The Daily Spin – Northern Trust Open

Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte February 18, 2015 01:28

Greetings, fans of The Daily Spin. I hope you enjoyed all of the celebrity interviews at Pebble Beach as little as we did. The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am proved to be a very exciting tournament with Brandt Snedeker winning for the second time in three years with Jim Furyk pulling another classic Sunday fade, falling off late after leading going into the final round. We had an interesting mixed bag in terms of results for our recommendations.

On a high note, sleepers Daniel Berger and Michael Putnam both played well above their respective price points in turning in solid performances. Jordan Spieth played well and was just a couple of missed putts away from a 2nd or 3rd place finish. Shane Lowry also played very well for us as yet another European player to come over to the PGA Tour and finish well as a relative unknown to many US fans. We would have enjoyed even more success in this area had Alexander Levy not thrown up a late double bogey on Saturday afternoon to finish one stroke below the cutline. Although a lot of mid level value players struggled for us last week, we continue to believe that this is still an area to focus on for fantasy golf players each week. Each week, as we watch the prices on players, there is such a large discrepancy between the highest priced players and those in the middle, that the gap in skill is just not high enough to compensate for the higher prices.

It looks like each site is still trying to get a better feel with pricing and is jumping around a bit from week to week. Last week, inexplicably, the top two players in the field were priced so extravagantly that it made it nearly impossible to roster one without completely compromising the integrity of the rest of your squad. In an attempt to do so, I did have one tournament roster with Jimmy Walker, who humorously was the low point for that team until late Saturday afternoon. Levy’s double bogey kept that team just out of the money as a couple of other players stepped up and played well, but the reality of last week was that nobody who took home a big prize had either of the top two players (based on salary) rostered for the week.

A quick look this week at the Northern Trust Open shows us that the field continues to fill up each week with more players coming over from Europe to join the US PGA Tour as we move closer to the Masters in April. Over the next month, the fields will continue to improve with The Honda Open next weekend being one of the bigger events until Augusta. This week, the tour makes a last stop in California before heading to Florida next week. The Riviera Country Club plays host to the Northern Trust Open and provides a return to a longer course where those players who hit it big off of the tee have tended to excel. Guys like Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson are both a threat this week, but we don’t want to overemphasize driving as these same players have mixed Top 10 finishes in with missing the cut over the last 4-5 years so pay attention to greens in regulation as well. We want to focus on players who excel from tee-to-green in cutting down this larger course which measures out at 7,349 yards and a par 71.

This week is challenging for the opposite reasons from last week. Where there was some pretty tight pricing for players last week, it has eased up enormously this week. There area probably close to 25 players in the field that we really like this week and so the real challenge is paring things down a bit to focus on 9-10 players who should really excel. Typically, I just use those names to focus on, but this week, I will list a few honorable mentions as well to take a second look at. With tournament fields growing larger over the last few weeks, it will be important to put together a few different lineups for the tournaments that you enter each week. You’ll want to focus on a few key names to build around, but also vary up some of your value and sleeper plays to make sure you get at least a lineup or two all the way through the cut fully intact.

HATE

Bubba Watson – Look, Bubba may make a charge this week…or he might not make the cut. He won here last year, but missed the cut in 2013, 2011 and 2010. He obviously drives the ball really well and his form has been fantastic with a 2nd place finish in Phoenix and a win at the WGC-HSBC Championship in November. However, I am not going to roll the dice at this salary with so many players in the 9000-10000 range that have just as good of a shot of finishing near or above Bubba.

Charles Howell III – Typically, CHIII is one of our favorites to make the cut and do a little bit of damage. However, this week, we really want to focus on players who have performed well recently at this tournament and CHIII is simply not one of those players Although he won here back in 2007, he has missed the cut here three straight times and four out of his last 5 starts overall. His best finish since 2008 is an unspectacular 55th. Usually CHIII is our favorite value play, but this week, we will avoid him.

