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PGA DFS: Horse For The Course - Waste Management Phoenix Open

Hi RotoBallers! Welcome to Horse For The Course! The Farmers Insurance Open provided a leaderboard full of elite players, just as we expected, but Justin Rose sucked a lot of the drama out of the final round. The Englishman got off to a shaky start Sunday, but quickly bounced back and played nearly flawless golf down the stretch. Rose's victory calms some concerns about a big equipment change that he made to start the year.

We go from what is generally viewed as one of the best tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule, to a tournament that is widely considered the most fun event of the year. The Waste Management Phoenix Open is famous for its party atmosphere. The sometimes rowdy Par-3 16th hole is a one-of-a-kind experience on the PGA Tour with its "Coliseum" seating and crowd involvement.

Gary Woodland is back to defend his 2018 title and he's joined by a solid field that includes 22 of the top 30 players in the current FedEx standings. The final round of the Waste Management coincides with Super Bowl Sunday, so it's always fun if you can have a PGA DFS sweat prior to kickoff.

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!

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 Scottsdale (Stadium)

Par 71 - 7,261 Yards

A lot will be made of the famous Par-3 16th hole this week, and rightfully so, as it's unlike any other hole we see on the PGA Tour, but players will have to tame the other 17 holes at TPC Scottsdale if they want to win this week. The Stadium Course isn't difficult by PGA Tour standards and the average winning score over the last five years has been 16-under par, with the 36-hole cut line normally around Even par.

Players will need to take advantage of three gettable Par-5s, as well as the driveable Par-4 17th hole, so distance is a nice bonus this week. Perhaps more important than distance is iron play...strokes gained on approach is a consistent trait of players that fare well in Phoenix. We have a nice sample size of course history to draw from this week and I feel comfortable making sharp iron play my top priority this week as I narrow down my potential player pool.


The Horse

Hideki Matsuyama (DK - $10,700 & FD - $11,800 )

Notable Course History: W/D (2018), Win ('17), Win ('16), T2 ('15), T4 ('14)
Recent Form: T3 (Farmers), T51 (Sony)

Ready for "Hideki Chalk Week"? I realize it's probably not very original to name Matsuyama this week's Horse, but sometimes things are just undeniable. If Matsuyama were an artist, TPC Scottsdale would be his canvas of choice. His track record in Phoenix is really second-to-none when we dig into a players history at a specific course. As you can see in the header above, Matsuyama had a pretty unbelievable four-year stretch here from 2014 thru 2017, logging two top-fives and two wins. He busted lots of DFS lineups last year when he was forced to withdraw from the Waste Management with a wrist injury that would hamper his entire 2018 season.

Matsuyama has gained an off-the-charts 51.99 strokes total on Waste Management fields over his last five appearances. That number is basically unheard of and all the more mind-blowing when you consider that his W/D after the first round last year is factored into that total! The Japanese star is an elite iron player and his excellence on approach shots has been the key to his success at TPC Scottsdale. In his last WM victory in 2017, Matusuyama gained 8.4 strokes on the field on approaches, a full stroke more than his nearest competitor in the 2017 field.

We don't have to wonder if Hideki is bringing his "A game" this week, as he heads to Scottsdale fresh off a T3 at the Farmers Open. Matsuyama was solid from tee-to-green last week, but his red-hot iron play was the driving force behind his success, as he gained over five strokes on the Farmers field on approach shots. If he continues striking the ball that well in Phoenix, he has a very good chance to lift his third Waste Management trophy in four years.

You probably didn't need me to tell you how well Matsuyama has played in this tournament, but I wanted to highlight him because he puts us in a very interesting DFS pickle this week. While DK has jacked his price by $2,700 above his ridiculous Farmers price tag, I don't think it's high enough to keep the masses away. How much ownership is "too much"? Matsuyama's course history is no secret and I expect him to be HUGELY popular this week. At what point do we consider fading him, even if we love his chances? Unfortunately, I don't have the column space needed to go into a complete game-theory discussion, but I'll say this...if you are a casual PGA DFS player that plays for fun and makes one lineup a week, I always recommend playing the players you feel most comfortable with, no matter their expected ownership. In addition to single-bullet lineups, Matsuyama is a slam-dunk in cash game formats. Where you might consider a pivot from him is in GPPs with huge fields and/or if you are entering multiple lineups.


