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 week consists of 140-144 golfers, and unlike last week, there will be a cut after Friday’s round. The field loses some of the star power from last week, as Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Sunday hot fire winner Xander Schauffele all will be taking the week off. However, we still have the likes of Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau in the field with new names like Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and Cameron Smith all making their season debuts here. The first full-field event of 2019 also brings back a lot of the PGA Tour regulars you’ll be needing to choose from for your daily fantasy value plays, too, so get ready to start researching names like Danny Lee, Harris English and Michael Thompson. Former event winners in the field this week include Zach Johnson (2009), Jimmy Walker (2014 and 2015), Russell Henley (2013), the aforementioned Thomas (2017) and Fabian Gomez (2016). This is one of the oldest events/courses on tour, but don’t be shocked if some of the newer faces on tour still end up showing well here.
Waialae Country Club, Honolulu, Hawaii
Par 70, 7,000-7,100 yards
The Waialae Country Club is a traditional par-70 course that features trickier Bermuda greens and smaller, narrow fairways. In many ways it’s a complete opposite to the venue we saw last week. Windy conditions like the ones we saw in Maui can sometimes affect the scoring here, but if the winds hold off, scores can get low — in 2017 Justin Thomas opened with a 59 here and set scoring record at 27-under par. The early forecast looks relatively calm for the four days of play, so some low scoring might be in store.
Setup-wise, Waialae features only two par 5s, making par 4 scoring more crucial. Five of the par 4s measure between 450-500 yards in length, but in general, even the toughest holes here play fairly straight forward, as water is almost a non-factor and the rough is usually not very penal. The biggest tests off the tee will deal with placement. Many of the holes feature a dogleg setup and will force players who don’t cut the corners into long second shots. As for a breakdown of approach shots, all four of the par 3s measure between 167-199 yards, while the two par 5s measure between 507-551 yards. Both of the par 5s play easy with the field averaging well under half a stroke under par for the week last year in terms of average scores on those holes.
Accuracy doesn’t hurt off the tee here, but traditionally, this is very much an approach shot/putting contest. The 2016 playoff combatants — Fabian Gomez and Brandt Snedeker — ranked 73rd and 113th, respectively, in yearly Driving Accuracy stats, while last year’s winner, Patton Kizzire, ranked 67th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee for the week here but third in SG: Approach. The 2017 winner, Justin Thomas, also didn’t rank in the top half of the field in accuracy off the tee the year he won and still won by seven strokes. Four of the players from the top 10 in 2017 also ranked inside the top 10 for the week in both SG: Putting and SG: Approach, with Thomas gaining more than seven strokes on the greens alone.
Weather Report: The early forecast looks fantastic for the week. The winds are set to stay under 10 mph for all four days. It’s possible the early-risers Thursday have a slight advantage as the winds are set to creep up by 2-4 mph as the day wears on and peak around 1 p.m. local time. The wind is almost non-existent on Friday, but there is the possibility of some late-afternoon rain. Either way, it doesn’t appear like a week where weather will make a huge difference splits-wise, but checking the weather again Wednesday to see if anything has changed is always recommended.
PAST FIVE WINNERS
2018—Patton Kizzire -17 (over James Hahn playoff)
2017—Justin Thomas -27 (over Justin Rose -20)
2016—Fabian Gomez -20 (over Brandt Snedeker playoff)
2015—Jimmy Walker -23 (over Scott Piercy -14)
2014—Jimmy Walker -17 (over Chris Kirk -16)
– Each of the past seven winners of this event had a top-six or better in one of their past three starts prior to their win at this event.
– Six of the past seven winners of this event ranked inside the top 50 on tour in Strokes Gained: Putting for the year in which they won this event.
– Six of the past seven winners of this event played in the TOC event the week prior.
