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Fantasy Golf Rankings: 2017 Arnold Palmer Invitational

Fantasy Golf Expert Ryan Baroff ranks the top players teeing off at the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week!

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. 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.

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.

1. RORY MCILROY [YAHOO CLASS A] - WORLD RANKING: #3

There aren't going to be many sleepers at the top 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.

2. HENRIK STENSON [YAHOO CLASS C] - WORLD RANKING: #5

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.

3. HIDEKI MATSUYAMA [YAHOO CLASS B] - WORLD RANKING: #4

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.

4. JASON DAY [YAHOO CLASS A] - WORLD RANKING: #2

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.

5. JUSTIN ROSE [YAHOO CLASS B] - WORLD RANKING: #13

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.


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