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PGA DFS: Horse For The Course - CIMB Classic

The 2019 PGA Tour season got off to an exciting start as we saw a three-man sudden death playoff Sunday. Kevin Tway outlasted Ryan Moore and Brandt Snedeker to take home the Safeway Open championship, marking the talented 30-year-old's first career PGA Tour victory.

We are going to keep things going as we head around the world to Malaysia for this week's CIMB Classic. This tournament boasts a surprisingly strong field that includes seven major champions and players that are in excellent form, including the entire trio that was in the Safeway playoff. Everybody's favorite outlaw Pat Perez won the 2017 CIMB Classic and is back to defend his title. TPC Kuala Lumpur is the host course and is a ball striker's paradise.

A couple of DFS notes that everyone should be aware of...this tournament will start Wednesday evening, not Thursday morning. I'm a creature of habit when it comes to PGA DFS, so I will be setting a reminder alarm on my phone and it might be a good idea for you guys to do the same. Whatever you need to do, make sure to have lineups set before things tee off! We should also be mindful of the fact that this is a no-cut event when constructing lineups. We want to jam-pack as much upside as possible into our rosters this week.

Last week's "HFTC" choices didn't play very inspired golf at the Safeway. Three of four selections made the cut, but none were in serious contention. We must continue to trust our research process, especially when we have less-than-stellar results. I'm ready to grind, so let's tee up the CIMB Classic!

Horse For The Course will take a look at players that have traditionally flourished at the course that hosts this week’s PGA TOUR event. This is not a traditional picks column, but rather an attempt to pinpoint players that have outstanding results at a specific course. "The Horse" is a player with an elite course history and that has a great chance to repeat his success in this week's tournament. "The Ponies" are players with very good course history, that might be entering this week's tournament under the radar or have a DFS price that is a great value.

For a full review of the DraftKings PGA Slate this weekend, check out Seth Finklestein's column reviewing picks at every price point.

You can also find out who the smart money is on by checking out Spencer Aguiar's PGA DFS: Vegas Report every week.

Editor's Note: Our friends at Fantasy National have built some incredible DFS Golf lineup tools including a Lineup Optimizer, Stat Engine, Ownership Projections and Course Breakdowns. They are by far the best daily fantasy Golf tools in the industry. Seriously. You can read all about them here and see screenshots. 

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The Course: TPC Kuala Lumpur (West Course) - Par 72 - 7,005 Yards

Opened in Malaysia to much fanfare in 1991, TPC Kuala Lumpur is a beautiful course. Though it was lengthened in 2008, it is still short by modern standards at only 7,000 yards. This is especially notable when we see that the course features four par-5's! There are tons of birdies to be had, but TPC Kuala Lumpur does have a little bite by employing 10 water hazards around the course. I'm looking for elite ball strikers this week. I want players with a very strong approach game that can also take advantage of the par-5's.


The Horse

Justin Thomas (DraftKings - $11,700 & FanDuel - $13,000 )

In the intro I mentioned that this week's field is surprisingly strong. While that is indeed the case, Justin Thomas stands head and shoulders above the rest of the CIMB field from a talent standpoint. I know I'm stating the obvious by naming JT this week's "Horse", but after careful consideration I felt I had no choice. Not only is Thomas the best player in the field, but he is also a two-time winner at TPC Kuala Lumpur. If it were just one or the other I probably would have tried to shake things up a bit, but JT's elite blend of talent and dominant course history make him a no-brainer this week.

As I mentioned, Thomas is a two-time winner of this event, taking down the 2015 & 2016 editions of the CIMB Classic with a combined score of 49-under par for the two years. He shot a second-round 61 to break the course record in 2015 and holds the TPC Kuala Lumpur 72-hole tournament record of 262. Pretty dominant stuff. Thomas "only" logged a T17 in last year's tournament in a what was a bit of letdown following his breakthrough PGA Championship win. Thomas enters this week in excellent form, having logged a T12 at the BMW Championship, and a T7 at the TOUR Championship. JT was one of the lone bright spots for the American team at the Ryder Cup two weeks ago.

I'm sure you don't need to hear Thomas' elite level stats, but let me touch on them briefly. Our friends at Fantasy National allow us to narrow our research down and JT has been absolutely ridiculous over his last 24 rounds. He leads the field in Strokes Gained: Total, Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, and DraftKings points. Thomas also sits inside the top-five in several other Strokes Gained categories, including: Ball Striking, Short Game, Approach, and Around the Green. The guy is a sicko!

Unsurprisingly, JT carries the highest price tag on both DraftKings and FanDuel. We have to be willing to spend up to get him in our lineups. Despite the steep price, I think Thomas will be extremely popular this week. There are some legit game theory arguments to fading him, as we basically need him to win. While I can get behind that thought if I'm multi-entering large GPP's... if I'm only making one lineup this week, Thomas is in it. Game theory aside, this guy is far and away the best player in the field and has owned this course. Fade him at your own risk.


