Professional / Fantasy

Fantasy Forecast: Puerto Rico Open preview

Scott Brown
Scott Brown (Getty )

Puerto Rico Open

  • Coco Beach Golf & Country Club
  • Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
  • Yards: 7,506 per the official scorecard
  • Par: 72 (36-36)
  • Greens: Sea Dwarf Paspalum; 6,000 square feet on average
  • Rough: Paspalum at 1″
  • Course Architect(s): Tom Kite and Bruce Besse, Jar (2004)
  • Purse: $3 million; $540k (winner); 300 FedExCup Points;
  • Defending Champion: Alex Cejka won a five-man playoff to secure his first victory on Tour.

Notes:

  • 132 players; stroke play;
  • Top 70 and ties make the cut
  • Course is the same track but has a new name and new ownership after Trump International declared bankruptcy last year.

2015-16 Winners

Youngsters

In 2014-15, there were 14 players in their 20s who won tournaments. They accounted for a whopping 24 victories in 47 events.

Under 30 Winners (at time of victory)

  • Emiliano Grillo, 23; Frys.com
  • Smylie Kaufman, 23; Shriners
  • Justin Thomas, 22; CIMB
  • Peter Malnati, 28; SFC
  • Jordan Spieth, 22; HTOC
  • Hideki Matsuyama, 23; WMPO
  • Jason Day, 28; API

Prime-Time Players

The guys between 30-39 years of age produced 16 multiple champions in 17 events last season.

Winners 30-39

  • Russell Knox, 30; HSBC Champions
  • Graeme McDowell, 36; OHL Mayakoba
  • Kevin Kisner, 31; RSM Classic
  • Fabian Gomez, 37; Sony Open
  • Jason Dufner, 38; CB Challenge
  • Brandt Snedeker, 35; Farmers Insurance Open
  • Vaughn Taylor, 39; AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
  • Bubba Watson, 37; Northern Trust Open
  • Adam Scott, 35; Honda Classic, WGC-Cadillac Championship*
  • Charl Schwartzel, 31, Valspar

*only multiple winner on Tour this season

Old Guard

There were only four winners last season from 47 events (Furyk, Cejka, Love III and Harrington). Sentimentality has no place in fantasy golf, folks.

Winners 40-plus

None, yet. Chad Campbell was the best “old guy” last week at T-20.

Rookies

Last year the only rookie to pick up a first-place check was Canadian Nick Taylor. This season it took ONE EVENT to match that total.

Rookie Winners

Emiliano Grillo; Frys.com

Smylie Kaufman; Shriners

First-Time Winners

Rookies, journeyman, up-and-comers, I’ll keep track of them all. It’s a life-changer.

First-Time Winners Trend

2013: 12

2014: 10

2015: 11

2016: 6 and counting

  • Emiliano Grillo (Frys.com)
  • Smylie Kaufman (Shriners)
  • Justin Thomas (CIMB)
  • Peter Malnati (SFC)
  • Russell Knox (WGC-HSBC Champions)
  • Kevin Kisner (RSM)

The Particulars:

New name, same course as the Tour returns to Puerto Rico for the ninth consecutive season. The field this week will play opposite the WGC-Dell Match Play so gamers will have to dig a bit deeper this week.

It should be a week of fun, sun and birdies as this resort course has shown in the past to yield plenty of low scores and up-and-coming players. With rough playing just around an inch, the players who keep it out of the 18 water hazards should have plenty of chances to ping GIR and hole birdie putts. Last year was the exception, not the rule, as winds howled all week and scores ballooned but remember, the winning score in four of the previous five years was sub-270.

With four par fives and resort style greens, the scores should bounce back to that level this time around. Remember, the tournament record was set in both 2013 and 2014 so the par breakers will be front and center this week. Guys who keep it in play, give themselves the most chances and can handle a bit of wind should be firing come Sunday afternoon.

