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PGA DFS: Horse For The Course - Farmers Insurance Open


Raise your hand if you had Adam Long winning the Desert Classic. Yeah...me neither. Long birdied the 72nd hole of the tournament to finish one shot clear of Phil Mickelson and Adam Hadwin (our top Pony in last week's article!). It was the 31-year-old's first career PGA Tour victory and solidifies (at least in my mind) that the Desert Classic is a somewhat wacky event.

This week's event is most definitely not wacky. After easing into the season with some laid back, birdie-fest events, the intensity level will ratchet up a notch this week. The Farmers Insurance Open is an excellent event. We have an elite field of players that will be taking on a Torrey Pines golf course that is major championship quality. The huge news is that this will be Tiger Woods' first start of 2019. Woods proved the world wrong last season, capping an unbelievable comeback year with a win at the Tour Championship to close out 2018. He has been hugely successful at Torrey Pines, winning seven PGA Tour events and a U.S. Open on this course.

Along with Woods, we will see some of golf's heavy hitters this week. Jason Day is back to defend his 2018 Farmers championship. Rory McIlroy will be making his Farmers debut this week. Tony Finau and Rickie Fowler will be making their first starts of 2019. Justin Rose and Jordan Spieth are just a couple of the other big names that are in this week's field.

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.  Sign Up Now!

We have a great field and a great golf course. We also have tons of course history to draw from this week. In fact, there are so many quality players with great track records at Torrey Pines that I'm going to shorten the player breakdowns a bit in order to squeeze in some extra players this week. This is going to be a fun tournament.

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.

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. 

Sign Up Now!

 

The Course: Torrey Pines (South)

Par 72 - 7,698 Yards & Torrey Pines (North) - Par 72 - 7,258 Yards

While nothing like last week's Desert Classic, we are again faced with rotating courses this week. Over the first two rounds, players will play once on Torrey Pines South and once on Torrey Pines North. Those that make the cut will finish out the weekend on the South course, the more famous and difficult of the two.

The South course hosted the 2008 U.S. Open and is slated to host the 2021 U.S. Open if that gives you any indication as to its quality. Last year's champion Jason Day didn't break 70 in three rounds on the South course, but posted a second-round 64 on the North course. So, the two courses are vastly different with the North playing much easier than the difficult South.

Players will need to take advantage of their round on the North and survive the South in order to play on the weekend. The cut line is often around even or a few shots over par. Players that make the cut will play both weekend rounds on the South course and it can be brutal. It is long and mean, with thick rough. The South course will test every facet of a player's tee-to-green game. This will send me toward targeting players with complete games rather than a specific strength.

 

The Horse

Marc Leishman (DK - $9,700 & FD - $10,800 )

Notable Course History: T8 (2018), T20 ('17), MC ('16), T27 ('15), T2 ('14)
Recent Form: T3 (Sony), T4 (Sentry TOC), T18 (CJ Cup), Win (CIMB)

I could have very easily went with one of the "big names" in this field (and we'll get to a couple of those guys shortly), but Marc Leishman is making a strong case that he belongs among golf's elite. The big Australian has been on a tear over the past few months. He had a monster fall season, picking up a win at the CIMB Classic and a solo second at the Australian PGA Championship. Leishman hasn't missed a beat in the new year and has recorded top-five finishes in both of his 2019 starts at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open.

Leishman has been powered by a game that is firing in all facets right now. The Aussie doesn't appear to have any weaknesses at the moment. He gained a massive 7.6 strokes Tee to Green on the Sony field in his last outing and didn't lose strokes in any measured category. His play has led to huge fantasy outings and Leishman ranks third in the Farmers field in DK points scored over the last 12 rounds.

Leishman's recent form alone would be enough to put him in the DFS conversation this week, but he has also played very well at Torrey Pines throughout his career. Leishman has recorded two T2s and two additional top-10s in 10 career appearances at Torrey. He logged a T8 in his most recent visit in 2018. The Aussie's skill set meshes perfectly with what we are looking for this week...overall excellence from tee-to-green.

Although I'm just starting to look at DFS prices as I write this, it looks like a nice week to lean towards "solid" lineup builds on DK. I was half expecting Leishman to come in at over $10k, which makes his $9.7k tag seem utterly reasonable. He's a great player to start your roster construction this week and allows you to pack your lineup with quality depth from top to bottom.

