Eat The Chalk or Make The Pivot, The American Express

The tour returns to the mainland after a two week stay in Hawaii. San Diego is the host for this weeks tournament. This is the first of three tournaments over the next month that will feature multiple courses. La Quinta, Nicklaus Tournament and PGA West will host this weeks action. Each player will tee it up for one round on all three courses. After round 3 a cut will proceed and the 4th round will head back to PGA West. All three courses are similar. Each is under 7200 yards, par 72’s, little to no rough and over seeded bermuda greens. In addition this is a pro-am tournament. The pin placements will be easier, the greens a little slower than normal and the pace of play slow. La Quinta and Nicklaus courses are the easiest while PGA West is the toughest of the three. Don’t be fooled though, PGA West isn’t that much more difficult and each year the scores get better at this course. The field of 156 is fairly strong (best ever for this tournament) with many top names showing up.

10K+ Price Range
Star power name up top with five choices led by one Jon Rahm. If you think the likes of Scheffler, Finau, Cantlay and Schauffele are going to keep people off Rahm your wrong. Perhaps if he had a 11 instead of 10 on his price tag plus a few hundred more on top of that 11 people would consider not playing. Fact is Rahm is the hottest player currently. On top of that he loves playing in the San Diego area. No doubt I will eat the chalk on Jon Rahm.

Scheffler, Cantlay and Finau will get some love. Don’t think your going to get a sub 10% player. Cantlay will will probably get the next most love due to his results here. Patrick enjoys playing on Pete Dye track and looks to rebound after a disappointing Tournament of Champions performance. Scheffler and Finau are in the same boat. Mixed results here in prior appearances while the putter will likely determine their outcome. I look at the two as pivots off Rahm and Cantlay in single and three max contests. This is we’re their ownership will be lower and if they do outperform Rahm and Cantlay you will pass others quickly.

Xander Schauffele is the pivot off all four of the above. His injury concerns will keep his ownership perhaps sub 10%. Just keep in mind if you play him you are inheriting risk. Xander could have two great rounds and then his back act up over the weekend resulting in bad play and or a withdraw. For MME players I feel you have to take some shots. His ownership won’t require you to have much to be equal or over the field. Keep in mind his game is similar to Cantlay who has played well here so he certainly could have a good week. In the end for me it will be Rahm and then some Finau and Scheffler in the single entry contests.

9K+ Price Range
The first question for many will be can I start my lineups with these players. The answer is yes. If you would have done this last year it would have worked. Now will it work two years in a row is the question. Eight players in this range and I feel by looking at our options it will drive the ownership up on all the 10k players minus Xander. Personally I just don’t see many people starting lineups in this range. I don’t mind starting in this range because I do like a couple players and it should make your rosters different. My issue with this range is I can make cases to play all of these players while making cases why I shouldn’t. Thus another reason why I feel many will start up top.

The one player I am definitely on will be Will Zalatoris. He came back strong at the TOC after a long layoff due to injury. His iron play drives his results and he should have plenty of birdie opportunities. The putter is always his concern. Most putts at this tournament are made from 10+ feet. If you watch Zalatoris he putts much better from this range than the closer ranges of inside 10’. He is the chalk of this range I am willing to eat.

Sungjae Im is interesting because he could perhaps end up being owned at Xander type numbers. He plays well here and some will be off due to last weeks results. That doesn’t concern me because he rarely played well at Sony and has shown to bounce back here. In the end though I probably stay away because his iron play combined with poor putting has hurt him. If it was just the putter I could be swayed.

Will people go back to Tom Kim after disappointing last week. I believe so, I am inclined. It was the putter that hurt his game and it was very bad. His tee to green game is still in good shape. After Zalatoris I can see Kim being the next highest owned in this range. This also leads me back to Sungjae. Priced below the 10k players but above Zalatoris and Kim could end up leaving him at juicy ownership.

At this point I am eliminating Si Woo Kim. I was on him last week. His price is one I can’t pay and he certainly will get some traction due to his win and prior results here. Like I said last week, the best Si Woo is low owned as he has struggled in the past when popular. I can very well see Si Woo missing the cut or finishing 35th or worse.

