Dustin Johnson clearly wasn’t fazed by the added pressure of being the top-ranked player in the world, as he went back-to-back to win the WGC-Mexico. We saw this last year when he won the WGC-Bridgestone after his U.S. Open victory. He’s dialed in with his irons right now, and was already the best driver of the golf ball in the game. Although he struggled with short putts last week, he made so many 20’ putts that the field had so chance. He’s off for the next couple of weeks, so we’ll get to see some new blood in the winner’s circle.
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 Copperhead Course is one of the hardest tracks the players face each year, headlined by the Snake Pit. Very similarly to PGA National’s Bear Trap, the Snake Pit consists of a three hole stretch that often determines the tournament on Sunday afternoon. The course is a par-71, checking in just over 7,300 yards. What’s important to note is the course still has four par-5s, so bombers tend to do well. There is an extra par-3 this week, which again emphasizes how important ball-striking and proximity will be this week. Certain bombers who can club down off the tee (Justin Thomas, Gary Woodland, Daniel Berger, and Jason Kokrak) are main targets for me this week.
As usual, we need to look towards Florida and bermuda green specialists during the Florida swing. While the courses are all a little different, accuracy, ball-striking, putting on bermuda surfaces, and handing the wind are all characteristics we need to target. The wind has played a major factor here in the past, so make sure to check the weather reports on Wednesday to see if one wave has an edge over the other.
In terms of stats I feel are important, SG:Approach, SG:Tee-to-Green, par-3 scoring, and scrambling stand out. Correlating courses that I’ll take a small look at this week are Colonial, TPC Sawgrass, and Harbour Town, with an added emphasis on bermuda, Pete Dye, and hard course specialists.
This week’s field is headlined by Henrik Stenson, Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed, Charl Schwartzel, and Daniel Berger. If I had to pick one of these guys to win this week, it would be Henrik Stenson.
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: Jordan Spieth, Charles Howell III.
Finished in the top-20 in two of the last three years: Justin Thomas, Henrik Stenson, Ryan Moore, Patrick Reed, Bill Haas, Graham DeLaet, Kevin Na, Jason Kokrak, George McNeill.
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 full-field events: the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and last week’s Genesis 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 Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger, Robert Garrigus, Gary Woodland, and Luke List 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):
Copperhead 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 thick, bermuda rough is always a challenge, making scrambling very difficult. 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 Gary Woodland, Ryan Moore, Byeong-Hun An, Justin Thomas, and Kyle Stanley.
Par 3 Scoring (P3):
Copperhead is a par-71, but is unique because it features five par-3s. This is going to make par-3 scoring a major metric this week, since long irons will come into play more here than at most venues. If you look at par-3 scoring average and long iron play, there are plenty of names on both lists. Some players who popped out to me were Webb Simpson, Martin Laird, Nick Watney, Bill Haas, and Adam Hadwin.
Bogey Avoidance can help us predict players who will perform well at Copperhead, but it isn’t a great metric when making DraftKings picks. We want birdie makers more than bogey avoiders. But the leaderboards here in the past have been littered with accurate players who keep the big numbers off their scorecards. Names that stood out to me in this field were Bill Haas, Adam Hadwin, Charles Howell III, and Chris Kirk.
*In order of my rankings
Henrik Stenson ($11,700) – I debated where to rank Stenson this week because he burned me so badly with his WD last week in Mexico, but there’s no doubt he’s the best player in this field. Before last week, Stenson posted six consecutive top-10 finishes, including a 2nd in Dubai. He comes back to a venue where he’s posted 4th and 11th place finishes, and fits our mold perfectly. Although he’s an elite cash game play this week, I’m likely fading Stenson in GPPs because I don’t think he wins. Stenson has only won three stroke play events on U.S. soil, the last of which came at the 2013 Tour Championship (which was a field of only 30 golfers).
Justin Thomas ($11,900) – JT continues to put his name in contention week in and week out. He comes to Copperhead where he’s finished 18th and 10th the past two seasons, despite his inaccuracy off the tee. Thomas makes tons of birdies – great for our fantasy formats – and should have no issue making easy work of the four par-5s this week. If he keeps his ball in play, Thomas will be there Sunday afternoon.
Daniel Berger ($10,100) – Berger burned a lot of us at the Honda Classic, but I’m still buying him this week. He flashed some upside last week in Mexico, and should carry that momentum into this week’s event. Berger loves bermuda surfaces, and has no trouble controlling his ball in the wind. He finished 11th here last season, so there’s plenty of pointers towards Berger’s success at Valspar.
