This is a full-field event at 156 golfers. In non-pandemic affected seasons, this event would have been one of two Pro-Am’s on TOUR (the other being Pebble Beach), but the field will be pros only because of the COVID-19 restrictions this year — and t here will be a couple of other quirks for 2021. For this season only, the cut will be after 36 holes — not 54 holes as it is here most years — and only two courses will be in play in the TPC Stadium (the host course) and the Nicklaus Tournament venue. The event should retain most of its usual flair though, which includes nice desert weather and low scoring (the winner here always gets to 20-under or better).
The field for this year’s event is also a bit more star-studded, possibly due to the lack of amateur commitments the players would normally deal with. World No. 9 Patrick Cantlay will be in attendance, as will No. 11 Patrick Reed, No. 12 Brooks Koepka and No. 15 Matthew Wolff. Koepka and Wolff are both making their 2020-21 season debuts here.
PGA West—Palm Springs, California
TPC Stadium (home course, played twice) 7100-7300 yards, par 72
Nicklaus Tournament 7100-7160 yards, par 72
The tournament this week will be played on two courses, but they’re both venues that have been in the rotation since 2017. The TPC Stadium course will act as the host venue for the week while Nicklaus will serve as the rotational course for the players prior to the 36-hole cut. The Stadium course can stretch to 7300 yards, although generally these set up at around 7000-7150 yards for the week, making distance less of a factor. Players can still be very aggressive here, though. The rough is generally kept low and the Par 5’s are almost all reachable in two with a solid drive. Last year the Nicklaus venue played as the second-easiest on TOUR, yielding a 69.059 scoring average while the Stadium course was the 10th-easiest (out of 49). Slightly cooler weather and no amateurs means we could see a slightly tougher setup this year — but still expect these course to yield a ton of birdies.
While it has been tamed lately by PGA pros, the Pete Dye-designed stadium venue was once rated as the fourth-toughest course in America by Golf Digest and has the highest slope-and-stroke ratings of any of the three venues used for this event. The course shares a lot of similarities with its more famous sister venue, TPC Sawgrass down in Florida. Water comes into play on seven holes, and the 17th is a near replica of the famous Par 3 island green 17th at Sawgrass. There’s a ton of sand here too with over 90 bunkers. One of the Par 5’s is guarded by a massive crater-like bunker which requires a good shot just to escape from. It’s a creative course with lots of little quirks. Even if it will yield a lot of birdies, the finishing stretch here is almost always fun and is known for producing good drama.
One final note: the greens here are still predominately Bermuda but they will play slightly differently than the ones last week because of the climate. Players with good history at this event can be bumped up slightly, in terms of fantasy value, because a couple different courses are in play here, too. Seven of the last eight winners had played this event at least once prior to winning, and 2020 winner Andrew Landry had put up a second-place playoff-loss finish here as recently as 2018.
2021 Weather: This is one of those events where we often don’t have to worry about the weather much. But with just two courses in play this year and a 36-hole cut, it may become a touch more important. The highs will only be in the low 70’s the first two days and it looks like cooler weather is moving in on the weekend as highs will dip into the low 60’s. Friday afternoon looks like the windiest wave of the first two days, although gusts are only expected to be around 10-12mph. If those picked up a bit, it could become something to avoid. Saturday actually calls for some rain — which is rare for Palm Springs — so that could become something to watch for showdown purposes. Ultimately there’s not a ton to worry about. Late starters may even have an advantage this week if the wind stays down due to the cooler desert mornings.
Last 5 winners
2020—Andrew Landry -25 (over Abraham Ancer -24)
2019—Adam Long -26 (over Phil Mickelson -25)
2018—Jon Rahm -22 (over Andrew Landry playoff)
2017—Hudson Swafford -20 (over Adam Hadwin -19)
2016—Jason Dufner -25 (over David Lingmerth playoff)
– Ten of the past 11 winners of this event played in one of the two season-opening events in Hawaii in the year of their respective wins — the exception was Bill Haas in 2015.
