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 the second-to-last tournament in the fall series before the PGA Tour goes on hiatus until January (although there is a little Tiger Invitational event to look forward to). The field this week is right around 130 golfers as it’s limited by the lack of daylight, so it’s not quite as big as other regular field events. The field strength is slightly worse than last week as we lose last week’s winner (Bryson DeChambeau) and a couple other highly ranked players but still have the likes of Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Tony Finau playing this event. This will be the first time Spieth tees it up in Mexico, and it will be interesting to see how the shorter venue fits with his game. In theory, it should suit him well.
Other names teeing it up this week include 2016 OHL champion Pat Perez, 2017 OHL champion Patton Kizzire and Kevin Kisner, who is making his first start of the fall. The cut will take place after Friday as always and the top 70 and ties will play the weekend. As with most of the fall series events, it behooves you to get to know some of the new players on tour and figure out who has been in good form in the past few events.
El Camaleon, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Par 71, 6,987 yards
This is a Greg Norman-designed course set on the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. This course has hosted the event since 2007, although the dates changed from February to November back in 2013. This change is significant, as the tournament has seen much lower scores since the move because the winds at this time of year are usually much milder than they are in February. The winning scores the past three years have been -18, -17 and -19, respectively, so obviously this course is quite gettable, although if the wind does pick up conditions will toughen considerably. As a shorter course with a lot of hazards, driving distance almost always takes a backseat here as players will often “club down” to find fairways and avoid trouble. This is very much a second-shot course, where players will be looking to avoid trouble off the tee, so there should be a big emphasis on iron play and good putting this week. One other thing to note is the course uses Paspalum-style greens, which will be average or slower than normal on the stimpmeter. These are similar greens to what we used to see in Malaysia every year at the CIMB Classic before they changed the greens for 2018. It should be noted that 2016 OHL winner Pat Perez has won both this week’s event and the one in Malaysia (CIMB Classic), so looking at past results from the CIMB Classic isn’t a bad idea.
The setup here is fairly standard. El Camaleon plays as a par 71 with three par 5s and four par 3s. As previously mentioned, the course plays short for tour standards at right under 7,000 yards, emphasizing wedges and short game. In terms of the hole setups, three of the four par 3s measure in at 155 yards or less and none of the par 5s come in at longer than 554 yards, making it essential for players to take advantage of these holes. There are five par 4s that measure in over 450 yards, however, so the key for most will be to limit the damage on these tougher/longer holes while taking advantage on the easier/shorter scoring ones. For reference, of the past five winners here, only one has finished outside the top five in Par 4 Scoring for the week of play.
Weather Report: The weather this week looks just fine. Winds are not scheduled to break 10 mph at any point, and the temperatures will not be that oppressive in the mid-80s. There might even be some rain in the forecast for Thursday, which would make the course soft and just add to the scoring. Expect low scores regardless and look for the early starters on Thursday and Friday to possibly benefit from any pre-event rain.
PAST FIVE WINNERS
2017— Patton Kizzire -19 (over Rickie Fowler -18)
2016— Pat Perez -21 (over Gary Woodland -19)
2015— Graeme McDowell -18 (in playoff over Jason Bohn and Russell Knox)
2014— Charley Hoffman -17 (over Shawn Stefani -16)
2013— Harris English -21 (over Brian Stuard -17)
– Four of the past six winners have ranked inside the top 50 for birdie average in the year of their respective victory.
– Four of the past seven winners were playing this event for the first time in their career. Patton Kizzire had played once before (in 2014) before winning last year.
– Strokes Gained: Approach
– Birdie or Better Percentage
– Par 4 Scoring/Par 4 Efficiency 450-500 yards
As mentioned previously, I’m not super concerned with stats off the tee this week, but I do want players who can hit it close and make a ton of birdies. While it seems obvious, this is a course you want to emphasize Birdie or Better Percentage on. The past three winners have all ranked T6 or better in this stat for the week, and in 2015 the three playoff protagonists all ranked inside the top four of this stat.
Additionally, with off-the-tee stats not being a huge concern, taking a more specific look at players’ SG: Approach makes a ton of sense as well. In 2015, two of the three men from the playoff ranked inside the top 20 on tour in SG: Approaches for the season coming into the event, while the winner, Graeme McDowell, had been ranked as high as 12th in that category. Last year’s champion, Patton Kizzire, ranked 37th in Approaches on tour — easily his best ranking in any of the Strokes Gained categories.
