What a performance we saw from Justin Thomas at the Sony Open! He broke the 72-hole scoring record en route to his second win in a row in Hawaii. Thomas is a force to be reckoned with this week. He checked in as my 2nd ranked player last week, so all-in-all, I’m pleased with the result. This week, we head back to the mainland for the CareerBuilder Challenge in La Quinta, California. Although most of the top players in the world are in Abu Dhabi, this field is headlined by Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Paul Casey, Zach Johnson, and Bill Haas.
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.
Unfortunately, we have a confusing stop this week. We have three courses in use – La Quinta CC, PGA West, and the Stadium Course at TPC West. Players will play each course once over the first three days, then there will be a 54-hole cut, and the remaining players get another crack at the Stadium course on Sunday. These courses ranked in the top-10 easiest courses on last year’s PGA Tour, with PGA West the easiest. Scoring averages were 69.1, 68.9, and 70.9, respectively last year. Since this rotation was only used last season, there’s just one year of “ideal” course history to draw upon; however, La Quinta has been a host course for a long time. These are all par-72 courses, so we get a few more scoring opportunities on the additional par-5s. Also, we’re faced with Bermuda greens, the surfaces that often have the highest splits amongst Tour players.
Recent Tournament History
Here is the data we can draw upon for this week’s Tournament History:
Finished in the top-10 each of the last three years: Bill Haas
Finished in the top-10 in two of the last three years: Charley Hoffman, Ryan Palmer
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. I have, however, included the top-20 from last week’s Sony Open, and highlighted the players in this field:
Birdie or Better % (BoB%):
There aren’t many weeks where we aren’t going to target birdie or better percentage because that’s what fantasy golf scoring is all about. Last year, there were some low rounds here, and we can expect the same this year. Based on 2016 statistics, the best players in this field in BoB% were Ryan Palmer, Robert Garrigus, Patrick Reed, Alex Cejka, and Charles Howell III. It’s possible to have a player finish top-10 in fantasy points while not finishing anywhere near the top-10 in the actual event.
Strokes Gained Approach (SGA):
I think hitting greens in regulation are a key this week, but I didn’t want to look at that stat simply. I also think there are some proximity yardages to key on, but that’s inherently unpredictable. I’m going to target ball-strikers, so SGA is a good all around metric to measure whose iron play has been best. The 2016 SGA leaders in this field are Kevin Na, Webb Simpson, and Paul Casey.
Par 5 Scoring (P5):
Par-5 scoring should be crucial this week. Even though we have different courses, we have all par-72 tracks, which means plenty of par-5s are there for the taking. When we look for strong par-5 scorers, we see names like Patrick Reed, Harold Varner III, Hudson Swafford, Roberto Castro, Charles Howell III, and Ryan Palmer. Thinking about those players, we are also going to add a little edge to bombers, who should be able to overpower parts of this golf course.
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. For correlation courses, we can look at results from Torrey Pines, Riviera, and last week’s venue, Waialae Country Club.
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 to high-50s with a chance of rain on Thursday and Friday. Since this is a pretty short course, rain shouldn’t hurt the short hitters or favor the bombers much. It may slow the greens down a bit, though.
*In order of my rankings
Patrick Reed ($11,200) – Reed is far and away the best player in the field, and I’m pretty surprised that he’s not playing in Abu Dhabi (considering his affinity for European Tour golf). Reed posted a 6th place finish at the Tournament of Champions when he was clearly under the weather, so I expect a better showing this week with him at full health. Reed is a birdie-making machine, and these courses should be set up very easily. I expect Reed in the hunt on Sunday afternoon.
Bill Haas ($10,500) – I mentioned on Twitter this week that Bill Haas weeks are some of my least favorite. He’s always chalky, always overpriced, and usually, let’s me down. He’s not a great putter, doesn’t make enough birdies, but somehow I always get suckered in. Here, Haas is a two-time champion and perennial top-10 finisher. He’s an excellent iron player and has even won at Riviera, one of our comp courses for the week. Back the Brinks truck up and dump some cash on Billy Haas this week.
Charles Howell III ($9,900) – We are still in Charles Howell season, so let’s keep riding the hot hand. Howell finished 8th last week at the Sony Open and comes back to an event where he’s made eight consecutive cuts. Howell finished runner-up here in 2013 and finished 11th last season on this same rotation of courses. He’s going to be popular, but he’s a solid play this week.
Phil Mickelson ($10,800) – Mickelson recently underwent hernia surgery, so his healthy and game are complete unknowns. In fact, he may not even tee it up this week, so keep an eye on the news. As a Tournament Ambassador for this event, Phil wants to put on a good show on the course, but I doubt he has anything resembling his A-game this week. But hey, he loves the West Coast, makes a bunch of birdies, and can contend any week that he’s putting well.
Jon Rahm ($9,700) – Arizona State product and DFS darling Jon Rahm is back. We love rostering him, mainly because he makes birdies in bunches. Rahm also loves playing desert golf, and I think this is exactly the type of event where he could get that maiden victory. We’ve seen some of his best performances on Tour come at weaker field events, just like we have this week.
Kevin Na ($8,800) – This is one of the perfect courses for Na, who crushes the Fall to early-January swing season. It puts an emphasis on iron and wedge play, which is Na’s forte. He posted a 3rd here a year ago and had recently visited the courses to get a little extra preparation in.
Sean O’Hair ($7,300) – O’Hair has finished 10th and 11th in his last two starts, the latter being at last week’s Sony Open. I’m a huge O’Hair fan, and he’s been so close to a win these past few years. I think it’s coming, and this could be the week. O’Hair sets up very well for this course and has started to figure it out. He missed his first three cuts at this event but since has posted 41st and 28th place finishes. He’s hot, and trending in the right direction.
David Lingmerth ($7,300) – Lingmerth has lost in a playoff twice at this event, including last year to Jason Dufner. If anyone is due a win here, he’s the guy. Although he had a modest 49th place finish at the Sony Open, it showed me enough after his long layoff. He’s a solid scrambler and is an elite iron player who can win in tough fields.
Zach Johnson ($10,200) – Johnson was way under-owned last week at the Sony Open, where he had great course history. Even with his strong finish, I doubt people are going to be able to stomach the $10,200 price tag (an increase of $1,700 from last week’s salary). He’s not a flashy name, and he’s surrounded by tons of more popular plays. Also, Johnson has missed his past two cuts in this event, scaring away the course history/tournament history truthers.
Emiliano Grillo ($9,800) – The biggest issue with Grillo is his horrible splits on Bermuda greens, which we have this week. But I think he’s an excellent pivot away from Charles Howell III and John Rahm, on a course that should suit him extremely well. He’s a deadly accurate iron player and makes a ton of birdies (and bogeys), which is good for fantasy golf purposes. I’m bullish on Grillo this year and think he makes a *cough* major impact on Tour.
Cameron Smith ($7,000) – Baby face has been playing great recently, and I think he’s the next young Aussie to get a win on the PGA Tour. Smith finished a respectable 27th last week at the Sony Open, after a couple of months off (he had two top-10 finishes in the fall, as well). Smith is a great ball striker and putter and can fire some low numbers when his putter gets hot.
This section focuses on “odds” players – those players whose odds vary the greatest on their DraftKings salaries. Keep in mind; this doesn’t make these players “good plays” or “bad plays,” but it simply measures the value based on their price. 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-20 best “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-20 worst “values” based on my aggregations:
DraftKings lineups for the CareerBuilder Challenge
Stars and Scrubs