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PGA DFS: Horse For The Course - The Honda Classic

What's up PGA DFS fans? Thanks so much for joining me for another edition of Horse For The Course! Dustin Johnson was in 'God Mode' down in Mexico last week and made things look easy at the WGC-Mexico Championship. D.J. trounced the field and earned his 20th career win in the process. He also illustrated why he's basically unbeatable when he's playing his best.

While I didn't highlight D.J. in last week's article, we did have a very nice week with our WGC-Mexico stable of players. Rory McIlroy scored a solo second, while Justin Thomas, Sergio Garcia, and Joost Luiten (BAM!) logged top-10 finishes. Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Tyrell Hatton both finished inside the top-20, with Phil Mickelson logging a T39 and being our only true 'bust' last week. So hopefully you guys were able to turn last week's horses into some DFS profit. On a personal lineup note, Matt Kuchar ripped my heart out and stomped on it with his Skecher-clad feet. Scrooge McDuck tanked two of my excellent lineups with his weekend hackfest. Perhaps there was a little karma at play south of the border?

Things will be a bit tougher this week as we kick off the PGA Tour's 'Florida Swing' with the Honda Classic. I feel safe in saying that the Honda is the first real 'casualty' of the PGA Tour's new 2019 schedule. While I love what the Tour has done with it, the scenario of players being forced into tough scheduling decisions was inevitable and it's definitely put a slight damper on the strength of the field for this week's Honda Classic, with the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Players Championship both looming over the next couple of weeks.

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It's not as if the Honda field is devoid of star players...defending champ Justin Thomas will be teeing it up and he's joined by Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, and Sergio Garcia. While solid at the top, things do get rather thin, rather quickly this week. In addition to its unenviable spot on the new schedule, the Honda is annually held on one of the toughest courses on the Tour schedule. The Champion course at PGA National, with its infamous 'Bear Trap', strikes fear into the hearts of professional golfers. We go from a relative stress-free, no-cut WGC event to a tournament that can be brutally tough on DFS lineups. If you have heart problems, make sure to take your blood pressure meds before Friday afternoon.

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. 

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The Course: PGA National (Champion Course)

Par 70 - 7,140 Yards, Greens: Bermuda

As I mentioned in the intro, the players are facing a daunting task this week at PGA National. The Champion course ranked second in difficulty of all PGA Tour courses played in 2018 and things won't be any easier this year. The infamous 'Bear Trap' is a brutal three hole stretch (Holes #15,16,& 17) that can destroy a players' scorecard at the end of a round.

Water is prevalent on the Champion layout and over 75 sand traps lay waiting around the course. As if all that weren't enough, the Florida wind can always wreak havoc when it starts gusting! The players do finally get a break from the funky poa annua greens they've faced over the last several weeks, as PGA National has bermuda. I'm looking for players that have the ability to excel on hard courses, can avoid bogeys, and are solid ball strikers.


The Horse

Justin Thomas (DK - $11,900 & FD - $13,000 )

Notable Course History: Win (2018), M/C ('17), T3 ('16), M/C ('15)
Recent Form: 9th (WGC-Mexico), 2nd (Genesis Open), 3rd (WMPO), T16 (Sony), 3rd (Sentry TOC)

I think we're making HFTC history here! I know that I've highlighted players in back-to-back weeks, but I don't remember ever giving out Horse honors in consecutive weeks. However, Justin Thomas is a special kind of player that's playing the game at a special level right now.

I'm not going to spend a ton of time on J.T. this week, because if you play PGA DFS on a regular basis you don't need me to tell you that he's been on fire in 2019. Thomas stumbled a bit in the WGC-Mexico before dropping an electrifying 62 in the final round. It's honestly how I expected him to perform throughout the whole week, but yanno...GOLF IS HARD! J.T. actually lost strokes putting for the tournament and his iron play wasn't as sharp as we would've liked, but Thomas is the type of player that can win an event on the strength of one crazy-low round.

