The international golf field comprises 60 of the world’s top golfers. The qualifiers include the top 15 from the Official World Golf Rankings (up to four per country), but the International World Golf Rankings are used after that. The top two ranked players from any country — that does not already have at least two players inside the top 15 — are then chosen. The USA is the only country with more than two players in attendance while Japan got two spots automatically as the host.
The field had a few late withdrawals unfortunately due to COVID-19, with both Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm having to pull out of the event after contracting the virus. Patrick Reed and Jorge Campillo have now replaced the two players in the event, keeping the field at a tight 60 players. The event will not include any cut (so it will play like a WGC event) and will begin Wednesday with the DraftKings lock set at 6:30 a.m. ET.
Kasumigaseki Country Club—Tokyo, Japan
Par 71, 7,500 to 7,600 yards; Greens: Bentgrass
The venue hosting the second golf event in the international event will be Kasumigaseki CC. The course has hosted many events on the Japan Tour and will be well known by those who compete on that circuit. Hideki Matsuyama has won multiple junior events at the venue, as well. Although, both of those wins came before its most recent renovation, which occurred in 2014 by Tom Fazio. Fazio has designed numerous courses that have played on the PGA TOUR, including the recently seen Congaree, which hosted the Palmetto Championship.
One general theme these two courses seem likely to share is wide fairways. Fazio described the international venue as a “big, mainly wide open, in your face course of 7,600 yards with big, deep bunkers” in a recent PGA TOUR article, and that definitely is what we saw earlier in the year at the Palmetto. Despite the length of the course (anything over 7,400 yards is very long for a Par 71) this venue may not play as a behemoth off the tee either. Congaree saw big driving accuracy numbers that were five to seven percent higher than the TOUR average, and Kasumigaseki seems likely to play similar. Off the tee play will likely be important from a length perspective, but it’s doubtful anyone in the field is going to have issues hitting fairways.
With the bunkers being big and expansive, and the greens likely being receptive given the humidity of the summer, approach play is going to be key here. Emphasizing iron play in general should be paramount, and with two of the three par 5s measuring over 600 yards, mid to long iron play should be key, as well. As for comparables, Congaree has already been mentioned as a possible correlated course, but also Riviera CC, which is another big par 71 that also features several of the same grass types seen at this week’s venue.
2021 outlook: The weather this week looks rainy with wet stuff in the forecast for the first couple of days, and also potentially the final day. The good news is the rain doesn’t look like it will be accompanied by huge storms, and the temperature will stay pleasant with highs around 88 degrees Fahrenheit all four days. We are in a humid time of year, though, and that means the greens on Kasumigaseki likely won’t have much firmness to them. Expect some serious dart throws by the top players this week with the most elite of the iron players — who can also find their confidence on the slower greens — having the advantage here. From a DFS perspective, there isn’t likely to be much advantage in wave stacking, although keep an eye on things as we progress — early starters could find an advantage at some point for showdown.
Top 10 Golfers (from the Official World Golf Rankings as of July 26)
3rd – Collin Morikawa ($11,200)
4th – Justin Thomas ($10,900)
5th – Xander Schauffele ($10,700)
11th – Viktor Hovland ($9,900)
12th – Patrick Reed ($10,100)
13th – Rory McIlroy ($10,300)
20th – Hideki Matsuyama ($10,500)
22nd – Paul Casey ($9,500)
23rd – Abraham Ancer ($9,300)
25th – Joaquin Niemann ($9,200)
Winners Stats and Course Overview
2016 Winner: Justin Rose (16-under-par)
2016 lead-in form (T22-T22-T46-MC-T19)
· Rose performed well at the two majors prior to winning the 2016 Tokyo Olympics individual gold event, finishing T22 at both the PGA Championship and The Open.
· The 2016 was his first win in over 10 months, but he had amassed four top-10 finishes on the PGA TOUR already that season.
· Rose was ninth on TOUR in SG: Tee to Green stats, but only ranked 135th for putting that season, which likely speaks to the fact that figuring out the greens quickly could play a vital role. Players will all be at the same experience disadvantage on this non-PGA TOUR venue, and that could help those who are often at a disadvantage with the putter.
Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change
1. Collin Morikawa ($11,200; win-T4): Morikawa enters off a win at The Open, his second major win in under a year. In the major before his win at The Open, he finished T4, and he ranks first in Strokes Gained: Approach, Ball Striking and Tee to Green stats over the last 50 rounds.
2. Paul Casey ($9,500; T15-T36): Casey has finished T15, T7 and T4 at the last three major championships this year. Including his win over in Europe at the start of the year, he already has six top-10 finishes on the season and ranks third in SG: Approach stats here.
