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PGA DFS: Horse For The Course - WGC Mexico Championship

Hello RotoBallers and welcome back to Horse For The Course! J.B. Holmes took down a rain-soaked Genesis Open, overcoming Justin Thomas in the final round for the fifth win of his PGA Tour career. I unfortunately missed the boat on Holmes by a week, as I used him fairly heavily in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am where he missed the cut a couple of weeks ago and I had zero shares of him at the Genesis. PGA DFS can be a cruel mistress sometimes! Unfortunately for golf fans, J.B. still plays at an absolute snail's pace, which can make the TV coverage tough to watch. You have to wonder what type of effect Holmes' molasses-like pace has on his playing partners, as both Thomas and Adam Scott struggled mightily Sunday while in his group.

We go from an elite field at the Genesis Open to one that is just as strong this week. This is an exciting stretch of the PGA Tour schedule and we have excellent tournaments every week for the next month or so. The WGC-Mexico Championship has settled into the schedule nicely since replacing the old version held at Doral a couple of years ago. As with all WGC events, guaranteed money and no fear of missing a cut draws a stellar group of the world's best golfers. Phil Mickelson outlasted Justin Thomas in a playoff to win last year's edition. Both 'Lefty' and J.T. are back, and they're joined by Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, and Rickie Fowler just to name a few. As I alluded to a moment ago, this is a no-cut event, which does influence how we attack DFS lineup construction. With all players guaranteed 72 holes, we can be more aggressive than we might normally be.

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!

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!

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: Club de Golf Chapultepec

Par 71 - 7,330 Yards, Greens: Poa Annua

This WGC event has found a nice home in Mexico City, with the Club de Golf Chapultepec set to host for the third consecutive year. Perhaps the most interesting note about this course is its MASSIVE elevation, as it sits over 7,600 feet above sea level. With the thin air, players can hit the ball a mile. This might seem to favor bombers, but actually the opposite is true. With most fairways being tree lined, players often elect to hit less than driver off the tee. With that said, distance is always helpful and long-hitters have fared well here. Finding the fairway is crucial, as is a players approach game. We are still on poa greens this week, which always seems to be an adventure. I'm targeting players that find fairways and have sharp approach games, especially with their wedges.


The Horse

Justin Thomas (DK - $11,800 & FD - $12,000 )

Notable Course History: 2nd (2018), T5 ('17)
Recent Form: 2nd (Genesis Open), 3rd (WMPO), T16 (Sony), 3rd (Sentry TOC)

Oh Justin, Justin, Justin...what a brutal finish at Riviera. The combination of very tough conditions and tricky poa greens led to a final-round 75 last week and Thomas coming up juuust a little short in the Genesis Open. I'm generally skeptical of hopping on a guy the week after a tough loss, but I'm going to make an exception in J.T.'s case for a couple of reasons: A.) the guy is an ELITE golfer that has played exceptionally well at this course and B.) he has shown the ability to bounce back quickly throughout his career, as well as a penchant for getting on dominant streaks. So while we might worry about a hangover with some players, I think we'll see a highly-motivated Thomas in Mexico City.

He's been extremely sharp in his two previous trips to Club de Golf Chapultepec, logging a runner-up finish last year and a T5 in 2017. J.T. has gained nearly 25 strokes total on the WGC-Mexico field in those two starts and he's been especially comfortable on the course's poa greens...with performances of 4.8 Strokes Gained: Putting last year and 6 SG: Putting in 2017.

J.T.'s putting has improved with every start in 2019 and outside of Sunday's Riviera meltdown, he's been solid on the greens. He's logged three top-three finishes in just four starts this year and he's doing it on the strength of his irons, a trait that we are targeting this week. Thomas is averaging a massive 7.7 Strokes Gained: Approach over his four starts of 2019 and he ranks out number one in the WGC-Mexico field in SG: Approach over both long-term (50 rounds) and short-term (12 rounds) sample sizes.

Things line up very nicely for J.T. this week and both DraftKings and FanDuel have him as the most expensive golfer on the salary scale. While the top spot is normally reserved for Dustin Johnson, we are used to seeing Thomas at a high asking price. His placement at the top and his well-publicized failure to close in the Genesis Open might dent his ownership a bit, but I do expect him to be a popular DFS option this week. The good news is we like being aggressive in no-cut events, so we can feel comfortable squeezing J.T. in while differentiating our rosters in other spots. Thomas is playing at an elite level right now and he has a win coming very soon. He's a tremendous option in all formats this week.