What do we do with Cam Young who is priced fairly. Does this lead to him being popular? Do people look at his recent TOC performance and stay away? Will people see his lackluster finish last year and walk away? Do the two players above and below young drive his ownership up or does it work the other way and he comes in moderately owned.  I actually like starting a lineup with Zalatoris and Young but will that be the popular starting route in this range? Many questions to answer about Cam but I do feel his game sets up well. He played well here last year minus one round while he is a much better player now.

As I said last week I am not one to jump on Brian Harman. Fortunately I stayed away but once again he brings reason to play. His course history is stellar. Harman is playing solid golf but that price is just tough. He is also another reason why I am leaning Cam Young. I can see people clicking on Harman over Young while I feel Cam brings slightly more win equity.

This leaves me with Sam Burns and Aaron Wise. I can see the two being perhaps in single digit ownership. Burns hasn’t been sharp but his game sets up great. Sam excels on easy to putt courses and has the iron play to leave himself plenty of opportunities. Meanwhile I feel many will look at the course history for Wise and move on. He plays well in the desert setting and is quite familiar with these types of courses since he resides in Vegas. The bottom line with Aaron is his putting has never been better. In the end I will have some Zalatoris, Tom Kim, Burns and Wise with Cam Young looking in closely while someone needs to talk me into Harman and Im.

8k+ Range
Another range were cases can be made to play and not to play players. Three players stick out when it comes to being popular. Starting with Taylor Montgomery who continues to play well. At this point I am passing. We have a loaded field and I don’t like the way he finished the weekend. Next up is Adam Hadwin who plays his best in the desert. His course history is phenomenal. Play him in cash but in GPP I will pass. Like Montgomery, we have several other players who will be lower owned who could easily out perform. Finally, Tom Hoge who also has solid course history. Of the three I prefer Hoge who continues to play well. I think pairing Hoge with 1-2 9K players will make it different as I see him being a popular play with the 10k players.

The prices on Cam Davis, Andrew Putnam and Sahith Theegala might make some cringe. With all three being priced similar while being in between Montgomery and Hoge should keep the ownership moderate at best. I will be playing all three. Putnam and Davis have been solid here while playing well. Both can get hot with the putter a necessity at this tournament. I will continue to ride Theegala cause the win is coming. He putts well on easier courses and has the set up for the course.

KH Lee, Wyndham Clark and JT Poston all fall in the same bucket as the above three players. I don’t see many going with Lee or Clark. The prices on both are stiff. Lee doesn’t have great course history and faded last week. Clark is making his calendar year debut. Poston should get some ownership and more than the other two. JT is playing well especially his irons. This has always been his weakness and I prefer to play him while they are hot. Currently I am leaning Clark over Lee and definitely playing Poston.

7K+ Price Range
Most weeks you can pick 1-3 three players within this range that will be the chalk. I don’t see that for the current week. If I had to take a stab I would roll with Thomas Detry, Nick Taylor, SE Kim and Chris Kirk. I lean toward them because they all played well last week. Detry played over seas doing just fine and is the one I prefer of the four. He finished last season with three T15’s and has placed their in six of his last eight tournaments.

In general I expect this range to be quite flat in ownership with plenty of sub 10% plays. I couldn’t tell you the last time I played Rickie Fowler. Fowler has changed the swing along with many people around him. The results showed in the fall swing. He has played well here previously and in my opinion has just as much upside as most of the 8k players at lower ownership. Jason Day is in the same boat as Fowler. Played well in the fall swing and looking to keep the momentum rolling. He hasn’t played as much here which will keep some away but like Fowler if he gets the putter rolling he could over achieve his price. Both are also playing to earn invites to The Masters.

A few others who can my attention in this range who I can see being low owned. Why not party Marty Laird? He excels in the desert and finished last season strong. With this being the first tournament for Davis Riley this calendar year will be sleep on him? If they do I will take some shots. Robby Shelton is priced right below several players who played better than him last week. You can’t tell me his chances of doing better than any of those is better. I took shots on him last week and will go back. Finally, Luke List who has been boom or bust here but overall much better recently. He played solid at the TOC a few weeks back.

Let’s have a great week of golf as the season starts to ramp up. Best of luck to all and Run Pure!

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