It took a soft field in an opposite field event, but we finally had an awesome week of picks at the Puerto Rico Open. Big congrats to Tony Finau on his first career win, flashing some serious short game shots in the playoff against Steve Marino. We got strong finishes from Scott Brown, Kyle Reifers, Derek Fathauer, Jerry Kelly (Sunday salvage!) and a few of our sleepers. Hopefully we can carry this momentum over to the Masters… after a quick pit stop at the Shell Houston Open.
Because this event is the week leading up to the year’s first major, the field is pretty stacked. We have Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Louis Oosthuizen, JB Holmes, Brooks Koepka, and Jimmy Walker to name some headliners. The golf course for the Shell Houston Open is the Golf Club of Houston, a par 72 that measures 7,441 yards. One cool thing about this event is that the venue does its best to replicate the course conditions that players are going to see next week at the Masters. Greens will be running around a 12 or 13 on the stimpmeter, and if the wind picks up (which it will) and the course can stay dry, the greens could get extremely greasy by Sunday. Distance will be at a premium this week because the rough isn’t too long and bad drives won’t be as penal as errant shots on some other courses. Also, many of the holes favor a draw for right-handed players or a fade for the left-handers (another similar aspect to Augusta).
One other thing to consider this week is narrative street. First, the winner will earn a spot into the Masters next week. Some of the highest priced players who are not yet in the field at Augusta include: Charles Howell III (further narrative coming), Graham DeLaet, Ryan Palmer, Tony Finau, and Steve Stricker. Finau is one that definitely intrigues me, coming off the win at the Puerto Rico Open, where he did not win an automatic invite into the Masters. Back to Charles Howell III… he’s from Augusta, and hasn’t played in the tournament since 2012. He’s been one of the most consistent players all year on tour and could put it all together this week. Lastly, there’s the Texas narrative, with this field littered with players from Texas, who make their homes in Texas, or who went to school in Texas. Jordan Spieth jumps out of course, but also guys like Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker, Ryan Palmer, Hunter Mahan, and JJ Henry.
*Note: always be aware of the reverse narrative. Players who are in the field at next week’s Masters could potentially WD or mail it in after a poor opening round. Guys like Dustin Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen come to mind, and have done it before. Roster them at your own risk!
I’m definitely going to be using some data this week and taking a look at who plays well in Texas and in the wind. But I’m also going to be focusing a lot on recent form and the narratives I mentioned above. Something about this week feels like it’s a good week to scale back on your DFS play, but I want to ride some momentum from last week. The main stats I’ll be focusing on this week will be driving distance, strokes gained tee-to-green, and par 5 scoring, with an emphasis on players who have good wind splits and recent form.
Onto my picks for the week…
Jordan Spieth ($12,900) – I think Jordan finishes in the top-10 this week, but his price is too high for DFS purposes. However, if you have enough value plays, get him in your lineups.
Rickie Fowler ($11,000) – Rickie isn’t the most popular play because of his poor course history, but he’s a new man this year. I think he’s gearing up for the majors and wants to throw his name into the hat as one of the major contenders at Augusta. He’s also gained a ton of distance recently, ranking 29th in driving distance and leading the Tour in par 5 scoring.
Phil Mickelson ($10,500) – Speaking of a new man this year… Phil has more top 5s this year than he had top 10s last year. He’s 41th in driving distance, 6th in SG:T2G, and has the best course history out of anyone in the field. Fire him up.
JB Holmes ($9,700) – Holmes comes into this week as the defending champion, after defeating Jordan Spieth and Johnson Wagner in a playoff last year. He’s 3rd in driving distance, makes birdies in bunches, and ranks highly in SG:T2G. Holmes was in great form earlier this year, but has dropped off of that pace recently. However, his comfort at this course and his price make him a great cash game play.
Brooks Koepka ($9,300) – Brooks is going to win again soon… we all know that. Maybe this is his week since he’s a very similar player to JB Holmes. He’s up to 18th in the World Golf Rankings and also made a nice run into the quarterfinals of the WGC-Dell Match Play last week. Brooks is 9th in driving distance this year and can dominate the reachable par 5s that this course offers.
