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PGA DFS: Horse For The Course - WGC HSBC Champions

Thanks for dropping in for this week's Horse For The Course! Big, bad Brooks Koepka took down the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges and is now officially the number one ranked player in the world. Koepka has accomplished some amazing things in the past couple of years and shows no signs of slowing down.

Koepka will join some other big-time players in this week's World Golf Championships HSBC Champions event. The HSBC will once again be held at the Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai, China. Similar to the other "Asian Swing" tournaments of the last few weeks, this is a no-cut event with guaranteed money for the players. We all know the drill with no-cut events at this point and must build DFS lineups accordingly.

Justin Rose won last year's HSBC thanks to a massive Dustin Johnson meltdown in the final round. Rose started the final round EIGHT shots behind DJ, but hung tough for the win. He is back to defend and Johnson is back to take care of some unfinished business. This should be a fun tournament...let's tee it up!

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: Sheshan International Golf Club - Par 72 - 7,261 Yards

When the Nelson and Haworth Design team started construction on Sheshan International, they might not have moved heaven, but they sure did move a lot of earth. Over 1 million cubic meters of earth actually. They used all this dirt to create tons of slopes and undulations. There are few flat spots on these greens and many have false fronts that will run balls back into a collection area. Players will be put to the test with the flatstick this week. The fairways average just over 25 yards in width, which is pretty narrow by modern standards. We are looking for ball strikers and solid putters this week.


The Horse

Dustin Johnson (DraftKings - $11,500 & FanDuel - $12,600 )

I love revenge movies. You know the one's where the main character is going scorched earth on those who have wronged him or stand in the way of unfinished business. Dustin Johnson has plenty of the latter to take care of this week. He is returning to Sheshan International for the first time since an epic final-round collapse in last year's HSBC Champions. Now, I'm not sure if DJ is supposed to be Clint Eastwood or John Wick this week, but I got a feeling that he's coming to China and hell's coming with him.

It's crazy to say that 2018 was a disappointing season for Dustin Johnson, because the guy won three times, but DJ has come to the point in his career that success is measured in major championships. The 34-year-old let another year slip away without taking down a major in 2018 and he unbelievably still has just one on his resume. The frustration of failing to win a major championship has to be huge for DJ. Toss in a failed FedEx Cup title bid, off the course issues, and a disastrous Ryder Cup loss and Johnson should be plenty angry this week.

DJ was statistically dominant in 2018, leading the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, SG: Off the Tee, Birdie Average, and Scoring Average. When we use Fantasy National to narrow down our research, we can see that he has also been dominant recently. Over his last 36 rounds, DJ leads this week's field in SG: Tee to Green, SG: Ball Striking, and DraftKings points.

Since this is a course history article, I should probably mention that DJ has owned Sheshan International. In his four appearances at the Shanghai track since 2014, Johnson has a win and two top-five's. If not for last year's final-round collapse, that would be two wins. I think DJ will be hungry to make things right this week.

He is the highest-priced player on both DraftKings and FanDuel this week, as has been the case for about the last two years. We are putting DJ in lineups this week to win. He's expensive, but not impossible to squeeze in this week. We are aided by the fact that this is a no-cut event and the players we surround DJ with are guaranteed to get four rounds. I've long been of the opinion that DJ's "best" is better than anyone else's "best". I think we will see him come to play this week.


The Ponies

Rafa Cabrera-Bello (DK - $8,900 & FD - $11,000 )

With a tip of the cap to Paul Casey at $9,200, I'm going to drop down to Rafa Cabrera-Bello at $8,900 for top Pony honors this week. The Spaniard runs hot and cold, but we are catching him in great form after he dropped a pair of weekend 65's at the CJ Cup to finish in a tie for third.

Rafa has played well here in both of his appearances, finishing tied for 19th in 2017 and tied for fifth last year. In no-cut events we are willing to accept more volatility in exchange for upside. Cabrera-Bello can totally miss in some weeks, but when his game is on he's in contention at the top of leaderboards. He logged five top-10's in WGC and PGA Tour events in 2018.

Cabrera-Bello is a superior ball striker, ranking inside the top-25 in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, SG: Approach, and Greens In Regulation Percentage on the PGA Tour in 2018. He was dialed in at last week's CJ Cup, hitting an eye-popping 85% of Nine Bridges' greens in regulation.

The Spaniard can be volatile, but that's not necessarily a horrible attribute in DFS GPP's. Especially in a no-cut event, where we're chasing upside, Cabrera-Bello is a nice play. I like the combination of course history and recent form that he brings to the table this week. He's a great option in large-field formats.

Matthew Fitzpatrick (DK - $8,700 & FD - $9,600)

I'm gonna throw a little curveball at you for our next Pony. One of the cool things about doing this article every week is that you never know what player will jump out at you during the research process. Before I started research for this week, Matthew Fitzpatrick wasn't even on my "perimeter" player list and now he's squarely in play for me. The Englishman is one of those players that U.S. golf fans are aware of, but never target in DFS. At just 24-years-old, Fitzpatrick is an ultra-talented player. He plays mainly on the Euro Tour, but has popped up on some major championship leaderboards a few times in the past couple of years.

Fitzpatrick has quietly been lights-out at Sheshan International. In his last three appearances in the HSBC, Fitzpatrick has finishes of T9 (2018), T16 (2017), and T7 (2016). Pretty impressive stuff. He also comes to China in sneaky-good form, having won the Omega European Masters just last month. Fitzpatrick is an excellent putter with a tremendous short game, that is fifth in the field in SG: Putting over his last 50 rounds according to Fantasy National.

Fitzpatrick's ownership will be next to nothing on DraftKings this week. He is not a player that's well-known in the U.S. and his $8,700 price tag is fairly steep. It's a contrarian play, but one that could definitely pay dividends this week. We are always looking for ways to differentiate lineups in no-cut events and Fitzpatrick is a great option.

Russell Knox (DK - $7,300 & FD - $8,700)

Let's stay on board the European player train as we search for some value down the salary scale. Scotland's Russell Knox profiles as a very nice salary saver this week. He has a tremendous track record of success at Sheshan International, winning the HSBC title in 2016 and following that up with a T9 in 2017. Knox had a good 2018 season, winning the Euro Tour's Irish Open and logging three top-10's and eight top-25's on the PGA Tour.

Knox is statistically sound across the board. He lacks distance off the tee, but is extremely accurate. He ranked 20th on the PGA Tour in Driving Accuracy last season and is fourth in the HSBC field in Fairways Gained over his last 36 rounds. That precision will be a huge asset this week on Sheshan's narrow fairways that have an average width of around 25 yards. Knox is a grinder that will find fairways and greens throughout the week. It might not be exciting, but it's a style of play that has served him well in previous trips to Sheshan International.

Fantasy National currently has Knox projected at 13% ownership. I'm sure a lot of folks will gravitate to his course history at just $7,300. This is a week where things get ugly fairly quickly at around $7k on DraftKings, so Knox feels like a safe bet at his price, however his lack of recent play is a little scary. At the end of the day, he offers upside with great course history and helps us to fit DJ in lineups.


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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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