This week the TOUR leaves Vegas following a no-cut, 78-man field, to go to California for another no-cut, 78-man event. I did an extensive preview of the course at Sherwood Country Club yesterday, which can be referenced to identify the types of players that may fit best on a course that hasn’t had a TOUR event since 2013.
I will also send you to last week’s GPP Article where I break down some of my thoughts on strategy for playing these no-cut events.
One benefit we do have this week following a mirroring style tournament from last week is the ability to look back at what worked for DFS Players. If you look at the lineup that won on the main $10 DraftKings tournament with 52,942 entrants and $100,000 to first place, you can see how ownership matters.
The user “assassin9955” had Xander Schauffele, Tyrrell Hatton, Abraham Ancer, Joaquin Niemann, Russell Henley, and Jason Kokrak. Just by name you understand how he/she hit it big, with the winner, second, two tied for 3rd and a 6th. Abraham Ancer was the only guy outside of that group as he finished 28th, but did enough birdie-making to keep this lineup at the top.
Overall, there were two keys to this lineup, Hatton at just short of 8% owned, allowed for a solo win even with two players over 20% owned. The total lineup ownership (combining ownership of all 6 players) was 94.7% which is honestly higher than I would have expected, but it also left $300 on the table, a quick way to be more unique. Having a unique lineup is really important in these large-field tournaments, especially with no cut, as everyone behind “assassin9955” down to 20th-place was a duplicated lineup.
Even if the lineup isn’t the overall winner, every duplicated lineup yours beats, is moving multiple spots up the leaderboard, creating opportunities for better ROI.
Now onto the picks for this week’s ZOZO Championship.
Collin Morikawa ($9,800 DK/$11,100 FD)
I’m not completely fading the top of the board, but I really like the balanced build this week in part because there are several guys in this mid to upper tier that I would like to stack in a lineup. Collin Morikawa fits that mold as the first player under the double digit crowd and he seems to be coming back into form.
While he stumbled a bit on Sunday at the CJ Cup, he had himself in position to make a run to a Top-5 type of finish leading up and simply lost touch on the greens, still finishing. Morikawa’s game is exactly what I am looking for this week at Sherwood Country Club as it is certainly intended to be a second shot course, but as we’ve seen many times these new age golfers can turn many courses into a bombers paradise. I won’t go quite that far, but my goal is to find the top ball strikers that have an added a touch of distance.
Viktor Hovland ($9,200 DK/$10,100 FD)
As you’ll see tomorrow on GolfBet, Viktor Hovland is my favorite bet to win this week. I love everything about where his game is trending as he has gained 2, 8.5, and 4.8 strokes tee-to-green against the field in his last three events. Those were big boy fields too, the Tour Championship, U.S. Open, and CJ Cup. Hovland lost his irons at times over the summer, but seems to have come around to get them firing well as he has gained 2.2, 4.3, and 1.6 strokes on approach in those same three events.
An elite ball striker like Hovland is expected to find that part of his game again as he has recently, but it’s usually the short game that usually holds him back. He has been open about the hard work he has put in around the green and putting, especially during the break, which appears to be paying off as he has also gained in each of those categories for both the U.S. Open and the CJ Cup. The cherry on top is with him showing trends for a preference to the bentgrass greens he will see this week. This all comes together for a player I love this week at the ZOZO and someone I believe can win the event.
Bubba Watson ($8,800 DK/$9,900 FD)
I usually only buy in on Bubba once I find out if it’s a track that fits his game. Lucky for me he’s been around long enough to have taken a few tournament loops around Sherwood Country Club and produced some good results albeit in 18 player fields. He finished 3rd in the World Challenge in 2013 and had a couple of other decent finishes. What I really like from Bubba outside of some course knowledge and comfort, is the way hit struck the ball at the CJ Cup.
He was flat out one of the best players all weekend at Shadow Creek where he shot 14-under par over the last three days to finish in a tie for 7th, and gained over 11 strokes on the field tee-to-green last week. I’m in for the hot play to continue this week for Bubba, and as of Tuesday night it may be at single digit ownership.
Joaquin Niemann ($8,400 DK/$9,700 FD)
When I dug into Niemann, I began to realize he sets up as a near mirror image to Viktor Hovland, but several hundred dollars cheaper on both sites. The Chilean gained more than 7 strokes on the field ball striking last week, on his way to a 6th place finish. Stretching it out long term he is 9th in the field in ball striking over the last twelve months, and has the added benefit of distance ranking 4th in that category over the same timeframe.
Like Hovland, Niemann has shown a preference to putting on bentgrass greens as it plays as the only surface he generally gains strokes putting. He’s shaping up to be a core play for me even with mid-teens ownership, and after this write up, I’ll be shopping the betting markets for his odds to win.
Paul Casey ($7,500 DK/$8,700 FD)
I know I’ve touted a lot of recent form with my plays leading into this one, but I can do nothing of the sort with Paul Casey. He was flat out awful for 3 out of 4 rounds at Shadow Creek, shooting a combined 12-over on those three days. The only good day he had was on Saturday, which allowed him to salvage a tie for 69th rather than battling Tae Hee Lee for dead last in the 78 player field. At this point I’m sure you’re asking what I am doing writing him up and that is a very valid question.
Last week at Shadow Creek was simply put one of the worst 4 round events I can find on record for Paul Casey as he lost 6 strokes to the field tee-to-green. Where it gets interesting, is that another is WGC St Jude, where he finished 67th losing 2.3 strokes tee-to-green. The following week, he finished 2nd and nearly won the U.S. Open gaining 12 strokes in that category. Last February he lost 1.8 strokes at the AT&T, then gained 5.5 the following week at the Genesis. Lastly, in 2019 he lost 4 strokes tee to green at the Players, then won the Valspar the following week gaining 11.2 strokes.
The overarching story here is that Paul Casey is an elite ball striker. When he has down weeks like last week, he historically bounces back in a big way. He has as much win equity at these prices as anyone around him and he loves bentgrass greens. Close your eyes, hold y,our nose, whatever it takes to click that name.
Ryan Palmer ($7,100 DK/$8,200 FD)
We don’t need anything spectacular from Ryan Palmer to pay off these listed price tags, and recently he has been simply very solid. He fits everything I am looking for in a player this week for the ZOZO as he has a sharp ball striking and tee-to-green game and is one of the longer drivers of the ball.
Coming in off of a 17th place finish at the CJ Cup, and having played at the Shriners, Palmer is playing his way into good form. Add to it that one of the natural corollary courses is Jack Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village for the Memorial where Palmer finished 2nd this summer, and he matches up to be a great low price value.
Since I am planning to be a little more balanced this week, I don’t plan to dive below $7,000, but I want to share a few names to keep an eye on should you need the salary. If you can stomach the horrific putting and think maybe variance helps him find it for a week, everything else is there for Byeong Hun An ($6,700 DK/$7,600 FD). Many appear to be going away from Brendan Steele ($6,500 DK/$7,500 FD), but I wouldn’t hesitate for a bounce-back as he is a good fit for what I am looking for at Sherwood Country Club.
Lastly, Danny Lee ($6,400 DK/$7,700 FD) has shown good form and is one of the better birdie-makers in this price range.