This week’s World Golf Championship event is the third of four that are played each season and can be looked at as a small preview of things to come for next week’s PGA Championship, the forth and final major of the year. A small field of ~80 players and no cuts being made heading into the weekend makes things interesting from a DFS standpoint. The first two WGC events of 2017 (WGC Championship & WGC Match Play) were both taken down by Dustin Johnson, who has since been standing in the shadow of Jordan Spieth’s back-to-back wins at the Travelers Championship and The Open Championship. Nevertheless, DJ has a chance to become the first ever player to win three WGC titles in the same season. To put things into perspective, WGC events are known to have prize money comparable to the four majors – making the amount of big names in the field this week a little less surprising.
This week’s event is taking place at Firestone Country Club South as it has in year’s previous, giving us some good prior performance stats to run with. The course measures a modest 7,400 yards and is a par 70. Multiple long par 4’s and plenty of trouble spread throughout the course appear to put an emphasis on the long ball hitter that can find fairways and stay out of trouble.
Fun facts of the week:
- Arnold Palmer called the course “a monster” years ago after triple bogeying the 16th hole. This name stuck and Firestone South is known as “The Monster” to this day.
- Shane Lowry (2015) and Hunter Mahan (2010) are the only two players in the past 22 years to win at Firestone who didn’t previously have a major championship to their name.
- Tiger Woods has 18 WGC titles, but never won more than two in one season. (Can DJ pull it off?)
This week I based my research on multiple stats relevant to the course and paired them with the field’s recent performance and the prior three years of the WGC Invitational. Stats are once again spanning over the past 12 weeks and include: Driving Distance, good drives gained, birdies gained, bogies avoided, strokes gained tee-to-green, par 4 efficiency 450-500 yards, greens in regulation gained, and strokes gained putting.
Studs/Top Dollar Options:
Jordan Spieth: After his finish at The Open, I feel obligated to start with him. Spieth has 8 top-10s in 16 starts and is once again being called the new face of golf (we’ll see how long that lasts…) He finished 3rd here last year and 10th in 2015. Over the past 12 weeks he is 1st in birdies gained, 2nd in strokes gained tee-to-green, 3rd in 450-500 yard par 4 efficiency, 19thin good drives gained, 13th in bogies avoided, and basically sits top 30 in all the stats I looked into this week. If that doesn’t make a good case we’ll be seeing him in the running this weekend I don’t know what does.
Dustin Johnson: Some people seem to think DJ’s back injury is still lingering after WD’ing from the Masters, missing two cuts in a row, and then finishing 54th at The Open. He did however finish in 8th last week at the RBC and we can’t forget how dominant he was earlier in the season and the fact he is 2 for 2 in WGC tournaments on the season and looking to break records. He sits in 3rd in driving distance, 1st in greens in regulation gained, 23rd in good drives gained, and 24th in bogies avoided. Although I do believe he has the motivation needed to win here and admit it’s hard to count him out – I do believe there is a valid argument that there are better ways to use up that salary in this stacked field.
Rickie Fowler: I seemingly can’t go a week without saying that I think this is Rickie’s time to shine. Rickie also has 8 top-10s on the season, once again in 16 starts. He has finished top-25 in 11 of his last 13 starts. His history at this tournament is very impressive: 8th in 2014, 10th in 2015, 10th in 2016. He is top-50 in every single stat used this week, and top 10 in this event the past three years. He sits in 14th in good drives gained, 7th in birdies gained, 6th in bogies avoided, 10th in 400-450 yard par 4 efficiency, 13th in greens in regulation gained, and 6th in strokes gained putting. I don’t like to call anybody a “safe” play because this is golf, but is anyone is safe, it’s Fowler.
Hideki Matsuyama: His past performance here isn’t great aside from 12th place in 2014. However, I said it once and I’ll say it again, Matsuyama is always lurking around the leaderboard. He finished 2nd in the US Open and 14th in The British Open. He comes in at 20th in driving distance, 29th in good drives gained, 17th in bogies avoided, 24th in strokes gained tee to green, and 23rd in greens in regulation gained. He isn’t at the very top of any of these stat lines, but his name appears in every single category (which can only be said of Hideki, Fowler, and Adam Scott).
Other studs to watch: Brooks Koepka, John Rahm, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose
Studs that are a fade in my book: Rory McIlroy, Jason Day
Mid Range Options:
Adam Scott: Finishing 8th here in 2014 and 10th last year, in addition to four top-10s this year, 22nd at the British Open, 6th in The Players Championship, and 9th in the Masters, Adam Scott is always a good option, and normally at a very good price for what he’s capable of. For the last 12 weeks he is 13th in driving distance, 15th in good drives gained, 30th in birdies gained, 9th in strokes gained tee to green, 16th in greens in regulation gained, and 32nd in stokes gained putting. He performs well in big events and is due for a top-5 performance.
Matt Kuchar: Now that his salary is back down to a reasonable level, it’s time to get him back in those lineups. He has finished top-25 here the past three years including 3rd last year. Notable 12 week stats include 5th in bogies avoided, 14th in strokes gained tee to green, 22nd in greens in regulation gained, and 27th in 450-500 yard par 4 efficiency. I foresee Kuch being back in the mix this week after impressive play in basically every single one of his past 7 outings.
Branden Grace: He has also finished top-25 each of the past three years in this event, including 10th last year. Notable 12-week stats include 4th in bogies avoided, 8th 450-500 yard par 4 efficiency, 14th in greens in regulation gained, 17th in good drives gained, and 20th in strokes gained tee to green. He has been playing well with a 6th place finish in the British Open and multiple top-25 performances leading up to it.
Other mid rangers to keep an eye on: Tommy Fleetwood, Marc Leishman, Phil Mickelson, Louis Oosthuizen, Paul Casey, Alexander Noren
Charley Hoffman: The man is on fire! Notable finishes include 2nd last week at the RBC, 20th at the British Open, 3rd at the Travelers, and 8th at the US Open. He thrives in the mix with the real competition and has been playing great. He has made 17 cuts in 21 starts and has 5 top-10 finishes. For stats, he sits in 21st in driving distance, 4th in birdies gained, 12th in strokes gained tee to green, and 12th in strokes gained putting.
Bubba Watson: Although he hasn’t done anything very exciting as of late, he came in 14th here last year and 2nd the year before. He’s a long ball hitter who could perform if he gets it going.
Charl Schwartzel: He’s playing well and seems to like the course. He finished 7th here last year and 4th in 2015. He has a few good finished this year including 3rd at the Masters and 4 other top-10s. For 12-week stats he is in 3rd in bogies avoided, 4th in strokes gained putting, 19th in driving distance, and 31st in 450-500 yard par 4 efficiency. And you can roster him this week at a great price.
Other value options to watch: Rafael Cabrera Bello, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Billy Horschel, Jimmy Walker, Daniel Berger, Patrick Reed, JB Holmes, Kevin Chappell, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger
Good luck this week & see you next week for the final major of the year
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