Coming off both the Puerto Rico Open and the WGC-Dell Match Play events last weekend, the Tour is heading into the final week before this season’s first major. The Shell Houston Open is played at the GC of Houston, a course that has long been considered the best possible warm-up act for Augusta on the Tour. In a final attempt at a tune-up, many of the world’s best golfers will be on hand, making for plenty of compelling golf, and plenty of tough choices for your fantasy roster. So here are a few names to consider for your lineups as you start breaking down the field.
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Jordan Spieth ($12,900) – He is pricey, but it’s clear why. He, Day and McIlroy have, in many ways, separated themselves from the field in terms of raw upside, and those other two aren’t here. In a course that tries to make players mimic the skill-set they will need to have on display next weekend at Augusta, the defending Masters champion makes a lot of sense as a favorite. He lost in a playoff here last year, and his success came from the strength of his performance on the par-4’s, and he is still 1st on Tour in par-4 scoring.
Rickie Fowler ($11,500) – Top-5 in GIR % on the Tour, Fowler has the kind of game that could fit perfectly both this week and next. Last season, Day was the guy who just never seemed to be able to put everything together at once, until he did. Fowler is the kind of talent that could beat a field like this by multiple strokes. He failed to record a win last weekend in match play, so he will look to return to the form that has seen him card five top-10 showings since the beginning of the year.
“Fowler is the kind of talent that could beat a field like this by multiple strokes”
Phil Mickelson ($10,500) – At this point, it’s no secret – Phil’s entire season revolves around this time of year, and it has paid off with more than just a series of competitive showings at Augusta, including the solo-second he claimed last year. It has also earned him five straight top-20 finishes at the CG of Houston, another course that plays perfectly into his game, with the steepest requirement being pinpoint accuracy on-demand with your shorter irons.
Brooks Koepka ($9,300) – Losing to Day last weekend really isn’t much to feel all that badly about. Koepka acquitted himself nicely, getting out of group play and to a quarterfinal matchup with Day with a 1up victory over Matt Kuchar. He is currently 10th in the All-Around Ranking, something that gives you concrete evidence that he is developing the kind of well-rounded skillset that allows him to compete in any setting. When everything comes together for him, he has every skill the course he’s playing on requires, and then others that can be a differentiator between him and the competition.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello ($8,500) – He spends most of his time on the European Tour, but he was on hand for both of the last two WGC events, pulling in a T11 at the Cadillac and then beating out McIlroy in the consolation match to claim a solo third last weekend at the Match Play. He finished T14, T2 and T2 in Abu Dhabi, Malaysia, and Qatar respectively against other deep fields, and that track record of strong play for months now makes him as safe an option as you’ll find, with upside, at this price.
Tony Finau ($8,100) – Finau birdied three straight playoff holes to secure his first career win last weekend at the Puerto Rico Open. I don’t care what the field looks like, 15 birdies and only three bogeys translates anywhere. And no matter who he was beating, that first win feels good for anyone. That could be exactly the confidence boost a second year player who finished his rookie season with five top-10’s and 16 top-25’s needs to start bringing his game to the next level.
Cameron Tringale ($8,000) – It almost doesn’t matter what he looks like coming into this tournament – he has four straight finishes here no worse than T16, including three top-10’s. He has 15 of 16 rounds under par over that stretch, in a classic example of a course that just suits a player well. Whether or not he shoots a low round, he just never seems to run into much trouble here. For this price, he should make for an excellent cash game option with a bit of upside if you’re looking to round out your GPP lineup.
Scott Brown ($7,900) – This pick is all about recent history. Brown is only T114 in GIR % on the season, but he was #1 in in the field in that category last weekend in Puerto Rico, en route to a T5. In general, it’s been his short game that has led to three top ten finishes in his last four, at the Honda Classic and Valspar Championship prior to last weekend. The T27 he mixed in at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, was a little less successful because of his only round over par over his last four – a 74 on Friday. With an average of just over 15 birdies a weekend over that stretch, he is capable of making the cut and potentially racking up a fair amount fantasy points along the way, making him an option for any type of contest.
Harris English ($7,600) – English is going to be looking to get back on track after his first two missed cuts of the calendar year, in his last two outings. With a recent history like that, I understand looking past him in your first glance down the rankings. However, he is another golfer who finds success with his short game, currently sitting in the mid-80’s in GIR and at #15 in Strokes Gained: Putting. This is a course that is going to reward players who can land it on the green and convert from anywhere, and English is a great example of that kind of player, if you’re looking a tier or two down from a guy like Mickelson.
“This is a course that is going to reward players who can land it on the green . . .”
Brendan Steele ($7,400) – A staple inside the top-50 on Tour in GIR %, he currently sits at 31st. He’s earned his price tag with pretty inconsistent play, which makes him more of a risk in a cash game. However, so far in 2016 he has made six cuts and not missed any, and he has two finishes inside the top twenty. But even in the tournaments where he finished just inside the top fifty (T46 at the Arnold Palmer and T39 at the Northern Trust), he still managed over 60 DKFP, because the issue is always too many bogeys. When he is playing well, like he is now, he’ll make enough shots to card some fantasy-relevant results.
Bernd Wiesberger ($7,000) – He is only 2-for-4 in terms of missed cuts on the PGA Tour, missing at the Honda Classic and Valspar Championship. The two times he finished the weekend, he ended up inside the top 20 at a WGC event (T17 at the HSBC Championship last fall and T14 at the Cadillac). In between, he was no worse than T26 in four tries on the European Tour, a consistency that should make him a decent option this weekend, especially in a cash game format.
Alex Cejka ($6,800) – Coming off a T21 at the Honda Classic and a T11 last weekend at the Puerto Rico open, Cejka has gone eight straight rounds without shooting over 72. But he overcame 16 bogeys at the Honda Classic with 13 birdies and an eagle… on a par 3. When a guy has used a hole-in-one to move up the leaderboard inside of the last month, I think it’s worth mentioning. He has 30 birdies over those two tournaments, good for an average of 78 DKFP per, which counts as upside at this price. You have to think about a guy like this without considering what everyone else is going to do, because his place on the leaderboard isn’t going to be where the fantasy value lies. No matter his final ranking, you just want him to get to the weekend and keep making birdies for four straight days.