This week marks the last major event on the PGA TOUR schedule with the Presidents Cup competition. Two 12-man teams will square off as the Americans and Internationals will do battle in match-play format over the course of four days.
The International side is the host squad this week and the host venue is the Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Victoria, Australia. This will be the third time the Royal Melbourne has hosted the competition with prior appearances coming back in 2011 and 1998. It’s been a place of significance for the International side as their only win in this competition came back in 1998, when they blew out the Americans 20 ½ to 11 ½.
Royal Melbourne will play as a Par 71 and measures in at approximately 7,055 yards. It’s set up a little bit differently than most traditional Par 71s, though, as it features just two Par 5s and three Par 3s. Given the weather and heat in Australia at this time of year, some windy conditions should be expected, and the large greens look set to play firm and fast. While the venue isn’t overly long, the elevation changes, natural defenses and the plethora of natural bunkering should turn this into a tough test for the players, and you may even see a war of attrition break out with par winning many holes.
For DraftKings purposes, since scoring is centered around winning holes (+3 Pts) and matches (+5 Pts), we’ll be looking more closely at players who have good match-play records, solid recent form and will be likely to play in four or more matches this week. Players also get points for holes halved (+0.75 Pts), holes not played in a win (+1.6 Pts) and 3 hole winning streaks (+5 Pts), meaning opportunity is everything this week and making the players who will get a shot at playing in all five matches very valuable DraftKings targets.
Justin Thomas ($10,800)
Thomas is coming into this week’s competition off a fall season which saw him collect a win at the CJ Cup and land two other top-5 finishes, including a T5 at the Hero World Challenge last week. The No. 3 player in the world rankings, he’s clearly the top choice for the American squad and boosts a 7-2-1 record for the United States over the last two international competitions. Second in both Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and Approach stats on the PGA last year, Thomas shouldn’t have much trouble dealing with whatever conditions Royal Melbourne throws out. The class of the field, he’s likely to play in all five matches, and Thomas will have a great shot at being the leading scorer this week on DraftKings.
Louis Oosthuizen ($8,800)
Oosthuizen has been on the last two International sides and both times played in all five matches, while also leading the International side in scoring — including going 4-0-1 in 2015. Oosthuizen also comes in with experience playing in Australia, as he not only finished solo 2nd last week in the Australia Open in Sydney, but he also won an international event in Perth in 2016. To top things off here, he comes in with scintillating form having finished T6 or better in three of his last four starts. Even though he’ll be lining up against the powerhouse Americans, Oosthy sets up as a solid Captain’s selection for DraftKings play this week.
Webb Simpson ($7,400)
Simpson is one of the few Americans who has played multiple events this fall, and his overall form and experience suggests he could be in for a busy week in Australia. T7 at the Shriners and a playoff loss at the RSM Classic, Webb has shown no let down from a 2018-2019 season that saw him make 20/21 cuts and record three runner-up finishes. It’s worth noting that Webb was one of the only Americans to finish with a winning record at the 2018 Ryder Cup (2-1) and could be leaned on heavily here as a result. He’s $3,400 cheaper than team leader Justin Thomas, and he represents a great value on DraftKings.
Tony Finau ($5,400)
With this being Finau’s second international appearance for the U.S. team I feel safe projecting a larger role for big Finau, who went 2-1 for the US in the 2018 Ryder Cup. The big rolling fairways of Royal Melbourne should be extremely beneficial for Finau’s off-the-tee game, and it’s notable that he’s found success on similar venues like Augusta National straight away. With Dustin Johnson still recovering from knee surgery and Brooks Koepka out, I’d expect Tiger Woods to look to Finau to carry a big load this week, as his high birdie rate and intimidating power certainly makes for a very deadly match-play combination.
Cameron Smith ($6,000)
Smith’s inclusion on the squad and local knowledge could certainly be a big factor for the International squad. The Australian is making his President’s Cup debut this week but has experience playing around the sun-belt courses of Melbourne and possess a stellar short-game that will come in handy on the large and firm green complexes this week. He was 34th in Birdie or Better % on the PGA last season, and if Smith starts out well for the Internationals, he could push to play in four or more matches as his team will certainly be looking to ride whichever rookie handles the pressure the best this week.
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