Welcome back RotoBallers and PGA DFS fans! We expected big things from the strong field that turned up for the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, and the tournament didn't disappoint, as we got a drama filled playoff between two former Shriners champs - Kevin Na and Patrick Cantlay.
Despite actually losing strokes tee-to-green for the week, Na couldn't miss with the putter and eventually prevailed over young Cantlay on the second-playoff hole. After going almost seven years between wins on the PGA Tour, the mercurial Na has now won three times in the span of 16 months, despite battling injuries and withdrawing from multiple tournaments over the past year. For Cantlay - this article's 'Horse' last week - it was an impressive, but expected showing. The 27-year-old continues to prove that he is one of the best young players on the PGA Tour and that he's someone that deserves DFS consideration basically every time he tees it up.
From a DFS perspective, the Shriners was a brutal one for me personally, as the PGA Tour's new T65 and ties cut rule continues to have a huge effect on the DFS world. While it can be frustrating, I actually kinda like the change. I've always enjoyed when getting 6/6 golfers through is an accomplishment and can truly give you a leg up on the field for the weekend. Ok, enough about the Shriners, let's keep grindin' and dig into the upcoming Houston Open!Editor's Note: Golf is back! Come join the fun and win big with RotoBaller. Get our full-season PGA and DFS Premium Pass for 50% off! Our exclusive DFS Lineup Optimizer, Research Station, DFS Projections and weekly DFS/betting articles! Sign Up Now!
Houston Open Overview
After consecutive weeks of unbelievably-strong 'Swing Season' fields, we kinda come crashing back down to Earth for this week's Houston Open. The field is...less than stellar. Sweden's Henrik Stenson is the most well-known name in the field. 'The Iceman' will be joined by some recent PGA Tour winners like Cameron Champ and Sebastian Munoz, as well as several guys with Texas ties and some former winners of this event. That's about it guys, no way to sugarcoat it.
The Houston Open has traditionally been a warm-up for the Masters, but has been on an 18-month hiatus since the PGA Tour revamped the schedule and settled on a fall date for the tournament. The new spot on the schedule obviously hasn't helped when it comes to attracting big names to Texas, as many of golf's elite are gearing up for the looming 'Asia Swing' portion of the fall. Ian Poulter won this event the last time it was played seemingly forever ago, but Poults decided not to venture back to the Lonestar State for this one, which is sort of a typical Poulter-esque move, considering this tournament gave him a springboard into the Masters a couple of years ago.
After several weeks of some truly fun roster building, things will be noticeably more challenging when constructing lineups this week due to the caliber of the Houston field. My write-up this week will reflect that, as I will be "quick-hitting" a few more players than usual, rather than going in-depth on just a small number of guys. The quality of this field (and the pricing) sends me in a "throw multiple lineups in some GPPs" direction rather than my usual focus on higher dollar single entry or small field stuff. Ok, let's tee it up!
You can also find out who the smart money is on by checking out Spencer Aguiar's PGA DFS: Vegas Report every week.
The Course: Golf Club of Houston (Tournament Course)
Par 72 - 7,441 Yards, Greens: Bermuda
Normally a tune-up for the Masters, this will mark the first time we see the Golf Club of Houston in the fall. We can expect to see a few differences as a result, the greatest being the change in the putting surface on these greens. Normally overseeded with Bentgrass, this year players will face greens that are strictly Bermuda with no overseed. Another change that we can't be as sure about is the length of the (usually) non-existent rough. This golf course has generally been set up to mimic the conditions at Augusta National, hence the minimal rough, but there are some rumblings coming out of Houston that the rough will have more teeth this year. This track is pretty 'ho-hum' in general, but does feature water on half the holes which can bring some big-ish numbers into play. For DFS purposes I'll be targeting ball strikers that hit fairways and greens. I'll also give weight to scrambling around the green and putting splits on Bermuda surfaces.
Henrik Stenson (DK - $11,400)
Notable Course History: T6 ('18), M/C ('17), 2nd ('16)
You will probably come across a mixed bag of takes from the DFS community about the viability of rostering Stenson this week, but make no mistake, the Swede is the class of this field and it's not particularly close. Stenson spent the better part of the 2018-19 season as the best iron player in the world and heads to Houston ranked first in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach over both long and short term measurements. He's a fairway-finding machine and stands second in the field in Fairways Gained over his last 24 rounds. Of course, the big obstacle to rostering Stenson this week is the combination of his huge price and the lack of quality on the bottom of the board, but - like Patrick Cantlay in Vegas last week - there is a huge common-sense path to him either winning this event or posting a top-five finish. If we want to take a "narrative" approach to this, we have to think that Stenson chose to play this event for a reason and he must feel like he has a pretty good chance to win on this track after coming close in two of his last three Houston Open appearances.
