Paul Casey

The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their PGA roster selections on DraftKings.

Set your lineups here: $2.25M THE PLAYERS Millionaire [$1M to 1st].


The Field

This field this week is stacked. For the first time in 2020, we’ll be getting the majority of the world’s top-50 players on the same course battling it out against each other for one of the biggest prizes in golf. Even if THE PLAYERS isn’t technically major, it still possesses a “major” caliber field and one of the biggest prize pools of the year from a monetary perspective. Unlike the four regular majors, there are no amateur invites, or over-the-hill past champions this week, only card-carrying PGA tour members and some select international players or qualifiers. The top-three players in the world entering this week, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka, are all here and enter in varying degrees of form, adding an extra layer of intrigue. The only big name missing here is Tiger Woods (back) who is apparently resting up for Augusta after encountering some lingering back tightness in his last start, he’ll be one to watch in the coming weeks. It’s also worth mentioning that Jason Day (back) looks very questionable given that he withdrew from competition last week in play. If he does start, he’ll again carry a heightened risk of re-injury. Barring any more pre-event withdraws, the field this week is set at 144 players and normal cut rules will apply (top 65 players make the weekend).


The Course

TPC Sawgrass (Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida)
Par 72, 7200-7300 yards depending on setup

TPC Sawgrass is a stadium course that was designed and created specifically for this event in 1981. It was designed by Pete Dye (his wife Alice is responsible for the island green on 17), who has also designed a lot of courses in the Tour rotation, including Hilton Head at the RBC Heritage and TPC Louisiana, host of the Zurich Classic. TPC Sawgrass features hard to hit, smaller than normal greens, quite a bit of water and quite a few doglegs too, which will make accurate iron play essential this week. While accuracy will be at a premium, length and solid driving can still be an asset to the players on the par 5’s and some of the long par 4’s where just getting par will be an accomplishment.

The course itself is set-up as a traditional par 72 (four par 5’s and four par 3’s) but each hole presents a unique challenge to players. While the 17th island green can be tricky on Sunday it’s the final hole (the 18th) that plays as one of hardest on the course every year and requires a pinpoint drive over water by players just to hit the fairway. The rest of the course is made up of risk/reward par 5’s that require placement over power off the tee and a couple other treacherous, if less well known, par 3’s. As for the par 4’s, five of them come in at 450 yards or more and tend to stress long iron approaches, while three will play at under 400 for the week.

TPC Sawgrass has seen some renovations over the past couple of years, the largest of which is the remodeling of the 12th hole, which used to be a simple mid/short range par 4. In 2017, all of the complexes were rebuilt with TifEagle Bermuda, which should provide a better experience long term, but did require some adjustment for players—and perhaps led to an inexperienced first-timer like Si Woo Kim taking home the title that year. The move to March last season saw scores stay quite low with Rory coming in at 16-under par and the weather this year looks decent enough that we may see a similar score take home the title in 2020.

2020 Outlook: Temperatures look quite decent for THE PLAYERS this year, with highs hitting the mid-to-high 70’s every day and a.m. lows around 60 degrees. The main thing to note here though is that the wind doesn’t appear like it will be getting super-blustery. Gusts are likely to top out around 10 mph over the first two days, with a.m. starters on Thursday looking at relative benign and calm conditions. It does look like the wind will pick up a touch on the weekend with gusts approaching 12-14 mph, which could help make for an exciting finish. Weekend and showdown players with early tee times could be valuable as a result here, although you’ll need to recheck the wind conditions later in the week to confirm.


Last 5 winners

2019—Rory McIlroy -16 (over Jim Furyk -15)
2018—Webb Simpson -18 (over Charl Schwartzel and two others -14)
2017—Si Woo Kim -10 (over Poulter and Oosthuizen -7)
2016—Jason Day -15 (over Kevin Chappell -11)
2015—Rickie Fowler -12 (over Kevin Kisner playoff)


Winning Trends

– Eight of the last 10 winners of THE PLAYERS had already bagged a T4 or better finish on Tour in the year of their victory.

– The last 13 winners of this event had already achieved a previous finish of 23rd or better at THE PLAYERS in a previous year.