The Ponies

Jon Rahm (DK - $11,500 & FD - $12,500 )

Notable Course History: T11 ('18), T16 ('17), T5 ('15)
Recent Form: T5 (Farmers), 6th (Desert Classic), T8 (Sentry TOC)

Jon Rahm's Waste Management resume isn't quite as impressive as Hideki Matsuyama's, but the kid is still young, just give him a little time. Rahm heads into this week's Waste Management Open as perhaps the hottest player in the world. After winning the "exhibition like" Hero World Challenge in November, the Spaniard has been a force in three 2019 PGA Tour starts, recording top-10s every time he's teed it up.

Rahm's gameplan isn't overly complicated...he is simply overpowering golf courses. The Spaniard's aggressiveness off the tee is paying huge dividends and Rahm will once again bomb away at TPC Scottsdale this week. He gained a massive 6.5 strokes on the field off the tee in last year's Waste Management Open and I expect more of the same this week. Maybe we should call him "Teflon Jon" because the normal TPC Scottsdale rules didn't apply to him in 2018, as Rahm nabbed a T11 despite horrible iron play that led to him losing four strokes to the field on approach shots. He was the only player to finish inside the top-25 of last year's WM and lose strokes on approach.

Rahm is very familiar with this course. He was a collegiate star at Arizona State University and has seen a ton of TPC Scottsdale. He recorded a T5 here as an amateur in 2015. He is very capable of winning this week's tournament and racking up major fantasy points along the way. Rahm is second in this field in DraftKings points scored over his last 24 rounds and he's fifth in the field in Birdies or Better Gained in the same 24 round span.

Rahm sits atop the salary scale on both DK and FD. While he went under-owned in the same position at the Farmers last week, I expect his popularity to see a big uptick this week. He's a spend-up alternative to Matsuyama...or you can even pair them together if you want to take an aggressive "Stars & Scrubs" approach.


Webb Simpson (DK - $9,700 & FD - $10,800)

Notable Course History: M/C (2018), 2nd ('17), T14 ('16), 10th ('14)
Recent Form: T8 (Sentry TOC)

Those of you that are looking for an alternative to Matsuyama and/or Rahm, might want to consider Webb Simpson. I have a feeling that Simpson might go slightly overlooked this week, and based on his 2018 output and history at TPC Scottsdale, not considering him could be a huge mistake.

Simpson has actually been on my radar for a few weeks...I was very frustrated that he skipped the Sony Open in Hawaii. After firing an eight-under par final round in the Sentry Tournament, I was ready to jump on Simpson in the upcoming Sony where he had an AMAZING track record. For some reason, Simpson decided to skip the Sony and hasn't made a start since the Sentry. Anyway...I guess that's the long way of saying that I've been ready to get Simpson in a DFS lineup for weeks and the Waste Management is a great spot to do so.

Simpson logged an oddball missed cut at last year's WM, but that performance looks like an extreme outlier when compared to his previous trips to TPC Scottsdale. The Wake Forest alum has gained nearly 28 strokes total over his career in the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Simpson possesses the type of sharp iron game that we are looking for this week. He ranks fifth in Strokes Gained: Approach on the PGA Tour in 2019 (including the fall season) and stands ninth in this week's field in SG: Approach over his last 50 rounds.

I love the leverage that Simpson offers in GPPs. His DK price is higher than fan favorites like Tony Finau and Rickie Fowler and there's a good chance that he's off people's radars because he hasn't played in a few weeks. Fire him up as a sneaky tournament play with huge upside.


