The Daily Spin-Farmers Insurance Open

Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte January 3, 2015 21:05

The Waste Management Phoenix Open certainly lived up to its billing last weekend as being one of the most fun stops on tour. We witnessed the return (or the beginning of the end) of Tiger Woods, we watched as our thesis of young players dominating continued to unfold and we enjoyed a profitable week as our top value pick of the week, Brooks Koepka, won a thrilling finish climbing back from being down 4 strokes in the final round before an Eagle on the 15th put him into the lead which he held on to as the other competitors faded down the stretch.

A quick recap of last week shows us that we hit most of our predictions solidly for the tournament. Obviously, Koepka is a nice feather in our cap as it always feels great to feature the eventual winner. However, we also favored the eventual 2nd place winner, Hideki Matsuyama as well and had him paired with Koepka in our top lineup of the week. Other solid contributors that we mentioned included Jordan Spieth, who raced up the leaderboard in the final round, Francesco Molinari, who hit an ace at the 16th hole Saturday, Pat Perez, Jamie Donaldson and Robert Streb. The best part about last week proved to be the soft pricing available on so many solid mid-tier players. Rather than having to dip too deeply into the sleeper pool, we were able to build a very competitive lineup where nearly every player rostered could have been a reasonable candidate to make a deep run in the event.

What about Bubba Watson, you ask? Yes, a lot of you have pointed out to me that I recommended a fade of Bubba last week. I stand by that call even though Bubba did manage to slip into a 2nd place tie on Sunday after a great final round. Even with a great score, utilizing a roster spot with Watson put considerable pressure on your lineup choices for your other five players. To see how that worked out for the top fantasy managers last week, a quick eye test can be performed. Out of the Top 20 lineups in the Draft Kings 125k guarantee, only two mangers owned Bubba and none came in higher than 9th overall. Even with some brilliant play and a great score, it should be clear that the road to victory last week, and in many cases, is to try to find a balanced approach that seeks out the undervalued players rather than simply trying to grab the top priced players. Take advantage of the fact that the season is still young and the pricing will take some time to adjust over the next couple of months. If you don’t believe me, then just take a look at Tiger’s price this week and see how much sense that makes to you. With the way that players have been priced so far this season, it will be tough to recommend many high dollar players as more often than not, it will end up being too constrictive on the rest of your lineup.

This week, the tour stops in Torrey Pines in San Diego. The tournament is played on two courses, but three rounds will be played at the south course, which measures 7,698 yards and plays as a par 72. Once again, the big hitters will have the advantage here, similar to last week. The north course measures in at just 7,052 yards and is also a par 72 so there is an enormous contrast between how each course will play.

As always, we will start with the negative portion of the column as much of the fun in fantasy golf is found not just in who you get to cheer for each week, but also who you get to cheer against. There are a lot of players that we will be avoiding this week, but several that stand out. Again, we want to reiterate that fading a player does not always mean that we believe he will play poorly. In many cases, we are making the decision based on price versus value. We will do our best to explain if our decision is price driven or play driven. We also aim to be bold in our predictions. It helps you very little to be told to fade a player of little consequence. Rather, we want to aim our discussion at top level players that have a reasonable chance of being in many lineups.

Hate

Tiger Woods – We are not going to belabor this one too much. You all witnessed the collapse last week in the second round of the Phoenix Open. Tiger has now finished in last place in his most recent two events and is not looking competitive at all. Do you remember when Rick Ankiel forgot how to pitch in the playoffs for the St Louis Cardinals many years ago? Well, that is about what is happening every time Tiger attempts to pitch the ball in any manner. With a price that is still way too high to be considered for value, Tiger should not be rostered this week in your lineups. The real shame is that Tiger has enjoyed success at Torrey Pines. Do not get cute here.

