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PGA DFS: Arnold Palmer Invitational

Fantasy Golf Expert Ryan Baroff helps you DOMINATE the field on DraftKings and FanDuel as players get ready to tee off at the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week!

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.

For DFS purposes, this week is special because FanDuel has officially launched their golf product. Here’s a quick synopsis:

DFS players will pick four golfers for Rounds 1 and 2, and four golfers for Rounds 3 and 4 (these eight golfers will make up one FanDuel “team”). At first glance it seems simple: take some shots on Thursday and Friday, and roster your studs – who you think could win the event – on your weekend roster. But when you think about it deeper, you’re trying to predict how a certain golfer plays round to round! That’s nearly impossible. For example, you could have the tournament winner on your weekend roster and not win, if most of his production came on Thursday and Friday. That seems frustrating. That risk is mitigated a bit because all players – whether you’ve chosen them for Rounds 1 and 2 or Rounds 3 and 4 – will accrue finishing position points. So, having the winner on your Thursday – Friday lineup is still a good thing.

FanDuel Golf Scoring System

  • Eagle = 7 points
  • Birdie = 3.1 points
  • Par = 0.5 point
  • Bogey = -1 point
  • Double bogey (or worse) = -3 points
  • Streak bonus = 0.6 points per hole under par
  • Bounce back (birdie or better after making bogey or worse) = 0.3 points
  • 5+ Birdies in a round = 4 points
  • Bogey-free round = 5 points.
  • 1st place = 20 points
  • 2nd-5th place = 12 points
  • 6th-10th place = 8 points
  • 11th-25th place = 5 points

Tournament Stop

Let’s move on to this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational which is held at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge course in Orlando. This is the first time the event will be run since the passing of Arnie, so there will be many tributes to him this week. Sign me up. A lot of studs are in the field again, preparing for the WGC Match Play next week and the Masters thereafter. Our headliners this week are Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Justin Rose, and Hideki Matsuyama. Bay Hill offers a more traditional par-72 course layout, with four par 3s, four par 5s, and ten par 4s.  The course is decently long, but a lot of the yardage comes in the Par 3s, which takes away the need for distance. There are many holes where players will be clubbing down off the tee and trying to position themselves for second shots. When you look at ShotTracker this week, you’ll see plenty of funky angles and big numbers on your players’ scorecards. It’s a fun one. One last point I’ll make is that many Tour players (even Europeans) make their homes in Orlando (at Isleworth or Lake Nona), so they are very familiar with Bay Hill and courses with similar conditions.  Players that jump to my mind are Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell, and Charles Howell III.

The key stats that I’ll be focusing on this week will be SG:Tee-to-Green, approaches from outside 200 yards (including the par-3 tee shots), and scrambling. For those of you who haven’t checked out Fantasy Golf Metrics (@FGMetrics), you can see detailed stat breakdowns based on current form and course history.  Correlating courses that I’ll take a small look at this week are Doral and Augusta National, since many of the same names pop at these venues every year.

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: Henrik Stenson, Francesco Molinari, Jason Kokrak.

Finished in the top-20 in two of the last three years: Jason Day, Brandt Snedeker, Kevin Na, Zach Johnson, Ben Martin, Matt Every, Matt Jones, Adam Scott, Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

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 Genesis Open, the Honda Classic, and the Valspar Championship.

Statistical Report

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, Anirban Lahiri, Justin Rose, Thomas Pieters, and Pat Perez 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 Approach (SG:App):

Bay Hill is all-striker’s course, so I’m targeting elite long 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 Thomas Pieters, Francesco Molinari, Kevin Kisner, Ricky Fowler, and Charl Schwartzel.

SG:Around-the-Green (SG:ATG):

Scrambling is always a major stat to focus on at Bay Hill, since players are approaching greens from long yardages throughout the week. The greens are firm and hard to hold, so chipping and pitching from the bermuda grass will separate the field this week. Some players who popped out to me were Paul Casey, Hideki Matsuyama, Kevin Na, Pat Perez, and Wesley Bryan.

Proximity from 200+ yards:

I’m not huge on targeting proximity yardages, but this is an exception. Bay Hill features the 5th most shots from outside of 200 yards, so targeting elite iron players is a major key for me this week. Players will be using long irons on par-3s and on 2nd shots on par-5s. Names that stood out to me in this field were Kevin Kisner, Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, and Kevin Chappell.

Studs

*In order of my rankings

Rory McIlroy ($12,000) – There aren’t going to be many sleepers this week, but I do think Rory will go under-owned at this price. Henrik Stenson will be the chalk of the week, and game theorists will drop down to Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama. Rory played well in his return to golf, finishing 7th at the WGC-Mexico. He’s had mediocre 27th and 11th place finishes here, but seems motivated to play well and honor The King this year. On a course that lends itself to birdies and eagles, Rory is one of my favorite targets this week.

Henrik Stenson ($11,500) – Stenson is one of the favorites this week, and should be the highest owned on DraftKings in both cash and GPP. He’s lives locally, so he’ll be sleeping in his own bed and spending time with his family. In terms of course fit, Bay Hill is perfect for his accurate driving and elite long iron play. This is reflected in his course history. The last four years, Stenson has finished no worse than 8th here.

