Last week was a real war of attrition with many top players getting beaten by the course, the conditions and themselves. Birdies were at a premium all week and even if you managed to get all your players through to the weekend there was no guarantee that they were going to get you positive points. Adam Scott showed his game is in full form, and if not for one meltdown on Saturday probably would have won by 3 or more. All I can say is that if you liked watching players hit it into the water last week then you’ll probably enjoy this week too, as the course is again extremely tough and again features water on many holes.

The Field

This tournament is a World Golf Championship event which means that the field this week is only 70 or so players. This also means that there is no Friday cut and all 70 players will get in four rounds of play barring a DQ or withdraw. Since this is a WGC event the prize purse is also larger than normal and the field is limited to only elite PGA and international players. All of the top five players in the world are in attendance (Spieth, Day, Rory, Rickie, Bubba) and so are a smattering of elite players from the PGA and the European tour. While there may be a few lessor-known names near the bottom of DraftKings salary chart most of the golfers here are either ranked inside the top 50 in the world or have won a big tournament to qualify, so make sure you take the time to acquaint yourself with the players before writing anyone off, as there could be some diamonds in the rough for fantasy this week.

The Course

  • Trump Doral—Miami, Florida
  • Par 72, 7500 yards

This course has hosted this tournament since the event’s inception in the 1960’s. While it was once nick-named the Blue Monster the course did not age well and by the mid-2000’s the players were winning here with scores in the high teens regularly. But that was before “the Don” took over. In 2012 Donald Trump bought the course and hired renowned golf architect Gil Hanse to make dramatic changes. Holes were lengthened, sand was added to penalize poor drives and greens were sloped to punish all but the most exact approach shots. The result was that the 2014 incarnation of this tournament (which had a ton of wind) ended up being one of the biggest bloodbaths in terms of scoring at a PGA event ever, with only three players shooting under par for the entire week. While last years’ event didn’t feature as extreme scoring the difference between what Doral is now and what it was (pre 2014) is striking.

The course itself is a par 72 and the par 5’s are generally the best chances the players will have at birdie all week. Exemplifying this point perfectly is the fact that past two winners were well under par on the par 5’s in the year of their victory but played the par 4’s at over par for the same week. While these par 5’s can be termed as “scoring holes” two of them measure in at 600 yards or more making them nearly unreachable by all but the longest hitters in two shots. In terms of the rest of the course the par 4’s (outside the drivable 16th) are all well over 400 yards and require long and straight drives off the tee. Shorter hitters will generally struggle on many of these holes simply because their lack of length will mean longer approaches and bring trouble into play. And while Dustin Johnson played the par 3’s well last year, they are no cakewalk either as three of the four par 3’s measure in at well over 200 yards and will require an exacting shot with a long iron for many players.

Rounding out all of this madness is the fact that the course is littered with water hazards and some deep, hard to escape bunkers, making even slightly inaccurate shots subject to large penalties. Last year, J.B. Holmes—who was leading at the time—hit what looked like a perfect approach to the first hole and had to watch in horror as his ball hopped in the wrong direction on landing and then rolled helpless off the green and into the water. This shot was a perfect example of quickly things can go wrong on this course and how important it will be for players to maintain patience and sanity this week.


Last 5 winners

2015 – Dustin Johnson
2014 – Patrick Reed
2013 – Tiger Woods
2012 – Justin Rose
2011 – Nick Watney

Winning Trends

  • Since 2014 six of the ten players who recorded top five finishes or better at this event have also finished the season inside the top five in driving distance on tour.
  • Each of the past five winners had already recorded a top 5 or better before securing their win at this event.

Statistics

1) Driving Distance
2) Par 5 Scoring
3) Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
4) Proximity to the hole (200 yards)

There is no doubt that this course is simply better suited to players who hit it far off the tee. As mentioned above six of the last ten players to record finishes of 5th or better at this event have finished inside the top five on tour in driving distance in the year of their respective finish. The redesign punished short hitters off the tee but still allowed longer players to carry much of the trouble. This is the most important stat I’ll be looking at this week, especially in regards to determining who I think the highest scoring players of the week will be. A long hitter will likely once again take home the trophy this week.

