The PGA Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s slate, using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics to highlight notable golfers.
A tradition unlike any other. No, not the Masters; it’s the Hero World Challenge. I mean, where else can you see a field of just 18 of the world’s best golfers tee it up for a top prize of $1 million? Albany on New Providence Island in the Bahamas hosts its third edition of the Hero World Challenge, where Tiger Woods is set to return from his fourth back operation in the last three years. Woods’ one and only start on the PGA Tour in 2017 was at the Farmers Insurance Open in January, where he missed the cut. He played the following week at the Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour but withdrew after an opening round 77 and announced he would be going under the knife once again.
With only 18 golfers in the field, the PGA Breakdown will have a different look this week.
The Big Cat
Because of his lack of play the last few years, Wood’s metrics in our PGA Models look terrible. In fact, his 73.5 Long-Term Adjusted Round Score (LT Adj Rd Score), brutal 58.4 LT Greens In Regulation (GIR) percentage, and 2.5 LT Adjusted Birdies Per Tournament (Adj Bird Avg) are all the worst marks in the field. Tiger’s last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour was in August of 2015 at the Wyndham Championship, where he accumulated 96.0 DraftKings points. The most recent of his 79 Tour wins was way back in 2013.
Perhaps more important than his not-so-recent metrics is what others who have played with him recently have said. After playing with Woods and Dustin Johnson recently, former Tour pro Brad Faxon wrote this for Golfweek:
Tiger looked great to me. He was happy, and, more than anything, he’s finally pain-free. The issues he had with the back the last couple of comebacks seem to be gone. He looked effortless, he looked free, he had some power.
I was impressed with how far he hit the ball. Probably on the 10 holes that they were both hitting driver, Tiger hit it past Dustin half the time and Dustin hit it past Tiger half the time. He looked great. I think more than anything, he looked at ease. He was not concerned about swinging hard and going at it with driver. The ball flight, the sound off the club, all of it was right there.
Patrick Reed played with Woods on Monday and said this:
I was shocked how fluid his swing was and how far the ball was going. He had some speed behind it. He’s always been a little longer than me, but some of those drives today, he got it out there. He was hitting the stinger here and there, hitting bunker shots, hitting balls out of the rough … there just wasn’t any hesitation in his body to hit those shots. That’s key. If he stays healthy, we’ll see Tiger again.
Tiger, who was once the world’s No. 1 ranked golfer for a record 683 weeks in a row now sits at No. 1,199, but if the first hand accounts of how he looks on the course are any indication he can start moving up those rankings once again this week.
Woods, who by all accounts wasn’t nearly as healthy at this time last year, played in this event and led the field with 24 birdies in his last comeback attempt. Because of his elite birdie-making ability, his popularity among most DFS players, and his $6,500 salary (fourth-lowest in the field), Tiger will likely be one of the three highest-owned golfers in guaranteed prize pools (GPPs) this week despite currently having the lowest odds to win the tournament (2.8 percent).
Justin Ray, a senior researcher for the Golf Channel has tweeted some amazing Tiger stats recently, but this one is truly mind-blowing:
72 players, including Tiger, had 100 or more rounds in majors from 1997 through 2013. Best cumulative score to par in that group:
Tiger Woods: -126
Steve Flesch: +125
Phil Mickelson: +128
A 251-stroke difference over 2nd-best
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) November 27, 2017
If you’re wondering how much studs like Johnson, Jason Day, and Rory McIlroy have closed the gap in that equation since 2013, the answer might surprise you: Only Day (16-under) has shot under par. Rory was even par, and everyone else was at least 51-over par. Tiger remains at 92-under and 76 strokes clear of Day. The bottom line is this: In his prime, Tiger was the most dominant golfer ever. Nobody knows how close he can get to that level of play after eight surgeries, but it will be fun to watch him try.
Eldrick Woods is back, and if you’re not using our Lineup Builder to make 150 Tiger lineups, you’re not living, baby. Check out our PGA Contests Dashboard shortly after lock to see who, other than Hump, went all in on Tiger.
Justin Thomas ($11,100): Thomas is coming off a very Tiger-like season in which he won five tournaments, including the PGA Championship and the FedEx Cup. And, oh by the way, he won the CJ Cup his last time out. JT currently has the best odds to win the tournament (15.4 percent), ranks eighth in the field with his 15.0 LT Adj Bird Avg, and is tied for fifth with his 68.4 LT Adj Rd Score. He will tee off with Tiger at 12:05 pm on Thursday.
Dustin Johnson ($10,700): DJ hasn’t played since his runner-up finish at the HSBC Champions in late October, but he finished third here last season after a similar Thanksgiving rest. He won four tournaments last season, including the Northern Trust Open in late August. Johnson ranks second with his 68.0 LT Adj Rd Score, and his 15.3 LT Adj Bird Avg is seventh overall.
Jordan Spieth ($10,500): Spieth finished eighth at last week’s Australian Open, five shots behind the winner. He has finished sixth and fourth in his last two appearances here at Albany and is tied with Johnson for the second-best odds to win the tournament (14.3 percent). Spieth’s 67.8 LT Adj Rd Score leads the field, and he is tied up top with his 16.1 LT Adj Bird Avg.
The Value Play
One way to use FantasyLabs to find potential value golfers in our Models is to leverage our LT Adj Rd Score metric. If you sort the field by LT Adj Rd Score, you are looking at a list of players who have been the best golfers over the past 75 weeks. Among these golfers, those who have high Adj Rd Scores and low salaries make great value plays.
Francesco Molinari ($6,600): Molinari checks in with the eighth-best LT Adj Rd Score (68.6) and the fifth-lowest salary this week. His run of six straight made cuts includes three top-20 finishes. He is making his debut at this event this week.
The Bump and Run
Choke up and take a narrow stance.
Brooks Koepka ($9,200): Koepka — the current U.S. Open Champion — arrives in the Bahamas in fine form: He finished second at the HSBC Champions then promptly blitzed the field at the Japan Tour’s Dunlop Phoenix Open to defend his title in that event. Koepka is tied atop the field with his 16.1 LT Adj Bird Avg.
Justin Rose ($8,600): Rose tees it up in somewhat of a home game this week since he owns a home in Albany. More importantly, Rose is straight fiya right now: He’s logged two wins and no finish worse than 10th in his last eight tournaments. His massive 21.3 Recent Adj Bird Avg is tops in the field among golfers with more than one start in the past six weeks.
Hideki Matsuyama ($8,200): Hideki is the event’s defending champion, his 68.3 LT Adj Rd Score ranks fourth in the field, and his 15.9 LT Adj Bird Avg is third overall this week.
Henrik Stenson ($7,800): The No. 1 rated player in CSURAM88’s Model, Stenson finished second at the HSBC Champions in late October and was 35th in the European Tour’s Turkish Airlines Open earlier this month. Stenson is tied for fifth with his 68.4 LT Adj Rd Score and ranks fourth with his 15.8 LT Adj Bird Avg. Henrik has been the runner-up in this event in his last two appearances.