Statistics



2019: Rory McIlroy

SG: Off the Tee—1st

SG: Approach—9th

SG: Tee to Green—1st

SG: Putting—11th

Driving Distance—8th

Scrambling—5th
2018: Webb Simpson

SG: Off the Tee—32nd

SG: Approach—62nd

SG: Tee to Green—16th

SG: Putting—1st

Driving Distance—71st

Scrambling—24th
2017: Si Woo Kim

SG: Off the Tee—2nd

SG: Approach—17th

SG: Tee to Green—2nd

SG: Putting—37th

Driving Distance—10th

Scrambling—1st
A variety of different types of players have won this event, but every year the winner has generally been one of the best in the field in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green for the week. Since 2011, only one winner (Simpson 2018) has finished outside the top 10 for the week in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, making it a great category to weigh heavily.

The other Strokes Gained area to emphasize this week is approaches. TPC Sawgrass is often referred to as a second-shot course, meaning what you do off the tee here isn’t necessarily as important as what you do on your approaches. This generalization bears out somewhat too in the stats as many of the winners and high finishers have ranked consistently outside of the top-20 in Off the Tee stats but inside the top ten in Strokes Gained: Approaches. Three of the last six winners didn’t crack the top twenty in Off the Tee stats for the week of their win but were all inside the top ten in Strokes Gained: Approaches.

With smaller greens, TPC Sawgrass also tends to emphasize a player’s short-game at some point. Since 2010, the only time a winner finished the week worse than 12th in scrambling for the week was in 2018 when Webb Simpson ranked 24th in this stat. However, his whole performance was skewed by one of the most prolific putting weeks of the last decade.


Finding Values

Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their odds of winning this week.


Player Odds to win DraftKings Price Comparable
Tyrrell Hatton  50-1 $7,400 –        Jordan Spieth $7,700 and 85-1

–        Victor Hovland $7,700 and 100-1

–        Joaquin Niemann $7,600 and 225-1
Daniel Berger 55-1 $7,200 –        Bubba Watson $7,300 and 110-1

–        Matthew Wolff $7,200 and 275-1

–        Kevin Kisner $7,300 and 140-1


HORSES FOR COURSES

1. Sergio Garcia (best finishes: win-2008, playoff loss-2015): Garcia is now 15 for his last 15 attempts at TPC Sawgrass in terms of making the cut and has a win (2008) and two runner-up finishes to his credit here as well, with one a playoff loss in 2015. He bounced back here last year with a T22 showing after a poor T70 in 2018. Garcia’s managed to tame a seemingly untameable venue which should make him a valuable DFS commodity this week.

2. Webb Simpson (best finishes: win-2018): Webb had an up and down start to his career at TPC Sawgrass, missing the cut three-times between 2010 and 2014, but since then he’s flashed massive upside. In his last three trips to Sawgrass, the veteran has a win and two T16 finishes. His elite iron play and putting make him a seemingly perfect fit for this week and his recent form suggests he may be adding to his list of top finishes here in 2020.

3. Rory McIlroy (best finishes: win-2019): Rory finally broke through at Sawgrass last season, taking home his first PLAYERS win. The Northern Irishman had always been a consistent performer at this venue as he’s managed to make the cut here in six of his last seven visits and now has five finishes of T12 or better in nine career attempts. He’ll be gunning to become the first repeat champion this week.

4. Henrik Stenson (best finishes: win-2009): Stenson is the 2009 champion of this event and has also finished T5 here in 2013. Overall, he’s made the cut here in six of his last eight starts and has only finished worse than T23 once in those six finishes where he made the weekend. Coming off a missed cut last week, his sentiment this year may be lower than normal in DFS.

5. Tommy Fleetwood (best finishes: T5-2019, T7-2018): Despite only playing this event three times prior to this season, Fleetwood has flashed some dominate form at TPC Sawgrass, claiming finishes of T41, T7 and T5 (2019) already. He entered last year’s event in the final grouping and possesses the kind of all-around game which should see him flourish at this week’s event, and other big events around the world, long term.


Recent Form

1. SungJae Im: SungJae is coming into this event off an amazing start to the Florida swing. The South Korean won the Honda in dramatic fashion and then finished T3 last week at Bay Hill, while having a serious shot at back-to-back wins. He’s in great shape to take a run at the year’s first big event.

2. Bryson DeChambeau: Bryson has now finished inside the top-5 in three straight starts. The five-time Tour winner put in another solid week at Bay Hill, ranking seventh there in SG: Tee to Green stats and first in OTT stats. He’s trending insanely well at the moment.

3. Jon Rahm: Rahm has taken the last two weeks off, but his form prior to this mini-break was off the charts. The Spaniard’s worst finish on Tour this season was a T17 at the Genesis and he finished in a hard-charging T3 position at Mexico in his last start, where he ranked seventh for the week in SG: Tee to Green stats.

