While the big boys tee it up in Austin, Texas, the real party will take place down in the Caribbean.
This week’s Puerto Rico Open takes place at Coco Beach Golf & Country Club. It’s a Par 72 that CAN stretch out to 7,506 yards. I say it can play up to that yardage because they will often move up the tee boxes when the wind rolls in (which it typically does). Since I started tracking wind in 2014, this event is the windiest on average, coming in at 18 mph. That means it’s probably a good idea to throw in some tee-time wave lineups this week. Keep your eye on the forecast to see if one wave looks to gain a clear advantage.
Not only does wind wreck havoc on the aerial attack, it also forces the greens to be slowed down. If they tried to get too cute then the greens could really get away from them. Luckily, they don’t try to test these limits and typically have the greens running between 10.5 and 11 feet on the stimp….SLOW GREENS, especially for golfers that were just putting at Bay Hill which was running 13 feet on the stimpmeter.
The greens themselves are Paspalum. Some golfers compare them to bermuda because of the graininess but the past results here actually show a higher correlation to bentgrass performance. Personally I won’t be looking at performance on particular green surfaces but other Paspalum events on TOUR include the OHL Classic and CIMB Classic.
While you don’t need to be particularly accurate on the par 5s this week, accuracy will be key to keeping the round together on the par 4s. That is why many golfers will club down on the par 4s. Finau hit 78% of his fairways on the par 4s last year. That’s obviously not the work of his driver. He was -5 when hitting the fairway on the par 4s but Even Par when he missed the fairway. Given that high clip of fairways hit, he was clearly clubbing down throughout the round. Over the last four years, the field has average just 47% GIR when missing the fairways on par 4s here, but 73% when they find the fairway.
You can tee it high and let it fly on the par 5s which is where the bombers will gain their edge back from the plodders. The front-nine par 5s in particular are a cakewalk. The field collects birdie or better around 50% of the time at each of these par 5s (Nos. 2 and 5). If your golfers go through this stretch without a birdie, you can let the tilting begin.
Check out the Fantasy Golfanac for a list of Wind Specialists, golfer qutoes, and other angles that may help you narrow down your rosters this week.
As for correlated events I’m looking at the Valspar, Valero Texas Open, RSM Classic, Barbasol, and Zurich Classic.
Players to Watch
Graham DeLaet… Like a broken record, if I say it enough times it has to be true eventually. This is FINALLY the week that DeLaet finds the winner’s circle. This will be his fifth appearance at the PRO. He’s finished top 25 very time with a T9 in 2012 being the best. This isn’t an event you want to become a course horse at, so hopefully he hoists the trophy this year and finds himself skipping next year to play in the Match Play. Wind doesn’t bother him either as he’s fourth in the field in terms of beating the field average by 2+ strokes when the wind is 14+ mph.
Graeme McDowell… One of the few golfers in the field who ranks higher in that wind stat I just mentioned for DeLaet. G-Mac is third in the field with only George McNeill and Alex Cejka rating higher. That’s no surprise for long-time G-Mac fans or backers. He always seems to thrive when playing near the coast which usually leaves the course susceptible to wind.
Peter Uihlein… The man that was so often compared to Brooks Koepka given the route that took, heading to the Euro Tour. Uihlein has remained overseas a bit longer than most probably expected. In fact, this is his first start on the PGA TOUR since the 2015 Greenbrier. He’s been a boom-or-bust stud on the Euro Tour and brings some nice course experience with him this week, finishing T6 here back in 2013.
George McNeill… Speaking of good course vibes, McNeazy has three top 20s in five trips here, including a win back in 2012. His form is not to be trusted but you could do worse if you’re looking for a deep sleeper that may burst.
Robby Shelton… I mentioned the Barbasol as one of the correlated events I’m looking at. Shelton finished T3 there, although it was a semi-home game, I still like that result. Then you have his pedigree while at Alabama, as he basically shattered every school record while he was there. What pushed me over the top was his performance in Puerto Rico while in college. Playing in the Puerto Rico Classic at Rio Mar CC (also in Rio Grande, PR) he finished T1, T4, and 1st over the last three years. Obviously that’s against collegiate competition, but he should feel perfectly comfy here in Puerto Rico. Head over to the Fantasy Golfanac if you want to see those PR Classic leaderboards.
Ian Poulter… Very close to locking down his full status, this should be an easy paycheck to help with the terms of his Medical Extenson. The problem with Poults is always his lack of a fantasy-friendly game when he doesn’t bring his best stuff, at least on DraftKings. Perhaps more of a FanDuel option this week.
Chris Kirk… Funny to say it, but Chris Kirk might be the class of the field. You could argue for a few others, but if we’re justing comparing resumes over the last five years then Kirk is right up there with G-Mac and Poulter.
Scott Brown… He’s a Weak-Field Warrior so it’s no surprise to see he’s racked up a win and three other top 10s here at Coco Beach, in five starts. The knock on Brown is always his ball-striking but this track clearly suits his eye, so I’m on board.
Luke List… The Birdie Machine will be turned on right from the get-go this week. If you’re looking for a golfer that is odds-on favorite to lead the field in tee-to-green play, then List is your man this week. He should feast on the par 5s.
My Top 25 for the 2017 Puerto Rico Open
1. Graham DeLaet
2. Graeme Mcdowell
3. Ian Poulter
4. Wesley Bryan
5. Chris Kirk
6. Luke List
7. Peter Uihelin
8. Scott Brown
9. Danny Lee
10. Robby Shelton
11. David Hearn
12. Seamus Power
13. Harold Varner III
14. Cameron Tringale
15. Matt Jones
16. J.J. Spaun
17. J.T. Poston
18. Fabrizio Zanotti
19. Alex Cejka
20. Bryson DeChambeau
21. Boo Weekley
22. John Peterson
23. Zac Blair
24. Brandon Hagy
25. Shawn Stefani