Well folks, that’s two straight down weeks for us. We had an astonishing number of players lose multiple strokes per round on the green (An, Rahm, Rose, Tiger, etc) so let’s not overreact. Fortunately, the Tour is returning to a course with a healthy amount of data for us to delve into.
Looking at a hole by hole breakdown of TPC Boston, it appears as though there are a number of holes where bombers will be able to carry the intimidating fairway bunkers. There are also a number of holes where players will easily be able to get away with 3-wood or a driving iron. This interesting mix gives players like Tiger and Phil (long, but not very accurate off the tee) a boost. These thoughts are definitely supported by DataGolf’s Historic Event Data. SGOTT is fairly heavily deemphasized, and SGAPP picks up all the slack. In other words, if a player has strong iron play, they don’t cost themselves much by playing safe off the tee. Furthermore, if a player is long, they don’t gain a ton by also being accurate. One final note: Like most of the Northeast, Boston has had a ton of rain this summer. I expect this course to be soft, and it’s historically played significantly easier when soft.
Dell Championship Picks
Dustin Johnson is first by a mile in my models, and is coming off one of his strongest iron performances of the year. Just to put a little extra icing on the cake, he excels in soft conditions. Out of JT, Koepka, and himself, he is projected for the lowest ownership. Everything’s coming up DJ for me.
Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka are the only two golfers challenging DJ for best in the world. It looks like the public is viewing JT as DJ’s equivalent, as he’s projected for higher ownership. However, even if I just use 2018’s stats, JT’s earnings projection is still be well behind DJ’s, and his cut odds are ten percentage points lower.
Koepka is projected for about the same ownership as DJ, so if the $700 savings proves key, I have no issue with Koepka > DJ. Koepka’s last three SGOTT performances by event: 5, 5.9, 4.4. His last three SGAPP performances: 5.9, 5.9, 3.7. That’s dominant.
Jason Day and Rory McIlroy are projected for higher ownership than I was expecting. They’re not getting anywhere near enough of an ownership discount for me to consider them, especially since there are a number of players who are both cheaper and project better in my models.
There are three plays in this tier that I love and all will be chalky. There are plenty of places to diversify, so I won’t try to find a low owned pivot off any of these three.
Tiger Woods may not be the golfer he once was, but you wouldn’t know it just by looking at his approach numbers. He’s gaining .993 per round with his irons and that number just keeps rising. Last week, his ball striking was there. His short game and putter were not. If either of those two volatile aspects return for him, he could easily contend. As we saw at Bellerive, he’s able to take advantage of soft greens with his iron play, whether he’s coming out of the rough after bombing driver by the bunkers, or out of the fairway after laying back.
Justin Rose would be third in my models if only 2018 stats were included. His irons aren’t quite elite, but he does everything well and was over 50% owned in cash last week on the way to a MC. That should turn a lot of people off him this week, suppressing the ownership of one of the most popular DFS plays of the year. Despite the MC, he gained strokes in each ball striking category, losing over three strokes per round on the greens. He’s a strong [positive] regression candidate that could pay off at much lower ownership than we usually see him carry.
Patrick Cantlay just keeps striping the ball. Cantlay was once again excellent all around last week, except on the greens. He’s now up to third in each of my models, displaying the type of consistency we usually only see in the top tier.
This tier is loaded. Where to begin…
In descending order of price, here are the plays I love, why I love them, and what their ownerships look like.
- Hideki Matsuyama is coming off back to back weeks where he gained over a stroke and half per round with his irons. His SG approach is up over .5 per round now for the season.
- Unfortunately, the public has taken notice. He’s projected to be the highest owned player at the moment, and that projection is still rising.
- Bryson DeChambeau won last week in large part because he gained seven strokes putting for the week. Is he a regression candidate? Yes. Does that matter? I’m not so sure. His ball striking was also excellent, and had been trending up previously. Furthermore, his ball striking numbers are even more impressive long-term. He’s gaining .564 and .63 per round off the tee and approaching the green, respectively.
- People are clearly biased against the possibility of a back-to-back winner. Koepka was underowned last week, and Bryson appears to be headed for ~15% ownership. With identical numbers and 2nd place finishes instead, I bet both would have been mega-chalk.
