Last week was a big success as we managed to have 9/10 targets make the cut and many of our ‘buy low’ guys came through with great performances. The lone disappointment, for the second week in a row I might add, was Mr. Lingmerth. Although the burly Swede is extremely talented, he’s struggling to find the ‘slot’ at the moment so we’ll leave him be for a few weeks until he regains his confidence and form. On the other hand, we had a large piece of another Swede, Jonas Blixt. Jonas played great golf all week long and finished solo 3rd while firing rounds of 67-69-67-69 to grab that beautiful 5 point bonus for having all four rounds under 70. Now, chucking last week in the backseat, let’s focus on this week’s Northern Trust Open at Riviera CC.
Riviera is somewhat of a quirky golf course. As we witnessed last year, when the course is wet, it can play extremely long. James Hahn managed to grab the 2015 title in a 3-way playoff over Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey at 6 under par. Four other players finished one shot back at 5 under par so we could have seen a rather massive playoff. This course can be stretched out to a shade over 7,300 yards but from what I’ve seen so far, the plan is to play it around 7,279 yards. Riviera holds a great collection of long and testy Par 4s that will be sure to have the eventual winner on his best game all week long. The fairways and rough are comprised of Kikuyu Grass which is native to Africa and grows quite rapidly with a very coarse texture. This has both a positive and negative impact on players as the majority of their balls that find the rough will manage to sit up well in the coarse grass but those that do nestle down will be very hard to gouge out. Riviera is also known for having small greens by today’s standards as the average size is just 5,000 sq. ft. These surfaces consist of a combination of Creeping Bentgrass and Poa Annua (bring on the putting splits!).
With course knowledge in tow, we can now move on to what I feel are the key stats we’ll need to focus on this week. With long and narrow fairways, there will be a premium on Total Driving. I find this stat very useful as it’s a combination of a players Driving Distance rank plus their Driving Accuracy rank, two extremely critical parts of the game this week. To further accentuate the importance of hitting the fairway this week, take a peek at this snippet from an interview with Jordan Spieth at last year’s Northern Trust Open:
Notice how Spieth implies the importance of FIR in both of his answers there. If that’s not convincing enough, you’re in the wrong sport. Now, once a player is successfully in the fairway, they will typically be challenged with a long second shot into the green. Fantasy Golf Metrics tweeted out a chart which displays the shot dispersion (in distance) for the last 10 years of this tournament:
That’s pretty telling stuff, isn’t it? For this reason, I feel the next grouping of stats we’re going to key in on are Proximity to the Hole from 150-175, 175-200, and >200 yards as 81.3% of a player’s shots are expected to occur in these ranges this week. I’ve seen a lot of sources go the route of making Ball Striking a key stat this week but I feel as though the above chart accentuates the importance of those three distance groups so it’s better to focus on them specifically. Proximity stats also only take into account balls that have hit the green in regulation so in a sense they themselves encompass a form of ball striking. Last but not least, we will again be focusing on Birdie or Better % this week as it’s the most effective method to climb a GPP leaderboard. Just in case you’re checking back on this for a quick key stats skim tonight, I will list them below:
- Total Driving
- Prox to the Hole from 150-175
- Prox to the Hole from 175-200
- Prox to the Hole from >200
- BoB% (Birdie or Better)
High End Targets ($9,000+)
• Jordan Spieth
Back to the well we go. Although Spieth had a mediocre tournament until Sunday’s final round last week, I feel he’s in a tremendous spot again this week. The world number one is in fine form has a ton of history at this venue. Looking at last week’s results, Spieth just simply didn’t make any birdie putts. The young American finished the week with only 6 bogeys so it’s not as though he was hacking it around, he just couldn’t find the cup when it counted. One of Spieth’s biggest weapons this week is his familiarity with this track. During his Tuesday presser, Spieth mentioned that between the collegiate and professional ranks he estimates to have played nearly 30 rounds on this course. In his last two appearances here hes finished T4 and T12 (missing a 6′ putt on 18 to join last year’s playoff). According to Fantasy Golf Metrics’ Custom Ranking Dashboard, Spieth is 4th in BoB% which is a massive plus to a guy who already knows the course extremely well. In an interesting pricing move, Rory and Spieth are the exact same this week and I will certainly have pieces of them both but for the purpose of this article, I would move in the direction of Spieth if you needed to go with one over the other.
• Justin Rose
Rosey stepped up in a big way last week and finished in a tie for 6th at Pebble Beach. He was one of a multitude of prolific pros to miss the cut at the gongshow that was the Farmers Insurance Open this year. The smooth-swinging Englishman rolls into Riviera CC with a lovely combination of skills to make it work. FGM has Rose coming in ranked 15th in Total Driving, 6th in BoB%, 86th in Prox from 150-175, 74th in Prox from 175-200, and 12th in Prox from >200 yards. What really excites me about Rose this week lies within in his putting splits. On Poa/Bent greens, Rose has managed to make 78% of his cuts, gain 16.4 DK points against the field on average, and hold a +0.320 Strokes Gained Putting margin. All of which are elite numbers.
