Last week was a prime example of how much can change in a round of golf. It really seemed like it was setting up to be a two-man duel between Kevin Na and Ian Poulter until the final round actually started and neither player could find the fairway. Chris Kirk, who does nothing great except win, took home his fourth (yes 4th) PGA title at the young age of 30. In this day in age, where winning is getting harder and harder that is a massive accomplishment. Kirk now has more wins on tour than Jason Day, Rickie Fowler and Ian Poulter.
It was a great week for my picks. Na, Martin, Bohn and of course Kirk all finished inside the top ten and my favorite value play of the week, Bryce Molder, got in 4 solid rounds. But there’s no resting and I’m going to try and top last week’s feat with more solid picks, so let’s get started.
The Byron Nelson is a fairly long-standing event on tour and one that has undergone some changes over its run. In 2009 the course it is played on, TPC Four Seasons, underwent renovations that made it longer and a little more challenging. Ever since then it has not drawn a great field and it’s been semi-relegated to one of the more minor events of the year (despite its late host’s name). TPC Four Seasons is a par 70 course that measures around 7200 yards and plays decently long. It’s a deceptively difficult course in the sense that it can be greatly affected by the wind and the course has numerous water traps lining fairways and greens that do come into play when the wind gets up. Both of its par 5’s are reachable, but it also carries some extremely difficult par 4’s that will challenge the player’s length and accuracy. Overall it’s not one of the most liked venues on tour but should provide an interesting test nonetheless.
This is a hard week to pin down as far as trends go. Numerous styles of play have been successful here so I think the better method might be to look at more general stats and key in on players who have been playing well in recent tournaments. One stat I am looking at this week is Par Breakers. Par Breakers measures how often a player makes a score of better than par. Players who have been highly ranked in this stat have tended to do well here and it’s likely due to the tough nature of the course which doesn’t afford a ton of great scoring opportunities. This is also why I like strokes gained: putting as a stat this week. Last year Brendon Todd and Mike Weir were ranked first and second in strokes gained: putting for the week and finished first and second respectively. Good putters simply make more birdies and that is what allowed Todd to pull away for the win last year. Finally, I’m also looking for long drivers who have been playing well recently. With Keegan Bradley and Jason Day in the list of past winners, I can’t help but think big drivers have an advantage here and I will be using Driving Distance to help me make some of my choices.
Odds to win: 28-1
It was a difficult decision this week to decide who to go with at the top end but I finally fell on Snedeker. Brandt is often a difficult golfer to back for fantasy because he does tend to miss a few too many cuts for his usually high salary. However, he can also get hot in a hurry and has gone on some really nice extended runs in his career. The past few weeks have seen Brandt return to the form that allowed him to win at Pebble Beach earlier in the year. He had a near miss last week (had three great chances to tie Kirk late) and I think he is going to be revved up to try and make up for his lost opportunity here at the Byron. Snedeker may not hit it far but he’s ranked 3rd in strokes gained: putting and reminds me a lot of last year’s winner Brendon Todd who entered here in great form and used his putter and accuracy to blow the field away. The thing I like best about Snedeker though? The price, as I think he offers just as much upside as Jordan Spieth at a much reduced salary.
Odds to win: 40-1
Ever since he burned me here with a poor final round Woodland has been on my radar for this event. Woodland has twice entered the final round of this event at the head of the field and both times had miserable Sunday finishes. This year however I’m hoping Woodland’s current form pulls him through and allows him to collect the winner’s check. Even though he burned a lot of people at the Players Woodland followed that disaster up with a great finish at the Wells Fargo event where he finished top 5. What’s even more encouraging is the fact that for that week Woodland actually led the field in strokes gained: putting. Woodland has the same kind of driving prowess and length that former winners Jason Day and Keegan Bradley have, and now looks to be getting his flat-stick working. Even at his advanced price I am perfectly fine rolling with Woodland this week. I think he has winners upside.
Odds to win: 40-1
Marc Leishman looks to finally be putting together a solid stretch after a rough start to the year (which included almost losing his wife). Leishman’s now made his last three cuts on tour while also adding in a 9th place at the recent match-play event. What you really need to like about Leishman though is his affinity for this course. Leishman has now played this event 6 times and only missed the cut once, and has two 3rd places within that span as well. Even though he doesn’t rank extraordinarily well in too many statically categories this week it’s his recent play that I would really focus on for fantasy purposes. Leishman was actually 4th in greens in regulation last week at Colonial and his consistent play of late will likely have him in the hunt here once again. I really like deploying Leishman this week for fantasy, and think he has a good chance of landing another top ten finish here.
