The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.
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The Tour heads into the midwest for a two-week stay at one of the more famous Tour venues, Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio. The Workday Charity Open is a new event that is replacing the John Deere Classic on the schedule for 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. While the event is new, the venue won’t be, and it will be interesting to see how the players handle playing the same golf course two weeks in a row. Joining us for the first week of play at Muirfield will be the likes of Justin Thomas ($11,100), Jon Rahm ($10,900), Brooks Koepka ($10,400) and last year’s Memorial champ, Patrick Cantlay ($10,600). Again, while there’s technically no defending champion for this week, Cantlay did win on this course last year making him the de facto champ for this week as well.
Other former Muirfield winners in the field include Justin Rose ($9,700; won in 2010), Hideki Matsuyama ($10,000; won in 2014) and Matt Kuchar ($8,500; won in 2013). From a health standpoint, Kevin Na withdrew last week (back) but isn’t in the field here, and there were no reported cases of COVID-19 over the weekend in Detroit. However, be sure you follow DK Live leading up to tee off in case any breaking news in that area develops.
Muirfield Village—Dublin, Ohio
Par 72, 7,392 yards; Greens: Bentgrass
This week will mark the beginning of a two-week stretch where the players will be at Muirfield Village for two events in a row. While I’ve included parts of my old notes in here for Muirfield Village from previous seasons, it’s important to note that the plan for the Tour is to set up the course differently for both events.
Muirfield will still play as a traditional Par 72 this week that measures between 7,300 to 7,400 yards (depending on setup) with Bentgrass greens. However, hole locations, green speeds and rough length will all vary between events. The idea for this week is to set up the greens at a lower speed — 11 on the stimpmeter instead of their usual 13 or faster — so that different pin locations will be able to be accessed. Also, the rough looks set to play shorter for the Workday, as the goal will be to have it play at least half-an-inch higher for next week at the Memorial.
With these changes in mind, it’s likely the venue will feature less than its normal bite in certain areas but should set up differently for players in other aspects, namely pin positions. The course, which was built in 1972 and named after Jack Nicklaus’ favorite Open Championship venue (Muirfield), will still carry four par 5s that are quite reachable in two by many of the players, with the longest being only 567 yards. Making the most of the par 5s here is crucial, and it isn’t shocking that last year’s winner and runner-up finished tied for first for the week in par 5 scoring.
The par 4s as a group vary in length but five of them play at 450 yards or greater and require tough approach shots, which will be made even harder if a player hits it in the rough (although again, it may not be as penal this week as next). The longer hitters who can keep it in the fairways will have a huge advantage on these holes. The par 3s all fall within the 175- to 200-yard range, for the most part, so looking at efficiency stats from that range could still be useful.
Muirfield has traditionally had tough to hold greens, with GIR % being quite a bit lower than the Tour average (62% at Muirfield vs. 65%). However, this week, the slower green speeds and less penal rough could help bridge the gap for those with less distance and give those who find their groove early with the putter, a chance at a big week.
2020 outlook: The weather for this week could play a factor, as some rain clouds and storm systems are expected to be in the area for the last three days of the event. Thursday and Friday will both see the highs in the low 90’s, with about a 50% chance of precipitation on tap for Friday afternoon. Wind isn’t expected to get crazy, but any storm could mean a short spell of bad weather for players. The real trouble day could be Saturday when more rain and scattered thunderstorms are expected to be in the area, with the wind cranking up to 10 mph-plus in the afternoon. Sunday morning looks better, so an early start to the last round could be on tap for this week. The weather for this week looks like it may be more of a weekend event, but watch to see if the Friday afternoon forecast worsens since it could lead to a small wave split in round ones and two.
Last five winners at Muirfield
Patrick Cantlay — 2019 (-19 over Adam Scott -17)
Bryson DeChambeau — 2018 (-15 over Byeong Hun-An and Kyle Stanley, playoff)
Jason Dufner — 2017 (-13 over Fowler and Lahiri -10)
William McGirt — 2016 (-15 over Jon Curran, playoff)
David Lingmerth — 2015 (-15 over Justin Rose, playoff)
**these refer to the winner of the Memorial (next week’s event) but I’m mentioning them anyways since the venue is the same.
- Recent Form: 11 of the past 12 winners had already achieved a T5 finish or better on Tour in the year of their victory before winning here.