Birdie or Better Percentage
Strokes Gained: Putting
Strokes Gained: Approach
Par 4 Scoring
Past winners and players who have had success at this course have tended to be some of the best putters in the business. Jimmy Walker and Russell Henley ranked inside the top 12 in Strokes Gained: Putting in the years of their victory. This is also another course where winners tend to rank highly in Birdie or Better Percentage compared to other courses. Both SG: Putting and BoB% should be weighted here again. Strong Bermuda putters also can be emphasized.
Additionally, since this course consists of numerous par 4s with similar attributes, taking advantage of them will be key to scoring this week. Targeting players who rank highly in both recent Par 4 Scoring and efficiency from the range of 450-500 yards can be key.
The fairways here are small and hard to hit but Driving Accuracy here hasn’t been a big deal. Four of the past five winners have ranked below average in Driving Accuracy for the week, and only one player in last year’s top 10 finished inside the top 10 in Driving Accuracy. Last year’s winner, Patton Kizzire, ranked 67th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee here but third in SG: Approach for the week. Instead of looking at off-the-tee stats, weighing approach stats like Proximity or SG: Approach have been far more predictive here.
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:
|Patton Kizzire||50-1||$7,900||Russell Henley $8,000 and 60-1
Brian Harman $7,900 and 60-1
Russell Knox $8,100 and 55-1
|Henrik Norlander||60-1||$7,500||Chris Kirk $7,700 and 80-1
Chez Reavie $7,600 and 70-1
Adam Hadwin $7,800 and 70-1
HORSES FOR COURSES
These players have had a lot of success at this event over their careers.
1. Charles Howell III (best finishes: T2-2012, T3-2013): Howell has missed only two cuts at Waialae in his past 13 appearances at this event and has an incredible seven top-10s in his past 12 starts here. The veteran finished T32 here last season but is coming off a win in the fall series at the RSM Classic, the third of his career. He generally has been a great fantasy play early in the year and is a lead horse for this course.
2. Jimmy Walker (best finishes: 1-2014, 1-2015): Walker has a very boom-or-bust history at Waialae, but he’s won this event twice over his past 10 starts, so his booms have been big ones. Overall Walker has three missed cuts at this event in his past 10 starts but also has four finishes of T13 or better. His missed cut here from last season came in the midst of a long rut where he was no doubt dealing with some affects of Lyme disease.
3. Zach Johnson (best finishes: 1-2009, T6-2017): Johnson won this event way back in 2009, but his recent form at Waialae is what makes him a serious horse for the week. ZJ has finished T14 or better in four of his past five appearances at the Sony Open and comes in off a solid T7 at the RSM Classic in his last start of 2018. He’s set up for a good start to 2019 here.
4. Pat Perez (best finishes: T8-2014, T9-2013): Perez has played this week’s event almost every season he’s been eligible, and his results have shown a clear affinity for the layout. Over his past six starts here since 2012, Perez has made 5/6 cuts overall and has recorded three top-20s with top-10s in both 2014 and 2013. After ending the year healthy and with top-10s in two of his past three starts, he looks like a solid value this week.
5. Marc Leishman (best finishes: T5-2014, T9-2013): Leishman comes in off a solid week in Maui and has a great history of success at Waialae. The big Aussie has made the cut here in all of his past six visits and has top-10 finishes to fall back on from 2013-14. Rostering him will cost you big salary room — the fourth-highest salary at $10,500 — but his history in Hawaii makes him a nearly infallible target here.
1. Gary Woodland: With his solo second-place finish last week, Woodland now has three top-five finishes at regular PGA stops over his past six starts. A solo second at the C.J. Cup and T5 at the CIMB Classic over the fall, Woodland enters the second event in fine form and unlucky to not have recorded a win last week.
2. Marc Leishman: Leishman has been under-the-radar hot of late, recording top-five finishes in three of his past four starts worldwide. A T4 last week was nothing to scoff at, and the Aussie also recorded a win in the fall series at the CIMB Classic and a second place at his home country’s PGA Championship event in December.