Daniel Berger (DK - $8,200 & FD - $10,400)

Notable Course History: T11 ('18), T7 ('17), T58 ('16), T10 ('15)
Recent Form: M/C (Farmers), T12 (Desert Classic)

It would be pretty easy to skip right over Daniel Berger's name during lineup construction this week. Berger was a rising star on the PGA Tour just a couple years ago, but was plagued with a wrist injury throughout 2018 that led to his worst season as a pro. The 25-year-old didn't play any events during the swing season, using the down time to rest and rehab his wrist. Berger made his 2019 debut at the Desert Classic two weeks ago and played really well, logging a T12 while gaining over three strokes on the field on approach. He had a disappointing outing in the Farmers last week, shooting 75-69 to miss the cut. I'm not going to read too much into that performance though, as Berger has never played well at Torrey Pines.

However, Berger has played well at TPC Scottsdale, logging two top-10s and a T11 in four career WM appearances. It's easy to forget, but this is a young player that already has two victories on the PGA Tour in his short career. His sometimes ugly play in 2018 makes it hard to get excited about him, and I don't recommend him in cash game formats, but this kid definitely carries tournament-winning upside. His ownership will be next to nothing and he's a very viable contrarian option in GPPs.


Zach Johnson (DK - $7,800 & FD - $10,000)

Notable Course History: T57 ('18), T12 ('17), T14 ('16), T10 ('15)
Recent Form: T28 (Desert Classic), MC (Sony)

I have to pick and choose when to feature Zach Johnson in this article, because he has such good history at so many different courses on the PGA schedule. TPC Scottsdale is no different. ZJ ran off a string of top-15 finishes between 2015 and 2017 before logging a T57 clunker here last year.

Johnson hasn't been his usual consistent self over the past year. He made a switch to PXG clubs and parted ways with his long-time caddie Damon Green over the winter. So...things aren't sailing as smoothly as we've come to expect from the two-time major champion. His inclusion on this week's list comes down to his really reasonable price on DK. At $7,800, Johnson is hard to pass up in cash game formats.


Talor Gooch (DK - $7,500 & FD - $8,700 )

Notable Course History: None
Recent Form: T3 (Farmers), 4th (Desert Classic), MC (Sony)

I pride myself on being willing to think outside of the box. This week that comes in the form of Talor Gooch, a player that has never teed it up in the Waste Management Open. Despite zero course history, I felt that Gooch was at least worth a mention here, due to his FIRE play over the last two weeks. The 27-year-old has scored back-to-back top-five finishes over the last two weeks at the Desert Classic and Farmers. Gooch has been in the zone, gaining strokes in every statistical category, with over seven strokes gained tee to green in his last two starts. In a tournament that includes players like Jon Rahm and Justing Thomas, it's a guy named Gooch that leads this field in DK Points scored over the last 24 rounds.

Gooch's game log makes for some interesting reading. You'll mostly find missed cuts or great finishes and not much in his bubble will probably burst very soon. His recent streak has been helped tremendously by a hot putter and that's always a dangerous thing to count on, but when Gooch's irons are on, they are REALLY ON, and he's been striping them recently. I'm willing to take a shot on riding the hot hand in some large-field GPPs with cheaper entry fees.


Lucas Glover (DK - $7,200 & FD - $9,700)

Notable Course History: T43 ('18), T36 ('17)
Recent Form: T12 (Desert Classic), T11 (RSM), T7 (Shriners)

I'll be the first to admit that Lucas Glover doesn't have spectacular course history in the Waste Management Phoenix Open, but he has been solid, making three cuts in his last four appearances. This play centers more around Glover's talent and DK price than his track record at TPC Scottsdale.

In Glover, we have the opportunity to grab a really good player that demonstrated very sharp form in the swing season and played well in his lone 2019 start, logging a T12 at the Desert Classic. If we want to squeeze in the Rahm's and Matusuyama's this week, we must find some salary relief somewhere and Glover fits the bill. While Glover's struggles on the greens are well documented, he has been routinely solid in every other facet. He ranks an impressive ninth in the WM field in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green over his last 24 rounds.


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