Preview: We are now halfway through the FedEx Cup Playoffs and the field has been narrowed to 70 of the best. There will be no cut this week and only the top 30 players on the FedEx Cup points leader board will earn a spot in the final showdown of the year, The Tour Championship. Right now some notable “bubble” names include Henrik Stenson, Jason Day, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson, among many others (all in the 20-40 range). This week is a chance for numbers 31 – 70 to fight for the extra points needed to move on and compete at East Lake and one last time the current top-30ers need to hold on to make sure they don’t bumped out of that top 30. This week is very unique for DFS play and I’ll let you decide if it’s better or worse – the best of the best players, a small field, no cut, and somewhat limited course history. That’s a lot to think about. Let’s start with the course.
The Course: Conway Farms Golf Club, Vernon Township, IL – Measuring just over 7,200 yards, it’s not the distance players will have to worry about this week, rather the long rough/heather, hilly contour, trees, water, and bunkers spread throughout the track. As we all know by now, this type of course requires accuracy and consistency to stay alive for four straight rounds. Hitting fairways will be extremely important, the distance of those tee shots…Not so much. Another key to success will be hitting approach shots to desired points on these green and of course converting birdies and avoiding 3-putts. The BMW Championship was played here in 2013 and 2015, so there are some stats to dig into, although somewhat limited. Zach Johnson and Jason Day took the W’s in 2013 and 2015, respectively – but it’s the guys that round out the top-10 in both years that stood out to me. Jim Furyk, Luke Donald, Steve Stricker, JB Holmes, Daniel Berger, to name a few. None of these guys are known for the long ball – keep that in mind. Now this may not be the most fundamentally sound comparison (especially seeing as the courses are across the world from each other), but I was compelled to look back to this year’s British Open at Royal Birkdale. There are quite a few similarities between Conway Farms and Royal Birkdale that make me think the two courses may favor similar styles of golf (i.e. almost the same total yardage, significant undulations in the fairways and greens, as well as heather you want to avoid). A few guys we saw thrive at Royal Birkdale that are in this weeks field include the champ, Jordan Spieth, the runner up Matt Kuchar, Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey, Marc Leishman, among others. However, I don’t expect to be seeing guys in winter hats and jackets, as weather looks nearly perfect this weekend in Vernon Township, IL with the exception of a possibly rainy Sunday. Here’s an example of why I’ll be focusing on accuracy and consistency over distance this week:
The course is a par 71 and is made up of 4 par 3’s, 11 par 4’s, and 3 par 5’s. The par 3’s average a normal 205 yards, the par 4’s average 421 yards, and the par 5’s average a bit under 600 yards. Since scores here are usually pretty low all things considered, guys are going to have to birdie these par 4’s to have success and climb their way up the leader board, without relying solely on par 5’s to gain strokes. Here’s this week’s scorecard:
Notice a couple sub-300 yard par 4’s. These couple holes in addition to a few other par 4’s and 5’s provide interesting opportunities for players, though I would not be surprised to see guys such as Henrik Stenson choosing a low iron or 3-wood and keeping those drivers in the bag when possible. Hey, it worked for him 2 starts ago at the Wyndham Championship.
A real quick rundown of the stats I used in this week’s analysis: Strokes gained tee to green, good drives gained, strokes gained off the tee (OTT), GIR gained, strokes gained approach, strokes gained putting, 3-putts avoided, birdies gained, bogeys avoided, strokes gained par 4, par 4’s 350 – 400 yards, as well as the prior Conway Farms History with a little Royal Birkdale spread throughout. All stats are over a 24-round time frame. With only 70 players remaining, and the best of the best only, building those DFS lines gets a little tougher this week. I am going to go through my favorites from each tier to hopefully make that process a little easier and give you a place to start. Let’s take a look:
Jordan Spieth: He comes in this week at the highest salary on DK and there is no doubt in my mind that he is deserving of just that. He finished 2nd in both FedExCup events thus far and now totals 10 top-10s on the season. It is safe to say he is fully back and is ready for a competitive couple weeks with beating out JT and DJ for player of the year on his mind. For 24-round stats, Spieth is near the top across the board. 1st in SG tee to green, 7th in good drives gained, 11th in SG off the tee, 6th in GIR gained, 5th in SG approach, 6th in 3-putts avoided, 1st in birdies gained, 2nd in bogeys avoided, 1st in SG par 4, 3rd in par 4’s 350-400 yards. If you’re willing to take a hit on the salary and think you have some good value elsewhere, then do it. He’s at the top of him game and loves the big events. Did I mention Spieth, DJ, and JT will be paired together on Thursday and Friday?
Rickie Fowler: Still waiting for the triumphant Rickie Fowler victory. One way or another, it is very rare that he upsets from a DFS perspective. In line with that of Jordan Spieth, he has 10 top-10 finishes on the season and has finished top-20 in his past four events, pretty much top-20 in his past 8 events with one T22. 5 of those events were top-10’s and 3 were top-5’s. If there is one guy who is due for a win it’s him. His salary is also a bit high, but a step down from DJ and Spieth which is attractive. For 24-round stats, Rickie sits in 28th for strokes gained tee to green, 20th in good drives gained, 19th in strokes gained off the tee, 12th in GIR gained, remains 1st in strokes gained putting, 10th in three putts avoided, 5th in birdies gained, 8th in bogies avoided, and 4th in strokes gained par 4. To make Rickie even more compelling this week, he finished 4th here in 2015. I am always fairly confident that Rickie won’t disappoint and this week is no different.