The Ponies

Ryan Moore (DK - $10,900 & FD - $11,600 )

Ryan Moore was soooo close to being this week's "Horse", but was just edged out by Justin Thomas. Like Thomas, Moore has won the CIMB Classic twice, going back-to-back in 2013 and 2014. He
also scored a T10 in 2016 and a T17 in 2017 at the CIMB. We get Moore in hot fire form, as he's coming off a runner-up at last week's Safeway Open.

Moore put a new PXG driver in play at the Safeway and gained 15-20 yards off the tee...a huge boost for a guy that ranked 163rd in Driving Distance in 2018. He is a world-class ball striker, which explains his excellent course history at TPC Kuala Lumpur.

It's hard to call five victories on the PGA Tour a disappointment, but after a legendary amateur career Moore seemed destined for even bigger things. It may sound like a minor thing, but he has cycled through several equipment changes during his career and I like the fact that he has been consistently using PXG since 2015.

Moore carries a high price tag this week. Being slotted below only Justin Thomas should depress his ownership levels. I love his course history and was very impressed with his play at the Safeway last week. He is a supremely talented player that knows how to win. I am very confident in Ryan Moore this week.

Keegan Bradley (DK - $9,900 & FD - $10,600)

Saddle up boys, it's a Keegan Bradley week! I was on Keegs heavily toward the end of last season, but of course was light on him the week he finally logged a win at the BMW Championship. His price tag makes me a little reluctant to take the plunge, but I'm somewhat comforted by the fact that this is a no-cut event. Due to this being a tournament with no cut, we are forced to go upside hunting, which brings some volatility into play and if there is one word that sums up Keegan Bradley, it's volatility. Despite his inconsistency, Bradley has actually been rock-solid at TPC Kuala Lumpur. He has finished inside the top-10 in three of his four appearances at the CIMB Classic, including a sixth in 2017 and a solo second last year.

As I mentioned above, Bradley recently broke through for a win at the BMW Championship, his first in six years. The victory was the culmination of a summer's worth of excellent ball striking. Bradley finished the 2018 PGA Tour season ranked second in Strokes Gained: Approach and 11th in Strokes Gained: Tee to it's no surprise that Bradley has flourished at TPC Kuala Lumpur with his elite ball striking skills. However, we all know the wheels come off the wagon for Keegan once he reaches the green right? While that's certainly true when taking a macro-view, Bradley's putting stats are somewhat surprising when we use Fantasy National to zero-in on his recent performance with the flatstick. Over his last 24 rounds, Bradley ranks a solid 21st in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting and sixth in 3-Putt Avoidance. Those are numbers we would take in a heartbeat this week, as Keegan only needs to putt decent to be in contention.

Bradley's salary is a little tough to swallow, but this is the price of doing business in the PGA DFS swing season. Could he blow-up and finish near the bottom of the field? Sure. However, Bradley offers legit tournament winning upside at a sub-$10k price. The no-cut factor softens the edges a bit on his volatility and Bradley is always capable of shooting the low-round of the tournament in a week that every fantasy point is huge. I'm not letting him anywhere near cash game lineups, but he is a very intriguing option for large-field GPP's.

Anirban Lahiri (DK - $6,900 & FD - $8,500)

I didn't forget about you bargain shoppers this week! We're headed down the salary scale for our final "Pony". Anirban Lahiri is a name that might be familiar to hardcore DFS regulars. He is a veteran player that's somewhat on the fringes of the PGA Tour, but seems to get on hot streaks and pop up every so often with a seemingly random top-10. Lahiri is very fond of TPC Kuala Lumpur and has logged three consecutive top-25's in the CIMB Classic, including a T3 in 2017 and a T10 last season.

I wish I could prop this selection up with some juicy recent stats, but this is a true "course history" play. Lahiri has struggled since logging an impressive T6 against an elite field at the WGC-Bridgestone in August. Despite his recent struggles, I don't put a ton of stock in Lahiri's form. This is the type of player that can miss four or five cuts in a row and then go off for a top-five finish at a course he likes. If we examine the arc of Lahiri's career, we see a definite pattern of him being repeatedly successful on a few select courses and struggling in most other situations. We know that he favors TPC Kuala Lumpur due to his nice finishes, but Fantasy National gives us some concrete evidence that he's played really well in Malaysia by showing us that Lahiri has a ridiculous stat of 21.35 Strokes Gained: Total over five career appearances in the CIMB Classic. That's good for sixth in the field, behind two-time winners Moore and Thomas.

Lahiri is a legit discount option in a week when we have no fear of a missed cut. He has demonstrated top-10 upside in this tournament, which I'm ready to jump on at his sub-$7k DK price. His recent form is slightly concerning, but those concerns are somewhat alleviated by Lahiri's pattern of course-specific success throughout his career. He's a GPP sleeper play with upside. For those of you that are leaning "Stars & Scrubs" this week, Lahiri helps us to get JT in lineups and there's one aggressive build I'm tinkering with that has Lahiri, JT, and Keegan together and leaves an average of around $7,100 per remaining player.


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