If you thought it had been a long time since Jason Day's last win, well you were in for a treat this past weekend. Day (-17) started like gangbusters on Thursday and continued his dominant play all the way through Sunday en-route to his sixth win in the trailing fourteen months. Day outlasted Kevin Chappell (-16), Henrik Stenson (-14), Troy Merritt (-14) and Zach Johnson (-12), and became the first wire-to-wire winner at the API since Freddie Couples accomplished the feat in 1992. Day played masterful golf in his win, showing off his complete game by finishing 7th in total driving, 4th in total short game metrics and 2nd in scoring. Day is peaking at the perfect time, setting himself up for a serious run at his first green jacket. The course doesn't set up for him as well as say Adam Scott or Bubba Watson, but Day is far too talented in far too many areas to not contend for a Masters title in his prime. He shouldn't be a dark horse pick in any major, however, with Adam Scott playing incredible golf, defending champion Jordan Spieth's impeccable majors record and Rory McIlroy starting to find his groove, Day will not be many shop's favorite to win at The Masters.
This is the first double-tournament of the year, with the WGC Match Play Championship set to tee off on Thursday morning, and the Puerto Rico Open teeing off later in the day on Thursday. DFS operators have not figured out a way to incorporate the WGC Match Play, so for fantasy purposes we are left to contend with the lesser known players at the PRO. If there is one thing I have learned in my past experiences playing the week of the PRO, it is that the tournament is wide open, and in most cases it doesn't make sense to overexpose yourself to any one player. There have been three consecutive winners who were playing the event for the first time, also marking the fifth time in nine years that has happened. My approach is to flatten out the top part of my exposure while increasing the bottom, leaving me with 20-25 players who all have equal exposure.
The “headliners" this week are guys that have some name recognition, mainly as Tour Grinders who churn out made cuts and top 25's. I always like watching this tournament because you are able to see a lot of the guys that don't normally dominate weekly coverage, and it reminds you just how good even the second tier of tour players are. Graham DaLeat, Scott Brown, Freddie Jacobsen, William McGirt, Johnny Vegas, Boo Weekley and Luke Donald are some of the bigger names this week, and should all command a high ownership percentage.
Formerly the PRO open was hosted at the Trump International Golf Course in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, however after a change of ownership the course is now Cocoa Beach Golf & Country Club. There have been some minor changes made to the course, but nothing of consequence that would impact a player's performance history or how a specific skillset fared previously.
Cocoa Beach was originally built in 2007 by Tom Kite. For all intents and purposes, it is a fairly straight forward parkland course that is not tricked up in any way. Its main draw is tourism to Puerto Rico, so there has to be a perfect balance of pristine conditioning and strategy, while also allowing for any skill level to play the course in four hours. In many ways they have accomplished that perfect balance, as the course really only has one natural defense…and that would be wind, lots of it.
What you are looking for is solid ball-strikers, guys who understand how to play in the wind, and how the wind effects their trajectory. Cocoa Beach will play to a par 72, and will be stretched out to the max yardage of 7500 yards. Last year the course played on average, about a half-stroke above par, which would make it more difficult (scoring wise) than the Masters and Players Championship in 2015. It makes sense to split your teams up so that you can stack both the morning and afternoon tee times on the first two days. The wind is very unpredictable, with the gusts expecting to reach between 20 and 30 mph.
- 1.)Scott Brown: Brown is playing well with top tens in his last two events. He also happens to be the 2nd highest earnings leader at the PRO, on the strength of a win in 2013, and a top 5 and top 10 in the previous two years. He also holds the course record (62), things are lining up very well for Brown this week.
- 2.)Freddie Jacobsen: Jacobsen has enjoyed a fantastic start to his 2016 season, making 9 of 12 cuts while adding a 4th, 4th and 5th place finish to his season totals. Jacobsen is a previous Tour winner and knows how to get it done on the weekend. He isn't the longest hitter, but Jacobsen has a sharp short game and has the veteran savvy to compete in the wind.
- 3.)William McGirt: McGirt is another veteran player that should find success at Cocoa Beach. In his last appearance at the PRO, McGirt finished 14th, but his current form is where you'll find his appeal. McGirt has survived 8 of 10 cuts and notched six top 25's, including a runner up finish at the Sanderson Farms and a pair of T8's at the Honda Classic and Shriners Hospital Open.
- 4.)Graham DaLaet: Of the players in the field this week, DaLaet is most likely the player with the most natural talent. He has yet to put that talent together though, and is still searching for his first Tour win. The course sets up well for DaLaet, but buyers beware: he has struggled mightily with keeping it all together during his rounds, which usually leads to one or two blow up holes that completely kill his value. He comes into the week with momentum, finishing 5th two weeks ago at Innisbrook. He also has solid course history, finishing with three top 25's in his only three tries.
- 5.)Johnny Vegas: This is somewhat of a home game for Vegas, but he has yet to capitalize on his 24th place finish in his rookie year in 2011. Vegas has improved his ball-striking and it is now the strength of his game, which bodes well for his chances this week. To start the season, Vegas has survived six of nine cuts, with four top 25's, a top 10 and a top 5.