Hi RotoBallers, and welcome back to 'HFTC'! Kevin Na took advantage of a Colonial layout that played to his strengths last week and took down the Charles Schwab Challenge for the third PGA Tour victory of his career.
We'll jump into an exciting Memorial tournament in just a moment, but I did want to mention some comments that Kevin Na made last week that I found very interesting. To paraphrase Na's thoughts, he basically said that there are only seven or eight stops on the PGA Tour schedule where he feels like he has a legitimate chance to win, with Colonial obviously being one of them. He discussed how his lack of distance puts him at a disadvantage on numerous courses and that winning just isn't realistic for him on a number of the longer layouts.
I found Na's comments to be very open and honest, and also kind of brave in a way. His words are applicable for PGA DFS purposes. Some folks in the industry want to scoff at and/or wave away course history as something of a farce or joke, but it is pretty powerful to hear an accomplished PGA Tour professional saying openly and honestly that he feels his chance for success increases exponentially at certain golf courses. Here at 'HFTC', I attempt to use course history as a tool to identify players whose past performances might point to future successes...and Na's statement helps to solidify my belief that course history isn't an 'old wives tale', but rather a legitimate piece of the puzzle when targeting DFS plays. From a DFS perspective, last week was one that a lot of us would probably like to forget. We had some major W/D's after lineups locked and several of the field's big names missing the cut. Unfortunately, those weeks happen sometimes. We have to hang tough! Let's dive into the Memorial!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!
The Memorial Overview
We hear the term 'Fifth Major' tossed around a lot when discussing The Players Championship, but The Memorial is no slouch when it comes to attracting star-studded fields. The Memorial is 'Jack's tournament' and Mr. Nicklaus can still draw the biggest names in golf to Dublin, Ohio.
One of those stars that will be in attendance this year is Tiger Woods, a five-time winner at Muirfield Village. It will be Woods' first start since his disappointing missed cut at the PGA Championship. He'll be joined by the defending Memorial champion Bryson DeChambeau, who has been mired in a bit of slump as of late. A surging Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlory, Justin Rose, and many of golf's other elites are also headed to Dublin, Ohio.
While the Memorial never fails to draw an all-star caliber field, we've seen some surprising names triumph in this event in the past, with guys named McGirt, Dufner, and Lingmerth having left Dublin victorious over the last five years. Nicklaus designed Muirfield Village with an emphasis on accuracy and ballstriking in mind and we've seen players that hit fairways and greens consistently be rewarded in this event.
I try to make HFTC more than just a "picks" column (though you can certainly use it that way if you are in a hurry) by digging deep into each highlighted player. Obviously, our weekly jumping off point is a player's course history, but there isn't a firm set of rules when it comes to who is featured in this article. My goal is to help you succeed as a PGA DFS player. Period. I will touch on different GPP and cash-game strategies throughout the column each week and hopefully have some useful info for both beginners and experienced DFS players. Thanks for joining me here at RotoBaller, 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: Muirfield Village Golf Club
Par 72 - 7,392 Yards, Greens: Bentgrass
We can always count on a Nicklaus-designed course to force the players into strategic thinking and Muirfield Village doesn't disappoint. 'The Golden Bear' built this course from the ground up in the 1970's and he continually updates it as needed. It's lengthy, but isn't a 'bomber's track'. Difficult, but not impossible to score on. In other words, Muirfield is a very high-quality golf course. The emphasis this week will be on accuracy and ballstriking, with players being required to hit both tree-lined fairways and undulating greens. Water is in play on 11 holes, with bunkers also causing trouble for the players. The closing stretch is one of the toughest in golf, with 16, 17, and 18 presenting players with a challenging close to their rounds. I'll be heavily weighting Strokes Gained: Approach, SG: OTT (with an emphasis on accuracy), and bogey avoidance this week at Muirfield.
Patrick Cantlay (DK - $10,200 & FD - $11,000)
Notable Course History: 4th (2018), T35 ('17)
Recent Form: T3 (PGA), T3 (RBC Heritage), T9 (Masters), M/C (The Players)
In a field that's loaded with established stars, this week's Horse is a player that falls into the 'rising star' category. Patrick Cantlay is a young player that DFS regulars have had an eye on for some time and the 27-year-old has been delivering on his huge potential in 2019.