 

The Ponies

Tiger Woods (DK - $10,500 & FD - $11,500 )

Notable Course History: Eight Career Victories (Seven PGA Tour Events & 2008 U.S. Open)
Recent Form: 17th (Hero Challenge), Win (TOUR Championship)

You didn't really think I was going to ignore Tiger Woods this week did you? The man has OWNED Torrey Pines throughout his illustrious career, winning on the San Diego track eight times, including the legendary 2008 U.S. Open on a broken leg. The powers that be should probably be having a conversation about changing the name of the place to Tiger Pines at this point.

I was pretty tempted to name Tiger this week's Horse, but it was: A.) A little too obvious and B.) Tough to get a real feel for where Tiger's game is right now.

Despite his amazing course history and epic victory at the Tour Championship to close out 2018, we don't really know what to expect from Woods this week. His Ryder Cup and Hero World Challenge appearances were underwhelming. Don't even get me started on the Thanksgiving "Match" against Phil Mickelson.

We know what worked and what didn't for Tiger last season. He consistently struggled with his driver and putter, while regularly looking sharp with his irons. We saw Woods make some strides with both the driver and putter towards the end of 2018 and his improvement in those areas coincided with his improved finishes to close out the year. Torrey Pines (especially the South Course) is very long and players will be forced to hit a ton of drivers, so his play off the tee is a huge area of interest this week. It's tough to predict what type of form Tiger will be in for what will be his first start of 2019. One thing we know for sure, he knows how to play this course.

Both sites have Tiger priced fairly aggressively. He's the fourth-highest player on DK and fifth-highest on FD. It's almost a necessity due to his combination of course history and popularity. As was often the case at the end of last season, what to do with Tiger will be perhaps our most crucial DFS decision of the week. I hate taking lukewarm stances on players in this article, but that's where I am with Tiger this week. His course history and amazing comeback in 2018 justify him being discussed here, but I am worried about a winter's worth of rust being present. I'm neither all-in nor all-out on Woods and will be sprinkling him into lineups when multi-entering GPPs.

 

Jason Day (DK - $10,100 & FD - $11,300)

Notable Course History: Win (2018), MC ('17), MC ('16), Win ('15), T2 ('14)
Recent Form: 13th (Sentry TOC), 16th (Hero), T11 (WGC-HSBC)

I can't even pretend to have a handle on Jason Day, who is perhaps the most unpredictable "elite" player in the world. His last four appearances in this tournament perfectly illustrate my point. Day won the Farmers in 2015 and again last year, but managed to squeeze back-to-back missed cuts in between the two victories.

Day's Jekyll and Hyde results revolve around his loose iron play. The Aussie possesses perhaps the best short game in the world, he finished second in SG: Putting and fifth in SG: Around the Green on the PGA Tour in 2018, but can struggle with his ball striking and ranked just 142nd in SG: Approach on the Tour last year. When Day has just a decent ball striking week he has opportunities to win tournaments.

His victory at last year's Farmers was a great blueprint on how to succeed in this tournament. He took advantage of his North Course round by shooting a 64 and avoided big numbers on the South Course by shooting 73-71-70. The tougher the course, the more I like Day's chances, as his uncanny scrambling ability gives him a true leg up on the field. His penchant for putting on Poa greens is also a factor this week. Day leads the field in SG: Putting on Poa over his last 50 rounds.

While we have seen Day's DFS price slip down a bit over the past year when the field is elite, he's priced pretty on the nose this week. His recent form has been solid, but unspectacular. He's hit the driver fairly well recently, but in typical Day fashion he lost over two strokes to the field on approach on the way to a 13th-place finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. I wouldn't let him anywhere near my cash games, but his combination of upside and (what I expect to be) low ownership make him a very intriguing GPP target.

 

Tony Finau (DK - $9,900 & FD - $10,700)

Notable Course History: T6 ('18), T4 ('17), T18 ('16), T24 ('15)
Recent Form: 2nd (Hero), T16 (Mayakoba), T16 (Shriners), 2nd (WGC-HSBC)

I had to get in a few words about my main man Tony Finau. This will be his first start of 2019, which is about the only thing that gives me any pause when it comes to him this week. Outside of the rust concerns, there's a lot to love about Finau this week. He's played extremely well at Torrey Pines, logging a T24 the first time he saw the course in 2015 and followed that with a T18 in 2016. He's went T4-T6 in his last two Torrey starts.

This course fits Finau almost perfectly. The length of the South Course isn't an issue for Finau, who ranked fourth in driving distance on the PGA Tour last year. He feels very comfortable hitting driver as frequently as needed, but he also elevated every other facet of his game in 2018. Finau's most important improvement has been to his short game. He went from 81st in SG: Around the Green in 2017 to 81st last year. His SG: Putting numbers also jumped from 136th to 53rd.

