CIMB Classic Picks and Preview
By Rocco Minsk The CIMB Classic comes with all sorts of mixed emotions in the DFS golf landscape. This is an aesthetically pleasing course, which is simply beautiful. The downside to that is that it is in Asia and golf will be in the middle of the night, which means that I will likely not be able to see most of it. This means that I will likely be dreaming about DFS as I often do for Euro events. The other feature that will not be popular with DFS gamers is the lack of a cut line. For me, since most of the golf will be happening overnight, I don’t mind it so much because I won’t get the wonderful high of cut sweats anyway.
Last week’s season opener, the Safeway Open, was a moderate success as far as our picks went. I recommended the winner, Brendan Steele and had a couple of low-priced golfers who made the cut. But in terms of my fades, those were off as both Tony Finau and Bill Haas shined. In addition, I was heavy on Mackenzie Hughes in my DK lineup which was not good. Note – I am a pundit who is more than able to point out when I have gone wrong.
Getting back to the course, it is a short par 72 which will be a birdie fest, provided that players stay out of the water, which is ever present on this course. There should be very few golfers who finish the weekend over par. There have been two winners over the four events; Ryan Moore and Justin Thomas so it is impossible to say that boomers or accuracy win out here. There are three par 5’s that are reachable in two which means that birdies will be flying. The compensation is that the par 3’s are relatively long with water in play on two of them, which could lead to some double bogeys if golfers find the drink. There are only 78 golfers this week, so we will focus on fewer golfers this week, lest we highlight nearly everybody and then come back next week and speak of our genius.
Without further ado, here are the picks for the week:
Justin Thomas ($12300) Draft Kings certainly priced Thomas high enough this week, which makes this a fair contest. You are going to have to find some savings elsewhere (which is possible this week) in order to roster JT. The short par 5s are what sets Thomas apart on this course. He was 25th on the Tour in 2017 in par 5 scoring average and first on Tour in birdie or better percentage. In a scoring fest, you want Thomas on your side and this is one of the few weeks that I am willing to pay the price given the lack of a cut line. There are so many decent golfers in the 7000s that you almost have to roster JT.
Paul Casey ($10500) For those without the courage to roster Thomas, Casey makes for a solid option up top. His performance during the stretch was remarkable in its consistency. This is the first week in a very long time that Casey has cracked the $10000 level, but if you objectively look at this field, Casey is legitimately in the top 3 and probably second behind JT given Matsuyama’s recent struggles. His mastery is on approach, which should set up scores of easy birdies.
Gary Woodland ($8700) There have been encouraging signs of life in Woodland’s game since his midseason struggles after personal tragedy. Woodland was in contention for a large part of the tour playoff and also shines on par 5’s. I am not completely sold on many of the options between $9000 and $1000 and I believe that Woodland may be a better option than all of them.
Scott Piercy ($8500) I stuck my neck out to pick Piercy last week when he in his first event back from injury and he did not disappoint. Now that Piercy can be trusted, he is still a good value in this range, even though his price went up $800 since last week. Piercy birdied 9 of 16 of the par 5’s last weekend which bodes well for TPC Kuala Lumpur.
Kevin Na ($8200) Na will likely be the chalk of the week. He has been playing better golf recently, albeit with slow starts at his last two tournaments. He was heavily owned last week at $9400 and will be even more heavily owned since his price dropped, notwithstanding his precipitous drop on Sunday at the Safeway Classic. His course history here is stellar with a second and a third place in 2014 and 2015.
Anirban Lahiri ($8200) Lahiri is just starting to pop up in the consciousness of DFS gamers since he finished in the top 10 at the BMW Championship and shined at the President’s Cup. Lahiri is decent in the scoring metrics, which take on the highest importance here. He is 12th in the field in par 4 birdie or better percentage (2017 stats) and was 14th overall on the Tour last year in birdie average with 3.96 per round. His 3rd place finish here will only add fuel to the fire.
This week, since there are few bargain play that make sense, I will be combining my usual mid-majors and bargain plays.
Emiliano Grillo ($7800) Grillo’s price also declined from last week even though he challenged for much of the weekend before a final round 77 knocked him down the ladder. His game graded very well statistically last weekend finishing 4th in the field in strokes gained off the tee and 8th in the field in strokes gained putting. Grillo is not all the way back, but he is not priced as the golfer he was in 2016.
Bud Cauley ($7600) I really like most of the golfers in the $7000s this week so it is a case of finding the few best to go with this week. Cauley has never played here before, but I am going off his statistical performance last weekend, where Cauley was in the top 35 n the field in every metric – it was a balanced and solid showing which augurs well for the early season.
Rafa Cabrera Belo ($7400) He had a roller coaster season last year which he started to turn around in the playoffs and he is priced as a value golfer. RCB performing like himself is worth in the mid-8000s and this may be the last chance to play him before his value goes away.
Hudson Swafford ($6900) If you are going to roster JT, you will need to stretch someplace and with no cutline, this is a risk you can take. I like to think of Hudson Swafford as a mini Justin Thomas, he performs well on many of the same courses and Swafford has posted top-30s in both of his events here.
Since my fades were so galactically crappy last week, I figured I would have another go at it this week.
Hideki Matsuyama ($11200) Me and the rest of the world are together on this one. While Matsuyama is the best golfer on Tour on the par 5’s, his game is broken right now and I have seen Hideki quoted as saying he does not know what it going on. That is not encouraging to say the least. There will come a time where Hideki will be priced at a point where it is worth taking a risk and he is not anywhere close to it this week.
Thomas Pieters ($8600) Pieters is often a pick of the DFS elite, who really know their game. However, his form is dreadful right now, both here and in Europe where he has turned in three consecutive shaky performances despite a top price. He could turn it around here because he is usually great on the par 5’s, but with his current form he should be priced in the low 7000s, not as one of the upper tier options.