We had a solid week in our rankings at the OHL Classic, with strong performances by Emiliano Grillo, Russell Knox, Chris Kirk, Charles Howell III, Cameron Smith, Jason Bohn, Luke List, Marc Leishman, and Keegan Bradley. They were all inside my top-15 rankings last week and put in great finishes. Also, we can't forget about last week's sleeper, Pat Perez, who locked up his second career win. Hopefully you guys stayed on the train, as Perez is a streaky player who can only be rostered the first part of the season.
This week, we head to Sea Island, Georgia for the RSM Classic, where we are going to have more hometown ties. Some obvious names come to mind (Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Chris Kirk), but there are other not-so-obvious names that live or train here (Patton Kizzire, Brian Harman, Blayne Barber). I think there are definitely advantages to players who see these tracks often and who are Bermuda greens specialists.
One tough part of this event is that there are actually two courses the players will see: the Seaside Course and the Plantation Course. However, the players will only see the Plantation once, so it's much better to focus on history and statistics for the Seaside track. The Seaside Course is a very short par-70, measuring 7,005 yards. There's a lot of ways this course can be described, but it's really just a links-style course that was planted in the South. It's flat, has very few trees, can feature rain and strong winds, but it also plays like a soft, Southern course with its bermuda greens. Like Harbor Town, this is a less-than-driver course for the most part. Players, especially the longer ones will need to hit irons and fairway woods off the tees to keep the ball in play. I'll be targeting driving accuracy and Pete Dye specialists this week.
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. We can target our usual birdie-makers, and web.com Tour graduates Wesley Bryan, Ryan Blaum, and JT were elite scorers last season. 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 accuracy alone, but I also wanted to target some distance metrics, as distance (when drives are straight) is a huge advantage anywhere. As mentioned, the rough/hazards off the tee can be very penal, so keeping the ball in play off the tee is essential. Certain bombers can perform on these shorter tracks because they hit irons and fairways woods off the tee. 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 Kevin Streelman, Webb Simpson, and Jason Bohn.
Par 4 Scoring (P4)
Anytime we have a shorter, par-70 layout, performances on par-4s are always important. We usually see this on older, narrow courses and Pete Dye designs. Players like Webb Simpson and Jason Bohn come to mind as excellent par-4 scorers, and both fit the mold I'm targeting this week. 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, and Martin Flores are all elite par-4 scorers from the web.com Tour who are in the field this week.
Proximity to the Hole (Prox)
With these small green complexes, I'm not focusing on GIR% but rather on proximity. This is a bit of a misleading stat, but it does show players who are excellent ball strikers. Of the higher priced players in the field, Chris Kirk and Webb Simpson check out on both lists. Of the potential lower-owned plays of the week, we see names like Kyle Stanley, Jon Curran, and Michael Johnson.
1. CHRIS KIRK [YAHOO CLASS A] - WORLD RANKING: #68
I don't think we've ever seen Kirk as the betting favorite, but here we are. We can't overlook his recent form (three top-10s in his last four starts), and the fact that he's a recent winner here in Sea Island. Kirk, similar to Bill Haas, is a guy to target in the Southeast and in weaker fields. He's a Georgia Bulldog, so he's familiar with this part of the country and its bermuda greens. Stat-wise, Kirk checks a ton of boxes: 7th in par-4 scoring, 23rd in birdie or better %, and 19th in proximity.
2. RUSSELL HENLEY [YAHOO CLASS A] - WORLD RANKING: #113
Henley is one of the many Georgia Bulldogs we target in this part of the country. He's made a name for himself on shorter, windy courses that require excellent putting and ball-striking. He's won at the Sony Open and at the Honda Classic, two decently similar tracks. He's coming off 24th and 14th place finishes to open his fall swing, and has posted back-to-back top-10s at this event. He's more expensive than usual, which should keep the ownership down.
3. MATT KUCHAR [YAHOO CLASS C] - WORLD RANKING: #20
Well, we probably know he's not going to win, although he did surprise at Harbor Town a couple years ago. Kuchar is a resident of Sea Island and is obviously very comfortable here. He's finished inside the top-25 every time he's teed up here, so we can expect more of the same this week. Kuchar is an obvious fit for cash games, but probably won't be a tournament play for me.
4. KEVIN CHAPPELL [YAHOO CLASS B] - WORLD RANKING: #29
Chappell isn't someone I like to roster in fantasy golf, but this might be the week. He's so due for a win, and he knocked on the door several times last season. He's excellent at par 3s, par 4s, and is deadly with his irons. He's not a great putter, but I think he could get dialed in with the irons giving himself really short looks for birdie all week. In four trips here, he's trending up: 43rd, 32nd, 8th, and 2nd last season. He's been very open about how comfortable he feels on this track, and I think we could finally see his first victory.
5. ANIRBAN LAHIRI [YAHOO CLASS C] - WORLD RANKING: #70
Lahiri is going to go extremely overlooked at this price. We are used to seeing him in the mid-$7,000 range, which is why I love him as a contrarian play this week. With people flocking to Billy Horschel and Harris English, Lahiri has just as much upside. He played fantastically in Asia to open the fall, and then posted a 28th last week in Mexico. We've seen him contend and go low at shorter courses like Colonial, and I could see him contending here on Sunday. He's going to win this year, and I think this could be the spot.