2017 Players Championship – May 11th through May 14th
Score one for the little guy. Like, really little. Brian Harman is listed at 5’7”, 150 lbs. Not exactly what you expect from a professional athlete but golf can certainly be a little different. I had my fair share as he showed up in my model due to some nice recent numbers off the tee and around the green, but being in what looked like the tougher draw combined with his diminutive size stopped me from going all out. I try to avoid a #brand as I think it really limits one’s ability to adapt to different slates, but I will say my biggest sweatable lineup heading into Sunday included a whole bunch of players who checked a whole bunch of boxes that are generally in my “con” column-
Alex Noren (overrated in OWGR because Euro)
Patrick Reed (short hitter, not athletic)
Pat Perez (not athletic, old)
J.T. Poston (recent results guy that hasn’t really showed up for me statistically yet)
Zach Johnson (possibly my least favorite golfer, VERY short hitter, old)
Francesco Molinari (okay, I actually like this guy)
Anyway, I was spared the indignity of winning all the monies on Sunday with an off brand lineup because all those guys suck and mostly turned back into the mediocre players they are.
The weather angle did not end up working out but I do think it was the correct play. We had what looked to be a coin flip between one tee time getting a huge advantage in conditions and there being no significant difference. While ownership definitely shifted, it didn’t to the point that a 50% chance at a two stroke lead would indicate. Well, except at the higher stakes. I played a lineup of DJ/Scott/Noren/Varner/Laird/Lowry that was duped NINE TIMES out of 156 teams in the $1500 contest. Apparently it was five of 20 teams in the Thunderdome! Honestly I misread the situation, had I known everything would have become that congested there’s no way I don’t do something odd to switch it up. Luckily my cash team was on point and I got out of the week breaking even, which I definitely would have taken when I saw the ownership situation on Thursday morning.
This week we move onto the Players, the unofficial “5th major.” It’s unofficial because there are only four majors, so even having a 5th major would be impossible. So officially, definitely not a major, you follow? Okay great, now ignore all that. As far as we’re concerned it’s a major, with a huge purse and just as stacked a field as any real major. Even casual fans will recognize the 17th hole, a par three where the green is in the middle of a pond surrounded by stadium seating and connected via a small isthmus. It’s basically the only thing I remember from playing a lot of 2 AM Tiger Woods Golf in college.
The course itself is likely to challenge most aspects of the game, with a variety of hole lengths and shot distances.
Length/Fairways: While the driving distance here as a whole is lower than tour average, I do count nine or ten of the 14 holes that players can rip it on. That number will also go up as the par 4 12th hole has been redesigned with an eye on letting players drive the green. I’m hearing people almost call this a bunter’s course and I think that’s a mistake. The mega long hitters will get their chances. The issue here is that there is a lot of water and the rough looks… pretty rough. Staying on the fairways will be very important. This means ideally we will have players who can hit the ball a long way but keep it straight, which is going to result in a lot of old familiar names for regular readers of this column. SG: Off the Tee at this tournament has been more important over the past five years than at any event so far this season.
Greens: Tiny tiny greens, which will exacerbate any missing fairway issues. There are a few more 100-150 yard approaches than we normally expect to see, but there are still a ton of 150-200 and a handful of 200+. Where the putting surfaces are so small, players will miss the approaches on occasion regardless, so some touch around the greens will be important. As is typical at more prestigious tournaments, they do run on the faster side. This is more likely to bring out latent three putt disasters in those with that particular proclivity. Also will give the long range bombs a better chance to run true on a great read, so when we all fade Spieth be prepared for a couple of those.
With tight fairways and small, easily missed greens, good tee work to set up a makeable second shot will be the most important area of ability. Being lodged in the rough, or worse, the trees, or even worse, the water, will be a problem. Scoring is doable here, but so are ugly doubles. Putting, as usual, will ultimately be the most important yet hardest to predict.
Weather: Getting a little tired of doing all my research only to blow it up chasing a tee time advantage every week, but we do have another coastal course that has been hit in the past. Don’t forget to check back.