The Ponies

Rory McIlroy (DK - $11,100 & FD - $11,600 )

Notable Course History: T7 ('17)
Recent Form: T4 (Genesis Open), T5 (Farmers Open), T4 (Sentry TOC)

Justin Thomas might be playing better golf than anyone in 2019, but Rory McIlroy can make a strong argument that the honor belongs to him. McIlroy has attacked 2019 with a seemingly renewed intensity level. Once pegged as Tiger Woods' successor, the man from Northern Ireland is reminding everyone that he still belongs in the 'best player in the world' conversation. McIlroy decided to shake his schedule up this year by playing early and often on the PGA Tour. The change seems to be suiting him, as he's rolled to top-five finishes in all three of his 2019 starts.

McIlroy skipped last year's WGC-Mexico Championship, but he notched a T7 in his 2017 appearance at Club de Golf Chapultepec. He gained a massive 9.2 strokes Tee To Green in that start, as well as 6.3 strokes Off The Tee and 4.5 on Approach. While we know that Rory is a master with the driver, he has also always fared well on less-than-driver courses. His ability to shape and place shots off the tee will be of the utmost importance on the tree-lined fairways he will face this week.

Long derided for his struggles on the greens, McIlroy has gained strokes putting in two of his three starts this year, while being a beast in all other facets. He's gained an average of nearly seven strokes Tee To Green over his three 2019 starts and ranks third on the PGA Tour in SG: T2G.

McIlroy's downfall has been his inability to closeout tournaments and his final round scoring average of 71 ranks just 149th on the PGA Tour. We have to believe that if he keeps giving himself chances he will be lifting a trophy sooner rather than later. McIlroy offers just a tiny salary discount from Justin Thomas, but should carry lower ownership. His DK ownership has hovered around 10% in his last two tournaments vs. 16ish% for J.T. If you want to get really frisky, it is possible to get both in lineups if you're going ultra 'Stars & Scrubs'. While I probably won't get that aggressive myself, it makes lots of sense to start GPP lineups with McIlroy if you want to pivot away from Thomas.


Phil Mickelson (DK - $9,300 & FD - $11,000)

Notable Course History: Win(2018), T7 ('17)
Recent Form: T37 (Genesis Open), Win (AT&T), MC (WMPO), T2 (Desert Classic)

I feel the need to give Phil Mickelson a mention here this week. The ageless wonder is up to his old tricks in 2019. 'Lefty' scored a victory two weeks ago at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and could very easily have two wins already, as he dropped the Desert Classic by one shot to Adam Long on the 72nd hole. The 48-year-old has vowed to cutback his schedule in 2019, but added last week's Genesis Open as a heat check after his win at Pebble.

Mickelson heads to Mexico City as this event's defending champion. He bested Justin Thomas in a playoff last year for his first PGA Tour win in nearly five years. While Club de Golf Chapultepec and Pebble Beach are extremely different, there is one notable similarity between the two...both courses require less-than-driver off the tee more often than not. I'm generally a little leery of using Mickelson in my lineups, because at this point in his career you never really know what you're going to get from him week-to-week. However, I'm always interested in him when the course he's playing basically takes driver out of his hands. 'Lefty' won at Pebble two weeks ago because he hit fairways and that was also the secret to his success in this event last year.

Mickelson is wildly inaccurate with the driver. He ranked 189th on the PGA Tour in Driving Accuracy Percentage last season and despite this being the age of 'Bomb & Gouge', his inability to find the fairway hurts him tremendously. Mickelson's average proximity to the hole from the rough in 2018 was just over 40 feet, while his average from the fairway was just over 30 feet. Another neat comparison can be made when looking at his last two tournaments; Mickelson gained over seven strokes on approach at Pebble Beach when he went with less-than-driver the majority of the tournament, but gained just over two strokes on approach at driver-heavy Riviera last week.


