Preview: After a small break in PGA Tour action, the players returned last week at the Safeway Open to kick off the 2017-2018 season, where Brendan Steele was able to defend his title. Some other names at the top of the leader board included Tony Finau (2nd), Phil Mickelson (T3), and Graham DeLaet (T5). This week some big names return for the CIMB Classic in Malaysia. A few notable players include last year’s FedEx Cup champion Justin Thomas (who has also won this event two years straight), Hideki Matsuyama, Paul Casey, and last year’s Tour Championship winner and rookie of the year, Xander Schauffele. Oh yeah, it’s also a limited (78 player) field, with no cut. So keep that in mind.
The Course: TPC Kuala Lumpur (West Course) – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – The CIMB Classic has been played here since 2013, giving us some good stats to take a look at. Par 72 and not the longest course, totaling 7,005 yards while containing 4 par-3’s, 4 par-5’s, and 10 par-4’s. Overall, the scorecard isn’t anything too out of the ordinary, with par-‘s averaging around 190 yards, par-4’s averaging just over 400 yards, and par-5’s averaging 550 yards. Past results show winners anywhere from -17 to -26, a wide range of outcomes, but all low scores nonetheless. Most holes are covered with fairway bunkers and some bring water into play, meaning accuracy off the tee will be important. The course doesn’t exactly demand a long ball, but hey, the distance never hurts. As always, accurate approach shots to points on the green where birdies are made possible will be necessary. With scores seemingly dropping every time we blink, I’d project the winner to finish around 265 (-23), as it may be hard to beat JT’s 2016 262 (-26) which included a Thursday -11, 61. To make a long story short, birdies and maybe a couple eagles are a must, and bogeys will need to be avoided.
This week I am going to break down a few of my favorite plays sorted into three categories: High priced studs, $8k+ mid-range (based on DK salaries), and value – this week being players under $8k (again, based on DK salaries). Some of the stats I’ll be citing where my research began consist of strokes gained “total”, strokes gained tee to green, strokes gained par 4, strokes gained par 5, GIR gained, good drives gained, strokes gained approach, strokes gained putting, birdies gained, and bogeys avoided. I also looked at the past three years of results for the CIMB Classic as well as last week’s Safeway Open. All of the strokes gained stats are based on each player in this week’s field’s last 24 rounds. Let’s break it down.
Justin Thomas: I don’t like doing this, but the studs are pretty straight forward this week and the platform’s salaries seem to be pretty spot on in my opinion. It’s hard to say there is anyone more likely to win this week than JT. His only real slip up as of late occurred in the BMW Championship where he finished 47th. Besides that, he’s finished top-10 in the other 4 of his last 5 starts, including a major championship and a 2nd in the Tour Championship which was enough to earn him a FedEx Cup title, $10 million, and player of the year. For last 24-round stats, he’s first in strokes gained total, strokes gained tee to green, strokes gained par 4, and birdies gained. He’s near the top in every other stat I looked at and to top things off, he’s the back-to-back CIMB Classic winner. The only real negative this week is…you guessed it… his salary. It’s the highest he’s ever been priced and it definitely makes those lines a little harder to build. But it surely can be done.
Hideki Matsuyama: A guy I have been very bearish on lately as he seemed to hit a brick wall after his WGC Bridgestone victory at the beginning of August and a 5th place finish at the PGA Championship. His FedEx Cup performances were anything but noteworthy, but he remains a compelling play this week due to his CIMB history: 21st in 2015, 5th in 2016, and 2nd in 2017. For 24-round stats, Hideki sits in 8th strokes gained total, 4th in strokes gained tee to green, 4th in strokes gained par 5, 10th in GIR gained, 5th in strokes gained approach, and 5th in birdies gained. His major downfall has been his putting and his overall lack of consistency as of late. Deciding whether or not to roster him this week may come down to the question of whether or not you can feel good about fitting him in those lines with a pretty hefty salary considering his recent performance while keeping in mind he may be a good variance play against everyone choosing to go with JT.
Paul Casey: The man that racks up top-10’s but can’t get a W to save his life. The man that I usually love to roster for his consistency. His entire 2017 season was top notch, but he somehow didn’t take a single tournament down. 24-round stats have him 2nd in every one of the following: strokes gained total, strokes gained tee to green, strokes gained par 4, GIR gained, good drives gained, and birdies gained. His other stats aren’t exactly a let down either. He is familiar with the course, but hasn’t done anything spectacular here (37th in 2015, 24th in 2016, and 21st in 2017). His price is way more feasible than the prior two names I mentioned and I don’t have any problem with rostering him this week.
