Although the Alfred Dunhill Championship was played last week, I didn’t write an article due to the lack of contests available on DraftKings. This week, we have some higher prize pools available, so let’s go make some money.
This week’s event is the UBS Hong Kong Open, which is the 2016-17 season opener for the European Tour. Like the PGA Tour fall season, we will see a bunch of Challenge Tour (European Tour’s version of the web.com Tour) players making the jump to the bigger stage. Our knowledge of those players and their games will be a huge edge over the field, similar to what we’ve seen in past PGA Tour seasons with players like Patton Kizzire, Emiliano Grillo, Cody Gribble, and Mackenzie Hughes. Some names to watch out for from the rookie European Tour class are Thomas Detry, Bernd Ritthammer, Jordan Smith, Romain Langasque, and Dylan Frittelli.
We have a pretty great field this week, with some healthy studs (Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Danny Willett, Thongchai Jaidee, Tommy Fleetwood), some ailing studs (Justin Rose), and some studs in really bad form (Patrick Reed).
Fanling is a very unique golf course, measuring a very short 6,699-yards. It’s a par-70, meaning we will only have two par-5s (although both of them are reachable for nearly the entire field). The course features tree-lined fairways which place a premium on driving accuracy, not distance. Players will see bermuda grass greens, so we can take a look at some putting splits to see who gains strokes on these types of surfaces. The other good news is we have a ton of tournament history to draw upon, as Fanling has hosted this event and numerous others over the past decade. Nobody loves this track more than the most interesting man in the world, Miguel Angel Jimenez. He’s won here four times. Because the course places a premium on accuracy, the type of player I target will fit that mold. Below are the stats that I’m targeting this week.
Greens in Regulation
Birdie or Better %
Let’s take a look at my favorite European Tour players this week:
Rafa Cabrera-Bello ($10,400) – Not a ton of course history to draw upon, But RCB does have a 15th here in 2011. He’s a different player now, and a better one at that. He’s extremely consistent, a great ball-striker, and is overdue for a win. RCB is also a birdie-maker, which bodes well in our fantasy lineups. Even without a win this week, he could be one of the highest scorers on the week on a course set-up for low scores.
Tommy Fleetwood ($9,900) – I was surprised to see that Fleetwood has no course history at Fanling, but his recent form to end last season is enough to sell me. In his final eight starts, he posted 9th, 14th, 22nd, 37th, 4th, 15th, 13th, and 7th place finishes. He also was making as many birdies as anyone in those fields. If he can eliminate some mistakes, Fleetwood could easily walk away with a (much overdue) win this week. I love his upside and I think he’ll go slightly overlooked since he lacks any course familiarity.
Thongchai Jaidee ($9,300) – Here’s Jaidee’s record at Fanling the past nine seasons: 13th, 10th, 15th, 15th, 11th, 19th, 2nd, 3rd, and 7th. There’s your course horse, and I’ll have a ton of him this week. Jaidee is obviously comfortable playing in Asia, as he hails from Thailand. Although he hasn’t won at Fanling (yet), he’s coming off another excellent year on Tour including a win at the Open de France. He’s a savvy veteran and tactician who should excel on this short golf course.
Pablo Larrazabal ($8,300) – I’m hoping people see his lackluster 23rd place finish last week and forget about Larrazabal. He was actually in contention all week before a scorpion bit him on Sunday, and he subsequently shot +2 on the round. He’s a boom-or-bust player, but I’ve been encouraged by his recent play. At Fanling, Larrazabal has an 8th place finish in 2012 and a 4th place finish in 2008. If you’re fading the elite players in the field, Larrazabal is a great place to start your teams.
The Value Mid-Tier:
Chris Hanson ($8,000) – My man continues to come through each and every week I roster him. He won’t be $5,800 like he was much of last year, but I think Hanson still offers a ton of upside for his price. The young Englishman locked up his Tour card and should continue to build on a stellar 2015-16 campaign where he seemingly made every cut with a handful of top-10s. He’s a shorter hitter, which is okay here, and he finished 11th last week in South Africa after faltering with a 76 on Sunday.
Miguel Angel Jimenez ($7,900) – The Most Interesting Golfer in the World returns to the place he loves most. Jimenez has won this event four times, and has four other top-25s on his record. As a shorter, more accurate hitter, that all makes sense. Jimenez also has a tremendous record at our comp course, Crans-sur-Sierre, where the Omega European Masters is hosted. Jimenez spent most of last season playing on the Champions Tour, where he was the 2nd best player behind Bernhard Langer all year. He’s a little risky as an older player, but Jimenez still has the upside to crack the top-10 against these young guns.
Prom Meesawat ($7,600) – Who? Meesawat is a relatively unknown player who has had success in Europe and Asia. He also loves this track, finishing 29th, 21st, 2nd, and 30th the past four seasons. Meesawat is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes around the world, including a top-10 last week in South Africa. As a low-owned, mid-priced option, you can do much worse than Meesawat.
Marcus Fraser ($7,400) – Fraser has made all eight cuts here at Fanling, including four top-10 finishes. He’s a guy I really don’t like to roster, but he’s an Australian who always plays well in Asia. His recent form is shaky, but I’ll overlook that because he has many positives going for him. Fraser is a short hitter with an excellent short game, which he displayed at the Olympics. That mold fits this course perfectly. Fraser has a knack for starting hot, so hopefully we can get a Thursday 65 out of him to set the tone for a great week.
Angelo Que ($7,200) – Another who? If you look at past results at Fanling, you’ll see this record by Que: 13th, 2nd, 5th, MC, MC, MC, 11th, MC, 13th, 38th. There are a lot of angles you can take here, but it appears he loves this track and has figured it out the past few starts. The veteran from the Philippines recently participated in the World Cup of Golf, although he and partner Miguel Tabuena finished last. For this low price, I’ll take a player who fits the tactician mold and has great course history. He’s worth a GPP flier in a field where there aren’t many good options.
Thomas Detry ($7,100) – Detry is the newest Belgian Bomber, taking after Nicolas Colsaerts and Thomas Pieters. He’s a Challenge Tour graduate, and the one I expect to make the biggest splash this year on the main tour. He’s made his past six cuts, with three top-10 finishes (including a 3rd place finish last week in South Africa). He’s a young, aggressive, birdie-maker who has unlimited upside. Although he doesn’t fit the player type I’m targeting, some young bombers have had success at Fanling, including Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard.
David Drysdale ($7,000)
Simon Dyson ($6,800)
Brett Rumford ($6,700)
Peter Uihlein ($6,400)
Nino Bertasio ($6,300)
Good luck this week!