What did we just witness at The Masters? Golf is a sport such that it’s not completely unrealistic to see a player crumble under the pressures of a Major Championship but to see it happen to such a rock solid and proven player is truly shocking. Somewhere deep inside our sick, sadistic souls, I know we all cracked the cheekiest of smiles when Spieth flubbed his reload from the drop zone on 12 as we’ve all done that many, many times before and it allowed us as viewers to enjoy a truly classic Masters finish. In the end, this will not be the last time we see Spieth in contention at a Major and it certainly won’t be the last heartbreaking defeat of what is sure to be a long and storied career for the young Texan.
The TOUR pulls into Hilton Head, South Carolina this week for the RBC Heritage. While the adored Green Jacket was handed out last week, a gruesome Plaid Jacket will go to this week’s victor. Since this tournament moved into the post-Masters slot in 1983, only six players have won here without having played at Augusta the week prior. And although 4/6 have done so in the past 10 years, I think it’s worth noting that history has certainly favored the Masters participants.
Harbour Town Golf Links is a special venue as it’s one of the most remarkable pieces of land players step foot on all season long. Short to the eye at just 7,100 yards, this track is widely considered to be a yardstick of modern design. Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus composed this course and brought forth their love for small greens and narrow fairways. A lot of similarities can be found between the greens of TPC Sawgrass, Muirfield Village and Harbour Town, all of which were designed by these two gentlemen. Adroit contours are woven throughout which makes putting all the more difficult here. From my experience with this tournament (and basically every other tournament on the schedule), players who putt well from 10′-15′ will find themselves at or near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday evening. In order to give ourselves the best shot at predicting who will achieve success in this range, we’ll be using our staple tool, Fantasy Golf Metrics’ Putting Splits Analyzer. Taking a step back, players will be forced to strike a slew of precise irons this week in order to give themselves those 10′-15′ looks. Have a peek at the chart below which was produced by FGM in which they’ve compiled data from the last 10 years of this event to show shot dispersion by distance:
To no ones surprise, the lowest percentage on the chart comes from over 200 yards away. With 54.9% of all shots coming from 150-200 yards, it’s safe to say that this is a distance gap in which we’d like to target the most proficient players. To uncover these players, I’ll be using FGM’s Yardage Gap Tool which allows you to select a predefined distance range and provides you with percentages on Birdie or Better, Strokes Gained, and Greens in Regulation, just to name a few. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of accuracy this week as these greens truly are some of the smallest and hardest to hold so this tool will prove to be an extremely valuable piece. Coupled with the accuracy talk, is Driving Accuracy. I have been grinding this course on Tiger Woods 10 the past week or so with my good buddy and created player, Gus, and have found the significance of finding the fairways here to be insane as the amount of trees that guard these tight holes can make for some very nasty and difficult approaches out of the rough. Now, I understand none of these TOUR pros are even close to the skill level of Gus as he’s an absolute skux on the links so I wouldn’t necessarily say a player can’t win or compete here by not covering all of these key areas but we can be damn sure 2/3 will have to be checked off by the eventual winner. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at our studs.
High End Targets ($10,000+)
• Paul Casey
Fresh off his Sunday push at The Masters, Casey walks in here as one of the odds on favorites at 14:1. As we saw on Sunday, Casey was able to flight his ball beautifully and thus flag his approaches which gave him several wonderful looks for birdie. The Englishman’s last appearance here was in 2014 when he finished in a tie for 18th at three under par. Ranking 63rd in Driving Accuracy, there’s a strong chance Casey, who hits the ball long, will be able to gear down and resort to a fair amount of 3-wood action off the tee to assist in finding the fairway this week. As one of the top ball-strikers on TOUR, Paul has found 75% of his greens from 150-175 yards and 70.1% from 175-200 yards. Once on the green, hes managed to gain +.454 strokes on Bermuda surfaces and roll in 30.2% of his 10′-15′ putts. With a string of recent strong finishes in tow, I’m extremely high on Casey this week.
• Brandt Snedeker
Sneds teased the shit out of me last weekend as I really thought he was in a great spot to produce a charge but he just went stagnant on Saturday and early Sunday which ultimately thwarted his chances of climbing the leaderboard more rapidly. With a rough-ish Driving Accuracy rating of 120th, the Vanderbilt product can hopefully rely on his trusty iron play and incredible putter to bring him success this week. Sneds hits 76.9% of his greens from 150-175 yards and converts those to Birdie or Better 18.5% of the time. As expected, his GIR% drops from 175-200 yards down to 60.3% which is still extremely impressive. Once on the greens, this guy is incredible. On Bermuda surfaces, he’s gained 1.486 strokes and rolls in 33.4% of his 10′-15′ putts. A truly astounding conversion rate. Five for his last five in cuts made here, including a win in 2011, I expect to see Sneds kicking around the lead come Sunday.
