Building some momentum as he near the heart of the season, a handful of big names are headed to the Arizona desert to take on TPC Scottsdale at The People's Open.
It's a somewhat limited field of 132 golfers this week with the usual top 65 and ties making it through the cutline.
For DFS purposes that means a higher expected 6-of-6 rate. It wouldn't be crazy to expect 15 to 20% of lineups get all six golfers through the cut this week. Of course, that could swing drastically if one or two of the chalkiest golfers go home early.
The Phoenix Open is such a unique event, it makes it a good time to lean on event history more than usual because some golfers really love the atmosphere and/or the course layout. You see them getting themselves into contention year after year here.
Now let's have a look to see if there are any weather concerns, find out a couple golfers that are trending well, and then look at which golfers like to play aggressively on driver-heavy courses.
Thursday (R1): Mid 50s in the morning with a high of 70 degrees in the afternoon. Calm Winds.
Friday (R2): Mid 50s in the morning with a high of 70 degrees in the afternoon. Calm Winds.
Not a good week to be dew-sweeping. That is nothing new for this event, this time of year. The mornings are chilly but it generally warms up by lunchtime.
I am going to focus on some recent results in this section to highlight what golfers may be trending in the right direction.
Tom Hoge -- Can anyone or anything slow down the Fargo Freight Train? He even made the front page of the Fargo Sports section last week. Hoge has finished top 15 in three straight events. He's been better than the field average in 10-of-12 rounds during that stretch, beating the field by 2 or more strokes in eight of those rounds. It's hard to find any stretches even close to this during his career. The closest was 2015 when he gained strokes in 11-of-12 rounds (starting in R3 of Barbasol) with six of those being 2+ over the field. Those didn't land perfectly across events like this time but he followed that up by losing strokes to the field in 10 of his next 12 rounds. Is something like that coming down the pipeline or can he maintain this hot form?
Branden Grace -- He had a rough year in 2019 but a trip home seems to have righted the ship. Grace gained more than 9 strokes over the field in the final round that week to steal the trophy and pick up a lot of confidence in the process. He followed it up with a top 10 in Abu Dhabi (desert golf) where he gained strokes over the field in three of four rounds.
Just like last week, we have another course that sets up well for aggressive club selection off-the-tee. TPC Scottsdale doesn't require distance but it does allow for golfers to pull driver after driver in hopes of setting up shorter approach shots. There aren't a lot of doglegs or much tree trouble here to spoil that plan. Even the water in play is mostly on holes where you can still recover with a chance to save par if you hit it in the drink.
Looking at sample-size-adjusted performance in rounds played on driver-heavy courses since 2018 (PGA, KFT, Euro Tour) the top performers on a per-round basis looks like this:
Other than raw performance, we can also look at who shows the biggest improvement on driver-heavy courses (versus their baseline). Using that as the criteria, the following names pop:
These are some interesting names to look into but we need to account for the current state of their game too. Some of them are going through some major struggles while Conners is playing this event for the first time. Kyle Stanley is a past champ at the course.
Daniel Berger: The Florida native is still trying to get back to his old baseline where he was a star. Injuries derailed that but he's flashing some hints of form early in the season. Berger has finished top 40 in six of his last seven starts, dating back to the Wyndham Championship last August. He's also finished T11 or better in three of his four trips to TPC Scottsdale. Not too shabby for a golfer that is priced well below the field average this week.
Best of luck in all your contests this week!