I’m not going to spend a lot of time dwelling on last week since not much went right for my picks. It was a mix of bad luck (Thurs AM guys got screwed weather wise) and poor judgement by me. Overlooking both Furyk and Kuchar was a huge mistake. Both will make enough money just from playing at the Hilton Head event over their careers to feed a small country when they retire. That course is made for those two players. Enough caring about things that happened in the past.
On to this week…
The Zurich Classic is also a classic “B” league event on the PGA tour. Quite simply its placed on the schedule between the Masters/Players and now the World Match Play (next week) makes it not well attended by a ton of top players. But the fact that this is a larger scale field with more unknown players also makes it an exciting event for fantasy. This event has seen a lot of one time winners and I won’t be shocked if that trend continues this week.
The course itself is TPC Louisiana, another Pete Dye creation which again features lots of sand, and some very well placed water traps. The course is a par 72 and plays between 7300-7400 yards. Even though it’s longer than last week, in general this course plays very easy most years and the winning score since 2010 has been between -15 and -20. Birdies will be needed. There are a lot of short par 4’s and reachable par 5’s the players will be looking to take advantage of and I would expect the cutline on Friday to be well into red figures.
This week I’ve given the most weight to par 5 scoring and greens in regulation. Most winners of this event have placed well in both these categories in the year they won. Additionally, this event has a lot of mixed results for many players so I am simply not giving course history as much weight as I normally do. I’m looking for the right type of recent playing history, motivation and fantasy value this week for my picks. Finally, I’m not really all that concerned about “off the tee” stats. While some big drivers of the ball here have won (Bubba Watson, Billy Horschel) some shorter hitters have as well (Jason Bohn, Jerry Kelly). This week is really about making birdies and limiting mistakes, and length and accuracy seem to cancel each out.
Odds to win: 28-1
Key Stat: 29th—par 5 scoring
I contemplated a lot of the top players in the field this week, and even though they all have their faults to some extent (including most being very high priced) I keep coming back to Harris English. There’s a few better players who might fit this course statistic wise but going on past history and talent I think there’s a good chance English ends up near the top this week. English hits it a ton and is near the top of the tour in par 5 scoring. Additionally, he finished 6th at this event the last time he played and obviously seems to be ok with the course. Both of English’s two wins on tour have come in slightly weaker fields on easier courses and this week definitely fits into that mold. I think English is likely motivated by his Master’s “snub” and will be motivated to book his ticket for 2016 this week.
Odds to win: 40-1
Key Stat: 4 top 15’s in past 5 visits to event
After seeing Stricker make the cut at Augusta after recovering from back surgery, I feel like this pick is more than warranted. Striker plays a limited schedule on tour these days, but that has not kept him from competing at almost every event he enters. Stricker on easy courses can also be a birdie machine, best evidenced by his having won the John Deere Classic on numerous occasions, and that is really good for fantasy purposes. I really like the fact Stricker looked healthy in his comeback and his history at this event reads four top 15’s in his past 5 visits. Given his advanced age, I think anytime Striker tees it up you should take notice. He’s likely looking for events that suit his game more than anything at this point and this week certainly qualifies.
Odds to win: 50-1
Key Stat: 4th—par 5 scoring
There’s value plays and then there’s just straight stealing in DFS, and Justin Thomas feels like stealing at 8300 this week. Even though he’s a rookie Thomas has played remarkably consistent golf for all of 2015. He’s actually come close to winning a few times, and both those events were in weaker fields where scoring was quite low. Thomas, for all intents and purposes, knows how to make birdies and make a lot of them he does. He ranks 4th in par 5 scoring and 14th in overall birdie average on the year (he’s made the second most birdies overall on tour). Thomas will be playing this event for the first time but after posting a 10th last week I’m ready to trust his form and think he is trending for a big week here in New Orleans.
Odds to win: 60-1
Key Stat: 21st—greens in regulation
Knox did not disappoint at all for fantasy purposes last week, even if he failed to pick up his first win on tour. He once again got the bad half of the draw but came through with a great round on Friday to make the cut. I think a lot of people might be off Knox this week figuring this is not his kind of course, but his history and even the stats to an extent disagree. Knox is ranked 21st in greens in regulation and also ranks 37th on tour in birdie average. Even though he doesn’t have the distance to take advantage of the par 5’s like some of the bigger hitters this hasn’t held Knox back from going low in the past (he shot a 59 on the web.com tour and a 64 at TPC Louisiana two years ago). I think Knox should carry some good vibes from Hilton Head into this week, and I think he’s a great value on Draftkings given his remarkable consistency thus far this year.