Xander Schauffele: He had quite the end to his season, taking home a Tour Championship W as a rookie, which was enough for him to be crowned rookie of the year. He’s since taken a short break, sitting out of last week’s Safeway Open. For 24-round stats, Schauffele sits in 9th in strokes gained total, 18th in strokes gained tee to green, 5th in strokes gained par 5, 15th in good drives gained, 16th in strokes gained putting, and 6th in birdies gained. He doesn’t have any course history but as we all know, he’s been playing well. AGAIN, the question here is whether or not his salary justifies how much confidence we have that he’ll make a run this week. This is by far the highest he has ever been priced, and that is 100% based on the fact he’s coming off of a very impressive victory. Personally, I think there is better value elsewhere, but I have been riding high on this guy for some time and there is no saying he can’t keep the streak alive.
The only other “stud” I failed to mention here is Charl Schwartzel. Schwartzel is a guy that I am putting in the same category as Xander this week. He has the skill and sits in some pretty impressive spots in terms of stats, but seems over priced for what he’s been capable of as of late. A “mid-range” player with a “stud” salary. His FedEx Cup finishes were 29th in the Northern Trust, 25th in the Dell Technologies Championship, and 27th in the BMW Championship, before failing to qualify for the Tour Championship. Strictly due to his pricing, he’s a fade in my book.
Ian Poulter: Poulter has been very consistent all season, making 22 cuts in his 24 starts in the 2017 season. He had middle of the road performances in the FedEx Cup playoffs against the best of the best, and while most were taking a week off or playing in the Presidents Cup, Poulter was playing in the British Masters where he finished 11th. For 24-round stats, he is currently 6th in strokes gained total, 4th in strokes gained par 4, 21st in strokes gained approach, 12th in strokes gained putting, 13th in birdies gained, and 13th in bogeys avoided. Last year at the CIMB, Poulter finished 17th. I would not be surprised to see Poulter in the mix this Sunday.
Kevin Na: Although I have grown to be more and more hesitant in rostering Kevin Na, the stats are lining up in his favor. He finished 37th last week in the Safeway Open despite his not-so-pretty 77 on Sunday, so we know he has the game as long as he can string the four rounds together. For 24-round stats, Na is sitting in 4th for strokes gained total, 9th in strokes gained tee to green, 6th in strokes gained par 4, 20th in strokes gained par 5, 2nd in strokes gained approach, 20th in strokes gained putting, and 3rd in birdies gained. Another reason to like Na is his tournament history: 2nd in 2015, 3rd in 2016, 29th last year. Not bad at his salary this week.
Grayson Murray: After finishing 9th last week at the Safeway Open with 4 very solid rounds, Murray is on my radar. Since his victory at the Barbasol Championship in late July, he has played some pretty good golf, finished 22nd at the PGA Championship, 25th at the Dell Technologies Championship, but ultimately coming up short of qualifying for the Tour Championship. For 24-round stats, Murray is in 14th strokes gained total, 10th in strokes gained tee to green, 2nd in strokes gained par 5, 20th in GIR gained, and 4th in birdies gained. Although maybe not the most appealing $8k+ option on the board, you can’t count him out this week.
Other mid range options I’ll highly consider this week: Pat Perez, Branden Grace, Brendan Steele, Anirban Lahiri
Chez Reavie: All aboard the Reavie train! I’m not sure why, but I can’t stop rostering this man. His salary is right where it belongs and he has been performing just as he should. He finished 10th at the Northern Trust, 12th at the BMW Championship, failed to qualify for the Tour Championship, and came back with a solid 13th place finish last week at the Safeway Open. For 24-round stats he sits in 7th for strokes gained total, 5th in strokes gained par 4, 19th in good drives gained, 3rd in strokes gained putting, and 3rd in bogeys avoided.
Lucas Glover: Last week, Glover was anything but consistent, shooting 67-74-69-73 to finish in 30th. He made cuts in 18 of his 22 starts in the 2017 season and had plenty of modest finishes in the FedEx Cup playoffs. His 24-round stats are also very impressive: 10th in strokes gained total, 8th in strokes gained tee to green, 8th in strokes gained par 4, 7th in GIR gained, 10th in good drives gained, 19th strokes gained approach, and 7th in bogeys avoided.
Graham DeLaet: Graham Delaet is far from consistent, but if you’re looking to catch a low owned guy on the right week, this could be it. He has shown what he’s capable of with 6 top-10 finishes this season, including a 5th place finish at last week’s Safeway Open. He is currently 13th in strokes gained total, 11th in strokes gained tee to green, 7th in strokes gained par 4, 6th in GIR gained, 6th in good drives gained, 13th in strokes gained approach, and 18th in bogeys avoided.
Other value options I’ll consider this week: James Hahn, Emiliano Grillo, Luke List, Nick Taylor, Bud Cauley, Kyle Stanley, Jamie Lovemark, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Harold Varner, Danny Lee, Keegan Bradley, Hudson Swafford
Thanks for reading and good luck this week. Follow us on Twitter at:
@donaldremington // @LineupLogicDFS