The Tour is making its way back to the contiguous 48 for the first event of the West Coast swing. The Desert Classic has had many names over the years but one thing that has remained the same is the three-course rotation. If you’re looking for trends and a course preview, check out yesterday’s article.
Three Course Rotation
With the three-course rotation, all golfers are guaranteed 54 holes. Here’s how the different groups will go through the rotation:
- Stadium -> La Quinta -> Nicklaus Tournament
- La Quinta -> Nicklaus Tournament -> Stadium
- Nicklaus Tournament -> Stadium -> La Quinta
The entire day was spent trying to parse out (from three years of data, mind you) what the most advantageous split is. I respect all the opinions of those who looked into it, but I think it’s vastly overstated for one simple reason. The Tour is incentivized to schedule the best golfers to play Saturday on the Stadium Course because that’s the course where the TV coverage is centered. That might sound like I’m in a bunker with a tin-foil hat on, but the numbers bear it out.1
Checking The Chalk
He’s the most expensive option this week and appears to be a candidate for chalk status. Jon Rahm ($11,600) obviously makes sense from a course fit perspective considering he won an event on this exact course rotation. Rahm hit more than 80 percent of greens in regulation at Kapalua but he had one of his worst recent performances putting. Assuming the ball-striking is still there, I’ll take my chances that the putter comes around for Rahm. Charles Howell ($10,400) and Adam Hadwin ($10,000) are both priced in the $10,000 range this week. They’re both projecting as chalky options in my first run through of ownership. Howell’s reputation as a cut-maker and as an above-average California golfer means he’ll likely be popular this weekend. He has made 47 of 52 cuts over the past 2-plus seasons. Hadwin has finished in the top six in each of the past three years here, including a memorable 59 in 2017. In the twelve rounds that he’s played on this course rotation, he has nine sub-70 rounds.
As we dip below that $9,500 and up range, we have a trio of options that popped in the ownership model. Hudson Swafford ($8,300), Corey Conners ($7,500), and Joaquin Niemann ($7,600) all popped on the first run. Swafford is there because of his combination of recent form and course history, He didn’t seem to have his best game through the fall swing, but Swafford bounced back at Waialae last week as he carded all four rounds under 70 to finish in a tie for third place. Oh, and he’s won this event before. Conners was tied for third place at the Sony Open as well. His approach game was on fire as he gained over seven strokes on approach last week. We haven’t seen Niemann in some time now but we know what his upside is. Since bursting onto the scene at the Texas Open last spring, he’s averaged 74 DK points across his 16 starts. Under $7,500, I’m not really seeing anyone that’s jumping off the projections. If I had to pick, Ryan Armour ($7,100) seems like he could get popular depending on how the rest of the week goes. George Cunningham ($7,100) is a trendy name as well, but I doubt that the Mackenzie Tour grade gets too chalky outside of some of the higher dollar tournaments.
Patrick Cantlay ($10,600) has as much upside as anybody on Tour in my eyes. He isn’t going to be super low-owned but he comes at a discount from the top priced guys. Cantlay hasn’t missed a cut since May. In his thirteen starts since then, he’s averaged nearly 80 DK points. Per FantasyLabs, he has the best long-term greens-in-regulation percentage of anyone in this range. A low-owned Luke List ($9,000) that gets one crack at each of the two easiest courses on tour is something I’m definitely interested in for GPPs. He’s as volatile as they come but when he’s on, he can go low. Sungjae Im ($8,100) is another guy who has the potential to break through in the coming weeks. In a weaker field like this, it’s not hard to imagine him finishing near the top of the leaderboard. Especially if he plays as he did on the last 54 holes in Waialae. After an opening round 71, he went 64-65-68 to finish in 16th place. It’s a gut feel with Jason Kokrak ($7,100) since we haven’t seen him in a bit but the course sets up nicely for him. He can score in bunches and we know that his distance can allow him to overpower a course when things click for him.
We hit on both the cash locks last weekend with a T3 and a T8 finish from our guys Leishman and Howell. We have another format this week with a 54-hole cut. It’s slightly less important to target cutmakers with no real upside because you’re guaranteed three rounds from your golfers in total. Of course, you’d prefer to have all six golfers playing on Sunday, but there’s less of an emphasis on cut equity this week. Here are the two guys I’m willing to go all in on this weekend.
- Jon Rahm ($11,600)
- Joaquin Niemann ($7,600)
Ownership Projections - WMPO
|Name||Salary||Final Run||Model:85+ DK Points|
|Si Woo Kim||7500||3.2||1%|
|Cheng Tsung Pan||7200||1.8||11%|
|Ted Potter Jr||6800||1.0||2%|
|Meen Whee Kim||6000||0.2||1%|
- Shoutout to Golf Gurus (@golfsavages2 on Twitter) for his research on the topic. (back)