Finally, I’d consider Par 4 Scoring. There has been a fairly strong trend of players ranking well in this category on tour and their finishing position here, and with most of the tough holes being par 4s, there’s good reason why. Perez ranked second in this category for the week in 2016, while 2014 winner Charley Hoffman led the field in Par 4 Scoring in the year of his win. Looking at efficiency stats from 450-500 yards also makes sense, as five of the par 4s measure inside this distance.
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful of 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.
|Charley Hoffman||55-1||$7,600||Bill Haas $7,900 and 55-1
Sungjae Im $7,800 and 60-1
Matt Kuchar $8,200 and 60-1
|Martin Laird||66-1||$7,400||J.J. Spaun $7,500 and 66-1
Chris Kirk $7,500 and 80-1
Sam Burns $7,400 and 75-1
HORSES FOR COURSES
— Chris Stroud has played this event every year since 2008 and only missed two cuts in that span. Overall he has three top-fives at this event with his best finish being a third-place finish in 2013.
— Charles Howell III missed the cut here in 2014 but overall has made 8/9 cuts at El Camaleon and has finished inside the top 20 here seven times. He posted his best finish ever at this event last season with a T4 and should be well rested after a couple of weeks off.
— Brice Garnett is a player who seemingly loves these international tourist destinations, as his only win on the PGA came in the Dominican Republic. He’s played this Mexican-based venue four times over his career and has finished T6-T7-T25 here over his past three starts. His recent form isn’t great, but he’s a player who could pop this week based solely on the venue.
— Emiliano Grillo has played this event the past two seasons and has posted results of T9 and T10. The Argentine has one of the more consistent iron games on tour and is generally quite accurate off the tee, so these results shouldn’t be overly surprising. He’s played quite well over his past eight events or so and could be in line for a big week.
— Rickie Fowler posted a solid T4 last week in his first event since the Tour Championship. He has finished no worse than T8 in his past three starts.
— Gary Woodland is on a ridiculously consistent run at the moment, as he’s finished no worse than T12 over his past five starts and has finishes of T5 and T2 in the fall swing already.
— Cameron Champ won his first tour event two weeks ago at the Sanderson Farms and was in contention last week before fading to T28. He’s 3/3 in terms of cuts made in the fall swing and is flashing an insanely good floor and upside for fantasy purposes.
MY PICK: Patrick Rodgers ($7,800)
Don’t look twice; this isn’t a mistake. My main selection this week is the same as last week. Rodgers finished a somewhat disappointing T41 in Vegas last week, as his game dropped off a touch over the weekend. Still, he was in the hunt after two days and gained more than 1.5 strokes on his approach on the first two days of play.
Overall, Rodgers is trending nicely in 12-week rolling stats, ranking third in Par 4 Scoring and 14th in Birdie or Better Percentage. Rodgers has been steady of late, posting top-25 finishes in two of three fall events and seems to be trending towards a week where he will put it all together soon for a big finish.
He’s flashed some good upside at this week’s venue with T14 and T10 finishes here over four career starts. Maybe the most tempting thing about Rodgers this week, however, is his price, which has seen a big drop after being in the mid-$8K range last week and really makes staying on him for one more week easier to digest. He’s shaping up as an elite value this week and in a good position to nab a top-10 or better given his form and the venue.
MY SLEEPER: Shawn Stefani ($6,700)
Stefani has been flashing some solid form of late, as he posted a T7 at the Sanderson Farms event just two weeks ago and played well in the Web.com finals from late last season, too. Stefani’s strength is his ball-striking, and he was solid in that regard at the Sanderson Farms, ranking 16th in SG: Tee to Green stats at that event and T11 in Greens in Regulation.
The veteran also has a fantastic record at this week’s venue, as he finished in the runner-up position here back in 2014 and has finished T25 and T20 on two other occasions since that time. Even though he’s far from a great putter, Stefani has putted posted positive strokes gained on Paspalum greens over his career (vs. all other surfaces), and he’s gained over one stroke on the field in approaches in three of his past five rounds, suggesting some top ball-striking is not far off. He looks like solid value at well under $7K this week in a weaker field.
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