Well, quite the weekend we had at Torrey Pines now, wasn’t it? Luckily for us, we were high on Snedeker so having him fire that incredible 69 to quite literally blow the field away was a very welcomed sight. I don’t think we have fully grasped just how good that 69 was though. These are the best golfers on the face of the earth and they were averaging 77.9 strokes per 18 holes that day. To have one guy come in nearly 9 shots better than that is absolutely absurd. Now, as we turn our attention to this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open we’re likely to find a familiar face at the top of the rankings. Snedeker has not finished outside the top 3 in his three starts so far this year and totes some remarkable course history here causing him to very likely be the chalkiest pick of the week.
TPC Scottsdale plays host to this week’s event which is typically one of the loudest and most raucous venues the players encounter all season long. Measuring in at a shade over 7,200 yards, this course is a par 71 which sprawls through desert-like terrain. TPC Scottsdale is famous for its 16th hole which stands as the only fully enclosed, stadium-style hole on Tour. At its peak on Saturday and Sunday, there will be as many as 20,000 spectators on that hole alone.
Last year’s event featured a riveting battle down the stretch in which Brooks Koepka came from behind thanks to a clutch Eagle on the 15th hole and stole the title away from Hideki Matsuyama and a lingering, Martin Laird. Young Brooksy makes for an interesting play here this week as his victory last year was the first of his PGA Tour career so we’ve never seen how he handles himself coming into an event as the defending champion. Secondly, I would have liked to see Brooks come in here having played more golf. As it stands, Koepka hasn’t played since the Hyundai, albeit he finished T3 that week. This is something we’ve kind of grown accustomed to with Koepka though as he really seems to treat himself with a very limited and selective schedule.
Moving right along, here are the stats we’re going to key in on this week:
- Recent Form
- Course history
- Ball Striking (Total Driving + GIR)
- Birdie Average
The first two on the list are staples for me. I want players who are currently playing well and have a proven track record at this venue. Golf is a game such that this is the most deadly combination you could ask for and a proven recipe for success. Ball Striking is big this week as it’s the truest indicator of how well a player is hitting the ball. The ‘scientific’ breakdown of Ball Striking explains it as Total Driving plus Greens in Regulation. I prefer to use a more simplistic explanation by saying Ball Striking is essentially how often a player is hitting the ball in the absolute center of the clubface. Success in this category typically leads to a player placing himself closer to the hole on his approach shots and thus generating far more realistic opportunities for birdie or better. Last but not least, we’re big on Birdie Average again this week. Birdies are the most effective way to climb the leaderboard and I expect there to be lots of them out there for the taking on these relatively easy putting surfaces this week. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the players we’ll be targeting.
High End Targets ($9,000+)
(Note: Brandt Snedeker ($11,800) is the most obvious play of the week coming off his win at Torrey and having excelled at this event in the past so for the sake of this article we will leave him off our list but have supreme confidence if you decide to roster him.)
• Hideki Matsuyama
Matsuyama is kind of going against everything I stand for in DFS Golf this week as he’s fresh off a missed cut. Now, I’m willing to grant him some leeway here as he missed the cut by a single shot during his second round implosion on the South Course last week. The truth is, Matsuyama is talented. Like, really, really talented. Mats comes into this week in 8th place in Birdie Average and 13th in Bogey Avoidance which is an incredibly +EV combination. His 51st place ranking in Ball Striking leaves a little room for improvement but it is still extremely desirable. Having played this event the last two years, Hideki has secured himself back to back top 5 finishes with a T2 last year and a T4 in 2014. As a player who hits the ball so pure, if Matsuyama can get his putter going, look out for him this week.
• Kevin Kisner
Trusty ‘ol Kisner. Kevy Kev rolls into Scottsdale with a good bit of form on his side. Although he hasn’t played for two weeks, he began his 2016 year with a 9th place finish at the Hyundai and followed that up with a T5 showing at the Sony Open. His course history here won’t jump off the page at you as hes endured a T55 finish in 2012 and struggled to a MC at last year’s event. The beauty in all of this is that Kisner continually goes overlooked in tournaments and he should do so to a certain extent this week as well. When we look deeper into Kisner, his course history here isn’t that big of a concern as he really only established himself on Tour during a fabulous campaign last year. He comes into the Waste Management ranked 3rd in Total Driving, 17th in Bogey Avoidance and 11th in Ball Striking. This combination of precision and steadiness is one we always love to see. With a +4 salary vs odds comparison, the Georgia Bulldog who lost three playoffs last season before finally getting a win in late November is a safe bet to continue his surge and provide plenty of GPP upside.
• Kevin Na
Continuing the Kevin theme, we move along to Mr. Na. Checking off all the boxes we’re looking for this week, Na comes in as a very strong play in all formats. Appearing in good form as he finished T28 at the Sony and T3 at the CareerBuilder before taking last week off; the American has a fair bit of positive course history on his side as well. From 2012 to present day he has finished no higher than T36 in this event. Realistically, he’s been one of the strongest and most consistent golfers on Tour since last October. Ranking 29th in Birdie Average, 26th in Proximity to the Hole, 1st in Sand Saves (could be key on this course with the amount of strategically placed bunkers) and 16th in Ball Striking, Na is poised for yet another strong run at a title. The only thing that scares me about Na is that he’s a bit of a headcase. I’ve seen him crumble down the stretch and toss away several tournaments in the last few years so if he’s able to conquer that six inches between his ears he should be fine.