'Crazy low' will be hard to come by at the Champion course this week and it speaks to the difficulty of the place that Thomas has alternated a win and a T3 with missed cuts over the last four years in this tournament. While the missed cuts are a bit scary for a player that we're paying way up to roster, J.T. truly is the class of this field. Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka are elite players, but they're not currently on the same planet as Thomas.

I start writing this article immediately after salaries are posted (C'mon DraftKings, while we're young!), so I've not had a ton of time to play with roster construction yet...but it doesn't look like it's going to be easy to roster Thomas. That's ok and honestly kinda how it should be this week. Both sites have him priced up, which forces us to make a decision...J.T. and some guys that are risky OR a more solid build with more consistent players? I'm willing to roll with the most talented guy in the field and take my chances in some other spots, especially this week on a tough golf course where there are no 'sure thing' plays on the board, even if you take an ultra-conservative approach to lineup construction.


The Ponies

Adam Scott (DK - $10,300 & FD - $10,800 )

Notable Course History: T13 ('18), T14 ('17), Win (2016)
Recent Form: T7 (Genesis Open), T61 (AT&T Pebble Beach), 2nd (Farmers), M/C (Sony)

Beam me up Scotty! Adam Scott is kind of the Horse 1A this week. The guy with the perfect swing has basically been perfect at the Champion course. Over the last three years, Scott has two top-15's and a win at the Honda Classic, which is really remarkable when you consider: A.) how the difficult the course is and B.) the ups and downs that Scott's game has went through in that time period.

It was nice to see Adam Scott contending for a major again at last year's PGA Championship. His run in that event seems to have sparked a renewed interest in golf for a guy that at times has appeared as if he could take it or leave it. The Aussie has been motivated in 2019 and is playing some of the best golf of his career. He has a solo second and a T7 already to his credit in just four starts this season. Over his last 12 rounds, Scott leads this field in DK Points scored, an impressive feat considering Justin Thomas has played so well, and is third in strokes gained: total for that same time period. Scott isn't just popping in short-term stats, his long-term (50 rounds) numbers are perhaps even more impressive; he ranks second in DK Pts scored, third in SG: Approach, and seventh in SG: Tee to Green.

Maybe it's wishful thinking on my part, but I kind of like that Scott skipped last week's WGC-Mexico Championship. While most of the other heavy hitters in this field have had a long two weeks of travel between the rain-soaked Genesis Open and the WGC, Scott has had a week to relax and, hopefully, work on his putting (He's actually gained strokes putting in four straight starts).

I'm starting my lineups this week with either Justin Thomas or Adam Scott. It's that clear cut for me. Yeah, Scott's short-range putting can cause some involuntary breaking of random things by those that roster him, but I'm pulling out the bubble wrap and taking the plunge this week.


Sergio Garcia (DK - $10,000 & FD - $11,200)

Notable Course History: T33 ('18), T14 ('17), 2nd ('16), T31 ('15), T8 ('14)
Recent Form: T6 (WGC Mexico) T37 (Genesis Open), DQ (Saudi International)

It's deja vu all over again. Yep, Sergio Garcia was one of our Ponies last week and yep, he came through for us with a strong T6 outing in Mexico City. I'm riding the Spanish wave into Florida this week and will be on Garcia again for the Honda Classic.

Playing the blowup-prone Garcia at a difficult course with water and trouble lurking around every corner might not seem like a real bright idea, but Garcia has a pristine track record on the Champion course. The Spaniard is perfect in eight career trips to PGA National with a second-place finish in 2016, in addition to four top-15's.

True to form, Garcia was a ball-striking beast last week. He ranked fourth in the WGC-Mexico field in strokes gained: approach, gaining a massive seven strokes on the elite field. Garcia has also exhibited long-term excellence in ball striking, ranking third in the Honda field in both SG: Tee to Green and SG: Ball Striking over his last 50 rounds.

Garcia has received a fairly significant price bump on DK this week, going from $8k to $10k, but his salary is still workable. If you start your DK lineups with Justin Thomas you are left with an average of $7,620 for your remaining five roster spots. Another route to take is pairing Sergio with Adam Scott and leaving yourself $7,425 to work with over four spots.


