb Simpson $7,500 and 80-1
Tony Finau $7,800 and 80-1
|Charl Schwartzel||55-1 (average)||$8,000||Gary Woodland $8,000 and 70-1
Chris Kirk $8,300 and 67-1
Justin Thomas $8,200 and 67-1
HORSES FOR COURSES
Ryan Moore has been a true horse at Muirfield Village. In ten appearances he’s made 9/10 cuts and has 6 finishes inside the top 20. Moore has been cold lately, missing three straight cuts coming in, but this would be a logical spot for a rebound and I expect he will do just that.
Matt Kuchar has been on fire of late and also been fire on this course almost every year. In 8 appearances Kuchar has never missed a cut and his worst finishing position is 26th (last year). On top of winning this event in 2013 he also has four separate finishes of 10th or better. He’s again looking like the safest play on the board for cash game purposes.
KJ Choi has always played this event well too. In his last 12 appearances he’s only missed one cut (last season) and has a victory from back in 2007 as well. While he may not contend for the win this year the fact he has 8 finishes inside the top 30 in the past 12 years makes him appealing as a value play this week.
Bill Haas hasn’t always done well at Muirfield, but he’s definitely figured it out of late. He’s now made 7 of his last 8 cuts at this event and has finishes of 18th, 8th and 4th over his last three appearances. Haas might be a name people forget among this talented field and is someone who could potentially be huge in GPPs if he continues his high finishing trend here.
With all three of the top players in the field this week and all three coming off a win in their last start fading them makes for a difficult and possibly insane task. Thankfully, the field is deeper this week due to the talent and there’s decent plays at the bottom. This is definitely an event where I’d advocate for an “extreme” stars and scrubs approach in GPPs. Stacking two of the top players along with players at the pure bottom end of the structure makes sense as there are players at the bottom capable of paying off here, especially in a smaller field event. The contrarian approach would of course be to go with the mid-tier talent, which also isn’t a bad idea as many solid players have very affordable price tags this week, but one that would expose you to fading the big three. Whichever way you decide to go, realize that it’s more than likely that at least one of the big three (Rory, Day, Spieth) will finish inside the top three this week and end up with one of the highest fantasy totals. It’s just a matter of deciphering which one it will be.
Top Performing Studs from Recent Weeks
- Matt Kuchar
- Jordan Spieth
- Jason Day
Top Performing Value Plays from Recent Weeks
- Kyle Reifers
- David Hearn
- Anirban Lahiri
MY PICK: Rickie Fowler ($10,300)
With the eyes of the world on the “Big Three,” and the immense pressure to one up each other, it makes sense that this is the week where one of the players outside the limelight takes center stage. Enter Rickie Fowler. Fowler has had some solid finishes this season but hasn’t gotten over the finish line in a PGA event yet (he does have a Euro tour win from January). While the record at this event doesn’t appear that great he did finish second here on his debut in 2010 and also started the final round in third place in 2012 (before collapsing, utterly, down the stretch). A more mature Fowler though should be well suited for the venue.
He’s still ranking highly in nearly every single category on Tour at the moment (2nd in par 5 scoring and 4th in par 4 scoring), and the combination of a strong tee to green game (6th on tour in SG: Tee to Green) and his wizardry around the greens makes him a strong candidate in my mind on paper. In reality, I think Fowler is best when the pressure is off and with all eyes on recent winners McIlroy, Day and Spieth, Rickie should be free (and motivated) to chase his first big win of the year. He’s my pick from the top of the heap at the Memorial.
MY SLEEPER: Sean O’Hair ($6,800)
Sleeper Qualification: must be under $7,000 in salary and projected by me to be less than 10% owned
If you follow me on twitter (@thefantasygrind) you know I’ve been following O’Hair a lot lately as his stats have been pretty impressive and seem to be hinting at a big week soon. O’Hair led the field in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green at the Byron Nelson and was 19th in that category last week as well. He’s also hitting it a ton off the tee (25th in driving distance) and ranked highly in par 4 scoring (12th).
All that really needs to get going for O’Hair to contend is his putter which has been ice cold of late. O’Hair contended at this course a couple of times early in his career but has nothing to show but missed cuts in his last few appearances. Now in good form though, I think O’Hair has the game to contend again here and possibly pull off a shocking result as well. At the under $7k range, he’s one of the few players I’d suggest have a real chance to contend this week and am making him my sleeper pick for a third time this season.