Par 5 scoring, and Strokes Gained: tee to green are also two stats to consider. This is a course where what you do before you reach the green will be very determinative of your final score as poor shots will be penalized in a big way due to the amount of water and sand on the course. Looking for players who have strong tee to green stats is a helpful way to identify golfers who have been hitting well already this season and a category I’ll consider this week. Par 5 scoring should also factor into your equation this week as this course really presents little in terms of birdie chances outside of the four par 5’s. Last year four of the top six players ranked no worse than 13th for the year in par 5 scoring, with the other two top six finishers ranking no worse than 40th. Definitely use par 5 scoring as a guide this week as it’s highly unlikely anyone will be able to play those four holes poorly and post a good week.

One last bonus category you could consider this week is players who rank highly in approach shots from 200 yards or greater. As mentioned previously this course plays long—three of the four par 3’s play as 200 yards or longer—and will force many a player into hitting longer than normal approach shots as a result. This stat may reveal who will be able to hit more greens in general on some of the longer holes and stay away form the big numbers.


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 PriceComparables
J.B. Holmes29-1$9,400Sergio Garcia $9900 and 31-1
Louis Oosthuizen $9600 and 33-1
Phil Mickelson $9800 and 31-1
Graeme McDowell51-1$7,900Matt Kuchar $8400 and 51-1
Byeong-Hun An $8100 and 61-1
Jimmy Walker $8200 and 51-1
Harris English66-1$7,600Kevin Kisner $8000 and 66-1
Bill Haas $7900 and 66-1
Marc Leishman $7800 and 71-1


HORSES FOR COURSES

Bubba Watson has finished 3rd and 2nd here since the redesign and also had a second place finish here from 2012. He’s definitely taken to this setup.

Rory McIlroy has four top tens in his last five appearances here and was ninth here last year despite struggling most of the week. The redesign definitely suits his game.

Bill Haas has recorded back to back top tens on the newly redesigned course and also had a 6th place finish form back in 2011. Another player who likes the old and new version.

Dustin Johnson is back on the list as he has a 1st and 4th place finish here in his past two visits and also a 2nd from back in 2011. Dustin’s once again a lead horse this week.

APPROACH SHOT

This week’s strategy is definitely a little different from most weeks since every single golfer will see four rounds of play (outside of a withdraw or DQ). While this makes it more tempting to use a couple golfers at the bottom of the range—and squeeze in as many studs as possible—remember that in most cases you’ll still need at least five really solid finishes (top 20, top 15) to land yourself anywhere near the top of the biggest tournaments. Make sure if you’re using players under the 7k barrier that they have the game or form to land a high finish and grind out four solid rounds, otherwise you’ll be dragged down by a boat anchor of bad score on a course that won’t yield many birdies to begin with.

Top Performing Studs from recent weeks

  • Adam Scott
  • J.B. Holmes
  • Rickie Fowler

Top Performing Value plays from recent weeks

  • Billy Horschel
  • Marc Leishman
  • Smylie Kaufman


MY PICK: Henrik Stenson ($11,300)

There’s a ton of talent in the field this week, so much so that I think people are overlooking how well Henrik Stenson has played to start his year. Over in Europe he’s landed finishes of 2nd-3rd and 6th already and his play around the greens has looked up to par with his always incredible tee to green game. Stenson ranked 1st in greens in regulation and 2nd in strokes gained: tee to green last season, and while he doesn’t have the massive length off the tee Dustin Johnson does he hits his long clubs better than anyone and was 6th in approach proximity from 200 yards in 2015. Stenson finished T4 here last year and given his current form I think he can improve on that result this year, I like him as a winner this week.

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)

MY SLEEPER: Daniel Berger ($6600)

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

Berger hasn’t really started the season well at all, but he hasn’t necessarily been hitting the ball that terribly either, and actually posted positive tee to green stats in both of his rounds last week at the Honda. What I really like about Berger this week though is his length off the tee (15th in driving distance) and his ability to score on the par 5’s (13th in par 5 scoring in 2015). Both of these attributes should enable him to grind out some decent fantasy rounds on a tough course and land you some positive fantasy points every day. Berger’s a talented young golfer who’s already proven he’s capable of rising to the occasion on a tough course like this. On a week where you don’t have to worry about him making the cut, I think he makes for a great target for your fantasy rosters and I won’t be shocked if he’s near the top ten of this tournament when all is said and done.

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)