Houston Open 2020 DFS expert picks: It’s Tony Finau’s week
Golf fans are used to seeing the Houston Open used as a prep site before the Masters, but this will be a unique week in a few ways. It’s a new venue for those of us playing golf DFS, with a historic municipal course in Houston, Memorial Park Golf Course, being redesigned to host this event for the first time since 1963. We know that the layout is unique for the PGA Tour: five par 5s and five par 3s, which is a major factor to consider for DraftKings and FanDuel scoring. The fairways are wide on this public course, and with so many par 5s, this should be a good week for those bombing it off the tee.
Of course, we have the return of Dustin Johnson and Adam Scott after testing positive for COVID-19. Oddsmakers and the fantasy-golf price makers are bullish on DJ, as he’s the heavy favorite on both slates ($11,500 DraftKings, $12,200 FanDuel). But another bomber off the tee catches our eye this week: Tony Finau. Finau’s stats might match this course nicely, and though he’s eyeing up the Masters next week, he’s always hungry for a win. Read below why I like him and others for DFS this week.
Price range: $9,000+
High Upside: Tyrrell Hatton ($10,300 DraftKings | $11,700 FanDuel)
Hatton has three victories in his past 15 starts worldwide, including his most recent victory at the BMW PGA Championship. Despite citing fatigue, he followed up that performance with a T-3 at the CJ Cup the following week. Hatton’s strength is his approach game, gaining strokes in that category in 12 of his last 14 measured starts—per the RickRunGood.com golf database.
Safest Option: Russell Henley ($9,400 DraftKings | $11,200 FanDuel)
Henley is in the midst of an incredible run of golf. He has four top-10 finishes in his last six starts and he hasn’t missed a cut in eight straight. His most recent starts have notched a T-3 at the CJ Cup and a T-4 at the ZOZO Championship. Henley is a past winner in Houston, albeit at a different course, but there’s no reason to expect the good vibes to stop now!
Most Likely To Disappoint: Dustin Johnson ($11,500 DraftKings | $12,200 FanDuel)
Johnson will be making his first start since testing positive for COVID-19 a few weeks ago. The question of “rust” will be key for the No. 1 player in the world who hasn’t finished outside the top 12 in any of his last six starts. I’m concerned about the price tag and the way that Memorial Park will fit his eye. Johnson is notorious for fading the ball, hitting it from left to right. There are plenty of holes at Memorial Park that will require the opposite ball flight.
Pick To Win: Tony Finau ($10,900 DraftKings | $11,500 FanDuel)
The words “win” and “Finau” don’t usually go together, but this is a great opportunity for Finau to break through for his first victory since the 2016 Puerto Rico Open. Memorial Park Golf Course will allow players to hit driver on nearly every hole, which plays right into the hands of Finau. He’s been on a great run of play that includes a T-8 at the U.S. Open and a T-11 at the ZOZO Championship in his last start.
$8,000 to $9,000
High Upside: Lanto Griffin ($8,900 DraftKings | $10,500 FanDuel)
Griffin is the defending champion, but that’s not why I’m interested. Remember, he won at the Golf Club of Houston, they are playing at Memorial Park this week. I’m interested in Griffin’s recent form, including a T-7 at the CJ Cup and a T-11 at the ZOZO Championship. He’s one of the better iron players in this field and has proven that his putter can get hot at times. If he can roll the rock well this week, he’ll find himself in contention once again.
Safest Option: Stewart Cink ($8,000 DraftKings | $9,400 FanDuel)
The 47-year-old is proving he can still hang with the young guns! He won the Safeway Open earlier this season and hasn’t really slowed down since. He finished T-12 at the Sanderson Farms Championship, T-64 at the Shriners and then T-4 last week in Bermuda. He’s managing his way around each course without too many mistakes and I expect that to continue this week in Houston.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Jordan Spieth ($8,500 DraftKings |$10,000 FanDuel)
Spieth in Texas used to be an automatic buy, but we are a long way removed from that level of confidence. Since the tour’s restart, Spieth has gained 0.04 strokes per round on the field. That’s the worst average of anyone in this field priced over $8,000. He is, basically, a tour average player, and it’s been eight straight starts without cracking the top 30 on the leaderboard
Pick To Win: Doc Redman ($8,800 DraftKings | $10,400 FanDuel)
Redman’s finish at the Bermuda Championship could be considered a disappointment as he dropped to T-4 after holding the 54-hole lead. However, he still shot a 2-under 69 and hit a few great putts that just stayed out of the cup. He’s now earned his third top-four finish in his last six starts, so he is routinely putting himself in position for victory. Of golfers with at least 11 rounds played since the tour’s restart, only Russell Henley has averaged more strokes gained per round than Redman.
