2015 Hyundai Tournament of Champions: Preview, Strategy, Picks for PGA Daily Fantasy
Despite the 2014-15 PGA Tour season beginning in early October, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions always feels like the start to many golf fans. It’s the first event of the calendar year, it rewards champions and it’s at Maui in the Winter.
Unfortunately, we won’t see Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, but a lot of the top names are still in the field, such as Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar and defending champion Zach Johnson.
Before you start making your lineups, there are several things you need to factor in, such as salary updates on DraftKings, details of the Plantation Course at Kapalua and who are the longer hitters in the field.
The top players are more expensive – For people who played daily fantasy golf last season, you may have noticed higher salaries for the most-expensive players. McIlroy and Adam Scott were approximately $11,000 at most, but the most-expensive player in this field is Bubba Watson at $14,000. Last year, we advocated the use of a high-low salary lineup strategy, because the best players were too cheap. DraftKings has now adjusted, and balanced approaches will be more approachable.
There is no cut for this tournament – If you’re new to daily fantasy golf, there is one thing helping you this week – there is no cut. This is a small field, and while this is still a competitive tournament that counts towards a PGA win and the Official World Golf Rankings, this event is also seen as a time for the players to bring their families and enjoy the beauty of Maui. Because eagles and birdies (8 and 3 points respectively) are worth the tradeoff of a few bogeys and double bogeys (only a half point and full point deduction respectively), you want to chase guys who have high variance in their golf games.
Distance does pay off at Kapalua – I’ve played this course a few times (my profile picture is from the fairway on No. 17), and I watch this tournament every year. There are four par 5s (No. 5, No. 9, No. 15, No. 18). No. 5 every player can reach in two. No. 9 will only be reached by someone like Bubba Watson, who can drive the ball a mile. The fairway ends at the landing of most people’s tee shots, and there is a drop off so the long players can’t bomb it. But, the second shot is approximately 260 yards, uphill and often into the wind (this course was designed with wind directions often being the same on the coast). No. 15 can be reached by most players, but it’s not one of those shots where you’ll see everyone go after like No. 5. The green is elevated and has a lot of break on top. No. 18 really depends on how firm the ground is and how much the wind is up. It’s 663 yards, but it’s straight downhill and you get a ton of roll. Bubba showed off his creativity in making eagle on this hole by hitting driver off the deck with a huge cut a few years ago. This shot is worth a look. Lastly, No. 14 is 305 yards. It’s a dogleg right where you have to fly bunkers to go for the small and narrow green, but players do try and drive the green and are successful at times.
So, who are the longest hitters in the field? Before I list them, I want to make it clear you shouldn’t necessarily go with all long hitters. But because long hitters have a better shot at birdies and eagles on this course specifically, you should certainly lean towards picking the biggest hitters. Below are the 2014 leaders in average driving distance.
1. Bubba Watson 314.3
4. J.B. Holmes 308
12. Angel Cabrera 303.7
18. Jason Day 301.2
19. Jimmy Walker 301
23. Scott Stallings 300.4
26. Charley Hoffman 299.2
29. Steven Bowditch 298.1
Jason Day $13,900 – If it weren’t for another injury-riddle season last year, Day may be regarded as the best player on Tour not named Rory McIlroy. Day is 100-percent healthy and has a 5th-place finish in his most recent event at the Hero World Golf Challenge. He also has the length for eagles, and I think he will be under used compared to Watson. Day has the better overall game for this course.
Patrick Reed $8,900 – Reed has a ton of power, but his average driving distance just isn’t that high because he isn’t a risk taker. However, Kapalua will force Reed into a more aggressive approach because of the course design. Reed is one of the hottest players on Tour given his several victories last year and strong Ryder Cup performance. His 19-1 odds to win compares favorably to other players in his price range.
J.B. Holmes $7,400 – Huge variance in his game, but he can really go low. His birdie or better percentage in 2014 was 20.87, which was in the upper quartile of Tour players. Fourth in driving distance for 2014 makes him quite appealing this week.
Angel Cabrera $6,800 – Not only is he one of the longer hitters on tour, his low ball flight should give him an advantage at a windy Kapalua.
Steven Bowditch $6,500 – Not only did he win last season, but he placed second in the Frys.com Open this year. He’s playing well and this was the final guy I slotted in based on length and fitting salary. Bowditch’s 16 eagles in 2014 was most on Tour, so he offers a lot of upside for his salary.
Scott Stallings $6,200 – His only knock is he was 145th out of 177 in birdie or better percentage last year. His consistency does not benefit him in a tournament with no cut. But he has by far the best odds to win for his salary. He’s 45-1 and has the fourth-cheapest overall salary. And yes, he’s a big hitter.
(all salaries via DraftKings, golf statistics via pgatour.com, odds via oddschecker.com)View all posts by Nick Juskewycz