• Zach Johnson
ZJ had a pretty bizarre and short finish to his 2016 Masters. After completing his second round in which he was just inside the cut line, he was assessed a two stroke penalty for grazing the water on his backswing which dropped him one shot outside the final cut line. This was even more disappointing as we were heavy on ZJ last week. The Drake University product from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, comes to the RBC Heritage ranked 57th in Driving Accuracy. He manages to hit 75.8% of his greens from 150-175 yards and converts a BoB clip of 22.2% which I love to see. From 175-200, ZJ finds the putting surface 68.4% of the time and still manages a very respectable 14.2% BoB rate. Gaining 1.152 strokes on Bermuda greens and rolling in 29.9% of his 10′-15′ putts, it’s quite evident this man has the all-around game necessary to win any tournament.
Mid Range Targets ($9,900 – $8,000)
• Kevin Kisner
Our buddy Kiz lost a total heart breaker at last years’ RBC Heritage when Jimmy Furyk stuffed his tee shot to 7′ on the second playoff hole and binned the putt to close the door. In fact, Kisner lost three playoffs in total last year. With a new year, comes a new opportunity and I feel Kiz is in wonderful form to make another deep run at this event. 7th in Driving Accuracy, 70.4% GIR from 150-175, and 65.9% GIR from 175-200 (13.6% BoB rate). Kiz is a wonderfully steady putter as well at +.784 SGP and making 31.1% of his 10′-15′ putts. Activate the revenge tour for this insouciant Georgia Bulldog.
• Kevin Na
Kevin ‘The Cut Making Machine’ Na. This guy just gets it done week after week. Well, except for that one week in Texas. But seriously, Na chalked his way to another cut at The Masters last week in which he finished a pedestrian T55. Kevin has finished in the Top 10 in two of his last three trips here to Harbour Town and we’d love another this week. Ranking 51st in Driving Accuracy, hitting 74% of his greens from 150-175 (18% BoB), and 63.7% of his greens from 175-200 with an absurd 21.1% BoB rate. Na manages himself wonderfully on the greens as well as he gains 1.681 strokes on Bermuda surfaces and knocks in an incredible 33.9% of his 10′-15′ putts. Say ‘yes’ to Na this week.
• Jason Dufner
Dipner! Absolutely love this guy. Not only because he’s a total skux deluxe and has the pieces necessary to win week in and week out but mainly because I can still recall the 2010 PGA Championship final round in which he tossed a massive lip in and proceeded to drool a huge string of chew spit onto his lovely pink shirt. What a beauty. Duf rolls into Hilton Head having missed the cut at The Masters last week but I’m feeling strongly about his ability to rebound this week as this course sets up so well for his game. The Auburn Tiger ranks 60th in Driving Accuracy which, as we previously stated, is a very important piece to success this week. 72.5% GIR from 150-175 and 67% from 175-200. Duf sinks 29.6% of his 10′-15′ putts and has enjoyed a nice string of paychecks here with 6/7 cuts made.
• Luke Donald
The former world #1 seems to be finding his game a bit this year as he’s posted some strong finishes against some good fields. Donald’s success here over the years cannot be argued as his last five appearances have resulted in finishes of: T15, 2nd, T3, T37, and 2nd again in 2011. A very strong ball-striker, Luke hits 81.5% of his greens from 150-175 yards and 60.3% of his greens from 175-200 yards. His putting stroke is strong right now as well as he gains 2.238 strokes and makes 30.5% of his 10′-15′ putts. I almost forgot, he’s also a member of Team RBC which seems to get a win here every damn year!
• Graham DeLaet
Another Team RBC guy, DeLaet just has a really good feel for me this week. The Canadian born, Boise State product has an extremely strong iron game from our focused distances. Graham finds the green 74.5% of the time from 150-175 yards and converts BoB 18.1% of the time. There’s nearly zero regression from 175-200 yards as he hits 72.2% of his greens. Once on the green, that’s always the scary part for Graham but hes made 25.5% of his 10′-15′ putts so if he can get that stroke going this week, who knows what could happen.
• Russell Knox
Russell Knox is simply one of the best ball-strikers on TOUR, hands down. You’ll find this lad at or near the top of nearly every statistical category pertaining to GIR, GIR off the Fairway, Ball Striking, etc. Russell comes to Harbour Town ranked 22nd in Driving Accuracy which bodes extremely well for his chances at success here. He hits an absurd 81.1% of his greens from 150-175 yards with a totally foolish 25.2% BoB clip. From 175-200, Knox finds pay dirt 64.8% of the time. The mystery with Knox sometimes falls on said greens however as he loses .123 strokes to the field on Bermuda greens. Such a figure is nearly negligible though with one good week so I wouldn’t read too much into it. He makes 30.4% of his 10′-15′ putts and has settled for T18 and T9 finishes in his two trips here thus far in his short career.
• Charles Howell III
Chucky Three Sticks is once again on our list of targets. A player as predictable as CH3 has to be in consideration week after week as he has such a predictable and safe floor. Although he didn’t play The Masters last week, CH3 finished T7 at the Shell Houston Open the week prior which continued his stretch of fine play in which he has only missed the cut in one of his last ten events. Chucky hits 69.9% of his GIR from 150-175 yards and a nearly identical 69.6% of his GIR from 175-200 yards. A +.599 SGP on Bermuda and 28% from 10′-15′ has the ultra-safe American in play for me this week.
