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PGA DFS: Horse For The Course - THE PLAYERS Championship

Welcome back RotoBallers! 'The Italian Stallion' Francesco Molinari caught fire Sunday to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational. I hope you read last week's edition of HFTC, as Molinari was one of our featured players!

Let's keep the momentum going, because we've got a big one this week. We head to TPC Sawgrass for THE PLAYERS Championship and you know it's important because it's ALL CAPITALIZED! The tournament does take itself a little too seriously, but it's with good reason, as it has the most elite field we will see outside of the four major championships, not to mention a $12.5 million prize pool.

All eyes will be on the injury status of Tiger Woods this week, but even if 'The Striped One' isn't able to go, we have a STACKED player pool to choose from! The DFS sites are giving the 'Fifth Major' its due by rolling out some major championship-like soft pricing. Let me go ahead and tell you that every lineup you construct will look good, but don't fall into the 'play everybody trap' that can so often happen in these type of events. Be diligent about keeping your player pool tight this 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!

As I just alluded to, Tiger's status is still up in the air at the time of this writing, but every other big name in professional golf will be teeing it in Ponte Vedra Beach. Defending champ Webb Simpson is back and looking to be the first repeat champion in PLAYERS history. He's joined by the likes of Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, and pretty much everyone else inside the OWGR's Top 50.

While this will be an exciting and fun week, it is not without some DFS challenges. Pete Dye specifically designed TPC Sawgrass to not favor any specific type of player, which can make it difficult to determine what traits to target. The soft pricing and deep player pool will also force us to make some tough decisions when finalizing rosters. We must also deal with the fact that this tournament is being played in March instead of May for the first time since 2007, which throws new course conditions and possibly weather into the equation.

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: TPC Sawgrass (Stadium Course)

Par 72 - 7,189 Yards, Greens: Bermuda

At just under 7,200 yards, the Stadium Course is one of the shortest layouts these players face on the PGA Tour schedule, but what it lacks in length, it makes up for in bite. The Pete Dye design that opened in 1982 has endured as one of the trickiest courses in the world. In true Dye fashion, it's a second shot golf course with danger lurking everywhere in the form of water hazards and bunkers.

This layout was specifically designed to not favor any one style of play, so we see holes of varying length in Par 3's, 4's, and 5's, doglegs that go both left and right, with no two consecutive holes playing in the same direction. THE PLAYERS' most iconic hole is, of course, the Par-3 17th 'Island Hole'. The 17th is short, but its psychological impact on players in key moments makes it difficult. A recent update to TPC Sawgrass now has the 12th hole playing as a driveable Par-4 with water in play to raise the risk/reward stakes.

With TPC Sawgrass being such a balanced course, it's tough to give the edge to one type of player this week. While we can normally classify courses as a 'bomber' track or an 'accuracy' layout, we have no such luxury this week. I will say that I'm not giving the distance guys their usual bump this week. I'm targeting ball strikers with strong approach games that are solid from tee to green. I will also consider a player's short game strength and ability to avoid bogeys, as big numbers are seemingly lurking everywhere at TPC Sawgrass. It's always hard to predict putting, but this week's winner will need to get hot with the flatstick on these fast bermuda-grass greens. I will also lean towards those in the field that have some PLAYERS experience, as this track can be brutal on first timers.


The Horse

Sergio Garcia (DK - $9,100 & FD - $10,900)

Notable Course History: 70th (2018), T30 ('17), T54 ('16), T2 ('15), 3rd ('14), T8 ('13), Win ('08)
Recent Form: T9 (Honda), T6 (WGC-Mexico), T37 (Genesis Open), DQ (Saudi International), T3 (Omega Dubai)

I'll be honest, it's with a little bit of reluctance that I'm naming Sergio Garcia the Horse for THE PLAYERS Championship. We all know how volatile the fiery Spaniard can be and that's always a scary thing to put a lot of faith in. However, with that volatility comes streaks, both hot and cold, and Sergio is on a doozy of a heater right now. I've been riding Garcia's hot hand pretty heavily (I've featured him in this article in his last two starts) and it's paid off with back-to-back top-10's.

I might be playing dimestore psychiatrist here, but since Sergio's little incident in Saudi Arabia, he is playing with a fire that we haven't seen from him in quite some time. The 2017 Masters champion has put on an absolute ball striking clinic since crossing the Atlantic a month ago. In his three 2019 North American starts, Garcia has been in elite form on shots approaching the green. His SG: Approach numbers look like this over his last three tournaments: Honda: 7.5 SG: App (3rd in the field), WGC Mexico: 7.1 SG: App (4th in the field), and the Genesis: 5.4 SG: App (7th in the field). Garcia has produced two top-10's and a T37 in those three recent outings, while losing strokes putting in two of them.