Odds to win: 125-1
In a lot of ways, Danny Lee is the 2014 version of Brendon Todd, who came to TPC Four Seasons in 2014 playing some very under the radar/solid golf and left as the champion. Lee is a good young player who finally seems to be finding consistency on tour. Lee’s last 4 events have seen him bag finishes of 22nd, 13th and 10th and he comes in ranked 42nd in strokes gained: putting, 35th in par breakers and with two top 20 finishes at this event already on his resume. Lee’s price has gone up a bit this week but I think that will only make his ownership decrease which is good for fantasy purposes. Lee is someone who has the talent to win on tour and considering the number of first time winners this event has seen I would not be shocked if he were to bag his first one this weekend.
Odds to win: 60-1
I was delighted to see the affordable pricing on Henley this week. Henley is one of my favorite players to back for fantasy because of the sheer number of birdies he can make when he gets hot (bonus points on DraftKings!). Henley is the full package for me this weekend as he fits the course very well from a statistical standpoint. He’s ranked in the top 40 in driving distance, 7th in strokes gained: putting and 31st in par breakers. Henley is a sublime putter when he is on and also has a great track record of playing on par 70 courses (both his victories were on par 70’s). He’s also a notoriously good wind player and wind is in the forecast for this week. I think Henley’s terrific value all things consider and I’ll be rolling him out in as many formats as possible.
Odds to win: 90-1
I think a lot of people will be turned off of Brendan Steele this week due to his poor course history at this event but I’m not following that line of thought. Instead I’m giving more weight to Steele’s recent play and statistical fit for this course which I think makes him one of the best value plays of the entire week. Steele is one of the longest hitters on tour and fits the mold of past winners Keegan Bradley and Jason Day who were able to pummel this course into submission. Steele’s also proven himself to be a good wind player this year by landing top finishes at the Valero and Honda events. If the wind picks up (and it’s supposed to) and this event turns into a battle of attrition I think Steele could be one of the biggest benefactors. Steele ranks highly in par breakers, driving distance and has been one of the most consistent players all year in terms of making cuts. He’s way underpriced this week due to lack of history at this event, take advantage where you can.
Odds to win: 70-1
Ever since the Doral event Hoffmann has proven himself to be a great source of consistent fantasy points. While he had a small hiccup recently at the Players he rebounded nicely with a top 30 the next week at Quail Hollow. Hoffmann is another player who fits the mold of some past champions in that he is long off the tee and can handle himself if the conditions turn poor. Hoffmann has played this event twice and finished 5th and 16th. Last year he was up around the lead after round 3 but faded badly in round 4. I could see Hoffmann looking for a little redemption this week and bagging another top finish. He’s extremely affordable on DraftKings at $7000 and makes a great play on all sites.
Odds to win: 150-1
Ortiz is a great young rookie who won three times on the web.com tour last season, and he’s already proven himself this year with some decent finishes at some very tough events. Ortiz is coming off of back to back made cuts including a top 20 finish at the longer Quail Hollow. I think TPC Four Seasons sets up a lot better for him than Colonial (where he finished 59th) as his great distance off the tee (22nd in driving distance) should be much more of a factor. At $6400 you are essentially getting one of the top young players in the game at a price reserved for much less “classy” options. Ortiz is the best value under $6500 on DraftKings this week and I don’t think it’s particularly close, I’ll have a ton of exposure.
Odds to win: 200-1
Points is more of horse for the course pick this week. He’s played this event 6 times since the 2009 renovations and only missed the cut once while bagging finishes of 12th, 7th and 3rd. Points is an extremely streaky player but tends to pop up with good finishes once in a while. He’s generally also an excellent putter and even though he’s had a less than stellar 2015 still ranks inside the top 80 in strokes gained: putting. I mainly like Points because of the upside he brings you on this course for his price. If I was looking for a cheap 7th option on Victiv and had enough cash left he would be my first choice. He’ll likely either miss the cut entirely or land you a top 20 finish so he makes for a great gpp play.
Odds to win: 90-1
I’m not sure what to make of Graham DeLaet these days. Gone are the days where DeLaet could be rolled out in cash game lineups and you knew a top 20 finish would soon follow. For most of 2015 it has seemed like a weekly struggle for DeLaet to even make the weekend. However there have been some signs of life recently. I was fully expecting DeLaet to shoot 10 over and miss the cut at the Players but he battled and made the weekend. Then, last weekend at Colonial he was actually 6 under par going into the final round but struggled again on Sunday to finish well back. This week however DeLaet comes to a “safe place”. He’s finished 7th and 10th at TPC Four Seasons in his past two visits and will hopefully continue to build on the solid play he’s flashed over the past month. If he does get back to form this week he’ll be an incredible steal at his current price-tags, and a low-owned one at that.
Fade: Zach Johnson
I feel like Zach could go either way this week. He’s been striking the ball well enough to get into contention but cannot putt to save his life. At his price I am taking a week off the Zach-attack as I just feel like there’s more solid options out there.
My Pick: Gary Woodland
I love the fact that Woodland’s putter has been doing all the work for him recently as quite frankly it’s usually the other way around. Woodland is as talented as they come and another good putting week on a course that definitely suits his eye could mean huge things. He’s my pick to bag the W.