- Course History: Each of the past five winners of the Memorial had made the cut at Muirfield Village the last time they played there.
2019 Memorial Winner Stats: Patrick Cantlay
SG: Off the Tee—+3.0
SG: Tee to Green—+14.4
SG: Around the Green—+4.2
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
Strokes Gained: Approach
Par 4 scoring/efficiency from 450-500 yards
Muirfield Village is very much an all-around test, and for that reason, emphasizing strong tee to green play this week might be more important here than most venues. This event has seen a couple of fluke winners, but three of the past six winners here have also led the field in SG: Tee to Green on the weeks of their win (Cantlay ’19, Dufner ’17 and Matsuyama ’14).
Muirfield Village also has smaller than normal greens which require good accuracy to get close to pins. Three of the past five winners here have gained over +6 strokes on their approaches for the week of their win.
Looking at Par 4 efficiency from 450-500 yards also makes sense here. Muirfield Village has some easy to score on par 5s that most players will do well on but contains five par 4s which will play within the 450-500 yard range this week. Of note is also the fact that the past five winners have all ranked inside the top ten in this stat for the week they won.
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful of putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their odds of winning this week.
Gary Woodland $8,300 and +3500
- Matt Kuchar $8,500 and +4500
- Joaquin Niemann $8,400 and +5000
- Jordan Spieth $8,600 and +5000
Bubba Watson $8,000 and +5000
- Adam Hadwin $8,200 and +5000
- Matthew Fitzpatrick $8,000 and +5500
- Matthew Wolff $8,100 and +7000
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Justin Rose (best finishes: win-2010, playoff loss-2015): Rose has flashed ridiculous upside at this course over the years. Despite missing two of his past eight cuts here, in the years he has made the weekend Rose has never finished outside the top 15 and that includes last year when he finished 13th. With a win, a playoff loss and multiple top 10s on his record at Jack’s place, he’s the lead course horse for week one at Muirfield.
2. Matt Kuchar (best finishes: win-2013, T2-2011): Kuchar missed the cut at this venue for the first time in 12 tries last year. Prior to that, he had made the weekend here in 11 straight appearances, a run that included a win and runner-up finish. It’s hard to know what to expect from Kuchar this week, as he is coming off two bad starts and has been gaining most of his strokes on the greens. Those who view course history with a keen eye will no doubt find him appealing though.
3. Patrick Cantlay (best finishes: win-2019, 4th-2018): Cantlay is making his third straight start at Muirfield Village, and the 28-year-old has improved here in each of his first three appearances. He won his second Tour event at this site last season, gaining a ridiculous +7.4 strokes with his irons and another +4.7 on the greens. He’ll likely be a popular target in DFS circles.
4. Hideki Matsuyama (best finishes: win-2014, T6-2019): Matsuyama bagged his first PGA TOUR win at this week’s venue six years ago and has followed that up with some decent efforts, including a T6 last season. He gained strokes across the board here last year, although it’s worth noting that he had lost strokes putting on these greens each of the three seasons prior.
5. Rickie Fowler (best finishes: T2-2017, T8-2018): Rickie has had some solid success at this week’s venue over the past five years, posting a runner-up finish here in 2017 and top-15 finishes in each of the past two seasons. Perhaps this venue will finally unlock a big week for Rickie, who has gained over +5 strokes Tee to Green here in each of the past two seasons.
Cash Games: With Brooks Koepka ($10,400) still hovering well under $11K in price, it feels fine to start here with the big man, who looked ready for takeoff before a COVID-19 scare forced him to withdraw from the Travelers. I also like targeting the continuing excellence of Viktor Hovland ($9,500), who continues to strike the ball better than anyone and actually went down $700 in salary this week. The low $8K salary range also looks tempting here with Adam Hadwin ($8,200) and Gary Woodland ($8,300) providing good value. Woodland looks awfully cheap for a player who has two top 10s in his past four starts. Other value targets for this format include the likes of Joel Dahmen ($7,700), Lanto Griffin ($7,400) and Max Homa ($7,100).