Chris Kirk – In his own words on Twitter a few weeks back, Kirk mentioned that if they were to give out a trophy for most inconsistent player of the week, he would have been the winner at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Kirk can get on a roll and start draining putts as well as anyone on tour. However, the south course at Torrey Pines does not play very well to his game as he is not one of the bigger hitters on tour. He will more than likely make the cut this week, but I would not anticipate him being near the top of the leaderboard. In his two appearance here, he finished in 44th and 71st place. He will shine in other weeks, but look for better value this week and avoid Kirk.

The Favorites – I’m not going to tell you to avoid Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, or Jimmy Walker. My warning to you is that rostering any of these players this week will leave you in a position where you will need to dig pretty deep into the field in order to put together the rest of your team. The prices on each of these players is very high as has been the pattern with the favorites over the last few weeks. If you have not noticed, owning the favorite has not been a part of the formula for buidling a tournament team capable of a top finish each week. With that said, these guys are all playing great golf right now, but I would not consider any of them to be overwhelming favorites to win this week. Spieth finished 19th here last year and did not make the cut the previous year. He also ranked just 89th in driving distance last year so this course is not necessarily the best for his game. Walker is playing the best golf on tour right now. Coming off of a win at the Sony Open and a 2nd place finish at the Hyundai TOC, he will look to continue his streak of great play. While he is one of the best at driving the ball on tour, coming in at 19th last year in driving distance, he has a bit of a volatile history at Torrey Pines missing the cut in three of his last six starts here with two Top 10 finishes sandwiched in between. Of the three favorites, Jason Day makes the most sense to take a shot on this week. He’s playing well in recent events, finishing in 17th at the Sony Open and 3rd at the Hyundai TOC. He’s been in the Top 10 the last two years at this tournament and he is also one of the better players in terms of driving distance on tour. If you are the type of player that builds multiple rosters for tournament play, Day is a compelling play for a roster spot. However, for cash game play, it will be very difficult to fit him onto a roster while still having five other players that you are very confident will make the cut.

LOVE

Hideki Matsuyama – Outside of a disappointing finish at the Sony Open, Matsuyama has been one of the best players in the world over the last six months. Although he seems to struggle when near the top of the leaderboard in the final round of tournaments, his ability to challenge for a Top 10 finish week in and week out make him one of the best players available to roster each week. His price is steadily climbing with each solid finish, but he is still not in such a range as to cripple the remainder of your roster when you use him for your team. This should be another great tournament for Matsuyama who finished in 16th place here last year. He drives the ball reasonably well where he ranked 51st last season and 39th this season, but it is really his iron game that shines. He ranked 6th last year in strokes gained tee-to-green and sits at 9th this season. His ability to cut this enormous course down should give him an edge over other players. He should fit well into tournament and cash game lineups.

UPDATE!!! Graham DeLaet has WITHDRAWN FROM THE FARMERS OPEN due to the flu! Get him out of your lineups now! A quick replacement would be Brooks Koepka or Bill Haas.
Graham Delaet – Another player who seems to have found his game over the last couple of week is Graham Delaet. After dealing with some injuries in the fall that forced him out of a couple of a couple of events, Delaet has looked good the last two weekends with a 30th place finish at the Humana Open and a 7th place finish last week at the Phoenix Open. Delaet has fared well at Torrey Pines the last two years with consecutive Top 10 finishes, finishing in 2nd place lat year. The longer course is well suited for Delaet’s game as he ranked 14th last year in driving distance and 3rd in Greens In Regulation Percentage. He finished 10th last year in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green as well which should help him against the rest of the field. He has sturggled with his putter over the years, but if he can even be average putting the ball this week, he is a strong candidate to finish near the top of the leaderboard.

Brooks Koepka – Well, he is no longer a secret for us after his win last week in Phoenix. Typically, we might look a little closer at recommending a player the week after they win a tournament, but this is a case where we have no reason to expect that Koepka would not play well again. Although this will be Koepka’s first appearance at Torrey Pines, we believe he will make a very successful debut. He ranks 1st in driving distance this season after finishing 6th in the category a year ago. He cuurently ranks 3rd in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green and 2nd overall in Total Strokes Gained. At age 24, he is another young star in the making and will be a strong player all season. His price is higher this week, but for good reason and we think it will go higher throughout the year. Pick him up this week while he is still a bargain.

