The Honda Classic is finally over and quite frankly I am pretty happy about it. One of my main selections, Daniel Berger, lost in a playoff to eventual out of nowhere winner Padraig Harrington. Still the event caused so much carnage to other popular plays that if you got teams through the cut with 4 players alive you likely still had a good week. A ridiculous number of high salaried players failed to make the weekend and just generally gave up after the horrible weather set in. Remind me never to visit Florida in February.
On to this week…
WGC Cadillac Championship
Well we are finally here, our first big event of the season. All 50 of the top players in the world will be at this event and they will be competing for a large 1.5 million dollar payday. Just making it into a WGC event is an accomplishment for players as they feature a reduced field of 70 or so elite golfers and everyone who starts gets paid. Since the event has no cut the entire field will play all four days and fantasy wise, it means we need to alter our selection process a bit to reflect these circumstances. See my advice on how to approach cut v no cut events here:
The course this week is a doozy. For the third week in a row the players face an extremely tough test of golf, this time at the redesigned Trump National at Doral in Miami. Donald Trump bought this course in 2012 and had the course redesigned after the 2013 tournament. The changes made were drastic as 17 of the 18 holes on the course received major facelifts. Greens were toughened, holes lengthened and the course went from being one of the easier on tour to arguably, the toughest. Just to give you an example of how different the course played in 2014 from previous years, the winning score in 2013 was -19, whereas last year Patrick Reed won this event with a paltry score of -4. He was one of only 3 players who ended up under par for the week.
Because of these drastic changes I am not putting much weight into the results of this event from 2013 and before. Instead, given how tough this course played I am going to be giving extra weight to relative form and a couple of different statistics which I hope might lead to finding some good fantasy plays. Since a lot of big hitters had success here last year, and have had success here in the past too, I think driving distance is a great stat to use to narrow down your selections. As well, given the toughness of the course I am really looking for players who are hitting the ball well, and strokes gained tee to green is a good stat to use to see who is thriving from the tee and fairways. Finally, given the toughness of this course scrambling will also be key this week. Players will need to save par a lot on this course as they will often face tough shots into the green or layups if they drive it errantly or into the water.
Odds to win: 20-1
Key Stat: 1st in driving distance
If you erase the debacle from last week from your mind, Dustin Johnson’s return to competitive golf has actually been fairly spectacular. He’s posted a T4 and a T2 in back to back events and really only lost the Northern Trust Open due to two miraculous putts by James Hahn. He comes into this event in almost the exact same form he did last year (when he finished 4th) but does so now with a completely different focus and mindset. Johnson can be one of the most frustrating players in the game, but talent wise there is almost no comparison. He’s posted some of his best results at tough, demanding courses and I think he can conquer the course this weekend and give you a huge result.
Odds to win: 35-1
Key Stat: 1st in scrambling
In an event where par is going to be a massive score most holes why not take the guy who ranks first overall in scrambling? The more I think about Kuchar the more I like him for fantasy this week. First I think he will be drastically under-owned even with his extremely discounted price. Second, he has a great history in showing up at the big events. Read Kuchar’s WGC, Majors and Players Championship finishes over the past three years and all you will see are solid placings. Even if the long setup of Doral does not necessarily suit his game, I think Kuchar proved he can compete here last year with a T13. Additionally, even if he doesn’t win, his price is so reduced this week that a solid finish is really all you might need for him to reach value. I think he makes a great cash game play and someone most people will overlook in gpps because of his lack of length.
Odds to win: 40-1
Key Stat: 2nd in driving distance
Koepka will be making his debut at this event but I am still very bullish on backing him for this week. Koepka is one of the longest hitters on tour and the course should suit his game very well. He’s proven that he can compete at tougher courses as seen by his high finish at the US Open last year. Koepka also proved his game was still in great shape last week when he went out and shot the low round of the tournament in what was essentially a mini-hurricane. Koepka is from Florida and I’m guessing will feel right at home this week. Don’t be shocked if he once again surprises people and ends up at—or near the top—of the leaderboard come Sunday.
