Well, last week was a lesson in not counting your chickens before they hatch. After Thursday, everyone in my player pool was inside the cut line except Bubba, and I was up $5k! Then on Friday, almost my entire afternoon wave went backwards, and I didn’t have a single line get five guys through to the weekend. Still made some money somehow, thanks to the trio of DJ, An, and Tway. Anyway, the point here is I’m very relieved to not have to sweat any cuts this Friday. Let’s get to it.
Courtesy of DataGolf, we know each aspect of the game is exactly in line with tour average when it comes to explaining the variance of scores. We can learn a lot by combining this fact with some nuggets from Fantasy National‘s course breakdown. Fairways and greens are both extremely difficult to hit here, relative to tour average. Plus, the rough has been categorized as “Long” most years, so it will be penal when players do miss off the tee. So, what’s the takeaway? For starters, accuracy is a little more emphasized off the tee, at the expense of distance. As a bonus, we should look to see if any players specialize (or suffer dramatically) out of the rough.
WGC Bridgestone Invitational Picks
Dustin Johnson reminded the world why he is #1 by a mile, both in the OWG rankings and in my models. He is only .02 shy of gaining TWO strokes per round on the field in ball striking (1.136 OTT, .844 APP). Insanity. It looks like his ownership will not be reflecting the fact that he is the best in the world by such a large margin. Pricing is pretty loose so despite the high price, fire away. Oh, and he’s first on tour in proximity to hole from rough.
Tiger Woods could easily be the highest owned player. He’s in great form and OWNS this golf course. Firestone is to Tiger what the Viking’s US Bank Stadium is to Nick Foles: home (go Birds). Tiger rates quite well in my models, thanks to nearly a full stroke gained per round with his irons. However, there is reason to be concerned. He is inaccurate off the tee and ranks 132nd in proximity from the rough. Additionally, Justin Rose has just WD’d with back spasms at just $100 fewer than Tiger, so a lot of his ownership could spill over to Tiger’s. There’s enough here to warrant a full Tiger fade, as much as that breaks my heart.
People love to pay for Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy. Without an ownership discount, there’s very little reason to fade DJ for either one, and there doesn’t seem to be an ownership discount. In fact, they may actually be higher owned than DJ.
Jordan Spieth has tumbled to 12th in my projected earnings rankings, but is the only potential DJ pivot I will recommend considering if you need the extra cash. For most of the year, his ball striking has remained very strong, but his projected ownership doesn’t reflect that fact.
This tier is loaded with quality, not quantity. There are only five players in this tier, but all are viable.
The chalk options are:
- Henrik Stenson– Gaining .6 strokes per round off the tee, over 1.1 per round with his irons. He exemplifies accuracy. He also excels in my model on Fantasy National when only using rounds on courses with long rough and difficult to hit fairways. Oddly enough, then, he’s second last in proximity from rough (small sample alert).
- Francesco Molinari– Scorching hot, but also excels in my models. The question is whether or not the Major victory will finally cause a winner’s hangover for someone who had previously shown an immunity.
- Tommy Fleetwood ever so slightly edges out the other two in my models. He’s a machine off the tee, gaining just shy of 3/4 of a stroke per round. The rest of his game is solid, but not spectacular.
Choosing between those three is very difficult. Find me in chat later tonight to get my final preferences between the three.
The contrarian options in this tier are Jon Rahm and Jason Day.
Rahm is actually second in my earnings model thanks to an elite .957 SG:OTT. He has struggled all year with his irons, however, and hasn’t shown signs of turning that aspect of his game around.
Day ranks significantly worse in my models due to even worse iron play, but is the clear second option behind DJ in my Fantasy National model that only uses courses with long rough and difficult to hit fairways. Day has the mental aspect of golf about as close to figured out as can be. He’s my preference over Rahm. Bomb and gouge, Jason!
There are three players that stand out as severely underpriced according to my models:
- Paul Casey will be one of the highest owned players, for good reason. He’s gaining over a stroke per round with his ball striking and is just about as consistent as they come. However, his recent results have been driven in part by uniquely great putting, especially by his standards. Let’s leverage the variance of putting and fade this chalk.
- Justin Thomas arguably has more upside than Casey, anyway. He’s gaining the same advantage approaching the greens (around .85 per round), and twice the advantage off the tee. A recent “slump” has caused his price to drop to a silly number. He’s third in the world for a reason.
- Patrick Cantlay should be at least a little less chalky than the other two. He’s one of just ten players on the year gaining over half a stroke per round in each ball striking category.
Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed, and Alex Noren all have some GPP appeal based on ownership. I think there are better places to diversify, but if you’re eating all the chalk elsewhere, they’re fine pivots off all the popular plays in this tier.
Chalk, Chalk, and More Chalk
Bryson DeChambeau rates quite well in my models, but he’s projected to be very chalky and something seems off with him. Video came out of him being mentally tortured by his own swings on the range at The Open. I’m sure he’ll figure it out sooner than later, but it’s enough to warrant going elsewhere in this loaded tier.
Xander Schauffele is expected to be even higher owned than Bryson. This feels like the public chasing his high finishes in the Majors. He doesn’t pop in my models, and his recent ball striking form is suspect at best. He is an easy full fade for me.
N0 one has been on Adam Scott quite like I have this year… until this week, apparently. He’s one of the ten gaining over half a stroke in each ball striking category, but is projected for very high ownership. I like him anyway, just not enough to play him in GPPs.
If I can get Byeong-Hun An at lower ownership than Scott, like current projections show, then I will without hesitation. An is gaining just about the same edge in ball striking as Scott, minus the putting woes. Additionally, his recent ball striking form is excellent, whereas Scott’s is non-existent (he hasn’t played a tournament where strokes gained stats are recorded since The Memorial on June 2nd).
Luke List and Emiliano Grillo also pop in my models, but are projected as chalk. We need some lower owned options!
Gary Woodland was $9200 and a favorite play of mine last week. This week, he’s just $7100 and projected for single digit ownership. Hooray! His strokes gained profile of +.792 OTT and +.385 APP is easy to love. Woodland is my favorite GPP play in this tier.
Louis Oosthuizen excels on difficult courses, and is quietly in very solid form. He doesn’t pop in my models, but he’s projected for much lower ownership than he deserves at such a discounted price.
Austin Cook is surging in projected ownership, likely from people searching for a sneaky play. His strokes gained profile is dwarfed by most players in this tier, making him a gleeful full fade for me… especially since Woodland is a natural pivot.
Brendan Steele might be my favorite GPP play of the week. He’s the cheapest of the ten player’s gaining over half a stroke in each ball striking category, and that includes an advantage of .81 strokes per round off the tee. If that wasn’t enough, he really pops in my Fantasy National long rough/difficult fairways model. His ownership might not be super low, but I think it will be single digits.
I don’t like any other players in this tier, but if you find one you like, feel free to ask me about him in FTA+ chat tonight.