The tour heads back into Texas this week for the Crowne Plaza Invitational as we inch closer to the second major of the season, the US Open. Last week Rory McIlroy torched the field with a record setting performance but this week the rest of the PGA tour is left to fend for itself as a very balanced field awaits. The Crowne Plaza event is played at Colonial Country Club, one of the oldest courses on tour and it typically does not disappoint. Colonial does not play particularly long but has many challenging par 4’s and tight tree lined fairways. Accuracy is vital this week as many of the holes are also well protected by water and bunkers. This course is a great example of “target golf” and players will need to be accurate with their tee shots and approaches as the greens and fairways here are both smaller than usual.
To compensate for the course this week I’ve placed an emphasis on approach proximity, par 4 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and sand save percentages. The lack of par 5’s on the course and the challenging nature of the par 4’s will mean those who handle the par 4’s the best should rise to the top this week. Additionally, while length isn’t a huge factor being accurate and solid from tee to green is vital. Hence proximity to hole on approach shots and strokes gained: tee to green are stats I think we’re worth emphasizing.
As Adam Scott proved last year, you don’t have to be a great putter to win here if you have a great ball striking week. Finally, what many past champions seem to have in common is great bunker play. I’ve therefore given extra emphasis to players who are strong from the sand and should be able to handle Colonial’s many strategically placed bunkers.
DraftKings Crowne Plaza Invitational Tiered Picks
Top Shelf (10k and above)
Zach Johnson (12000): When you’re going this high in salary you want as close to a sure thing as possible and this week that is essentially what Zach Johnson gives you. Johnson is a two-time winner of this event and since 2009 has only finished outside the top ten once (last year when he finished 73rd). Johnson loves courses where he can attack the greens with his short irons and Colonial provides many of those opportunities. While I don’t like his high price-tag I do think Johnson is playing well enough to consider using him in some lineups this week. Look for some good value plays to surround him with and be confident in a good return from Zach this week.
Second Tier (8000 to 9999)
Kevin Na (9900): I think given all of the talent between 8000 and 9500 this week on DraftKings Kevin Na could very likely go overlooked. However consider that in his last 6 appearances Na’s worst finish is a 20th place and in that same span he has recorded 4 top ten’s. Na played tentatively down the stretch at the Players but this week he is competing in a much weaker field and could flourish as a result. He ranks in the top 20 in par 4 scoring and 26th in strokes gained: tee to green, two stats I’m really focusing on this week. Na has a long history of success at this event, even though he’s never won it. I think it sets up perfectly for him and given his recent stretch of great play, and won’t be shocked if he takes home the winner’s trophy.
Brendon Todd (9100): Todd’s a player who paid off handsomely for fantasy players a few weeks ago at the RBC Heritage and he could easily replicate that feat again this week. In the past he’s thrived at shot-makers golf courses like Colonial and I see no reason for that trend to stop this week. Todd ranks highly in strokes gained: tee to green (26th), is 2nd on tour in sand save percentage and is top twenty-five in both strokes gained: putting and driving accuracy. Todd has been an extremely reliable fantasy option as of late and I see no reason for that trend to stop. He finished 5th here last year in only his second visit and another solid showing seems likely. He should be in a lot of your lineups this week.
Chris Kirk (9000): Kirk can be hard to figure out for fantasy purposes. Even though he makes a lot of cuts he tends to intersperse high finishes with some very average ones. The great thing about Kirk though is that when he’s on he typically finishes near the top of the leaderboard, and he’s already collected three wins in his young career. Kirk is a great bunker player (1st in sand save % on tour) who’s putting and tee to green game has been picking up steam lately. He had a great showing at the Players and also a solid showing at Augusta a few weeks before. Kirk’s really taken a liking to this course as he’s made all four cuts at Colonial since 2011 while landing 12th and 5th place finishes along the way. After a slow start to the season I’m ready to start using Kirk as a reliable option for fantasy again and this week makes perfect sense given his obvious fit for the course.
