Golf is back! I know, it’s only been about three weeks, but I missed the full field, cut events. This week, we are in Napa Valley for the Safeway Open – formerly the Frys.com Open – where Emiliano Grillo is the defending champion. During the Fall Swing, we have a huge edge due to the influx of web.com Tour graduates playing in the field. 99-percent of casual DFS players have no clue who these guys are, and we can leverage this into some serious cash.
Daily and weekly fantasy sports have become all the rage. Battling it out over an entire season is fun, but sites like DraftKings offer a quicker payoff and big payouts for winners! Not only do they offer daily action in the four major professional sports (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL) as well as college basketball and football but also the PGA Tour.
Your DraftKings lineup is made up of six golfers you select from within the $50,000 salary cap.
Each week DraftKings offers a wide selection of games to enter at a variety of price points. You can even get a feel for the game in a freeroll contest. Before you put your cash on the line, I'll offer my Top Values and Steals in this space every week, specifically geared to help build a winning DraftKings squad. I'll also give you my Overpriced golfers to avoid and a couple of “Vegas Says…” tips to help you find those players for GPPs.
*The key to cashing in Daily Fantasy Golf is getting golfers who make the cut.*
You can cash if you get at least four golfers who make the cut though it can be tough with just four. With five (or if you are lucky six) you are nearly assured of cashing. So, you'll see some focus on making cuts while trying to balance upside for those top 10 finishes everyone is chasing.
This week, players face the Silverado CC’s North Course. The layout is a 7,203-yard, par 72 featuring four par 3s and four par 5s. As expected, scoring on the par-5s is going to be important, but not as important as the par-4s. The course features tree-lined fairways and a decent number of doglegs, so accuracy off-the-tee should be important. What I love about this track is that any player can contend, not just the bombers. The greens are extremely undulated, but won’t be running too quickly. If you take a look at some of the quotes from players over the years, these points are reflected. As far as comparable courses, I would look towards Riviera CC and TPC Four Seasons, because we’ve seen a lot of players with great track records on both of those venues. Additionally, I’m going to favor some California-based players, because these tricky Poa Annua greens favor those who have a ton of experience putting on them.
Recent Tournament History
Silverado CC’s North Course has only been the host of this event since 2014, so we can only draw on two seasons of course history. However, there are some correlation courses to look towards: TPC Four Seasons and Riviera CC.
Here is the data we can draw upon for this week’s Tournament History:
Finished in the top-20 each of the last two years: None.
Made cut in each of the last two years: Brendan Steele, Tony Finau, Martin Laird, Graham DeLaet, Kyle Reifers, Hudson Swafford, Daniel Summerhays, Charles Howell, Aaron Baddeley, Spencer Levin, Chez Reavie, Colt Knost, Cameron Tringale, Adam Hadwin, Tyrone van Aswegen, Hunter Mahan, Carl Pettersson, Mark Hubbard.
Rookies to watch: Grayson Murray, J.J. Spaun, Trey Mullinax, Xander Schauffele, C.T. Pan.
Current Form Review
Each week, we’ll take a look backward at the last three tournaments on the PGA and European Tours. However, because this is the start of a new season and most players have had a month or so off, we will focus on course history and stats.
Birdie or Better % (BoB%): Players in contention this week will need to have between 18-22 birdies at a minimum, so we should see some great DraftKings scoring. Sometimes it’s not about making a perfect lineup, but finding those players who can finish top-10 in DraftKings scoring even if they don’t finish top-10 in the actual event. Guys like Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, and Smylie Kaufman come to mind in this week’s field. We also saw Bubba Watson on a winning Millionaire Maker team this summer when he wasn’t anywhere near the top-10 on the leaderboard.
Par 4 Scoring (P4): Par-4 scoring is one of the most important metrics this week. The toughest holes at Silverado are the par-4s, so this is where the tournament will be won or lost. Par-3 scoring is always tough to predict, and everyone has a chance on par-5s, so I’m focusing on players who have performed well on par-4s.