Nick Watney – Here’s another guy who has seen his price rise recently with back to back solid finishes…too much, I would argue. He has had little success at this tournament with his best finish being 34th place back in 2012. While 3 of his last 4 tournaments have been great, he has badly missed the cut in 3 of his last 6 tournaments. He ranks just 75th in greens in regulation and 79th in strokes gained tee-to-green. Watney should see a bit of a correction this week as his price is simply just a bit too high. When you see him sandwiched between Sergio Garcia and Bill Haas, that should get your attention.

LOVE

Blue Chips

Sergio Garcia – Sergio makes his return to the PGA Tour this week and is priced at a nice discount making him a great player to build your lineup around. Sergio has a nice resume at Riviera with a 13th place finish in 2013 and a 4th place finish in 2012. Before missing the cut in Dubai, Sergio was on a nice run with five straight Top 30 finishes including two Top 10 finishes. While not the longest driver off the tee, he’s been one of the best in the category of greens in regulation and ranked 2nd last year in strokes gained, tee to green. Sergio is also consistently one of the best scramblers in the game which should keep him in the mix to make plenty of birdies if he can get his putter going.

Jim Furyk – Sunday Jim made a strong return to the field last weekend taking the 54 hole lead into Sunday before his usual meltdown dropped him back to 7th place for the week. Fortunately, even with a solid performance, Furyk’s price did not rise much this week. Again, this one will go against the grain a bit of needing to be a big driver to get the job done. However, much like Garcia, Furyk is both incredibly accurate off the tee and one of the leaders each year in greens in regulation and strokes gained, tee to green. His putter will betray him when he is in the hunt late in the weekend, but he is always a threat to be in the Top 10. Furyk has been in the Top 25 in 4 of his last 5 starts here. I favor him more for cash game lineups over tournaments as he is less volatile in terms of making or missing the cut, but his lack of big finishes here diminishes his tournament value to some degree.

Jimmy Walker – We just cannot ignore Jimmy Walker this week. With his price coming back down from the stratosphere, Walker is almost a must own this week, particularly tournament lineups. His form is the best on tour right now and his history at Riviera is very good with four straight Top 25 finishes which includes two Top 5’s. He’s 23rd in driving distance, 12th in strokes gained, tee to green and 4th overall in strokes gained. Walker puts himself into position to win each week and makes for a very strong play, particularly at this price.

Bill Haas – One of the more consistent players on tour, Haas works great for tournament play this weekend. His tournament history is sharp having won here in 2012 and followed that up with a 3rd place finish in 2013. Already a winner at the Humana, Haas is not long off the tee, but like Furyk and Garcia, he’s great in both greens in regulation and strokes gained tee to green. He will be near the top of the leaderboard again this weekend. Beware, Haas’s wife is expecting a baby and is due a week from Friday. He will leave the tournament if his wife goes into labor. Use this knowledge to your advantage and avoid him in cash games. When this information gets out, he will likely see his ownership level drop which could make him a sneaky play in tournaments.

Honorable Mention (Upper Range Pricing) – Look for Hideki Matsuyama to rebound this week after taking last week off and having a disappointing performance at the Farmer’s Open. His price has dropped a bit which makes him much more affordable. He’s big off the tee and took 23rd in his 1st start here last year. Dustin Johnson looked great in his second tournament back after ‘taking some personal time off’. He’s a big hitter who has had success at this tournament, with three Top 5 finishes in the last five years. However, he missed the cut in the other two years during that run. Given his high price and volatility, he works better for tournament play where you can play many lineup combinations. Charl Schwartzel would have made the top of this list this week if it were not for the fact that everyone is going to own him this week. He has two straight Top 5 finishes at Riviera and is playing great, coming off of a couple of recent Top 10 finishes.

Value

JB Holmes – Coming off of two straight Top 10 finishes the last two weeks, Holmes is at the top of his game right now. His history at the Northern Trust Open has been a little rough the last two years, but prior to that he finished in the Top 10 four times in five years with his other finish in that stretch a 12th place finish. His game is well suited for the course. He’s long off the tee and is 21st in strokes gained tee to green.

