Spieth is back! Well, he never left, but the media likes to create stories. Spieth has been consistently finishing the top-10 for months now, but they gave him a bad reputation because he hadn’t won. His iron play was stellar, his putting was stellar, and he pulled away from the field all week. He’s back in the field this week at Riviera.
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 to Riviera CC for its annual stop. It’s a fantastic and traditional golf course, and always attracts the world’s best players. Because of this, there’s plenty of course history to draw upon, and that’s a big indicator for me this week. The field is stacked, so I suggest spreading out your exposure this week. Riviera is a par-71 that plays around 7,300 yards, which should show you the benefit bombers will have here. Players will contend with the same poa annua greens we saw last week, so keep riding guys who putted well last week. Driving accuracy is not so important here because the fairways are tough to hit and the rough isn’t too penal. We’ve seen this in the past, with inaccurate bombers like Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson playing extremely well here. It’s more of a tactician’s golf course on the approach shots, so find some elite ball-strikers as well. SG: Approach will be one of my key statistics this week. One last thing to note is that on a par-71, there’s an extra par-4. Many of those par-4s are longer than 450 yards, which gives us a key metric to look at. Par-4 scoring overall and efficiency on long par-4s could be great indicators this week.
Regarding stats I feel are important, SG: Approach, driving distance, and long par-4 scoring. Correlating courses that I’ll take a small look at this week are Firestone Country Club and Augusta National.
This week’s field is headlined by Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, Justin Thomas, and Phil Mickelson. STACKED! If I had to pick one of these guys to win this week, it would be Dustin Johnson.
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: Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson.
Finished in the top-20 in two of the last three years: Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth, J.B. Holmes, Brendan Steele, Jim Furyk, Ryan Moore, Keegan Bradley, K.J. Choi,
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 Farmer’s Insurance Open, the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and last week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
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 Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, and J.B. Holmes come to mind in this week’s field when targeting birdie-makers. Bombers, you see. 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 Approach (SG: App): Riviera is a ball striker's course, so I’m targeting elite iron players this week. I’m going to target SG: App because players who find the most greens and give themselves the most birdie opportunities will capitalize most. The poa greens this week are challenging, as are some of the Kikuyu chipping and pitching areas around the greens. If you have a player who sticks approach shots inside 10’ consistently, he’s going to shoot up the leaderboard and contend on Sunday. Some names that stand out in the field are Roberto Castro, Kevin Chappell, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, and Jimmy Walker.
Par 4 Scoring (P4): Since we have a par-71, players will contend with an extra par-4 this week. Because of that, P4 scoring will be key. Guys like Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Roberto Castro, William McGirt, and Webb Simpson pop out as names to target this week. We can also put some added emphasis on long par 4s – those over 450 yards. You’ll see a lot of similar names, but also one of my favorite GPP punts: Ollie Schniederjans.
Proximity 200 – 225 yards: I don’t often look at proximity stats because they’re often skewed by small sample size, but this one popped for me when going through course research. Rivera is a longer course, and players will often find themselves at this range on par-4s and par-3s. I’m going to look at 2016 stats due to sample size, but some of the names that pop are Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Thomas, Charl Schwartzel, Marc Leishman, and Jason Kokrak.
*In order of my rankings
Dustin Johnson ($11,400) – DJ is 32-under par the past three years at this track, posting finishes of fourth, second, and second. He has three other top-10s as well, so this is DJ’s house. He’s due for a win on Tour and due for a win at Riviera, and I think it’s coming this week. He’s been hot recently, posting four top-10s, including a 3rd place finish last week at Pebble Beach. Fire him up in all formats.
Jordan Spieth ($12,600) – Win last week, with five straight top-10s before that. Spieth’s ball-striking has been solid, even when his driver fails him. But as usual, it’s his wedge play and putting that propelled him to a victory at Pebble Beach. Even though Spieth MC at Riviera last year, he posted 4th and 12th place finishes previously. Although this is DJ’s house, watch out for a red-hot Jordan Spieth.
Adam Scott ($10,300) – Scott hasn’t played on Tour yet this season but posted a 3rd in Australia and a 9th in Japan during the silly season. If you remember last season, Scott came out of nowhere to finish 2nd here and followed that up with back-to-back wins in Florida. We could see something similar this season. He’s an elite ball-striker, bombs it off the tee, and dominates par-4s. His price is high enough to scare some people off, but I love Scott this week.
Hideki Matsuyama ($11,500) – Hideki has finished 11th, 4th, and 23rd here in three appearances, so needless to say he loves this track. He’s been on fire to start the season and is coming off a win in Phoenix. Matsuyama has a chance to reach #1 in the world this week, so he should be motivated. With Hideki, it’s all about the putter, since he’s one of the best ball-strikers in the world. He’s a notch below DJ on my list, but I could easily see him hoisting another trophy this Sunday.
