The 2017 PGA Tour season is officially underway! Of course, we had the Fall Swing season already, but most of the top players are getting underway this week in Hawaii at the SBS Tournament of Champions. The field is already down to just 32 players because many European stars begin their season next week in South Africa and aren't making the trip to Hawaii. Early WDs include Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, and Danny Willett.
The Plantation Course at Kapalua has been the long-standing host of this event, so we have plenty of stats and course history to draw upon. The course is a rare par-73 (making par-5 scoring even more important this week) that measures roughly 7,500 yards. The bombers should have an advantage here, but Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Steve Stricker, and Patrick Reed are all shorter hitters who've had tons of success here. This event is always a birdie fest, so I'm focusing on players who make birdies and can handle the potentially windy conditions. Also, taking a look at players with great Hawaii records, Spieth, Reed, Jimmy Walker, and Pat Perez come to mind.
Daily and weekly fantasy sports have become all the rage. Battling it out over an entire season is fun, but sites like DraftKings offer a quicker payoff and big payouts for winners! Not only do they offer daily action in the four major professional sports (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL) as well as college basketball and football but also the PGA Tour.
Your DraftKings lineup is made up of six golfers you select from within the $50,000 salary cap.
Each week DraftKings offers a wide selection of games to enter at a variety of price points. You can even get a feel for the game in a freeroll contest. Before you put your cash on the line, I'll offer my Top Values and Steals in this space every week, specifically geared to help build a winning DraftKings squad. I'll also give you my Overpriced golfers to avoid and a couple of “Vegas Says…” tips to help you find those players for GPPs.
As mentioned, the Plantation Course at Kapalua is a 7,411 yard par-73 layout that lends itself to low scoring. Jordan Spieth won with a score of -30 last season, and the winners usually crack the -20 mark every year. The course features huge fairways that are exposed to the wind (but are easy to hit) and long, sloping fairways that create difficult stances for players. The major keys here are battling the wind, and the elevation changes the course has to offer. The type of player I'm targeting is a birdie maker who is a great iron player.
Recent Tournament History
Here is the data we can draw upon for this week’s Tournament History:
Finished in the top-10 each of the last three years: None
Finished in the top-10 in two of the last three years: Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Jimmy Walker, Zach Johnson.
Birdie or Better % (BoB%):
There are 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 Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Justin Thomas, and Hideki Matsuyama 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 target driving distance alone, but I also wanted to target some accuracy metrics, as well. Aside from the bombers that should be able to make tons of birdies this week, we can look at elite drivers of the golf ball. Names in this field that check the GD% box are Brian Stuard, Fabian Gomez, William McGirt, and Russell Knox.
Par 5 Scoring (P5):
The rare par-73 layout here at Kapalua gives us plenty of par-5s to attack. We’ve seen guys like Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, and Tiger Woods overpower the course throughout the years, but we’ve also seen Steve Stricker, Zach, Johnson, Patrick Reed, and Jordan Spieth win. The conclusion is that bombers can succeed on par-5s, but so can excellent wedge players. Don’t overlook the short hitters this week.
Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green (SG:T2G):
Similarly, great iron play is crucial this week, so we’ll look at SG:T2G statistics from last year. The usual suspects pop up, so our goal this week is to try to jam as many top studs into our lineups as possible. Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, and Dustin Johnson should all finish near the top of the leaderboard this week. Another name to watch out for is Branden Grace.
*In order of my rankings
Hideki Matsuyama ($11,000) – Ride the hot hand. Matsuyama has four worldwide victories over the past couple of months, including the recent Hero Challenge (his last five finishes are 1st-1st-1st-2nd-1st). In his only appearance here in 2015, Matsuyama finished 3rd. He's a great iron and wedge player and seems to have come into his own as a putter as well. I expect huge things from him this season, potentially a major championship and a spot in the top-5 official world golf rankings.
Jordan Spieth ($11,500) – Spieth loves this place, as it tests iron play, wedge play, and putting. He shot a ridiculous -30 last year and obviously can draw on his experience and strong play at Kapalua. Although 2015 was a down year for Spieth, I sense a revival coming for him this season. There have been a lot of comparisons drawn between this track and Augusta National – mainly around the greens – so there’s little surprise that Spieth always contends here.
Dustin Johnson ($11,200) – The main issue with DJ is always motivation…who knows if he's interested in this event or not. If he is, DJ can win here, as he did in 2013. The course sets up well for his game as he can bomb drives and attack the par-5s. Coming off the best year of his career, I think DJ has a chance to ascend to #1 in the official world golf rankings, and I'm sure that's a goal of his this season.
Jason Day ($10,600) – "Jason Day battling injury." Feels like we here this all year long with Day. I'm not sure what to make of it, but hopefully, the past month of has helped him heal and find his game again. In three appearances here, Day has never finished outside the top-10, but I'm not sure he's going to have his sharpest game this week. Although in a week where you need to be a little contrarian, taking him over DJ or Spieth could be a good play.
Jimmy Walker ($7,800) – Mr. Hawaii checks in at a very reasonable price this week. He’s finished 10th and 2nd the past two seasons at Kapalua and is a multiple winner of the Sony Open. Walker loves these slow greens and tends to play well on the West Coast throughout the season. He had a career year in 2016, capturing his first major championship and making the Ryder Cup team. Hopefully, he can build on that success.
Branden Grace ($7,200) – One of the few European Tour players making the trip this week, Grace is severely underpriced in my estimation. Although his recent form hasn't been great, he's a world-class player who should be able to battle the winds seamlessly. Grace is an excellent ball-striker and iron player, as he showed during his win at the RBC Heritage. Harbour Town is one of the tightest tracks around and tests accuracy with the wedges and short game skills. I like Grace as a value this week.
Brandt Snedeker ($8,700) – Wins on the West Coast, check. Excellent wind player, check. Excellent putter, check. I love Sneds this week, and I also love that he's been playing a lot during the Fall Swing. Snedeker has two top-3 finishes here and seems to fit the mold of players I'm targeting. I also think the small, no-cut, laid back feel of this week fits his personality well.
Pat Perez ($7,100) – Speaking of laid back, welcome back to Hawaii Pat Perez! He seemed to come out of nowhere (well, off injury break) to win this Fall, and it was great to see. Perez is a fun guy to watch because he's so good and so volatile at the same time. Kind of like a mini-John Daly. He's a great ball-striker and loves playing out West, similar to Jimmy Walker. Perez has had success at the Sony Open, the old Bob Hope Classic, and the Waste Management Open, all played on the West Coast. Hopefully he continues his comeback with another great start to the season.
Stars and Scrubs