Welcome back to Golf News Net’s weekly fantasy golf picks. Each week of the PGA Tour season, we’ll present our top picks for that week’s tournament and make recommendations for DraftKings’ one-week fantasy leagues.
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The 2016 portion of the PGA Tour’s 2015-16 season kicks off this week at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. The field at Kapalua’s Plantation Course is reserved only for winners of PGA Tour events since and including the last Hyundai Tournament of Champions, won by Patrick Reed.
Jordan Spieth and Jason Day headline the field of 32, combining for 10 PGA Tour wins last season. Zach Johnson, a former Kapalua winner, is in the field as well, accounting for all of the 2015 major winners.
Four big names — Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Jim Furyk and Shane Lowry — are missing from the field, but it’s still a solid start to the new year.
Now, on to the picks!
1. Jordan Spieth — The best player on the planet had some nice showings after his PGA Tour year ended, finishing joint runner-up in the Australian Open title defense — in heavy winds, mind you — and a T-4 at the Hero World Challenge. Curious what his offseason tweaks did to his game.
2. Patrick Reed — The defending champion had a strong, active finish to his year by playing out the European Tour’s Final Series. He has been in the top 10 in his last six worldwide starts.
3. Jason Day — Day shot 62 in the final round here last year, stirring thoughts of what would be the most insane 59 in PGA Tour history (since it’s a par-73 course). Took the fall off to become a dad again. Word is that his fitness has improved in the offseason. Yikes.
4. Bubba Watson — Watson won in his last start at the Hero World Challenge, and he has back-to-back top-10 finishes in this event. He loves shotmaking on this course.
5. Rickie Fowler — Fowler gets to Kapalua for the first time since his breakthrough win in 2012. Coming off a three-win year in 2015, Fowler was T-3 in his last start at the Hero World Challenge.
6. Dustin Johnson — Johnson is a former winner of this event, albeit in 54-hole fashion in 2013. He played the most consistent golf of his career in 2015, and he should be locked in for another great year.
7. Zach Johnson — The other Johnson in the field won here in 2014, making it back-to-back Johnsons at Kapalua. Great 2015 for Johnson, but he really flopped at the finish of the year. Perhaps he was just gassed, but it tempers our ranking.
8. Kevin Kisner — Kisner broke through in the final PGA Tour event of 2015 at The RSM Classic. He had finished second — again! — at the WGC-HSBC Champions and finally got his first W. Killer short game should be good here.
9. Brooks Koepka — Another first-timer, Koepka should absolutely love the extra yards he’ll get on many of the Plantation Course’s generous, sloping fairways. He struggled through the FedEx Cup playoffs, but he’s pegged by many to have the year Spieth and Day enjoyed last year.
10. Justin Thomas — One of 14 first-timers in the field, Thomas won the CIMB Classic after a season filled with disappointing rounds on the weekends. Thomas said himself he thought he would win sooner than he did. He makes a lot of circles on the card, which should be good at Kapalua.
My DraftKings team for this week:
1. Patrick Reed — $9,900
2. Kevin Kisner — $9,200
3. Russell Knox — $8,100
4. Emiliano Grillo — $7,900
5. Bill Haas — $7,400
6. Alex Cejka — $7,000
If you want to win at DraftKings daily fantasy golf, you have to figure out a way to find six golfers that play all 72 holes and earn roughly 85 points each.
You likely have to identify a couple of players in the top five, at least the top seven, and you’d ideally not have a player finish outside the top 20.
Doing that takes research, looking at a variety of factors, including:
- Finish trends, both in recent weeks on the PGA Tour and at that week’s event,
- Salary trends, deciphering which players are showing value based on their performance, and
- Statistical trends, identifying the common threads among winners in that week’s event
That’s what Golf News Net will deliver each week to GNN Plus members in this space, offering a complete research package which dives into these three areas to find the players that should be in your lineup for this week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
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We start by looking at the recent past, back at players who have finished inside the top 15 in the last five PGA Tour events — not their last five starts. Here are the players in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions field with the most top-15 finishes in the last seven PGA Tour events, accounting for the 2015 portion of the 2015-16 PGA Tour schedule and keeping in mind that many of these guys played little golf during it:
- Smylie Kaufman – 2 – Frys.com Open (T-10), Shriners Hospitals for Children Open (Win)
- Alex Cejka – 2 – Shriners Hospitals for Children Open (T-2), The RSM Classic (T-6)
- Kevin Kisner – 2- WGC-HSBC Champions (2nd), The RSM Classic (Win)
- Russell Knox – 2- WGC-HSBC Champions (Win), OHL Classic at Mayakoba (T-2)
- Peter Malnati – 2- Sanderson Farms Championship (Win), OHL Classic at Mayakoba (T-10)
- Graeme McDowell – 2- OHL Classic at Mayakoba (Win), The RSM Classic (3rd)
- Patrick Reed – 2 – CIMB Classic (T-10), WGC-HSBC Champions (T-7)
- Justin Thomas – 2- Frys.com Open (T-3), CIMB Classic (Win)
We’re also interested in the players in the field that have finished in the top 10 (we’d usually say top 15, but it’s a small field) at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in the last five years.
- Dustin Johnson – 3
- Jason Day – 2
- Zach Johnson – 2
- Bubba Watson – 2
Ideally, we want to find players who are both playing well now and have a history of playing well at this course, but there are none on both lists.
DraftKings salaries change from week to week, depending on field strength and size, as well a player’s recent record and their history on a course. It’s in looking at how a salary changes over time that we might get some clues as to players that could be a little overrated or underrated.
Here’s the list of players in the field playing $1,500 over their average salary this season: None this week
Here are players with top 15 finishes in their last five events that are playing less than $600 above their average salary for the season:
Steven Bowditch — $6,800
Emiliano Grillo — $7,900
Chris Kirk — $7,300
Brandt Snedeker — $7,700
Justin Thomas — $8,700
Scott Piercy — $7,100
Graeme McDowell — $8,500
Brooks Koepka — $8,900
Danny Lee — $7,500
Zach Johnson — $9,500
Bill Haas — $7,400
What makes a winner at Kapalua? Length? No. Putting is a big part, definitely. But perhaps the most important part is proximity to the hole. The greens on the Plantation Course are enormous, some of the biggest on the PGA Tour. That means, to avoid three-putts, players have to get the ball closer to the hole.
Here are the players in the field that were in the top 25 on the PGA Tour last season or so far this season in proximity to the hole, with their strokes gained putting in parentheses:
- Graeme McDowell – 1st, 2015-16 (37th)
- Zach Johnson – 4th, 2015-16 (128th)
- Emiliano Grillo – 23rd, 2015-16 (127th)
- Bill Haas – 24th, 2015-16 (105th)
- Russell Knox – 2nd, 2014-15 (119th)