If you’re a regular reader of the Core Fore, you’ll notice a new format starting this week. Going forward the Core Fore will have some brief course notes, statistics to focus on ($), and four players to build your core around (free, every week!). There won’t be any GPP or Cash plays this week given the size of the field, but that feature will roll every week for members starting at the Sony Open.
This week the PGA kicks off 2017 with the SBS Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, which is a great time to jump back into the PGA season. With it only being a 32-man event, our Core Fore will only be a Core Three, as there are only so many golfers you can lock yourself into 100% exposure on in these small field events. With apologies for the false advertising (this week only!), dive right in:
CUT LINE: No-Cut Event – Field of 32
COURSE: The Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort, 7452 yards, par-73 (3 par-3s / 11 par-4s / 4 par-5s)
FAIRWAYS: The fairways here are very wide, which levels the playing field for the more inaccurate golfers (i.e. Jason Day) but it also plays as a much shorter course than the 7452 yards listed; because of the elevation changes and hills, distance also gets leveled out. The name of the game at this course will be on second/approach shots.
GREENS: Very large (7120 sq. ft. per FutureOfFantasy.com) Bermudagrass greens that are undulating and hilly, almost comparable to Augusta with the large breaks. One big change from the greens at Augusta though is the stimpmeter this week – these greens are insanely slow (between 9 and 10 on the stimp) compared to the greens seen on the rest of the tour.
HAZARDS: Around 100 bunkers litter the course, but the real hazard in Hawaii will be the tradewinds if the weather picks up. When Dustin Johnson won here, it was a shortened tournament with only 54 holes due to the strength of the winds. The weather is currently pretty okay, but that could change at the drop of a hat. No water hazards.
THE CORE FORE
Core #1: Jimmy Walker ($7800)
Walker has played in Kapalua three times now, finishing 21st (2014), 2nd (2015) and 10th (2016). He’ll take that good course history into this week after skipping the back end of the swing season, but also missed his last “real” cut (Shriners) and finished T77 in the no-cut WGC event back in October. Walker finished T13 at the Hero World Challenge with a -5.
The area that Walker really shines statistically is his approach game, which as mentioned in the course notes will be an important factor; Walker ranked 9th in Shots Gained: Approach (0.643) and was 13th in Going For the Green by going for the green 67.90% of the time. On approach shots of 125-150 yards (a key number this week), Walker ranks T7 with an average distance left of 19’3″, and has a Relative to Par score of -.212 which places him 11th.
If the approach doesn’t get him to the green in regulation – which it does 64.56% of the time – Walker picks up 0.229 Strokes Gained: Around the Green, and has a Scrambling from 10-20 Yards rank of 40th. He’s not an amazing player with a wedge in his hands when compared to some of the players in this field, but he’s competent enough and has a good enough approach to give himself a chance on every hole.
Jimmy Walker is also a good scoring golfer on the holes that will matter here this week, par-4s and -5s. He has a Par-4 Birdie or Better% of 18.45% (16th) and a Par-5 BoB% of 50.88% (9th). With only three par-3s this week, his poor play on those holes won’t be as big of a factor as it otherwise would. One area that will be important that Walker struggles a little in is putting, with a very poor 3-Putt Percentage rank of 140th. Walker is good at 1-putting (26th) and only leaves himself 2’3″ on approach putts, but he could struggle on these tough greens.
Scoring will be so important this week on an easy course. With great weather last year, Jordan Spieth took the tournament down with a -30 which should give an idea of what’s to come this week. DraftKings points for AU70 and 3BIR bonuses will be big factors this week with it being a very small no-cut event, so it’s okay to ignore Bogey Avoidance numbers and take the 16th best Birdie/Round player for only $7800. From a strategic point of view, Walker leaves enough money on both ends to either go with a muted stars & scrubs lineup or to grab six golfers in the middle of the field as a “contrarian”* build.
*Contrarian doesn’t really exist in a 32-golfer field, but that strategy should be underused.
Core #2: Jason Day ($10600)
It’s always a bit of a cop-out to take one of the top-5 golfers in the field as a part of the Core Fore, but a very rested Jason Day as only the fourth most expensive golfer is a special treat that won’t stick around for long – with his skill, his price will climb back up very quickly. Using Day should give you the most underowned of the Big 4 in this field, and gives up to $900 in salary savings. In a no-cut event, it’s so important to cut off some ownership wherever possible, and it’s made even more enticing given Day’s projection this week.
JDay comes to the Plantation ranked as our number one golfer this week who should get the win and his winner’s share of 6.1M. Day projects as the winner partially based on his approach game and game around the green, but mostly for his putting. Last season there was no better putter than Day, who ranked 1st in putting with 1.158 Strokes Gained with the flatstick, and he managed a 1-Putt percentage of 43.59% (6th). Putting from outside 20′, Day was third on Tour behind Spieth and Dicky Pride with 11.91% of putts made, and he left himself 2’4″ on approach putts (T107).
Of the best putters in this field, Day has the best approach game (30th) and puts himself into good positions off the tee with an Average Distance to the Hole ranking of 13th. Combined, those will be big factors in Day getting onto the green where his putting will really shine through. Without worrying about going wild off the tee because of the large fairways, Day won’t have to worry about his poor Driving Accuracy (50.93%, 187th) and will be able to just fly the ball.
The two important holes (4s and 5s) are also where Jason Day crushes the field; he averages 3.99 on Par-4s (5th) and 4.52 on Par-5s (3rd), and has a total Birdie or Better Percentage of 24.27% (). As mentioned with Walker above, scoring will have a big focus this week.
Core #3: Brandt Snedeker ($8700)
Brandt has had some pretty great course history here in the four attempts (going back to 2008): two 3rds, an 11th and a 10th for the number 28 golfer in the world. He doesn’t have much recent history, having finished T45 at the RSM Classic but skipping most of the swing season. He had a T6 at the Hero World Challenge, but in an 18-man field that’s negligible and not worth much. After missing the cut at the U.S. Open in June, Sneds made eight straight cuts including two top-5 finishes (Canadian Open and Wyndham).
Snedeker won’t blow anyone away statistically, but he’s above average in almost every facet – 48th Tee to Green, 75th Approach, 22nd Around the Green, and 36th Putting. Because he struggles a little with both distance and accuracy he doesn’t perform well on par-5s , but those two factors should be negated at the Plantation. With those two areas excluded, Snedeker is the most well-rounded golfer in the field that’s not priced over $9500 making him a great value.
One of the areas Snedeker is an elite player is on par-4s, where his scoring average of 3.98 is tied with Jordan Spieth for 2nd (DJ is 1st). Snedeker averages 3.81 birdies per round, and has an excellent Par-4BoB% of 19.25%. Although it’s not as big a factor here, he’s also 34th in Bogey Avoidance and averages 2.51 bogeys per round.
Because he has the best course history of anyone under $9000 and has been talked up a little bit this week, Sneds will most likely see 22-24% ownership.
TOTAL SALARY REMAINING: $7,633 per golfer.