144 of the PGA Tour’s top professionals begin their Florida swing this week at the 2016 Honda Classic at PGA National Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens. Thirteen of the top twenty-five golfers in the world will tee it up this week which is sure to set the tone for a thrilling week of action. PGA National is known for being one of the hardest tests of golf the players will face each year. Jack Nicklaus redesigned the original layout to make it more challenging for players and reworked the 15th-17th holes in such difficult fashion that they are now deemed “The Bear Trap” and can ruin a leaderboard in just a few swings. Last year, wily veteran Padraig Harrington claimed the crown in a Monday playoff over the eventual Rookie of the Year, Daniel Berger.
PGA National has a lot of similar qualities to Waialae Country Club which plays host to the Sony Open every year in January so it would be smart to look for players who excel on that course as well as success on the two tracks can be quite closely correlated. This course always plays tough and doesn’t leave much in the way of bailouts or safe-zones for players. It’s not overly long by any means at a shade over 7,100 yards; however the course plays as a par 70 so there’s plenty of Par 3 & 4 involvement here. With that knowledge, we’re going to focus on some very simple stats this week to give ourselves a strong chance at these GPPs:
- Strokes Gained Tee to Green (SG-T2G)
- Strokes Gained Putting (SGP)
- Birdie or Better% (BoB%)
Simply put, you need to strike the ball well all the way through this course to be successful and give yourself any sort of chance to win. As such, we’ll focus our attention on the guys who excel in Tee to Green game as SG-T2G is the truest form of Ball-Striking there is. Putting is of utmost importance week after week so Strokes Gained Putting is something we really want to focus on this week. Lastly, if a player is putting well, they’re likely making a lot of birdies and birdies are essential to climbing those GPP leaderboards so Birdie or Better% makes it’s weekly appearance. Course History and Recent Form are always of importance and something I consistently use to compare two specific players so they cannot go unmentioned. As always, stats quoted below are taken from Fantasy Golf Metrics‘ useful tools such as: Putting Splits, Player Comparison, and Custom Rankings Dashboard. Without further ado, let’s take a look at some targets.
High End Targets ($9,000+)
• Rory McIlroy
There’s this tiny glimmer of hope this week that we can catch an ownership break on Rory. Last week, we had an interesting dynamic with Rory and Spieth being priced exactly the same. This week, we have a similar but not quite the same situation as Rickie is the next most expensive golfer on the slate at $800 cheaper. I can see a lot of people fanboying Rickie at the cheaper price given his recent form but those people would likely be naive to the success Rory was having overseas before returning to America and posting a “mediocre” T20 finish last week. You can never underestimate the novice level of most PGA DFS participants in that they will more often than not go to the player pool and select 6 guys with the highest FPPG marks. With Rickie sitting below Rory and showing 12.8 more FPPG, Adam Scott off his hot tournament last week and showing 19.4 more FPPG, and Brendan Grace being $2,200 cheaper and showing 21.7 FPPG more, I will not be surprised to see Rory the lowest owned of those three. Don’t get me wrong, I love Adam Scott this week and think Rickie could have a good tournament but I can’t pass up Rory when he displayed some great play last week and just didn’t get the putts to drop. Rory has been running extremely hot of late with a +4.655 SG-T2G rating, +1.232 SGP rating, and 23.6% BoB. In 36 starts on Bermuda hes made 83.8% of his cuts and has gained 24.7 DK points against the field. That is plenty for me to take the #3 ranked golfer in the world.
• Phil Mickelson
Buckle up, we’re going with Phil! This is a play that can either make us heroes and have the ladies takin’ cheeky peeks at our bankrolls or blow up in our face and make us look foolish. Phil is the type of player that is so well suited for GPPs it’s insane. He makes an ungodly amount birdies week to week and that’s exactly the type of player we want and need to target in these large field GPPs. Lefty had been tinkering with his swing a bit in the off season and he says he feels like he’s able to hit every shot imaginable. That’s a scary thought for a guy who already had arguably the best imagination in golf aside from Bubba and Tiger. Phil comes into the Honda with a Strokes Gained Tee to Green mark of +3.631 over his last 10 Tour events which is a remarkable number. His putting has been lights out as he’s gaining an average of +2.174 strokes on the field. And, as previously mentioned, Phil is making this run with an absurd Birdie or Better rate of 28.5%. Thirsty from his heartbreaking loss to Vaughn Taylor at Pebble Beach, I want a lot of Mickelson this week.
• Brooks Koepka
Brooksy is back this week and looking strong. Koepka has played this event the previous two years and hasn’t been overly successful but hasn’t shat the bed by any means either with a T33 in ’14 and a T51 last year. This young lad is coming into the Honda Classic in fine form as his first three starts of the 2016 calendar year have resulted in finishes of T3 (Hyundai), T41 (Phoenix), and T8 (Pebble). The Florida State Seminole is strong from tee to green as hes gained an average of +1.240 strokes against the field in the last 10 Tour events. Brooks’ putting has really separated him of late however as he has gained an amazing +3.844 against the field on the greens. With a positive SG-T2G rating and an extremely positive SGP mark, you can safely assume Brooks has been pouring in the birdies and you’d be absolutely right. Over the last 10 weeks on Tour, Koepka ranks numero uno in Birdie or Better percentage with an incredible 29.1%. Feed me these numbers all week long, Brooksy.
