The CareerBuilder was a fun (and weird) DFS week. Again, we had some mega-chalk plays miss the cut – headlined by Jamie Lovemark and Ryan Palmer – and another 59 was carded. As far as my sleepers, it was a mixed bag, but we did get great performances by Sean O’Hair and David Lingmerth.
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.
This week, the Tour heads back to Torrey Pines, a staple of the California swing. Therefore, we have plenty of course history to draw upon for this field. One note: there was extreme rain and wind here a year ago, and Sunday’s round was almost unplayable. Brandt Snedeker shot a ridiculous 69 to win the event, but I’m disregarding most of the weekend rounds from last year. This event is also held on two courses, the North and South courses at Torrey Pines. Each player gets one round on each track before the 36-hole cut, so unless there’s extreme weather one day, starting course doesn’t make a huge difference. There is, however, a major difference between the courses. The South course is brutal, playing nearly 7,700 yards and averaging a stroke and a half over par, historically. The North Course historically plays about four strokes easier but has undergone recent renovations. Trees and bunkers have been removed, the greens have been made larger, and one of the par-4s has been extended into a par-5. If your picks manage anything under par on the South course, you’ll be in great shape heading into the weekend. In terms of stats to focus on this week, par-5 scoring and driving distance are two keys. Historically, bombers have great track records here, although there have been shorter hitters who have excelled at this event. These greens are tough to hit, to elite iron players and scramblers are good targets as well. The last thing I’ll mention – as usual – is to keep playing the local angle here. Many junior golfers growing up in California played events at Torrey Pines, and are very familiar with the courses. One popular name this week, Beau Hossler, won here as a junior.
This week’s field is headlined by Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, Phil Mickelson, and Tiger Woods. There are still lingering questions about Jason Day’s health and fitness, DJ and Rickie are jet-setting from Abu Dhabi, and Phil is coming off a very solid performance after hernia surgeries. And then there’s Tiger. He flashed his upside at the Hero World Challenge, where he led the field in birdies, but he showed his rust as well. I expect him to find some form at one of his favorite courses, and most likely make the cut. If I had to pick one of these guys to win this week, it would be Jason Day.
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: None.
Finished in the top-10 in two of the last three years: Jason Day, Brandt Snedeker, J.B. Holmes, Jimmy Walker, Martin Laird, Scott Stallings, K.J. Choi.
Current Form Review
Each week, we’ll 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 the past two events: the Sony Open and last week’s CareerBuilder Challenge. I’ve highlighted the players in this field:
Birdie or Better % (BoB%)
There are not many weeks where we aren’t going to target birdie or better percentage because that’s what fantasy golf scoring is all about. Guys like Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Robert Garrigus, and Tony Finau come to mind in this week’s field when targeting birdie makers who will benefit from the no-cut format. It’s possible to have a player finish top-10 in fantasy points while not finishing anywhere close to the top-10 in the actual event.
Strokes Gained Off-the-Tee (SG: OTT)
You can target driving distance alone, but I also wanted to target some accuracy metrics, as well. With the recent rain in California, the rough should be sticky and difficult on approach shots, especially those over 200 yards. Certain bombers can overcome those stats because they hit it far enough that they’ll have wedges in their hands anyways. However, SG: OTT stats point towards the bombers anyways, while allowing certain shorter hitters to pop, too. In 2016, the top-10 in SG: OTT were: Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, J.B. Holmes, Ryan Palmer, Jason Kokrak, Andrew Landry, and Boo Weekley. That’s 7-8 bombers and a couple of tacticians.
Par 5 Scoring (P5)
I expect the winning score this week to be around -8, with the bulk of that scoring coming from the par-5s. When you look at par-5 scoring, you’ll see bombers like Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, but also elite wedge players like Matt Kuchar and Roberto Castro.
On top of these stats, we’re going to focus on getting as many elite golfers into our lineups as possible. We want bombers, and we want local Californians. For comparison courses, look at Riviera, Quail Hollow, and Doral.
*In order of my rankings
Jason Day ($11,400) – Day is my favorite to win this week, despite the concern about his “back injury.” We’re all too familiar with the ailing Jason Day. He missed the cut here last season, but that was because he was battling the flu. Previously, he finished 1st, 2nd, and 9th. We need a bomber who can dominate par-5s and make putts, and Day certainly fits the bill.
