The Daily Spin- Hyundai Tournament of Champions

Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte January 7, 2015 02:12

Welcome to Week 1 of our Daily Spin section for Fantasy Golf Insider. It features a preview and player recommendations from a daily fantasy golf perspective. This week’s field is a little small, with only 34 players as the HTOC requires players to have won a tournament in the previous year in order to qualify for the tournament. Most weeks, we will be focusing on putting together two types of lineups: 50/50 and tournament teams. In a 50/50 game, you can double your money by beating half of the field. So in a 20 player field, you would win the same amount for taking 1st place or 10th place. With a larger field and a cut to trim half the field after the second day, we would look to find consistency with our selections and be focused on finding golfers to make the cut in order to score points over 4 rounds rather than two. However, with no cut, and a smaller field, we’ll simply look to find quality players this week to fill our squad.

As most golfers have been away for the game for a bit during the holiday season, pay closer attention to those players that had a strong fall season after the FedEx Cup concluded back in September. While most folks immediately turned their attention to Fantasy Football, PGA events continued with diverse fields filled with PGA regulars, qualifiers and international players that only those true diehard fantasy golf players have ever heard of. This is where the young rising stars have a chance to make their mark as the weaker fields tend to take the pressure off of new players. It also helps that many of these tournaments are played overseas where there isn’t quite the same coverage as what arrives once the majority of the field returns to play in January and February.

In these early weeks, take a very close look at the pricing for players who have played very well in the fall events, particularly those younger players that are newer to the tour. The other indicator that we will look closely at from week to week is obviously going to be previous success at a particular course. This is even more important when players have been away from competition for an extended period of time. Though most players do practice during the offseason, there is little that can substitute for the actual competitive environment and week after week grind of the PGA Tour.

We’re going to take a look at 8 players this week to consider when selecting your roster for the week. Some are going to be obvious as there are some great players in the field. We will do our best not to labor too long on these types of players and instead offer succinct rationale for selecting one over a few others.

Of the most expensive players this week, one name stands out to me as the best odds on value to make a great run at this tournament: Matt Kuchar Just from the standpoint of looking at historical performance at this tournament, Kuchar has been very consistent with strong Top 10 finishes in his last four appearances which have taken place over the last five years. He’s a consistent player, as opposed to Bubba Watson, the favorite for the week and in a field this small, we need to find players that will finish in the Top 10 as there is a good chance that a roster could win a tournament this week without having picked the winner. Kuchar’s game is well suited for a large course like Kapalua and being fifth on the tour in strokes gained in 2014 should lead to Kuchar chewing up this 7411 yard, Par 73 course. Kuchar represents the best value of the favorites on the board giving us a better price over Watson and Day.

My next pick aims to capitalize on the rise of a player who over the last few months has been playing the best golf of his career. Robert Streb is the current leader in FedEx points due to a great run over his last five tournaments. He’s great off the tee and has markedly improved his iron and putting game from last season until now. In 2014, his total strokes gained came in at just .335 and in 2015, he has elevated that to 1.913. He’s also averaging an extra .67 birdies per round which should be taken into consideration on a course that tends to hand out birdies like candy at a 4th of July parade. The best part is Streb’s price point for the week which is on the low end compared to most of the field. In Streb, we get the hottest player on tour at a great discount.

While Streb may lack experience at Kapalua, my next pick has been a regular in the field and is the current defending champion at the event. Zach Johnson has made 7 trips to this event and although he has just two Top Ten finishes at this event, he was able to pick up a victory at last year’s event by beating out Jordan Spieth. Johnson is know for his consistent play and accuracy which tends to make him one of the overall leaders in scoring average from year to year. If Johnson can get on a roll putting, he has a great chance at becoming a repeat champion.

We’re going to need to save a little bit on salary as we select a few higher priced players to anchor our lineup and we’re going to do just that with our next couple of players in Scott Stallings and Ben Crane. Each player has made a few appearances at Kapalua, and to his credit, Crane has two Top Ten finishes in four attempts. Stallings is playing reasonably well this season having made 3 cuts and 2 Top 25 finishes for the current season, although he has not finished higher than 19th in any of those tournaments. The huge fairways should help Stallings this week as he ranks highly in driving distance, but should not be hurt as much by his lack of accuracy. Stallings is a below average putter which dims his overall chances for winning the tournament outright, but I think this course plays well to his strengths. Crane, on the other hand, I like strictly as a cheap option for filling out a lineup card due to experience at the course. He took 9th place back in 2012. 2013 was a tough year overall for Crane as he pulled it all together for one weekend at the FedEx St Jude Classic to claim his lone title and one of only two Top Ten finishes in a year punctuated by streaks of missed cuts and withdrawals due to injury. We’re punting a bit here with Crane, but hoping that the money we save on Crane will allow us to have the opportunity to pick up other players with more upside.

Geoff Ogilvy is no stranger to success at the HTOC, where he won back to back titles in 2009 and 2010. Near the peak of his game in 2011, prior to having the chance to defend his title, Ogilvy sliced his right index finger open on some coral and was forced to withdraw prior to the 2011 HTOC. After sliding down in the rankings in the years that followed, he closed last season strong with a win at the Reno-Tahoe Open. His strong finish last season, previous success at this tournament and fairly inexpensive price tag make him an attractive option for lineups this week.

Kevin Streelman bucked the odds last year by finishing 3rd at the HTOC last year in his first appearance at the tournament. Streelman shot well and was able to capture a title at The Travelers Championship last season. He took 2nd place at The Shriners in October so he is reasonably good form going into the tournament. Streelman was one of the more accurate strikers last year off the tee, finishing 16th, although he didn’t fare quite as well in distance finishing 97th. If he can continue to be successful in the ‘Birdie or better conversion percentage’ where he ranked 28th last season, he should have a good opportunity to be in the Top 10 and perhaps compete for a title.

Sang-Moon Bae is one of the more interesting stories on the PGA Tour. He is currently fighting the South Korean government over its rules of conscription into the military where he is required to serve for two years. Meanwhile, he has been one of the hottest players on tour, with two Top 5 finishes this season in 3 events, including a victory at The Open. He ranked well in ‘Birdie or better conversion percentage’ where he ranked 16th last season, a key metric for Kapalua. Though statistically, his putting hasn’t been great this year, he’s hitting the ball better in all other phases of his game. Though it’s based on limited statistics, his strokes gained tee-to-green of 2.143 this season currently ranks him 2nd among all players. His affordable price tag and recent play make him a compelling option this week.

Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte January 7, 2015 02:12

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