Zach Johnson

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.

The Field

This is the final event of the 2019-20 swing season and with it, we get yet another eclectic field full of players who have been grinding as many events as possible in the fall and others who have made only one or two appearances to date. It’s not very strong at the top, unfortunately, as the biggest names include Matt Kuchar and Webb Simpson before the field drops off dramatically. Joining those two will be former champions like Charles Howell III (2018), Kevin Kisner (2015) and Robert Streb (2014). Globetrotting Alex Noren is here, as is current FedEx Cup points leader Lanto Griffin to add some depth. With two courses in play on the first two days, this event does have a bigger field than the past few events with 150 players set to tee things up. Despite the split field (on two courses) the first two days, the cut remains the same with the top 65 players and ties making it to the weekend.


The Course

Seaside Course, Sea Island, Georgia: Par 70, 7,055 yards
Plantation Course (Thursday/Friday only): Par 72, 7,058 yards

The tournament once again features two different courses. On Thursday and Friday, players will play the Seaside (the host course) and the Plantation course once each, and then the players will play Saturday and Sunday on the Seaside course only. The dual courses at this event always play a big factor as the Plantation course carries four par 5s (compared to only two for the Seaside course) and generally is much less wind exposed, meaning it has the potential to play up to two shots easier than the host course. The Seaside course isn’t exactly tough, though, as both its par 5s measure in less than 570 yards in length with seven or eight of the par 4s landing between 400-450 yards.

In 2016, the Plantation course played at 2.237 strokes under par for the week and was the third easiest course overall on tour, while the Seaside course played at 1.111 strokes under par for the week and was the 15th easiest course on tour. Last year, the Plantation course played as the 14th easiest on Tour and Seaside the 17th. Knowing which days your players will be on which course is important, and I’d suggest using the weather forecast to help you make decisions. Getting players with less breezy days on the Seaside course could be crucial to success.

The courses themselves are exposed, but shorter in nature and favor players who rely on accuracy over power. Both are positioned near the sea, although it’s only the Seaside course that is more exposed and somewhat links-style in nature. Many players who have had success at this event also had success at other short seaside courses like Hilton Head and Waialae Country Club, which feature Bermuda grass. Looking for specialists on these sorts of tracks isn’t a bad plan and something I’d recommend when making your lineups.

2019 Weather Update: As of now there doesn’t seem to be too much wind in the forecast. With the Seaside course being an open venue and located on the ocean, the lack of wind means scoring should be decent this week. Winds on Thursday and Friday aren’t forecast to hit higher than 6 mph, although it doesn’t look like it’s going to be overly warm, either, with highs topping out in the high-60s and low-70s. It’s worth keeping an eye on the weather this week as players playing the Plantation course do have more tree cover, and it would be better to have your player draw the windier day there. The weekend could be less pleasant, with winds set to reach 10-12 mph Sunday and some rain in the forecast. Ultimately, experienced players with good records on tighter seaside venues will have an upper hand here — as they seem to every season.


Past Five winners

2018—Charles Howell III -19 (over Patrick Rodgers playoff)
2017—Austin Cook -21 (over J.J Spaun -17)
2016—MacKenzie Hughes -18 (five-way playoff)
2015—Kevin Kisner -22 (over Kevin Chappell -16)
2014—Robert Streb -14 (over Brandon de Jonge and Will MacKenzie playoff)


Winning Trends

– Six of the past nine winners had achieved a T5 or better result at either the RBC Heritage (Hilton Head) or the Sony Open (Waialae Country Club) at some point in their career before their win at the RSM.

– Seven of the past nine winners have ranked 42nd or better in Par 4 Scoring in the year of their victory.


Statistics:

Par 4 Scoring
Strokes Gained: Putting; Strokes Gained: Approach
Scrambling

As mentioned above, Par 4 Scoring has been crucial for past winners, and with the main course being a par 70 and having only two par 5, I’d continue to rely on that stat this week. This is often a good barometer for success, anyways, but with the trend of the past five winners ranking no worse than sixth in this category for the week of their win, I would emphasize it even more here.

As much as putting can be a variable stat to look at, it’s hard to ignore that many past winners have been strong putters and have ranked highly in Strokes Gained: Putting for the week of their win. Two of the past three winners each ranked top three in this stat for the week of their win, and strong Bermuda putters can be emphasized this week. Strokes Gained: Approach is the other SG metric to be looking at here, as two of the past three winners ranked inside the top five in this stat in the year of their win.

Finally, Scrambling is another stat to emphasize given the smaller Bermuda greens. Four of the past five winners have ranked top five in this stat for the week of their win, including Austin Cook, who was second in this category during his win 2017.


Finding Values

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.

Golfer: Russell Knox
Odds to Win: 35-1
DraftKings Price: $8,900

Comparables:
Zach Johnson; 50-1 and $9,000
Brendon Todd; 50-1 and $9,100
Aaron Wise; 40-1 and 9,400

Golfer: Ryan Armour
Odds to Win: 66-1
DraftKings Price: $7,700

Comparables:
Harry Higgs; 75-1 and $7,700
Austin Cook; 80-1 and $7,800
Adam Long; 80-1 and $7,800


HORSES FOR COURSES

1. Webb Simpson (best finish: second-2011; third- 2018): Simpson has a long history of playing this event that stretches all the way back to 2010. He’s got plenty of top finishes to fall back on this week as he finished solo third here last season, shooting 65-63 on the weekend and also finished solo second here in 2011. Ranked 11th in the world and coming off a fantastic season, Simpson should be gunning for a win this week.

