Not much can top watching Tiger hoist yet another trophy, but the PGA Tour is moving on to China for the first of the World Golf Championship (WGC) tournaments and we can only hope there are enough fireworks to at least pull a little excitement away from Tiger’s 82nd victory. We have to move on some time, right? The swing season, for the most part, has had really good fields and this week’s WGC-HSBC is no different. A small, solid field in a no-cut tournament. Luckily this week the event is at a course that’s been played many times before, so we can get some knowledge from past years on the types of golfer that typically does well here. As usual and especially for no-cut events, birdies are key to DFS scoring, so the birdie makers should be heavily favored in DFS lineups. It’s played on a course that most holes are either tree-lined or water-lined, so overall ball-striking (off the tee and approach) will be important. Past leaderboards have also indicated that the longer hitters gravitate towards the top of the leaderboards as well, so a good ball-striking power hitter is the ideal type of player to watch out for this week. Here’s who I think fits the mold this week:
Justin Rose (10,500 DK / 11,200 FD)
Most people will see the same stats I did and immediately turn to Rory, Hideki, and Xander. Three guys that have already played this year that are known to hit the ball a long way with pretty good accuracy. Plus, Hideki is coming in playing extremely well and Xander won this event last year. I’m going to look just a little past those guys to Rose, as he is likely to go a little overlooked, especially having not played yet this year, and he’s definitely in the same class of player as the guys I just mentioned. Rose is sneaky long off the tee, he was 28th on Tour last year, right around the same as Xander and Hideki. He’s known as one of the best ball strikers on tour and he knocks in a ton of birdies (20th on Tour last year). He also has elite history at this tournament. Not only did he win two years ago, but he also has a 3rd, 5th, and a 7th in his last five tries here. Given his game and his history, he should contend here and gives you some good salary relief from the top tier players as well as likely less ownership.
Paul Casey (10,000 DK / 11,100 FD)
Just a couple notches down from Rose is Paul Casey. He’s not a bomber (although hits it plenty far at 62nd on tour last year), but he is at the top of the class in ball-strikers this week. Last year he was the top overall ball-striker on tour and was top-ten in both Shots Gained – Off the Tee and Shots Gained – Approach. His history isn’t as good as Rose’s, but it’s impressive nonetheless. In his last seven times playing this event, he hasn’t finished worse than 23rd and has two finishes in the top six. He’s also playing some good golf right now, coming off a 17th at the Zozo with all four rounds in the 60’s. I’m looking for him to roll that momentum into a course he’s had success at before.
Tony Finau (9,700 DK / 11,000 FD)
Finau checks all of the boxes this week, and if he can get four rounds of solid putting, he’ll be right at the top with the leaders for a third straight year at this event. He’ll likely be a popular play because of his statistics and his recent play here, but he’s likely worth the ownership at his price. He’s one of the longest hitters on tour, a good ball striker, and makes a ton of birdies. Even if he doesn’t win, he makes enough birdies where he could still potentially be one of the top-scoring golfers on the slate. Of course, none of that matters if he can’t make any putts, but his past success here (2nd and 11th) indicates he can figure these greens out and roll in enough of them to contend.
Sergio Garcia (8,000 DK / 9,100 FD)
At one point last year, it looked like Sergio had gone off the rails and might not ever play a good round of golf again. He had a bunch of bad finishes and he couldn’t control his temper and was destroying everything he could on the golf course. He’s settled back into his game recently though and has been playing really well on the European Tour. His game is rounding into form just in time for an event he’s done well at before, having finished in the top 11 in three of the last four times he’s played here. Based on how good Sergio can be, his price this week is a pretty good discount for a guy always known as a great ball striker. As long as he keeps his emotions in check, he should find himself towards the top of the leaderboard this week.
Erik Van Rooyen (7,500 DK / 8,700 FD)
Sticking with the elite ball-striker narrative, EVR is one of the better ball-strikers that plays primarily on the European Tour. He can be inconsistent at times because of his putting, but his ball-striking should keep him steady throughout the weekend. He’s almost always underpriced in fields like this and this week is no exception (as are most European Tour players, by the way). He has a win relatively recently and has a handful of top 15 finishes mixed in with some missed cuts. The good news is, no cut means he’s guaranteed to play all four rounds, so one or two bad rounds of putting especially at this price won’t kill him. He finished 22nd in this event last year and there’s no reason a hot putter can’t get him into the top 15 or better this year. Plus, he’s a Minnesota guy and it’s a rule in this state that you cheer for professional athletes with Minnesota ties, so, go EVR!
Andrea Pavan (7,200 DK / 7,000 FD)
Another guy that’s primarily a European Tour player, and another ball striker and birdie maker who is coming into the tournament playing really well. Last year he was 20th on the European Tour in birdies made and 17th in Greens in Regulation. In his last eight events, his worst finish is 46th, which also includes two top-fives and four others in the top 12. He’s coming in hot into an event that he finished 22nd in last year, looking for him to improve on that finish this year.
Joost Luiten (7,100 DK / 8,500 FD)
Joost is one of my favorite players to play each week on the European Tour, not only because he’s good at golf but because his name is real fun to say (even though it’s not pronounced like it’s spelled). He’s another top ball striker on the European Tour and at a very cheap price in this field. He’s not a long hitter by any means, but he hits it straight all over the course which will make up for the lack of distance. Last year he was 10th on the Euro Tour in Shots Gained – Off the Tee, and second in Greens in Regulation. He was also 23rd in overall stroke average, which is very impressive, given that there are a handful of PGA stars on that list ahead of him (a bunch are in this field). His last two finishes in this event were a solid 16th and 28th, and no reason he shouldn’t put up another solid performance this week.