– Of the past eight winners, five played in the Sony Open the week before and three of the five made the cut there finishing ninth/13th/31st(Adam Long and Andrew Landry missed cut at the Sony in 2019 and 2020, respectively, before winning here).
– Seven of the past eight winners had played in this event at least once before prior to their win — the exception was Adam Long in 2019.
Winners Stats and Course Highlights
Andrew Landry ($7,600; 2020 winner at 25-under-par)
2020 lead-in form (MC-MC-MC-MC-MC)
· The last two winners here (Adam Long and Andrew Landry) have had almost zero lead-in form, with Landry coming in off five straight missed cuts to win in 2020 (he was 500-1 pre-event).
· The stats here only include two rounds at a measured course (Stadium), but we can see that Strokes Gained: Approach rates out as vitally important, again, since that’s where Landry gained his biggest edge.
· Three of the last four winners of this event gained +3-strokes or more in two rounds at the Stadium Course over the field; three of the past four winners here also gained +3-or more strokes putting over two rounds.
This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
Scottie Scheffler +1700 and $9,500
· Tony Finau +1700 and $10,500
· Matthew Wolff +2300 and $9,700
· SungJae Im +2100 and $9,900
Zach Johnson +5500 and $7,900
· Brian Harman +5500 and $8,100
· Adam Hadwin +7000 and $8,000
· Sam Burns +7000 and $8,300
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Adam Hadwin (best finishes: T2-2019, T3-2018, T2-2017): Hadwin has turned into a bit of the final boss for this event. The Canadian is a perfect 5-for-5 in made cuts here and hasn’t finished worse than T6 here in his last four starts. He’s gained over a stroke putting here in every one of his five starts, as well.
2. Andrew Landry (best finishes: win-2020, second-2018): Landry has somehow managed to turn the jets on here every season, even if he’s coming in with horrid form — which was the case in 2020. In four appearances at TPC Stadium/Nicklaus Tournament, he’s gained +2.0-or-more strokes on his approaches in each start and finished in second or first in two of the last three iterations of this event.
3. Phil Mickelson (best finishes: T2-2019, win-2002 and 2004): Mickelson is now the de facto player-host for this event, so it’s always going to be on his schedule regardless of form. That said, he’s been solid for fantasy purposes here, making the cut in six of his last eight appearances and finishing T3 or better here in two of the last five iterations.
4. Chez Reavie (best finish: T12-2017): Reavie gets a nod for a spot in the horses due to consistency. The veteran and two-time TOUR winner has made the cut at this event in four of the past five seasons. While he’s yet to crack the top-10 here, two top-20 career finishes are encouraging, and he did get some practice in last week at the Sony.
5. Brian Harman (best finishes: T3-2017): Harman has been very consistent at this event in his career, flashing solid upside with three top-12 finishes in eight career starts. The lefty finished T21 here last season and was also T3 here back in 2017. He comes in having made the cut in 13 of his last 14 PGA starts.
1. Kevin Na ($9,200, Recent finishes: win-T38-T13): Na grabbed his fourth PGA win in four years last week. After a slow TOC start, he fired up with his irons, gaining +5.7 strokes on his approaches in Honolulu. A T13 at the Masters a few events ago is also strong, adding to his emerging form.
2. Scottie Scheffler ($9,500, Recent finishes: T13-T19-T32): Scheffler is another elite player whose form doesn’t jump off the page but is worth noting. He finished T19 at the Masters in his debut and still managed a T13 at the TOC despite not having his best stuff.
3. Patton Kizzire ($8,400, Recent finishes: T7-T32-T10): Kizzire has now finished T11 in three of his last four starts and is really trending well with his putter. He’s gained +4.0 or more strokes on the greens in three of his last four events, including +4.1 SG: Putting last week.
4. Chris Kirk ($7,600, Recent finishes: T2-T46-T18): Kirk put in a monster week at the Sony Open, landing a T2 finish — which allowed him to gain full status on TOUR for the rest of the season. He’s now made six of his last seven cuts and deserved a shoutout this week.
