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PGA DFS: Horse For The Course - Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

Welcome back RotoBaller PGA family! My man Tony Finau was soooo close last week in China! Finau led a good majority of the WGC HSBC before falling to another young star, Xander Schauffele, in a sudden-death playoff.

Really excited that the PGA Tour is heading back to the U.S. this week for the (extremely long titled) Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. I'm also pumped to have the 36-hole cut rule back in play. There's just something about the "Friday Cut Sweat" that makes PGA DFS great.

Patrick Cantlay picked up his first PGA Tour victory in this tournament last year and he his back to defend. He's joined by a surprisingly strong group of players by fall season standards, including Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, and the aforementioned Tony Finau.

We are headed to Las Vegas and TPC Summerlin, which has been the sole host course since 2008, which gives us a nice base of results to evaluate. We all know about the elite players in this field, so I'd like to discuss some lesser-known options in this week's column. The time constraints of a crazy personal schedule are forcing me to hit you with a "rapid fire" style this week, but I hope you still enjoy the Shriners Open edition of HFTC. Let's try to find the fairway!

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 Summerlin - Par 71 - 7,255 Yards

We should see tons of birdies this week. The Par 71 is short by modern standards at just over 7,200 yards. The fairways are wide and firm. The Bentgrass greens are huge and roll slow. Throw in four reachable Par-5's and a driveable Par-4 and we have a recipe for low scores. With this talented field, the winner might need to reach around 25-under par this week. I'm weighting course history heavily this week and looking for ball strikers that can make lots of birdies and dominate Par-5's.


The Horse

Scott Piercy (DraftKings - $8,100 & FanDuel - $9,400 )

Let's hope this goes better than last week! Dustin Johnson let me down in a big way at the HSBC, but I'm not going to let that stop me from going a little off the board this week. My Horse for the Shriners Open is hometown boy Scott Piercy.

Since the Tour is in Vegas this week, let me work in an old Swingers reference on you beautiful babies by saying that Piercy has been so money in this tournament. In nine career starts at TPC Summerlin, the Las Vegas resident has made eight cuts. Piercy isn't just barely scraping by either, of those eight made cuts three have been top-10 finishes with three more top-25's.

It's fair to put Piercy in the "great ball striker, but can't putt" category that we are super familiar with as PGA DFS players. This dude is such a good iron player (11th in SG: Approach in 2018) and it's so frustrating that he can't get things worked out with the flatstick (190th SG: Putting in '18). Piercy is one of those guys with enough game to make a good living on the PGA Tour even while constantly struggling on the greens. On the rare occasion that he gets some putts to drop he has tournament-winning upside, as evidenced by his four career PGA Tour wins.

As a Las Vegas resident, Piercy is extremely familiar with TPC Summerlin's slow greens. This knowledge helps to serve as an equalizer of sorts when Piercy tees it up in this tournament. In addition to his elite course history, Piercy has flashed some nice form recently. During the Asia Swing, Piercy logged a T27 at the CIMB Classic and an impressive T5 in the CJ Cup two weeks ago. The combination of course history and trending form is something we are always trying to target in PGA DFS.

Piercy reminds me a lot of Keegan Bradley and in a normal week we can expect that type of "Keegan" volatility from him, but this is probably the only week of the season that we can actually expect Piercy to at least putt decent. Outside of the big boys with the high price tags, Piercy is perhaps my favorite GPP play of the week.


The Ponies

Cameron Champ (DK - $9,200 & FD - $9,200 )

I normally list the Ponies in order of salary, but I wanted to headline this week's section with one of the PGA Tour's most exciting rookies. This is not a course history play, as Cameron Champ has never teed it up in the Shriners, but is instead a chance to let my readers know about this ultra-talented young man. If you are reading this, you are probably aware of the fact that Champ won last week's Sanderson Farms tournament in impressive fashion for his first career victory on the PGA Tour.

