The 2018 PGA Tour season is here! Let’s see if we can build upon our success from the fall season as the Tour heads to Hawaii. The Tour heads to the longtime host of the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the Plantation Course at Kapalua. The Coore & Crenshaw design has extremely wide fairways and minimal rough. It's built to allow for the windy conditions that often occur. The wide fairways lead to clear approach shots for players and an emphasis on approaching the large and undulating greens. The forecast is for heavy winds all week (18 mph sustained with gusts around 25 mph). With this in mind, I will be focusing in on strong iron players who excel in playing in windy conditions.
Jordan Spieth $10,900
I will have him in almost every lineup this week and am convinced he will find the top of the leaderboard. He has finished in the top three in all three of his starts at this event. Spieth is also the best iron player in the field. He has gained strokes against the field in regards to approaching shots in 19 of his last 23 events. During that stretch, he is averaging a whopping three shots above field average per event. If he brings that iron game this week, watch out! Spieth also excels in the wind with his grinder mentality as he isn’t afraid to scramble to keep a round together.
Ryan Armour $6,100
To afford players like Jordan Spieth this week, you may need to put some low priced players on your roster. One of the low priced players I like this week is Ryan Armour. He relied on his superb iron game in the windy conditions to capture his first victory a few months back at the Sanderson Farms Championship. Over his last five events, he has been 4.5 shots better than the field per event in strokes gained approach. If he can bring that iron game to Kapalua, I could see him sneaking into the top ten and easily paying off his $6,100 salary.
It's tough to burn a stud like Spieth with such a small field. Instead, I am looking for a player who can net a top ten but has upside to contend. A player who fits that mold is Cameron Smith. He has been on an absolute tear, recording top-five finishes in his last four starts. During that stretch, he also picked up a win at the Australian PGA Championship. I see a few parallels between the Kapalua Plantation Course and Australian Golf. Many courses in Australia have wide fairways and emphasize the second shot to greens that are expansive and heavily sloped. He should also feel comfortable controlling his shots in the windy conditions that will occur at Kapalua this week. We have seen some of his fellow countrymen bring home the title at Kapalua (Ogilvy (2009, 2010), Appleby (2004, 2005, 2006)). Smith provides a red-hot option that will allow you to stash a stud player for later in the season.
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