• Marc Leishman
Leishman really pissed me off at The Masters when he absolutely folded down the stretch on Friday to miss the cut by a single shot like a loser but such a blowup is pretty uncharacteristic of the Australian so I don’t really have any lingering fears with rostering him this week. Simply put, I feel like his game matches up really well to this track and I want to make sure I don’t miss out. The thing I love about Leishman is his tendency to make a ton of birdies. He has such a deadly GPP combo in which he can go extremely low and he’s never priced as such a player. 47th in Driving Accuracy, 77.3% GIR from 150-175 with a 21.3% BoB clip, and 56.5% GIR from 175-200, Leishman is a real threat this week. His +.099 SGP on Bermuda is basically negligible but his 30.4% make rate on 10′-15′ putts is the real deal.
Low End Targets (<$8,000)
• Scott Brown
Scott Brown has enjoyed some success here at Harbour Town as he’s 3/3 in cuts made with a T5 in 2014. He’s currently riding a streak of six straight cuts made on the season and looks to improve on that total this week. Brown has a very well balanced game that leads to his success on tracks such as this. 75th in Driving Accuracy, 77.8% GIR from 150-175 (17.8% BoB), and 60.6% GIR from 175-200 with a very respectable 13.8% BoB rate. Scotty gains .266 strokes on Bermuda surfaces and bins 26.7% of his 10′-15′ putts. If the USC-Aiken product can continue with his recent form, he should have no problems paying off his low end salary.
• K.J. Choi
The General is back!!! K.J. is a 45 year old veteran who knows his way around practically every course on TOUR and hes been showing some glimpses of form this season. Such a short course fits this man’s game perfectly as he won’t be tasked with slapping hybrids and woods into greens that his opponents have mid-irons into. K.J. builds his game on precision and that’s exactly what this course calls for. Ranking 39th in Driving Accuracy, hitting 65.9% of his greens from 150-175 yards, and 60.5% from 175-200, I can see K.J. poking his head around this weekend. A fellow SuperStroke putter who gains 1.155 strokes on Bermuda surfaces and cashes 31.4% of his 10′-15′ putts, I’ll be taking some shots on him. Choi has made two of his last three cuts here with a T31 finish in 2014 and T18 in 2013.
• David Lingmerth
There are tons of things my doltish brain doesn’t understand in this world but one of the things that gets me the most confused is the pricing of David Lingmerth from week to week. Lingmerth is a very, very talented golfer but he continually goes underpriced and under owned. I get the fact that he hasn’t been on the top of his game of late but I really feel as though this could be the week he turns it around and gets back to the form we saw him display at the CareerBuilder earlier this year. All the tools are there, it’s just a matter of piecing it all together. Lingmerth ranks 23rd in Driving Accuracy, hits 74.1% of his greens from 150-175 yards, and 57.9% from 175-200 but converts BoB at an insanely high 22.6% rate. Knocking down 25.4% of his 10′-15′ putts, Lingmerth is poised for a run here at Harbour Town.
• Aaron Baddeley
Badds, Badds, Badds.. Likely the most difficult guy to get right in PGA DFS history. Badds reminds me so much of Ian Poulter in the sense that he’s one of the best putters on the planet but also one of the worst ball-strikers in terms of consistent contact. If he can iron that out this week, there truly is a shot we could see Badds near the top. This man has absolutely dominated this course in the past as he’s 8/10 in career cuts here with and incredible run several years back that looked like this:
- 2006 – Win
- 2007 – T10
- 2008 – T2
- 2009 – T21
- 2010 – T22
- 2011 – T14
Clearly, the Aussie can plot it around this spot. As previously mentioned, Badds’ putting stats are otherworldly good as he gains 1.998 strokes and makes 33.1% of his 10′-15′ putts. Give this man some consideration for your teams this week.
• Jerry Kelly
The last man on our extensive list this week is Jerry Kelly. I was really surprised when I saw just how efficient Kelly was from our focused distances. The further I thought about it, the more it made sense. Kelly is an older player on TOUR and clearly can’t keep up with the younger guys so he’s forced to hit far more shots from these distances and thus his stats are extremely good. JK ranks 4th on TOUR in Driving Accuracy, hits 75.2% of his GIR from 150-175 yards (22.9% BoB), and 64.5% from 175-200 (18.6% BoB). Those BoB rates are so nice I’m finding myself with a lot of Kelly for both salary relief and pure belief that he will do well this week. +.376 SGP on Bermuda and a 27.7% cash rate on 10′-15′ putts has Kelly firmly in play this week.
All Driving Accuracy stats in this article are a product of the PGA TOUR and can be found here:
While all putting and GIR stats are a product of FGM and can be found here:
Best of luck to everyone this weekend.