• Adam Scott
Scott hasn’t played the Northern Trust Open since 2013 where he finished T10 on the heels of a T17 finish the previous year. The supremely talented UNLV product boasts a tremendous skill set for Riviera and I’m hoping we can grab him at a bargain percentage this week as I expect the masses to pay the extra $100 and move up to Charl Schwartzel (Schwartzel is a great play as well). FGM has Scott rating out 55th in Total Driving, 56th in BoB%, 80th in Prox from 150-175, 10th in 175-200, and 5th in >200. The Aussie makes 78.9% of his cuts on Poa/Bent greens and gains an incredible 18.6 DK points against the field on average. Scott could very easily be a GPP winning play this week if the chips fall correctly and we get him at a low ownership percentage.
Mid Range Targets ($8,900 – $7,000)
• Fredrik Jacobson
Freddie comes into Riviera riding a hot streak. The supreme putter from Sweden has been making everything he looks at of late and it has helped him secure two straight T4 finishes at the Farmers and Pebble Beach last week. The first thing that jumped out to me was his odds vs salary rating of +6, that’s simply too much value for a player in this kind of form. Prior to missing the cut in his last appearance here, Jacobson had finished T3 and T13 in his previous two years. Although his Total Driving is a bit concerning as he ranks 126th, he bounces back with well rounded stats in BoB% (31st), Prox to the Hole from 150-175 (50th), and 175-200 (40th). Freddie is making 64.6% of his cuts on Poa/Bent greens and gains an astonishing 1.538 stroke putting. Ride the hot hand while it’s hot.
• Keegan Bradley
Arguably the biggest geek on Tour, Keegan still makes for a strong play this week. We haven’t heard much from the St. John’s University product of late but he managed to string together some solid rounds at the Waste Management a few weeks ago and land himself a T24 finish. Surely to be very low owned, Bradley is a guy I love for his Poa/Bent splits this week. He’s made 75.6% of his cuts on these surfaces, gains an average of 13.7 DK points on the field, and holds a +0.935 SGP rating. His FGM rank in Total Driving is 5th and although he struggles at times to make birdies, he will likely be setting himself up well this week with Proximity ranks of 72nd from 150-175, 44th from 175-200, and 83rd from >200. I really like Keegan as a low owned option for GPPs this week.
• Danny Lee
Dannyboy hasn’t enjoyed a ton of success at this tournament in his two trips here having missed the cut in 2012 and finishing T69 last year. If you can recall however, Lee really only found his form weeks after this event last year. Although I’m considering him a strict GPP play, I’m still excited about how well Lee matches up this week as he comes in ranked 18th in Total Driving, 16th in BoB%, 9th in Prox to the Hole from 150-175, 125th from 175-200, and 49th in >200. Danny hits the ball very high which will only helps his cause this week as the greens tend to become extremely firm as the week wears on (see Spieth’s snippet from the intro). Having made 55.2% of his cuts and attaining a +0.580 SGP rating on Poa/Bent greens I feel as though Lee presents himself as a strong tournament flier this week. Similar to a lot of the Asian born players where they tend to bring themselves to life on the bigger stages, this week’s star-studded field could have Danny rolling and providing us with a cheap treat.
Low End Targets (<$7,000)
• Charley Hoffman
Charley is finally trending in the right direction. He has made his last two cuts on Tour and has actually made his last three cuts at this tournament as well finishing T30, T12, and T68. I’ve seen Charley go deep on courses before and although this track doesn’t lend itself to a low number, I think he can do some damage if he continues to trend upward like he has been. Hoffman has made 71% of his cuts on Poa/Bent surfaces and gains an average of 9.0 DK points on the field. A solid driver of the ball and a well versed mid-iron player, I’m hopeful we can catch Charley in a comfortable place this weekend and ride him to some very affordable glory.
• Stewart Cink
The former (somehow??) British Open champ is looking like the ‘steal of the week’ to me. Cink comes into Riviera off a T21 performance at Pebble Beach last week where he racked up 81 DK points. FGM has Cink ranked 20th in Total Driving, 21st in BoB%, 40th in Prox to the Hole from 150-175, 51st from 175-200, and 87th from >200 yards. Those are some appealing stats for a $6,700 scrub. Cink has also enjoyed some incredible success on Poa greens as he’s managed to make 72.6% of his cuts in 124 starts. He gains a glorious 1.256 strokes putting on those same surfaces as well. Having accumulated over $10M dollars on these greens in his career, I’d say Cink is looking like a fine bet to sneak your team up the leaderboards this week.
All stats quoted in this article are a product of FGM and can be found here:
Best of luck to all competitors this weekend!