At the very top it feels like they have priced these guys pretty efficiently, to the point you don’t have to indiscriminately jam in one or more of these dudes. A lot has to do with the depth of the field. At the very top I think I slightly prefer Rory McIlroy-11.2 DK, 18.4 FDraft to Dustin Johnson-12.0 DK, 19.6 FDraft, as Rory’s ridiculous combination of length and accuracy off the tee slightly trumps that of Deej, and the $800 savings is nice. That said, if Deej is going to be available at an ownership discount due to the heftier tag and his lack of eye popping finishes here in the past, I will be all over him in tournaments. He’s always been great but the level he is playing at right now is crazy, it is silly to let results from years ago distort that.
Where I really want to attack is the second range at the top, where I am enamored with all four guys in the 9k range.
Hideki Matsuyama-9.7 DK, 16.9 FDraft /Rickie Fowler-9.3 DK, 16.9 FDraft: Both players here have aren’t displaying any weaknesses right now. Both long enough, very accurate from long distance (edge to ‘Deki here) and nice touch on and around the greens (edge to Rickie here).
Jon Rahm-9.6 Dk, 17.0 FDraft /Justin Rose-9.2 DK, 16.7 FDraft: Rahm may already be at the Rory level of smashing 300+ right down the middle of the fairway as consistently as anyone in the game. If he has a weakness it’s been his approach game, but with tiny greens that should be missed by many and a silly chipping stroke working this is as good a chance as any to overcome that. Rose has been the poster child for stability all season and is a nice cash foundation.
There are a lot of plays in here, it is hard to choose and in tournaments I’ll be making a number of decisions based on where the field is going, but for now I think we can make two classifications.
Cash: Adam Scott-8.4 DK, 16.1 FDraft /Paul Casey-8.3 DK, 15.6 FDraft /Matt Kuchar-7.9, 15.4 FDraft: I have been all over Scott and Casey pretty much every week and that’s not changing with those price tags. As I’ve said a number of times, both are your prototypical ball striker types and that is going to play well here. Kuchar is so boring, so steady, and finally so reasonably priced again. I’m not in the business of buying Kuchar when he’s the favorite as he doesn’t really have the firepower to crush fields, but he’s as safe as they come to get through and not kill you.
GPP: Russell Knox-7.6 DK, 13.5 FDraft /Ryan Palmer-7.6 DK, 13.3 FDraft: Excellent players who have had up and down seasons with a few results lately. I’m still buying if they haven’t become the chalk yet.
Tyrell Hatton-7.6 DK, 14.1 FDraft: Gaining strokes off the tee and on the green all year, which is the recipe for success here.
Really like Louis, Cantlay, Kisner as GPP pieces too. Hell, even Kevin Chappell, who seems overpriced, put up the best DK points total (skipping finishing points) of the last five years here.
Martin Kaymer-7.3 DK, 14.7 FDraft: Another steady guy to work into the cash team mix. Short game struggles concern me a little.
Branden Grace-6.8 DK, 13.9 FDraft: Having a fine season and doing it under the radar. He’s simply a much better player than this price tag.
Emiliano Grillo-7.0 DK, 12.9 FDraft: This is gonna be a really fun one for a couple rounds until he finds water. Hold your nose and enjoy the DK points, he’s likely going to vastly outperform his finishing position.
You’ll notice two missing values down here that I write up almost every week in J.B. Holmes and Tony Finau. While I’ll probably end up with a little of each in GPPs as their ceiling is so high, the wildness off the tee scares me. It is IMPERITIVE to hit the fairway here.
Site Specific Values:
A deeper field like this saves FanDuel from itself a little, where combing through the dregs at the bottom should take a little more skill.
FantasyDraft’s new format is still a ton of fun, and they have a 10k tournament this week with a $25 buy in. They keep growing, and while chasing 100k on DK is may be more exciting, it is easier to realize sustainable growth on a smaller site. Sign up through us and receive 30 free days of FanVice premium content and access into the upcoming private freerolls, starting on Wednesday (must be signed up through the FanVice links to be eligible).
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