$7,000 to $8,000
High Upside: Mackenzie Hughes ($7,600 DraftKings | $9,000 FanDuel)
Memorial Park will boast “closely mown” areas around the greens to help replicate conditions at Augusta National. Those areas will feed into collection areas and offer tight lies for golfers to try and get up and down. For Hughes, the short game is his specialty. He’s one of the best players in this field both around the green and on it. He’s fairly volatile, but he boasts seven top-15 finishes in his past 15 starts.
Safest Option: Lee Westwood ($7,800 DraftKings | $9,500 FanDuel)
This spot is normally reserved for Adam Schenk, but I couldn’t resist writing up Lee Westwood. He hasn’t finished outside the top 30 anywhere in the world for his past eight starts. His most recent events on the PGA Tour include a T-13 at the U.S. Open, T-4 at the Honda Classic and T-22 at the WGC Mexico Championship. It would be no surprise to see Westwood post another solid finish this week at Memorial Park.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Phil Mickelson ($7,500 DraftKings |$8,900 FanDuel)
It’s been a tough stretch for Mickelson who has one top-20 finish in his past 12 PGA Tour starts. For all the success that he’s had on the Champions Tour, it’s been quite the opposite on the PGA TOUR. Even more concerning is that he’s struggling in nearly all facets of the game. He’s lost strokes off the tee in five consecutive events and has even been a negative putter over his past eight starts.
Pick To Win: Denny McCarthy ($7,900 DraftKings | $9,600 FanDuel)
There’s one golfer in this range who is very clearly trending toward a victory, and it’s McCarthy. He’s already the best putter on the planet, and now he’s starting to figure out the rest of his game. The switch happened at the 3M Open, and McCarthy has gained a total of 10.23 strokes on approach in the seven measured events since then. To put that into perspective, he lost a total of 18.6 strokes on approach in the seven measured events prior to the 3M Open. His flashes of brilliance only solidify this trend. He fired the low round of the day in Bermuda on Sunday to climb up the leaderboard to finish T-4.
$6,900 and below
High Upside: Scott Stallings ($6,900 DraftKings | $8,400 FanDuel)
It’s a young season, but Stallings currently ranks 14th in strokes gained/approach, and that’s led to a few great finishes recently. He’s coming off a T-26 in Bermuda, and he also notched a top 10 at the Sanderson Farms Championship a few weeks ago. He has three top-10 finishes in his past 11 starts, which is likely more than his peers in this price range can offer.
Safest Option: Rory Sabbatini ($6,900 DraftKings | $8,200 FanDuel)
The “other Rory” has made three cuts in a row since the U.S. Open, including a T-12 at the Sanderson Farms. His weapon, the putter, could come in handy on this Tom Doak-designed course. Doak is known for little subtleties in his green designs, which can be difficult to judge for some players. Sabbatini is a veteran who likely won’t be fooled. I’d like to see the rest of his game improve, but we have to take what we can get from this pricing range.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Max Homa ($6,800 DraftKings | $8,100 FanDuel)
Fan-favorite Max Homa has been struggling since the tour’s restart. In fact, per the RickRunGood.com golf database, he’s been the sixth-worst player in the field since the restart. That includes all golfers who have played as many rounds as he has during the stretch. It feels like we are light years removed from his five consecutive top-25 finishes at the start of 2020.
Pick To Win: John Huh ($6,300 DraftKings | $7,200 FanDuel)
He’s playing on a Major Medical Exemption and had an undisclosed injury that forced him to miss seven months of action. He recently teed it up at the Shriners, his first start since February and finished T-19. He fired a 64 on Saturday and made 20 birdies and an eagle en route to that finish. If he’s healthy now, which is the indication, he offers plenty of value as one of the lowest-priced golfers in this field.
Rick Gehman, founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.