Jimmy Walker ($9,200) – Jimmy Walker one of the Texas residents I am targeting this week. He’s made 5 consecutive cuts at this event and seems to be rounding back into form. Walker ranks 40st in driving distance, 3rd in par 5 scoring, 15th in birdie %, and 18th in SG:T2G. Like Koepka, he offers winning upside at a very fair price.
Graham DeLaet ($8,700) – DeLaet has been in very solid recent form, and should have won Valspar if he could make a 5-footer. We know he’s not going to win this week, but I think he could be in contention once again. DeLaet is 33rd in driving distance, 35th in SG:T2G, and has made 4/5 cuts at this event with a 3rd place finish in 2010.
Charley Hoffman ($8,400) – Hoffman can bomb it out there when he wants to, and is in very solid form. He loves playing in Texas: he’s never missed a cut at this event and has five top-25 finishes. Hoffman was in contention at the Masters last year, so he’s likely trying to peak right now. His price is higher than I’d like, but still worth it because he has top-10 upside.
Ryan Palmer ($8,200) – Another Texan I’ll be targeting heavily this week. Palmer ranks 8th in driving distance, 4th in par 5 scoring, 44th in SG:T2G, and 27th in birdie %. His form hasn’t been great of late, but Palmer can get scorching hot out of nowhere. He’s one of those guys trying to sneak into the Masters field next week, so I think you’re going to get the best he’s got.
Tony Finau ($8,100) – Finau won the Puerto Rico Open last week, so clearly his form is there. That win didn’t get him a Masters invite, so he still has plenty to play for this week. He’s 1st in driving distance, and can make birdies in bunches. Ownership on Finau might be high this week, but he’s still firmly in play at a great price.
Brendan Steele ($7,400) – Steele is always one of the players to watch on the Texas swing, and all his stats check out this week. He is 22th in driving distance, 31th in SG:T2G, 21th in par 5 scoring, and 36th in birdie percentage. He’s been pretty solid and consistent all year long, and has a decent course history. This price is shockingly low, likely because he’s not a popular player. But for me, Steele is a lock in lineups and will possibly be my highest owned player of the week.
Patton Kizzire ($7,400) – Kizzire dominated the web.com tour last year in basically every statistical category, and has flashed that game on the PGA Tour. He won his group at the WGC-Dell Match Play last week (beating out Bubba Watson, JB Holmes, and Emiliano Grillo), so the form is there. Kizzire makes a ton of birdies and plays par 5s very well. My only concern is that he’s not the longest hitter off the tee, but I’ll overlook that for all of the potential upside. Along with Steele, Kizzire is likely going to be one my highest owned players of the week.
Patrick Rodgers ($7,300) – Back-to-back 20th place finishes for Rodgers might indicate he’s rounding back into form after his horrendous stretch. He’s a bomber, ranking 36th in driving distance, but doesn’t have any course history. Rodgers is a good friend of Tony Finau’s, and I’m thinking Finau’s win last will have Rodgers fired up for his chance to break through.
Kyle Reifers ($6,900) – Reifers is a birdie maker and is in great recent form, finishing T-11th last week in Puerto Rico. He also finished 11th at last year’s Shell Houston Open. Reifers has shot par or better in eight straight rounds. At this price he should be a cash game staple with GPP upside.
Kevin Streelman ($6,700) – Hat tip to Brad Messersmith for this one. Streels ranks pretty highly in SG:T2G, but his recent form is pretty poor. He played well in the winds at Torrey Pines earlier in the year, and I expect winds to wreak havoc this week too. We do have narrative street, though, as Streelman and his wife welcomed a baby boy yesterday.
Nick Taylor ($5,900) – Taylor is still a gut punt play for sure, but he ranks 47th in driving distance and finished 5th place last week in Puerto Rico. He’s made 8/12 cuts this year and his form is trending up.
Jhonattan Vegas ($5,700) – Ranks 28th in driving distance this year and is a likely cut-maker at a discounted price. Vegas finished T-26th last week in Puerto Rico. He’s made 7/10 cuts so far this year and is rounding into form.
Good luck this week!