• David Lingmerth
Lingmerth is my top play of the week here at the Waste Management. There’s a very good chance I will have him in 100% of my lineups as his $9,000 price tag fits very well and I feel he matches up incredibly well with this course. We last saw the Swede two weeks ago when he battled Jason Dufner down the stretch of the CareerBuilder and ultimately lost in a playoff. His play over those two weekend rounds was amazing as he fired rounds of 62 and 65 to catapult himself into contention. The first thing I noticed about Lingmerth this week was his +3 salary vs odds comparison. For someone in the $9k and above range, this kind of value is extremely important. In his three starts this calendar year, Lingmerth has produced results of T15, T13 and 2nd which is exactly the type of trend we want to jump all over. Through those three tournaments, Lingmerth has made 62 birdies to only 17 bogeys. Ranking 58th in Birdie Average, 31st in Ball Striking and 37th in Strokes Gained Tee to Green, the burly Swede is poised for yet another great finish.
Mid Range Targets ($8,900 – $7,000)
• Brendan Steele
Similar to last week, Brendan Steele finds himself in a great and comfortable spot. With form and course history on his side he could be gearing up for a big week. Originally, I was a little scared that his ownership would be inflated this week but I think the fact that his price has risen $1,000 from last week and the slew of big names that are slotted above him should be enough to drive his ownership down to a respectable level. This is great news for us as his stats match up so well with this track. Ranking 12th in Birdie Average, 32nd in Bogey Avoidance and 39th in Ball Striking, Steele has all the tools to make it work this week at TPC Scottsdale. The product of UC Riverside has enjoyed a vast amount of success here at this tournament with his 2011 to 2015 finishes reading: T53, T5, T6, T6 and T26. Although he hasn’t blown the competition away in recent weeks, he has played steady golf finishing T34 at the CareerBuilder (still managing to rack up 97.5 DK pts) and T49 at the gongshow that was the Farmers last week. Long off the tee and able to roll in a ton of birdies, Steele is a very strong play this week.
• Jamie Lovemark
As long as Lovemark continues to play well, I’ll continue to roster him. His career resurgence is something that has me very intrigued this season as he was slated to be ‘The Next Big Thing’ when he originally burst onto the scene years ago. It seems as though everything is finally falling into place for the uber-talented American. Having not won a PGA Tour event yet, I believe this could be the week we see Lovemark break through for that elusive first victory. Pushing aside last week’s debacle at the Farmers where Lovemark still managed to finish T31, he’s been in splendid form recording back-to-back top 7 finishes at the Sony Open and CareerBuilder posting a combined 34 under par. Not only is Lovemark making a ton of birdies, he’s also flashing a fair bit of Eagle upside as hes recorded 2 in each of those events prior to the Farmers. If ever there were a time to ride form, this is it.
I’m still kicking myself from not rostering Streelman in any of my lineups last week when I had him circled on my short list and I’ve sworn to not let happen again this week. With most of the field struggling to eclipse 50 DK points last week, Streelman was able to walk away with 83. Putting up a point total such as that under the conditions he was faced with is a truly wonderful accomplishment. His game is currently trending in the right direction and he’s exceeding his birdie expectancy so I want to get in on this fire before it burns out. While Streelman’s stats won’t blow you away, he’s an extremely efficient golfer and when he gets into a groove, he’s about as consistent as they come. He hits a ton of greens and is very accurate from 125 all the way up to 200 yards which bodes very well for this course. Since he’s not yet a household name and for some ungodly reason still plays Wilson Staff clubs, I’m quite sure we can buy him at a low percentage this week.
• Harris English
Even though Harris English is playing great golf, he has yet to kick it into that next gear and I believe this week sets up perfectly for him to do so. Finishing 31st at last week’s Farmers, English rolls into this event with a great amount of history on his side. What I love about him this week is his upside. I feel as though he has arguably the most upside of any player in this mid range tier. 3rd in Total Putting, 58th in Birdie Average, 20th in Bogey Avoidance, top 50 in Par 3, 4 and 5 Scoring, 35th in Proximity to the Hole from 175-200 yards and 55th in Ball Striking; there really isn’t a weakness in his game. As I mentioned above, we still haven’t seen Harris in full flight yet and with his track record at this course (T15, T57, 9th and T40 from 2012-2015), we could see that change this week.
Low End Targets (<$7,000)
• Hudson Swafford
If I had to guess, I would say Swafford will be the highest owned sub $7k player this week and for good reason. His string of recent success isn’t an anomaly as he ranks highly in almost every important statistical category. 24th in Birdie Average, 12th in Driving Distance, 10th in Total Driving, 23rd in Total Putting, 26th in Strokes Gained Putting, and 47th in Ball Striking, this kid isn’t a fluke. We have yet to see him eclipse the 100pt mark on DraftKings yet but I can assure you that it’s not far off. If Swafford’s putter remains hot and he manages to make a few more of those birdie looks, he’ll be in serious contention.
• Ben Martin
Let’s start off with the obvious here, Ben Martin is criminally underpriced this week. Martin’s salary vs odds comparison is +16 this week which is arguably one of the highest I’ve ever seen for a Tour pro who has a legitimate shot at winning an event. There’s a very good chance I place Martin in 100% of my lineups to provide some much needed salary relief and allow me to attack the higher priced guys. Through the Clemson grad’s first two starts of 2016, hes seen himself finish T50 and T34 at the Sony and CareerBuilder. During those tournaments he’s amassed a large amount of DK points for such middle of the pack finishing positions (83.5 DK pts and 96 DK pts). The birdie upside is certainly there as he ranks 40th in The Fantasy Golf’s model for Birdie Average. However, his propensity for making foolish bogeys is the only thing that smears his fantastic upside and forces him into a GPP only role. All in all, for such an incredibly low price, I have zero issues taking a shot on Martin this week.
Below is a link to The Fantasy Golf’s model which I have used to quote statistics throughout this article for all those who would like to check it out on their own:
Best of luck to all competitors this weekend!