Welcome back everybody. Alex here, and I am back with my DraftKings PGA sleeper picks for the first tournament of 2017, The SBS Tournament of Champions. The Tournament of Champions will be held at The Plantation Course at The Kapalua Resort on the island of Maui in Hawaii. This tournament has been held at this course since 1999. The course is a par 73 that measures in at a long 7,452 yards. It is the only PGA course with a par of 73 and the only course with seven holes of more than 500 yards. The recent winners were Jordan Speith in 2016, Patrick Reed in 2015, Zach Johnson in 2014, and Dustin Johnson in 2013. The winning score has ranged from -16 all the way to -30 (2016) over the past four years.
Even though this is a longer course, it is one of the easier courses on The Tour, and I would expect very low scores again this week. The fairways and greens are very easy to hit and it is more about getting the ball as close to the pin as possible and sinking birdie putts here on these Bermuda greens. The 7,452 initially makes you think this is a course made for bombers, but outside of DJ, most of the success here has come from shorter and accurate players. One of the main reasons for this is because with this course being right on the ocean, wind will become a factor which favors shorter hitters. I’m not saying you can’t target longer hitters by any means, but I just think forcing bombers into your lineups may not be the best strategy.
With all this considered this week the main statistics I will be focusing on are strokes gained tee to green, greens in regulation percentage, strokes gained putting, par five scoring, proximity to hole, birdie or better percentage, and bogey avoidance. Even though this is the first tournament of 2017 and we are all very excited about the return of DFS golf, this is not a good tournament to use a high amount of bankroll on. This is a no cut event with only 32 players to choose from. Ownerships will be inflated and separating yourself from the rest of the pack will be difficult. No matter what size it is I usually don’t recommend playing cash games with no cut events and I think this is a good week to solely focus on GPPs, especially with this being the first tournament of the year, and us not having much data of most of these player’s current forms. I recommend still playing but I would just be wise with how much money you want to put on the table this week. As always, if any of these picks help your lineups this weekend or if you need any advice let me know on Twitter. Hunta512.
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Cody Gribble: (6,700) After spending most of his time on The Web.com Tour the last few years, Gribble has been a great surprise on The Tour this past fall, making 4/5 cuts, with a T8 at The Safeway Open, and a win at The Sanderson Farms Championship. He did miss the cut in his last tournament back in November at The RSM Classic, but he should bounce back nicely this week at Plantation. He has never played here before but has the skills to compete here ranking 5th in strokes gained putting, 99th in strokes gained tee to green, 55th in par five scoring, 42nd in proximity to the hole, 31st in bogey avoidance, and 23rd in birdie or better percentage. Outside of these nice stats, the one thing that really stood out to me was how impressive putter he has been on Bermuda greens.
Its only based off a total of six tournaments, but he has a very high 2.169 strokes gained putting average on Bermuda greens which is the second best in the field this week. (Via Fantasy Golf Metrics) He showed us back in his first PGA Tour win at that Sanderson Farms Championship back in October that he can really get hot on Bermuda greens, averaging a low 26 putts per round for the tournament. He is the exact type of player I want to target in this no cut event with the upside he has on similar greens. I think he should come with a decently low ownership because he is one of the least known players in this small field. At a cheap price of $6,700, he looks like one of the better values of the week that will help you fit in the high end studs you need.
Jimmy Walker: (7,800) Walker had a very up and down season last year, but he showed us that he can still compete with the best by shocking the golf world with his out of nowhere PGA Championship win. He didn’t look that great in his two tournaments in the fall making 1/2 cuts, but hopefully is ready to get back on track after a break from golf on this course he is very familiar with. He has had some solid success here at Plantation the last three years finishing 10th last season, 2nd in 2015, and 21st in 2014. His stats from this season aren’t that great, only playing in two tournaments in the fall, but one statistic that he improved on was his proximity to the hole. He currently ranks 10th in proximity to hole at 29’ 4” which is really big improvement from his 36’ 11” 147th rank from last season.
Even though he is one of the longer hitters on The Tour in his three tries here at Plantation, he has an average drive of 282 yards, which shows you that he knows how to manage this course and doesn’t force his power on the holes it isn’t needed. He also has done pretty well on Bermuda grass with a 1.036 strokes gained putting average based on 106 tournaments. (Via Fantasy Golf Metrics) We all know he has great talent, it is just a matter of which Walker shows up this weekend. If this was a regular sized event with a cut, I would not be targeting Walker, but, with this being a small no cut event, he is a player that makes sense to attack with the upside he has shown here in Maui at discounted price of $7,800.
Jason Dufner: (7,400) Dufner was such a consistent player last season making 25/28 cuts (3/4 majors) with 12 top 25s, six top 10s, and a win at The Career Builder Challenge. He didn’t compete in The Fall, but in his last tournament he finished at an impressive 8th place in The Tour Championship. With three months of rest, he should be fresh and ready to get his season started on a good note here at Kapalua. Dufner didn’t play here last year, but before that he was great here finishing 5th in 2014 and 18th in 2015.
He is the perfect kind of short ball striker that can flourish here ranking 23rd in strokes gained tee to green, 6thin GIR percentage (70.15%), 19th in proximity to the hole, 32nd in birdie or better percentage, 50th in par five scoring, and 78thin bogey avoidance in 2016. With no recent form data, I think he may be a player who gets overlooked this week. But with his course history and performance last season he is one of the safest mid-priced players of the week.
Also Consider: Ryan Moore, Si Woo Kim, Aaron Baddeley, Mackenzie Hughes, Charley Hoffman, Pat Perez, and Branden Steele.