Shockingly, we got another Hideki Matsuyama victory in Phoenix. He loves that course, and not using him was a gross oversight for may DFS players. Course history and recent form lined up, and he should have been way higher owned than he was. My rankings were solid last week, with Hideki leading the way. We also had strong finishes from Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm, J.B. Holmes, Daniel Berger and Louis Oosthuizen.
This week, the Tour heads back to Pebble Beach, although we're on a three-course rotation chalk full of hackers and celebrities. That's right, it's pro-am week, one of the worst for DFS and for TV viewing purposes. I suggest scaling back your normal volume this week, and saving your bankroll for more predictable weeks. Players will face Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, and Monterey Peninsula one time each, before a 54-hole cut. The final round will be at Pebble Beach, where we have the most relevant course history. I recently took a trip to Monterey, and played Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill. I have some good insight into those tracks, but don't know much about Monterey besides what you read. Monterey is a bit quirky, and seems to be the players' least favorite of the rotation. All the courses are very short, and feature the difficult poa annua greens. Short hitters are well in play this week, and we should focus on the California angle / narrative again. Monterey and Pebble Beach are Oceanside courses, where scenic views, water, and windy conditions can wreak havoc. Spyglass Hill is a bit more difficult and tree-lined, featuring difficult undulations and greens. Overall, scoring should be low this week, but Spyglass is the hardest of the three courses. In terms of stats I feel are important, SG:Approach and SG:Around-the-Green are keys this week. Pebble Beach features the smallest greens on Tour, and scrambling will be key.
This week's field is headlined by Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Justin Rose, Jon Rahm, and Phil Mickelson. I had to pick one of these guys to win this week, it would be Jordan Spieth.
What stats are important 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 Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, and J.B. Holmes. come to mind in this week's field when targeting birdie makers. Bombers, you see. 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.
Strokes Gained Approach (SG:APP)
Pebble Beach, specifically, features some of the smallest greens in the world. Because of that, players will deal with some gnarly lies and short-sided chips when missing greens. I'm going to target SG:App because players who find the most greens and give themselves the most birdie opportunities will capitalize most. The poa greens this week are wet and extremely bumpy, so putting skills are mitigated. If you have a player who sticks approach shots inside 10' consistently, he's going to shoot up the leaderboard and contend on Sunday. Some names that stand out in the field are Roberto Castro, Kevin Chappell, Stewart Cink, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Jimmy Walker, and Webb Simpson.
Because these greens are so small and difficult, players will inevitably need to scramble. Putting is a little hit-or-miss this week, so I'm going to focus on SG:ATG. Players are all going to make birdies this week, so scrambling for pars is key. I played Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill a few months ago, and I can attest that I lost tons of strokes around the difficult green complexes. Focus on good scramblers, and you'll be in good shape. The names that popped out to me were Chad Collins, Luke Donald, J.B. Holmes, Chris Kirk, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, and Gary Woodland.
Par 5 Scoring (P5)
I expect the winning score this week to be much lower than the carnage we saw at Torrey Pines, and similar to what we saw last week in Phoenix. Although there are some short par-4s, most of the scoring this week will be done on the par-5s. Pebble Beach has a very reachable par-5 (2nd hole) where we should see some eagles. Spyglass Hill's 11th hole is also reachable in two shots. When you look at par-5 scoring, you'll see bombers like Dustin Johnson and Jimmy Walker, but also elite wedge players like Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, and Roberto Castro.
On top of these stats, we're going to focus on getting as many elite golfers into our lineups as possible. Because of the 54-hole cut, it's more likely that the better players will rise to the top. Because of that, I'm going to recommend a more balanced strategy when constructing your lineups this week.
1. PHIL MICKELSON [YAHOO CLASS B] - WORLD RANKING: #21
t's been awhile since Mickelson was my top-ranked golfer, but I absolutely love him this week. He comes to Pebble Beach where he's a three-time champion, and obviously loves the social pro-am aspect. He's been red hot recently, with three consecutive top-20 finishes on Tour. Phil's making a ton of birdies, and I expect more of the same. The only concern is that this is his fourth week in a row of competitive golf.
2. JORDAN SPIETH [YAHOO CLASS B] - WORLD RANKING: #5
Spieth doesn't have the best putting record on slow, bumpy, poa annua greens, but he's always a threat to win. Spieth has a couple of top-10s on his record at this event, and definitely has the ball-striking ability to contend. My main concern is that he's been really errant off-the-tee, and has been relying on his putter too much. He's racked up the top-10s this week, but he'll need to find the fairways to contend on these short tracks.
3. JUSTIN ROSE [YAHOO CLASS B] - WORLD RANKING: #13
Pricing is still a little weird this week, but as usual, Rose is significantly underpriced. He should be right up there with Brandt Snedeker, in my opinion. Rose finished second at the Sony Open and fourth at Torrey Pines. Rose also finished sixth at this event last season, so he's comfortable on these tracks and in the pro-am format. He also checks our stat boxes this week in SG:Approach and SG:Around-the-Green.
4. DUSTIN JOHNSON [YAHOO CLASS A] - WORLD RANKING: #3
The MC at Torrey Pines was a bit fluky, and we can blame DJ's travel from Abu Dhabi. He comes to an event he's dominated in the past, and a course – Pebble Beach – that he absolutely loves. He has seven top-10s here, including two wins, and nearly won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. DJ crushes par-5s, and has really improved his iron / wedge play over the past year. If he's on and motivated, DJ could dust this field.
5. BRANDT SNEDEKER [YAHOO CLASS B] - WORLD RANKING: #27
Snedeker is a player I target when he's a course horse, and that's what we have here. He burned me with a MC at the Sony Open, but bounced back with a top-10 at Torrey Pines. He comes back to an event he's won twice in the past four seasons, on greens that he loves. Snedeker's pop stroke with his putter is perfect for these slow, bumpy, poa annua greens. If he keeps his drives in play, Sneds is one of the favorites this week.