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PGA DFS: The Masters Tournament (FanDuel)

It's Masters Week so get ready to DOMINATE the PGA DFS world with Ryan Baroff's top players to target on FanDuel!

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



Tournament Stop

This Masters is full of anticipation and storylines. Rory is going for the career grand slam and seems to be finding his form after a rib injury. Dustin Johnson is clearly the man to beat and comes to Augusta having won his past three events. Jordan Spieth missed the cut in Houston but has posted 2nd, 1st, and 2nd place finishes at Augusta. Jason Day has been out of form and batting personal off-the-course issues with his family, but seems primed for this week. Phil’s playing well, which is always fun. Then we have the first-timer’s curse: no Augusta debutant has won since 1979. This year, we have several guys who can overcome that curse, namely Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton, Thomas Pieters, and Alex Noren.

Augusta National is a course where I’m heavily weighing course history and tournament experience. First-timers have a poor track record here, but I mentioned a list of debutants that I could see cracking the top-10 this week. The green complexes are so difficult and undulating that knowing where to miss shots and how to recover smartly is even more important than at other Tour stops. Because scrambling is so difficult this week, hitting greens and placing your shots correctly is key. I’m going to look heavily at strokes gained tee-to-green this week, which obviously spits out the best players in the world. If you break up the strokes gained stats even further, the off-the-tee play has the biggest correlation with finishing position at Augusta. It makes sense, as most of the recent bombers who have won the Masters are guys who gain the most strokes off-the-tee (Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, etc.). I’ll be looking at short gameplay as well, but it will be weighed less than off-the-tee and approach shots.

Roster construction is going to be very difficult this week. Odds are, one of the top guys will win. The odds are also that several of the top guys will finish inside the top-5 this week. My suggestion would be to pair two studs on each team and try to find the value plays/sleepers who can crack the top-10 (at least regarding fantasy scoring). Also, because this is a limited field, a high percentage of the field will make the cut. This allows us to be a little riskier in terms of picks.

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, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose.

Finished in the top-20 in two of the last three years: Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Lee Westwood, Bill Haas.

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 events: the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the WGC-Match Play, and last week’s Shell Houston Open.

Statistical Report

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. There’s going to be plenty of bogeys this week, so we need birdies to offset the damages. Guys like Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, and Hideki Matsuyama 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. Keeping your ball on the right portions of greens will eliminate three putts. There’s going to be an edge to bombers, but targeting solid iron players is also 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 Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Francesco Molinari, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm, and Kevin Kisner.

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 Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, and Thomas Pieters.

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 Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson, and Justin Rose.

Studs

*In order of my rankings

Dustin Johnson ($11,000) – You can’t put anybody else but DJ in the #1 spot, as he’s coming off three consecutive winds: the Genesis Open, the WGC-Mexico, and the WGC-Match Play. He drives the ball farther and straighter than anyone, and he’s dialed in with his wedges and putter. DJ finished 6th and 4th at Augusta the past two seasons and is the odds-on favorite. The only concern is he is part of the poor weather draw, where he’ll be contending with the strongest wind gusts on Thursday afternoon.

Rory McIlroy ($10,400) – Like DJ, Rory received the bad end of the weather draw, but he has enough experience (and good rounds) in windy conditions for my confidence to still be high. Rory finished 7th at the WGC-Mexico, 4th at Bay Hill, and comes into Augusta seeking the career grand slam. Rory is doubly motivated to regain control of the Tour, which is now DJ’s playhouse. He leads the Tour in strokes gained-off-the-tee and is one hot putter away from torching this field. Rory has posted three consecutive top-10s at The Masters.

Justin Rose ($9,500) – I've saved my hot take until now, but here it is: Justin Rose will win the 2017 Masters. It's been a weird season for Rose, who has strung together a bunch of high finishes while struggling with his iron play. He's been an elite ball-striker throughout his career, so I think a bounce back is in order. Rose hasn't missed a cut at Augusta in his career and has posted 10th, 2nd and 14th place finishes the past three seasons. Everything is lining up for him, and some bad weather may put the Brit over the top this week.

