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 Shell Houston Open is one of my favorite events on Tour. The course is fantastic, and we have a stacked field of guys tuning up for the Masters. We have Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, John Rahm, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, and J.B. Holmes, to name some headliners. The golf course for the Shell Houston Open is Golf Club of Houston, a par-72 that stretches out to 7,441 yards. One cool thing about this event is that the venue does its best to replicate the course conditions that players are going to see next week at the Masters. Greens will be running around a 12 or 13 on the Stimpmeter, and if the wind picks up (which it will) and the course can stay dry, the greens could get extremely greasy by Sunday. Distance will be at a premium this week because the rough isn’t too long and bad drives won’t be as penal as errant shots on some other courses. Also, many of the holes favor a draw for right-handed players or a fade for the left-handers (another similar aspect to Augusta).
One other thing to consider this week is narrative street. This week’s winner will earn a spot into the Masters next week. Some of the high-caliber players who are not yet in the field at Augusta include Charles Howell III, Graham DeLaet, Billy Horschel, Tony Finau, and Keegan Bradley. Finau is one that most intrigues me, but I’ll be taking a close look at these players. Furthermore, there’s the Texas narrative, with this field littered with players from Texas, who make their homes in Texas, or who went to school in Texas. Jordan Spieth jumps out of course, but also guys like Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker, Ryan Palmer, Hunter Mahan, and JJ Henry. Don't play Hunter Mahan.
*Note: Players who are in the field at next week’s Masters could potentially WD or mail it in after a poor opening round. Dustin Johnson has already pulled out this week, and he likely won’t be the only casualty.
I think scaling back your DFS exposure this week is a good idea since we have great contests lined up for next week’s Masters. But if you do play, focus on guys in solid form, and who have played well in the windy Texas conditions over the years. The main stats I’ll be focusing on this week will be driving distance, strokes gained off-the-tee, strokes-gained approach, and par 5 scoring.
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: Phil Mickelson, Russell Henley.
Finished in the top-20 in two of the last three years: Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, J.B. Holmes, Patrick Reed, Charles Howell III, Cameron Tringale, Johnson Wagner, Chris Stroud, Kyle Reifers.
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 Valspar Championship, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and last week’s Puerto Rico Open.
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, Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, and Luke List 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): There’s no doubt that ball-striking and GIR% are huge at this venue, and that’s clear in past leaderboards. Because of the firm and windy conditions, the iron play is going to be a major key this week. There’s going to be a slight edge to bombers, but targeting solid iron players is equally as important for me this week. 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 Jordan Spieth, Kyle Stanley, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm, and Nick Watney.
Par-5 Scoring (P5): Par-5 scoring is going to be key this week, and I think the winner will be the player who leads the field in par-5 scoring. This could mean a bomber who makes a couple of eagles, or an elite wedge player. Either way, I think looking at par-5 scoring on the season will be a great pointer towards success this week. Some players who popped out to me were (again) Jordan Spieth, Kyle Stanley, Luke List, and Dustin Johnson. Also target Phil Mickelson and Hudson Swafford.
Strokes Gained Off-The-Tee (SG:OTT): I wanted to target driving distance alone this week, but I think SG:OTT is a more comprehensive metric overall. You’re going to see an edge towards bombers in this stat, but it also considers extremely accurate drivers. I think it’s a much better metric than total driving or even good drive percentage. Names that stood out to me in this field were (again) Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Kyle Stanley, and Hudson Swafford. Also consider Tony Finau and Justin Rose.
*In order of my rankings
Jon Rahm ($10,700) – 1st, 16th, 5th, 3rd, 2nd in his last five starts (is that good?), so Rahm is the favorite here in Houston. Two of places were in World Golf Championships, so we know big fields don’t intimidate us. No matter how I tweak my statistical model, Rahm is going to come out near the top. He’s a dynamic ball-striker and birdie-maker, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get win number two this week.
Jordan Spieth ($12,000) – Spieth is always extra motivated playing in his home state, but I have a little concern that he’s looking ahead to Augusta. He finished 13th here last season, and 2nd the year before, so maybe that narrative is a little overblown. Spieth has cooled off a bit since his win at Pebble Beach, but I’m sure his game is in top shape leading up to the Masters. If this tournament becomes a chipping and putting contest, Spieth should come out on top.
