The tournament this week comes to us from Akron, Ohio. This is the final WGC event until November and is a 76 man field and a no cut event. For DFS purposes that means line-up building is all about potential upside over four rounds and more importantly, performance in highly skilled fields. All of the top-ten players in the world are in attendance this week and the only player of note not teeing it up here is Brandt Snedeker who is again out with a rib issue. The event will be played at Firestone Country Club’s South course, the host course for this event for every year except 2002.
The Course: Firestone is essentially a longer par 70 (7400 yards) that plays fairly straightforward and features a lot of longer, tough par 4’s. The greens here are a mix of bentgrass and poa and generally play as some of the fastest on tour. While the course is long, the layout is fairly straightforward with few doglegs and wider fairways. The course has been favoured by bombers off the tee over the years, although there is a history of some shorter hitters doing well at Firestone too (Jim Furyk mainly). This course does also share some similarities with Muirfield Village, a course located nearby in Dublin, Ohio and host of the Memorial every year.
Stats: This is definitely a week where I would favour stats off the tee over most others. Past winners and high finishers here have almost all ranked highly in Driving Distance for the week and SG: Off the Tee. Additionally, with up to eight of the par 4’s this week falling in the 450-500 yard range, looking at efficiency stats form that distance is also worth your while. Last year’s winner Dustin Johnson led the year long stats in that range in 2016 and 2015 runner-up Bubba Watson was also very strong in that area when he won.
Rickie Fowler ($10,600): Fowler has played remarkably well ever since February and is probably a tad unlucky he only has one win to his credit thus far. That could easily change at Firestone however, a course where Rickie has finished inside the top ten on four out of seven visits. Fowler’s last visit to Ohio paid good dividends too when he finished second to Jason Dufner at Muirfield Village, another classic mid-west venue with fast greens. Fowler is fourth on tour in efficiency from 450-500 yards and won’t hate it if this course plays tough again, he’s the best value among the top four this week.
Hideki Matsuyama ($10,200): Hideki definitely lines up well for a win this week. While he’s never finished better than T12 in four attempts, he enters this year’s version in arguably his best form and statistically shouldn’t have an issue figuring out this venue eventually. Matsuyama is second in par 4 scoring and tenth in SG: Off the Tee for the season, and is coming off three straight top 15 finishes (including a T2 at the US Open). He’s been outperformed by Brooks Koepka in the past month, but only barely, and for a cheaper price could easily flip the script here.
Jon Rahm ($9,700): Rahm seems to have been mildly dismissed by the salary makers at DraftKings this week as his sub-10k price doesn’t seem to factor in his dominate win in Ireland just three weeks ago. This will be Rahm’s first visit to Firestone but at third in SG: Off the Tee and 16th in Driving Distance stats he shouldn’t have any issues with the longer layout. His emotions have been held in check much better the past couple of starts and if that carries over to this week Rahm could easily find his second win in a month here.
Others: Daniel Berger ($8,300)
Gary Woodland ($7,500): Woodland snapped out of his dry spell last week with a tremendous performance in Canada where he ranked first in the field in SG: Tee to Green and probably would have won the tournament if not for a few untimely misses with the putter down the stretch. While he’s never really taken to Firestone, Woodland has the length and talent to figure this course out eventually and has shown flashes of brilliance all season in his long game. If that keeps up here and the putter finally cooperates, he’ll at least be in the mix again. Look out for him next week too at Quail Hollow.
Thomas Pieters ($7,300): Pieters has been in bad form ever since coming back from a mid-season break. The Belgian will be looking to salvage his season with a late season win and a comeback of sorts could easily start here. While there’s risk involved in playing Pieters there’s more than enough upside to warrant playing him at only $7,300 this week. Pieters has proven he can turns things around in a hurry as both of his top fives at the Masters and the WGC Mexico event came off of missed cuts. With length being an advantage this week, I’d look for Pieters to put in a good week here. With this being a no cut event, and his price being hugely discounted, this is a good spot to deploy him in DFS too.
Bill Haas ($6,900): Haas has quietly had a nice 2017, posting top-five finishes at both the WGC Match Play event and the US Open. The veteran has yet to win this season, but the consistency he’s shown and his improved play in the bigger events means he warrants consideration as a sub-7k target. Haas also ranks sixth in efficiency on par 4’s from 450-500 yards and is also top-ten in bogey avoidance for the year, making him well-suited for a venue which played as the seventh toughest on tour last season. He’s a good target on a week where placing points may be more vital than overall birdie bonuses in DFS.
Others: Kyle Stanley, Charl Schwartzel
High-Upside GPP Picks
Brooks Koepka ($11,100): Many people may scoff at paying up $11,100 for Brooks, especially when Rory McIlroy is just $300 more, but the fact is Brooks has outplayed everyone in the world not named Jordan Spieth since mid-June. Koepka certainly has the length to take on Firestone and the fact he placed T6 here two years ago, when he was still finding his way on tour, is a great sign. It will be interesting to see what Brooks’ ownership will be this week on DK, but I’d venture to guess he’ll be going off as lesser-owned than any of the players above him, making him a perfect gpp target.
Branden Grace ($8,600): Grace is coming off an Open Championship where he set the major championship, one-round scoring record with a 62. While he’d go on to finish T6 the round was certainly a confidence booster and a good way to head into this week at a venue he has had some success at in the past. Grace has actually improved his finish at this event each of the past three seasons (T10 last year) and is actually ninth on tour in efficiency on the longer par 4’s (450-500 yards). He’s a sneaky pick to win this week, and a nice upside play for DFS.
Russell Henley ($7,100): I’ve written about Henley many times this season, as he becomes great value in these stronger fields when his price gets this low. He’s having an outstanding season and ranks inside the top 30 in both efficiency stats from 450-500 yards and SG: Off the Tee; making him seem like a good fit for this week too. He finished T17 here in 2015 and was near his second win of the season the last time he played in the USA. He’ll be looking to make his mark in a big event soon and this could easily be the place.
Other: JB Holmes
Players to Consider (in no order)
– Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm, Daniel Berger, Brooks Koepka, Russell Henley
– Branden Grace, Gary Woodland, Thomas Pieters, Bill Haas, Kyle Stanley, Charl Schwartzel, JB Holmes
Gary Woodland 70-1