Hello PGA DFS family and thanks for joining me here at RotoBaller! The always-talented, but previously-winless Jason Kokrak notched the first PGA Tour victory of his career at the CJ Cup. Kokrak's putter was white-hot, which enabled him to outlast Xander Schauffele and Russell Henley at Shadow Creek.
It was a weird week for HFTC, as some of our highlighted players - Xander Schauffle and Russell Henley - were in the mix to win the CJ Cup, while we had rough luck with a Dustin Johnson WD and a bizarrely-bad performance from Matthew Wolff! We go from one unknown course to another, as the ZOZO Championship has been relocated to Sherwood Country Club this year due to COVID-19. Calling Sherwood an "unknown" isn't really accurate, as it played host to Tiger Woods' Hero Challenge for over a decade, though we haven't seen the layout on the PGA Tour schedule since 2013.
Horse For The Course is an article that highlights players in this week's field with elite course history and is part of our free PGA DFS content here at RotoBaller. For my favorite DFS plays of the week check out my Core Four article here at RotoBaller every Wednesday. It's part of our amazing PGA Premium package that includes an all-new PGA Research Station, Lineup Builder & Optimizer, and some of the best articles in the PGA DFS industry! You can sign up now using Promo Code: NICE for an extra discount at checkout!
ZOZO Championship @ Sherwood Overview
Like last week's CJ Cup, the ZOZO Championship is part of the PGA Tour's usual "Asia Swing", but has been relocated to the U.S. this year due to COVID-19. Also like last week, we'll be dealing with a limited - and rather elite - field of 78 players in a no-cut format.
The big news is that defending ZOZO champion, Tiger Woods, is coming out of hibernation this week. Woods has not looked sharp in his limited 2020 starts, but will be teeing it up on a Sherwood Country Club layout on which he held his annual Hero Challenge charity event from 2000 to 2013 (Tiger won five of those). He'll be joined by several elite holdovers from last week's CJ Cup, including Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas, and Rory McIlroy. Dustin Johnson is also expected to return to action following a positive COVID-19 test last week and will also be joined by several of Japan's rising stars that are playing on ZOZO sponsor's exemptions.
While we don't have any recent course history to chew through, we'll look back at some results from the Hero Challenge at Sherwood and try our best to find some players with a nice course fit.
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The Course: Sherwood Country Club
Par 72 - 7,006 Yards, Greens: Bent, Designed By: Jack Nicklaus
Sherwood Country Club is a beautiful Jack Nicklaus layout that contains both breathtaking views and difficult decisions for the players. It's a strategic golf course with several risk/reward holes, including the drivable Par-4 opener and FIVE Par-5s that can be played either aggressively or conservatively. In true Nicklaus fashion, this is a layout that places emphasis on position off the tee and requires a precise second shot. The length will be no problem for the players in this week's field, but Nicklaus' routing - that includes multiple doglegs - will prevent an all-out "Bomb & Gauge" assault. We already mentioned the layouts unique number of Par-5s (five) and Sherwood will also throw five Par-3s at this field...which will force me to weight both Par-5 and Par-3 scoring fairly heavily. Like last week, players will face Bentgrass green surfaces.
Despite Sherwood's lack of length on the scorecard, I look for it to provide a fairly stern test for the field. I'll be leaning accuracy and total driving over sheer distance when considering off the tee stats, while attempting to target sharp ball strikers with hot irons. I never give too much weight to putting, but I'll glance at splits on Bent, while also sneaking a peek at scrambling/bogey avoidance.
Recent Champions & Winning Scores
Notable Course History: World Challenge - T5 ('13), T7 ('12), T13 ('11)
In golf’s modern era of mind-blowing distance and power, Webb Simpson is something of a throwback. Luckily for us, there are still a few stops left on the PGA Tour schedule that reward accuracy and precision over sheer distance and I believe that Sherwood will prove to be that type of venue this week.
Simpson’s game is certainly one of substance over style and it’s pretty tough to argue with his results over the last few years, as Webb has amassed three wins and has remarkably missed just six cuts in 63 starts since the 2018 season.
While his game isn’t one we want to target on every course (though we basically could), we have to believe that Sherwood CC is a perfect fit for his game. Simpson posted top-seven finishes over the last two years that Tiger’s Hero event was held on this course. He ranks 15th in this field in Fairways Gained and first in Scrambling over recent rounds, attributes that put him in great position to succeed this week.
Notable Course History: N/A
I’m sure a lot of you guys are like me and almost get sick just at the mention of Matthew Wolff’s name. I was heavily invested in the 21-year-old last week at the CJ Cup and was absolutely shocked when Wolff fired an opening-round 80 at Shadow Creek. Things didn’t get any better throughout the week, as he struggled to get anything going en route to an almost-DFL finish.
Perhaps an overlooked aspect of DFS is being able to put our emotions aside in order to make the best decisions. My anger is telling me, “SCREW WOLFF!”, but my mind tells me that this is an intriguing bounce-back spot for a couple reasons. We can expect the youngster’s ownership to plummet after he torched so many lineups as a chalky play last week. I also really love the “course history” angle that’s in play with Wolff and Sherwood Country Club. He grew up about seven miles from the course and has played it “1,000’s of times” (Wolff’s words) with friends over the years.
Now, that course knowledge obviously won’t be worth a dime if Wolff hits the ball like he did last week, BUT we’ve often talked about how his unorthodox swing makes him prone to volatility. So, while things could continue to be ugly, there’s also a very real chance that the cat that finished second in both the U.S. Open and the Shriners shows back up this week.
Notable Course History: Hero Challenge - Five-time winner
This is a course-history-based column, so while we might not mention Tiger Woods based on his recent form, he definitely deserves consideration due to his monster track record at Sherwood Country Club.
Woods is the defending ZOZO champion and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he had some input as to where this tournament would be held when it was decided to relocate it to the U.S. due to COVID-19. Sherwood is a dream spot for him...he hosted his annual Hero Challenge charity event on this course from 2000 thru 2013, and won on this layout five times over those years, compiling a scoring average of 68.46 (by far the best mark in this week’s field) over 48 competitive rounds. It plays to all his strengths...shot placement, precision iron play, and strategic thinking. So, while we haven’t seen any recent sparks from Tiger, we know that this course is a perfect fit and we also know that he should be gearing his game up in preparation for the upcoming Masters.
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Notable Course History: World Challenge - T3 ('13), T9 ('12), T6 ('11)
Last week on my podcast The Turn (you should subscribe, we’ve been KILLING it since the restart) we spent a good chunk of time talking about Bubba Watson and why he was such an intriguing option at Shadow Creek. Bubba paid off our intuition, knocking out a nice T7 in the CJ Cup.
I’m on him again this week, as he’s not only demonstrated unbelievably-good form as of late, but also has some history at Sherwood. In the last three Hero Challenge events that were held at Sherwood, Watson went: T3-T9-T6. He comes into this week’s ZOZO not only armed with that course knowledge, but also in fire form from tee to green. Watson leads this week’s field in both Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and Ball Striking over recent rounds, while grading out second in SG: OTT and third in SG: Approach. He gained 10.9 strokes T2G at the CJ Cup (second in the field) and recorded a T7 despite losing 1.7 strokes putting. Obviously, we’re hoping for a warmer putter this week, but Watson is an absolute ball-striking beast at the moment.
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