4. Patrick Reed: Reed’s game has been trending for most of 2020 as the American has claimed a big win at the year’s first WGC event and also a playoff loss at the TOC in Hawaii. He’s coming in off a decent week at Bay Hill, where he finished T15 and ranked 22nd in SG: TTG stats.

5. Rory McIlroy: Rory’s been good pretty much every time he’s tee’d it up in 2020, claiming top-5’s in all three of his PGA Tour starts this season. The only thing holding him back here is his lack of an outright win, but his ball-striking, consistency and history at Sawgrass make him an easy outright favorite this week.


DFS STRATEGY

Cash Games: Take the value with Bryson and SungJae

There’s no doubt that TPC Sawgrass is a bit of an unforgiving venue, which has favored players coming in with solid tee to green games. That’s exactly what we’re getting this week with both Im and DeChambeau, who come in with a collective four top-5’s between them over the last three events on Tour. Their prices are also quite soft this week compared to where they sit in the outright odds, making them great value options from up above. After them, things get a little trickier, but it’s hard to pass on Sergio Garcia ($8,000) and his string of made cuts at TPC Sawgrass (see horses for courses). Matt Kuchar ($7,800) and Marc Leishman ($7,600) also stick out like sore thumbs in this price range. Other targets for this format include the likes of Kevin Kisner ($7,300), Daniel Berger ($7,200), Max Homa ($6,600) and Joel Dahmen ($6,600).

Tournaments: Reed and Casey solid 8k pivots this week

Despite solid play on the year, both Reed ($8,500) and Casey ($8,200) could get slightly overlooked this week due to some mediocre course history. Both men have career best finishes of T22 at Sawgrass but have looked sharp to start 2020, suggesting one or both could contend here. After them, the field looks wide open given the softer pricing but the likes of Byeong Hun An ($7,800), Kevin Na ($7,000) and Danny Willett ($7,200) look like possible lower sentiment targets in the 7k range that have produced solid play of late. After them, the 6k range is chalk full of juicy upside targets with Russell Henley ($6,400), Branden Grace ($6,700), Danny Lee ($6,700), Keith Mitchell ($6,600), Martin Laird ($6,100) and Jimmy Walker ($6,000) all standing out.


MY PICK: Paul Casey ($8,200)

Casey enters this week a touch under the radar. The Englishman hasn’t put up a ton of top finishes yet in 2020, but his ball striking has been superb, nonetheless. Over his last eight competitive rounds, Casey has now gained +1.0 strokes or more against the field on his approaches and has also displayed some of the most consistent off the tee play of his career this year, as he comes in ranked 20th in SG: OTT stats on the season to date. Holding Casey back thus far has been a putter which has remained ice cold and has him ranked somewhere in Siberia (aka >200th) in SG: Putting. Things can change quickly with that club, however, and it’s worth noting that Bermuda greens have often been Casey’s best surface with both of his recent PGA wins coming on Bermuda surfaces—and in the state of Florida. TPC Sawgrass has been a bit of a hit-or-miss prospect for Casey as he suffered a terrible missed cut here last season but finished T22 and T23 here respectively in 2016/2017. In those years he finished 10th and 14th in SG: Tee to Green stats for the week, and with his game in great shape, it’s possible he improves on those numbers and finally gets himself in contention at an event he’s more than capable of winning.


MY SLEEPER: Jimmy Walker ($6,000)

Walker hasn’t been piling up the top finishes, but he has flashed some solid play of late. A T21 two weeks ago at the Honda Classic was followed up by a T24 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week, two results that were created almost entirely out of some great iron play. In fact, over Walker’s last eight rounds of competitive golf he’s now had five rounds where he’s gained +1.7 strokes on approaches or more against the field. Those kinds of elite stats generally play very well around TPC Sawgrass where smaller greens and lots of penal water and sand can create a long week for those who aren’t flashing consistent iron play. To go along with Walker’s recent Florida resurgence, we also have some great course history/form as the 2016 PGA Championship winner will be teeing it up at THE PLAYERS for the 11th year in a row. Walker has bagged T2 (2018) and T6 (2014) finishes here over those starts and clearly knows his way around the venue. With his DraftKings price sitting at the absolute bare min this week, he makes for an enticing extreme value target given the upward trend of his iron play.

Set your lineups here: $2.25M THE PLAYERS Millionaire [$1M to 1st].


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