Weekly Primer: Shriners Hospital for Children Open
The goal with my weekly primer is to provide you with a one-stop guide to equip you with all of the information that you need to make your picks and assemble your lineups. From course previews, to history, stats, and pick suggestions, this guide will provide a concrete base as you conduct your own research and submit your winning picks and lineups.
The Tour travels this week to TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas for the Shriners Open. TPC Summerlin is the same site for the Shriners Open as in 2017 when Patrick Cantlay claimed his first PGA Tour victory after a playoff with Alex Cejka and Whee Kim. Cantlay will look to be the first golfer to repeat at Shriners since Jim Furyk won in 1998 and 1999. Scoring was difficult last year as windy conditions overpowered the field for much of the weekend as evidenced by Cantlay’s winning score of 9-under. While 9-under may not look like a substandard score, consider that the last six winners of this event posted scores of: -20, -16, -20, -24, -24, and -23, respectively. This year the field does have some strength up top so Cantlay will have to battle out against Jordan Spieth who is making his Shriners Open debut, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Tony Finau, Gary Woodland, and recent Sanderson Farms champion, Cameron Champ.
For those of you that factor course history into their picks, TPC Summerlin has gotten a makeover since Cantlay’s triumph a year ago. The course will still play as a par-71 and remains unchanged at 7,255 yards but has had all of the 100+ bunkers on the course repositioned. If you like to factor in putting surface performance, the greens are Bentgrass and will be rolling around 11.5 feet on the stimp. The fairways are Bermuda. This course was the 10th easiest course on the tour last year relative to scoring.
This course has typically yielded low scores in the past, despite Cantlay’s 9-under victory last year, as evidenced by Rod Pampling’s 20-under victory in 2016, Smylie Kaufman’s 16-under victory in 2015, and Ben Martin’s 20-under victory in 2014. With past champions such as Rod Pampling, Ryan Moore, and Webb Simpson, TPC Summerlin can be won by shorter hitters that can remain in the fairways, score on the par-4’s, and scramble when finding themselves in one of the 102 bunkers on the course. TPC Summerlin was the third toughest course last season in terms of scrambling percentage and was the fourth toughest course in scrambling from the rough. The average proximity to the hole on shots around the green at TPC Summerlin was 9’5” which made it the longest Proximity to the Hole from Around the Green of any course played on the tour last year.
The course will offer scoring opportunities on just about every hole including the exciting 15th hole that was the second easiest hole last year. It is a par-4 that tips out at 341 yards and allows players to go for the green in one or layup and chip close to the hole.
don’t be quick to dismiss the weather forecast for this week as it played a crucial role here last year. However, it is not anticipated that weather will play a major factor this week as the forecast calls for sunny skies and low temperatures in the upper 60’s and highs nearing 80. It is worth noting that the wind will be blowing between 10-13 MPH during the week but the wind will feel dormant compared to last year. No precipitation is in the forecast.
Key Stats From Past Winners
The stats that stick out from the last three winners at TPC Summerlin (Cantlay, Pampling, Kaufman) are driving accuracy, par-4 scoring, strokes gained: approach, ball-striking, and birdie-or-better percentage. These are not surprising for a course that usually sees the winner at 20-under or better but still worth noting when looking at how players are currently performing in these statistical categories. You are going to want to target players that are setup with decent second shots and can hit approaches within close proximity to maximize any possible birdie opportunities.
Looking at Cantlay’s performance last season he ranked 1st in Strokes gained: OTT, T8 in driving distance, T9 in driving percentage, T4 in birdie-or-better, and T5 in driving accuracy. He also ranked T2 in Par 5 scoring although I would not weigh as much in this category as the Par-5’s were scored on by just about every golfer and ranked as three of the top 4 easiest holes on the course. Being able to birdie on the Par-4’s is where the eventual winner will separate themselves from the pack this week.
Two years ago Rod Pampling popped in several statistical categories. Pampling ranked 1st in total strokes gained, 1st in strokes gained: ATG, 2nd in strokes gained: APP, and was T1 in scrambling from the fringe, scrambling from inside 30 yards, and scrambling from 20-30 yards. He also ranked T11 in proximity to the hole from the sand (remember those 100+ bunkers I mentioned earlier?). Pampling gained 1.29 strokes ATG on the entire field.
Course History Targets
Course history can be extremely insightful when evaluating how a course fits a particular player and if a player has “an eye” for the course itself. There are four past champions playing this week including Patrick Cantlay, Webb Simpson, Kevin Na, and Ryan Moore. Here is a breakdown of some notable players that have performed well and finished inside the Top-30 at TPC Summerlin in the past.
Recent Performance Targets
Just as important, if not more so, when selecting a roster is recent performance. As Jordan Spieth showed us all last year, if your recent performance is lackluster then it may be a good idea to stay away despite how badly you want to roster him. I learned that lesson the hard way last year. Here is breakdown of some notable players that have been performing well as of recent and have at least one Top-20 in their last four starts. *Note, this list will not include players that do not have any starts post-Fedex Cup Playoffs*
Before I even begin making picks I will break down the field into six tiers A-F. When you have fields of 100+ golfers then it can be overwhelming to scroll back-and-forth and up-and-down when making picks. DraftKings has a nifty tool where you can export the entire DK roster with salaries to a CSV and open in Excel which I would highly recommend and then break down the picks from there.