- Henrik Stenson is an irons machine, and a soft course specialist. The distance gap between his beloved 3-wood and the other elite ball strikers’ drivers is mitigated with soft conditions, as driver typically gets more roll. He’s been quiet lately, but that’s due to horrendous putting. If we can even get an average performance from Henrik on the greens, we’ll likely be rooting for him down the Sunday stretch.
- Henrik comes at a significant ownership discount to those above him, making him a smash play in all formats.
- Tommy Fleetwood is suddenly 4th in my cut odds model, and is clearly underpriced. While I do love him this week, he’s more of a driving specialist than an irons aficionado.
- While underpriced, he will not go underowned. Only Hideki carries a higher ownership projection in this tier.
- Phil Mickelson does not stand out in my models. However, he’s one of my favorite plays of the week. Why? For starters, like Tiger, he benefits greatly from the bomb it or lay-back-off-the-tee setup. He’s gaining well over half a stroke per round with his irons for the season, as well. However, what really has me on Phil this week are his post round interviews from the Northern Trust. He spoke of 1. finding an easy fix that helped him straighten out his driver (fairways would at least be nice on the par 5s) and he backed up those comments on the weekend. And 2. he said he believes his game has “turned a corner”. This means more to me than the typical vote of confidence a player gives himself after a nice event. This tells me he found something in his swing that he believes makes the game easier for him going forward.
- Phil is projected for under 10% ownership. He is my favorite tournament play of the week.
- Billy Horschel is in really solid form. In his last five events, he’s averaging a total of 2.3 SGOTT and 4 SGAPP.
- Horschel is projected for similar ownership as Stenson. I trust Stenson a little more, but Billy’s price could make the difference.
We need to find ways to diversify here. Let’s start with some ownership driven fades.
Fade, fade, fade!
Kevin Na is projected to be chalky, coming off his 15th place finish. However, let’s look at how he accomplished that: -1.7 SGOTT, .1 SGAPP, .2 SGATG, 8 SGP. Pass!
While Gary Woodland projects very well once again, he also appears to be quite chalky. I’m fine with this, as there’s a wonderful pivot that I really like this week (Wise)… I shouldn’t scream to fade Woodland. He’s been so kind to us. I’m sorry, Gary.
Aaron Wise doesn’t jump off the page in my models, but there’s a lot to like. For starters, he’s gaining almost half a stroke off the tee on the year, and both ball striking aspects of his game are clicking. Furthermore, Fantasy National’s player profile of Wise shows that he gains far more strokes on the field on easy courses than average or difficult. With the soft conditions, I think we can expect this week’s to fall in the Easy category. Furthermore, Wise makes a ton of birdies. His birdie or better percentage of 23.46% is among the elite. Last but not least, he’s projected to be very low owned.
Tyrell Hatton gets better as the strength of the field does. He had an outstanding Sunday last week and will look to carry that into the Dell. It’s a shame he made so many putts. Had he posted a good-but-not-great score, we likely would have been able to get his hot irons at low ownership.
Ian Poulter still has the Ryder Cup motivation (I’m only applying this narrative to Poults) and is, for whatever reason, a soft course specialist. While his irons haven’t been dominant, they’ve been the strongest part of his game recently. He’s projected for under 10% ownership.
Keegan Bradley and Byeong-Hun An are in similar positions for me. Both are in good form, especially with irons, but don’t pop. Both are also projected for a little over 10% ownership. I wish they were either popping a little more, or would create more leverage on the field, but both are viable in all formats.
There are two plays in this final tier that stand out to me.
First, Joel Dahmen has established himself as an excellent iron player. Thanks to Fantasy National, we can see this trend in his irons: In his career, he’s gained a total of .8 strokes per event approaching the green. Over his past 20 events, that number jumps to 1.8. In his last ten? 3.7. His last 5? 4.3. Trending up is good; trending up while priced at $6400, carrying under 10% ownership is very good.
Chesson Hadley is another player who has established himself as a premiere iron player this season. In fact his numbers for the season are excellent. .159 SGOTT, .733 SGAPP, -.096 SGATG, and .313 SGP. His ball striking is also in good recent form. The kicker? He’s projected for ~1% ownership. Boom.
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