The Daily Spin – The Humana Challenge

Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte January 15, 2015 22:22

Welcome back for another week of the Daily Spin. It’s been a great first couple of weeks here in 2015 and I wanted to take a moment to tout our success from last week. Most notably, we nailed the winner of the Sony Open as Jimmy Walker was our top featured pick and went on to win the tournament by an incredible 9 strokes. We had worried that his collapse the previous week at the Hyundai would be difficult to put behind him, but it was not an issue in the least and with back to back strong finishes, Walker should be on his way to a big year.

On the other end of the spectrum, we feel really good about alerting readers to John Peterson. We were the only fantasy golf site to feature Peterson last week in any capacity and his ownership levels in tournaments showed that he flew under the radar of most players. Going into the final day, Peterson stood at -9 before shooting +2 in the final round to close the tournament out at -7. For the price, he proved to be a huge value for our roster and helped us to load up on more established talent in the remaining roster slots.

This week, we head to California for the Humana Challenge, a tournament that should be a festival of birdies and eagles as it features some of the easiest courses that the pros will play on all year. Courses, you say? Why yes, there are actually three courses for this event and the cut does not take place until after the 3rd Round so our strategy needs to shift a bit in terms of the lineups that we put together. Where we would normally be focused on finding 6 golfers to make the cut, with a Day 3 cut in place, we need to put a little more emphasis on building top heavy lineups with players that have a very realistic chance at finishing in the Top 10 of the tournament.

I won’t belabor the layout of each course, but needless to say, we expect the winner to be in the -25 to -30 range with at least 15-20 players shooting around -20 or better. This should lead you to build your roster around players with a penchant for putting well and totaling as many birdies and eagles as possible as this heavily impacts the scoring for selected sites. The field is a little bit on the soft side with many of the best players in the world playing a couple of European PGA events before returning stateside in the weeks ahead to join the rest of the PGA field. This will give us the chance to be opportunistic in finding some value for our roster. Patrick Reed won this event last year, and given his win at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, his price is sky high this week. We love Patrick Reed, but finding a roster spot for the 24 year-old will be extremely difficult unless you really want to take a dip into the deep value pool of players out there.

My favorite player this week to build my roster around is Ryan Palmer. Palmer has been playing well in the handful of events he has taken part in over the last several months with three straight Top 25 finishes. He also has a very strong history of playing well at this event with two straight Top 10 finishes and 3 in the last 4 years. A look at the statistics further helps us in feeling good about Palmer. For the 2014 season, Palmer ranked 8th in Eagles per hole, 9th in birdie average per round and 10th overall in strokes gained. His ‘birdie or better conversion percentage’ has him in 8th place so an easier course like this one is perfectly suited for Palmer’s game. Palmer will be widely owned, so don’t anticipate sneaking up on the other players with this selection, but his consistency and overall game make him difficult to fade this week.

Matt Kuchar is another player that is worth mentioning in the same category as Palmer this week. He’s not going to miss the cut and he’s typically a contender on Sundays for most events. He has a solid track record of success at the Humana with 5 straight Top 25 appearances including two Top 10 finishes. He finished 5th last year in strokes gained and 18th in birdies averaged per round. Kuchar is a solid pick week in and week out. He will be on the expensive side this week given the strength of the field. Most players are going to gravitate towards Palmer for the lower price so I do anticipate that Kuchar will be much less widely owned. This potentially makes him the better tournament play in that it allows you some separation from competitors who will avoid him at the higher price point.

Zach Johnson did not have a great tournament last week at the Sony Open. We don’t mind that when looking at a player of Johnson’s caliber. He played well in his previous two tournaments and is an excellent player overall. A small dip like last week provides us a chance to pick up a solid player at a reasonable price when our opponents will be focused on the latest results. Take advantage of the recency bias in play and look for Johnson to bounce back to form at a course that suits him well. In his last three appearances at the Humana, Johnson has two Top 10 finishes and three straight Top 25 finishes. Johnson is not a big driver, but the courses this week are short so the fact that he is among the most accurate of drivers should put him into position for a lot of birdie opportunities. Johnson is also priced reasonably well so you can use him and one of the other two players mentioned above and still have salary cap space for several other solid names on your roster. Moving on from the top of the field, we find a handful of moderately priced players that we will use to help solidify our roster.