Par 5 Scoring (P5): Not as critical as par-4 scoring this week, but there are four reachable par-5 holes that players will need to dominate. I’m not just targeting bombers here, but players who score well on all types of par-5 holes.
As usual, we will be looking towards strokes gained tee-to-green from last season, but with a lot of players coming off month-long breaks, it’s a bit unpredictable. I also suggest looking at players who perform well in California, and specifically on Poa Annua greens.
As always, check back on the weather Wednesday to see the final forecast. This week it looks like players will see temperatures in the mid-50s and 60s with rain throughout the weekend.
Studs (in order of my rankings)
Paul Casey ($11,600)
What a playoff run it was for Casey, who went 2nd, 2nd 4th to end the season. He’s also overdue for a PGA Tour win, and I think he has a great chance in a weaker field event like the Safeway Open. Casey’s game is perfect here: he’s an excellent ball-striker who keeps the ball in play and is deadly with his irons. He’s been very honest recently about what it was like to hit rock-bottom, and how motivated he is to revive his career with another victory on U.S. soil. It probably wasn’t easy for him to miss another Ryder Cup, either.
Emiliano Grillo ($10,900)
We can’t overlook the defending champion, who played very well during his first FedEx Cup playoff run. Looking at his game, Grillo’s excellent ball-striking and off-the-tee stats should keep him in contention this week. Since this is a glorified web.com Tour event, Grillo will likely be reunited with a lot of young players he’s very comfortable playing alongside. The good vibes could carry him to a second straight victory in the season opener.
Justin Thomas ($10,400)
I think Thomas will go extremely under-owned this week, with Phil, Kuchar, Grillo, and Na collecting most of the ownership. Most models will favor ball striking over distance this week, so hopefully JT is overlooked. His form has been trending up (including a 6th at the Tour Championship), and he finished 3rd here a year ago. Thomas also finished 3rd at TPC Sawgrass, showing that he can play on challenging courses where ball-striking and accuracy reign supreme.
Phil Mickelson ($11,300)
If we’re talking about California ties, we can’t forget FIGJAM. No course history here for Phil, but I’m sure he’s seen the track a few times. Phil is coming off an incredible Ryder Cup where he played out of his mind all week long and was part of a winning team for the first time in nearly a decade. He’s so due for a win after a great (but winless) 2015-16 season and nearly a dozen of his PGA Tour wins have come in California.
Jon Rahm ($10,200)
I hate the DraftKings price on Rahm this week, but at least it’ll keep his ownership down. Similar to Grillo, Rahm has a lot of familiarity with most of the players making their debuts this week and should be comfortable with any pairing he draws. He’s clearly one of the best young players in the game with a handful of top-25s in his rookie season. Rahm probably has the 2018 Ryder Cup in his sights (he’s from Spain, so Team Europe), and I look for him to get his 1st career win at some point this season.
Matt Kuchar ($11,500)
Although his only appearance here is a mediocre 21st, it included a Sunday 76 which plummeted him on the leaderboard. The top-10 machine sets up well for this track, so the only worry is his motivation. It feels like a possible letdown spot after a great season and a Ryder Cup victory, but Kuchar tends to dominate these weaker-field events.
Kevin Na ($9,900)
It’s been two months now, but I feel like the baby swag is still with Kevin Na. He lost to Grillo in a playoff here last season and is always a threat during the Fall Swing. His only victory came at the Las Vegas Open (in October), and his only web.com Tour win also came in October. When we are looking for accurate, ball-strikers, Na fits the bill. He made eight of his last nine cuts in Tour with every finish inside the top-30. He is a great cash game play this week.
Tony Finau ($8,300)
I’ll be interested to see what equipment Finau is testing this week since he’s a Nike staffer. Finau has gone 32nd and 12th in two attempts at Silverado, which is a great sign. Although I’m not targeting bombers per se, the course history is enough to sell me on his upside. He’s a DraftKings monster, with tons of birdie and eagle upside. His 1st career win at the 2016 Puerto Rico Open came in a similar, glorified web.com Tour field. As I mentioned with Jon Rahm, Finau is another of the top young players on Tour who has the 2018 Ryder Cup in his sights.
