The Daily Spin – The Honda Classic

Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte February 20, 2015 01:04

The Northern Trust Open proved to be a very challenging tournament for many of the pros last weekend. Many players had one or two or even three solid days without too much difficulty, but at one point or another, Riviera claimed each player as a victim, one by one until just three men were left standing going into a playoff. Fortunately, for readers of The Daily Spin, one of our sleepers last week, James Hahn, emerged victorious, beating out Paul Casey and then Dustin Johnson to take home the title.

All in all, it was a very successful week for the Daily Spin projections. Our fades did each make the cut for the week, BUT… Bubba Watson finished tied for 14th place. If you paid that much to have Bubba on your squad, 14th is a disappointing finish and made it very tough to contend for top prizes in tournament formats and very tough in cash games as well. Charles Howell III started out reasonably well, which made us feel a little bit foolish in the early going, but then tumbled down the stretch to finish in a tie for 61st place. Considering that he made the cut, but finished very low, I am going to call that a push. Nick Watney nearly made us look terrible as he cruised into an early lead on Day 2, but then faltered as well, dropping down to finish in 22nd place, slightly lower than his price point would have dictated. On this one, we will consider it to be a small miss, but not terrible.

As for the players we recommended here in detail last week, the sleepers led the way again as all four (Finau, Vegas, Singh and Hahn) made the cut, and then Hahn went on to win the event. Okay, Johnny Vegas did collapse on Days 3 and 4, but with sleepers, if they make the cut…that’s a win for the good guys. On the value side, we were very strong as well. Brendan Steele, Harris English, JB Holmes and KJ Choi all made the cut and Holmes was even in contention until midway through the final round. Our biggest disappointment of the week proved to be Bernd Wiesberger. Bernd burned us good. Yes, a terrible joke, but needed to cheer me up about his play. After four straight Top 15 finishes on the European PGA Tour, he took most of the first round off on Thursday at Riviera. Friday he played a spirited round mixing in birdies to get our hopes up, but then dashing them with late bogeys to fall just short of the cut line. We still like Bernd this season and expect a price cut when he plays next. We anticipate that he will have better results moving forward.

In the blue chip space, we had an good week. Our featured player of the week, Sergio Garcia, seemed poised to capture a win with just two holes to play before Sunday Sergio showed up in all his ugliness and bogeyed the final two holes to fall out of 1st place and then out of a chance to move into a playoff. It always hurts to have to depend on Sergio down the stretch, but we can’t complain about a 4th place finish, especially at his price. Jim Furyk had another nice week, notching a 14th place finish and being just about exactly where we would have anticipated at the outset. Jimmy Walker was a disappointment for us. He did make the cut, which is more than I can say for our next blue chip, but just never really got into gear over the weekend. He finished in 41st place and was well below where we would have anticipated, particularly at an event he has enjoyed success in. Finally, Bill Haas was flat out bad last week. We thought we would be a little sneaky and put him onto one of our teams last week. With his wife near her due date, we thought other owners might panic a bit and not utilize him in a tournament where he has had success…. Neither of those things happened. He was highly owned and played as if he had gone into labor. He missed the cut badly along with a few other surprising names.

This week, the tour heads to Florida and the PGA National course, yet another challenging event that is sure to push players to their limits. Built to host major championships, the course underwent an overhaul by Jack Nicklaus a little over 8 years ago. This is important to note in that we will focus on tournaments played AFTER that point. The course is 7,140 yards in length and plays at a par 70. There are a lot water hazards and bunkers around each hole so accuracy is more important than normal this week. It’s not a long course, but riving distance will help. However, we’d rather have players in our lineup this week that keep the ball in play or can scramble well rather than simply worrying about slamming the ball a mile off the tee.

For this week, we will continue with the Hate/Love format that most of you are enjoying so much. I do want to note a few things before getting too deep into the analysis. The most important note is that when a player falls onto the Hate list, it does not necessarily mean that he will play poorly. In some cases, those players have struggled and missed cuts and played badly. However, as our focus is not typically going to be on the lower salaried players, we will usually put players into the Love/Hate category who are priced near the upper half of players available. In most cases, it is typically a value judgment, particularly since the favorites are currently being priced so much higher than the rest of the field.

This week, we added a little twist to our column in that we do not love or hate Rory McIlroy this week. In previous weeks, we have faded the favorite or favorites rather successfully over the last 6 weeks or so, but Rory McIlroy is a bit of a special case. His price is incredibly high this week. Putting him into a cash game lineup will be risky as it will force your hand on finding some deep value players to play well in order to try to get six players through the cut. However, given the fact that Rory has a 2nd and 1st place finish in the last 3 years here should give you something to deliberate on. I think in tournament play, it is reasonable to have McIlroy in one or two lineups utilizing the stars and scrubs approach. His game is so well rounded, his tournament history in recent years (outside of 2013) is very good and he has been great the last few months on the European Tour. We don’t want you to be all-in on McIlroy this weekend, but limited exposure in tournament formats makes good sense.