3. Bryson DeChambeau: DeChambeau couldn’t get it going on the weekend to the point where he was a serious contender last week, but he finished solo seventh and enters this event with three wins over his past seven starts. DeChambeau has not finished worse than T19 over that span, either, and sits at No. 5 in the world golf rankings. He deserves a spot here until he really cools off.
4. Charles Howell III: Howell finished last week strong with a pair of closing 69s and also is coming off a win at the last event of the fall season, where he beat Patrick Rodgers in a playoff to win the RSM Classic. Howell has a terrific record at this week’s event and enters in seemingly solid form after a good warmup last week.
5. Cameron Smith: Smith finished 2018 on a roll, with three top-10 finishes over his last four starts. The young Aussie won the Australian PGA Championship and recorded strong finishes in the first two playoff events last fall on the PGA. He’ll be looking for his first solo PGA win this season, and given his early form, it could come quickly.
Cash Games: Thomas hard to fade given form/history
Starting lineups with Justin Thomas ($11,400) this week is doable given the plethora of good upside we have in the $7-8K range, although a balanced approach might be easier to construct and require less leaps of faith. It should be noted, though, that Thomas comes in off a fantastic start to the year and has torn this course apart over his short career. If looking for small savings, Marc Leishman ($10,500) is also a viable anchor. Value-wise, the likes of Charles Howell III ($8,900) and Zach Johnson ($8,600) should be viewed as great upper-tier targets for this format, with the likes of Pat Perez ($7,700), Patton Kizzie ($7,900) and Scott Piercy ($7,600) all offering great course histories at reduced prices.
Tournaments: Venue suits Spieth’s strengths
Jordan Spieth ($10,300) comes in off a horrid season but has finished T18 and T3 in his two starts at Waialae. He requires a leap of faith here, but he should be lower-owned than usual, and this course is one where he could really front-run. Both Hideki Matusyama ($9,300) and Emiliano Grillo ($9,200) are two other high-end players who might not get much a ton of ownership but offer great value for their skill. At the lower end, players making their debut, like Russell Knox ($8,100), Russell Henley ($8,000) and Brian Harman ($7,900), also could go overlooked. Lower-priced boom-or-bust targets coming off good fall seasons, or having strong course histories, include Patrick Rodgers ($7,400), Danny Lee ($7,400), Michael Thompson ($6,900), Ollie Schniederjans ($6,800), Harris English ($6,800) and Scott Langley ($6,600).
MY PICK: Cameron Smith ($9,400)
Smith is coming into this event with lots of confidence after a nice run to end last season. The young Aussie has come into his own over the past year or so, and his world ranking has reached 29 to start the year. Smith posted top-fives in two FedEx Cup playoff events and proceeded to finish off his season with a win at the Australian PGA over a decent field. Smith still is looking for his first solo PGA win, and Waialae seems like an appropriate venue for him to achieve that goal. After missing the cut at this week’s event on his first try in 2016, he finished T27 and T18 here the past two seasons and hasn’t shot over par in his past eight rounds. Smith’s price this week has him up near some big names, but his recent form and improving record at this week’s venue, which plays perfectly to his strengths, makes him a solid target this week and perhaps someone who could go overlooked by the masses in big GPPs.
MY SLEEPER: Scott Langley ($6,600)
I featured Langley here in one of the final events of the 2018 season and he came through for us just fine, posting a top-30. A similar type of result this week would not shock me in the least here for the American, who battled his way back to full PGA Tour status after a solid year on the Web.com Tour in 2018. Langley has played this event three times in the past, and the results are encouraging. He’s just two for three in terms of cuts made but did finish T3 here in his debut in 2013, when he opened the tournament with a 62. Even if he can be a little hit-or-miss with his ball-striking, Langley’s putter and short game are the strengths of his and were working at their peak in his final two starts of 2018 — T23 and T29 to finish the year. For salary relief, there are worse options this week, and his proven ability to throw in a low round or two on this course gives him solid upside at a price that will let you fit in just about anyone.
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