Grayson Murray ($7,500)
Murray is the candidate for “most likely to pull a Grillo” in this year’s Fall Swing. We know that end-of-season form on the web.com Tour transfers well into these weaker field events. He’s an absolute bomber (his driving distance was 319.4 last season) who is coming off a win and a 3rd place finish in his last two events. On the web.com Tour, Murray was 2nd in good drive percentage, 1st in birdie or better percentage, 4th in par-4 scoring, and 16th in scrambling last season.
Spencer Levin ($6,600)
The California trend continues here with Levin, who was born in Sacramento and went to UCLA. Levin is 2/2 in cuts made at TPC Silverado and comes in ranked 1st in value (measuring DraftKings price vs. Vegas odds). Levin was 12th in driving accuracy and 27th in SG: Around-the-green in 2015. He also ranks highly on the Poa Annua stat splits, which is really important this week.
Jason Kokrak ($8,100)
Kokrak is a bomber who can put up DraftKings points in a hurry, and I love his GPP upside. He’s had success on the West Coast, where he finished 3rd at Riviera last season. His course history is spotty, but his form at the end of the season was tremendous: 7th, 8th, and 17th in his final starts of the season. I love that Kokrak has shown the ability to contend at different types of courses, and I think he gets his 1st career win sometime this season.
Kyle Reifers ($7,400)
Team course history loves Reifers, and he’s going to be super low-owned. In two starts here, Reifers has finished 39th and 6th, and he showed tons of top-10 upside on Tour in 2015-16. One thing I love about Reifers is that he’s booked a top-10 finish at both Riviera CC and TPC Four Seasons.
James Hahn ($7,200)
Hahn is another California kid who has played well on the West Coast throughout the years. The Cal-Berkeley graduate has won at Riviera and has a 3rd place finish at Pebble Beach on his resume. Hahn won his 2nd career event out of nowhere at last season’s Wells Fargo Championship but backed it up with pretty solid form throughout the end of the year and the playoffs. Hahn is great with his wedges and around the greens, which correlate pretty highly this week.
J. J. Spaun ($6,800)
Continuing the trend, Spaun is an LA kid who played golf at San Diego State. He’s a grinder who has played his way from the Mackenzie Tour to the web.com Tour and now to the PGA Tour. Spaun checks the boxes in two of the most transferable golf stats: he was 2nd in greens in regulation and 4th in ball-striking on the web.com Tour in 2015. He’s my favorite rookie on Tour besides Grayson Murray.
Xander Schauffele ($6,100)
Did you expect me to pick another California kid? OK, good. He’s from La Jolla and went to San Diego State University. I’m sure he’s played here before and should have plenty of experience on Poa Annua greens. Schauffele ranks very highly on my value chart, with his Vegas odds well outpacing his DraftKings price. On the web.com Tour, he made eight of his last nine cuts with four top-10 finishes. Stat-wise, he ranked 27th in good drive percentage, 25th in par-4 scoring, and 10th in scrambling on the web.com Tour in 2015. The form is there, and for a low priced GPP option, I love Schauffele’s upside.
Old Man Value Play
This was supposed to be the part where we write about Tiger Woods, but that’s not happening anymore. I’ve said it all along – this is a week for the young guns. Stay away from the older guys this week.
This section focuses on “odds” players – those players whose odds vary the greatest on their DraftKings salaries. I’ve done this not just with the actual rankings, but as a percentage. So if two players have a difference of 10 spots in pricing versus odds rankings, the player ranked higher overall will have a higher percentage. It’s a quick way to find value. I use an aggregate of odds from various oddsmakers to come up with my valuation.
The value differential column shows the number of spots lower in salary than their odds to win imply. The differential % column shows that as a percentage of the players DraftKings salary ranking. Here is a list of the top-25 “values” based on my aggregations:
On the flipside, we have the list of players Vegas believes are overpriced based on their odds to win. Using the same model and calculations as above, here are the top-25 worst “values” based on my aggregations:
DraftKings lineups for the Safeway Open
Stars and Scrubs