HATE

Phil Mickelson – It pains me to have to write this, but again, Phil makes the hate list. Largely on price, but also on performance, Phil just does not present any value to us here. It would be nice to see his price come down to some degree to at least give us something to consider, but with guys like Patrick Reed, Ryan Palmer, and Harris English all in his price range, I just cannot see any reason to own Phil here. When combined with the fact that he is only one for three in making the cut this season and that he missed the cut here last year, we do not even feel that Phil is a good contrarian value play this week. Just avoid Phil until we begin to see some life out of his game again.

Retief Goosen – Coming off of a strong showing at Riviera where he seemed to be in control until the last 9 holes of the final round, Goosen has enjoyed a bit of a resurgence this season. Typically, his price sits in the lower range making him a great pick to make the cut when looking for a reliable deep value player. However, with his success last week and having made 7 of 8 cuts this season, Goosen’s stock has jumped this week. Unfortunately, PGA National has not been great for Goosen as his best finish in three starts was 60th place back in 2008. In 2013, he finished 64th and last year he missed the cut outright. He ranks 196th in greens in regulation percentage this year and 148th in strokes gained, tee to green. He’s not a great scrambler so I anticipate trouble for Goosen this week. With a higher price and stats that do not match up well for this course, we are avoiding Goosen this week.

LOVE

BLUE CHIPS

Russell Henley – An obvious choice for this week, Henley won here last year and finished 13th the year before that. He average driving the ball, and not that special in terms of greens in regulation, but he plays this course well and is in good form making all 6 cuts this season with two Top 10 finishes. He may not have the same success as the last two years, but at his price, he is hard to pass up and seems likely to make the cut at a minimum.

Sergio Garcia – Oh Sergio, you teased us yet again on Sunday. We were nearly believers, but could feel the inevitable collapse just as Sir Nick Faldo mentioned that going par par on the last two holes might be enough to win it for him. No matter, a 4th place finish last week was more than enough for the price that we paid. He is fair off the tee, but is one of the best in greens in regulation, where he ranked 14th last season. He also ranked 2nd in strokes gained, tee to green and 2nd in scrambling so we anticipate that Garcia will handle the challenging course well. Sergio played well here last year where he finished in 8th place. If he can keep his putter going (he was actually 1st last weekend in strokes gained putting), Sergio should again find himself in the thick of things towards the end of the weekend….before he blows it.

Justin Rose – Rose started the year by missing the cut at The Farmer’s Open. This is reflected in a lower price than we would have anticipated. Rose has been fantastic at PGA National where he has placed in the Top 5 in his last three starts here. His game is built around being a good player off the tee, but a great player with his irons. He ranked 4th last year in strokes gained tee to green. If it weren’t for being a below average putter, Rose would be even more dominant on the tour. He is great out of the sand and has very good scrambling ability. We think Rose will rebound this week and post a big finish.

Lee Westwood – Westwood actually makes his home just minutes away from PGA National, a great piece of information that we will capitalize on this week. He’s been playing great over the last few months. His run through the fall includes a win in Thailand, four Top 10 finishes, and eight Top 20 finishes in 9 starts. His tournament history here is great as well with three Top 10 finishes in the last five years. We see Westwood as a near must start this week.

Honorable Mention goes out Graeme McDowell who has nearly an identical record to Westwood at PGA National. He’s not big off the tee, but he is accurate and his price is fair this week. He will play well in cash games or tournament lineups. Keegan Bradley is another strong play at PGA National. He drives the ball over 300 yards and is a great tee to green player. He is six for six making the cut in events this season and seven for seven looks highly likely.

VALUE PICKS

We want to preface this portion of the column by expressing a little bit of concern with how some of our European Tour player picks have played in recent weeks. We have had some successes and some letdowns in this area. Alexander Levy and Bernd Wiesberger let us down after playing fantastic on the European Tour, but others have enjoyed some success. We still feel that these players tend to be undervalued when coming over from the European Tour, but we want to caution you not to overweight your lineups with these players unless their tournament history is strong enough to warrant it. Since there are so many of these players this week, we wanted to do a quick rundown on a few players worth sprinkling into your lineups for the week. Some of these players have been playing over in the US for most of the season, and some will be making their debut this week.

