The third leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs tees off Thursday morning at the Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Indiana. The field has been tightened somewhat for the BMW Championship, cut down to just the top 70. With a field this top-heavy, many of the players down the list are cheaper than you usually see them – so here are a few options from every price range to help you narrow down your choices.
Rory McIlroy ($11,900) – The last time the FedEx Cup Playoffs had back-to-back tournaments at TPC Boston and Crooked Stick, McIlroy won them both. And he is halfway there again, just showing off his skillset in a two-stroke victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship last weekend. There are obviously two ways to look at this, but McIlroy secured the win by throwing up 24 birdies and an eagle, five more birdies than second-place finisher Paul Casey. This clearly means he hit some trouble holes, but it also shows that he is still up there with Jason Day and Dustin Johnson as the best shot-makers on Tour.
Dustin Johnson ($11,300) – Speaking of Dustin Johnson, he’s second to Rory in Birdie or Better %, and second to Day in Scoring Average. He obviously has the elite length to give himself an advantage and put himself in a position to score – and then he knows how to take advantage, currently sitting at first on Tour in Proximity to Hole.
Adam Scott ($10,200) – My favorite pick of the weekend. He’s done it this year, with seven top ten’s and a pair of wins, and he’s been on his game recently with a T4 and solo-4th so far in the playoffs. He also, for good measure, finished T6 here at Crooked Stick in 2012. But most importantly, the way he is playing is perfectly conducive to success on this course, near the top of every category that indicates a player who is just consistently putting himself in a position to fire at pins. He is 7th in Proximity, 10th in Greens in Regulation (GIR) %, and 1st in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green.
Louis Oosthuizen ($9,300) – If you like DJ, Oosthuizen has done the exact same thing as him so far in the playoffs, as the two have dueling T18-T8 performances. Oosthuizen actually has four straight top-25 showings, and his weekend in Boston was highlighted by a low round of 64 on Sunday, showcasing his scoring potential when he is on his game. Another player returning for a second turn here, he managed a T16 back in 2012.
Bubba Watson ($8,600) – I said above that I would love to focus on players for this weekend who have the ability to put the ball as close as possible to the pin, because on a course with small, tight greens, GIR % is usually down. And when that’s the case, the importance of putting is usually diminished somewhat as well. And if you combine all of that with the fact that the forecast is calling for storms most of the weekend, length could be a real advantage. With other players not getting the roll and bounce in the fairways to help them out, the real bombers will be able to set themselves up more consistently with manageable approaches, and Watson is still 4th on Tour in Driving Distance. Although he missed the cut last weekend, he had been inside the top-25 in each of the three tournaments prior to that, and $8,600 is as cheap as you are ever really likely to find him.
Gary Woodland ($8,400) – Woodland has been lights out through the first two legs of the playoffs, finishing T4 at The Barclays and T15 last weekend. He has just one round over par over that stretch, and at 21st in the points race right now, another solid performance will land him in the field at East Lake. If you think he is going to continue this run of strong play, he makes perfect sense as a building block for your cash game lineups in my opinion. With just 13 holes over par over the last two weeks, he has vaulted into the top-10 on Tour in Bogey Avoidance, a trait that is going to keep him making cuts and advancing in the playoffs.
Russell Knox ($7,800) – He has made nine cuts in a row, and he has been inside the top-25 in four of his last six, including a win at the Travelers Championship and a T15 last weekend in Boston. He held onto that T15 with a 67 on Monday, which brought him to 20 birdies on the weekend, just enough to overcome his opening-round 73. Knox is currently 4th in GIR % and 11th in Proximity, good enough to have cracked the top-40 in overall Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green calculations.
Tony Finau ($7,600) – See what I wrote about Bubba Watson? Yeah, that. Finau actually ranks just above Bubba in Driving Distance, coming in at #3, and he has been turning that elite skill into real results since he joined the Tour – and seems to be getting his game together this year at a very good time. He’s been inside the top-25 in each of his last three, including the first two legs of the playoffs, performances that have propelled him to 37th in the FedEx Cup points race, giving him a much more realistic shot at the final than he might have expected even just a month ago.
Justin Thomas ($7,300) – He missed the cut last weekend, despite holing ten birdies in the first two rounds, as he balanced them off with ten bogeys in the same 36 holes. That’s a microcosm of his season, which has been up and down consistently, if that makes any sense. But as he showed with his T10 at Bethpage Black, he does have the talent to compete with these loaded fields when he can avoid the big blow-up holes. At 36th on Tour in Birdie or Better %, he has the makings of an explosive option in a GPP if he comes to play, with more than enough upside to validate using a roster spot on him in my opinion.
Hudson Swafford ($7,100) – He has twelve straight made cuts, but only one top-10 on the season. He recorded a T15 in the second round of the playoffs to move on, but will need an even better showing at Crooked Stick to advance again. With a track record that includes only a handful of even top-20 finishes, that’s not likely, but at 27th on Tour in GIR %, he does have the iron game to compete this weekend (even if it doesn’t end up being quite enough).
David Hearn ($6,700) – He barely managed to make it to the Deutsche Bank Championship after a T53 at The Barlcays, but his T8 showing last weekend propelled him forward again into the third leg of the playoffs. He shot four straight rounds under par last weekend, with 18 birdies and just seven holes played over par. Currently 21st overall on Tour in that important (to me) Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green category, he has the shot-making ability to keep himself in contention again this week and the price tag to make anything inside the top-25 a great value in any format contest.
James Hahn ($6,500) – He is here this weekend by virtue of a T5 at TPC Boston that made up for a MC at Bethpage Black. He managed that T5 despite a 74 on Saturday, firing rounds of 65, 66, and 69 on the other three days of play. He finished the weekend with 18 birdies, made possible in part because of a hot putter, but also in large part because he was routinely giving himself very makeable chances on the greens. He propelled himself to success by virtue of managing to finish T11 in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green against an equally loaded field last weekend, and if he plays that well again, this course will yield points to him and make him a real value at this price in my opinion.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theasquad) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.