Ben Martin (8500): Martin has quietly been one of the hotter players on tour over the past couple months. He’s now landed two-Top 5 finishes in his past five events and came very close to winning the Players Championship in his first appearance. Martin is yet another player who really seems suited for Colonial as he ranks highly in par 4 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and driving accuracy. I really like the fact that Martin is priced well under 9000 this week and think he offers the same or better upside than many of the players priced above him. Martin finished 21st last year and could easily better that finish in 2015. He’s another option to consider for use in all formats of play on DraftKings this week
Steve Stricker (8500): Stricker has not played much this year but that shouldn’t stop you from using him. Stricker had a decent showing at the Players two weeks ago and is a past winner of this event. Even though his made cut streak ended recently, Stricker still remains one of the most reliable cut makers for fantasy as he had gone years without missing a cut on tour prior to that week. He may not be a flashy option but with course experience being such a huge factor this week I think overlooking Stricker as a solid fantasy play is a mistake. His price is more than affordable for what he offers and I won’t be shocked if you see a return to form at a course he’s had a ton of success on in the past.
Third Tier (6500 to 7999)
Jason Bohn (7300): Jason Bohn is putting together a decent season thus far in 2015. He’s now made 7 of 10 cuts and landed two top twenties and one top ten in that span. Bohn is a veteran on tour whose strengths have always been his wedge game and accuracy. This year on tour he ranks 16th in par 4 scoring, 8th in driving accuracy and 6th overall in proximity to the hole on his approaches. I really like the way that Jason Bohn sets up for the course and also like the fact he’s played this event numerous times. In a week where course experience and accuracy are so vital I think Bohn is a very strong, very under the radar option and offers nice upside at a cheap price.
David Toms (7200): Toms is a past winner at Colonial who is also showing some strong form as of late. Toms is one of the most accurate players on tour and has been for the past twenty years. He has loads of experience playing at Colonial and in his last 4 starts here he’s posted finishes of 1st and 5th. Toms looked very solid at the Players Championship a week ago where he ended up finishing T13. He ranks highly in par 4 scoring and in proximity to the hole with his approaches. I love his lengthy history at Colonial and his cheaper price-tag. I think Toms makes for a great cash game play and is someone I expect to see playing the weekend with an outside shot at a top ten finish.
John Peterson (6900): Peterson is likely going to be the most popular pick on DraftKings this week due to his extremely high rate of making cuts and also the way his game fits this course. Dating back to his last 16 events Peterson has only missed the cut twice and has now made 7 cuts in a row. A Texas native, Peterson played this event back in 2013 under a sponsor’s exemption and finished top 30 after opening with a 64. He’s been extremely solid with his entire tee to green game this year and also ranks highly in par 4 scoring. I think Colonial is a perfect fit for Peterson’s game and he offers you all kinds of flexibility for his price. He’s my top cash-game play of the week.
Chris Stroud (6800): If you are looking to fade a highly owned value play this week Stroud might be the perfect fit for some of your gpp lineups. Although he’s been rather inconsistent on the season, Stroud has flashed some high finishes and solid play in his past few events. Even though he doesn’t rank super high in any statistical categories on the year, Stroud is a player who relies on an accurate wedge game and solid putting stroke when he is on. He’s had a lot of success on the Colonial greens in the past having never finished worse than 14th here in his last three starts at the course. I really like Stroud’s course history and his potential as a speculative gpp play this week.
Bo Van Pelt (6600): BVP is another player with a great course history who you should not ignore this week. In his last ten starts at this event BVP has never missed a cut and also landed finishes of 3-10-12-14 in that span. Even better is the fact that BVP has actually been playing some solid golf of late as he’s now made three of his last four cuts on tour and posted a 9th place at the similarly styled Hilton Head golf course a few weeks back. Van Pelt is a supremely accurate iron player when he is on and his recent stretch of play gives me great confidence in him for use this week at his favorite golf course. At 6600, he’s one of the best lower priced option to use with your top heavy lineups.
Bottom Feeders (under 6500)
Bryce Molder (6000): Molder represents the best of the lower-tiered players this week. He’s been semi-solid recently, having made his past three cuts on tour, and also has decent experience playing Colonial (5th place in 2010). Molder actually ranks top 30 in par 4 scoring for the year and is someone who has always seemed to excel at shorter par 70 courses (15th recently at Hilton Head). One of the things I like best about Molder is the fact that he’s ranked 5th in strokes gained: putting on the year and will be able to make up some strokes on the field once he reaches the greens. He’s actually quite a solid option this week for how cheaply he’s priced and someone you want to consider when making gpp lineups this week.