Rickie Fowler ($10,000) – Rickie should also be looking ahead to Augusta, but I think he’s keyed in on getting another win. Unlike many of the young guys on Tour, Fowler doesn’t have a trophy room yet. He’s still finding his closing gear, but he flashed signs at the Honda Classic. Fowler has two top-10s at Houston in the past three seasons, so look for him to be near the top of the leaderboard this week. He’s sneaky long, crushes par-5s, and is a very solid ball-striker.
Adam Scott ($9,400) – Scott is going a little under the radar this week since his form has been mediocre the past two months. But any time we come to a ball-striker’s venue, Scott should be at the top of your list. He’s also a past winner here, so there are obviously good vibes for the Aussie in Houston. It’s possible that Scott is focused on next week, but I think he’ll be one of the studs taking this week’s tune-up very seriously.
Henrik Stenson ($10,400) – Like Scott, Stenson hasn’t been in great form recently. He battled an illness and some poor iron play the past few weeks, resulting in a WD and a MC. Stenson needs to put a solid week together to get his confidence back for Augusta, so I think he’ll be very focused this week. He’s posted two runner-up finishes, and a 3rd place finish at the Shell Houston Open previously.
J.B. Holmes ($9,200) – Holmes won this event in his last appearance and has three other top-12 finishes on record. He’s a bomber who managed to win here while hitting fewer than 50% of his fairways. That demonstrates how the rough isn’t so penal – you just have to keep the ball out of the water. Holmes has been trending towards a win all year, and that could be coming soon. He’s looking for a strong showing leading up to Augusta, where he posted a top-5 last season.
Justin Rose ($9,700) – Another player going under the radar, Rose is my sleeper pick to win the Masters next week. It’s been a strange year for Rose, as he’s strung together several high finishes while struggling with his irons. He’s been known as an accurate ball-striker in his career, but the past two years, his strokes gained approach numbers have nose-dived. Rose has made all three cuts here but hasn’t posted anything higher than a 14th place finish.
Patrick Reed ($7,700) – Reed loves playing in his home state and has finished 17th and 10th here the past two seasons. Although his form has been off a little – mainly due to his poor iron and wedge play – Reed’s familiarity with Texas style golf makes me a buyer this week. This course favors Reed’s low, drawing ball flight, and I think he’s going to be excited to play a home game before heading to Augusta.
Billy Horschel ($7,700) – Horschel is streaky, so let’s strike while the irons are hot. Literally. Horschel has been gaining tons of strokes on his approach shots over the past ten weeks and has been driving the ball excellently as well. The issue with BillyHo, as always, is the putter. Although he’s more familiar with bermuda greens than with bentgrass greens, he seems to love this track in Houston. He finished 2nd here in his last start and comes into the event off a 4th place finish at the Honda Classic and a 13th place finish at Bay Hill.
Tony Finau ($7,100) – Finau qualifies as a steal, but also as a chalk play. He’s significantly underpriced and should be the highest owned golfer of the week. He’s a bomber, dominates par-5s, loves bentgrass/poa greens, and ranks 32nd in strokes gained approach. Finau needs a win to get into the Masters, so he’ll be very motivated this week.
Jamie Lovemark ($6,800) – Another player who seems to be going way under the radar this week. Lovemark is trending nicely, finishing 27th and 23rd in his last two events on the Florida swing. He finished 18th here a year ago and has been knocking on the door of that first win for a while. Lovemark is a bomber who should score well on the par-5s this week and could break through if his putter gets hot on the weekend. Lovemark ranks top-30 on Tour in driving distance and par-5 scoring and is above average on strokes gained approach.
Nick Watney ($8,100) – Watney is having a great comeback season, after fighting injuries and swing changes for the past few seasons. He comes into the Shell Houston Open having posted 14th, 28th, 14th, and 14th place finishes in his past four starts. He’s also made his last four cuts here in Houston, including a couple of top-25s. The most impressive thing about Watney this season has been his consistent ball-striking, which bodes well for his chances to contend this week.
Kyle Stanley ($7,400) – Stanley will go overlooked at this price, so I’ll make sure to have some tournament exposure. Stanley is sneaky long off the tee and has been dialed in with his irons all season. He’s made six of his past seven cuts on Tour, with all six finishes inside the top-40. He’s also flashed upside in Houston, posting a 19th place finish last season. He ranks 10th in strokes gained approach, 20th in par-5 scoring, and is inside the top-50 in driving distance.
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 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 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 Shell Houston Open
Stars and Scrubs