The first time we get to see a host of the best, top-ranked golfers in the world compete against one another as part of the 2016-17 PGA season at the WGC HSBC Champions. From the Sheshan International Golf Course in Shanghai, we’re dealing with another big time change, altering the times of the lineup locks. Let’s get into some of my favorite targets this week.
Dustin Johnson ($11,900) – He finished T5 here last season after shooting 65-71-65-71. Those two 65s show the kind of damage a player with his control, length off the tee and ability to finish off holes can do to a course like this. There is a chance of storms in the forecast, which might diminish his advantage off the tee somewhat, but he should still have the best looks at scoring opportunities possible, and with the way he closed out last season, why would you expect anything other than him pouncing on those chances?
Justin Thomas ($9,300) – In his last three appearances, starting with the Tour Championship at East Lake, he has been T6-T8-1. He ended just his second season on Tour last year at 12th in FedEx Cup points and looks to be riding that momentum into yet another stellar season. His win last weekend had him holing a ridiculous 29 birdies in an effort bookended by rounds of 64 on both Thursday and Sunday en route to 148.0 DK fantasy points.
Martin Kaymer ($8,700) – Kaymer has made some noise in big tournaments throughout his career, but his success lately has been in large part off the radar of fans (and fantasy players) who focus more on PGA events. His last three PGA Tour qualifying events have been the U.S. and British Opens as well as the PGA Championship (T37, T36, T7, respectively). However, excluding Rio, he has been no worse than T20 in seven of his last eight appearances, including solo sixth-place finishes in each of his last two.
Russell Knox ($8,600) – The defending champion has to get a look here after closing out the 2016 season strong with three top-25 showings in the FedEx Cup playoffs and then starting the 2017 season with a T10 at the CIMB Classic. Knox finished with a -20 here last year, shooting 67-65-68-68. While the scores aren’t likely to be that low if the weather is bad, he still has the accuracy players will need to open up plentiful scoring chances on a damp course.
Bernd Wiesberger ($7,700) – He was inside the top-20 here last season, and you can consider that positive course history alongside some seriously positive recent momentum: six straight made cuts, including five finishes of T11 or better and nothing worse than T7 in his last four. Thirteen of his last 15 rounds have been in the 60s, as he has demonstrated elite upside, avoiding blowup holes but also scoring prolifically with 77 birdies and four eagles over that span (for an average of well over 100 DK fantasy points per weekend).
Alexander Noren ($8,000) – It is just really hard to argue with three wins (and another T11) in Noren’s last nine starts, especially when you consider he’s also only missed two cuts all season long. In my book, that counts as consistency and upside at this price. He is solid – if unspectacular – in all aspects of his game, but he has proven an ability to close out tournaments when on his game, just like he closes out holes, with a solid 1.751 Putts per GIR.
Lee Westwood ($7,700) – Four rounds in the 60s last weekend was enough for him to finish third at the British Masters, but his inconsistency has been on full display this fall with that third, a solo fourth and two missed cuts since the beginning of September. I’m not sure I fully trust him in a cash game, but you know he has the talent to compete if he brings his best game. He plays here every year, so he should be comfortable enough to create some fantasy value all weekend long.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello ($7,600) – Currently 13th in scoring on the European Tour for 2016, he is coming off a T10 at the CIMB last weekend, where he was under par for four straight rounds, carding 17 birdies and just four bogeys. He found that success largely with his irons, finishing third in GIR % for the weekend, not surprising considering he is sixth on the European Tour for the year. Hitting greens is a skill that is going to be at a premium this weekend as well, especially if the weather is bad.
Tyrrell Hatton ($7,400) – He finished third on the European Tour in 2016 in Adjusted Scoring Average, and he has two top-10 finishes this month. With so many players taking extended breaks this time of year, you’re not going to find anyone with a recent history that makes you as comfortable as Hatton’s: a win at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, followed by a T9 at the British Masters, with 45 birdies against just nine holes over par in those two tournaments.
Louis Oosthuizen ($7,400) – He has a solid course history here with five appearances under his belt, and while it’s been a while since he finished atop a leaderboard, he could make for an intriguing cash game option this weekend, as he finished last season playing very well. The South African shot a 75 on Sunday at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in his home country, but played well earlier in the debut tournament with three straight rounds under par to make the cut. I think you can expect at least a slight improvement on that performance this weekend.
Kevin Kisner ($6,900) – Kisner hit more than 80 percent of his greens last weekend at the CIMB Classic, only finishing 26th mainly because his normally steady putter failed him at times. For a played who finished third in Strokes Gained: Putting on Tour last season, you certainly don’t expect that to continue. If he added his normal stroke on the greens to the way he played overall last weekend, he could push for a spot near the top of the leaderboard this weekend, making him a solid upside play for me.
Soren Kjeldsen ($6,800) – Other than withdrawing from the Italian Open in September, he has finished no worse than T28 in any tournament since August. That run of success includes two finishes inside the top-10, and 13 of 16 rounds played under par. As someone who has had a GIR % of 68-71 virtually every season of his career, he should be able to put himself in positions to make birdies and score you some fantasy points this weekend.
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