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above the cut

Above the Cut: PGA DFS Picks for the 2020 American Express

Ben Rasa

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Rickie Fowler lives nearby and has turned that in to some of the best history here at The Honda Classic

We are done with the Hawaii swing (if the two tournaments off the mainland qualify as a swing) and now head to La Quinta, California for the 2020 American Express. Last year, this was known as the Desert Classic and it seems to get a new name every year. Back in the day, this tourney was known as the Bob Hope Classic, and then recently it was the Career Builder Challenge, so keep that in mind when you are trying to pull course history. We have some quality contests across the PGA DFS landscape.

For anyone who is new to PGA DFS, this is going to be a public service announcement for the early part of the season: remember we are dealing with the new cut rule of Top 65 and ties instead of the Top 70 we are used to seeing. That will make 6-for-6 incredibly elusive and 5-for-6 will have a chance to hang on in smaller fields and weeks with only a handful of rosters surviving the cut.

The Course

This tournament is a little different as each player will be guaranteed three rounds (Saturday Cut), and each round will be played at a different course. The final round will be played at the TPC Stadium Course so this course will have two of four rounds with the PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament course and La Quinta Country Club making up the other two courses. Course history is going to be tough to look at as they haven’t used this rotation of three courses for too many years (2016-present) so keep that in mind when researching. Here is a quick breakdown of what we are looking at for each course:

TPC Stadium Course – Two rounds – Par 72 around 7,100 yards so very short by tour standards, plays the toughest of the three courses, but still one where we will see plenty of low scores.

PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament Course – One round – Par 72 around 7,150 yards, easier than Stadium Course and you want your guys to take advantage of their lone round here.

La Quinta Country Club – One round – Par 72 around 7,050 yards, again an easier track than the Stadium Course so look for some crazy low rounds throughout the first three days at La Quinta.

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I am going to look for trends that are common to all three courses such as par 72s, Bermuda greens and relatively easy courses. I also want to try and get players who are solid sand players and can rack up the birdies. The winning score could be in the 20-under range again this week so birdies are going to be important, as will par 5 scoring. One thing to note is these par 5’s don’t give up a ton of eagles and that means wedges and scrambling can be important to take advantage.

DraftKings scoring heavily values erratic play and with more par 5’s on the courses this week, we are going to want to try and target some high-upside scorers. Plus, with every player getting three rounds guaranteed, a missed cut isn’t as deadly as usual. But if you want to have a chance to take down any GPPs, you are still going to need six of six.

** Don’t forget to check out the daily shows throughout the week where we touch on various topics from Sports Betting, Week in Review, and plenty of PGA tour golf breakdowns. You can find all my shows during the week on the Awesemo.com YouTube homepage. **

The Field

Since they are playing on three different courses, the participants have plenty of time, so we have a massive 156-man field to break down. If that was not difficult enough, this is a pro-am so every single golfer will have a celebrity pairing, meaning these rounds will take forever and the TV coverage will be horrible.

The defending champ is Adam Long who is nowhere near the top-end pricing so he doesn’t get the course history bump like some of the better players. Leading us off, we have Rickie Fowler followed by Sungjae Im, Paul Casey and Tony Finau to round out the top four. As you can see this isn’t the strongest field and it only gets worse from there as we work our way down to the mid-range price tags.

Weather will be a little tricky since players are at certain courses on certain days. Make sure to keep an eye on slack as things may update as we get closer to lock. Also make sure to check out the Wednesday night Awesemo.com PGA DFS Show where we will update weather and talk about lineup construction and player pool and take questions from the chat.

** If you aren’t yet a member here at Awesemo.com and thinking about giving us a try, use the Promo Code “JAZZRAZ” on the Awesemo sign-up page and it will get you will get 50% off your first week of any package.**

Quick Targets

Top Priced

Rickie Fowler $11,500 DraftKings, $12,000 FanDuel 

Top-priced Fowler hasn’t played this event since 2014 and has no notable course history to go off of. I don’t read anything into that and his game fits just fine at courses like this as the environment requires a lot of birdies.

We saw Fowler at the Tournament of Champions (finished fifth) and during the Presidents cup, so we aren’t flying blind in terms of recent form. Ownership will determine the extent of how much Fowler I want, but I think people won’t want to click him in at this price tag. I get wanting to get Sungjae Im exposure with the way he is playing, but for PGA DFS, I lean to Fowler and his ability to get hot with the putter and attack these par 5’s.