Cash Games: Scheffler ($9,500) and Wolff ($9,700) an undervalued duo
Ultimately, just getting players through the cut this week won’t be enough since we’re faced with another low-scoring event. Both Scottie Scheffler and Matthew Wolff come in with great pedigree and fantastic, pure upside for DFS purposes in an event like this. Scheffler was seventh in Birdie or Better percentage last year, while Wolff comes in having scored 86.0 or more DKFP in three of his last five events. Taking the discount and starting with the two is a solid start here. After them, veterans like Zach Johnson ($7,900-see below) and Charles Howell III ($7,800) make sense given the venue and their experience. Other potential high-upside and 50-50 targets this week include Adam Hadwin ($8,000) and Scott Piercy ($7,100).
Tournaments: Koepka ($10,800) and Champ ($8,900) solid DraftKings scorers
Brooks Koepka is making his first start of 2021 this week. He’ll be playing this event for the first time in his career and seems likely to be bypassed for more reliable targets in his range. Koepka is motivated and not all that far off — though with two top-10’s (one at Augusta) in his last two starts. Both he and Cameron Champ will be able to dominate the short par 5’s here and seem like good candidates to lead the field in eagle opportunities. Champ finished 2020 strongly and finished T21 on debut here last year. Other potential GPP targets for this week include Rickie Fowler ($9,300), Wyndham Clark ($7,100) and Byeong Hun An ($7,000).
My Pick: Zach Johnson ($7,900)
Johnson was in my basket of core players and bets from last week. While he didn’t pan out as a sterling play in DFS, I’m willing to give him one more week based off what he did at the Sony Open. The veteran only managed a T62 — but as bottom-feeding finishes go, it was a positive one. The 44-year-old gained +3.1 strokes on his approaches for the week and by all accounts struck the ball well given he was also 20th in GIR stats. His issues flowed from the greens where he lost big in scrambling and with the putter. While that area of his game hasn’t been as consistent as it was in his prime, he’s also proven he’s still capable of big weeks on the greens, gaining strokes putting in six straight events to finish off 2020 — a run that included a +6-stroke gain on the Bermuda greens on Sea Island.
Even with some good top-end talent in the field, Johnson ranks 13the in SG: Approach stats over the last 50-rounds and has a ton of experience playing these venues, finishing T20 here as recently as 2018. Ultimately, Johnson feels like a player ready to make a push for one last career win soon (a la Stuart Cink and Brian Gay). If that’s going to happen, a venue and event like the one we’re getting this week — where accuracy and putting are at a premium over power — is where it will come. I like the targeting the dip in price we’re getting here for DraftKings and betting purposes.
My Sleeper: Doc Redman ($7,500)
I’m not really sure if Redman should be labeled as a “sleeper” in a regular TOUR event anymore, but I’ll take the liberty here so I can write him up. The 23-year-old has already proven himself to be a player capable of getting himself in the hunt at any time in these more forgiving, accuracy-driven setups. He finished last season gobbling up FedEx Cup points and cash with three top-four finishes in his last eight starts of 2020, flashing the kind of low-scoring upside we need from a player in an event like this. Over his last 26-rounds on TOUR, Redman has shot 65 or better four times. While consistency can still be an issue for the third-year pro, we know if he’s playing the weekend the potential for him to be the leading scorer over Saturday and Sunday is there — especially at the right venue.
TPC Stadium and Nicklaus Tournament certainly fit his M.O., too, since Redman comes in ranked eighth in this field in SG: Approach stats and seventh in SG: Ball Striking, over the last 50 rounds. Insanely accurate off the tee, he placed T29 here on his first go round and shot a couple 68’s on the TPC Stadium venue, which is quite impressive for a young player who isn’t used to the slow rounds in a Pro-Am format. Ultimately, I expect Redman to compete at these events regularly in 2021. While there’s always a chance of some first-event rust, at 7.5k in price, I think his 2020 finish means we should try to not overthink this and take advantage of his lower prices while we can.
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