The Zurich Classic of New Orleans tees off from TPC Louisiana, a scorer’s course, Thursday morning. There are strokes to be gained everywhere on this course – so you need someone who will hit fairways, hit greens, and hit putts. If that doesn’t seem to narrow it down enough for you, for me it means two things: I want to focus more on who is playing well right now than course history, and I am going to judge that more on scoring stats than on any one aspect of the game. Here are a few golfers I identified in every price range who meet the criteria.
Rickie Fowler ($11,100) – It’s not that I dislike Scott and Day, but if I am going to concentrate on recent performance and scoring ability and not so much on course history, then I have to love Fowler. And I do. He is tied for first on Tour in both Par-4 and Par-5 Scoring, and with five top-10 finishes in 2016, he is primed to break through for his first win of the season.
Billy Horschel ($10,300) – A former winner here (2013), Horschel just got through showing us that his game is in great shape with a T4 in San Antonio. He managed 16 total birdies and no rounds over par, highlighted by a bogey-free 67 on Saturday on his way to his third top-20 finish in his last four outings. That performance brought his birdie average up to 3.85, good for 36th on Tour. If he is hitting the ball as solidly again this weekend, that average is bound to go up even more on a much easier course.
Daniel Berger ($10,100) – He showed up here as a rookie last year and finished T6. Even more importantly, this year, he is coming into the tournament with three straight great showings against solid fields – T11 at the Valspar, a T5 in Houston and a T10 at Augusta. Inside the top-50 on Tour in Scoring Average (44th after last weekend), he has the all-around game to put up a big fantasy number on his way to the top of the leaderboard.
Chris Kirk ($9,800) – He has been inside the top-25 in three of his last four tournaments (with the one misstep coming in the Masters). In those three performances, he has two rounds over par, but eight rounds coming in under par, showing an ability to score on a variety of different courses. He is averaging 16 birdies a piece in those three appearances, and on a weekend where there could be a lot of fantasy points to go around, someone who just plays a consistent four rounds and stays near the top is going to put up a big number and prove really useful to your lineup.
Charles Howell III ($8,700) – He has played in fifteen tournaments this year, grinding out solid showing after solid showing. He has fourteen made cuts, eleven top-25’s and four top-10’s. Playing so many tournaments, and making so many cuts, and turning in so many quality performances, he leads the entire Tour in rounds under par, an indicator of a skill-set that should translate well at TPC Louisiana.
Jamie Lovemark ($8,400) – At this very reasonable price, he was better than you might expect in virtually every single metric I looked at this weekend to try to identify players who might have success here: T4 in Sub-Par Rounds, top-30 in Birdie Average and Birdie or Better Rate, #21 overall in Adjusted Scoring Average. So, he’s never played well here before. That’s a trend that his recent play suggests he is ready to reverse.
“21st in birdie or better places him squarely between Snedeker (20th) and Koepka (22nd)”
Patton Kizzire ($8,200) – He is another player who is putting together good performances right now, and doing it by attacking courses and picking up strokes, not just by playing it safe. He is just outside the top-20 in Birdie or Better %, and #11 right now in Adjusted Scoring. Sometimes, though, I find that those rankings don’t mean much to people, so for a player you might not have considered for your lineups before, a little context is useful. So, 21st in Birdie or Better places him squarely between Snedeker (20th) and Koepka (22nd), and 11th in Adjusted Scoring brings him in one spot ahead of someone else you’ve probably heard of: Jason Day.
Ben Martin ($7,900) – With only two finishes inside the top-25 over the past couple of months, he is likely off most peoples’ radar, and could be a nice low-ownership % play in any kind of contest. You might not expect him to be sitting right around the top 50 in the All-Around Rankings, but there he is. And that’s because, at times, every part of his game can be a difference maker – so when he brings it all together, he is a dangerous player. He is also just outside the top-30 in Birdie or Better %, so his problem is gaining strokes when he can. If he can avoid those blowup holes, he can be a contender, but we also all know that birdie-bogey is better than par-par from a fantasy perspective, so he could make any finish around the top-25 useful.
Anirban Lahiri ($7,700) – A player who was more on the radar earlier in the season, when he seemed to be coming on strong, he has played something of a strange schedule recently, taking time to go play the Hero India Open, which came right between two WGC events, the Cadillac and Match Play. He finished second in the event, but then proceeded to miss the cut at the Shell Houston Open and finish outside the top-40 at Augusta. But despite some recent struggles, he has still been making enough birdies consistently to be maintaining a 58 DKFP scoring average, useful at this price.
David Hearn ($7,500) – So maybe when you’re trying to fill your less-expensive roster slots, looking at a bit of course history can’t hurt. He has never missed a cut here and finished T6 last year. When you combine that with the fact that he is coming off a T13 last weekend that featured 18 birdies, gives me enough confidence to get him into at least some of my lineups in any kind of contest.
“. . . he does a lot of things well, and as long as he makes the cut, he should be able to score fantasy points”
Morgan Hoffman ($6,700) – Hoffman has missed four cuts in his last five appearances, so there is some risk here, putting it mildly. But let me convince you: first of all, the one cut he made was his last appearance, at the RBC Heritage, when he came through with a T23 with only one round over par. Second, despite all those missed cuts, he is inside the top-10 in Par-5 Scoring Average, a useful skill on a course where the par-5’s yielded a 4.62 scoring average to the entire field last season. Third, that par-5 prowess might suggest a tee-to-green game that is his strength, but he actually does his best work on the greens, currently inside the top-25 in Strokes Gained: Putting. In other words, he does a lot of things well, and as long as he makes the cut, he should be able to score fantasy points for you all weekend long, no matter where he finishes on the leaderboard.
Adam Hadwin ($6,600) – The 28-year-old Canadian had back-to-back top-20 performances back in February, but then missed a couple of cuts and likely fell out of consideration for a lot of fantasy owners. But he showed a little bit of that old form at the RBC Heritage with a T30 performance, in which he had 12 birdies and also lost 12 strokes (10 bogeys and one double) to finish at even par. His final-round, bogey-free 67, though, was evidence that his game could be returning to the form we saw a couple months back, which would make him a bargain at this price.