This week, the wild early season for the PGA Tour ends up in Playa del Carmen in Mexico at El Camaleón Golf Club. Last year, Patton Kizzire edged Rickie Fowler by one stroke on Sunday to capture his first PGA Tour victory. With the field loaded with Web.com graduates and less-known Tour players, this event – like the rest in this first portion of the wraparound season on the PGA Tour – provides a unique opportunity for those guys to capture a PGA Tour victory.
Before Kizzire, guys like Pat Perez (2016), Graeme McDowell (2015), and Charley Hoffman (2015) won this event. While players such as Rickie Fowler will be very appealing this week, this event has a track record of winners who usually wouldn’t be able to win an event with a regular Tour field such as the Sony Open in January. Make sure for this event, as well as the RSM Classic next week, that you dig deep into the players you may not be as familiar with.
Basically, the way to tame El Camaleón is not through length since the course plays less than 7,000 yards (6,987) yet still plays as a Par 71. It’s all about who has been striking the ball purely and who has been contending since the new season began.
For instance, Kizzire was coming off a T4th finish at the Shriners Open heading into his eventual victory at El Camaleón. In 2016, Perez was coming off an impressive Playoffs performance, where he finished T34th-T6th-T12th-T16th at the four events, not to mention a T28th at the PGA Championship right before that. Since the course isn’t long, players who are precise succeed here. The best way to analyze that from a research perspective is to look at those past three or four finishes and evaluate how consistently a player has been striking the ball purely.
Here are the stats we used to find the guys who have been doing just that…
-Ball Striking (Strokes Gained)
-Greens in Regulation (GIR%)
-Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
-Fairway Accuracy/Good Drives Gained
After looking over the entire field, these are the two guys we feel have the best chance to crush value this week…
Must-Have #1: Joaquin Niemann
Niemann has made a name for himself this year as being the young guy who is consistently contending after breaking through with a T6th at the Valero Texas Open in April. After a couple missed cuts, Niemann finished 8th and 6th at the Forth Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament – impressive finishes against tough fields. Another missed cut, and then Niemann began firing on all cylinders again, finishing T17th-T5th-T3rd at the Quicken Loans, Greenbrier Classic, and John Deere Classic towards the end of the year.
The reason for Niemann’s cheap price compared to where it sat earlier in August is due to his poor outing in his first major (T71st – PGA Championship) and then his missed cut at the beginning of the year at the Safeway Open. The problem this young Chilean has been facing lately can be narrowed to one single area: his short game. He lost 4.1 strokes around-the-green at the PGA Championship and then 4.7 strokes putting at the Safeway Open (both being the worst performance in each area as a professional).
The main reason we are on Niemann is because of how this now 20-year-old (Niemann turned 20 Wednesday) is now trending. He bounced back nicely after his MC at the Safeway by finishing T36th at the CJ Cup. Then, last week at the Shriners Open in Las Vegas, Niemann finished T10th after firing four rounds under 70 (69-68-67-66). He still lost 1.7 strokes putting, but he also gained strokes in every other category, including 1.3 strokes around-the-green and 8.6 strokes tee-to-green.
Now usually we wouldn’t microanalyze round-by-round scores, as those can change with a simple lip out. But to see Niemann trending in the right direction both in terms of tournament finishes and how he has been improving upon his chipping/putting is a strong sign for a strong DFS play. Niemann definitely would have sneaked into the top-5 if he had made two more putts last week. He isn’t priced too high against this field, a big reason why he should be high-owned this week. Niemann is not one of those guys you want to fade in PGA GPPs, however, as his upside is consistently top-10 regardless of the track. Lock him in for his relatively cheap price tag, a price that easily allows you to pair him with our other MH and still go get one of the top elite guys in the field.
Must-Have #2: Abraham Ancer
A lot of people hate narrative plays when it comes to DFS. Not me. Especially when it has to do with Señor Abraham Ancer in Mexico. This 27-year-old Mexican golfer has been making waves on Tour not just this year, but this week. In Vegas at the Shriners Open, Ancer just finished T4th on Sunday after firing 66-66-69-66 in his four rounds at TPC Summerlin. That was Ancer’s fifth top-10 since his T4th at the Quicken Loans in late June.
Where he has been thriving is at tournaments with relatively weaker fields such as this one, as he finished T5th at the RBC Canadian Open and T5th at the CIMB Classic. Those tournaments only featured a couple world class guys such as Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka amidst a plethora of those guys outside the top-100 in the OWGR. Ancer’s T7th at the Dell Technologies Championship in the Playoffs was not against a weaker field, but instead the top-100 players on Tour. This week features a field much more like the RBC Canadian Open – a good sign for Ancer.
Like we talked about earlier, those past few finishes are the best indicators for a player’s form. We’ll excuse Ancer’s T73rd finish at the CJ Cup – dude fired an 80 on Sunday and dropped 42 spots. By how he looked last week, though, that 80 is simply an outlier and should be ignored.
BUT WAIT – THERE’S MORE! Not only is Ancer popping into top-10’s in late 2018…he was doing the same thing in late 2017 right here at El Camaleón. Even after missing the cut at the Shriners Open a week before unlike this year, Ancer made a successful trip to El Camaleón in his third appearance at the Mayakoba Golf Classic and finished T9th. On Sunday, he did the exact opposite of what he did at the CJ Cup a few weeks ago and rose 43 spots after a final round 68. He also shot a 65 on Saturday following his 71-69 first two rounds to finish 11-under. Ancer made the cut the year before too, finishing T55th after finishing 5-under.
With the cutline being -2 last year, and -1 the year before, Ancer has showcased over the past two years that making the cut won’t be a worry at the one of two PGA Tour events in his home country (WGC-Mexico Championship). After finishing T4th last week, look for Ancer to make waves on Tour by finishing in the top-10 two straight weeks and two straight years at this event. Ancer is not expected to be chalk, as players such as Niemann, Ryder, and Pan will carry more ownership around his price. Because of that, Ancer makes for a great play in both GPPs and cash games. All eyes in Mexico will be on their budding superstar. We’ll be watching along with them.
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