Grind It Out – Rocket Mortgage 2022 Bubble Watch

This week, same as the last week. One week closer to the FedEx Cup playoffs, but the event and course set up bear striking similarities to last week’s 3M Open. The heat has been turned up on for the FedEx Cup bubble, but the course set up will be generous and similar to TPC Twin Cities has not historically favored one type of game over another. Winning scores in previous years have eclipsed 20 under par, and as with all courses that don’t bear too many teeth, the short game is likely to be the differentiator. 

The main difference between the 3M Open and the Rocket Mortgage is the field, which is surprisingly strong this week. However, for our purposes this will have no impact on the highlights and notes.

DataGolf’s course fit tool (datagolf.com/course-fit-tool) indicates that there isn’t a single skill set that will be favored this week. Similar to last week this will lead to finding value plays that can ride recent form, and leaning less on statistical modeling for lower tier value plays. 

As with last week, we’ll be focusing on the players sitting between 115 and 175 in the FedEx Cup standings. 

For this week, I’ll be doing Mover and Loser highlights in addition to the bubble categories (and excluding these features from the general).

My highlights from the ‘Movers’ category include Callum Tarren and Danny Willett. The pair of Englishmen both had strong weeks slotting in at T7 at the 3M Open.

3M Movers Highlights

Danny Willett (137th, $7,100 Draftkings)

A highlight from last week that delivered, I’ll be going back to Danny Willett this week. As highlighted last week, he’s got more pedigree than most down in this range, and his enrollment at this tournament (and the 3M Open last week) shows a drive to make the Playoffs we haven’t seen from him in previous years. I expect him to parlay solid finishes coming into the St. Jude and move within the Top 125.

Callum Tarren (126th, $7,100 Draftkings)

A DFS darling for early weaker field tournaments this season, he presents the typical typecast DFSers look at for value plays (team no putt). With the set up this week, I’d usually be inclined to avoid him, but his strong performance at the 3M and the confidence he exuded in his interviews have me willing to roll him out this week.

3M Movers

The losers last week present a mixed bag of no shows (Webb Simpson), LIV defectors (Perez, Casey) and guys who struggled at the 3M. I will be avoiding everyone in this category this week.

3M Losers

On The Bubble Highlights

Stewart Cink (122nd, $7,100)

The wily vet continues to prove age is just a number as he tries to again make the FedEx Cup playoffs post 50. While he doesn’t have course history here, his recent form is improving after a mid season mini slump. I expect another solid Top 25 performance here, although with the depth up top his win equity is likely limited.

Chesson Hadley (130th, $6,900)

I’ll be off Hadley, who is poised to be one of the most popular plays sub $7k. His recent form is impressive, and his game is way up off his historical baseline. If the set up was a little more difficult this week I’d be more likely to eat the chalk, but he doesn’t generate enough chances week in and week out to compete when the field is flying. For me the concern is also fatigue, where dealing with the bubble pressure every week for the last month or so is likely to wear on him. If he doesn’t pop again this week I will likely go back to him in the coming weeks with (potentially) a few extra days’ rest.

On The Bubble

Outside Looking In Highlights

Harry Higgs (147th, $6,500)

Big beautiful has hit a rough stretch in the second half of his second season on tour. An anti-model player, his short game track record is significantly better than that of his ball striking, which has been pretty much horrible since we were properly introduced to him at the stadium hole of the Waste Management.

However, his last five performances have seen him improve from the doldrums of DFL, with several MCs close to the number and a T11 at the Barbasol. Despite his lack luster birdie numbers, he performs significantly better the easier the course is. He’ll be relatively invisible this week, and if he can break even tee to green has a reasonable shot of a top 25 finish.

Nick Hardy (138th, $7,300)

Since coming back from injury at the RBC Canadian Open, Nick Hardy has strung together an impressive run of form, and in part due to the weak fields he has played in (and a break out performance at the US Open), has enjoyed a mid to upper tier pricing on daily fantasy. While his more spread out schedule has him at lower risk of fatigue, the ownership he is likely to garner in this range, coupled with an all around lack luster performance at the 3M, will have me sitting out on him this week.

Outside Looking In

In Trouble Features

Roger Sloan (175th, $6,300)

One word, volatility. Roger Sloan’s stats are lack luster, but hidden in them is the barrage of birdies he puts up when he avoids big misses. Despite ranking outside the Top 150 in almost all significant categories, he is comfortably inside the top 100 in birdie rate and particularly good at par 3 and par 5 birdie or better percentage. In the first two rounds of the 3M Open, he was the co-leader in birdies and racked up birdie streaks in both rounds. His performance is inversely related with course difficulty, where he is almost average when conditions are easy and almost unplayable when they are anything else.

