Last week was a fantastic week at the WGC-HSBC Champions for Hideki Matsuyama, who got the biggest win of his young career in a 7-stroke thrashing of the field. He came in at 4th in my rankings last week, even in a stacked field.
This week, we are back stateside for the Shriner's Hospitals for Children's Open, at TPC Summerlin.
One thing I always pay attention to this time of year is the players who have ties to Las Vegas (or are desert golf specialists). This doesn't mean we have to overweight course history, but you should look at players born and raised in this part of the country, or those who played college golf at elite programs like UNLV, Arizona, Arizona State, or San Diego State. Some names that come to mind right away are Scott Piercy, Charley Hoffman, Ryan Moore, Chad Campbell, and Kevin Na.
TPC Summerlin is a par-71 that plays just over 7,200 yards. That means there is one extra par-4 (instead of a 4th par-5) on this course, making par-4 scoring even more important. Holes 15 - 18 will be equally critical this week, as players finish with a drivable par-4, reachable par-5, water-guarded par-3, and a tough finishing par-4. One thing to notice is that although the fairways can be difficult to hit, there isn't much rough to speak of (welcome to desert golf). I think you might see a leaderboard similar to what we saw when Tony Finau won the Puerto Rico Open. When it comes to the type of player I'm targeting, I think I'm targeting scorers more than anything. Regardless of the course, fantasy points come from birdie makers, and this course has had a mixed bag of winners in the past.
What stats are we looking towards this week?
Birdie or Better % (BoB%):
There are really not many weeks where we aren't going to target birdie or better percentage, because that's what fantasy golf scoring is all about. Guys like Brooks Koepka, Jimmy Walker, Charles Howell, Robert Garrigus, and Smylie Kaufman come to mind in this week's field when targeting birdie makers. It's possible to have a player finish top-10 in fantasy points while not finishing anywhere close to the top-10 in the actual event.
Good Drive Percentage (GD%):
You can really target driving distance alone, but I also wanted to target some accuracy metrics, as well. As mentioned, the rough isn't too penal at TPC Summerlin, so I'm looking at GD% instead of just driving distance or accuracy. Certain bombers can overcome bad drives because they hit it far enough that they'll have wedges in their hands anyways. And shorter hitters will still pop in this stat because they hit a ton of fairways. Some names in the field that pop from 2015's GD% rankings are Chez Reavie, Lucas Glover, Kevin Streelman, Colt Knost, David Hearn, Webb Simpson, and Jason Bohn.
Par 4 Scoring (P4):
This week should be a birdie fest for the players, and as mentioned, there's an extra par-4 on the course. The previous winners of this event played the par-4s -6, -9, and -12, respectively. Another thing that's great about par-4 scoring is that we have data on the new web.com Tour players. C.T. Pan, J.T. Poston, Grayson Murray, and Martin Flores are all elite par-4 scorers from the web.com Tour who are in the field this week.
Strokes Gained Approach (SG:Approach):
I think both SG:Approach and GIR% can be good pointers this week, since the off-the-tee game is a little mitigated by easy-to-hit fairways. Looking back at recent trends here at TPC Summerlin, there's a strong correlation between top-5s at this venue and the season-end SG:Approach rankings.
1. BROOKS KOEPKA [YAHOO CLASS B] - WORLD RANKING: #22
Koepka is far and away the class of this field, so let's hope he's motivated after a lackluster performance in China. His only PGA Tour win came in the desert, at TPC Summerlin, so this is his style of golf. His record here is spotty, but does have a 4th place finish on record. Even if he can't win this week, he should rack up tons of fantasy points in all formats.
2. SCOTT PIERCY [YAHOO CLASS C] - WORLD RANKING: #34
My main concern with Piercy is going to be the fact that he's traveling from China, but hopefully he has a day off in between. He's your prototypical desert golfer: born and raised in Las Vegas, and went to school at San Diego State. He's won the Reno-Tahoe open which also tends to favor West Coast specialists (Pat Perez was the runner-up, and I'll get to him later), so there is a definitely connection. At this event, Piercy has three top-10s in the past five years.
3. RYAN MOORE [YAHOO CLASS A] - WORLD RANKING: #30
The UNLV product always shows up for a home game. He has three top-10s here including a win in 2012. He's in the midst of a career resurgence which included a spot in the Ryder Cup. Since then, he's posted a 17th in Malaysia and a 23rd in China.
4. JON RAHM [YAHOO CLASS C] - WORLD RANKING: #123
Birdie maker, check. Arizona State product, check. Chalk of the week, check. Rahm burst onto the scene last year at the Waste Management Open, and obvious correlation course to TPC Summerlin. He's an elite ball-striker and is powerful off the tee, as well. He's going to win, and win a lot. Expect Rahm to get multiple wins this year and cement himself near the top of the European Ryder Cup rankings this season.
5. TONY FINAU [YAHOO CLASS A] - WORLD RANKING: #81
He's a Bentgrass specialist who won in Puerto Rico, a similar style golf course. Finau has a solid record here (7th and 16th) and is coming off a couple decent finishes to begin the season. Finau is another player who offers scoring upside with his birdie and eagle potential.