The majors are over, but we’re heading down the stretch to the “end” of the season and will have some major-like fields as we close in on the Tour Championship, including this week’s World Golf Championship. Luckily for those of us that just can’t squeeze out lineups where all the golfers make the cut, this week we get a loaded field in a no-cut event, so we all get to share the same sweat all the way through Sunday. This WGC has a venue change and is being played at TPC Southwind, not Firestone CC as it had been played the last handful of years so be careful when researching prior tournament history if that’s your thing. The Tour has played an event at this course in the past though as the FedEx St. Jude Classic, so there is course history data we can still use, but also have to be careful with that as the fields in that tournament were not nearly as strong (or small) as this one. Birdies are king in DFS, and that will be especially true in an event where everyone is playing all four rounds. I’m going to start with guys that can rack up the birdies and then narrow down to those that are solid from tee-to-green and especially on the approach. The PGA Tour put out a stat recently that 5,544 balls have been hit in the water on this course since 2003 which is the most on tour, so good ball strikers that can avoid all that water are going to be the guys racking up all the birdies. Here’s who I like this week:
Justin Thomas (10,700 DK / 11,100 FD)
I mentioned last week that we were getting a discount on JT and that his price wouldn’t be that low much longer, and all it took was one week to catch his price up. He’s back in form and if we’re looking for a guy that fills the card up with birdies, this is the guy. Even playing through a rough few weeks with a wrist injury, JT is first on tour in Birdie or Better Percentage this year. That isn’t anything new for him either, in 2018 he was third on tour in that category and 2017 he led the tour in that category. The guy just makes birdies, and that’s what we’re looking for this week. He’s also second in Shots Gained – Tee to Green, and third in Shots Gained – Approach. He hasn’t won a tournament in a while and for a guy with as elite skills as he has, it’s only a matter of time before he gets another one and this week could easily be that week.
Patrick Cantlay (9,800 DK / 10,900 FD)
Cantlay doesn’t have the name recognition that a lot of these other great golfers do, but he plays just as good as them and his results this season prove that. He’s got a bunch of top 10’s, a victory at the Memorial, and good showings at the majors and other tough events. He makes a lot of birdies and he’s solid from tee to green. He’s ninth on tour in Birdie or Better percentage and fourth in Shots Gained – Tee to Green. He’s also first on tour in overall scoring average. He’s 12th on tour in Shots Gained – Approach which is really good, but the big advantage for him is when he misses the green he is one of the top short-game players on tour. Given that he continues those trends, he should be in line for another nice finish in this event to pile onto this already amazing season he’s having.
Matt Kuchar (9,000 DK / 10,000 FD)
Kuchar is another guy having one of his best seasons, all while dealing with a handful of controversies along the way. Although you wouldn’t typically associate “birdie maker” with Kuchar, the stats this year tell a much different story. Of course, he’s an extremely good ball striker and that’s where his success has come from in his career. He’s 13th on tour in Shots Gained – Tee to Green and 10th in Shots Gained – Approach, which are numbers we’d typically expect from him. Adding on to that, he’s 20th in Birdie or Better percentage and sixth in overall scoring average, so he’s obviously been capitalizing on the opportunities he gives himself with his ball-striking. It’s reasonable to expect that he’s going to keep it mostly in the fairway and hit a lot of greens while avoiding all the water. As long as he rolls in a few putts, he is another guy that should add another good finish onto a great season so far.
Bryson DeChambeau (8,800 DK / 10,400 FD)
Bryson was a popular play last week and his missed cut was relatively surprising given how good he had been playing recently. However, he hasn’t been known to be great in majors and all the wind and rain could have thrown off all the calculations he had done and left him lost and confused on how to play golf. He turns his game on at the end of the season though and this course should come much easier to him than last week as long as his mental calculator can keep him out of the water. He’s fourth on tour in Birdie or Better percentage, so he should be able to rack up the fantasy points still with a lot of birdies even if he struggles a bit and loses out on some finishing position points.
Webb Simpson (8,200 DK / 9,500 FD)
Although Webb isn’t necessarily a guy that’s know to be a birdie maker, this course specifically should set up well for him to have a lot of chances for birdies. Plus, even if statistically his birdie percentage isn’t high, he’s fifth on tour in overall scoring average so he can still score it with the best of them. He’s 18th on tour in Shots Gained – Tee to Green and 20th in Shots Gained – Approach, and a lot like I mentioned with Cantlay, where he may lack a tiny bit in those categories he more than makes up for with his short game as one of the best on tour. He also hasn’t had a finish outside the top 30 since March and we’re getting a good price on him for how good of a season he’s been having. As long as his putter doesn’t let him down, he should have another good week.
Eddie Pepperell (7,200 DK / 8,300 FD)
It looks like Eddie is back to playing well after an injury at the PGA Championship and his game should fit this course. Even though he finished 71st last week, he still put up good birdie numbers and would have done much better had he not had the most bogeys in the field for the week. He had 13 birdies which were only one less than Tony Finau and Brooks Koepka who finished third and fourth in the tournament. He’s typically known as an accuracy guy and a good ball striker so he should be able to keep it out of the water and avoid all those bogeys this week while piling on the birdies. Plus, he’s probably the most entertaining golfer on twitter (although Phil is giving him a run for his money), and even though that means nothing in fantasy points, at least he’s a guy that’s easy to root for if your team isn’t doing well.
Finally, although by now it’s been hard to miss, it’s worth noting that there’s a possibility Gary Woodland does not finish the tournament so that he can be there for the birth of his child. If he does play the full tournament, though, he’s as good as anyone in a lot of the stat categories I mentioned earlier. Most people will lean towards not playing him especially in a field where everyone will have six guys (mostly) guaranteed to play all four days, but if you want to take that risk you’ll likely get him at as low of an ownership percentage as you’ll find for a guy that just won a major a month ago.