Tournaments: It hasn’t been their year thus far, but fortunes in golf tend to rise and fall quickly, which is why I don’t hate the idea of taking shots with both Rickie Fowler ($9,000) and Jordan Spieth ($8,600) this week. Fowler has a terrific record at Muirfield Village and looked solid last week in Detroit, where he finished with a 67 on Sunday. I detailed why I like Spieth more below, but his mid-$8K salary makes him an attractive target just from a recent production standpoint. Byeong Hun An ($7,900) looked better in his last start and has a playoff loss from 2018 at Muirfield making him an interesting play. Jason Day ($7,700) continues to be a frustrating player, but has gained strokes off the tee in three straight starts and his cheap salary remains tempting here. Other GPP targets include the likes of Russell Henley ($7,300-see below), Emiliano Grillo ($7,200), Henrik Norlander ($6,500) and Charl Schwartzel ($6,400).
Top Recent Form
1. Viktor Hovland ($9,500, Recent finishes: T12-T11-T21): Hovland is coming off another big week where his ball-striking was good enough for him to challenge for the win but his around the green game and putting didn’t cooperate. He’s yet to shoot over par in 16 competitive rounds since the restart.
2. Mark Hubbard ($7,400, Recent finishes: T12-T37-T33): Hubbard has quietly been playing some excellent golf of late as the American made his fourth cut in a row last week in Detroit, posting a T12 finish. Hubbard gained +4.4 strokes with his putter in Detroit but was solid everywhere except around the greens.
3. Ryan Armour ($7,400, Recent finishes: T4-T6): Armour has shown a big jump in confidence of late as the former Sanderson Farms winner has posted top-10 finishes in back-to-back weeks. A week after gaining +7.2 strokes on the greens at the Travelers, Armour gained +5.3 on his approaches at the Rocket Mortgage so his entire game seems to be firing at the moment.
4. Adam Hadwin ($8,200, Recent finishes: T4-T41-T43): Hadwin broke through for a big week at Detroit, finishing with a 67 on Sunday to move into the top 5. The Canadian has been solid with his irons since returning, gaining strokes against the field in all three of his starts. He feels like someone who could threaten this week if the putter keeps rolling.
5. Xander Schauffele ($10,200, Recent finishes: T20-T64-T3): Schauffele cooled off a bit after a hot start at the Travelers saw him open with a 63 there. The four-time Tour winner struggled with his irons later in the week in Connecticut but has looked solid in three starts since coming back. He finished T14 at Muirfield Village last season.
MY PICK: Jordan Spieth ($8,600)
As much as it can be fun to rag on Spieth, he has shown some glimpses of late of the player who stormed his way to 11 PGA TOUR wins between 2013-2017. Three solid rounds at Colonial were followed up by two more made cuts in which he improved his iron play in the strokes gained category in consecutive starts. In fact, looking at the stats from his last start at the Travelers, Spieth may have easily contended at the TPC River Highlands if not for an uncharacteristically bad week on and around the greens. While the three-time major winner has never won at Muirfield Village, he has contended and collected a seventh-place finish here last season, his third top-15 result at Muirfield since 2015.
Spieth has also found some comfort off the tee at Muirfield as he’s actually gained +1.9 strokes or more Off the Tee for the week in five of his seven starts here, a rare occurrence for a player who often struggles in that area. While he may seem fragile, he enters this event on a six-event made cut streak and ranked T2 and T8 in birdies made at Colonial and TPC River Highlands, putting up solid DK scores in the process. Even if this isn’t the week he finally ends his winless drought, he has shown enough positive signs of late that targeting him at his mid-$8K price tag makes a ton of sense for me in DFS.
MY SLEEPER: Russell Henley ($7,300)
Henley’s past few starts have been interesting from a pure numbers perspective. The three-time Tour winner has now gained +8 strokes or more on his Approaches in two of his past three starts, including a +8.2 strokes gained effort in his last start at the Travelers. Russ would have almost certainly cracked the top 10 there if not for a putter that went ice cold and saw him lose -4.2 strokes for the week on the greens. While the inconsistency with the putter is maddening, the upside he’s shown with his ball striking is nothing short of spectacular.
Muirfield Village also feels like a good fit for the Georgia native as three of the past five winners here have gained +6 strokes or more on their approaches for the week. Henley finished T6 here on his debut way back in 2013 and has also finished T29 and T33 here the last two times he’s played. Sitting in the low-$7K range again, this week’s easier setup should allow him to go pin firing early and hopefully produce a big week for those who continue to hold the faith that his putter will eventually find some consistency.
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