For any golf fan out there, last week’s Valspar Championship did anything but disappoint. Tiger back in the hunt on Sunday, Paul Casey finally finding his way back to the winner’s circle on the PGA Tour, Patrick Reed coming up just short after a late charge past a few more of the biggest names on Tour. The golf world is on the edge of its seat and anticipation keeps building leading up to The Masters in just a couple short weeks. But first, we head to Orlando for an event well known on Tour – The Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. Tune into the Lineup Logic “Sweet Spot” podcast later this week to get the complete breakdown of last week’s Valspar Championship as well as in depth analysis of this week’s tournament.
For now, I’m going to jump into the Arnold Palmer Invitational, giving a little background on the course and tournament history and breaking down some of my favorite DFS plays of the week. To kick things off, here’s a breakdown of how this week’s field has performed here over the past five years:
Some notable players making an appearance at Bay Hill this week include former Arnold Palmer Invitational champs Jason Day and Tiger Woods, and others including Hideki Matsuyama, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, and Henrik Stenson, just to name a few. Although there are a few of the DJ and JT’s of the world taking a pass this week, the field is nothing short of stacked.
The Course: Bay Hill Club & Lodge – 7,419 yards, par 72. The course is very well known on tour and as seen by the total yardage of 7,400+, it’s relatively long. There is plenty of trouble to get into, similar to a couple of the courses we’ve seen thus far on the Florida swing. Sand, water, trees, and long rough all come into play off the tee – stressing the accuracy off the tee rather than just distance alone. A unique feature of Bay Hill is the amount of longer-than-normal par 4’s and par 3’s. Approach shots on average will be longer than what we’ve seen in week’s past – putting an interesting spin on things. To go with the long ball hitter or the straight ball hitter? Well, I’m not sure if there’s any perfect answer to that question. To try and crack the code, here are the stats I am looking at this week, all courtesy of http://www.FantasyNational.com: SG tee to green, SG approach, good drives gained, SG short game, SG ball striking, proximity 200+, par 4’s 450-500 yards, birdies gained, and bogeys avoided.
Studs ($10,000+ DraftKings):
Jason Day ($11,800): Coming off of a 4-week layoff having not played competitively since Pebble Beach at the beginning of February, there are a few question marks here. However, it’s hard to ignore his past few starts – in 2018, Day finished 1st at the Farmers Insurance Open and 2nd at Pebble Beach. In comparison to the field, he stands out around the greens, which will surely help him here. For his last 24 rounds, he ranks 6th SG short game, 5th SG putting, and 1st birdie or better gained. The one thing to keep in mind is that he hasn’t been around for the start of the Florida swing, and that could put him a step or two behind the guys that have adjusted to the Bermuda greens and everything else these past few tricky FL-based courses have to offer. Something you have to take into consideration is Day’s tournament history over the past three years: 23rd, 1st, 17th.
Justin Rose ($11,500): Rose continues to stand out from the field in just about every event he plays in. Last week at the Valspar, it seemed as though he was in a prime spot to take it home on Sunday. But, that’s not exactly what happened. Though that Sunday proved to be a tough one for many, Rose shot 72 and ended up finishing 5th. Regardless of what happened last Sunday, he’s made 9 cuts in 9 starts so far this season and 7 of those 9 starts have resulted in top-10 finishes. Now that’s impressive.
Tiger Woods ($10,000): I don’t want to sounds too much like every other golf fan here… But (nearly) vintage Tiger is back. He’s back, he’s healthy, and he’s clearly ready to win. We saw him make a serious run at it last week and we all know it’s right there waiting for him. His approaches and putter hurt him just a bit on Sunday, not being able to convert on birdie opportunities like he may have wanted to. He hasn’t played this event in 5 years, but his last time out here, he won. And he also won the year before that. So – it’s safe to say that this is a track that Tiger knows and likes. The only question in my mind would be his energy levels after a grueling week at the Valspar. It’s still very hard to predict what Tiger is going to go out there and do on a week-to-week basis, but it is next to impossible to count him out here.
Mid-Range Options ($8,000 – $9,900 DraftKings):
Henrik Stenson ($9,100): If you think too much about this it may end up being somewhat painful. Stenson looked like the nearly perfect option last week aside from his coming off of a sizable layoff. And … he missed the cut by a long shot. He let so many people down that he’ll likely go low owned in this relatively strong field. The most enticing thing here is his $9,100 price, down from $10,200 last week at the Valspar. He’s had good tournament history, aside from his missed cut last year. And for anyone that doesn’t remember, Stenson missed 4-straight cuts right around this time last year before kicking it into gear and returning to form. Last year he finished 7th at the Valspar, MC here, MC Shell Houston Open, MC Masters, MC Zurich Classic, T16 at The Players. To confuse things further, for the fields last 24 rounds, Stenson ranks 8th SG approach, 1st good drives gained, 11th ball striking, 11th putting, 3rd in proximity 200+, and 5th bogeys avoided. There is a lot to like here, but a lot that warrants taking caution.
Brian Harman ($8,500): Harman had a ridiculously hot start to his 2018 season, finishing top-10 in 5 straight events from mid-October through mid-January. He then had a couple off-events, as to be expected, before finishing 5th at the WGC Mexico two weeks ago. He’s coming off another week of rest and I think I am ready to trust him again, especially at this middle of the road asking price. He finished top-17 in his last two outings here and for 24-round stats, he ranks 2nd SG short game, 2nd SG putting, and 6th birdie or better gained in this field.
Jason Kokrak ($8,000): Kokrak continues to be a relatively consistent player, making 10 cuts in 11 starts on the season with 3 top-10’s notched so far. He quietly finished 8th last week at the Valspar Championship and has a nice combination of distance and accuracy that should work well at Bay Hill. He’s had success here in the past, is very familiar with the track, and ranks well in 24-round stats in this field. Right now he sits in 5th good drives gained, 17th proximity 200+, 5th in par 4’s 450-500 yards, 9th in birdie or better gained, and 10th in bogeys avoided. At $8,000 I love this play for a potentially sneaky top-10 finish with an even higher ceiling.
Other mid-range options to consider: Tyrell Hatton, Marc Leishman, Luke List, Jamie Lovemark
Value Options (< $8,000 DraftKings):
Emiliano Grillo ($7,600): Grillo is off to a good start this season notching 3 top-10 finishes in 9 starts, making the cut in every start. He’s coming off an impressive 8th place finish at the Honda Classic and a 6th place finish at the Hero Indian Open last week. The Indian Open may have not had the strongest field around, but Grillo managed to finish 6th despite his 3rd round 78. He fired some very, very low rounds and has already proven his ability to compete at a difficult Florida golf course with a very strong field, in 2018. His impressive 24 round stats in comparison to the field in addition to his T17 and T7 in his last two outings here is enough to convince me at this price.
James Hahn ($7,600): Less-than-ideal tournament history may drag Hahn’s ownership down here, and I like that. Things to like about Hahn here: he’s made 9 cuts in 9 starts so far this season, his worst finish in his last three starts (all in very strong fields) was a 26th place finish at Pebble Beach, and he ranks favorably in relation to the field in almost all key stats here over his past 24 rounds. The one worry here is Hahn’s driving accuracy. If he can adapt well enough to put the ball in play off the tee he should be able to gain strokes via approach shots and around the green and could prove to be a great option at a very affordable price.
Kevin Chappell ($7,300): Chappell is extremely hard to ignore here for his price alone, if nothing else. He’s finished top-30 in his past three starts and has only missed 1 cut on the season. He’s very familiar with the course, having played here the past five years, missing two cuts, finishing T14 in in 2014, 2nd in 2016, and T49 in 2017. What really makes this price hard to comprehend are his 24-round stats in comparison to the field. Chappell currently sits 2nd SG tee to green, 13th SG approach, 25th good drives gained, 2nd ball striking, 8th proximity 200+, and 7th par 4’s 450-500 yards. The glaring stat missing here is putting.
Other value options to consider: Cameron Smith, Zach Johnson, Scott Stallings, Russell Knox, Francesco Molinari, Patton Kizzire, Charl Schwartzel, Sam Burns, Kevin Streelman
Thanks for reading – As always, a reminder that this is a first look at this week’s field. For a much more in depth breakdown of this week’s field, tune into the LineupLogic podcast coming out later this week. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @donaldremington and LineupLogic @LineupLogicDFS – Good luck this week!