This week, we head to South Africa for the second let of the European Tour’s playoffs. Players are jostling for position inside the top-60 in the Race to Dubai rankings so that they can lock up a place in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. We have a star-studded field here, headlined by Henrik Stenson, Martin Kaymer, Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Andy Sullivan, Thomas Pieters, and Rafa Cabrera-Bello. When in South Africa, we always have to give a nod towards South African players, who always turn up in form for their home opens. That, plus the fact that this week’s course is Gary Player Country Club, gives that extra motivation for them to perform their best.
This track is pretty unique, in that I think we’ll see a wide range of scores. While the winners will threaten to reach -20, much of the field will finish over par in the difficult, windy conditions. The course can play as long as 7,800 yards, but players have been quoted saying that fairways are critical, even if it means hitting less-than-driver off the tees. We have plenty of course history to draw upon, but many of the events held here had a very small field. Also important: this is a no-cut event, so every player will get four rounds. This usually points us towards a stars-and-scrubs roster construction full of birdie makers.
- Driving Accuracy
- Greens in Regulation
- Birdie or Better %
Let’s take a look at my favorite European Tour players this week:
Henrik Stenson ($12,600) – Stenson is clearly the class of this field, and he’s coming off a blistering weekend and 2nd place finish at the WGC-HSBC Champions. Sure, this event is a limited field, but in six tries, he’s never finished worst than 4th. This course requires fairways and greens, which are Stenson’s bread-and-butter. Put his birdie-making abilities on top of that, and he’s a must play, although he’s priced appropriately.
Charl Schwartzel ($9,900) – There will be a lot of discussion between Schwartzel, Grace, and Oosthuizen this week as the highest priced South African natives. I’ll give them all a boost on home soil, but Schwartzel is my favorite of the bunch. Schwartzel has played here seven times, and has finished top-10 in six of those. He’s won two of his last three events in South Africa, and flashed a return to form in the FedEx Cup playoffs: 4th the BMW Championship and 10th at the Tour Championship. I love his scrambling and GIR% stats, as well.
Ross Fisher ($9,300) – Fisher has been on fire lately, and comes to a course (and a country) where he’s been very successful. At this venue, he has a 5th, a 3rd, and a 2nd on record, and he’s coming off three top-6 finishes in his past four events on Tour. He’s a savvy tactician who will hit fairways and greens at a very high rate, making for a tremendous play this week. He has one career win in South Africa, at the 2014 Tshwane Open.
The Value Mid-Tier:
George Coetzee ($7,600) – Coetzee is my favorite mid-range play this week, and my sneaky pick for low South African. His course history isn’t anything to write home about, but he caught fire last week in Turkey, posting a top-5. During that run, he was 2nd in the all-around rankings and 3rd in GIR%, two things that point towards success here. He’s a player who can make bunches of birdies and I love his chances to contend this week at a very cheap price. He makes for a nice pivot off Thorbjorn Oleson, who will be popular coming off a win last week.
David Lipsky ($7,200) – Lipsky continues to grind out strong tournaments and be underpriced on DraftKings. His last two starts yielded finishes of 5th and 6th, and yet his price continues to fall. He’s never played here before, but I’ll take a shot on anyone with a hot putter.
Andrew Johnston ($7,100) – Should be uber-chalk this week, but I love Johnston anytime we get a small field where greens in regulation are important. He had a rough summer after catching so much media attention, but he’s been rounding back in to form. He finished 28th at the British Masters (opening 67-65), and 22nd last week in Turkey (finishing with three rounds in the 60s).
Rikard Karlberg ($7,000) – It’s been a rollercoaster year for the Swede, starting scorching hot, cooling off in the summer, and now finding form again. He’s made four of the past five cuts on Tour including a top-20 last week in the WGC-HSBC Champions (where he was the 1st round leader). He’s a player who can post some really low numbers, and I expect ownership to be pretty low this week. Although it’s his first time at this course, Karlberg does have a top-15 finish in South Africa on his record.
Hao-Tong Li ($6,800) – Strike while the iron is hot! Li finished 2nd in Turkey after a blistering round on Sunday. Although he has no course history, he has no trouble taking his game around the world, and he has shown his ability to post top-10s anywhere. I think he’s significantly underpriced in this limited field, and can make enough birdies and eagles to easily pay off his price tag.
Alejandro Canizares ($6,600) – Canizares is my favorite sub-$7,000 play this week. In full field events, he’s finished in the top-45 in eight of his last nine starts, and now his finishes are trending closer to top-20s. He putts and scrambles well, and makes tons of birdies. In those past 9 events, here are his DraftKings points: 70, 85, 59, 76, 30, 101, 100, 86. Pretty good for a player near the minimum price this week.
Brandon Stone ($6,300) – Speaking of minimum price, what happened to Brandon Stone? He had a great run of golf earlier this year, and he was in the $8,000-$9,000 range on DraftKings. He has six top-10s this year, including one win. In any event, this is a great time to buy low. He’s back on home soil where he has had a lot of success, and his game is due to bounce back.
Good luck this week!