Gary Woodland – Woodland disappointed a lot of owners last week in missing the cut by one stroke. His style of play should have put him into contention at the Phoenix Open, but it just was not his weekend. Sometimes, an off week like this can be a huge benefit for fantasy golf owners. Ownership levels for Woodland should plummet this week leaving him available to roster at a reasonable price and low ownership level for tournaments. Remember, just a year ago, Woodland led at Torrey Pines after three rounds so he does have the potential to put up some low numbers out there. As has been the theme so far in our recommendations, Woodland is one of the top drivers on tour and also one of the best at gaining strokes from tee to green. He missed the cut just twice in 25 starts in 2014 and is 3 for 4 this season. He does falter with his putter at times, but we do look for Woodland to bounce back this week and recommend him as a higher priced value play.

Justin Thomas – If you were looking to build a team this week of players age 25 and under, you could probably field a very strong and competitive team. With players like Spieth, Koepka, Matsuyama, Finau, Berger and Thomas all leading the youth movement on the tour, we expect more and more winners out of this age group. Since a rough start in October, Thomas has made 6 straight cuts and has been in contention to win the past three weekends. He’s one of the smaller players on tour at just 145 lbs, but also one of the biggest hitters as well. In his first appearance at Torrey Pines, Thomas finished in 10th place and we think he will contend here again. What is truly staggering to us is that he is still in about the same price range as Tiger Woods. Eventually, Thomas will break through and get a win and we will see his price rise dramatically. However, until this happens, take advantage of him as a great value play this week.

Charles Howell III – I just can’t quit you, Chuck. He’s made the Top 15 at Torrey Pines in four of his last seven starts and made seven straight cuts. Nothing in his game is overly flashy and the results tend to back that up, but when you need a guy to make the cut. Howell tends to be up for the challenge. He ranked 9th in driving distance last season and 30th in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green so the course does play to his strengths. While he is unlikely to make a charge for the winner’s circle this week, at his price point, there is just too much value here in helping us to shape a strong roster.

Seung-Yul Noh – Another young player with a lot of upside potential, Noh will be making his 4th appearance at Torrey Pines where he has thus far enjoyed a fair amount of success. He finished 10th here last year and 27th the previous two years. He has made three of four cuts this season and 20 of 27 last season. Nothing jumps out statistically for Noh as he ranked 40th in driving distance last season and 58th in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green. We like him merely for his history at the event, and his price point which makes him worth a roster spot and will allow for you to add better players near the top of your lineups.

Tony Finau – Finau is making his first appearance at the Farmers Open this year. Finau has had a couple of bumps along the way in the first few months of his rookie season, but generally, a lot more good than bad. He has made six of eight cuts with four Top 15 finishes to show for it. Finau is a big, strong young player that drives the ball really well where he is currently ranked 2nd in driving distance this season. He’s also been one of the leaders in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green so he should be a strong player in the field. Putting has been a weak spot in his game as he’s had to adjust to trickier greens, but we think Finau will make a strong debut here this week. Do not be surprised if this is a tournament where he has a strong breakout type of performance.

Daniel Berger – Our last value pick this week is quietly playing some great golf. After finishing 10th last week in Phoenix, 21 year-old, Daniel Berger will look to build on his success in making six of seven cuts in recent play, which includes three Top 25 finishes. The 6′ 1″ Florida St product, fits in line with our other recommendations here in that he drives the ball really well, ranking 11th this season. His iron play and putter have just been average so far this season, but at a very low price point, there is a lot of upside potential with Berger. If you are insistent on building a top heavy roster, you will need a player or two in Berger’s price range to fill things out.

Good luck this week and be sure to let us know how you do.

-Myz

Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte January 3, 2015 21:05

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