Cantlay is quickly becoming a force in golf's high profile events. He logged a top-10 at the Masters and a top-five at the PGA Championship, and the Long Beach native has consistently flourished on difficult courses. His history at Muirfield Village is limited, but he scored a solo-fourth-place finish in his second Memorial start last year.
He checks all of the boxes that we are looking for this week. He's a complete player that ranks fifth in the field in SG: Tee to Green over the last 24 rounds. His ball striking is razor sharp at the moment, as he stands fifth in the field in SG: Ball Striking and seventh in SG: Approach. Cantlay is extremely dependable off the tee (10th in SG: OTT). He gives himself tons of birdie chances (10th in Opportunities Gained) and consistently stays away from big numbers (first in Bogeys Avoided).
We've been somewhat spoiled with Cantlay's DFS price tags this season and his DK salary is above $10k for just the second time in 2019. He was an extremely popular option the last time he teed it up in the PGA Championship and I expect a lot of folks will be eager to go back to him this week. The price tag might give some people pause, but I'll be glad to work Cantlay into my Memorial lineups, as it feels like a win is almost inevitably coming soon.
Tiger Woods (DK - $11,200 & FD - $11,700)
Notable Course History: Five-time winner
Recent Form: M/C (PGA), Win (Masters), T30 (The Players)
If a guy has won on a course five times, I think I'm contractually obligated to mention him in this article. That's the mind-boggling win total that Tiger Woods has accumulated at Muirfield Village during his career, and though a disappointing missed cut at the PGA Championship might have finally dulled the shine of his Masters win a tiny bit, we are still talking about a highly-skilled player that is heading to a course he loves.
We know that ball striking is of the utmost important at the Memorial and even at 43-year-old, Woods is still one of the preeminent ball strikers on the PGA Tour. He's 18th in the field in SG: Approach over the last 24 rounds and we can be confident that he'll bring some sharp iron play to Ohio this week.
More concerning is Woods' play off the tee. We saw him drive the ball beautifully at Augusta National en route to his Masters win, but he struggled off the tee at Bethpage and hit just three fairways during a second-round 73 that heavily contributed to his missed cut at the PGA. He grades out just 44th in this field in SG: Off The Tee and will need to consistently keep the ball in play if he's going to have a chance this week.
Once again, DK has strapped Woods with a very high price tag ($11.3k). He trails only Rory McIlory on the salary scale and it's the type of price forces DFS players into a difficult decision. We saw his ownership come in a little lower than we expected at the PGA and I wouldn't be surprised if that's once again the case the week, so he should offer some leverage in GPPs.
Matt Kuchar (DK - $9,400 & FD - $10,900)
Notable Course History: T13 ('18), T4 ('17), T4 ('16), Win ('13)
Recent Form: T8 (PGA), 2nd (RBC Heritage), T12 (RBC Heritage), T7 (Valero)
After featuring Matt Kuchar in this article numerous times last season, I've eased up a bit in 2019. I figure that you guys know what you are getting with Kuchar by now...he's super-solid across the board and is a DFS asset that we can put a lot of trust in.
While we can feel confident about Kuch pretty much on a weekly basis, the guy has been absolute money at Muifield Village. He leads this field in SG: Total (39.01) at the Memorial since 2014 and has a win and two top-fives since 2013.
The 40-year-old is in the midst of one of his best seasons as a pro. Kuchar has two wins, two top fives, and two top-10's already to his credit this season. He's striking the ball extremely well and stands fourth in the field in SG: Approach over his last 24 rounds. His putting has been hit-or-miss lately (47th in SG: Putting over the last 24 rounds), but we've also seen him have some solid weeks with the flatstick that have propelled him to strong outings.
When you think of Matt Kuchar, you think 'Cash Game Play' - and it's true, he is a safe, reliable option - but we have seen DFS players be reluctant to spend up for Kuchar in previous weeks. On the two recent occasions that he's been priced above $9k his ownership has been noticeably reduced, so he might be a surprisingly viable tournament play at the Memorial.