Russell Henley (DK - $10,100)
Notable Course History: T8 ('18), Win ('17), T5 ('16), 4th ('15)
If you don't want to spend all the way up for Henrik Stenson, there are lots of solid options in the $10k price range with Brian Harman, Daniel Berger, and Russell Henley all being standouts. I'm gonna lean Henley here due to his pretty otherworldly course history at the Golf Club of Houston. However, it's not purely a course history play, as Henley showed some trending form in Vegas last week by firing four sub-70 rounds and gaining a massive 7.1 strokes on approach at the Shriners. If he can bring that iron play with him this week to a course that he loves, he could very easily be in contention come Sunday afternoon. I was originally a little scared about how the switch to Bermuda-grass greens would impact Henley, but his best putting numbers have actually been on Bermuda.
Harris English (DK - $8,900)
Notable Course History: M/C ('18), T61 ('17), T57 ('16)
Harris English is basically the polar opposite of Russell Henley when it comes to course history, as his best finish in this tournament was a T17 way back in 2012. I'm willing to overlook his shaky track record here this week because of his strong recent form. English is playing his best golf in years and has been on a tear during the 'Swing Season' with a top-five, a top-10, and a top-35 in his three fall starts. The most noticeable reason for his turnaround is his dramatically improved ball striking. English has gained strokes both off the tee and on approach in all three of his starts in the new season and is averaging 5.7 strokes gained tee to green over those tournaments. As a bonus, he has performed much better on Bermuda greens and should be one player in the field that is positively impacted by the switch from Bent.
Xinjun Zhang (DK - $8,000)
Notable Course History: M/C ('18)
This $8k range is going to be a popular price point this week with guys like Sam Ryder, Cameron Tringale, Luke List, and Bronson Burgoon garnering lots of attention. I was torn between Lanto Griffin and Xinjun Zhang here at $8k, but ultimately gave the tiniest of edges to Zhang due to his better ball striking (Griffin is a much better putter). The 31-year-old from China nabbed two wins on the Korn Ferry Tour earlier this year and has been sharp in his last two starts on the PGA Tour, gaining over seven strokes T2G at both the Safeway and the Shriners en route to strong finishes. His putting is a slight concern, but we're getting a player that grades-out fourth in the field in SG: T2G and top-12 in both SG: OTT and Approach over his last 12 rounds.
Tom Hoge (DK - $7,400)
Notable Course History: T60 ('18), T65 ('17)
The $7k range is pretty much a barren wasteland this week with not a lot that jumps out at me. It's tempting to try and catch lightning in a bottle with a Jhonattan Vegas, Andrew Landry, or Matt Every (guys we know have the ability to top-10 an event when on), but I find myself settling in with Tom Hoge at $7.4k. His course history isn't anything fancy - three made cuts in three starts with nothing better than a T60 - but we will take a made cut at $7.4k in this field. Hoge popped for a runner-up finish at the Greenbrier last month and followed that with another solid outing at the Sanderson before missing the cut at the Safeway. He's gained strokes T2G in his last three and on approach in two of three. Hoge is by no means a good putter, but Bermuda is his least worst surface.
Shawn Stefani (DK - $6,800)
Notable Course History: T24 ('18), M/C ('17), M/C ('16), T25 ('15), 5th ('14)
Shawn Stefani is a player that I've been keeping my eye on for the last several months. I was encouraged by his strong finish to the 2018-19 season and I've dabbled with him in his two fall starts with mixed results, as he missed the cut at the Greenbrier, but managed a T28 at Sanderson Farms. His irons aren't quite there yet, but his previous results in this event are intriguing. Stefani has made three cuts in his last five Houston starts, but all three of those made cuts resulted in top-25s or better. So, he's a little 'boom or bust' and is more of gut call for me than a statistical one, but his sub-$7k price tag feels like a nice value in this weak field.
Zach Sucher (DK - $6,600)
Notable Course History: None
In a week with heavily inflated pricing on mediocre players, Zach Sucher stands out as extremely underpriced to me. The sample size is small, but we have to love what we've seen from Sucher in his two 'Swing Season' starts...top-25s at both the Greenbrier and Sanderson Farms. If we narrow our target range down to the last 12 rounds, Sucher actually LEADS this field in SG: T2G, while grading out sixth in SG: OTT and 13th in Approach. This will be his Houston Open debut, so we don't have any course history to rely on, but we're getting a high-quality ball striker at a bargain-basement price. Sucher opens up lots of flexibility when constructing rosters and sticks out as a nice option to pair with Henrik Stenson in GPP builds.