2. Kevin Kisner (best finish: win-2015): Kisner won this event back in 2015 — his first win on tour — and has finished T20 or better five times in his past six visits to Sea Island, including a T7 finish here last year. Kisner has three finishes of T4 or better at this week’s venue and can be considered as a lead horse, even if his recent form isn’t all that sharp.

3. Chris Kirk (best finish: win-2013): Kirk has played this event every year since its inception except last year, and he’s flourished at Sea Island over the years. On top of winning this event in 2013, Kirk also finished T4 here in 2014, T18 here in 2015 and was T4 again in 2017. On a less-than-driver type of course, Kirk always should be considered, even if his lack of recent play is less than optimal.

4. Brian Gay (best finish: T3-2017): Gay’s the prototypical player that should do well at Sea Island, as strong putting and short games get magnified here. Gay has missed two cuts here in seven tries, overall, but he also has flashed upside with two top-five finishes over his past four starts here, including a T3 finish in 2017. He ended last year’s event in T23.

5. Charles Howell (best finish: win-2018): In his past nine appearances he’s finished T13 or better five times and recorded his first win at this event last season. The veteran has missed the cut here twice before but, overall, has flashed more upside at this venue than most players in the field.


Recent Form

1. Brendon Todd: Coming off wins in each of his past two starts, the now three-time tour winner has shot 44-under par in his past eight rounds.

2. Harris English: Coming off a solo fifth-place finish form last week, he’s finished T6 or better in four of his past five starts.

3. Brian Gay: Gay has made the cut in seven straight starts and has finished inside the top 15 in three of his past four starts. He was T14 last week in Mexico.

4. Billy Horschel: Quietly putting up good results again, Horschel has finished inside the top 25 in each of his past three starts and is coming off a strong T8 finish in Mexico.

5. Dylan Frittelli: He has been consistent since mid- to late-summer, coming in off a T11 last week and having finished inside the top 25 in four of his past six starts.


DraftKings Strategy

Cash Games: Despite this being a weaker field, Webb Simpson ($11,400) is a pretty large favorite and the highest ranked golfer in the OWGR by 10 spots. He’s never missed the cut here in six starts. After Webb, there’s plenty of value to choose from, and the likes of Russell Knox ($8,900), Vaughn Taylor ($8,200) and Ryan Armour ($7,700) all set up as potential values. For even cheaper plays, the likes of Mark Hubbard ($7,000) and Fabian Gomez ($6,800) can be considered here, too.

Tournaments: Adam Hadwin ($9,600) has flashed some great form in spots this fall and should be confident from his President’s Cup selection. Likewise, Alex Noren ($9,300) has played better recently, posting seven made cuts in a row and should be looking for another big finish here given his drop in the rankings of late. Further down, Russell Henley ($8,500) is coming off a bad break (penalty violation), which caused him to miss the cut last week but has plenty of upside in an event like this. Other GPP targets include Kevin Chappell ($7,100), DJ Trahan ($6,500) and Ben Martin ($6,400).


MY PICK: Zach Johnson ($9,000)

Johnson has had an up-and-down swing season, finishing T14 and T23 (last week) in two of his four swing season starts, while missing the cut in the other two. There’s reason to think a big week could be coming here for the veteran, who has gone winless on tour since winning the 2015 Open Championship.

Johnson, despite his up and down fall, ranks top 20 in SG: Approach and Greens and Regulation on tour and is coming off a week where he opened with a solid seven-under 64. Even though he couldn’t follow up his big round last week, ZJ is a Sea Island resident who always has done his best work on shorter venues with smaller greens, like the two venues in play this week, posting wins at venues like Colonial and TPC Deere Run over his career.

Johnson might have missed the cut at this event in four of his past nine trips here, but the past two seasons have shown him finish T7 and T8, results that have come after playing in Mexico the week before — he didn’t play in Mexico the years he missed the cut. Showcasing improving ball-striking and coming off a solid week, Johnson should be in position to pay off for DraftKings players once again at a venue that suits his style of game.


MY SLEEPER: Ben Martin ($6,400)

Martin has had some injury issues over the past year or so, which have kept him from playing at a high level. Hip and back issues forced him to miss almost an entire season and only recently did he return to play. After a couple of solid-to-middling finishes on the Korn Ferry Tour in the late summer, he returned back to the PGA Tour and made his first cut last week after missing the cut at the Safeway Open and Sanderson Farms.

A T20 in Mexico after a couple weeks of rest is significant for Martin, who excels on Bermuda grass and excels at tighter, shorter courses like Sea Island, having recorded a T3 at Hilton Head, a T4 at the PLAYERS and a solo second at the John Deere Classic over his career. Martin ranked T6 in Greens in Regulation last week and T10 in birdies made, suggesting a solid return form might not be far off. Looking healthy and having finished T22 and T17 in two of his past three trips to Sea Island, Martin looks like a solid GPP target here as he tries to resurrect his career on the PGA.


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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is wavegoodbye) 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.