Sergio Garcia (DK - $8,000 & FD - $10,000)

Notable Course History: T7 ('18), T12 ('17)
Recent Form: T37 (Genesis Open), DQ (Saudi International)

Sergio Garcia is in a tight race with Matt Kuchar right now for the title of 'Most Hated Man in Golf', with the difference being that Sergio is used to it. The Spaniard got a little fired up a few weeks ago and dismantled some greens at the Saudi International. It was a classic Garcia temper tantrum. I'm old enough to remember when Sergio rivaled Tiger Woods in popularity and it was thought that the two would be great rivals for decades. Unfortunately, Garcia's mental makeup hasn't let him play consistently on that Tiger-esque level over the course of his career.

What has been consistent with Garcia throughout his career is his beautiful golf swing and ball striking ability. Those qualities have been on full display in Garcia's two previous trips to Club de Golf Chapultepec, where he's logged a T7 and a T12. One of the truly elite ball strikers in the world, Sergio is ninth in this field in long-term (50 rounds) SG: Approach.

A look at Garcia's game log won't get you too fired up and his struggles since his Masters win two years ago are well documented, but what you might not see is that he was playing really good golf over the winter. He logged a top-10 in November at the Hong Kong Open and a top-five a month ago at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic against some top-notch competition. Garcia is always a 'strictly GPP play' for me due to his unpredictability, but he's a nice large-field option that carries top-10 upside for just $8k on DraftKings.


Rafael Cabrera-Bello (DK - $7,800 & FD - $9,900)

Notable Course History: T3 ('18), T38 ('17)
Recent Form: T25 (Genesis Open) T22 (AT&T)

The first word that comes to mind when discussing Rafael Cabrera-Bello is 'solid'. He's kind of in that Matt Kuchar/Charles Howell III category for me in that his numbers and game logs don't jump off the page at you, but he's solid across the board in all facets of the game. The Spaniard stands top-25 in the field in numerous long-term statistics, including SG: Total, T2G, Ball Striking, and Approach.

Cabrera-Bello has logged top-25's in both of his 2019 starts on U.S. soil and he had a great stretch of play during the swing season. He's a 'set it and forget it' cash game option this week and can be utilized in GPP lineups if you're willing to swallow some chalk. His upside leaves a little to be desired, but his T3 in Mexico City last year is encouraging. There's plenty of meat on the bone at his $7.8k DK price tag.


Tyrell Hatton (DK - $7,300 & FD - $9,200 )

Notable Course History: T3 ('18), 10th ('17)
Recent Form: M/C (Genesis Open), T15 (WMPO)

Tyrell Hatton has lit up Club de Golf Chapultepec in his two previous trips to Mexico City. The Englishman has gained over 21 strokes total in this tournament over the past two years while scoring a top-10 in 2017 and a top-five last year. He has played well over his last 24 rounds and ranks first in the field in SG: Around The Green and ninth in SG: T2G over that time period.

Hatton is a bit of a 'Jekyll & Hyde' player that's sometimes tough to peg, but he has performed tremendously well in this tournament and at WGC events in general. He played well internationally over the winter and weirdly seems to consistently perform better outside of the U.S. He is priced too cheap on DraftKings and fits well with J.T. or Rory up top. Hatton brings some high variance to the table, but his downside is limited in this no-cut format. Fire him up in GPP's.


Joost Luiten (DK - $7,300 & FD - $7,800 )

Notable Course History: T37 ('18), T25 ('17)
Recent Form: T6 (Saudi International), M/C (Omega Dubai), 3rd (Abu Dhabi HSBC)

One of the coolest things about these WGC events is that we get to check out some golfers that we don't see regularly on the PGA Tour. Joost Luiten certainly falls into that category, as he rarely ventures to North America. The man from the Netherlands spends the vast majority of his time on the European Tour, so U.S. golf fans probably aren't real familiar with him. He's a superb ball striker that ranked 10th on the Euro Tour in SG: T2G last season. Luiten's strength is his iron play, he finished 2018 second in Greens in Regulation and ninth in SG: Approach on the Euro Tour.

He's a boom-or-bust player, as evidenced by his three 2019 starts...a T6, a M/C, and a solo-third. He has experience in this tournament and has logged solid outings over the last two years. While we normally skew towards DK pricing and strategy in this article, those of you that play on FD will want to give Luiten a long look, as he's practically free over there at just $7.8k. He's a nice GPP sleeper option on DK as well, as his ownership should be next to nothing.


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