Next up on the Florida swing of the PGA Tour is Trump National Doral, hosting the World Golf Championships – Cadillac Championship. The first hole, a 605-yard par-5, sets the tone for the rest of “the Blue Monster,” one of the longest courses on Tour every single year. To succeed here, you need to put yourself in a position to attack pins, and that means long and accurate. Choose accordingly.
Adam Scott ($11,600) – He’s first on the list because he is most expensive, not because he is my #1 pick. For that, check out The Playbook’s Consensus Rankings. But he’s up near the top of the price range because of the consistency of his game right now, with a win and a T2 finish over the last couple of weeks. He doesn’t have to win to be worth the money – you’re paying instead for peace of mind, at least from now until Thursday.
Bubba Watson ($11,400) – The longest course on the Tour translates pretty obviously into a Bubba Watson recommendation, but that doesn’t make it wrong. I like him as the best option in just about any format, with the only downside coming in GPPs, and only because of his likely ownership percentage. Coming off a win at the Northern Trust and four top-15 finishes in his last five, and now playing on a course that’s a perfect fit for his game, it makes sense on a lot of levels. The T2 and solo-3rd he has carded here in the past two years is evidence enough for me.
Dustin Johnson ($11,200) – He won here last year and finished inside the top-5 the year before. He also just shot four rounds of 69 or better at the Northern Trust en route to an encouraging 4th place finish. After taking a few weeks off and never finishing better than T18 since the Hyundai TOC, it is nice to see him rounding into form leading up to a tournament that’s tailor-made for his skill-set.
Henrik Stenson ($10,300) – He has only played two tournaments in 2016, and he finished T3 and T6, most recently at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic three weeks ago. He ended up T4 at this event in 2015, and has the length to routinely put himself in positions to pick up strokes and the consistent ball-striking to take advantage and turn those efforts off the tee into GIRs and birdie putts.
J.B. Holmes ($9,400) – By now, you’re probably sensing a theme: when in doubt, consult the PGA Driving Distance stat page and go from there. Currently third on Tour in driving distance, and always somewhere right around there, Holmes is a natural fit for Trump National Doral. He opened with a 62 here last year and gradually gave up strokes for the rest of the weekend until he ended with a 75 on Sunday that cost him the title. But that 62. Combine that with five straight top-25 finishes so far to open 2016, including nothing worse than T11 in his last four, and he’s an obvious name to tap to replace one of the top guys in your lineup and save you some budget space.
Brooks Koepka ($9,200) – Yup, another guy who handles himself well off the tee, Koepka is currently 10th on Tour in driving distance, which is just evidence of his ability to keep up. Players who seem to always be finding themselves with a longer iron in their hands as they try to land one on the green this weekend are going to be at a disadvantage, and Koepka won’t be among them. He has had some trouble closing so far this season, but he’s still at a price where a top-10 or so performances is going to leave you plenty satisfied, especially when you took the guy for his upside, not his safety.
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Justin Thomas ($8,800) – He was the only player to shoot 69 or better in all four rounds last weekend, but that looked like this: 69-69-68-69. There just weren’t enough birdies there for him to finish higher than 3rd, but that was on a weekend when there were a lot more strokes – and fantasy points – to be had out there. If he can consistently avoid trouble like that again this weekend, on a course that will give some guys fits, expect him to be right back in the thick of it.
Byeong-Hun An ($8,100) – He has five straight top-ten performances on the European Tour, including two top-5’s since the New Year, with a T5 in Abu Dhabi and a T4 in Dubai. He has been inside the top-20 in eleven of his last thirteen tries. He hasn’t shot a round over par since early last fall. He sounds like just about the best cash game option you could ask for at this price. It has been months since he would have failed to live up to this price tag, and he has been competing with the best of the best all along.
Bill Haas ($7,900) – If you read any analysis at all this week, you will learn that the Blue Monster was re-designed two years ago. Some holes were lengthened and the scoring patterns changed. And in the two years since then, Haas has finished T6 and T7. Since the beginning of 2016, he has three top 20’s and two missed cuts. If the course agreeing with him makes him play like he did grabbing top-ten finishes at Pebble Beach and the CareerBuilder Challenge, this will prove to be a steal.
Marc Leishman ($7,800) – Sitting just a hair outside the top-20 in driving distance, Leishman missed a couple of cuts in January, took a couple of weeks off, and returned with a T5 at the Northern Trust Open. He only had five bogeys that weekend, which allowed him to record four straight rounds under 70. With his ability to avoid big trouble and skills that should translate well to this course, $7,800 could prove to be a solid value.
Danny Willett ($7,800) – Willett just had a big win in Dubai a couple of weeks ago, his third top-five finish on the European Tour in five tries since the beginning of December. He also shot a 68 on Sunday here last year to close at T12. When the scoring average was over 73 for the weekend, to score that well on a Sunday, with all the pressure on, shows the exact type of composure he will need to tackle the Blue Monster again this time around.
Russell Knox ($7,600) – He drives a respectable 290-sh off the tee, and, also importantly, keeps those drives in the fairway as much as anyone on Tour. Consistently in the top-20 in driving accuracy, he will at least, hopefully, limit those shorter drives into the rough that can pretty much guarantee you don’t get a scoring chance on a course as long as this one. The ability to at least give himself opportunities for birdie tries is more than a lot of golfers will be able to say this weekend, including several coming at more expensive than Knox’ $7,600.