The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course information, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.
This is a full-field event at 156 golfers. However, given the Pro-Am format that is set to play over three different courses, this event also has an unusual cut criterion. Barring injury or DQ, every player in the field will get to play each course once, meaning there will be no cut until after Saturday. On Saturday, the top 70 and ties all will get to play the final day UNLESS more than 78 golfers are tied at the end of the round, then only the top 60 and ties would move onto Sunday. It’s slightly confusing but the gist of it is your golfers will have to get themselves in a good spot if they want to play in that last round.
The actual field this week is quite interesting. We have some elite golfers returning to action. Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson are making their season debuts, while last year’s winner of this event, Jon Rahm, also is returning to action after a week off. The rest of the field is a mix of above-average PGA Tour stars, veterans and some new faces fresh off the Web.com Tour. Some past winners in the field this week include Rahm, Hudson Swafford (2017), Jason Dufner (2016), Bill Haas (2015) and Brian Gay (2013). Some other names getting started on their season this week include Daniel Berger, Chesson Hadley, Luke List and Beau Hossler. With not much recent form to go off there’s still some guess work involved in a lot of golfers this week, so tread carefully with anyone coming off a long layoff.
PGA West — Palm Springs, California
TPC Stadium (home course, played twice) 7,100-7,300 yards, par 72
La Quinta par 72, 7,000-7,100 yards, par 72
Nicklaus Tournament 7,100-7,160 yards, par 72
The tournament this week will be played over a total of three courses with the home course — and the course being used to decide a champion Sunday — being the TPC Stadium course. It should first be noted only one of these courses (La Quinta) was used in the rotation prior to 2016, which makes looking at results before that year not very relevant, but still semi-useful as there are some similarities between all the courses at PGA West — mainly that all are par 72s with traditional layouts and well-manicured Bermuda greens. Additionally, while the Stadium course can stretch to 7,300 yards, expect all three courses to play somewhere in the vicinity of 7,000-7,150 yards for the week, making distance a non-factor for most pros. Players can be very aggressive here, and judging by the previous winning scores of -20, -25 and -22, they will need to be.
Of the three courses it’s almost a certain the home course, TPC Stadium, will play the toughest. A Pete Dye design, this course once was rated as the fourth toughest course in America by Golf Digest and has the highest slope and stroke ratings of any of the three. Last year, the Stadium course played as the 35th easiest course on tour, as players averaged -0.819 strokes under par; however, both the La Quinta and Nicklaus Tournament courses played far easier as players averaged -3.1 and -2.55 strokes under par, respectively, making them the two easiest courses on tour last year.
One final note: The greens here still are predominately Bermuda, but because of climate, they will play slightly different than the ones last week. The fact three courses are in play here and all will play slightly different means players with good history at this event can be bumped up slightly in terms of fantasy value. Winners here the past six years had all played at this event at least once prior to winning.
2019 Outlook/Weather Report: The weather this week looks consistent, with winds not expected to reach above 10 mph on any of the four days. The temperatures could be a little cool in the mornings with highs in the low-to-mid 50s early in the day. The only potential trouble could be Thursday, when there’s a chance of afternoon showers and some clouds. The three-course rotation is something to keep an eye on, as the TPC Stadium course generally has played the toughest, so players starting on it might have to play catch-up the rest of the way.
Past FIVE winners
2018—Jon Rahm -22 (over Andrew Landry playoff)
2017—Hudson Swafford -20 (over Adam Hadwin -19)
2016—Jason Dufner -25 (over David Lingmerth playoff)
2015—Bill Haas -22 (over five players at -21)
2014—Patrick Reed -28 (over Ryan Palmer -26)
— Eight of the past nine winners of this event played in one of the two season-opening events in Hawaii in the year of their respective wins (exception: Bill Haas 2015).
— Of the past six winners, three played in the Sony Open the week before and all three made the cut, finishing ninth/13th/31st.
— Each of the past eight winners had a top-15 finish in one of their past seven events worldwide before their win.
— Each of the past six winners had played in this event at least once before prior to their win.
Birdie or Better Percentage
Strokes Gained: Approach
Par 5 Scoring
This week is a classic birdie-fest as winners here have averaged well above the tour norm in terms of Birdie or Better stats at this venue. The past three winners of this event all finished top three in this stat for the week with BoB%s well above standard tour winners.
Additionally, much like last week, putting and approach play is very much emphasized at this week’s venues. We have limited strokes gained data (just from Stadium venue), but each of the past two winners ranked top 10 in Strokes Gained: Approaches for the week. With shorter venues, but lots of water and sand in play around the greens, strong iron play once again will be the main ingredient to success here.
Finally, as each course plays as a par 72 with four shorter par 5s, Par 5 Scoring is also a factor this week. You will see plenty of birdies on these holes and lots of eagle opportunities as well. Each of the past three winners here have ranked inside the top 10 in Par 5 Scoring for the week, with last year’s winner, Rahm, finishing sixth in that stat.
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:
|Joaquin Niemann||60-1||$7,600||Brendan Steele $7,600 and 66-1
Chesson Hadley $7,600 and 66-1
Charl Schwartzel $7,900 and 60-1
|Harold Varner III||70-1||$7,400||Bud Cauley $7,400 and 80-1
Dylan Frittelli $7,500 and 80-1
Jason Dufner $7,400 and 80-1
Horses for Courses
1. Adam Hadwin (best finishes: T3-2018, 2-2017) — Hadwin has played this event each of the past four years and never missed a cut. More impressively is the fact since the move to TPC Stadium in 2016, Hadwin has finished no worse than T6 at this event and recorded a 59 here at one of the secondary venues back in 2017, when he finished runner-up. He’s the lead horse this week based on consistency and proven upside.
