The coronation of Jon Rahm finally happened at Torrey Pines, a week before we all expected. He blitzed the back nine and finished with an emphatic eagle to pull away from the field. It was cool to see him come through, and we’re going to see him win in bunches over the next couple decades.
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 TPC Scottsdale, where players face the famous Stadium Course. Although we have a ton of course history to draw upon, there was a recent renovation by Tom Weiskopf which dramatically changed the event, and made the course much more difficult. But here’s what we know: it’s a par-71 course, stretching nearly 7,300 yards. Players have different ways of playing the course, but it’s driver-heavy – everyone will be hitting drivers. This makes strokes gained off-the-tee the key stat of the week, in my book. Weiskopf added bunkers, narrowed the landing areas, and created a course that really makes players think. It also will highlight the best players, as we’ve seen the last two seasons (Brooks Koepka win, Hideki Matsuyama win in a playoff over Rickie Fowler). The course also has a ton of drama, featuring reachable par-5s, a drivable par-4, and the famous 16th hole. It’s a par-3 that’s surrounded by grandstands and stadium seating making for an insanely raucous atmosphere. For correlation courses, I’m focusing on recent form, but will also be looking at results from TPC Summerlin, host of the Shriner’s.
This week’s field is headlined by Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, and last week’s winner Jon Rahm. One thing that I will note – although it’s hard to quantify – is that it’s Super Bowl week. Many of these top players have sponsor commitments and appearances scheduled, and many will attend parties before the Super Bowl. Use that information at your own discretion.
Scottsdale, like Orlando, is a hotbed for PGA golf. Many Tour pros played college golf in the area, and still reside in Scottsdale. Names in the field who still live and practice in Scottsdale include Aaron Baddeley, Pat Perez, Bryce Molder, Martin Laird, Ryan Moore, Phil Mickelson, and Chez Reavie.
Recent Tournament History
Here is the data we can draw upon for this week’s Tournament History:
Finished in the top-20 each of the last three years: Bubba Watson, Hideki Matsuyama, Ryan Moore.
Finished in the top-20 in two of the last three years: Zach Johnson, Brendan Steele, Harris English, Webb Simpson, Graham DeLaet, Martin Laird.
Current Form Review
Each week, we’ll look backward at the last three tournaments on the PGA and European Tours. I have included the top-20 from the past three events: the Sony Open, the CareerBuilder Challenge, and last week’s Farmer’s Insurance Open.
Birdie or Better % (BoB%)
There are really 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 Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka, Daniel Berger, Gary Woodland, and Tony Finau come to mind in this week’s field when targeting birdie makers. 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 really target driving distance alone, but I also wanted to target some accuracy metrics, as well. As I mentioned, the course redesign from a couple of years ago really put the driver into the players’ hands. The course was lengthened, bunkers were added, and players who drive it well have a huge advantage. The reason I like using this metric is that SG:OTT points 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 tacticians.
Par 5 Scoring (P5)
I expect the winning score this week to be much lower than the carnage we saw at Torrey Pines. Although there are some short par-4s, most of the scoring this week will be done on the par-5s. We’ve seen Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, and Harris English crush the par-5s here the past couple years. When you look at par-5 scoring, you’ll see bombers like Ryan Palmer and Brooks Koepka, but also elite wedge players like Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, 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 players who are in good form on the West Coast Swing. For comparison courses, look at TPC Summerlin, host of the Shriner’s.
*In order of my rankings
Hideki Matsuyama ($11,700) – The home of Hideki. He’s finished first, second, and fourth here, and is now playing the best golf of his life. Although he had a couple mediocre weeks, I still believe he’s the man to beat in Phoenix. His driving is deadly, his irons are deadly, and his putting has become a weapon as well. I don’t think Hideki gets caught up on the hype of Super Bowl week, and he’s shown that this is his favorite event of the year.
Jordan Spieth ($12,000) – Spieth has only played here once before, but he finished seventh. He began his season with back-to-back third place finishes in Hawaii, and I think he builds on that success here. He’s an elite ball-striker and putter, both huge keys this week. If Spieth can keep his drives in play, he’ll be there battling Hideki on Sunday afternoon.