Matthew Wolff $9,000 DraftKings, $10,700 FanDuel

Wolff is going to be able to feast on par 5’s early and often so I am sticking with him here. We saw Wolff at the Tournament of Championship where he was great as usual with the driver and then uneventful with the rest of the game.

Wolff needs to improve the irons to really contend week in and week out, but this is a good setup for him. He can lean on his off-tee game and his around-green game isn’t a leak so the scrambling won’t be an issue. It is early in his career, but I think he’s more apt to compete in a birdie fest like this than in grind-it-out events with harder conditions. Looking over the price range, we have guys like Abraham Ancer priced similarly and although I don’t mind that spot either, I still prefer taking the stab with the Oklahoma State product Wolff.

Mid Range

Alex Noren $8,400 DraftKings, $9,800 FanDuel

Noren shows one brief sign of life and I come running back to him. Such is life with the Swede who I cannot seem to gauge and constantly am reevaluating on the fly. Last week, Noren was fantastic tee to green at the Sony, gaining 7.4 strokes. Unfortunately for him, he finished 32nd due to an ice cold putter, which is something we just have to deal with. The positive is Noren isn’t a bad putter so that could be corrected immediately and present a buy-low spot. I prefer to target Noren at tougher tracks, which is the one concern I have about this spot. Still, I have interest here if the ball striking continues and the price is reasonable enough to fit into my PGA DFS builds.

Russell Knox $8,100 DraftKings, $9,500 FanDuel

I was on Knox last week and although he finished in 32nd, he showed a lot of positives heading into this week. The first obvious sign that good things are coming is that Knox is dialed in with the irons. Last week, he gained 5.9 strokes on the approach while doing nothing off the tee or with the putter. People are going to take notice of this and I would expect the ownership to be there for Knox this week. Still, there is no denying the PGA DFS appeal at this price range and he makes sense in both GPP and cash lineups.

Lower Priced

Aaron Wise $7,300 DraftKings, $8,900 FanDuel

It has been a rough stretch of golf for Wise, who missed the cut last week at the Sony Open. All is fine though and I don’t worry about anything long term with a guy this talented even though he needs to make cuts more consistently. Last week, the ball striking was actually solid, it was just the putter that let Wise down and cost him a chance to find the weekend.

With this layout, Wise will have a chance to lean on his off-tee game and wedges on a ton of these par 5’s. He has immense talent and with the depressed price and recent form, I don’t expect ownership to gravitate to this spot. That gives him massive GPP appeal and in a week with limited win equity up top, it is perfect to target players like this in PGA DFS.

Harry Higgs $6,900 DraftKings, $8,600 FanDuel

I said the following about Higgs last week:

“When we have limited information one strategy I like to go to is buying a guy for a string of weeks and not trying to peg them for individual tournaments where variance is just so incredibly high. There is nothing more frustrating than jumping on and off a guy only to miss it by weeks and buying for a block of events can mitigate that.”

Higgs responded by making the cut in unbelievable fashion as he eagled the 36th hole to make it on the number. He didn’t do much on the weekend and looking over the shots gained, he clearly leaned on his off-tee game. I’ve mentioned a few players that do that this week and I will be building some driver-heavy lineups in the hope that skill set can shine through. Higgs is reasonably priced and as I mentioned, I will continue to buy him early in the PGA DFS season unless something dramatically changes.

Also Considering – Sam Ryder

Quick Notes

Three Course Rotation – Showdown

Just keep in mind that this three-course rotation will have some people make mistakes when building for Showdown. Ideally, you are going to want your players at the La Quinta course as it is ripe for scoring and more important for streak chances with the way the holes set up. This is something that will go overlooked and you can take advantage over casuals in the daily Showdown contests.

If you have any questions find me in the Awesemo.com premium Slack chat.

*Ben Rasa (aka Jazzraz)* has been involved with sports and numbers for quite some time dabbling in the poker world , sports wagering and of course finding a home in the DFS world. While he enjoys playing NFL, NCAAF and NBA he has found his best advantage on the links with PGA and the Euro Tour. Jazzraz focuses on GPPs and uses a analytical approach to try and find pricing inefficiencies as well as trying to go against the grain to find those under owned lesser know players that can make the difference in giant field tournaments. You can contact Ben by emailing support@awesemo.com.

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