The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.
The FieldWelcome back to DraftKings Fantasy Golf! The 2019 season opens with a smaller field event in Hawaii, the Sentry Tournament of Champions. The Tournament of Champions is an event which, as its name suggests, features only players who won an official PGA Tour event last season. Fortunately for us, most of the big-name players have decided to start their season here with the exception of a few holdouts, including Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose. Those three no-shows aside, we have a stellar field which includes Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy, who will surprisingly be making his first start at this event/course despite having qualified for it the last six years. Cameron Champ, Aaron Wise and Kevin Tway are some of the other first-timers making their debut in Kapula this weekend. The 34-man field now looks set, unless there’s some last-second withdraws, and with no cut to worry about this week, DFS players should be looking to maximize birdies and eagles from their players over the four days here as bonus points will be crucial to getting separation.
The CourseThe Plantation Course—Kapula, Maui (Hawaii)
Par 73, 7400-7500 yards
Before we go any further, no that is not a misprint… this course is actually a par 73 and is the only one of its kind on the PGA Tour. There are four par 5’s on the Plantation course but only three par 3’s which accounts for the odd par total. While this track is certainly what you could call “wind-exposed”, that hasn’t stopped players from absolutely blitzing it almost every year. In 2016 and 2017, it ranked as the easiest overall venue on tour, with the field averaging nearly three strokes under par on it over the course of the tournament, and last year it ranked fifth-easiest on Tour, playing to -1.779 strokes under par for the week.
In terms of setup, the Plantation course offers a wide variety of hole-layouts, with wide fairways and larger than normal greens being a mainstay of venue. Three of the four par 5’s are very reachable in two for the entire field, but the 18th is a behemoth at 663 yards and can play as one of the more difficult holes if the wind is up. Likewise, the course features six par 4’s that come in under 400 yards (including a drivable 305-yard hole), but also features three that are over 500 yards in length. Players will have to score in a variety of situations this week, but there will be plenty of opportunities for birdies here if the wind stays somewhat down (see below for early forecast).
In terms of what player’s are best suited to the Plantation Course, as a venue it has very much gravitated towards a putting contest, with players needing to convert on their birdie chances. Winners here are averaging well above tour average in birdie or better percentage for the week—last year’s winner Dustin Johnson led the field at a 33% clip Strokes Gained: Putting. Driving Distance has not been a huge factor here as the field driving average has, over time, been well below Tour average in other events. It’s also interesting to note that despite the course being lengthy players like Zach Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Webb Simpson have all had a ton of success here.
The larger undulating Bermuda greens have either been a blessing or a curse for most players here and the ones who can figure out how to roll it best and scramble well from green side have generally been the ones to go super-low at Kapula. It’s a less than traditional course to start the season but with the open venue and Hawaiian elements thrown-in, it always makes for an interesting week for scoring.
2019 Update: The weather the first two-days for this year’s event looks interesting as winds are forecast to reach up to 20mph (with gusts possibly much higher) on Thursday and they could reach as high as 25 mph on Friday. This isn’t completely out of the norm, however, and some poorer weather helped keep scores relatively worse than normal last year, although the winner still hit 22-under par. The weekend, however, looks much better this year as winds are forecast to die down and may not even reach double-digits on Sunday. Look for some great weekend scoring conditions and for some low scores on the final two-days of the event, which could lead to a “back of the pack” winner if things break right.
Last 5 winners2018 — Dustin Johnson -24 (over Jon Rahm -16)
2017 — Justin Thomas, -22 (over Hideki Matsuyama -19)
2016 — Jordan Spieth, -30 (over Patrick Reed -22)
2015 — Patrick Reed, -21 (over Jimmy Walker playoff)
2014 — Zach Johnson, -19 (over Jordan Spieth -18)
Winning Trends– The last eight winners of this event had all played this event at least once prior to their victory.
– Six of the last seven defending champions have all finished seventh or better in their title defense (only exception is Justin Thomas last year—22nd).
Key StatsBirdie or Better %
Proximity to Hole
Par 5 Scoring
Winners at the Plantation Course have averaged a 34.9% birdie or better percentage and a SG: Putting total of +3.9 strokes gained on the field (via fantasygolfmetrics.com). This is compared to a 30.32% and +3.5 SG: putting average for winners at other venues. Since these are much higher than tour averages of winners at other venues it puts both of these stats at the forefront here.
The Plantation Course also tends to be more of a second shot course as winners have tended to post lower average Driving Distance and gain less strokes off the tee here than at other venues. On the flip side however, proximity to the hole and Greens in Regulation Percentage is generally much higher. As such Proximity is a stat to monitor this week.
Given the course has four par fives emphasizing Par 5 scoring here as a stat also makes sense. Strokes Gained: Tee to Green tends to be a constant stat to monitor every week, however, it’s worth noting that its deemphasized a tad here with the emphasis on putting as winners have actually tended to rank below tour average in Tee to Green stats compared to winners at other venues.
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.
– Webb Simpson ($8,500) and 22-1
– Xander Schauffele ($8,300) and 22-1
– Francesco Molinari ($8,400) and 22-1
HORSES FOR COURSE1. Patrick Reed (best finishes: win in 2015, 2nd 2016, 6th 2017): This will be Reed’s fifth appearance at the TOC with his worst finish being his debut in 2014 when he finished T16. After a year off, he’s deserving of the top H-for-C’s spot with three top-tens and a win here in his last three starts.