Jordan Spieth ($10,600) – Decent course history here: 2nd, 1st, 2nd in his three appearances. Both times he finished runner-up, Spieth had control of the tournament midway through Sunday. He’s an elite short game artist but has shown leaks in his game off-the-tee and with his short irons. That was evident last week in Houston, where Spieth’s second round 77 led him to a MC. This place is special for him, so there’s little doubt Spieth will be in contention Sunday.

Jon Rahm ($9,200) – 1st, 16th, 5th, 3rd, and 10th in his last five starts, which includes two World Golf Championships. Rahm is the next superstar in golf and excels with a mix of power, elite iron play, and clutch putting. He’s a rookie at Augusta, but I’m sure he’s had plenty of practice rounds and guidance from fellow Europeans to learn his way around. He’s paired with Rory for the first two rounds and drew the bad end of the weather. Either way, Rahm is a top contender this week.

Rickie Fowler ($9,300) – A trendy pick, Fowler seems to have all the good pointers heading into this week. He won the Honda Classic a month ago, played well at Bay Hill, and finished 3rd in Houston despite a Sunday struggle. Fowler is a great ball-striker, bombs it off the tee, and has been dialed in with the putter. His goal right now is to win a major, and this might be one of his best chances. He has an early tee time, which helps.

Jason Day ($10,000) – Day is flying under the radar because of his recent form and off-the-course issues. His mother is battling lung cancer, and last we saw of him, he WD from the Dell Match Play. His form as been shaky, but late reports are that he's excited and ready for this week. On paper, he obviously fits, as he's an elite bomber and scrambler. Day has contended several times at Augusta and should be glad to get his mind focused on golf.

Steals

Thomas Pieters ($6,600) – Pieters is an absolute steal at this price, and will be staple in my rounds 1-2 rosters on FanDuel. He’s an absolute bomber of the ball who can take advantage with birdies and eagles on the par-5s. Pieters has also been elite with his irons recently, most notably during his runner-up finish at Riviera. As we saw at the Ryder Cup, he doesn’t shy away from the big stage, and he can make putts under pressure. Although he’s a debutant at The Masters, a top-10 finish is well within reach.

Marc Leishman ($6,500) – Leishman has a spotty record at Augusta, with a 4th place finish and three MCs. His form is extremely strong, highlighted by his win at Bay Hill. Leishman loves playing in the wind, is a great scrambler, and has been steadily improving his off-the-tee and approach statistics. Aussies have done well here in the past, and Leishman's improved mindset should pay dividends this week.

Emiliano Grillo ($6,000) – Another player who is severely mispriced is Emiliano Grillo. The Argentine finished 17th here in his debut last season, led by his ball-striking. He putts well on bentgrass, plays well in the windy, and has been in great form recently. Grillo finished 7th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a course that is always set up to be a tune-up for Augusta. I like him as a safe cut-making option, with top-20 upside.

Chris Wood ($5,600) – Wood finished 42nd here last season, and has quietly been in solid form. He had two top-20 finishes in the European Tour’s desert swing, took some time off while his wife had a baby, and has made his last two cuts since. He finished 49th last week in Houston, but most of that was due to a poor finish Sunday afternoon. Wood loves narrow, tree-lined courses, and has plenty of distance to contend. He’s been thrust onto the world stage from his win at the BMW PGA Championship and Ryder Cup appearance, so his confidence should be sky high. I think Wood finishes top-25 this week.

Pivot plays

Paul Casey ($8,300) – Stats and game theory say to fade Paul Casey, but course history and intuition say to play him. Casey has elite course history here, having finished 4th and 6th the past two season, with several other high finishes on his record. My concerns with Casey are his ownership and his struggles (mainly with the driver) since transitioning away from Nike clubs. Casey ranks 101st in strokes gained off-the-tee, and 144th in strokes gained putting this season. Those are really bad signs for Augusta.

Tyrrell Hatton ($7,600) – Although a small sample, Hatton leads the Tour in strokes gained putting and ranks 4th in strokes gained approach. While both of those stats are important, I'm a little worried about his distance off the tee. In any event, he's shown the ability to putt and contend anywhere in the world, including back-to-back top-10s at the last two majors. Hatton is following the exact trend that we saw last season with Danny Willet, coming into the Masters in great form.

Vegas Says…

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:

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:

FanDuel lineups for the Masters

Stars and Scrubs

Rounds 1-2

Rounds 3-4

Balanced

Rounds 1-2

Rounds 3-4


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