Course Ratings

  • 2015: 13th-most difficult +0.570
  • 2014: 7th easiest of 48 used; -1.212
  • 2013: 5th-easiest of 43 used; -1.771
  • 2012: 22nd-hardest of 49; +0.227
  • 2011: 19th easiest of 51; -0.466

Previous Champions

  • 2015: Alex Cejka 281*
  • 2014: Chesson Hadley 267
  • 2013: Scott Brown 268
  • 2012: George McNeill 272
  • 2011: Michael Bradley 267*
  • 2010: Derek Lamely 269
  • 2009: Michael Bradley 274
  • 2008: Greg Kraft 274

*playoff; # not playing this week

Persons of Interest

Before they were household names in the gaming business

  • 2009: Jason Day, T-2
  • 2010: Graham DeLaet, T-24
  • 2011: Keegan Bradley, T-18
  • 2012: Ryo Ishikawa, T-2
  • 2013: Jordan Spieth, T-2
  • 2014: Danny Lee, 2nd, Brooks Koepka T-19
  • 2015: Emiliano Grillo, P2

Facts and Figures:

  • Cejka’s winning score, 281, was the highest ever in this event.
  • Cejka is the only foreign winner.
  • Hadley’s 267 is the tournament record.
  • Course record: 63, last posted by Scott Brown in 2013.
  • No player has ever defended their title.
  • Michael Bradley (2009, 2011) is the only multiple winner.
  • Bradley (2009) and Hadley (2014) are the only two winners in their first try at the event.
  • Every winner on the list above minus Bradley and McNeill made the PRO their first Tour victory. #WideOpen
  • Hadley, 26, and Cejka, 44, are the youngest and oldest winners, respectively.
  • Largest winning margin is just two strokes.

The Field

Favorites

In order of preference for this week and this tournament

Scott Brown: 2013 champ also finished T-5 in ’12 and T-10 so he’s proved his form in good and bad weather here. On form after a very solid Florida Swing. Finished T-10 at Honda, T-7 at Valspar and T-27 last week at API. Bummer that he was my OAD LAST week, but that’s the story of my gaming life.

Graham DeLaet: All three finishes here are T-24 or better. Of 12 rounds 11 have been under par. Will pepper fairways and greens and has plenty of length to fight through any conditions. T-5 last time out at Valspar despite bringing up the rear in putting. BRO, USE A HOCKEY STICK!

William McGirt: Nothing over par in two trips to Puerto Rico. Knocked the rust off last week after a two-week break so I’m expecting him to right the ship. Top 20 in birdies and scoring and strokes-gained: tee-to-green.

Patrick Rodgers: Best two results in ’16 have been on scoring, resort-type tracks (T-17 WMPO, T-20, API). Top 20 ball-striker that needs, like DeLaet, just a decent week of putting to contend.

Alex Cejka: Neck injury from WMPO is in the rear-view mirror. Sits 20th in the all-around ranking and top 45 in both fairways and greens. First-time defender enters trending in the right direction, T-41 and T-21 in his last two.

Freddie Jacobson: Senor Junkman played his final round here in 11 under back in 2011 after opening with 74. Top 17 or better on seaside courses this season including three top five finishes.

Chesson Hadley: 2014 champ and tournament record holder defended with T-16 last year including a fantastic 67 on a difficult final round. Blind course faith in a thin field.

Sung Kang: MC last week broke a string of four T-22 or better including a pair of top 10s. Panning for gold in a field of this magnitude forces me to lean on recent form.

George McNeill: 2012 champ is 48-under in four tries and also has a solo fifth in 2011 to reflect upon. His only result this year was on a course he’s had past success, Innisbrook, so I’m riding that angle this week.

Sam Saunders: Fell in a playoff last year and was going guns blazing on the Florida Swing before MC at OF ALL PLACES his grandfather’s event. Of course, he did. Back on the horse again this week.

Boo Weekley: Top 10s in his last three visits over the last four years suggests putting shouldn’t be at the top of your list this week. Solo fifth at WMPO is the meat of the MC, MC, MC sandwich so not a hot seven tournament run.

Luke Donald: Form is temporary, class is permanent. Hoping a new venue flips a switch. That’s really, really bad fantasy advice but I’d rather have that belief in a field like this than a field like Honda. #Thinny

Dean Burmester: He’s started five times on the African Tour and has hit the top 10 four times in 2016. Won six times in Africa since 2013 and finished T-4, second and second in his last three. Hot golf is hot golf.

Next Tier

no particular order

Derek Fathauer: Dead last in GIR last week but his slick putter stole T-12 for his best finish since T-4 at Mayakoba, another track with Paspalum greens.

Jerry Kelly: In seven tries he’s played the weekend five times. All five times are T-25 or better including three top 10s. Only MC once in eight tries this season and his best finish was on another island, Hawaii, T-9 at Sony.

David Hearn: #CanadianMafia with GDL has no problem going low here with seven of 12 rounds in the 60s. I’m not sold on his short putter just yet but T-20 last week was his first top 25 in eight with the new stick.

Jon Curran: Netted all four rounds under par here last year in nasty winds but fell short in a playoff to Cejka. Fairways and a great putter isn’t a terrible recipe this week.