Odds to win: 40-1
Key Stat: 14th strokes gained: tee to green
Casey has been one of my favorite golfers to watch over the past couple years as his rise back to notoriety has been very intriguing. Casey was at one time ranked number 3 in the world and for all intents and purposes seen as an elite golfer for years to come. However injuries and personal issues took their toll and forced him off his game. He flashed some elite form at times last season, but has only really started to show his old form again the past few weeks. Casey has the length and talent to take on Doral and be there at the end. Part of me worries about burnout (this will be his third week playing a tough course) but at the same time he is striking the ball as good as anyone on tour right now and he’s likely very hungry to get a win and cement his comeback. He’s got a game that seems dialed in and lots of momentum, I suggest using him this week.
Odds to win: 70-1
Key Stat: 57th strokes gained: tee to green
Mahan is easily my favourite value of the week. He’s a solid tee to green ball striker who has enough length to keep up with the big hitters who dominated here last year. Additionally, he’s got good recent form and a good course history at this event, having posted a top ten at the re-designed Doral last year. Mahan has also proved he likes tough golf courses. He won the Barclays (a playoff event) on a demanding golf course in a tough field, and he’s posted his best finishes in major championships at the US Open. I think Mahan makes a great value for his reduced price and he’s someone I would be comfortable using in many lineups this week.
Odds to win: 100-1
Key Stat: 7th driving distance
For 6300 on Draftkings and 5500 on Victiv you could do a lot worse than the big hitting Woodland who could easily show up here and land a top ten if he finds his game this week. I fully admit that Woodland needs to come with a disclaimer as his recent play has not exactly been up to snuff quality wise. However, Woodland has the perfect sort of power game that can really thrive on long tough golf courses and that is exactly the sort of test the players face this week. He started out the season strong before going into a semi-slump, but took last week off before arriving here and hopefully will be well rested. His T16 last year gives me hope that he can re-find his game this week and post an even better result.
Other notes: I think Keegan Bradley will bounce back in a major way this week. He’s a big hitter who seems to relish the tougher challenges. He generally plays very well after missing a cut. Danny Willet is a young English golfer who has really let his superior ball striking shine through over the past year or so. He really played well at the majors last year and I think he has the game to succeed on this demanding course.
Odds to win: 150-1
Key Stat: 6th here last year
Gallacher is a Scotsman who has had a very decent run of world-wide finishes in the past couple years. He came here last year and landed a top ten, proving he can handle the demanding nature of this course. He played very solidly last week at the Honda as well. He has decent length off the tee and when he’s on is a great ball striker. Additionally, as a Scotsman it’s more than likely he will be prepared to play in any rainy or windy conditions the players may face. At 5700 there’s a great chance Gallacher can land you a finish inside the top 25. For his price on both sites that would make him a major coup.
Odds to win: 200-1
Key Stat: 19th in driving distance
I think Hoffmann makes for one the most interesting plays in the entire field given his price. Most will look at his lack of history and the fact he withdrew after one round last week and brush him aside. But the truth is he really has the right type of game to excel on a course like Doral. Before his early exit last week, Hoffmann showed his affinity for tough courses with a T22 at Riviera. He’s also no stranger to strong fields as his play in last years Fed-ex playoffs is exactly why he gained entry into this field in the first place. Hoffmann hits it long and has had his best results at courses similar in nature to Doral. I think he can survive and post a decent result, and may prove to be one of the better value plays of the entire week.
Odds to win: 70-1
Key Stat: 3rd strokes gained: tee to green
The one thing that really drew me back to Webb Simpson this week was his scorecard from last year. Simpson opened with two disastrous rounds of 80-78 but then closed with two consecutive rounds of -2 to have the best weekend of anyone in the field. If you take away Simpson’s missed cut at Riviera you actually see the profile of a golfer who has been playing elite golf, exactly the kind that will be needed to win this tournament. It’s also fitting to note that he’s a former major winner who’s proven himself by winning at the toughest test of golf—the US Open—and won’t be scared off by harsh conditions. He’s by no means a sure thing but for his value I think he makes for a terrific gpp flyer that could net someone a big fantasy payday this weekend.
Fade: There’s a couple people I thought of putting here but the one I truly can’t see going well this week is Ian Poulter. Poulter essentially gave the tournament away last week (after playing brilliantly for the most part) and now comes to an even tougher test of golf after only a day or so of rest. I don’t think the course sets up well for Poulter and I’m guessing he might still be a little distracted from his previous weeks melt-down.
My Pick: I really think Dustin Johnson has looked great coming back from his layoff and should be hugely motivated to get his first win in a while. He’s my pick to win what should be a long, gruelling grind-fest of a tournament.