Up next is the Northern Trust Open. It’s one of the players’ favorite courses on tour, and as a result, we’ve got one of the best non-major fields we’ll see this season. The NTO is played at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, CA. It’s a tough 7,322-yard par 71 that will place an emphasis on length and scrambling. The winning score typically hovers around -12.
2015 Northern Trust Open
1. James Hahn -6 (won in playoff)
T-2. Dustin Johnson -6
T-2. Paul Casey -6
T-4. Hideki Matsuyama -5
T-4. Keegan Bradley -5
T-4. Sergio Garcia -5
T-4. Jordan Spieth -5
T-8. Kyle Reifers -4
T-8. Graham DeLaet -4
T-8. Sang-moon Bae -4
T-8. Retief Goosen -4
When it comes to course history, I tend to focus more on how many DK points a golfer has scored rather than where they finished (thanks @fgmetrics). That said and spoiler alert, it turns out most of the guys I like finished in the top 10 last year, weird… but not really.
— FantasyGolfMetrics (@FGMetrics) February 15, 2016
As you can tell from this chart, being long will be a huge benefit this week. Not only that, longer approaches = less greens in regulation, so those who can’t scramble will be at a severe disadvantage. With that in mind, here’s what I’m looking at in terms of a target profile:
- Stroke Differential
- Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
- Strokes Gained: Putting
- Driving Distance
- GIR and Proximity (using both for a better picture)
- Birdie or Better %
- Par 4 Scoring and Birdie %
- Birdie % and Proximity from 175-200 and 200+ Yards
PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS!
Rory McIlroy $13,200 (7-1)
Rory and Spieth come in at $13,200 each, so you’re going to have to make a choice. I’m going with Rory. Although it’s his first time playing the NTO, I think this course sets up well for his game. He’s long, hits a ton of greens, and is a birdie-making machine. It’s Rory McIlroy, you know the deal.
Hideki Matsuyama $11,100 (16-1)
Matsuyama was my #1 play for the week, but he withdrew mid-round during Wednesday’s pro-am, and now I’m scared. I tend to think a mid-round WD is different than a “I’m not in the mood for this crap” pro-am WD. I’m certainly dropping him in cash, and I might pull my Matsuyama GPP teams out, too.
Paul Casey $8,900 (50-1)
Casey has played this event three times prior, and he’s averaged 76.8 DK points per which includes a T-2 last year (lost in playoff to Hahn). He missed the cut at Farmers, but didn’t play poorly (shot 73-71 for an E total). Before that, he had ripped off four straight top-25 finishes worldwide (T-24, T-23, T-7, T-5), so I’m taking his Farmers finish as a small hiccup and moving on.
While he’s not super long and finishes near the bottom of the pack in terms of scrambling, there’s one big reason to like Casey at Riviera: he’s one of the best ball strikers on tour. Last season he finished 10th in SGT2G, 8th in total driving, 5th in GIR, 4th in ball striking, and 9th in proximity. If anyone can stay out of trouble this week, it’s Paul Casey. Granted, it’s a sample size of three, but his results at Riviera back this theory up.
Finally, his price is great. In my opinion, he’s as likely to succeed this week as some $10k players like Jimmy Walker, Bubba Watson, and Sergio Garcia. While there’s nothing wrong with those three, I’ll take Casey and the $1,500 in savings.
Matt Kuchar $8,600 (60-1)
The first thing that should jump out at you is his price. We’re used to seeing Kuch in the $9,500-$10,000 range, so he comes in at a considerable discount. With respect to golf, I think DFS players get a little caught up in small sample statistics and tend to overlook salary. With Kuchar, you know what you’re getting. A solid golfer; a vet. One of the best scramblers on tour, and someone who won’t wilt away if he’s in contention on Sunday. He’s 5/5 in cuts made this season and has scored 50 or more FP at the NTO in 6/8 starts over the last ten years. He might not have as much upside as someone like Rory or DJ, but he’s also substantially cheaper and as safe.