Historically, his ceiling is about as good as you can hope for in the range, with a playoff loss at the Wyndham last year. 

The bet here is that the course set up is generous enough to prevent blow ups from his big misses, and his birdie rate ensures he outscores his finishing position. While a flyer play, I’ll be rolling him out this week.

Scott Gutschewski (171st, $6,500)

A golfer of old, the beefy, grizzled, journeyman vet has strung together two solid performances at similar set ups coming into this week.

Another golfer like Sloan, invisible to stat engines, I’ll be rolling him out sparingly on recent form.

In Trouble

Grind it Out – 3M Open 2022 Bubble Watch

With three events remaining to the start of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, the ‘FedEx Cup Bubble’ swing kicks off this week. While it won’t have the flair of major season or the FedEx Cup Playoffs themselves, for a significant amount of tour carrying professionals the next three weeks will define their year and may define their career.

The 3M Open, contested at TPC Twin Cities, hasn’t fit a particular mold of player over its first 3 years. DataGolf’s course fit tool (datagolf.com/course-fit-tool) points to driving accuracy being at a premium this week, but can be conquered with less than driver as Cam Champ demonstrated in 2021. The focus this week will be on finding value plays that can ride current form, and identify players in the lower tiers with upside that isn’t easily filtered on a stats engine.

Grinding across the 125 bubble will ensure full status and a full schedule next season. Maintaining top 150 ensures a partial exemption and schedule for next year. The top 200 leaves you in the doldrums of the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, fighting for starts in the following season. From week to week coverage, the fight to maintain status and the ability to earn a living as a pro golfer often gets lost to headline global players dueling it out for the big cheddar. This series will help you parse through the other side of professional golf as you manage your weekly fantasy roster. 

Following this week I’ll begin including the movers between tournaments, with a snap shot of who has moved up, and who has lost out.

Story of the Week

Mo Lim ($6,100)

Qualifying via an open qualifier in Thailand shooting 14 under over 2 rounds has Mo Lim set to make his PGA Tour debut. 

His breakthrough is even more compelling given his partnership with the YouTube channel GolfSideKick, who have crowd funded a tour of the US where he will play Monday qualifiers and eventually Korn Ferry Tour Q School this season.

Mo is 25 years old, and held a 10 handicap at age 18. The level he managed to elevate his game to in a small market with limited resources could make the story of the week the underdog story of the season if he makes the cut and parlays his early success with results in the states. 

A full look at Mo via GolfSideKick is available here:

Bubble Boi Features (115-135)

This range features plenty of names familiar to those who follow the PGA Tour and consume daily fantasy content. For guys within the Top 125, a made cut will almost certainly maintain their status inside the bubble. For Justin Lower, 68 points back of the 125 cut-off, an 11th place finish at minimum will be required to move inside the bubble. All the players in this range that currently sit outside have a realistic shot at moving in this week.

Tyler Duncan (119th, $7,100 Draftkings)

A journeyman pro, he’s finished as high as 40th in the FedEx Cup historically, with several other seasons finding himself relegated back to the Korn Ferry Tour finals. This will be his 3rd appearance at the 3M Open, with lackluster course history (MC, 83, he elected not to play in 2020 being well inside the top 125). However, this season he has registered improvement in every statistical category over his previous seasons competing in the 3M. He rates out well for TPC Twin Cities, with a strong accuracy and approach game that both results in above average Opportunities Gained and Birdies.

A card carrying member of team no-putt, his success this week will be driven by avoiding big numbers and breaking even on and around the greens.

His second half of the season has been stronger than his first, and while his upside is likely limited to Top 10 rather than winning makes an interesting choice to finish fantasy line ups. 

Stephan Jaeger (125th, $7,000 DraftKings)

This is his third full season on tour (along with 2017-2018 and 2018-2019), and will be making his 3M Open debut.

Hidden in his inauspicious SG: OTT stats and Driving Accuracy (both poor) is his Good Drives percentage. His best finish this year was a T6 at the Wells Fargo, contested at TPC Potomac this year, which ended up being one of the most demanding driving courses of the season. While nothing shines in his long term game, he has had a significantly better second half of the season, making 60% of his cuts May (after missing 65% of his cuts to that point). His upside lies with his iron game, where he’s gained more than 4 shots approach in his last 6 starts. 

In full seasons, this is the best chance he has had at maintaining his tour card, and I expect him to rise to the occasion over the next few weeks and beat the bubble. However, with his current standing inside the Top 125, his upside may be limited as the FedEx Cup points he will garner with a middling finish will keep him around, with limited motivation to fire at pins if his finds himself in a position where he isn’t quite in contention. 