Luke List: Trashes par fives and was T-20 at Riviera and T-10 at Honda shows he can think it around as well.

Jonathan Byrd: T-3 on the Web.com last week was his second top five in three tries in 2016 on that circuit. The five-time winner on Tour has three top 16 finishes in three tries at PRO. WHEN COURSE FORM MEETS CURRENT FORM…

Jhonattan Vegas: New dad jumped back on Tour last week and closed with 68 at API. Big, bad ball-strikers don’t hurt this week.

Tony Finau: Made a ton of birdies last week (19) including three in a row to finish with 67. That’s his lowest round since the first week of November. With the way he’s been hitting it off the tee, he’ll be super excited for minimal rough this week. First made cut in 5 events last week.

Retief Goosen: #OldFolk was T-11 at Innsibrook and made another cut last weekend at API, his fifth in a row.

Off the Beaten Path

Course horses, long shots, cheeky picks, DFS last call, red herrings

Adam Svensson: Lovely risk, reward. Web.com qualifying medalist and plenty of top 25s in the last six months across multiple tours.

Brendon de Jonge: With four T-14s or better in five tries (no MC) I’m going to swallow the COURSE FORM HOOK. Enters on MC X 4 with no rounds in the 60s.

David Toms: T-4 here in 2014 and will play on top of the sprinkler line all week.

Rob Oppenheim: Feasted on the par fives last week to make his third weekend from his last three events. T-20 at API was his career best in only his 10th start.

Mark Hubbard: First round leader here last year before finishing T-27.

Will Wilcox: Played the last 54 holes 11-under but an opening round 77 saw him miss the playoff by a shot. That’s his only round over 71 in eight tries the last two years.

Will MacKenzie: Played the last 54 holes nine-under last year but opening round 75 saw him miss the playoff by a shot. Made the weekend in his last three so hush.

Michael Bradley: He’s won twice and make six of seven cuts here.

Up-and-Comers

A weekly update of rookies or newbies who have made noise.

Inspired by Spieth and Reed back in the day, players come off the list once they’ve won or completed their rookie campaigns.

Frys.com: Patrick Rodgers, T-6, Smylie Kaufman, T-10; Harold Varner III, T-48, gets a special mention as he was T-4 entering Sunday before a disastrous 79 wiped out his three excellent rounds. #LearningCurves

Shriners: Kaufman’s victory sees him join Grillo in the “graduates” section now. Wow. That didn’t take long! Web.com money leader and all-around leader Patton Kizzire (T-2) missed a playoff by one shot as did Brett Stegmaier (T-2). It was Kizzire’s first start with a Tour card and Stegmaier’s second. #Sizzle. Patrick Rodgers was T-13.

CIMB: Cameron Smith couldn’t recapture his magic of his solo fifth in 2014, but his T-37 gives him another solid dose of experience.

WGC-HSBC Champions: Haotong Li, 20, finished T-7, the best ever finish by a Chinese in any Tour event.

Sanderson Farms Championship: Patrick Rodgers, T-20.

OHL Mayakoba: Harold Varner III, T-5; Patrick Rodgers, T-10.

RSM: Tom Hoge, T9.

HTOC: No mentions at a “winners ONLY” event!

Sony: Zac Blair, 3rd; Si Woo Kim, 4th;

CB Challenge: Si Woo Kim, T-9. This is a recording. List and Hadwin have played a full year on Tour previously!

Farmers: Paul Dunne, the amateur who led The Open after 54 holes last year at St. Andrews, backed up his solo ninth in Joburg with T-13 at Torrey South. Oh, and Si Woo Kim hit the top 20 again. Patton Kizzire hit the top 10 for the third time in seven starts.

WMPO: You shouldn’t be just figuring out who Patrick Rodgers is (T-17)…

AT&T Pebble Beach: Cameron Smith, T-11.

NTO: Harold Varner III, T-26.

Honda: Bronson Burgoon, T-14; Stegmaier, T-21.

WGC-CC: Kaufman, T-8.

Valspar: Lee McCoy, 4th; he’s an amateur who’s currently play at the University of Georgia. He’s the 2016 Jon Rahm!

API: Kaufman, T-12; Grillo, T-17; Rodgers, T-20; Bryson Dechambeau, T-27.

Next:

Wednesday I’ll present my gaming angles for the week so keep your eyes peeled at @GolfweekMag, @GolfweekFantasy and @MikeGlasscott for more information.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out through Twitter or email me [email protected]

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