Henrik Stenson (DK - $8,500 & FD - $10,200)
Notable Course History: T13 ('18)
Recent Form: T48 (PGA) T20 (AT&T Byron Nelson), T28 (Wells Fargo), T36 (Masters)
Henrik Stenson's Memorial track record isn't as extensive as some of our other highlighted players this week, but it is fair to deduct that the 'Iceman' has all the right stuff needed to succeed at Muirfield Village.
After scuffling a bit at the start of 2019, Stenson once again has his irons absolutely dialed in. He's first in this field in SG: Approach over his last 24 rounds and has averaged a massive 5.1 strokes gained on approach over his last five tournaments. He's sixth in the field in proximity from 150-175 yards and 25th from 175-200 yards, two key yardages that players will face this week.
While Muirfield is long, Stenson will be able to rely on his trusty 3-wood off the tee fairly often. The Swede struggles with his driver, but is deadly with the fairway wood and ranks sixth in the field in Fantasy National's Good Drives Gained metric. He should be able to continually put himself in great position off the tee and avoid Muirfield's troublesome rough.
Stenson's iron play will draw the attention of lots of DFS players this week. The drawback with Stenson is his terribly spotty putting. He's lost strokes with the flatstick in four of his last five starts and his troubles on the greens have severely limited his upside this season. We've seen less-than-stellar putters do well in this tournament and Stenson has tournament-winning upside if he can get a few putts to drop.
Emiliano Grillo (DK - $7,900 & FD - $9,700)
Notable Course History: T23 ('18), T40 ('17), T11 ('16)
Recent Form: T19 (Charles Schwab), T23 (PGA), T33 (RBC Heritage), T62 (Masters)
We've known for a couple of years that Emiliano Grillo is a very talented young player. It seems like he just hasn't been able to put everything together yet and that has again been the case in 2019.
Grillo's form has been trending up over the past month. He heads to Ohio on the heels of three rock-solid outings. The Argentinian has been smoking his irons and has gained over four strokes on approaches in his last two tournament starts ( 4.4-Schwab & 4.3-PGA). He's a tremendous long-iron player and ranks third in the field in proximity from both 150-175 yards and 175-200 yards, two key distances on this Muirfield Village layout.
Grillo's downfall this season has been his struggles on the greens. Over his last five tournaments he's lost an average of 1.1 strokes putting, but that still shows some improvement when compared to his average of -2.3 strokes putting over his last 10 tournaments. Bentgrass is Grillo's best putting surface and he's gained .24 strokes on Bent vs. losing strokes putting on both Poa and Bermuda.
His combination of solid course history, recent form, and price will make Grillo a popular DFS selection this week. You aren't going to sneak up on anyone with him in tournaments, but he grades out as a tremendous cash-game option.
Peter Uihlein (DK - $7,200 & FD - $8,600)
Notable Course History: 5th ('18), T25 ('17)
Recent Form: T13 (Charles Schwab), T5 (AT&T Byron Nelson), M/C (Wells Fargo), M/C (RBC Heritage)
One of the cool things about writing this article every week is that you never know where the research process will take you. This week my research led me to a player that isn't often talked about for DFS purposes. Peter Uihlein isn't a player that pops up on my radar very often, but his combination of surprising course history and recent form makes me very interested in the 29-year-old this week.
After a collegiate career at Oklahoma State, Uihlein took the 'Brooks Koepka route' and grinded on the Euro Tour for a few seasons before earning his PGA Tour card and playing a full schedule last season and ultimately finishing 81st in the FedEx Cup standings. He's had some false starts this season and has been forced to W/D from a couple of tournaments, but Uihlein has figured things out over the past month - logging a T5 at the Byron Nelson and a T13 at Colonial last week.
He's a tremendous putter that ranks ninth in this field in SG: Putting over the last 24 rounds and he also possesses a silky short game (17th in SG: Around the Green), but Uihlein's strong recent output has been powered by his improved iron play. He ranks just 92nd in the field in SG: Approach, but he's gained 1.4 & 2.4 strokes on approach in his last two starts (AT&T Byron Nelson & Charles Schwab).
We've seen some erratic results from Uihlein both this season and throughout his brief career, so he definitely falls into the 'GPP Only' category for me, but he is an intriguing option this week. He'll probably garner some buzz around the DFS industry, but will most likely go overlooked by casual players.