2. Dustin Johnson (best finishes: win in 2018, win 2013, 6th 2017/2014): Dustin is a close second this week as he’s the only two-time champion in the field and hasn’t finished worse than 10th here in his last six appearances. It’s worth noting that the last defending champion for this event came in 2010 (Geoff Ogilvy).
3. Brandt Snedeker (best finishes: 3rd in 2016 and 2013): Snedeker’s well-deserving of a shout-out in this column this week as his last four appearances at Kapula have seen him finish no worse than T14. Two top-5’s here and a great overall Hawaiian PGA record makes him an interesting target this week.
4. Jason Day (best finishes: 3rd in 2015, 9th 2011, 10th 2016): Day only has one top 5 finish here in four appearances, but he’s been consistent with his worse finish being a T12 from 2017. The wide fairways and emphasis on putting suit his style of game well.
Recent Form1. Jon Rahm: Rahm comes into this week’s event on a bit of a roll as he took down the last major event of the year, the Tiger Hero Challenge, and was also T4 at the Euro Tour’s World Championship event in November. He’ll look to build on his second-place finish here from last season this week.
2. Marc Leishman: Leishman put together an impressive end of season run, finishing second at the Australian PGA Championship, while also capturing his first PGA Tour win of the year at the CIMB Classic the month prior. He started well here last before fading to T7 but should be on the fantasy radar.
3. Cameron Champ: Champ’s Fall season was one to remember as the rookie recorded three top 10’s on the PGA, which included his first PGA Tour win at the Sanderson Farm event. This week will be his first visit to Kapula but the wide-open fairways could mean his prestigious length gives him a real shot at making a quick impact.
DFS StrategyCash Games: Easy to fit in DJ with lots of lower-tier options
It’s hard to argue against starting cash games with Dustin Johnson ($11,000), especially since the lower-tiers of players don’t have much talent gap between them. Windy conditions would also likely favor DJ who handled rougher winds here last year very well. Beyond that, Rahm ($9,800), DeChambeau ($8,700) and Reed ($8,200) all look like solid targets too based off good recent form and course history (see above). DeChambeau only finished T26 here last season but has reeled off three wins in a short time-period since last August and seems like a completely different player compared to last year at this time. Other targets for this format include Marc Leishman ($7,700), Charles Howell III ($7,100), and Scott Piercy ($6,700).
Tournaments: Koepka possibly overlooked and undervalued in pricing
Brooks Koepka ($10,200) has reached number one in the world but he’s continued to be disrespected in the DraftKings pricing as he’s only the fourth most expensive player this week. It should be noted that he was playing injured here last year when he finished DFL for the week but was T3 here back on his other appearance in 2016. Xander Schauffele ($8,300) may also have much lower ownership than many in his tier and ended the year on a nice run. Other big field tournament targets this week include Jason Day ($9,000), Aaron Wise ($7,500), Brandt Snedeker ($7,400), Kevin Tway ($6,500), Brice Garnett ($6,400) and Satoshi Kodaira ($6,000).
My Pick: Jon Rahm ($9,800)This field is stacked and choosing winners in stacked fields is never easy, but for me it’s hard to ignore Rahm this week in conditions that should prove very fruitful for his game. The Spaniard has now won six times world-wide since 2017 and all but one of those wins have seen him approach a winning score of 19-under or better. Safe to say, he loves a birdie-fest and that’s pretty much the best way to describe this week’s event, which pits players against non-penal fairways and some larger green structures. Rahm finished well back of Dustin Johnson here last year, at 16-under, but the fact he placed solo-2nd and shot six strokes better on the weekend than he did on his opening two rounds, suggests he was slowly coming to grips with the quirky design. Rahm’s coming off a nice end of the season too where he finished top 5 in the European closer and then won in dominate fashion at the Hero World Challenge, which is played at another wide-open, tropical venue. After landing a win at the last big event of 2018, Rahm should be full of confidence for this opener and ready to make a run at winning some more significant trophies in 2019. Taking out this star-studded field would certainly get him off to a great start in that regard.
My Sleeper: Aaron Wise ($7,500)Wise is a bit of a roll-of-the-dice play in this field, but his pedigree suggests his upside makes him worth the risk. Last season’s rookie of the year ended the year on a serious roll, placing T16 or better in five of his last six PGA Tour events, a run which included him gaining a spot at the year-end Tour Championship. His sights should be set a bit higher this week and there’s some reason to think he could take to this venue right away. Wise’s ability to go low has always been evident and the fact his two previous pro-wins have come at 21-under par and 23-under par are good indications he’ll have no issues with the likely birdie-fest in store for this week. He ranked 3rd in Par 4 birdie or better percentage and 13th in overall birdie or better percentage last season and should be looking to ride that late season momentum into some good finishes early in 2019. The bottom-line is that Wise has serious potential and once he comes to realize it, he’ll be challenging in these sorts of fields regularly, making him a player to watch for the new-year and a nice sleeper play for the first event of 2019.
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.