Odds to win: 150-1
Key Stat: 7 out of 9 cuts made on tour
There’s a lot of players I could make good cases for in the 7000-7500 price range but the one that keeps me coming back for more is Alex Cjeka. Cjeka’s stats on tour do not look uber impressive but in this case Cjeka’s history both at this event and other courses/events like the Zurich Classic is what has me intrigued. Cjeka has always seemed to post his best results in weaker field events where scoring is quite easy, and this year alone he has top 20’s at the Shriner’s, the Humana and the OHL classic (all weaker fields, all low scoring events). He also has a nice history at TPC Louisiana having made 4 of 5 cuts since 2007 and placing 75-21-18-8 in that span. I think Cjeka is a great under the radar value play this week and will be using him in a decent chunk of lineups if I can.
Odds to win: 125-1
Key Stat: 4th—greens in regulation
Luckily for Lucas Glover, with less contoured and slower greens, putting is not as huge a deal this week as it usually is. This is great because Glover is ranked near the bottom of the tour in putting. But where Glover ranks highly—and why he might just make for a great fantasy play this week—is in greens in regulation and strokes gained tee to green. Glover is quite frankly one of the best ball strikers on tour at the moment and at this event that really does seem to outweigh what a person can do with their putter. Glover has finished 8th-4th and 3rd at this event since 2005 and I think it’s possible he may be in for another great finish this week. At his price, I’m willing to chance him and his “questionable” putting once again.
Other Notes: One of the most obvious plays of the week is likely John Peterson. As a former LSU grad he is essentially playing on his home course and has been playing super consistent all year, he is very expensive on Draftkings but certainly a good play. Two other cheap players to consider should you choose to roster DJ or Day are Hudson Swafford and Kyle Reifers. Reifers is coming off back to back top twelves and Swafford has made 3 of his past 4 cuts and looks ready to start cashing in on his potential. I think the course sets up well for both.
Odds to win: 200-1
Key Stat: 46th—greens in regulation
Brice Garnett was a cut making machine for fantasy purposes but his game really fell off in 2015. It seems like he might have the cut making mojo back and in turn might be a good play for fantasy purposes once again. Garnett has had some nice finishes at “easier” courses and I really like how he played last week. I think Garnett offers a nice value play given his reduced salary and propensity for making cuts when playing well.
Odds to win: 250-1
Key Stat: 8 out of 8 cuts made at event
John Merrick, like Garnett, has really picked up his play of late. Merrick is actually a former winner on tour whose game went South after his win at Riviera in 2013. What I really like about Merrick this week is the fact that he seems to love TPC Louisiana. In 8 visits to the Zurich Classic Merrick has never missed a cut. While he’s only posted two top twenties in that span it’s still worth noting, especially since he’s really upped his play as of late. I like Merrick as a cut-maker this week and a possible nice play to pair with some big bombers in gpps.
Odds to win: 50-1
Key Stat: 64th—par 5 scoring
One of the first things that caught my eye this week was the price on Nick Watney. As a former multiple winner on tour and top ten player in the world, Watney seems like a major discount this week in a very weak field. Even better is the fact that Watney is a former winner of this event and his game seems to set up very well for the course. He hits it long and in general should be able to use his great ball striking to his advantage on the par 5’s and short par 4’s. Watney comes in having not posted a top ten for quite a while now, but after a decent layoff I would not be shocked if he comes in rested and guns blazing looking for his first win since 2012. I think he’ll be very overlooked this week and provides upside on a course he has dominated before.
Fade: While Troy Merritt had a nice week at Hilton Head, and even looked like he might win the event after Saturday, his price for fantasy purposes is simply a little absurd now based on his past history. Merritt is just too inconsistent to roster at his price this week so I’d recommend not chasing last week’s points in this case and fading him.
My Pick: I see Harris English as being quite motivated for this event and really like his history at TPC Louisiana and other similar venues. I think he gets his mojo back and returns to the winner’s circle this week.