Sergio Garcia ($9,300) – One of my top values of the week. Garcia is coming off a win in Dubai and seems to be in a great place. Garcia recently got engaged and is playing some of the best golf of his life. He comes to Riviera where he’s posted three top-6 finishes. This time of year last season, Garcia got hot and nearly won the Honda Classic. If his putter stays warm, Garcia is the elite ball-striker who can tear this track apart.
Jason Day ($10,000) – A strong Sunday propelled Day to a top-5 finish at Pebble Beach, which should give him plenty of confidence heading to Riviera. Although he has a very poor record at Riviera, Day has the game to win anywhere on Tour. On a course that favors bombers, ball-striking, and putting, he’s exactly the guy we want to target. Day will be much less popular than DJ and Spieth, so he could be an elite pivot.
Justin Thomas ($9,600) – Thomas would seemingly fit the mold for Riviera, as he’s a bomber who crushes long par-4s. But he’s only posted two middling finishes here and is coming off a MC in Phoenix. Thomas is red-hot, though, after winning twice in Hawaii and once in Malaysia this season. He’s one of the only high-end players will be under 15% owned, so fire him up as an elite GPP play.
Brandt Snedeker ($7,600) – I was very excited to fade Snedeker at a place where he has poor course history, but this price is egregious. Seeds is one of the streakiest players on Tour and is coming off 9th, and 4th place finishes in his past two events. He’s made a ton of birdies, his ball-striking has been great, and he’s one of the best on Tour on poa annua greens.
Ryan Moore ($7,300) – Moore has made five of his past six cuts at Riviera, including two top-10s. His recent form is not great, but he did start the year with a 3rd place finish at the Tournament of Champions. I love Moore’s ball-striking ability and short game, which should pay dividends this week. He seems to show up on the west coast and could go very overlooked with some of the big names around him.
J.B. Holmes ($7,100) – Holmes fits the type of player I’m targeting this week at Riviera. He’s a bomber who benefits from the non-penal rough, and a player who can make birdies in bunches. He’s made all but one cut here, posting seven top-25 finishes. He’s posted three straight top-35’s on Tour and is trending towards a top-10 finish this week. He’ll be popular at a low price this week but still, makes for an elite play.
Brooks Koepka ($7,100) – Koepka is the same price as J.B. Holmes, so that will be a difficult decision for many this week. However, looking at Vegas odds, Brooks is superior to Holmes and should be more popular. Last we saw, Brooks finished a mediocre 42nd place finish in Phoenix, burning many. But he comes to a course he’s never played before that should fit his eye. Brooks mashes it off the tee, makes birdies in bunches, and can get red-hot with the putter. He’s an elite play in all formats this week but will be very popular.
Brendan Steele ($7,100) – Steele completes the chalk trifecta alongside Holmes and Koepka. He’s a California native who has been on fire so far this season, posting top-20s in each of his past four starts. He won during the fall swing and should continue to carry that momentum. At Riviera, Stele has made his last five cuts, including a 10th and 14th place finish. He’s a great ball-striker and birdie-maker and is a great play in all formats.
Jim Furyk ($6,700) – Furyk was popular for $7,500 and burned a lot of people, but they’ll all go back to the well for $6,700 this week. He comes to Riviera where he’s made ten of his past eleven cuts, including five top-15 finishes. Although he’s not a bomber, Furyk’s tactician-like strategy is a perfect fit for this traditional course. He’s able to avoid bogeys and make just enough birdies to stay in contention. I expect him to be popular this week and for a good reason.
Charl Schwartzel ($8,100) – There’s an interesting angle with South African players on Kikuyu grass since that’s the usual surface in South Africa. Both Schwartzel and Branden Grace would be the two guys who benefit most. He missed the cut last week in Malaysia after a layoff, so I’m willing to overlook that. He comes to Riviera where he’s made four cuts in a row, including two top-5 finishes. Schwartzel is an elite ball-striker and has shown his ability to contend in strong fields.
Branden Grace ($7,300) – The second leg of the South African duo, Grace is significantly underpriced this week. He’s making his debut at Riviera but is set on spending more time playing on the PGA Tour this season. Grace went through a bit of a slump but has finished 13th in each of his past two starts. I love him at this price, and he could be the guy to win GPPs this week.
Webb Simpson ($7,000) – Webb somewhat surprisingly missed the cut last week at Pebble, suffering a letdown after his runner-up finish in Phoenix. Webb has turned his putting around so far this season, which is always the weakest part of his game. At Riviera, he’s posted 6th and 15th place finishes in the past, so he should have positive memories here. Webb is an elite par-4 scorer, one of my keys this week.
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 just 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 Genesis Open
Stars and Scrubs