Hideki Matsuyama ($10,300) – It seems like people are forgetting about Matsuyama, who should be a perfect fit for Bay Hill on paper. He’s finished 6th and 21st in two appearances here, and I could see him contending here. He has a great record at Memorial and at the Masters, who comparable courses I’m using this week. Matsuyama is an elite ball-striker who should keep the big numbers off his scorecard this week. He tends to excel on fast greens, too.

Jason Day ($10,600) – If he’s healthy, Day is one of my favorite plays of the week. With that being said, I think he’ll be more popular than we think. He’s the defending champion, and offers a nice discount off Rory and Stenson. Day won here last season thanks to elite scrambling and a scorching hot putter, so I’m not sure he can rely so heavily on those areas this year. He’ll need to find more fairways and greens, or else he could disappoint a lot of people this week.

Justin Rose ($9,500) –  Another course horse and cash game lock for me. Like Stenson, Rose lives in nearby Lake Nona, so he’ll be playing a home game this week. Also like Stenson, Rose has excellent course history here, with four top-10 finishes at Bay Hill. He’s been in great form so far in 2017, and I think he’s going to break into the winner’s circle one of these next four weeks (Masters, anyone?). Rose is an elite ball-striker who should keep himself out of trouble this week.

Tyrrell Hatton ($9,100) – Hatton making my sleepers piece is strictly because of the price. With options like Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker, and Paul Casey surrounding him, I think Hatton’s ownership will drop. Also, this is his first appearance here, so course history buffs won’t have him rated highly. But based on his limited sample size on Tour, Hatton ranks 1st in my statistical model this week and is coming off three consecutive top-10 finishes worldwide. Sign me up.

Rickie Fowler ($9,900) – Rickie has some of the most extreme ebbs and flows throughout the golf season, but he’s on a high right now. Fowler played decently in Mexico following his win at the Honda Classic, and I think he can carry that form to Bay Hill. Fowler finished 3rd here in 2013, but that was his only high finish. He’s been hitting his irons well lately, and ranks highly in sand saves and bogey avoidance, both keys for Bay Hill. If Fowler gets going with his putter, we could see his second win in three weeks.

Steals

Charl Schwartzel ($7,400) – Schwartzel is one of the biggest steals of the week, based on his price against Vegas odds. He doesn’t have great course history here, but he should fit the mold on paper. Schwartzel is an elite ball-striker and makes a ton of birdies. He’s in good form, finishing 6th at the Valspar a week ago. At this price, I wouldn’t be afraid to use him in any format.

Wesley Bryan ($7,100) – Bryan is atop this week’s value rankings, which shouldn’t be surprising given his recent form. He finished 4th at the Genesis Open, 4th at the Honda Classic, and backed it up with a 7th place finish last week at the Valspar Championship. Bryan is a great ball-striker who should keep the big numbers off his scorecard this week. He putts and scrambles well, and loves bermuda surfaces.

Russell Henley ($7,000) – Henley had another great performance last week at Valspar, finishing 9th. He comes to a track where he doesn’t have good course history, but I’m willing to overlook it. Henley is streaky, loves bermuda greens, and is a player I’ll target several weeks in a row after a strong finish. He’s a dynamic putter and great ball-striker, who should have success at Bay Hill. He’s also a player who won’t be intimidated by any big names in the field. When he won the Honda Classic, it was in a four-way playoff against Ryan Palmer, Russell Knox, and Rory McIlroy.

Charles Howell III ($6,900) – The price is right on Charles Howell III, but I would only play him in cash games. He’s bound to be chalk in GPP formats, and I don’t think he presents the upside necessary to make him a good choice. He’s made 11 of 12 cuts at Bay Hill, but only cracked the top-10 once. He’s a cut-maker who excels in weaker fields, so I don’t think he’ll be a top-20 play this week. But it terms of cash games, lock him in.

Pivot Plays

Ryan Moore ($8,200) – Speaking of weak names in a strong field, Moore could be my favorite contrarian play of the week. He’s made five of his past six cuts at Bay Hill, including a 4th place finish in 2012. Moore has finished 28th and 18th his past two events on Tour, which is a trend I love to target. He’s very solid around the greens and with his long irons, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Moore in the top-5 on Sunday.

Kevin Kisner ($7,600) – Although he doesn’t have great course history here, I can’t overlook Kisner’s recent form. He’s finished 4th, 25th, 10th, 48th, and 11th his past five starts, and is due for that next win. The field is strong, but as we saw at TPC Sawgrass, Kisner can contend in loaded fields. His ball-striking is elite, especially with approaches from our key yardages. He’s always overlooked in fantasy formats, so I love him this week.

Brooks Koepka ($6,900) – OK, I probably should have called him my unicorn, but I’m giving Brooks another shot this week. He flashed a few signs during the WGC-Mexico, before fading away on the weekend. He’s made both cuts here, including a 26th place finish in 2014. He’s solid from outside of 200 yards, and should be able to make plenty of birdies and eagles on the par-5s. The key for Koepka is avoiding the big numbers this week. He ranks 12th in my statistical model this week, and we all know he’s better than a $6,900 player.

Vegas Says…

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:

Overpriced

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 Arnold Palmer Invitational

Stars and Scrubs

Rory McIlroy $12,000
Henrik Stenson $11,500
Marc Leishman $6,800
Lucas Glover $6,700
Ernie Els $6,500
Brandon Hagy $6,500
Balanced

Tyrrell Hatton $9,100
Paul Casey $8,800
Thomas Pieters $8,700
Kevin Kisner $7,600
Kevin Na $7,600
Charl Schwartzel $7,400

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