In a world where all the pros hit it long, this 23-year-old kid hits it even longer. On the way to victory last week, Champ led the field in average driving distance at 334 yards and had the longest drive of the tournament when he hit a 360 yard BOMB in the third round. If that isn't scary enough, Champ was also second in the Sanderson Farms field in SG: Putting. He is a star in the making and perhaps the next evolutionary step in a game that increasingly becomes more about distance.

Despite the lack of course history, I find Champ relevant this week because TPC Summerlin has very generous fairways and four attackable Par-5's. Champ spent 2018 on the Tour where he led that tour in driving distance and dominated Par-5 statistical categories (1st in Total Eagles, Par 5 Scoring Average, and Par 5 Birdie or Better Percentage). Those skills should come in handy this week.

We don't know how he will handle the success of last week's win and we have no course history to rely on, but the upside is a DFS dream. We can safely assume that Champ won't continue to putt as well as he did last week, but his distance and advantage on Par-5's isn't going anywhere. Champ is appropriately priced on Dkings, but ridiculously underpriced on FanDuel at only $9,200. He's an auto-play on FD and I'm squeezing him in tons of GPP lineups on Dkings.

Webb Simpson (DK - $10,300 & FD - $11,700)

I feel like Webb Simpson is kind of the forgotten man this week, so I want to throw a little love his way. I don't know what the guy has to do to be viewed as an "elite" player, but you certainly can't argue with his 2018 results. Simpson had a career year in 2018, winning The Players Championship in dominant fashion, recording nine Top-10's, and finishing inside the Top-25 in all four major championships. He only missed three cuts all year and other than Justin Rose, was probably the most consistent player on the PGA Tour.

Simpson also made the U.S. Ryder Cup team and was one of the few Americans that came to play in Paris. Perhaps he's not garnering much attention this week because he hasn't played since the Ryder Cup, but Simpson closed out 2018 in hot fashion and I see no reason that his sharp play won't continue in Vegas.

He has, somewhat quietly, owned TPC Summerlin. Simpson is second in all-time Shriners Open tournament earnings, helped in large part by winning the Shriners in 2014 and scoring two additional Top-5 finishes in the desert. Simpson's game is complete and he ranked well in several statistical categories in 2018 (9th SG: Total, 6th SG: Putting, 4th Scoring Average). Despite his lack of distance off the tee, he remarkably finished 4th on the PGA Tour in Eagles and 12th in Par-5 Scoring Average in 2018.

I have a feeling that Simpson will go largely overlooked this week when we take into account the players that surround him on the salary scale. Both Patrick Cantlay and Gary Woodland sit just below him and should be very popular. Many will look to jump above Simpson to Fowler, Finau, Spieth, and DeChambeau. This gives us an opportunity to fire up Simpson as a very nice contrarian GPP play in large-field DFS tournaments.

Alex Cejka (DK - $6,900 & FD - $7,800)

I've spent every week since the Masters writing this article. I study and research course history for every PGA tournament that is offered as a DFS contest. Sometimes...even I can't figure this stuff out. That's pretty much the case this week with Alex Cejka. The dude somehow turns into Tiger Woods when he shows up at TPC Summerlin.

Since 2015, Cejka's Shriners Open results are: T18 ('15), T2 ('16), T27 ('17), T2 ('18). Zeee German has gained an off-the-charts 32.47 total strokes on the field over his last four Shriners appearances. To put that in perspective, in Patrick Cantlay's winning debut last year he gained 10.88 total strokes on the field!

I wish I could explain to you why Cejka has been so successful at TPC Summerlin, but I can't give you a definitive answer. He has an excellent short game, ranking 4th in SG: Around the Green and 15th in Sand Save Percentage in 2018. Cejka is also accurate off the tee, finishing 25th in Driving Accuracy Percentage in 2018. That's it...that's all I've got. Nothing else pops for me from Cejka's stats.

Players like Alex Cejka are what makes course history so interesting to me. It's why I never get bored writing this article. The pursuit of quantifying why a certain player always plays well on a certain course. Unfortunately, I'm not able to sufficiently crack the code on Cejka at TPC Summerlin...but there's always next week. Thanks for joining me guys, look forward to talking golf with you again soon!


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