Shell Houston Open Mar 30th-April 2nd
D.A. Points! Arnold Palmer’s grandkid! Forty-eight year old Retief Goosen! Bill Lunde! Wait, who is Bill Lunde?!? I’ve actually never heard of that person, and I make a living researching this stuff. Last week’s Puerto Rico Open is a reminder that anything can happen in golf, especially when the only tournament we could degen lineups into was missing all of the best players. I actually had a pretty nice week, getting a 45% ROI on a smaller than usual investment. I didn’t play any cash, but got 6/6 through on 31.4% of my GPP lineups, significantly above the field average. However:
- a) I wasn’t going to be playing any Bryson Dechambeau
2) I talked myself off of a bunch of Peter Uihlein shares thinking he would be insanely popular (he wasn’t really)
And d) no one else who finished T8 or better was even on my radar.
The hot start for Trey Mullinax had me pretty excited and overall he returned a ton of value for his price tag, but Alex Cejka/Danny Lee/Chris Kirk/Luke List as my primary spends all having middling weeks kept me out of the hunt for huge money. Hey listen, anytime you say “Alex Cejka/Danny Lee/Chris Kirk/Luke List [were] my primary spends” and turn a profit you are feeling okay.
I tried to watch a little, but the ugly weather in Puerto Rico combined with the match play that my esteemed podcast co-host Mayo called the most boring tournament to watch in golf largely kept me away from the tube and hanging out with the wife and dogs for the weekend. This was probably a good political move as we return to real golf this week with the Masters only a week away. I plan on watching that one wire to wire, perhaps to see if there are any other traditions like it.
This week is the final rehearsal for the aforementioned rather famous and possibly unique tradition, and many golfers are known for treating is as such. The “proven” players are unlikely to treat this event as something to be taken seriously in its own right, as their Wikipedia page legacies are typically boiled down to performance in majors. While this may be an argument for the younger, hungrier types, that is for you to decide. I am a data analyst first and foremost and I simply don’t know how to quantify that angle. I will be using my traditional approach, looking at the skills that lead to success at this particular course and trying to get as much loaded into our lineups as we can under a 50K cap.
That said this course is nothing too fancy. A 7,400 yard par 72. The fairways aren’t particularly tough to hit, nor is the rough particularly punitive. There IS a fair amount of water, but predicting who will be in the drink is harder than you’d think. Who would you guess has been in there more the past five years, first-class ball striker Paul Casey or erratic dong smasher J.B. Holmes? Exactly, it’s Casey.
The greens are on the quicker side, and the course itself is on the longer side. Par 5s look reachable for the long hitters. The iron shots are distributed a little more evenly than we’ve seen recently, with the most coming from the 150-200 yard range. The wind can be a massive issue here, so make sure you are checking back Wednesday night to see if there is an advantage to be gained for a particular tee time.
Length: A longer course with middling rough means bombs away to me. Some rain on Wednesday could lengthen it further. Unfortunately, as we’ll get into below, the prices have this factored in and scoring is tougher than at your average course.
Fairways: Shots gained from the rough numbers are above average across the board at this course. Even if one does miss the fairway it’s not going to be a major deal as long as they aren’t in the water.
Greens: These are quicker greens, which should lead to some prayer putts dropping from long range as well as some poor ones sailing by. This also can lead to improperly hit iron shots bouncing well past their target, so I’ll be considering it a plus if a player does well from inside 50 yards with the irons. Typically I prefer to target players that are unlikely to get into that trouble as often in the first place, but it may be unavoidable here.
Weather: The wind forecast has been changing early and often, but I am going into the week ready to scrap everything if it looks like a certain draw will have substantially less wind to deal with. If for some reason wind is down, scoring was way up in 2015, with over a bogey less and nearly a birdie more per golfer. Check back with us in the Slack chat.
On to the golfers:
Henrik Stenson-10.4/20.7: This is a play I want to get on board with badly. He is certainly a cut above Rickie Fowler, and probably Jon Rahm (although obv the ceiling is crazy), too. A boss with the irons, and quietly better equipped to deal with a course like this where scoring is at a premium. I’m struggling with whether people see the silly price and he becomes the most popular play on the board, or if the WD and MC as mega chalk in two of his last three will have people off him. My suspicion is that the latter will win out, especially with the crush everyone has on Rahm. At the moment I’m planning on playing a bunch in both cash and tournaments.
Jordan Spieth-12.0/22.6: I rarely am on this train but I think there is more value in the middle and lower tiers than the top. I also like this course for Spieth’s game, despite his relative lack of length. The touch around the greens and the ability (I’m at a loss, but he’s repeated it over and over) to hit ridiculously long putts on a consistent basis are tough to ignore.
Adam Scott-9.4/19.3: Dude can’t putt, but T2G he’s up there with Stenson for class of the field. Putting is also typically as much luck based (sigh, with the exception of the aforementioned Spieth) as anything else, and if he just hits a few 15 footers he’ll be right in the thick of things at a price tag unrepresentative of his talent.
Jon Rahm-10.7/21.4, risky fade of the week: I’ve recommended some wacky fades this year, and have been hitting on them at a pretty unsustainable rate. This one makes me nervous, but the fact is Rahm just isn’t a very approach iron player. He’s amazing off the tee and has been amazing with the short game, but that hole in the middle is going to put him in untenable situations. I’m scared to do this, too.
Love my dude J.B., but 9.2 is a little steep. I’ll be firing in some tournaments if we get the lower ownership I expect at that tag, but I kinda hope he sucks so we can go all in at the Masters for 7.1.
Mid-range: I don’t love this range, as many of the guys I normally play seem overpriced. Not going to complain as this is a byproduct of their recent success (strong correlation to my own), but I am going to move on. Phil and Berger are interesting tournament plays, especially if the wind seems down or they have a nice tee time. However, the only players that really stand out as price plays are:
Patrick Reed-7.7/18.3 Not so much on FantasyDraft, and the recent form is poor, but he’s better than this.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello-7.9/17.5 Yes so much on FantasyDraft, another solid all-around player whose price doesn’t mesh with those around him.
Cheapies: This level is loaded, and I will be playing a number of these options.
Bernd Wiesberger-6.7/16.7: If scoring is going to be tough, this is your man. Pretty similar game to Rickie Fowler, if a little weaker across the board.
Tony Finau-7.1/17.9: Another one that is tougher to pay for on FD, but I’m not passing up this price on DK. Could be a candidate to get in the water, but he’s also as likely as anyone to hit an eagle, which are very hard to come by and would be a major differentiator. He’s a GPP play too.
Ryan Palmer- 6.9/15.6: Started off the year miserably, started to show a little bit, then took the last month plus off. He’s better than this, and being a week early is what tournaments are all about.
Jamie Lovemark-6.8/16.1: Cheap distance. He has been spraying all over the place, but that shouldn’t be as big of a problem here. His recent poor long iron play is out of whack with what we would expect, and the shorter ones are more important here anyway.
Keegan Bradley-7.1/17.1: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Go and get it everybody.
Find me on Twitter @andrewmbarron or in the FanVice Premium Slack @hotmajik if you wanna talk strat/make jokes/argue