Dustin Johnson ($11,100) – A poor opening round in Abu Dhabi turned into a runner-up finish. That’s what raw talent will get you. I don’t like that DJ has to travel 12 time zones, or that he has poor course history here. However, he’s an elite player who is in great form. He checks all of the statistical boxes I am targeting this week.
Hideki Matsuyama ($11,200) – Matsuyama comes back to Torrey Pines where he’s missed his last two cuts, so we have a similar situation that we had at the Sony Open. Great form, terrible course history. Hideki probably won’t win, but I’d be shocked if he wasn’t in the hunt come Sunday afternoon. I have two concerns with him this week: 1) his putting seems to be regressing, and 2) he might be looking ahead to Phoenix, where he is the defending champion.
Brooks Koepka ($9,900) – This is the prototypical Brooks Koepka track. Distance off the tee and par-5 scoring are both at a premium. His only appearance here is a mediocre 41st place finish in 2015, but he’s a new golfer these days. This is the year of Brooks! I expect him to lock up two wins, one of them potentially coming at the U.S. Open.
Justin Rose ($10,200) – Rose will go overlooked in a field that has Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, and Hideki Matsuyama. Rose last played at the Sony Open, where he finished 2nd. Although he has a spotty record here, including two missed cuts in a row, his best results at Torrey Pines have come in years that he played in Hawaii. Rose is a strokes gained monster and has the game to win this week.
Rickie Fowler ($10,700) – Fowler is always more popular than he should be, but this week there isn’t much that should drive ownership his way. He’s traveling across twelve time zones from Abu Dhabi, where he had a mediocre 36th place finish. Although his stats check out, Fowler’s last three appearances at Torrey Pines are MC-61st-MC. He does have a couple of top-10s here, as well.
JB Holmes ($8,200) – Holmes is significantly underpriced and one of my favorite plays of the week on DraftKings. We all know he’s a bomber, but Holmes is also a great wedge player and scrambler. Last season, he seemed to elevate his game a bit and develop more consistency. He made the Ryder Cup team, too. Although this is Holmes’ debut this season, he’s coming to a track where he’s finished 6th and 2nd the past two seasons.
Charles Howell III ($7,300) – I have no clue what happened with Howell’s price this week, but he’s $2,600 cheaper on a course where he has an excellent track record. He’s made his last twelve cuts at this event, with five top-10 finishes. Mr. Consistency has been up to his old tricks so far this year, and another top-15 is almost a sure thing for Howell this week. He’s sneaky long and can dominate the par-5s.
Martin Laird ($6,500) – Laird is another early season warrior, as he tends to rack up his wins and best finishes from October through February. He popped up with an excellent top-10 finish last week at the CareerBuilder and now comes to Torrey Pines where he’s posted back-to-back top-10s. I love his high ball flight and his par-5 scoring this week. Plus, Laird has said in many interviews that these tracks fit his eye as well as any courses on Tour.
Gary Woodland ($8,600) – Woodland isn’t a guy who draws much ownership, especially at this price point. He’s surrounded by more popular names like Daniel Berger and doesn’t seem to have winning upside. However, Woodland has been very clear in his praise for this event, and how much he loves playing at Torrey Pines. He’s an absolute bomber who can dominate the par-5s here and finished 6th at the Sony Open. In his last four starts at Torrey Pines, Woodland has finished 18th, 45th, 10th, and 27th.
Tony Finau ($7,700) – Finau has been sneaky good at this event, posting 18th and 24th place finishes the past two seasons. He’s a west coast guy who mashes the ball, so it’s not too surprising that he’s played well here. Even though he’s a boom or bust play, I would trust Finau in cash games and GPPs this week. Even if he doesn’t finish inside the top-10, he could easily have top-10 fantasy scoring upside.
Patton Kizzire ($7,000) – Kizzire stumbled down the stretch last week after being near the lead at the halfway point. Overall, I’m bullish on Kizzire this season, and I think the breakthrough win is coming soon. While this event may be too stacked and on too long of a course for him to win, I like what I saw from him last week. Kizzire finished 8th here in his debut last season.
Patrick Rodgers ($6,300) – I have a few rules for rostering Patrick Rodgers. The event must be in California, it must be on a bomber’s course, and he must be in decent form. Even though he MC at Sony, he shot a Friday 67 which gives me confidence this week. Rodgers is due to bounce back and contend in some events this year, and this is a venue he’s likely played dozens of times while playing college golf at Stanford.
This section focuses on “odds” players – those players whose odds vary the greatest with respect to 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 “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 Farmers Insurance Open
Stars and Scrubs