After falling to no.5 in the world, Rory McIlroy has showed that the $100m Nike contract was all that was holding him back. This week we head to Pete Dye’s Crooked Stick, last used in 2012. The winner that week? Rory McIlroy!
Just 69 players in the field – Stenson has pulled out – and 30 progress to The Tour Championship. With the added incentive of the Ryder Cup, different players will have different motivations.
Crooked Stick is a 7,516 yard par 72 with wide fairways but very thick rough. Last time the course was used, the top eight on the leaderboard were filled by long hitters who dominated the par 5s – between -9 and -14 for the week. These look like being the key features this week. Like most Pete Dye courses, the ball needs to be shaped both ways off the tee. This gives no particular advantage to either ball shape.
The pricing this week looks tough, ranging between $11.9k and $6.1k. Strategy will be impacted by the high quality and small size of the field, along with the no cut factor. I’ll be looking at a balanced line-up with birdie makers given all players will get four rounds.
Jason Day ($11,600) – Difficult not to put Rory up here but given his expected ownership I’m going to pivot to Day. Keeps talking about how poorly he’s playing, but has finished in top 15 in his last two “poor” tournaments. Amassed 91 and 88 DK points so has fantastic upside. Good form at longer Pete Dye courses with a win at The PLAYERS and Whistling Straights in the last 18 months, and a top 5 at TPC Louisiana. Bombs it off the tee and ranks 5th in par 5 birdie or better.
Dustin Johnson ($11,300) – Last week DJ’s tournament was crushed by his 3rd round. Most likely distracted by a double bogey on the last in the 2nd round, this carried on to a 75 in R3. Despite that he still managed a top 10 and comes to a course that looks perfect. In 2012, DJ was not as complete a player but finished 6th here scoring 12 under on the par 5s. I expect him to replicate that kind of performance this week.
Adam Scott ($10,200) – Yet again, Scott struck the ball beautifully, but in R4 he started to sink putts. For his two rounds with positive strokes gained putting he went 10 under showing the impact. If he can get the flatstick going he’ll be right up there again. Has form here finishing 6th here in 2012.
Justin Rose ($10,000) – Last week was looking good for Rose…until it wasn’t. His final eight holes went +10 dropping Rose from in contention to near the bottom. Disappointing but should leave him low owned this week. Rose hits it deceptively far ranking top 20 for driving distance. He also plays par 5s brilliant ranking 3rd for par 5 birdies or better. Finished 16th here in 2012 when he was in poor form. The Olympic champ should be chomping at the bit to show that back nine was a one off.
Patrick Reed ($9,700) – The man leading the FedEx Cup. His form is fantastic with eight consecutive top 25s, including a win and top five in the playoffs. Longer off the tee than people think (43rd) and top 20 in par 5 birdie or better. Seems to be inspired by the impending Ryder Cup and will be desperate to hold his form.
Louis Oosthuizen ($9,300) – Sneakily in great form with six top 25s in last seven tournaments. Caught the eye last week with a 3rd round 64. Played here in 2012 and managed a top 20 when in similarly strong form. A risky play as there is always a WD so solely for GPPs.
Phil Mickelson ($8,800) – May have missed the cut last week, but really all the damage was done with one poor decision which led to a quadruple bogey. Despite this, his recent form is good with two runner up finishes in his last eight, including The Open. Finished 2nd here last time in 2012 and should thrive on the course once again.
Bubba Watson ($8,600) – Missing his first cut of the season last week, he may be low owned. This is a week you should jump back on. Ranking in the top 6 of both driving distance and par 5s, he can boast a 12th here in 2012. As a much better player now I’d expect him to bounce back at a discount.
Gary Woodland ($8,400) – Another player who was hurt by one disappointing round last week. A T15, following on from a 4th does, however, leave him with a chance for a Ryder Cup spot. A big hitter, he’ll be looking forward to this week and should thrive. With three top 5s in his last 10, he looks like a winner in waiting.
Daniel Berger ($7,800) – A classy player whose skills set suits the course ranking top 40 in both distance and par 5 birdies. Berger has impressive form at Pete Dye courses this year with top 20s at the Travelers, Zurich and PLAYERS which bodes well for this week. Should relish the challenge.
Si Woo Kim ($7,600) – A player who is consistently overlooked but I love this play. Hits it long enough and plays par 5s well (25th in birdies or better). Has a win and runner up in his last seven tournaments, and finished T15 last week. Has played well on Pete Dye courses this year including four top 25s. Expect him to be relatively low owned with upside.
Jason Kokrak ($7,500) – Consecutive top 10s has seen his price go up. Despite this, we go to a course which suits him perfectly. A bomber (6th in driving distance), he eats up the par 5s (22nd birdie or better). Should be able to carry on his good form at the course. Ranked 34th, he needs a strong performance to get through to the Tour Championship.
Justin Thomas ($7,300) – Another top 10 followed another MC. Frustrating, but he has the length and class to score on this course. I’ve said it before, but he still has a late chance for the Ryder Cup team. He’ll be desperate to be lining up alongside his best friend Jordan Spieth. This is a course that should suit, and with the way he plays, he always has a chance to score a lot of DK points.
Hudson Swafford ($7,100) – His price has gone up but it’s because he keeps playing well. Needs a great finish to jump up to the top 30, sitting 61st at the moment. Game suits the course ranked 8th in driving distance and 34th in par 5 birdie or better.
Jamie Lovemark ($6,900) – A bomber (13th in driving distance) who has some Pete Dye form this year having lost in a playoff in New Orleans. Should eat up the par 5s and 49th in the FedEx rankings needs a big week.
Ryan Palmer ($6,900) – Ranking in the top 15 in both distance and par 5, Palmer should be looking forward to coming back to Crooked Stick. Didn’t finish well here in 2012 but hit 22 birdies, just one less than Rory. Has finished well in the first two playoff events (both top 25) so should be full of confidence.
Smylie Kaufman ($6,800) – Since falling out of contention in the final round of the Masters, Kaufman’s been in some pretty poor form. There were, however, signs of life last week when he was in contention until another poor final round. A big hitter who scores on par 5s, the course could suit him at a reasonable price.
Charley Hoffman ($6,400) – Last week the Hof was chalky and was absolutely terrible. He’s now priced right at the bottom which, while fair, seems low considering his previous play. Before his missed cut he’d had consecutive top 25s. He played here in 2012, and without pulling up any trees managed to play the par 5s in -8 which is promising. Will likely be very low owned, and the price may just be an overreaction to one poor week.
Brian Stuard ($6,400) – Likely to be very low owned but in decent form. Made five cuts in a row with improving form. Finished top 25 last week at the DB where just a poor 3rd round stopped him from contending. Short off the tee, but has a win on a Pete Dye course this year at TPC Louisiana. A sneaky play.
The World Ranking Play:
Branden Grace ($7,200) – Ranked 13th in the world, Grace has gone off the boil recently. He is, however, a class player who has won on a Pete Dye course this year. At this price he seems like a must play considering his upside. Remember it was just a few weeks ago he was top 5 at the US PGA. Showed glimpses last week finishing with a promising 66.
Kevin Na ($6,800) – Baby swag alert! Wife gave birth last week which could inspire him. Pulled out of the DB, but will play this week. In good form, and finished 26th here in 2012.
Matt Kuchar ($8,200) – Despite the fact that Kuch loves Pete Dye courses, it looks like he’s lost his mojo. Having gone through a hot streak, and won a bronze medal, he has since finished T64 and T46 in the playoffs. Played here in 2012 but struggled finishing way down the field in T54 making just 11 birdies. With limited winning upside, I’ll happily fade Kuchar this week.