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.

Intro:

There were a ton of surprise names up on the leaderboard this weekend as many of the favorites seemed to be suffering form U.S. Open fatigue or perhaps just mid-season burnout. Either way, it really worked to the advantage of Billy Hurley III who was able to land his first PGA Tour win. The win had a lot of sentimental aspects to it for sure, and for DFS purposes, Hurley was one of the lowest owned winners of the year. Narrative street definitely came through for people who followed it last week.

We’re now into the full blown meaty part of the year for PGA and have another elite field event to contest this week. The WGC Bridgestone Invitational is a reduced field, no cut event with 60-70 of the world’s best golfers competing for a pretty massive prize pool. It should be an interesting one for DFS purposes as the condensed field means less options for everyone.


The Field

This field is generally capped around 70-75 golfers, although this year it’s even smaller than normal due to many of the players skipping this event to play over in Europe (the French Open). As of now only about 60 golfers are in the field and it will likely remain that way as there are no alternates for these events. Some big names that ARE NOT in the field include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer. However, while those three and a few others skip this event for prestige over in Europe, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and recent U.S. Open winner Dustin Johnson will be in the field. As with all WGC events outside of the match-play event, there will be no cut this week which means that all 60 players in the field will get 4 rounds of golf in unless they withdraw or are DQ’d. This change is big for DFS purposes and lends itself to taking a few more shots than normal with your selections, as scoring won’t be effected by the mid-week cut.


The Course

Firestone Country Club (South Course), Akron, Ohio
Par 70, 7400 yards

Firestone Country Club is an older styled course that has been around since the late 1920’s. It was redesigned, however, by Robert Trent Jones in the 1960’s and also had some other tweaks done to it since then. There honestly isn’t a whole lot to Firestone, as most of the holes play very straightforward (not many doglegs or water), so it generally relies on heavy rough, length and fast greens for protection. While the course measures fairly long for a par 70, it’s still gettable for most players and we’ve seen all sorts of golfers have success on Firestone over the years, including shorter hitter Jim Furyk who has had numerous near misses here and should have won the tournament back in 2012.

As for course layout, Firestone starts out very easy with a short par 4 and a very scorable par 5 that only measures in at 520-530 yards. The rest of the course, however, is littered with longer holes that don’t play quite as easy. For example, the only other par 5 on the course is over 660 yards and isn’t really a great birdie opportunity for many players, while all of the other par 4’s measure over 400 yards in length as well. Six par 4’s actually come in at over 450 yards this week, and three of the par 3’s come in at over 200 yards. So while Firestone doesn’t bludgeon players with length it’s still a place where being long off the tee will certainly help if you can keep your ball in the fairway enough, and seeing Adam Scott, Tiger Woods, Keegan Bradley and Rory McIlroy in the list of past recent winners definitely means that a big game off the tee-box can go a long way to helping tame Firestone this week.


Last 5 winners

  • 2015 – Shane Lowry – 11 (over Bubba Watson -9)
  • 2014 – Rory McIlroy -15 (over Sergio Garcia -13)
  • 2013 – Tiger Woods -15 (over Keegan Bradley and Henrik Stenson -8)
  • 2012 – Keegan Bradley -13 (over Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk -12)
  • 2011 – Adam Scott -17 (over Rickie Fowler and Luke Donald -13)


Winning Trends

  • 4 of the past 5 winners have ranked 49th or better on Tour in Driving Distance in the year of their respective win here.
  • 4 of the last 5 winners here had recorded a finish of 15th or better at this event before their respective win.


Statistics

  • Par 4 Scoring
  • Driving Distance
  • Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
  • Approach Proximity 200 <

As mentioned earlier Firestone has a ton of long par 4’s, a lot of which measure in well over 450 yards. As a result of this and the fact there are three par 3’s on the course which measure in at 200 yards or greater, I don’t think that looking at proximity from over 200 yards is a bad idea. Players more accurate from this range will have an advantage on many approach shots this week and on the par 3’s. As well, as with most par 70’s, good par 4 scoring is a necessity this week, and that is another category I’d weigh heavily.