Freddie Jacobson – Our top value play of the week, Jacobson has a lot of upside this week and minimal downside. He has not missed the cut at PGA National since the course was updated in 2007, going six for six and finishing no lower than 29th with two Top 10 finishes. We suspect he will be one of the highest owned players in the field this week. He is three for four in making the cut this season. He does not have the stats that would normally make a player successful here, but he is a solid putter and that keeps him in the mix.

Louis Oosthuizen – Be a little wary about rostering Oosthuizen this week. He has been dealing with some back issues of late and has not played much recently. However, his play in the fall was very strong. He had three Top 10 finishes and a 14th in four total starts. He typically drives it well and is good in strokes gained tee to green. However, he has been weak at PGA National missing the cut in all three starts. We recommend limiting exposure to Oosthuizen based on injury worries and tournament history.

Victor Dubuisson – Victor is making his first appearance at PGA National, but has the ability to make a big impression this week. Outside of a withdrawal at the WGC0 in November, Victor has been on fire, with five Top 25 finishes and three Top 10 finishes. He drives the ball close to 300 yards and plays well from tee to green. We are a little nervous about his first appearance here, but think his game is well suited for the course.

Joost Luiten – Probably the most under the radar European player this week will be Joost Luiten. He’s not a big hitter, but fairly accurate and a good tee to green player. He is six for six making the cut this season with four Top 25 finishes. However, he has yet to make a start at PGA National. This makes him a big question mark for the week. We want to get him into a tournament lineup, but again, we are not looking to overweight Joost.

Stephen Gallacher – Another player that we will have some exposure to this week, Gallacher has been playing great over on the European Tour making the cut in all eight events he started in this season so far with four finishes in the Top 25. The stats collected on the European Tour are not quite as good as those covered in the US, but he does drive the ball close to 300 yards and is one of the better players in terms of greens in regulation. He missed the cut here last year, so we will temper our exposure to Gallacher, but he is playing well, so he will make it into one lineup.

Other players worth a mention this week who have made a name for themselves on the European Tour, but who are now playing more often in the US that should be considered as strong value plays this week include Charl Schwartzel and Paul Casey. Schwartzel fought his way to a 41st place finish last week and is playing well, missing just one cut so far this season. He drives the ball well and ranks as one of the better tee to green players on tour. He has two Top 10 finishes here although he did miss the cut last year. Casey, on the other hand, is coming off of a second place finish last weekend at Riviera. He has two Top 15 finishes at PGA National and plays well from tee to green. His price has risen a bit this week, but he is still a good value play at this level.

Honorable Mention goes out to Justin Thomas making his debut at PGA National and Nick Watney. Watney has been playing very well in recent weeks and finished 24th here last year. Thomas has been solid throughout his rookie season and drives the ball well and is a good tee to green player. He may be overlooked this week without any tournament history and less than great results in his last couple of events.

Sleepers

Tony Finau – He finished with a bit of a thud last weekend, but continues to make cuts at an affordable price. His putter betrayed him last week, but he still remains one of the best drivers in terms of length on tour. He is over 70% in hitting greens in regulation and ranks 16th in strokes gained tee to green. He is eight for ten making cuts this year and he has the potential to make a run if he can putt a little better. Keep coming back to Finau until his price moves him out of the value range.

Steve Wheatcroft – We wanted to dig a little further down this week to help find a player to pair in lineups featuring Rory McIlroy. Wheatcroft fits the bill for us here and actually has some good credentials to back him up. He’s only played PGA National once back in 2010, but he did finish in 17th place. He is also seven for nine making the cut this season. He has not been a great tee to green player this season, but at this price, we are just looking for a guy to make the cut with anything else being a bonus.

Adam Hadwin – Another rookie at a bargain price, Hadwin struggled out of the gates in 2015, but seems to have righted the ship over the last few weeks. He took 32nd at The Farmer’s Open and 22nd last weekend at the Northern Trust Open, impressive considering how tough those courses played for the rest of the field. He has putt well for much of the season and his tee to green play is trending in the right direction. He has made seven of ten cuts this season and is typically only one bad round away from being near the Top 10. He is another player that could be paired with McIlroy in a stars and studs grouping.

Carl Petterson Another deep value play, Petterson has been a cut maker at PGA National where he is five for his last six. His form is okay right now, having made the cut at the Farmer’s Open and the Northern Trust Open. The big Swede checks just enough boxes to be featured here this week. He is slightly above average driving the ball, and ranked around 50th in 2014 in greens in regulation and strokes gained tee to green. He has slipped a bit in these last two categories this season, but his history here combined with his low price make him worth a look if you are trying to load up the top of your roster with the favorites this week.

Best of luck this week and keep me informed of how your teams are doing!

-Myzteriouzly

Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte February 20, 2015 01:04

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