The TOUR stays in Las Vegas this week, with many of the world’s top players arriving at Shadow Creek Golf Course for the CJ Cup. Read up on the ins and outs of the Las Vegas course in my preview, as well some Cash Game Plays:
The key thing to note off the top is we have a limited field of just 78 players and no cut. We also have a new course for a TOUR event, meaning we can all speculate as to how it will play and what stats are most important. However, the reality is that we are all just guessing.
I’m typically someone who doesn’t dig too deep when it comes to ownership for a standard event, as I believe the cut has a way of leveling out that impact. Yet, in these tournaments where everyone is guaranteed four rounds, it becomes much more important to me. Add in the course unknowns, plus the fact that the majority of the top-priced players haven’t played a TOUR event in more than a month, and I will be playing the ownership game this week.
One last strategy piece for you. I think it makes sense to stack similar players. Reiterating that no one knows exactly how this course will play or who will benefit the most from the set up, so don’t be afraid to put together lineups of players with similar skillsets. If you believe the course sets up to favor fairway finders against bombers, then find your favorites and put them in a lineup together.
Another way to do it, is if the industry is pointing to one skill set, you’ll likely be contrarian by simply building lineups opposing that. This is the type of week to be in tune with what others are doing or saying, and being willing to think “what if” the opposite happens.
Now that you’ve got my game theory for the week, let’s dive into my favorite plays:
***Note: Dustin Johnson and Tony Finau have withdrawn***
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Jon Rahm ($11,300 DK/$11,900 FD)
I originally wrote up Rahm as a pivot off of what was becoming a very chalky Dustin Johnson. I still like Rahm up top, who now becomes the highest-priced player on both sites My initial thought is that the DJ ownership will go down to Justin Thomas more than it will to Rahm, especially with the strength of this field. Rahm is certainly no slouch regardless of ownership and takes over the top spot in most of the key categories this week.
As I mentioned, ownership will be key, but I also give a big bump to the birdie or better stats. Rahm ranked 11th in Birdie or Better Percentage last season, including fourth in Par 5 Birdie-or-Better percentage and second in Par 5 scoring average. He’s a player that will go low and be aggressive in his play regardless of the course, which is a valuable trait in DFS when everyone is guaranteed four rounds.
Rory McIlroy ($10,600 DK/$11,800 FD)
It’s tough to make a lineup with my first two plays this week, though it is doable, if you find guys you like at the bottom. That being said, this play is more for starting your lineups. McIlroy will get lost in the shuffle from an ownership perspective, as he is priced up to third on FanDuel and sandwiched between no-cut event darlings Thomas and Xander Schauffele on DraftKings. All of this despite having as much win equity as any one of these players.
McIlroy had an up-and-down 2020 season, with the ups clearly separated from the downs by the shutdown. Following the COVID-19 hiatus, Rory just couldn’t get back on track after a stellar stretch of Top-5 finishes before the TOUR stopped play. He seemed to finally find something again at the end of the season and in the U.S. Open, where he finished eighth.
There is no doubt Rory’s focus is on completing the career grand slam next month at Augusta, but it wouldn’t shock anyone if he found the winner’s circle in his play leading up to the Masters. If he remains around the current 10% ownership projection, I’ll happily be well above the field this week.
Scottie Scheffler ($8,800 DK/$9,800 FD)
I wrote up Scottie in this article last week, and I’m going back to him here despite getting burned. One thing I can guarantee is that he will not miss the cut this time around. As I previously noted, Scheffler mentioned needing to shake off some rust at the Sanderson Farms and he continued to work through that last week at the Shriners. He missed the cut, but did so on the number, shooting 6 under par through 36 holes.
I’m not going to hold the missed cut against him after consecutive rounds in the 60s, and it may actually help from an ownership perspective. Scheffler has proven to be one of the best scorers on TOUR, ranking seventh in Birdie-or-Better percentage in the 2020 season. That stat is always something I lean heavier on in no cut events. Scheffler also seems to have a preference for the bentgrass greens he will see this week. All of this lines up well to go right back to him.
Harris English ($8,600 DK/$9,600 FD)
Similar to Scheffler, English was a casualty of the 7 under cut line last week, as he “only” got to 5 under through the first two rounds. The former Georgia Bulldog hit it well, but lost a stroke and a half on the greens, which ultimately led to him falling short.
I am also giving English a pass, as his long-term form certainly outweighs the missed cut and I see it as a positive he was out there shaking off the rust. In a week where there is a lot of unknown, I really like English’s all-around game, where his worst ranking last season was 52nd off the tee, with all other strokes-gained categories firmly within the Top 30. Add to it he is one of the best putters on the bentgrass surfaces he will play at Shadow Creek, and he becomes a core play for me at this event.
Brendon Todd ($7,900 DK/$8,900 FD)
As I’ve mentioned a few times, there are a lot of unknowns around how Shadow Creek will play this week, so I will trend to the things I do know. Todd is one of those players where you pretty well know he is going to hit fairways and greens, and putt the heck out of the ball.
Todd had a remarkable resurgence last year and it started this time of year, where he won twice. He has shown in the past 12 months he can carry that game to any course, against any field, and be competitive. I’m happy to sign up for that type of stability this week.
Shane Lowry ($7,600 DK/$8,800 FD)
As you’ll see when we release our staff picks article Wednesday on GolfBet, Lowry is my longshot pick. Part of it is pure value at 90-1 odds, but the other is that he has spent the last six weeks grinding while most players have been at home.
Lowry came out at the Safeway Open and said he had a new set of irons and six drivers with him to try to work out. He definitely showed that he was working through those issues for a few events, before finally putting it together in Wentworth, where he took the 36-hole lead into the weekend. The Irishman would stumble down the stretch, but I saw it as a great sign that his game is headed in the right direction. For all of those reasons, I’m in on Lowry, as he has legitimate winning upside at a lower-tier price.
MacKenzie Hughes ($6,800 DK/$8,200 FD)
Before I even get into this play, I will say for fair warning I will be watching the ownership on Hughes throughout the week. He seems like he should be chalky, and I usually don’t have a ton of interest in anyone with double-digit ownership at this price. He’s currently projected at about 8% and with some of the pivots I’ve made above, I think I can get comfortable there.
All of that being said, Hughes seems like a no-brainer here. He’s got a really strong game around the green and putting, to the point where I affectionately refer to him as Canadian Spieth. Please don’t let that deter you though, as he has recent results to back it up, with Top 15 finishes in all three playoff events and a third to start the new season in Corales. Similar to Todd, he’s a consistent player I feel comfortable relying on to show up in good form, making him an easy play at these low prices.
Kevin Streelman ($6,500 DK/$7,700 FD)
Streelman is a player I subconsciously think of as a scorer. He seems to be someone who charges up the leaderboard in one particular round by stringing together a bunch of birdies. At the prices we get him for on both sites, we would certainly take that.
Rather than just giving you my subconscious thoughts, let’s look at the numbers. He ranked 79th in Birdie-or-Better percentage in 2020, and even better than that, he was 21st in that category on Par 5s. Streelman’s 10th-ranked scoring average on Par 5s last season will play well on the four he will see at Shadow Creek, and I’ll have more than the field if he stays around his current 5% ownership projection.