When I am assembling my lineups or placing my bets, I will look at just about every stat that I can while also looking at course history and recent performance. There are certain players that just perform well at certain courses. Webb Simpson at the Wyndham, Zach Johnson at the John Deere, Jordan Spieth at the Master’s, Bubba Watson at any course that he has won, etc. You also have to look at how players are performing leading up to the tournament. I was burned multiple times last season by ignoring, or simply overlooking, this aspect when it came to picking or not picking Jordan Spieth. The other incalculable facet to weigh into your picks is the “gut feeling” that you have about a particular golfer. No worse feeling than letting numbers and algorithms get in the way of the gut feeling and then have that golfer win.
Two other factors that I take into account are the OWGR and the betting odds. Vegas always knows something that you don’t, so when I see a golfer in the sub-8k range and see he has the same odds as golfers in the 9-10k range then he is someone that I have to consider.
Taking the approach into consideration, let’s take a look at a few of my favorite picks from the respective tier. **Note, Andrew Putnam and Ernie Els have WITHDRAWN from the tournament as of 10/31**
Jordan Spieth– $11,000 (12/1, OWGR: 13)
Just like an insect to the bug zapper, I find myself gravitating towards Jordan Spieth once again. I know what I said earlier but, like I said, I cannot stay away and I am seeking professional help for this. Spieth has been on a winless streak that is very un-Spieth-like and I see this week as a good opportunity for him to end it. Plus, he has to be hungry to perform well after failing to make the Tour Championship and coming off the lowest finish in the FedEx Cup standing of his career. This is his first trip to Vegas and first tournament of the season. Those factors along with his paltry 2017 season (in Spieth’s standards) may keep ownership low and make him worth rostering. I also think that a lot of players will gravitate towards Finau for just $300 more. I’m from Dallas, Spieth is from Dallas, so call me a homer but when I see a course where you can go low and approaches and putting can get you there, then I think Spieth. Sure, he isn’t the longest driver or the most accurate, but I think his accuracy + approach will play to his benefit. Oh, and Spieth loves Bentrgrass greens. Since 2014, he is gaining 2.9 strokes on bent which is good for 3rd on tour.
Also like: Webb Simpson—$10,300 (13/1, OWGR: 19)
Gary Woodland– $9,700 (17/1, OWGR: 31)
One of my favorite golfers on tour that has been through tragedy over the last year and still managed to play well and win the WMO last year. He is also in good form right now with two Top-5 finishes in his last two starts and a Top-20 finish last year. He also comes in $200 cheaper than Cantlay that will most likely be a popular pick this week, and $500 more expensive than Cameron Champ that has garnered a lot of attention from the DFS community leading up to and following his win at Sanderson Farms. In the field, he currently ranks 5th in Ball Striking and 6th in Par-4 scoring from 400-450 yards.
Also like: Patrick Cantlay—$9,900 (16/1, OWGR: 23), Ryan Moore— $8,700 (55/1, OWGR: 69)
Kevin Streelman—$7,500 (100/1, OWGR: 152)
Admittedly, he may not be my favorite play but if you are looking for salary relief somewhere without diving too far down the list then Kevin Streelman may be your guy. He is a perfect 8 for 8 making the cut here with a 2nd place finish in 2015 and two 16th place finishes in 2014 and 2011. His most recent start he had a top-30 at the Safeway Open so his form isn’t outstanding but with many golfers making their first starts in a while, you will be hard-pressed to find too many golfers that are in good recent form. He is also a guy that can find fairways and hit nice approaches that allow him to score on Par-4’s which, as I mentioned earlier, will be very important this week.
Also like: Scott Piercy—$8,100 (45/1, OWGR: 176), Ryan Palmer—$7,900 (60/1, OWGR: 79), Sam Ryder—$7,600 (75/1, OWGR: 174)
Kevin Tway—$7,300 (80/1, OWGR: 83)
Tway comes into the Shriners with as good recent form as anyone else competing this week. He won the Safeway Open in Napa Valley where he led the field in scrambling by saving par 80% of time on 16 of 20 attempts. Scrambling is going to come into play this week and Tway’s recent form suggests that he could perform well this week despite a lackluster tournament history that boasts finishes of 32nd, MC, and 54th. Tway’s ability to boom the ball down the fairway will set him up with shorter approaches that will help make up for an average approach-game and, therefore, lead to some solid scoring opportunities.
Also like: Russell Henley—$7,300 (75/1, OWGR: 75), Danny Lee—$7,000 (80/1, OWGR: 132)
Alex Cejka– $6,900 (110/1, OWGR: 300)
It’s not very often that you get to write about Alex Cejka and suggest rostering him, but this is the week to do just that. He hasn’t played since the Northern Trust but his track record at the Shriners boasts two 2nd place finishes, an 18th place finish, and another 27th place finish. Cejka is also ranks 5th since 2012 at the Shriners in regards to score under par at -46. Also worth noting that he shot a 63 on Sunday last year to force a playoff with Patrick Cantlay and Whee Kim. The Cejka call is based almost exclusively off two things: course history, and the fact that many of you will take the Stars & Scrubs approach so Cejka at $6,900 provides a lot of value.
Also like: Seamus Power—$6,800 (125/1, OWGR: 323), Trey Mullinax—$6,700 (125/1, OWGR: 220), Corey Conners–$6,600 (100/1, OWGR: 268)
That’s a wrap! Good luck this week and, as always, let me know what other tools or information would be helpful for your weekly picks!