Luke List (DK - $9,200 & FD - $10,200)

Notable Course History: 2nd ('18), T52 ('17), T10 ('16)
Recent Form: T15 (Genesis Open) M/C (WMPO), T40 (Farmers), M/C (Desert Classic)

As we move into the sub-$10k range on DK things start getting interesting. Luke List is a name that you will probably hear a lot this week in the PGA DFS industry. His course history is attention grabbing. List fell short in a playoff at last year's Honda and he scored a top-10 in 2016, so his game definitely fits the course.

He's had a forgettable start to 2019, but his most recent outing was also his best...List showed some signs of life at Riviera by recording a T15. The 34-year-old ranked fifth in SG:T2G in the Genesis field, which is an encouraging sign as he heads into the Florida swing, where he has traditionally played better throughout his career. The less said about his putting the better, but Bermuda is his best surface, which translates into: it's the surface on which he loses the least amount of strokes.

It's kind of remarkable when you look at his results, but List is actually 10th on the PGA Tour in SG:T2G in 2019. Ball striking is never the issue for 'Adam Scott-lite', we just need some signs of life from the putter and we're golden this week. His DK price point is a little funky, as the salary itself works best in conservative lineup builds, while List is actually a high-upside, high-variance play that's best suited for GPP's.


Michael Thompson (DK - $8,000 & FD - $10,100 )

Notable Course History: T24 ('18), M/C ('17), T53 ('16), Win ('13)
Recent Form: T7 (Genesis Open), T10 (AT&T), T13 (Farmers), T9 (Desert Classic)

If you had told me when this season started that we would be talking about 'Michael Thompson Chalk Week' as we kicked off the Florida Swing, I would've said that you were crazy...but here we are. I know it sounds crazy, but Thompson actually is pretty hard to ignore this week. The dude has been ON FIRE over the last month or so. Thompson has finished no worse than 13th in his last four starts, with three top-10's. He's not had an unbelievably hot putter, something we often see when guys go on monster runs, which leads me to believe that his play is somewhat sustainable.

Thompson's ball striking has been the key to his recent success. Over his last 24 rounds he is fourth in the Honda field in SG:T2G and eighth in SG: Total. He also ranks out top-five in the field in SG: Around the Green and DK Points scored. His standing of 45th in SG: Putting is an indicator that things could actually get even better for him if a few more putts start dropping.

In addition to his hot form, Thompson has some notable history at PGA National. He won the Honda Classic in 2013 and logged a top-25 finish in last year's tournament. I'm always looking for reasons to fade the 'flavor of the week play', but there's actually a lot to like about Thompson this week. He will be popular, but he hits a really nice price point for us on DK this week and is well worth a roster spot in your lineups.


Jim Furyk (DK - $7,000 & FD - $9,200 )

Notable Course History: T46 ('18)
Recent Form: T37 (Genesis Open), T14 (AT&T)

I'll be honest, I really labored to find a value option that I felt confident highlighting this week. As I've alluded to a couple of times throughout the article, this is a week when playable options are scarce as we get down the salary scale. I settled on Jim Furyk for a couple of reasons...he's a notable grinder that I love playing on tough courses and he's actually played really solid golf in his two 2019 starts. He ranks in the middle of the Honda field in SG:T2G over his last couple of tournaments, but he really pops in a couple of important categories. Furyk grades out first in the field in Bogeys Avoided and second in Opportunities Gained, a cool new stat from our good friends at Fantasy National that measures birdie opportunities from inside 15 feet coupled with greens/fringes under regulation.

Some would argue that Furyk's upside is capped and I don't completely disagree. My counter would be that I'll gladly take a made cut from a value play this week, on this course. It's easy to forget that Furyk was once an elite-level golfer. He stepped back from the game when he was named the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, but seems to be slowly working himself back into competitive form. Furyk grinded his way to a made cut here last year and I'm looking for more of the same from the steady veteran this week.

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