Austin Smotherman (134th, $7,400 DraftKings)

In his first season on tour, Smotherman is posed to be highly touted bubble boi over the next few weeks. Another card carrying member of team no-putt and model darling, he will be a more familiar name to those who consume week to week fantasy content than others in this range.

His 8th place finish last week at the Barracuda notched his first Top 10 of the season, and he will be looking to carry that momentum into the 3M Open. However, despite first level statistical similarities to Tyler Duncan, his Good Drive percentage is markedly lower, meaning his misses off the tee when he has them are larger. This is concerning given the tight, hazard lined holes at TPC Twin Cities, and I’ll be waiting to deploy him in the next few weeks. In addition, his relative name value compared to others in the range is likely to push his ownership upwards.

Bubble Bois

Outside Looking In Features (135-150)

This range has a variety of grizzled vets, past champions and recent appearances on tour. Getting into the 125 this week becomes more difficult here, with a Top 10 required for the entire range, and at least a T4 finish for Kelly Kraft currently sitting at 150. 

Michael Gligic (145th, $7,000)

Third year journeyman pro who’s goal this season was likely just to hang on to full status. After a poor start to the season, he has logged 4 straight made cuts, with a Top 10 at the John Deere Classic and a Top 25 at the Barbasol. In addition, he’s made the cut at both his appearances at the 3M Open, highlighted by a T26 in 2020. 

His upside is likely limited to a Top 10, but with his form coming in is one of the more likely players in the range to make the weekend.

Andrew Novak (148th, $6,800)

A first year Korn Ferry Tour graduate, Novak has oscillated between long stretches of bad form and pockets of stellar performances. He has logged 3 Top 25s this season, all coming in weaker field events (Puerto Rico Open, Corales Puntacana, and the Mexico Open at Vidanta). He is on a run of decent form with 4/6 made cuts his with missed cuts coming at the US Open and the Scottish Open, by far the strongest field events he has suited up for this year.

Garrick Higgo (147th, $7,500)

Winner of the 2021 Palmetto Championship, Higgo has struggled in the second half of this season. His name flashed across pundit’s radars last week at the Open, where he logged a made cut and stellar 6 under round on Sunday. 

Overall, the strength of his game (distance) will be tempered slightly with the need for accuracy here, which will likely see him clubbing down off the tee. His approach is statistically the best component of his game, but he will rely on a well above average putting performance by his stance to make noise.

He hasn’t produced enough results following his win to determine if his win equity is truly higher than others in the range, and should be deployed sparingly if selected. 

He’ll be mostly invisible to the models, and presents better form than most others in the range. At his current standing, he’ll be incentivized to be aggressive and grab every point he can if he makes the weekend.

Outside Looking In

In Trouble Features (151-175)

The composition of this range is pretty similar to that of the Outside Looking In, with a few high pedigree high variance players mixed in, as well as past champions (including 2015 Master Champion Danny Willett). Everyone in this range will rely on a Top 5 finish to break into the 125. 

Danny Willett (153rd, $7,100 Draftkings)

Despite sporadic form and the inability to parlay former success into a long term spot in the global elite, the 2015 Masters Champion is the player with the highest pedigree in this range. 

He’s shown flashes of form this season, with a T12 at the Masters and a made cut at the Open Championship, but his overall results remain middling. That said, he has played less than a full season on the PGA Tour this year, and his average results are better than many of those in this range. 

Overall, his game relies on hot weeks to produce results, and will remain invisible to models.

However, his enrollment in the field this week indicates he plans on making a run at the Playoffs, something he hasn’t done in the past when outside the Top 125 (electing instead to play DP World Tour events). To me this is encouraging, as a motivated Willett has the potential to be in a different class than others in the range. 

Well I’ll be playing him, deploy with similar caution to that of Higgo. 

Brice Garnett (155th, $6,900 Draftkings)

Has spent a decade as a journeyman pro, but has clawed his way into the Top 125 in the last three seasons, so he is familiar with executing under the pressure of potentially losing your card. He’s also familiar with needing a good performance at the 3M Open to stay within the bubble, with Top 25 finishes in all three of those years to provide him with valuable late points that helped him finish 123, 121 and 106 respectively in past seasons.

While his approach game is very weak, a pop in form last week, good course history and previous execution under the bubble pressure make him worth a look this week.

Ryan Armour (162nd, $6,900 Draftkings)

A multi-decade journeyman with good course history at the 3M Open. He will also show up in models favoring driving accuracy as the Tour’s most accurate driver of the ball. 

His statistical profile is completely different this season than the Ryan Armour that finished T6 here last year, with markedly improved Tee to Green Game and a precipitous drop off in putting. While this should suit most daily fantasy players well, I’ll be targeting upside in other lower owned options.

In Trouble

Author: Calvin Stewart