Matt Kuchar ($10,200) – Kuchar has been a top-20 machine at Copperhead, to nobody’s surprise. He’s also an elite bermuda putter and falls under the category of Pete Dye specialist. He’s won at Harbour Town, and should be a lock for a top-15 here this week. The issue – as always – is does Kuchar have the upside to win? It’s not the world’s strongest field, so I think he has a chance.
Patrick Reed ($9,700) – Reed famously lost a playoff here to Jordan Spieth in 2015, and backed it up with a 7th place finish last season. Anytime we’re dealing with a difficult venue that doesn’t require bombing it off the tee, Reed should come to mind. He’s a great iron player when he’s on, and he’s an elite scrambler. I think those scrambling skills will keep him in contention at Copperhead this week.
Jason Dufner ($7,900) – Dufner has made his last eight cuts at Copperhead, with no finished worse than 28th. He fits the mold of an accurate ball-striker who avoids big numbers, so he’s firmly in play in all fantasy formats this week. Dufner has played well at correlating courses like Colonial and Harbour Town, and is in decent form this season. He is gaining strokes both off-the-tee and on approach shots this season.
Byeong-Hun An ($7,400) – You might think An is ranked way too highly, but I think he has a great shot to get his 1st PGA Tour win this week. He made his mark on the Euro Tour the past two seasons, and has been close to breaking through on this stage. Josh Culp (@futureoffantasy) made the great connection that An trained at the nearby IMG Academy as a junior, so he should have positive memories of these type of courses. An is a great ball-striker, and was 2nd in the field last week in proximity.
Jim Furyk ($7,200) – Furyk is probably a cash game lock at this low price, considering his high probability of making the cut. He fits the mold here, and has a great record on narrow, tricky courses like Harbour Town and TPC Sawgrass. At Copperhead, Furyk has made all seven cuts, including a win, a runner-up, and a seventh place finish. He’s been struggling the past few weeks, but comes to a course he loves in a weak field.
Ollie Schniederjans ($7,100) – Ollie, Ollie, Ollie! The hype on him started last season, but now he’s flashing a more consistent game. He’s made his last six cuts on Tour, including a top-10. Ollie also checks the main statistical boxes I’m targeting this week: he’s great with long irons, great on par-3s, and great on long par-4s. His scrambling numbers concern me a bit, but I’m going to roll with him. He’s gaining strokes both off-the-tee and with approach shots this season.
Lucas Glover ($6,900) – Anytime we have a ball-striker’s course, Glover is going to pop in the models. I also don’t think putting is crucial this week, so I’m willing to gamble on his bulky flatstick. Glover doesn’t have the best course history, but has one top-5 finish and a handful of top-20s. His last four starts on Tour have been 41st, 33rd, 36th, and 21st, so I’m happy with the trend. He ranks second behind Kyle Stanley in the field in true ball-striking, gaining strokes both off-the-tee and on approach shots.
Chris Kirk ($6,900) – Kirk is severely underpriced this week, making him a main target for my rosters. He’s a great ball-striker and putter who has no problem navigating narrow, tricky courses. He’s won at Colonial and played well at other comparable courses. He doesn’t have much course history here, but he’s strung together consistent, top-40 finishes this season. For a low-priced flier, Kirk is one of the few who could crack the top-10.
Ryan Moore ($9,000) – Moore had some flashes last week in Mexico, and should be comfortable coming back to Copperhead. He’s notorious for playing well in weak fields, and comes to a track where he’s posted back-to-back top-5 finishes. Moore is an elite iron player who should crush the five par-3s this week. He keeps the ball in play, and has had success on other short, tight tracks over the years.
Billy Horschel ($7,900) – When looking at true ball-striking (strokes gained off-the-tee + approach), Horschel ranks seventh in this field. He comes to Copperhead off a top-5 finish at the Honda Classic. He’s a short-hitting, accurate ball-striker who I like to target at these kinds of courses. He’s also a Florida native, who is very comfortable in wind and on bermuda surfaces. I love Horschel this week, and he’s one of the mid-tier options who could challenge for the title on Sunday.
Nick Watney ($7,100) – The return of Watney is real. He’s finished 14th, 28th, and 14th in his past three events, and is showing signs of the top-20 player he once was. The thing I love about Watney is his ball-striking has been great, ever since he switched to Mizuno irons (unlike Brooks Koepka). Watney comes to a course where he’s made all nine cuts and posted 12th, 13th, and 4th place finishes over the years. For a low-owned GPP play, Watney is one of my favorites.
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 Valspar Championship
Stars and Scrubs