2. Charles Howell III (best finishes: 2-2013, T11-2016) — Howell has an immaculate record at this week’s venue. Since 2010 he’s played this event every season and has made the Saturday cut every year. On top of that impressive record, Howell has placed T20 or better at the new course rotation in each of the past three seasons. He typically dominates these early-year venues, and this week sets up right in his wheelhouse again.
3. Bill Haas (best finishes: 1-2015 and 2010, 2-2011) — Haas is a two-time winner of this event, with his most recent one coming back in 2015, the final year on the old course rotation. He has missed two of his past six cuts at this event but did finish T17 and T9 here back in 2017 and 2016, respectively. His poor recent form makes him more of a GPP play, but his course history shouldn’t be ignored this week.
4. Ryan Palmer (best finishes: 2-2014, 4-2011) — Palmer has made the cut at this event in five of his past six starts and has finished T20 or better in each of those five starts where he’s made the cut. He’s a great desert golfer who also has a nice record at the Phoenix Open, too, and has finished T6 or better three times here over his career.
5. Brian Harman (best finish: T-2017) — Harman’s been consistent at this event the past three years (since the move in courses). The lefty has finished no worse than T20 the past three seasons here and was T3 back in 2016. He comes in off a bad start to the year but a quick bounce-back at a venue he’s flashed lots of upside at in the past would not be shocking.
1. Charles Howell III: Howell’s enjoying a fantastic stretch of golf right now. He won the last event in the fall swing at the RSM Classic and then followed that up with a T14 in Maui and a T8 finish at the Sony Open last week, where he also ranked T8 in total strokes gained for the week. He’s in full early season lock mode for fantasy purposes.
2. Jon Rahm: Rahm took last week off, but he’s coming off a great stretch of golf. A T4 at the year-end Euro Tour event was proceeded by a win at the elite field Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas before he started off 2019 with a solid T8 in Maui at the TOC. Rahm’s the defending champion and once again arrives at this event in great form.
3. Andrew Putnam: Putnam hung tough last week and held on for solo second. He’s finished no worse than T17 in each of his past four starts worldwide, a run that includes a T4 finish at an elite field WGC event in China. Recent form-wise, he’s one of the top targets here and deserving of a shoutout in these rankings.
4. Patton Kizzire: Kizzire has played some sneaky consistent golf of late and could be a name to watch this week. The two-time tour winner has finished T15 or better in each of his past three starts and defended his Sony Open title with a strong T13 finish last week, finishing T8 in the elite field TOC the week before. Don’t forget about him when making lineups this week.
5. Patrick Cantlay: Cantlay gets dinged down to fifth as he last teed it up at the Hero World Challenge in December. He finished T5 that week and comes in having finished T7 or better in his past three starts, a run that includes a second-place finish at the Shriners Vegas event.
Cash Games: Given the lack of depth at the top of this field, Jon Rahm ($11,600) makes for the most obvious pay-up candidate and should be heavily owned in all formats. He’s not that hard to fit in this week, but it will mean skipping over some of the talent in the $8-9K range. Going to a balanced lineup with players like Abraham Ancer ($9,300), Patton Kizzire ($8,700) and Chez Reavie ($9,200) is an alternative worth exploring, too. If you’re paying up, there’s tons of value in the $7K range with players like Zach Johnson ($7,700), Joaquin Niemann ($7,600), Brian Gay ($7,300) and Ryan Armour ($7,100) all making for good targets.
Tournaments: The other elite players in this field are Justin Rose ($11,000) and Patrick Cantlay ($10,600), and both should be lessor owned than Rahm given neither has played this event since 2013, and neither played any of the events in Hawaii. Cantlay looked great in the fall swing and could be a good swerve play off the popular Spaniard. Lower down, young studs like Aaron Wise ($9,400) and Beau Hossler ($8,000) both have shown the ability to blitz easy courses like the ones we’re seeing this week and should be nice GPP targets who likely attract low ownership here. Other lower-priced players to consider here include Harris English ($7,200), JT Poston ($7,200) and Sebastian Munoz ($6,500).
My Pick: Patton Kizzire ($8,700)
Kizzire has started off the season nicely with a top-10 finish at the Tournament of Champions and a T13 last week at the Sony Open. The two-time winner on tour is starting to round into form again, and the fact he strung together a couple solid ball-striking rounds with some good putting at the Sony should put him in a good place for success at this week’s event.
For his career, Kizzire is 3-3 in cuts made at the TPC Stadium rotation since 2016 and has finished inside the top 15 in each of his past three starts. He’s been a streaky player through his career, but when his putter is working, he’s struck for several high finishes at venues similar in nature to the ones we’re seeing this week. So far for the year, Kizzire is 24th in Strokes Gained: Putting and also has been good around the greens of late (T9 in Scrambling at the Sony), which is significant as the past two runner-ups at this week’s event ranked first and fourth in scrambling for the week.
Kizzire looks like a nice value in this field at less than $9K in price and is the type of player who could strike in a birdie-fest environment, where hot putting and solid iron play are emphasized.
My Sleeper: Harris English ($7,200)
English is setting up as an interesting sleeper play for DFS this week. The two-time tour winner is coming off a nice week at the Sony Open, where he finished T22 and has made each of his past five cuts. English has a sneaky-good record at the desert events on the PGA. He’s a former top-five finisher in Phoenix and also has made the cut at this week’s event in each of his six appearances, including a career-best T11 finish from last season.
English has struggled off the tee over the past couple of years, but it’s interesting to note he improved in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee in every round last week, posting +.921 strokes gained in that category over his final round. This event also generally has favored players who have started well in Hawaii and who have experience playing the venue from previous years, and English fits both of those trends. He’s an interesting cheap flyer this week with some real upside if his improved ball-striking continues.
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