It seems like the golf season just started and we’re already up to the third major (or fourth if you’re one of those that likes to call The Players a major). This one is the most intriguing to me so far of the three. Course history was a good target at Augusta because the same people tend to play well there every year, the PGA obviously had to target length off the tee, but Pebble Beach this week is a little harder to pinpoint. Some people will look to the AT&T Pro-Am for course history. Some will note that they lengthened the tees and therefore target length off the tee. Others will be concerned that the rough was grown out and the fairways were narrowed anywhere between 15-50% and will put a premium on accuracy. One thing that’s not up for debate; the greens are pretty small and they are hard to hit, so being a good iron player is going to be important and good short game will come into play when those greens are missed. Plus, it’s a major and Tiger is in town, there’s going to be hype and huge crowds and a lot of noise. There’s no stat to track it, but there are obviously guys on tour that will fold under that pressure and others that thrive in it. With that being said, I’m looking to the guys that have performed well in big events before, are good with their irons, and grind through events and keep bogeys off the card with their short game. Here’s who I think fits that category:
Sure Play: Tiger Woods (DK 10,700 / FD 11,900)
For it being a major, and at Pebble Beach especially, it sure seems like people are targeting Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka (Vegas favors them too) ahead of Tiger. If Koepka’s interview is any indication, a lot of the longer hitters are going to be clubbing down off the tee, which is going to do a lot of good for Tiger, who usually gets himself in trouble with his driver. Tiger is one of the best, if not the best ever, with iron in hand so it could be scary if he’s dropping 3 wood or less into the fairway on most of the holes. Scoring is hard to come by in majors, and Tiger has said over and over that he loves events that you have to grind to save par for four days to win events. As long as the putter doesn’t let him down, he will get himself into contention. Plus, it’s Tiger Woods guys and gals, just play him.
Hit or Miss: Jordan Spieth (DK 10,300 / FD 11,500)
Probably the hit or miss player of the year, he’s now coming into the U.S. Open off of three straight top ten finishes. He is riding an insanely hot putter and good around the green game that’s been saving him from some not-so-great play off the tee and approaching the green. He seems to have figured out some of the off the tee game at the Memorial, however, he does not have the irons quite figured out yet. I mentioned iron play is going to be key this week, and not that long ago Jordan was one of the best approach players on the Tour, so if he figures it out he could go crazy on this course with his around the green and putting game. Even still, if he’s missing greens, as long as his putter stays hot and he keeps chipping the ball close around the green, he’ll scramble enough to keep himself in contention for the week. It could get ugly, though, if he loses the off-the-tee game again or the putter starts to cool down.
Mid-Tier Favorites: Justin Thomas (DK 9,300 / FD 11,400) Hideki Matsuyama (DK 8,800 / FD 10,400) Adam Scott (DK 8,600 / FD 10,500)
Thomas: This is possibly the most insane price on an elite golfer I’ve seen in quite a while (especially on DraftKings). It’s obvious he was priced as if he was going to be coming into the tournament with a lingering wrist injury, but he showed last week that shouldn’t be a concern anymore. He’s one of the best iron players on tour right now and he’s long and relatively straight off the tee. Putting hurt him last week, but he’s not normally a bad putter and another week to work that rust off should be a big help. His game fits this course and he’s won a major before. He’s in a prime position to contend again and he’s sitting at a price where you can pretty easily mix him in with other expensive options.
Hideki: Another elite iron player (sixth on tour in Shots Gained – Approach) that tends to hang around the top of the leaderboards in big events. He doesn’t seem to get the same attention as guys like Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, etc, but he’s just as good as those guys and at times might be even better. Of course, he’s a horrible putter and that’s typically what keeps him from winning more often, but putting can be random at times and if he runs hot with the putter for a week, it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone if he wins an event like this.
Scott: I have a pretty consistent theme going so far: very good iron players that are not very good putters. Adam Scott is 15th on tour this year in Strokes Gained – Approach, but anyone that uses the eye test and watches him strike the ball knows there’s not many better than him with the irons. He’s also a major winner and has won other events with stacked fields so he obviously knows how to get it done when it counts. He’s switched putters like 60 times this year but he seems to have settled in on the one that worked well for him early in the year and has been working well recently. Plus, the frenzy the golf world will go into if Adam wins the U.S. Open with his “cheater putter” knocking in a 3-foot putt off the flagstick would be fantastic.
Other Favorites: Webb Simpson (DK 7,700 / FD 9,600) Ian Poulter (DK 7,500 / FD 9,300) Joel Dahmen (DK 6,700 / FD 8,200)
Webb: The theme continues. Another great iron player, and a past major winner that struggles putting. The big things to like about Webb this week other than those points though is that he’s coming in playing really good golf and he’s priced at a point where you can fit him in with nearly anyone in the field. He finished second place last week and has three other finishes in his last five events in the top 20, including a fifth-place finish at The Masters.
Poulter: Although Poulter is not necessarily elite in any category of golf, the thing to like most about him is how he steps his game up in big moments and seems to feed off the energy from the crowd or his playing partners. This is especially obvious in the international team events where he is almost always put in positions to be the “closer” on the team, even with much better golfers on that team. He’s a good iron player and a very good ball striker which should do well for him this week and give him a shot at contending. If he gets himself into contention and the tension starts building, you won’t have to worry about him spiraling out of control because he can’t handle it. He may not have as good of a game as others do to actually win this thing, but he’s definitely not going to back down if he’s put up against them.
Dahmen: Typically in this price range in majors is where you find the really good European Tour golfers that are almost always underpriced (and admittedly, there are a couple of those guys in this range again). However, I like Dahmen here over those guys for a couple of reasons. A lot of those Euro Tour guys are starting to become more well known and are going to take up a lot of ownership as people are trying to fit in DJ and Brooks, so we’re likely going to get Dahmen at lower ownership than we normally would at this price. He’s not long off the tee but he is accurate and he’s above average on tour with his approach, which will serve him well at Pebble. In addition, although good stories don’t win you money, he’s an easy guy to root for if you know about his story and battle with cancer and he’s definitely entertaining if you follow him or his caddie on social media. Plus, he wears a sweet bucket hat and he said himself on a podcast that he would be a good play on DFS this week, what more could you want, right!
Good Luck and hope you win millions!