Lost among all the controversy surrounding this golf season is how exciting, entertaining, and different this season has been. While most are choosing to focus their efforts on slow play, players throwing temper tantrums, the playoff format, or rules changes, we’re missing out on all the great results that have transpired up until this weekend, where we’re getting 69 of the best players in golf. We’ve had a ton of first-time winners, promising rookies with good showings, older pros showing they can still hang with the young guys, an awesome return of Tiger, and overall great competition every week. Time to forget about all the negatives and focus in on the end of what’s been a fun and wild season. The course this week is long but it’s not necessarily all straight, so although longer hitters will likely have an advantage, accurate guys will not be completely outmatched because the holes shrink a bit due to the bends/doglegs. I talked the last two weeks about how to pick ball-striking stats that correlate to the course, and this week I think the actual Ball-Striking statistic fits well since it combines accuracy AND distance off the tee, as well as greens-in-regulation. I am focusing on those good ball strikers that favor more distance off the tee. This will bring me to the guys that can take advantage of the length if they need to cut the corners or bomb it straight down the fairway but are also accurate enough to keep it in the fairway when needed. Past events at this course have had good iron players towards the top of the leaderboards, so I’ll look at the Shots Gained – Approach statistic a little too Those tournaments were quite a while ago though so I won’t weight it as heavily as others might. Here’s who I think fit the mold this week:
Dustin Johnson (10,700 DK / 12,000 FD)
Statistically, this season, DJ’s numbers don’t look spectacular and his results recently aren’t “DJ-like”. However, the second-best golfer in the world seems to be going extremely overlooked this week on a long course where he’ll certainly be able to take advantage of his length, and there’s no doubt he’ll use the driver as much as he can to cut these holes down. Rory McIlroy stated in his interview this week that guys that can be aggressive and cut the corners with their length will have an advantage, and DJ definitely falls into that category of player. There are a handful of occasions this season alone where we watched player after player layup with irons on doglegs and DJ steps up and hits his driver over the trees up close to the green. That’s the kind of aggressiveness that will lead to some low scores this weekend. As always, a player approaching a green with a wedge is almost always going to yield better results than someone else approaching with a seven iron. Of course, if he can’t hit his targets off the tee then he will be in trouble, but that will be the case with ANY golfer in this field, and I’ll take my chances with the second-highest-ranking golfer in the world.
Justin Thomas (10,000 DK / 11,500 FD)
I like Justin on this course for a lot of the same reasons as I do DJ. Obviously, he’s not as long off the tee, but that doesn’t stop his aggressiveness, and he still averages 300 yards off the tee so it’s not like he doesn’t hit it far. I recall watching him last year in one event on one hole hit his driver three consecutive rounds in a row intentionally into another hole’s fairway because it presented a better scoring opportunity (and it worked), and he was the only player to do that. His creativity and aggressiveness, like DJ’s, is what really draws me to him this week. Again, like DJ, if he’s off with his driver he may get himself in trouble, however, if he’s taking aggressive lines, there comes a point where if you miss off the fairway far enough the lie will actually be better than just a couple yards off the fairway (usually due to fans walking around stomping the grass down) So, some wild shots offline (as long as it’s not out-of-bounds) may actually be a little more beneficial than someone like a Matt Kuchar that if he misses a fairway by a few yards may find himself in some nasty long rough. As a bonus, JT just happens to be one of the best iron players on Tour (second overall and first in the field in Shots Gained – Approach), which will serve him well assuming he’s giving himself clean shots to the green off the tee.
Rickie Fowler (8,800 DK / 10,700 FD)
If there’s ever a time to jump on the Rickie train in DFS, now is a good time. He’s one of the best overall ball-strikers on tour off-the-tee and with his irons and has always been one of the best putters on tour. His most recent results indicate he’s not playing well, therefore he’s priced the lowest I can recall on these sites. The typical Rickie hype isn’t floating around for him either, for how much the DFS community loves ball-strikers this week. It’s his short game that’s been hurting him, not his ball-striking, and there’s no doubt he’s aware of that. As a guy in the elite class of golfers, it’s just a matter of time before he is back on track and it very well could happen on a course that’s really fit for his game. Take advantage of this price on this caliber of a player when you can.
Bryson DeChambeau (8,300 DK / 10,000 FD)
Good news for those electing to play Bryson this week, playing slow doesn’t cost you fantasy points (it might just take a little longer to register them on the app). He’s another guy that is an elite all-around ball-striker with good length off the tee that will make calculated decisions to put him in the most advantageous spots on every hole. It may not be seen as aggressive as you might call it from DJ or JT, but Bryson, being the player he is, will have done the math and know exactly when it’s safe to take chances off the tee and when to lay back and play it from farther away. It’s also never a bad idea to take a shot with a guy that definitely will be coming into the tournament with a chip on his shoulder. He’s talked all week defending himself on his slow play so he can play well and entertain us, so now would be the time to prove it.
Tiger Woods (8,000 DK / 10,200 FD)
Guys and gals, it’s Tiger Woods, just play him, these prices are crazy low! I don’t have to tell you guys what he’s good at, we all know by now. My thoughts on last week are that he likely stiffened up a little after a break from playing and realized fairly early on that he didn’t have a chance to win. Instead of pushing his body knowing he still had two more weeks to play (after already mentioning he was worried about playing three weeks in a row), just call it a weekend and go get ‘em next week. Tiger isn’t out here to take 10th place, no reason to push it. He has taken enough time off to keep his body healthy and by now he knows when he can and cannot compete. If he didn’t think he could win this weekend, he wouldn’t be in the field. Look out for a rested Tiger this week on a ball-strikers course, he’s got as good of a chance to run away with this thing as anyone else.
Byeong Hun An (7,400 DK / 8,300 FD)
An checks all the boxes I mentioned in the intro. He has pretty good overall ball-striking numbers (43rd on Tour), and he is one of the longer hitters on Tour (16th), even though you never hear his name in the category of “bombers”. He’s also a very good iron player, ranked 28th in Shots Gained – Approach, which makes him one of the better iron players in this field. He had a rough go of things in the middle of the year likely stemming from an injury, but six of his last seven events have been 38th or better and a handful of them have been in the top 17, including a third-place finish at The Wyndham two events ago. He’s priced right around guys like Marc Leishman, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Joaquin Niemann, and Sungjae Im who will be popular plays this week so we should be getting a pretty good ownership percentage on a guy that’s playing well right now.
Wyndham Clark (6,400 DK / 7,400 FD)
Like every week, if you want to play more than just one really expensive player in your lineup, you almost always have to look into the very low priced players for salary relief. There are a lot of good options here but my favorite is Wyndham because of his power. He’s not going to “wow” anyone with his iron play, but he’s the fourth-longest hitter on tour and the eighth-best putter. The last course I thought really favored the long hitters like this one was the 3M Open where he finished 5th, and although this field is significantly stronger than the 3M, he should be able to hang with the big guys because of how far he hits it. As long as he can give himself a shot around the green, his putter should keep him in it for the week.