Looking over the Strokes Gained categories this week, I couldn’t find any huge trends towards one part of the game over another (around the green, off the tee, etc.). So instead I’d recommend just looking at Strokes Gained: Tee to Green as a barometer. Previous winners have had extremely high ranks in both these categories and with some of Firestone’s demanding tee shots and approaches, it’s no question that a strong tee to green game will be essential for anyone planning on putting up a good week. Finally, I’ve also included Driving Distance. While shorter hitters have definitely put up some decent results at this event, it’s still a place where I believe a good long game off the tee can be very beneficial, and therefore, I would consider distance off the tee when making any tie-breaking decisions about players. There’s no doubt that prior incarnations of this event have seen plenty of big hitters go well here, and if the big hitters have good weeks with the driver on Firestone, a big advantage can be had.


Finding Values

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.

PlayerOddsDK PriceComparables
Brooks Koepka  20-1  $9900Bubba Watson $10,100 and 26-1
Justin Rose $10,300 and 23-1
Adam Scott $10,500 and 20-1
Bill Haas  50-1  $7900Marc Leishman $8100 and 50-1
Justin Thomas  $8,200 and 60-1
Paul Casey $7,800 and 66-1

HORSES FOR COURSES

  • Jim Furyk has had numerous near misses at this course compiling finishes of 3rd-9th-2nd-6th here since 2010. While he’s not a long driver, Furyk’s ball striking has proven to be enough to tame Firestone, and he might be in line for another good finish this year after a strong U.S. Open.
  • Justin Rose has played this event 9 times and compiled four top 5 finishes in that span. A fantastic driver of the ball, Rose has handled the length of this course better than most and also, like Furyk, done everything but win here.
  • Jason Dufner has only played this course three times, but with a 4th and 7th place finish to his credit already, Duff-man definitely has taken to Firestone. Like Furyk, Dufner’s ball striking is obviously good enough to make up for his lack of distance here, and he’ll look to put up another big finish this week.
  • Rickie Fowler comes into this event in poor form, but it would also be poor to ignore his form this week around this course. Fowler has amassed finishes of 10th, 8th and 2nd here since 2011 and should be looking to break out of his slump on a course he’s flourished at in the past.


DFS STRATEGY

The prices this week actually allow you a lot of flexibility, which means most people will probably try a more balanced approach. For tournaments though this means that using an extreme stars and scrubs approach (i.e. using those fellows at the very bottom totem pole) will allow you to create more unique lineups with more than one superstar in them. Since it’s a no cut week as well, these “scrubs” will have a better chance at paying off for you since one big round on the weekend could easily land them inside the top 30 and top half of the field. While 50/50 and H2H strategy might lean towards more balanced approaches, I’d probably advocate trying to get as many big names as possible in your GPP lineups this week. The playing field will level out somewhat due to the format of the event, and you’ll need exposure to the big names at the top to take down the big tournaments.

Top Performing Studs from Recent Weeks

  • Jason Day
  • Dustin Johnson
  • Branden Grace

Top Performing Value Plays from Recent Weeks

  • Scott Piercy
  • Emiliano Grillo
  • Billy Hurley III


MY PICK: Jason Day ($12,100)

How unoriginal, I know. Still, with the way this field is setting up, I feel like we could see another vintage Day blowout. Yes, Dustin Johnson just won the U.S. Open in dominating fashion, but he’s never finished better than T15 at this course and is probably going to come in a tad rusty. Meanwhile, Day has now come up short in his last two events and will have a lot of motivation and desire to put together a dominant performance before the season’s last two majors, which are coming up really fast by the way. Maybe this pick is more about process of elimination than anything, but having watched Day figure out other courses this year (TPC Sawgrass) which have given him trouble in the past, I think he’ll be able to figure out Firestone this week and nab his second WGC title of the year. If you’re looking for a few less obvious picks, I still like Byeong-Hun An (even after his poor weekend last week) and also think Marc Leishman or J.B. Holmes could surprise.


MY SLEEPER: William McGirt ($6,800)

Sleeper Qualification: must be under $7,000 in salary and projected by me to be less than 10% owned

McGirt to me looks like a great target this week. The man won his first PGA Tour event on a pretty tough setup at the Memorial a few weeks ago and has handled tricky par 70-71 courses well this year, including landing an 8th at the Honda Classic, a top ten at the RBC Heritage and a T20 at the Northern Trust Open. McGirt’s not huge off the tee by any means, but he’s ranked 55th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, 14th in Par 4 Scoring and also one of the better putters on Tour this year. It’s the first time he’s seeing the course, which gives me a little concern, but his all-around game and strong play of late make me think he’ll be in line for a good finish this week. At $6,800, I think he’s got the game to grind out a good week and follow in the footsteps of other non-bombers like Jason Dufner and Jim Furyk who’ve had success at Firestone.