Harris English – With a 10th place finish here last year, English showed his game was ready to make a strong run at this tournament. He is also playing very well as of late with a 2nd place finish at the Farmer’s Open and a 3rd place finish at the Sony Open. He’s on the high range of our value plays, but we believe he will make a push for a Top 10 finish this week.

Bernd Wiesberger – Getting back to a popular theme here at the Daily Spin, we like to look for players who have been playing great over in Europe who then come over the US and are virtually unknown to fantasy golf players. It seems that these players are also unknown to most contest sites as these players are typically under priced for the first few weeks after joining the PGA Tour. Wiesberger is big and big off the tee and has a very good short game. In 4 events in 2015, he has finished no lower than 6th. Get him at this low price on both tournament and cash game teams this week.

Brendan Steele – Steele has made 7 straight cuts since the season started last fall. He took 2nd at The Humana and has typically placed somewhere between 20-40 in most events. After missing the cut here in 2011, he has improved in each of the following years moving up from 69th, to 46th and then to 10th last year. He’s 10th in driving distance and 32nd in strokes gained tee to green. He has been below average putting the ball, but at his price point, he brings a lot of upside to the equation with little downside risk.

KJ Choi – The best value play of the week is KJ Choi. His price this week comes as a big surprise considering his tournament history and recent play. Choi has NEVER missed the cut in 14 starts here and has four Top 10 finishes to go along with that. He has rarely been outside of the Top 25 and as a bonus, he is 4 for 4 in making the cut to start this season. He is an aging veteran, but you should feel great about being able to get him onto your roster at his low price this week.

Honorable Mention (Value) – Aaron Baddeley is another name that is priced well this week, but doesn’t quite make the Value list this week. Baddeley has made 6 of 7 cuts this season although he has only one Top 20 finish so far. He has actually won this tournament back in 2011. However, I don’t like him as much as there are areas of his game that are not quite as strong as 2011. Although he is still making the cut, it has been his putter that has saved him as he has fallen from 29th in strokes gained tee to green to 153rd this season. He may make the cut, but I do not expect him to be anywhere near the top of the leaderboard this week.

Sleepers

Tony Finau – Finau is listed as a sleeper only due to the fact that this is his first appearance at Riviera so he may not pop up on people’s radars as much. He is currently 4th in driving distance and 13th in strokes gained tee to green. I think his game is in the same range as Justin Thomas, but with a price point much lower than Thomas this week, I give Finau the nod here this week. He has six Top 25 finishes this season which includes two Top 10 appearances. He’s a big, strong player whose game is improving each week. I do not expect him to stay at a sleeper level price for much longer.

Jhonattan Vegas – Johnny Vegas plays big off the tee and was in contention just two weeks ago at Torrey Pines before fading late. In 2014, he was actually 7th in greens in regulation, which should keep him competitive. In three starts at Riviera, Vegas does have a 12th place finish. He’s certainly not the most reliable player on the tour, but he makes for an interesting tournament play this week.

James Hahn – Hahn has been one of our sleeper recommendations in previous weeks and has yet to disappoint us. He has made the cut twice at this tournament with a 29th place finish last season. He has made 7 of the last 8 cuts and is coming off of a 29th place finish in Pebble Beach. We don’t expect a lot from Hahn, but when he makes the cut, the higher level players you have at the top of your lineup will really stand out.

Vijay Singh – We’re taking a trip down memory lane here with Vijay. He has made the cut here in 4 straight starts and is still one of the best players in strokes gained tee to green. Unfortunately, Vijay is a hideously poor putter which should prevent any real career resurgence at this stage in his career. However, if you are looking to build a stars and scrubs roster, Singh will save you salary cap space and allow you to open things up with the rest of your roster.

Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte February 18, 2015 01:28

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