Charles Howell III, or CH3 as I like call him, is that player each week that you just can’t say away from. He’s rarely the guy out there winning event or even leading the field, but week in and week out, there he is, sitting somewhere around 20th place having rallied back from nearly missing the cut and into a position of respectability. Last week was same story, starting slow in the first round before rallying back for a 26th place finish. His game is not flashy, but he’s there in the middle of the pack on Sundays, having made the cut in 29 of his last 35 events. His record at the Humana is up and down with a 2nd place finish two years ago followed up by a 58th place finish the year prior. Here’s hoping that last year’s finish frightens away our opponents as we are getting a great price on CH3 this week.

Webb Simpson tends to play really well at the beginning of the year. Last season he started off on fire with six Top 10 appearances in his first eight events before slowly fading throughout the rest of the season. He has only played in this event five times and has three Top 25 finishes missing the cut just one time. He played well last weekend at the Sony Open finishing tied for 13th. He finished 26th in birdies per round last year and should be able to make a run at a high finish this week.

Russell Knox is the last of the mid-tier names that we will look at for the week. One of the things that I like to look for in players in the early part of the season is to see who has been keeping up their game in the quieter months of the year. I like to find players that took part in events throughout the fall who had some success and then started the year off strong. Knox fits pretty well into this category as he made 5 of 6 cuts dating back to October. He has only played in this event twice, but did secure a 13th place finish last year. Coming off of his 13th place finish at The Sony Open, we anticipate another strong showing from Knox. He tends to be one of the more accurate players on the tour, finishing last year 18th in driving accuracy and 19th in strokes gained tee-to-green, two very key stats to look at for the week on shorter courses. He is not one of the stronger putters on the tour, but if his game is sharp in setting himself up well, it may not be the disadvantage that it normally could be on other courses.

Zac Blair is one of our favorite sleeper picks for the week. In case you had not noticed yet, we have a bit of a bias towards the younger, up and coming players on the tour. We are seeing a bit of a revolution in that more and more often, the younger players are finding their way into contention. Last week, we looked at John Peterson, and this week, I want you to take a look at Zac Blair. He has finished in the top 35 in four of his last six starts and finished tied for 6th last week at the Sony Open. This rookie on tour should fly under the radar this week and provide both salary cap relief as well as the opportunity to own a player that will not be on many rosters.

Jeff Overton was one of the better value plays last week and still has some value left for filling out rosters this week as well. He has made 22 of the last 30 cuts and has never missed the cut in five starts at the Humana, although he has never finished higher than 27th. He will not be the guy leading your team to a first place finish this weekend, but he may be the difference between cashing and being left on the outside. He’s been in the middle of the pack in most statistical categories, but has moved up to 43rd so far this year in strokes gained tee-to-green. His current average of 4.23 birdies per round puts him at 50th on the tour and should allow him to remain in the top half of the field this week.

Cameron Tringale is a player with a lot of boom or bust potential. He played great in streaks last year with a couple of Top 10 finishes wrapped around a handful missed cuts where he has missed the cut in two of his last four outings. However, he has been relatively consistent at the Humana making the cut in all four starts and in the Top 40 in his last three appearances. This will be his first appearance of 2015 which is a bit of a concern, but he did fare well at the Franklin Templeton Shootout in December winning the tournament with partner Jason Day. Tringale has hovered on the edge of becoming one of the better players on the tour and after a couple of strong performances in 2014, this could be the year for Tringale to finally breakout.

Jason Bohn is the final player that we will feature this week. A veteran presence on the tour, Bohn does not do anything special statistically, tends to be one of the poorer players in the strokes gained categories and typically is not a leader in making birdies as his skills have trailed off over the last 4-5 years, although to his credit he is currently 16th in the strokes gained, tee-to-green category for the 2015 season. What he does well is to drive the ball accurately. It has helped him to make the cut in all six of his starts at Humana and with two consecutive Top 10 finishes in events this past fall, Bohn is playing good golf. He should help you in filling out those last roster spots.

Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte January 15, 2015 22:22

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