Garcia has an elite, yet somewhat flawed, history at TPC Sawgrass. He captured the PLAYERS title in 2008 and had a very successful stretch from 2013-2015 that included a T8 and back-to-back top-three finishes. His success at TPC Sawgrass hasn't come without a few battle scars though. The T8 in 2013 was the result of a late collapse in which Garcia was tied for the lead and proceeded to put three balls in the water on the 17th and 18th holes for a quad/double finish. Blowups and mental lapses are what has held Garcia back throughout his career and they are usually what gives me pause when considering him in big DFS situations.

I'm willing to roll with Sergio this week because it feels like there are no 'sure things' above him on the salary scale. While I would be willing to move up from Garcia for a level of 'safety' that I felt comfortable with, I just don't see it in this tournament. Sure, you certainly can spend up with this week's soft DFS pricing, I just don't know that you need to do so. I suppose a strong argument could be made for Justin Rose at $10.2k in just about any tournament, but all of the other players above Garcia come with either injury or course history concerns. Yes, Sergio is volatile, but that volatility comes with the type of upside that can help you win a massive GPP this week.


The Ponies

Xander Schauffele (DK - $9,000 & FD - $11,000)

Notable Course History: T2 (2018)
Recent Form: T14 (WGC-Mexico), T15 (Genesis), T10 (WMPO), T25 (Farmers), Win (Sentry)

We drop down just $100 from Sergio Garcia to our top Pony for THE PLAYERS, Xander Schauffele. The X-Man's TPC Sawgrass experience isn't extensive, but it is impressive, as he scored a runner-up finish in his PLAYERS debut last year. He looked extremely comfortable on the Pete Dye layout, and actually led the 2018 PLAYERS field in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green at 12.2 for the week, but was the victim of a somewhat balky putter.

The Schauffele of 2018 was very good, but the scary thing is the 2019 version is even better. He finished last season ranked 62nd on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, but currently stands at 13th in the same category this season. The jump has been powered by Schauffele's massive improvement with his irons. He clocks in at 11th on the Tour in SG: Approach this season, an area where he finished 64th at the end of last season.

There's not a lot that Schauffele isn't doing well at the moment. Using the stat engine at Fantasy National, he grades out sixth in THE PLAYERS field in SG: Total over his last 24 rounds and ranks inside the top-15 in the field in SG: T2G, Ball Striking, Short Game, Approach, and Putting over that timeframe. His game is basically bulletproof right now and in five starts this calendar year he has finished no lower than tied for 25th.

The days of Schauffele being a well-kept DFS secret are over. His DK ownership has steadily increased this year and he topped out at 25% in his last start at the WGC-Mexico. His ownership might get dinged a tiny bit due to the strength of this field, but I still expect him to be really popular. He's gonna pop in a lot of models this week...but there is a lot to like about the X-Man at TPC Sawgrass.


Patrick Cantlay (DK - $8,700 & FD - $10,000)

Notable Course History: T23 ('18), T22 ('17)
Recent Form: T6 (WGC Mexico), T15 (Genesis Open), M/C (Farmers), T9 (Desert Classic)

Man...I love the $8k range on DK so much this week. With a nod to both 'Fairway Jesus' Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari, I'm going to highlight Patrick Cantlay from this fertile price range. Despite his tortoise-like pace of play, Cantlay is a player you should quickly get in your lineups this week. After popping up on our DFS radars strongly last season, the 26-year-old has continued to roll in 2019. He defended his Shiners title with a runner-up finish to Bryson DeChambeau back in the fall and he's continued balling out as the calendar flipped into the new year. Outside of a squirrelly missed cut in the Farmers Open, Cantlay has been extremely impressive in his four 2019 starts, recording a T15 and two top-10's.

After suffering some career-threatening injuries early in his career, Cantlay's playing schedule definitely favors quality over quantity. Because he sometimes goes several weeks between starts, it can be easy to forget just how good he is. Like Xander Schauffele, Cantlay has exhibited excellence across the statistical board this year. Over his last five tournament starts, which includes the missed cut at the Farmers, Cantlay has averaged gaining strokes in every major strokes gained category. If we toss out the Farmers, Cantlay has gained over six strokes tee to green in each of his other 2019 starts.

Cantlay has managed TPC Sawgrass adequately in his two previous PLAYERS starts, logging back-to-back top-25's over the last two years. I expect more out of Cantlay this time around, and while predicting winners at THE PLAYERS is a dangerous thing, he's definitely a legitimate dark-horse contender. His DFS ownership is similarly tough to peg, as it feels like he should be popular, but in his last start at the WGC-Mexico he garnered just 10% DK ownership. As I mentioned, I love the $8-9k price point this week and it's tempting to just set up shop in this range and never leave. The combination of Cantlay, Fleetwood, and Molinari creates a very nice core to build around.