Jason Day: This is a guy who made me very nervous last week. I am waiting for Jason Day to string 4 rounds together and come out on top. After his 75 on Thursday, he finished the tournament (after just barely making the cut) with a 69-70-66 to finish in 25th. Before that, he finished 6th at the Northern Trust and 9th at the PGA Championship. Something that is very hard to ignore: Day finished in 4th at this course in 2013 and 1st in 2015. He definitely feels comfortable here and it’s safe to say that if his play looks anything like the last three rounds of last week he has a real good chance of getting the win. It’s on the riskier side, but he has clearly found his game and it could definitely set you apart in gpp’s. For 24-round stats, Day is currently 12th in strokes gained tee to green, 14th in strokes gained off the tee, 17th in strokes gained putting and three putts avoided, 2nd in birdies gained, 7th in strokes gained par 4, and 10th in par 4’s 350-400 yards.
Paul Casey: Another guy who is on fire but can’t seem to win. Casey’s FedEx Cup thus far has consisted of a 5th place and a 4th place. Before that, he had two more 5th place finishes and a coupe of top-15’s. Without going to far into it, Paul Casey is undeniably one of the biggest threats this week, it’s just a question of whether he’s capable of getting a win or not. For 24-round stats, Casey sits in 2nd in strokes gained tee to green, 3rd in good drives gained, 13th in strokes gained off the tee, GIR gained, 1st in strokes gained approach, 4th in three putts avoided, 8th in birdies gained, 3rd in bogeys avoided, and 2nd in strokes gained par 4. And to top things off, Casey finished 2nd at the BMW Championship last year at Crooked Stick.
Other studs you can’t count out: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama, Rory McIlroy, John Rahm
Henrik Stenson: Stenson hasn’t played in a ton of events this year, but when he’s out there, he’s almost always in the hunt. He has one win on the year, two starts ago at the Wyndham Championship which he played to ensure that he’d retain his PGA Tour card. He has 7 top-10 finishes in 19 starts and has finished top-20 in each of his last 5 events. His style of play definitely fits this course and his 24-round stats back that up. Right now Stenson is 1st in good drives gained, 1st in GIR gained, 11th in strokes gained approach, 3rd in strokes gained putting, 6th in birdies gained, 4th in bogeys avoided, and 10th in strokes gained par 4. He is also priced very modestly, making him a very enticing option here.
Patrick Cantlay: Having played even less than Stenson, Cantlay is back on the scene and appears to be ready to make a move. He has been right in the mix at both FedEx Cup events so far, finishing 10th at the Northern Trust and 13th at the Dell Technologies Championship. He has been playing very consistently and remains moderately priced. For 24-week stats, Cantlay is currently 11th in strokes gained tee to green, 2nd in good drives gained, 5th in strokes gained off the tee, 2nd in GIR gained, and 23rd in strokes gained approach. If he can keep the momentum going this week, you may want to have shares of some Cantlay.
Zach Johnson: The main reason ZJ is an attractive option this week is his history here – winning in 2013 and placing 13th in 2015. He’s been a bit hot and cold as of late, and unfortunately leaning a bit towards the cold side so far in the playoffs. ZJ has made 16 of 21 cuts on the season and his most impressive recent finish is 2nd at the WGC Bridgestone in the beginning of August. Since then, he’s finished 48th in the PGA Championship, 71st at the Northern Trust, and 56th at the Dell Technologies Championship. His 24-round stats aren’t off the charts: 15th in good drives gained, 24th in GIR gained, 23rd in strokes gained putting, and 8th in three putts avoided. With his proven ability to thrive at this course and some flashes of very good golf this season, he could definitely be a contender – at a modest price.
Other midrange options I like: Patrick Reed, Louis Oosthuizen, Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar
Value Plays: These are getting harder to choose, but I still believe any last one of these guys has a chance this week – don’t write anyone off too soon!
Daniel Berger: Berger finished 2nd at Conway Farms in 2015 and 10th at the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick in 2016. His recent play has also been questionable, but he has definitely shown hot flashes throughout this season. He has a win at the FedEx St. Jude in June, a runner up at Travelers Championship, came in 5th at the John Deere Classic in July, 17th at the WGC Bridgestone, and has had a shaky start in the playoff, finishing 33rd at the Northern Trust and 61st at the Dell Technologies Championship. For 24-week stats, Berger is 14th in strokes gained tee to green, 4th in strokes gained approach, 18th in three putts avoided, 28th in bogeys avoided, and 11th in strokes gained par 4.
Kevin Na: Na is another guy with good tournament history, finishing 10th at Conway Farms in 2015 and 20th last year at
Crooked Stick. He has been playing great golf as of late, finishing 4th at the Wyndham Championship, 29th at the Northern Trust, and 6th at the Dell Technologies Championship. For 24-week stats Na sits in 3rd in strokes gained approach, 23rd in strokes gained putting, 20th in 3-putts avoided, 16th in birdies gained, 22nd in bogeys avoided, 16th in strokes gained par 4, and 4th in strokes gained par 4 350-400 yards. A good investment if he keeps it going this week.
Potentially one of the best priced guys this week after what he did in the Dell Technologies Championship. Being in a 3-way tie for 1st heading into Sunday is impressive as it is. He did although end up shooting a one under 70 in the final round to end up in 3rd. He has had a great season, making 18 cuts in 20 starts with 4 top-10’s. Outside of a missed cut at the Northern Trust, Leishman has been very consistent all year and there isn’t a doubt in my mind he can be right back on the leaderboard this weekend. For 24-round stats, Leishman is 13th in strokes gained tee to green, 8th in GIR gained, 14th in strokes gained approach, 26th in strokes gained putting, 14th in three putts avoided, 14th in bogeys avoided, and 29th in strokes gained par 4.
Other value plays that I like: Charley Hoffman, Kyle Stanley, Tony Finau, Keegan Bradley, Phil Mickelson, Xander Schauffele
Good luck this week and see you for Tour Championship! Follow us on twitter at: