Welcome to my weekly DraftKings fantasy picks column!
The tour moves back to California this week to an iconic course in Pebble Beach. Just like the Career Builder a couple of weeks ago this event is a Pro-Am and will take place over a series of three courses, with Pebble Beach hosting the final day on Sunday. Each player will have a shot at playing all three courses once before the cut on Saturday. I’ll discuss weather issues to look for this week below but for now know that of the three course Spyglass Hill is generally rated the toughest but also has the most protection from the wind. Generally, Pebble Beach is the course you hope for your DraftKings players to avoid if it’s windy.
Return to Poa: Pebble Beach uses Poa Annau greens, much like we saw at the Farmers. The early reports are also that the greens are a bit of a mess from the deluge of rain California has gotten so this is again a reminder that you’ll probably see some players struggle on the greens this week who aren’t used to the difference. Josh Culp has a good resource which ranks some of the stronger Po Annua players over on his site futureoffantasy.com: http://futureoffantasy.com/poa-annua-specialists-pgatour.
Course Rotation/Weather: This can often be a big factor at this event. As mentioned above Pebble is an easier course compared to most PGA tracks but when the wind gets up the course becomes difficult in a hurry due to it being directly on the ocean. As of now the first two days look to be about equal with a good chance of at least some rain and winds up to a max of 15mph. This isn’t too bad, but if the wind gets higher on one of the days there could be trouble. Saturday looks the nicest right now and if I had to pick—right now—I’d want my players on Pebble that day if possible. Ultimately, all players you pick will play in virtually the same conditions so I wouldn’t recommend stacking tee times unless we get news one of the days is going to be much worse than the others.
Experience Factor: Generally speaking Pro-Ams can be slower more social events for the pros, and so most players either end up loving or hating this event. The ones who love it tend to come back year after year and often build on their experience, but the ones who don’t tend to show up a couple times and then just skip it every year. In fact, a great stat that was thrown out this week by @Jude_UT4 on twitter was the fact that since 2000, the winner at Pebble (incl. US Open) had a T15 or better in one (or both) of his previous 2 starts at the course. Experience obviously pays this week. That being said, while picking newer players will be riskier, if they’re priced right and tick the right boxes I wouldn’t shy away. These courses aren’t difficult and you don’t want to bypass good value for no reason.
Jason Day ($11,600): A lot of strategy this week will go into which of the three high-priced DraftKings players to start your lineup with. Of the three I feel the best about Day. While Day has started off his season slowly he should be fresh after a week off and ready for the long rounds that tend to materialize here. There’s also the fact he’s been in contention at this event the past two years and shot a 62 on the host course in 2015. This seems like an event he is on the cusp of figuring out completely and should be motivated to put the embarrassing MC at the Farmers behind him. Jordan Spieth is definitely the in form player of the big three here but his semi-dislike for Poa Annau and the possible sloppy green conditions will keep me off him. If I was stacking in a tournament lineup, using Day with Dustin Johnson would be a strategy I’d also consider this week. I won’t be shocked if Dustin plays well but he has started his season slowly the past couple of years and I’ll be more inclined to use him next week at Riviera.
Justin Rose ($9,200): There’s lots to like here. Rose has been in contention in each of his first two starts and has shown a growing fondness for these West Coast courses over the past couple of seasons. He was 6th here last year and looked very close at the Farmers. In my eyes he should probably be the fourth ranked golfer this week but comes in as the seventh and is great value and a great pick.
JB Holmes ($8,400): I had to mention Holmes as he is one of the players I’ll be riding the hardest this week on DraftKings. Holmes has had two decent starts now and played extremely well around the greens last week in Phoenix where he led the field in birdies. Holmes also has a very strong record on Poa Annau and on the West Coast in general. In my eyes he’s overdue for a win and a victory at this event wouldn’t surprise me. He shot 64 and a 65 on Pebble back in 2015 and has finished 10th and 11th at this event the past two years.
Others: Phil Mickelson
Sean O’Hair ($7,300): He’s shown ridiculous consistency at this event which doesn’t tend to breed much with it’s multi-course format. O’Hair has made the cut nine times in a row here since 2008, including at the 2010 US Open. Given his recent run of good form too—three straight made cuts to start the year—he really does look like one of the best value picks out there this week on DraftKings.
Shane Lowry ($7,000): If I had to pick a “must-play” this week Lowry would be it. He played very well at the WMO last week as he was 3rd in strokes gained: tee to green and 2nd in GIR. Lowry could not get enough putts to sink though but might actually find the greens more to his liking this week as he has been strong on Poa Annau in the past, including at the 2015 US Open where he finished T9 on the bumpiest greens ever. He’s finished 41st and 21st here the past two seasons.
Cameron Smith ($6,900): Another player I would simply label as far too cheap this week given some of the DraftKings pricing. The young Aussie has now made eight of his last nine cuts on tour and finished T11 here last season. He’s ranked highly in birdie percentage for the year and I won’t be shocked if he’s up near the lead at some point during the week.
Others: Martin Laird
High-upside GPP Pivot Picks:
Tony Finau ($8,100): Finau will most likely be overlooked this week due to his MC from last week, but he’s a player who should thrive at Pebble. Finau has actually done very well on seaside courses in general over his career and proved his worth in this area of the nation again two weeks ago with a T4 at Torrey Pines. Big hitters like Finau have done well here at Pebble as the fairways generally aren’t overly demanding and length is obviously a huge advantage on the short par 5’s. I won’t be shocked if Finua has a strong debut at this event and for DFS he makes a ton of sense as a low-owned tournament pick this week.
Kevin Chappell ($7,200): Chappell has started 2017 slowly, mainly due to poor putting—he was an incredible -11.58 in SG: Putting in Phoenix. While that is not a glowing endorsement putting can change quickly (just ask Webb Simpson) and as a California native he’s not unfamiliar with the setting this week. While he’s definitely risky Chappell has proven he can bounce back from bad weeks to post big ones right after as all four of his runner-up finishes from 2016 came directly after finishes of T29 or worse.
Patrick Cantlay ($6,600): I’d be remiss without mentioning Cantlay this week. He’s the former number one ranked amateur in the world who was touted as the next great American golfer back in the early 2010’s but suffered a stress fracture in his back and a traumatic experience which forced him to sit out for more than a year. He hasn’t played competitively on tour since 2014 but is reportedly in good shape and practicing well. He’s a pure tournament punt this week but one possibly worth the risk—he did finish 9th here on his debut in 2013. At the very least he’s someone to keep an eye this week for future tournaments.
Others: Pat Perez, CT Pan, Patrick Cantlay, Jimmy Walker
Players to Consider (in no order):
– Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson, JB Holmes, Sean O’Hair, Cameron Smith, Martin Laird, Robert Streb
– Jimmy Walker, Tony Finau, CT Pan, Patrick Cantlay, Pat Perez, Kevin Chappell, Jim Herman, Michael Thompson
Good luck this week with your DraftKings AT&T Pebble Beach picks and lineups!