After a couple weeks in Las Vegas, the PGA Tour is headed back to California for this week’s Zozo Championship at Sherwood, giving us another great week of DFS fantasy golf action on DraftKings. Normally, this event takes place in Japan, but it has been shifted to Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, CA due to travel complications related to the COVID-19 virus. Like last week’s event that was relocated from Korea, the situation is expected to be a one-year stopgap for this season only. Also like last week, this event draws a very solid field and is a cut-free event, meaning all 78 players will complete four rounds, barring injury or withdrawal.
The star-studded field is headlined by the return of Tiger Woods, ($9,000) who is the defending champion at this event after claiming his 82nd PGA Tour victory last season at Narashino Country Club outside of Tokyo. Woods also has a great course history at this new venue, so he seems set up for a strong showing. Last week’s winner, Jason Kokrak ($8,600) will also be teeing it up again, looking to win for the second week in a row. Dustin Johnson was planning to return after a positive COVID-19 test, but was forced to back out on Monday. Tony Finau ($9,500) is expected to be back in action, following his positive test two weeks ago. There is also a strong contingent from the Japan Golf Tour led by Hideki Matsuyama ($9,300).
While Sherwood Country Club isn’t currently an every-year stop for the PGA Tour, we do have much more information about it than we had for Shadow Creek last week. This course hosted the Hero World Challenge from 2000-2013, and even though that is an extremely limited-field event with 16-to-18 players, it can help us get a feel for the course. The Jack Nicklaus design is also host to a PGA TOUR Champions’ tournament called the Invesco QQQ Championship each season. This week, Sherwood Country Club is expected to play as a par-72 that measures just under 7,100 yards.
Nicklaus creatively nestled the course in the valley using waterfalls, streams, and unique rock formations as obstacles and visual interest throughout. In the made-for-tv “Showdown at Sherwood,” Woods beat David Duval after Duval’s drive bounced into some of those rocks off the 16th tee. The course is also known for its use as the backdrop for several films and TV shows, and we’ll be hoping for more real-life drama this week.
This will be the first full PGA Tour event held at the venue, and the tournament scorecard will include five par 3s and five par 5s. That’s an unusually high number of each to go with eight par 4s. The par 5s will be especially important, and players who do well there could end up even more valuable for fantasy than other players who finish with the same overall score but don’t excel on those specific holes. It’s time to go searching for eagles, especially since not one of those holes measures over 600 yards.
Since this is another new venue, there’s no extended course history to focus on. Instead, we’ll be in search of players who can score well on par 5s and have good form from recent events. The no-cut nature of this event makes taking a flier on cheaper plays a little less risky since, once again, almost everyone will play four rounds. Getting great value plays will be a key along with pinpointing the right superstars to get into your lineup. Let’s take a look at who stands out this week from the options available for $7.5K or under on DraftKings.
Cameron Smith, $7,200
If you’re looking for value plays to attack the handful of Par 5s at Sherwood, Smith is definitely a play that makes sense. He has thrived on Par 5s this season averaging 4.39 shots per par 5 in his 12 rounds this season, which is tied for seventh on the Tour. The 27-year-old Aussie averaged 4.44 shots per Par 5 last week which was T8 in the elite field at the C.J Cup.
Smith finished 11th at Shadow Creek, giving him three solid results on the young season. He made the cut and finished T38 at the US Open and followed that with a top 25 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Last season, Smith finished strong with six-straight made cuts and made it all the way to the TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP at East Lake. He’ll look to continue his strong play in elite events. This will be his first Zozo Championship, but that fact doesn’t matter as much on the new course.
Sebastian Munoz, $7,200
Another young international coming off a good result at Shadow Creek last week is Sebastian Munoz, who finished solo ninth after an impressive 67-69 weekend. Munoz was better than the Tour average on Par 5s last season and he’s carried that into this season, although he hasn’t been as dialed in on those holes as Smith has been.
Munoz is doing very good work tee-to-green, where he is gaining .654 shots per round and at least holding his own with the putter, as well. Like Smith, he has made the cut in all his events this season with top 30 finishes in each of his three events in October. Munoz finished last season with top 10 finishes at the BMW Championship and the TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP and has been riding that momentum to strong results each week. He doesn’t have quite as high a ceiling as Smith, but he has been a very reliable option and is worth a look at this very affordable salary.
Harry Higgs, $6,700
Higgs had a good rookie season last year and is looking to build on that with a strong start to his sophomore year on the Tour. He finished solo runner-up to Stewart Cink at the Safeway Open early in the season and finished T21 last week at the CJ Cup. He did miss the cut in Vegas in between those two good results, but he has been able to total 24 birdies or better in his 38 par 5s in his 10 rounds this season. That 63.16% birdie-or-better result puts him top 5 on the Tour in the early going this season.
Higgs is still looking for his first Tour win, but his strong tee-to-green game should continue to put him in a place to succeed. He is gaining 1.151 shots tee-to-green per round, which is a huge improvement over his performance in that area last season, when he relied on an above-average putter. If he can get the flat stick to come back around and keep playing his early shots well, Higgs could quickly establish himself as a value option on the rise.
Ryo Ishikawa, $6,000
If you have just the right lineup with one spot left at the minimum salary, Ishikawa is a strong option to consider given his recent success in Japan. He won the Golf Nippon Series JT Cup (similar to the FedEx Cup) last December and has posted three top 25 finishes in the three Japan Tour events this season. He surged to a T3 finish last week at the Japan Open Golf Championship with a 5-under final round, highlighted by seven birdies. He was second in the field in birdies for the week and definitely had his putter dialed in with just 27 putts in his round on Sunday.
Ishikawa is still only 29 but has racked up 17 career wins in international tournaments. He was a regular on the Tour for a while, but a back injury derailed that part of his career in 2017. He didn’t ever win on the PGA Tour, but did post 11 top 10 finishes. Since recovering from the injury, he has won three tournaments in Japan and placed T51 at the US Open last month. It’s rare to have a punt play with so much pedigree, so take a flier on Ishikawa keeping his game in form this week at Sherwood if you have to go with an ultra-cheap option.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Z.Thompson) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
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