3. Mackenzie Hughes ($8,000; T6-T14): Hughes has come alive of late and in a hurry. The Canadian was in the final group at the U.S. Open (T15) but also finished T6 at The Open just a couple of weeks ago. He’s finished T15 or better in three of his last four starts.
4. Viktor Hovland ($9,900; T12-win): Hovland finished T15 and T7 at the last two major championships but also grabbed a win over in Europe just prior to The Open. He ranks third in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking stats over the last 50 rounds.
5. Jhonattan Vegas ($7,400; T2-T11): Vegas is coming of a fantastic T2 finish last week in Minnesota. The veteran ranks first in this field in SG: Off the Tee stats and has finished T2 now in two of his last five starts on TOUR.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: Hovland and Casey great balanced targets
Both Viktor Hovland ($9,900) and Paul Casey ($9,500) come in with some of the best recent form of the field, with both men having placed inside the top 15 at the last two majors. The fact you can pair two of the best tee to green players in the field for under $10K each makes them a great starting pair for core and cash game lineups. After these two, we’re also getting great prices on a couple of other PGA TOUR regulars in Si Woo Kim ($7,800) and Jhonattan Vegas ($7,400). Kim need a medal here for personal reasons (military service), and Vegas has two runner-up finishes in his last five starts and will be playing in his Olympics. Some other core targets to consider here include the likes of Henrik Norlander ($6,800) and Mackenzie Hughes ($8,000).
Tournaments: Play the narrative and pay up for the South Koreans
Sungjae Im ($9,000) has been up and down in 2021, but he does come into this year’s event on a four-event made cut streak and has Gained Strokes on Approach in four straight starts. He’s one of the most consistent Off the Tee performers in this field and has a huge motivator (avoiding military service) to peak for this week. I would also take a hard look at Marc Leishman ($8,500) as a GPP pivot here too. Leishman has won on another Fazio designed venue in 2017 (Conway Farms-BMW Championships) and has also won in Asia before (2018 CIMB Classic). He was playing better before missing the cut at The Open but could be in for a big rebound here. Mito Pereira ($7,200), Matthias Schwab ($7,000 – see below) and Fabrizio Zanotti ($6,400) all make for interesting GPP targets here, as well.
MY PICK: Xander Schauffele ($10,700)
We have a bundle of American players to choose from this week, all of whom have great upside. For the column, though, I’ll stick with Schauffele, who enters with spectacular form, yet is still trying to break a two-plus-year winless drought (2019-TOC). The American and four-time PGA TOUR winner has looked dialed in with his long game of late, gaining +10 strokes and +6.8 strokes on his ball-striking alone in his last two U.S.-based starts (U.S. Open and the Memorial). While he’s yet to marry that with a big week on the greens, you have to like his chances of that happening soon, and the Bentgrass greens of Kasumigaseki Country Club could help facilitate that event.
Two of Schauffele’s four wins have come on Bentgrass, with one of them even coming in this part of the world at the HSBC Champions WGC event. To that point, these limited field events have been Schauffele’s bread and butter — three of his wins have come against fields of 70 players or less (WGC, TOC and the TOUR Championship). While I wouldn’t read too much into it, there’s also a bit of the revenge factor at work here since the venue and event is taking place in Hideki Matsuyama’s ($10,500) backyard — the same player who vanquished Schauffele at the Masters earlier this year. Given all the extenuating factors, Schauffele makes for the preferred pay-up target here for me and a player who seems likely to handle the pressure of this format better than most.
MY SLEEPER: Matthias Schwab ($7,000)
If you want to play multiple studs in your lineups this week, you’ll have to be touching on some of the lesser-known players from under $7.5K. While we have some PGA pros like Henrik Norlander ($6,800) and Jhonattan Vegas ($7,400) in the field, they’re also likely to be heavily targeted in the big field GPPs this week. He doesn’t carry their recent form, but a player like Schwab certainly can match them in talent. Schwab made a couple starts on the PGA TOUR last season and nearly won the low-scoring event that is the Barracuda Championship (T3-2020), a result which exemplifies just how good his tee to green is when it’s on.
He enters this year’s event in Japan off a couple of missed cuts, but both of those came on links style courses at The Open and in Scotland. Prior to that, he’d shown well at more traditional venues and reeled off five top-12 finishes in six starts at one point. Schwab should benefit from a wet course here given his iron play and Tee to Green game is generally the strength of his game. If the scoring gets low, he’s a player who we know can keep up just from his pedigree and history in those types of events. He’s a great GPP target here for me in this smaller, eclectic field.
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