Mid Range Targets ($8,900 – $7,000)
• Ryan Palmer
Palmer has been a horse for this course in recent years. In his four visits here from 2012-2015, Palmer has never finished outside of the Top 41; including a T2 showing here in 2014. I love Palmer on DK because he has the ability to run in so many birdies, and on a week where I don’t feel like there’s a “ton” out there he could be a huge play. His overall tee to green game is very solid as he’s currently running with a 10 week rolling average of +2.134 SG-T2G. The A&M Aggie is a strong putter regardless of the surface and rolls the rock to the tune of +0.601 SGP on Bermuda greens. Making 68.1% of his cuts on Bermuda, Palmer is a strong bet to play the weekend. His affinity for making cuts can likely be contributed to his tremendous BoB rate of 27.1% over his last 10 Tour events. That’s a startling number that is bested by only eight other golfers. Palmer sticks out to me as a very strong tournament option this week.
• Jason Dufner
My main reason for being very high on Dipner this week? He’s simply far too cheap for a player of his quality and ability. With a +5 salary versus odds delta, Duf should be 100% owned this week. In his last three appearances at the Honda Classic, Dufner has grabbed finishes of T51, T51 and T17. Remember the earlier comment on the Sony Open’s Waialae GC being a corollary course to PGA National? Well, the Auburn Tiger finished a smooth T9 at this year’s Sony. As with any week, it all comes down to putting for Dufner. On the year, he’s losing an atrocious -2.039 strokes to the field in the putting department. However, using the trusty putting splits tool on Fantasy Golf Metrics, we can see that Dufner actually putts far better on Bermuda greens losing only -0.432 strokes to the field. Everything about these surfaces has Dufner looking up as his cuts made percentage is up 14.5% to 76.9% overall; he’s making 30.3% of his 10′-15′ putts which is the money range; and Duf is scoring BoB on 20.4% of his Bermuda greens. I’m a massive fan of Dufner this week.
• Gary Woodland
Typically a poor putter by Tour standards, Gary has found some form the last little while and has been able to harness it into some solid play. With a career average of giving strokes back to the field through putting, Woodland has managed to coddle this recent form on the greens and turn it into a favorable +0.340 SGP rating. Woodland finished T6 at this event all the way back in 2011 and then returned to the venue in 2013 where he posted a T63 finish. An absolute masher of the ball, I think Woodland’s game is setting up strong for this event. The Kansas Jayhawk has been very hot on Tour of late as his SG-T2G numbers are off the charts good at +5.028. Anyone who is hitting the ball with that level of consistency is someone who needs to be heavily considered. His form has shone through in his first four starts of the 2016 calendar year as well as he’s managed to post finishes of T13 (Sony – corollary), T18 (Farmers), T33 (Phoenix), and T26 last week at the Northern Trust. Last week’s venue, Riviera, demands high quality tee shots much like PGA National does this week so to have Gary rolling in here off a favorable performance is a big plus. With 71.6% of cuts made in 67 starts on Bermuda greens and a 24.3% BoB over his last 10 Tour events, I love Woodland this week.
• Charles Howell III
Much the same as Dufner, CH3 is just insanely cheap this week. Chucky Three Sticks has made 5 straight cuts here at the Honda which shows he’s comfortable on this course. During that stretch, the OK State product wasn’t in nearly the form he is today which has me even more puzzled. After opening the Northern Trust with a 67 last week, he tailed off quite poorly with three consecutive rounds in the 70s so that likely has something to do with his pricing inefficiency. Still, I’m in no way convinced that this guy is a $7,500 player and according to FGM’s Player Comparison Tool, CH3 has maintained an average price of $8,971 over his last 10 Tour events. That’s some stellar value this week. The American matches up just fine to this course as well as he holds a +1.363 SG-T2G mark, +1.240 SGP (+0.604 of that coming on Bermuda), and 23.8% BoB%. Chuck has made 77.6% of his cuts on Bermuda over 155 starts and has turned that into nearly $11.1M in earnings. Fire him up.
Low End Targets (<$7,000)
• Jeff Overton
Let me be the first to say, I haven’t considered rostering Jeff Overton, ever. Secondary to that, I really don’t think you need to reach down to these sub $7k guys this week as the other price tiers are loaded with talent and viable plays. However, if you find the need to stoop down here, please watch this video of Overton and Bubba getting FIRED UP after Overton bins an Eagle from the fairway in the 2010 Ryder Cup. They celebrate like absolute losers! I think Bubba is still shimmying his leg and fist pumping down that fairway. Sick shot though at a clutch point in the match being 2 down, so I’ll certainly give him credit for that. Anyway, back to the important things in life, DFS. So, Overton actually has some really favorable numbers working for him this week as he’s putting well to the tune of +1.936 SGP over the last 10 weeks. He’s dropping a fair amount of birdies as a result with a 21.7% BoB rating. Although he is dealing with a wrist injury which makes him all the more volatile, Overton is still viable at this scrub price range. Having gone 5/5 in cuts made his last five trips here, including a T7 last year, I can see myself loading the front end of my roster and tossing a piece or two of Overton in to fill the gaps.
• Ben Crane
Ben Crane has actually been playing some decent golf to start the 2016 year out and hes also managed to make four consecutive cuts here which is far more than most guys in this price range can say so we’re going to give him a shot. Crane is a stellar putter and that has obviously been playing a huge role in his recent attempt to return to form. His tee to green game has been solid as he’s hanging onto a positive rating of +0.694 in SG-T2G. Crane’s putting splits on Bermuda are massive as he’s gaining +1.724 strokes over the field in 101 starts. FGM has Crane making 68.4% of his cuts on these same surfaces which is a much better percentage than most others in the scrub category. With a respectable BoB over the last ten events of 21.6%, I could see Crane finding his way to the weekend. If he does that, who knows what could happen from there.
All stats quoted in this article are a product of FGM and can be found here:
Best of luck to all competitors this weekend!