Kevin Na $8,000 (65-1)
Another price play. I’m sure a number of players hit the eject button after his Saturday 79, but don’t be like them. The Pebble Beach Pro-Am is a fluky tournament; you’ve got three courses and a bunch of celebrity jokers to deal with. I’m tossing it out. Prior to Pebble, Na was in good form; posting three consecutive top-28 finishes (which includes a T-3 at the CareerBuilder Challenge).
Despite below average length off-the-tee, Na finished 28th in SGT2G last season and is 10th so far this year. He does it with excellent iron play, and he’s one of the best from 175-200 yards both in terms of proximity and birdie rate. Also, he’s a top-20 scrambler, so he should be able to avoid big numbers. Given the difficulty of the course, that will be huge this week.
Keegan Bradley $7,800 (60-1)
If you’re into course history, this is your guy (well, one of two at least… hi K.J.). We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and toss his first start at Riviera. Since then, he’s posted DK scores of 90, 72.5, 71, and 84. He’s averaged just over 10x value over the last four years. It’s not hard to figure out why he likes Riviera… He’s one of the best drivers on tour; with a rare blend of both distance (10th in 2015) and accuracy (52nd). He’s also excellent from distance (14th in birdie % from 200+ yards).
If you need a little extra, he’s in relatively good form; finishing T-24 at the WMPO (despite a 2-stroke penalty right out of the gate).
Marc Leishman $7,300 (125-1)
The form might not be there, but the price is too good to pass up. We’re talking about a guy who contends at major championships… and he’s only $7,300. In terms of stats, nothing really stands out either way. He’s good enough tee-to-green, he’s got above average length, he’s an okay scrambler, he’s good on par 4s, etc. His course history isn’t great, but it isn’t bad either (50+ FP in 4/6 starts; topped out at 76.5). In any event, he’s too good to be this cheap.
Jamie Lovemark $7,200 (125-1)
He’s lost a little shine since earlier this season, but the underlying reasons to like him are still there. He ranks near the top in both distance and scrambling, plus he already has three top-10 finishes in 2015-16. At his price, that’s more than enough for me.
(Bonus: He played his college golf at USC.)
Si Woo Kim $7,100 (125-1)
The wheels haven’t fallen off yet, so I’m still on board. He’s actually cheaper than he was last week. Just a solid all-around game and cut-making machine. Six top-25 finishes so far this season. Keep on keepin’ on, Si Woo.
K.J. Choi $7,100 (125-1)
I hesitated to even bring him up. Given his course history and form, it’s such an obvious play. On one hand, he’s 10/10 in cuts made over the last ten years at the NTO while averaging a ridiculous 72.8 DK points per start, and he has two top-17 finishes in his last three weeks. I honestly don’t know how a course history + form combo could be any better. On the other hand, the actual results don’t align with my perception of where they should be. We’re talking about a short-hitting 45-year old golfer who’s losing strokes tee-to-green and over par on par 4s for the year. He’s sure to be wildly popular, but that course history… There are certainly cases to be made either way, so go with your gut.
Steven Bowditch $6,100 (350-1)
In keeping with our theme of price, I present to you Steven Bowditch. I used him last week at $6,400, and he came through. I’ll be doing the same this week at $6,100. Just ignore his 2015-16 stats. This is what we know… he’s long, he’s an elite scrambler, and he’s near min price. Just suck it up and use him.
*****BONUS GPP FLIERS*****
These picks are considerably more risky than the names listed above, but I’ll be using them in GPPs. They won’t be graded, but I’m putting them out there just as names to consider.
- Adam Scott $9,500 (35-1)
- Robert Streb $7,500 (125-1)
- Smylie Kaufman $7,400 (150-1)
- Graham DeLaet $7,400 (100-1)
- Brian Harman $7,100 (150-1)
- Cameron Tringale $7,000 (150-1)
- Kyle Reifers $6,500 (250-1)
- Angel Cabrera $6,400 (300-1)
- Carlos Ortiz $6,400 (350-1)