FanDuel recently joined the PGA DFS community and DFS players are trying to figure out the new format and optimize their lineups accordingly. Here’s a brief synopsis of the FanDuel format and scoring:
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
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 ($10,200) – 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 ($10,500) – 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 ($9,500) – 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 ($10,000) – 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 ($10,000) – 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 ($8,400) – 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 ($9,800) – 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 really 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.
Luke List ($6,100) – With DJ out of the field, List is now atop my statistical model, which is a scary thought. But he’s been playing great all season, even looking past his poor Sunday at the Puerto Rico Open. List ranks 3rd in driving distance, 5th in par-5 scoring, 39th in strokes gained approach, and 11th in birdie or better percentage. He finished 27th here last season, but I think he’ll improve on that finish this year.
Kyle Reifers ($5,200) – Reifers has no business being this cheap, so I’ll have plenty of exposure in GPP lineups. He’s a very streaky player, but an elite talent for this price tag. He has some of the best Texas splits in the field, which is strange, since he’s from Ohio originally. Something about the hospitality and bentgrass greens must resonate with Reifers. He’s made all four cuts here, finishing 49th, 21st, 11, and 7th (last year). Trending!
Jim Herman ($5,000) – The defending champion is getting no love heading into this week, so he could be a sneaky play at this low price. Herman is a GIR% specialist who ranks 16th in strokes gained approach this season. During his win here last year, he held off Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Daniel Berger, Jordan Spieth, and Russell Henley. Herman is in solid form after his third place finish at the Valspar Championship.
Martin Flores ($4,700) – The original Party Marty has been a staple of my column for a while. He was featured last week, and came through with a top-10 in the Puerto Rico Open. Flores is one of the most talented golfers in this part of the field, so I suggest being overweight. He’s a great ball-striker, and ranks very highly in greens in regulation and strokes gained approach. Flores struggles with his driver, but the rough isn’t very penal this week. He’s also a Texas native, and has some great splits when playing in the Lone Star state. Sign me up for another top-15 finish.
Matt Kuchar ($9,000) – Kuchar is another player who has had success here in the past, posting a runner-up finish (playoff loss to Matt Jones) a few years ago. Kuchar is very consistent, but hasn’t shown top-10 upside recently. I think that can change here, where he’s one of the best players in the field and has very little pressure on him. He heads to the Masters next week where he’s had great success.
Daniel Berger ($7,600) – Berger has finished 25th and 5th here the past two season, headlined by his stellar final round a year ago. He seems ready for that second Tour win, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see it here. Last year, he won the St. Jude’s Classic the week before a major, so maybe there’s a trend there. Berger crushes par-5s, is strong with his wedges, and has a low, drawing ball flight that should play well in the Texas wind. It’s been an up and down season so far for Berger, who needs to get some momentum heading into the majors.
This section focuses on “odds” players – those players whose odds vary the greatest with respect to their FanDuel 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 FanDuel 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:
FanDuel lineups for the Shell Houston Open
Stars and Scrubs