Jon Rahm ($9,700) – Rahm’s coronation came a week early, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him win again in Phoenix. He loves this place, as it’s where he burst on to the scene as an amateur a couple of years ago. He’s an Arizona State product, so the hometown crowd will be behind him. He’s clearly playing his best golf of his career, and he’s an elite scorer who can overpower this track.
Justin Thomas ($10,500) – We get our first look at JT since the Sony Open, where he completed the Hawaiian sweep. He’s playing lights out, and has cemented himself inside the top-10 of the official world golf rankings. Thomas is a bomber, a birdie-maker, and a dominant par-5 scorer, making him the perfect player to back this week. Although he MC here a year ago, he’s clearly in a new stratosphere these days. Fire him up in all formats.
Brooks Koepka ($9,100) – The 2015 champion stumbled a bit in his title defense, but he’s been very open about how much he loves this track. He also finished 2nd at the Shriner’s last fall, which is our main comparison course this week. Brooks should come in a bit lower owned that usual due to his missed cut last week and the elite names above him. On a course where I’m targeting bombers, par-5 scorers, birdie makers, and players with strong course history, Brooks fits the bill. Last year, he ranked 13th in strokes gained off-the-tee, 28th in par-5 scoring, and 5th in birdie or better percentage.
J.B. Holmes ($8,800) – Holmes is a two-time winner of this event, and showed a lot of game last week at Torrey Pines. He closed with a bogey-free 68, and now comes to one of his best courses on Tour. Besides the wins, he has two other top-10 finishes in Phoenix. Bomber, scorer, scrambler. Exactly the mold we’re targeting this week. He should go slightly under owned considering the names surrounding him.
Patrick Reed ($8,900) – Nobody seems to be talking about Patrick Reed, since he finally took a week off to recover from illness. He’s been playing lights out the past couple of months, and a win is coming soon. Although he’s yet to crack the top-10 in Phoenix in two tries, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hoist the trophy come Sunday afternoon. Reed loves making birdies, can handle the wind, and always seems to elevate his game when good buddy Jordan Spieth is in the field.
Bubba Watson ($8,300) – Purely a price and course history play. Bubba has said that he hates this course and the atmosphere, and is only here for sponsor commitments. Yet, he has five consecutive top-15 finishes, including three top-10 finishes. He’s had a month off to work on his game, and I expect him to play well again this time around. He check all of the statistical boxes I’m targeting this week, similar to JT and Holmes.
Louis Oosthuizen ($6,900) – Louis is near the top in my value rankings this week, as he’s significantly underpriced on fantasy golf sites. This is a major champion, and perennial top-20 player in the world we’re talking about. Louis shook of some rust last week at Torrey, posting a respectable finish. Although he’s never played in Phoenix, he’s an elite ball-striker and has enough distance off the tee to contend. With Louis, it’s always about health and motivation. But at this price, he doesn’t have to do much to crush value.
Patrick Rodgers ($6,600) – Rodgers was my top value play last week, and is right up there again this week. He’s a streaky player, so ride him after a hot finish last week at Torrey Pines. Anytime a course forces players to make birdies and hit drivers, Rodgers is in play. He may be popular this week, but I expect him to threaten the top-10 again.
Rickie Fowler ($9,500) – With his poor recent form and the elite names surrounding him, Fowler will be one of the lowest owned studs of the week. But he comes to a raucous atmosphere and course that he loves. A couple bad breaks cost him the title last season, but he’s very capable of bouncing back with a win. Fowler is a bomber who dominates par-5s.
Harris English ($8,700) – English finished 3rd here last season and 9th in 2014. He was within one stroke of the lead on Sunday at Torrey Pines, before faltering to 14th place. I think some people will be turned away by his price and his boom-or-bust track record. Nothing besides his track record pops on paper, but he does play par-5s very well and can smash his tee shots. English is best on Bermuda grass greens, which is what we have this week in Phoenix.
Roberto Castro ($6,900) – Castro is the same price as Louis Oosthuizen and just below Daniel Berger, so he’ll go extremely overlooked this week. He’s coming off two solid starts to begin 2017, and comes to a venue where he’s finished top-20 both appearances. Castro is a great ball-striker, loves par-5s, and has contended at bombers courses like Quail Hollow in the past.
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 odds makers 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