The knock on Finau is that he hasn't had a signature win. If there's one thing those of you that closely follow the PGA Tour know, it's that it is EXTREMELY HARD to win in the modern game. Finau has been soooo close and a win feels almost inevitable.

 

Charles Howell III (DK - $9,100 & FD - $11,000)

Notable Course History: T6 ('18), T2 ('17), T16 ('16), T5 ('15)
Recent Form: T34 (Desert Classic), T8 (Sony), T14 (Sentry TOC), Win (RSM)

It's CH3 SZN! I keep waiting for a week that I don't come across Howell's name in my research process, but he just keeps popping up. Chucky's track record at Torrey Pines closely resembles his unbelievable history at the Sony Open. He's perfect in 16 Torrey starts, never missing a cut. He's also flashed some upside here, logging three runner-up finishes and a T6 last year.

In addition to his impeccable course history, we're getting CH3 in sharp form. He picked up a win at the RSM in the fall and has played very solid golf in his three 2019 starts. Howell is one of those players whose stats don't pop off the page, but he does pretty much everything really well. He's gained strokes on the field in basically every measured category since his RSM Classic win in the fall and he led last week's Desert Classic in greens in regulation.

 

J.B. Holmes (DK - $7,900 & FD - $10,500 )

Notable Course History: 4th ('18), T33 ('17), T6 ('16), T2 ('15)
Recent Form: T48 (Mayakoba), T23 (CJ Cup), T13 (CIMB)

*UPDATE: J.B. Holmes has been added to the FD player pool and is $10,500.
Well...this is weird, but at the time of this writing J.B. Holmes isn't currently listed in the FanDuel player pool. Hopefully that's something they will get resolved quickly because Holmes has been a stud at Torrey Pines. He's logged three top-six finishes in his last four Farmers starts. We all know that J.B. is excellent with the driver (14th in SG: Off the Tee in 2018), so it makes sense that he's played well on this long, driver-heavy layout.

Last year was a down year for Holmes and outside of his Farmers finish and back-to-back top-fives in June, he wasn't on many leaderboards. This will be his first start of 2019, so we are guessing a bit as to his current form (In a note that probably doesn't mean much, Holmes posted on Twitter that an airline lost his clubs a couple of weeks ago). He did play well during the swing season, picking up a top-10 and two top-25s in four fall starts. Holmes offers some salary relief on DK at just $7.9k with his FD price TBD I guess.

 

J.J. Spaun (DK - $7,300 & FD - $9,200)

Notable Course History: T23 ('18), T9 ('17)
Recent Form: T51 (Desert Classic), T37 (RSM), T3 (Mayakoba)

J.J. Spaun is a pretty maddening DFS play. He falls into that Keegan Bradley/Lucas Glover category of "excellent ball striker that can't putt it into the ocean". Spaun hits a lot of fairways and greens. He ranked 32nd in Driving Accuracy Percentage and 30th in Greens in Regulation Percentage on the PGA Tour last season. His ability to keep the ball in play and avoid trouble has served him well at Torrey Pines and enabled him to log a top-25 and a top-10 in his last two Farmers starts.

Spaun looked a bit rusty in his 2019 debut at last week's Desert Classic, but played well during the swing season when he recorded a top-15, a top-10, and a T3. He's definitely not consistent enough to be considered in cash-game formats, but he's an intriguing GPP option and his cheap salary opens up a lot of options when constructing lineups.

 

Harris English (DK - $7,300 & FD - $7,800)

Notable Course History: T6 ('18), T4 ('17), T31 ('16), T2 ('15)
Recent Form: T51 (Desert Classic), T22 (Sony), T46 (RSM)

If you don't have the stomach to roster J.J. Spaun, then you definitely won't have any interest in Harris English. He had a downright dismal season in 2018, missing 20 cuts in 31 starts. He only logged two top-10s last year, but one of those came at Torrey Pines. It was remarkably English's third top-10 finish in four years at Torrey.

There's not a lot of statistical reasoning behind his excellent play in the Farmers. As we've discussed in this article several times in the past, sometimes a course just "fits" a player for whatever reason. That certainly appears to be the case with English and Torrey Pines. He's obviously a large-field GPP specific play and he's practically free on FD for those of you that have some interest in going "Stars & Scrubs" over there this week.

Golf DFS News and Player Outlooks

 

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Fantasy National Golf Club

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Premium DFS Golf Tools and Lineup Optimizer

Our friends at Fantasy National have created some game-changing DFS Golf tools, and you can read all about them here. They are hands-down the best daily fantasy Golf tools in the industry.

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