Henrik Stenson (DK - $7,800 & FD - $9,600)

Notable Course History: T23 ('18), T16 ('17), M/C ('16), T17 ('15), Win ('09)
Recent Form: T17 (Arnold Palmer Invitational) T54 (WGC-Mexico)

Over the weekend, I Tweeted that Henrik Stenson was like the Night King from Game of Thrones and he just re-emerges every so often to remind everyone what a badass he is. Well prepare yourselves this week, because winter is here and Stenson marches toward the wall. I really wanted to get 'The Iceman' in last week's API article because his record at Bay Hill was ridiculously good, but I chickened out due to his poor form. I forgot that sometimes a player's comfort level with a course can help to bring about good form and that's exactly what happened with the Swede at Bay Hill.

After an ugly start to 2019 that consisted of three missed cuts on the Euro Tour and a bleak-looking WGC-Mexico outing, Stenson became Stenson again last week. He gained a massive 6.7 strokes on approach and 5.2 T2G in the API. We know that he can go on white-hot binges and his API breakout bodes well for him this week, as he now heads to a TPC Sawgrass course where he won in 2009 and has recorded nine top-25's in 13 starts.

Stenson's Bay Hill performance will garner some buzz, but I expect his ownership to be reasonable in this super-deep field. He reminds me of the way I felt about Francesco Molinari heading into last week...a player who's year-to-date game log isn't very impressive, but who is trending in the right direction. He's a high-upside, low-ownership, GPP play that I love in large-field DFS tournaments.


Rafa Cabrera-Bello (DK - $7,400 & FD - $9,800 )

Notable Course History: T17 ('18), T4 ('17), M/C ('16)
Recent Form: T3 (Arnold Palmer), T19 (WGC-Mexico), T25 (Genesis), T22 (AT&T)

Like his fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia, Rafa Cabrera-Bello has been featured prominently both in this article and my DFS lineups recently. I promise I'm not trying to bore you with repetition, but as long as DraftKings refuses to raise his price tag, you will see him here.

Rafa's ball striking from over 200 yards looked to be a great course fit for Bay Hill last week and, sure enough, he came through in resounding fashion with a T3 in the API. Fresh off this solid outing and heading to a TPC Sawgrass course where he's went T17/T4 in his last two trips, Cabrera-Bello's DK price tag has...WENT DOWN $100!!!

In DK's defense, pricing for THE PLAYERS was posted early, so Cabrera-Bello's API performance wasn't accounted for. I'm definitely willing to take advantage of this pricing snafu, but so is everyone else, which means Rafa will be the uber-chalk this week. He's a no-brainer in cash games, but you might have to get creative to gain any leverage in GPP's, by either going extremely underweight or overweight on him. If you are playing the game-theory angle, then a fade is in order in large-field stuff, but if I'm forced to take a stand on him...I'll be heavy with my Rafa exposure.


Lucas Glover (DK - $7,100 & FD - $9,200 )

Notable Course History: T72 ('18), T6 ('17)
Recent Form: T10 (Arnold Palmer), T4 (Honda), T7 (AT&T), M/C (WMPO), T12 (Desert Classic)

Lucas Glover is one of those players that the casual golf fan doesn't give a second thought to, but is very well known inside the DFS community. He just quietly goes about his business without much attention from the media (except for one little incident) or TV time during the broadcasts. The 2009 U.S. Open champion is making some noise lately and is experiencing a true career renaissance in 2019. After a strong showing during the swing season, Glover has kept it going this year by racking up three consecutive top-10 finishes in his last three starts.

Always a tremendous ball striker, Glover has finally started getting a few putts to drop, as he's actually gained strokes putting in four of his five 2019 starts. His ball striking is still there, as he ranks out 16th in the PLAYERS field in both SG: T2G & Ball Striking over his last 24 rounds, but a suddenly passable short game has him contending on a weekly basis this year. I was surprised to find that Glover logged a T6 at THE PLAYERS just two years ago, because I didn't remember it at all, but this guy just has a knack for logging quite and forgettable top-10's.

As I've mentioned a couple of times, you don't really need to go to salary-saving extremes this week, but there are a lot of genuinely good players available as we go down the salary scale. Glover might be the most intriguing option of the bunch at around $7k. Rostering him opens up plenty of options like stacking Sergio and Xander together or nabbing one of the field's elite players that you might love and want to spend up for. It's always a little scary when your hoping that Glover continues to putt well, but he is a sharp ball striker that should be able to stay in the mix at TPC with even a mediocre performance on the greens.

Golf DFS News and Player Outlooks


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