This week marks the last regular tour stop before a couple of big world-wide events. The Zurich Classic takes place down in New Orleans at TPC Louisiana, and even though it’s not typically well attended by a lot of big named players there is some top talent in the field this week. Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson and Jason Day are all in attendance and it should be interesting to watch how these players handle coming off of the first major of the year.
The course itself plays as a par 72 measuring 7300-7400 yards in length. TPC Louisiana is one of the easier stops on tour scoring wise and the winning scores the past 5 years have ranged between -15 and -20. The players will get lots of scoring chances as the course features four mostly reachable par 5’s and some very short par 4’s as well. The greens here are also traditionally a little easier than most stops and some not great putters have found consistent success here in the past.
This week I’ve focused in on greens in regulation, par 5 scoring as well as some course correlation stats with other easier courses to help make my picks. Since a mix of accurate drivers and long bombers have had success here I’ve not given much weight to driving statistics and instead looked at who can consistently give themselves scoring opportunities this week, and who in the past has thrived at these type of shootout events.
This week DraftKings has a massive $27 buy-in $200,000 guarantee tournament going in their lobby. You can also enter satellites for their upcoming $2.5 million dollar “Millionaire Maker” tournament that takes place the week of the US Open. The winner gets a cool 1 million dollars. Daily fantasy golf is growing, and you can keep checking back here every week for advice and tips on who to play.
DraftKings Tiered Picks: The Zurich Classic
Top Shelf (10k and above)
Harris English ($11400): There’s actually a lot of talent at the top of DraftKings salary for you to choose from this week and I don’t think any player over $10,000 is necessarily a bad pick given the weakness of this field. But my strongest play goes to Harris English. Both of English’s wins on tour came at similar events which featured watered down fields and easier scoring conditions. English ranks highly in par 5 scoring on the year which will come in handy at this event and he also finished 6th here in 2013. I think there’s a great chance English gets back on track this week and ends up taking home the big check when it’s all said and done.
Second Tier (8000 to 9999)
Steve Stricker (9400): Steve Stricker played his first tournament of the year at the Masters two weeks ago and his play suggested that his long layoff did not hurt him one bit. This week he comes to a place where he’s enjoyed some very nice finishes throughout his career. Stricker has typically eaten up soft courses through his career (he’s won the John Deere Classic 4 times) and in four of his last five visits to TPC Louisiana his worst finish has been 13th. I think Stricker represents a great reliable option for fantasy players this week as he has the longest made cut streak going on tour at the moment. I like him to continue it this week and also to contend when it’s all said and done.
John Peterson (8900): Peterson is going to be a much talked about player this week for fantasy purposes and rightfully so. He’s made 9 out of 10 cuts on tour thus far and this week he essentially gets to play in a “hometown” event. Peterson is an LSU grad who will feel right at home on this course. He’s finished 8th at this event in the past and ranks very well in certain statistical categories of importance for this week. I think it’s likely Peterson gets very keyed up for this event and it won’t shock anyone if he posts his best finish of the year this week. He’s pricy, but if you can fit him in your lineups he should be worth the salary.
Justin Thomas (8300): One of my favorite plays for the week from a simple value perspective is Justin Thomas. Thomas may not have played at this event before but for all intents and purposes it should suit him well. Thomas ranks 4th in par 5 scoring on the year and also ranks 2nd on tour in actual birdies made. This is good since birdies will be needed in abundance this week, especially for players who are serious about contending. Thomas is coming off a great week at Hilton Head where he landed a T11 finish and I think he could very well improve on that this week. His salary is lower than other top players and still leaves you lots of room to maneuver.
Nick Watney (8100): From an overlooked perspective Nick Watney may be the under the radar play of the week. Watney is a former winner of this event who should be able to take advantage of his length and ball striking this week on some of the more score-able holes. Watney started out the season quite strongly but has faded a bit recently. I won’t be shocked if the recent break he took around the Masters (which he failed to qualify for) helped his game. Watney is a former top ten player in the world and I think his salary this week is simply lower than it should be, take advantage where you can as he might be ready for another top finish this week.
Third Tier (6000 to 7999)
Russell Knox (7700): Knox turned out well for me last week for fantasy purposes and given the fact that his price is nearly the same (in a much weaker field) I think it makes a lot of sense to use him again this week. Knox is ranked 21st in greens in regulation on the year and typically has a very good wedge game which can lead to him scoring a lot of birdies if he gets hot. Knox has fared well in some other events that feature easier scoring conditions (he was 2nd at the Shriners) and also posted a 59 on the web.com tour a few years ago. Knox finished 30th at TPC Louisiana two years ago but that included a round of 64. I think Knox can build on last week and I look for him to possible be near the leaders come Sunday.
Will Wilcox (7200): Will Wilcox is a player who is looking to establish himself as a regular member on tour as he only has conditional status at the moment. Wilcox has played some very consistent golf lately as he’s made his last 5 cuts on tour and also landed finishes of 6-18-14 in that span. As far as motivation goes Wilcox has more motivation than anyone in the field possibly as a good finish could mean that he gets full time status much sooner than later. Wilcox also ranks highly in some categories of importance this week, the best of which is his current rank of 6th in greens in regulation. Wilcox may not be well known by many gamers and I think that will mean low ownership. In a weak field a big performance by him could mean huge things for your team.
Alex Cjeka (7100): Cjeka is the type of player who really seems to do his best work in these lower tiered PGA events where scoring is at a premium. Cjeka has three top twenties and a win on tour this year and many of those results came at courses where scoring was much easier for the week than in an average PGA event. Cjeka also has a very nice history at TPC Louisiana as he’s finished 21stor better in 3 of his 5 visits to the course. Given his strong, consistent play so far in 2015 I think Cjeka should be viewed as a very reliable option this week for fantasy players and I wouldn’t be afraid to roster in him in any format.
Kyle Reifers (6700): Another player who has been playing well as of late and could go overlooked due to his lack of notoriety is Kyle Reifers. Reifers has two T11’s in his last two starts and has been posting some top finishes sporadically all season. In this type of event I could see Reifers gaining some extra confidence and building on his recent strong play. He ranks in the top 50 in both par 5 scoring and in greens in regulation. I think he makes for a great speculative gpp play this week as his price and potential make him a perfect pair up with your higher priced players.
Bottom Feeders (under 6000)
Eric Compton ($5800): Eric Compton is a tough player to figure for fantasy some times. He often goes on streaks of good play followed by streaks of missed cuts. Recently he’s been playing a lot better having made his last three cuts on tour. One of those cuts also just happened to be at Augusta in his first trip to the Masters. Compton has had some success at the Zurich Classic in the past and actually finished 5th in last year’s event. I think he should be quite confident from his play at Augusta and will look to build on that result with another quality showing in New Orleans. He’s always risky, but for his price Compton does offer more upside than most players.
John Merrick ($5500): John Merrick is the exact type of player I like to target when I go under $6000 in salary on DraftKings. He’s made the cut an astounding 8 out of 8 times at this event since 2005 and has also been playing more consistent golf as of late. Merrick is a former winner on tour who lost his full-time status due to poor play last year. However, he’s been playing more consistent as of late and has posted a 15th and a 26th in his last three starts. I think Merrick likely represents your safest play at this price range and I’d recommend him as good roster filler for your stars and scrubs lineups.
This week offers a lot of unknowns due to the likelihood of low scores and the wide open nature of the field. I’d suggest embracing this event by looking for outside the box plays and targeting those players you think will be able to bag you a ton of birdies this week.