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PGA DFS: Valero Texas Open (FanDuel Preview)

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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 week, the tour moves to the TPC San Antonio (Oaks Course) for the Valero Texas Open. Although it’s one of the oldest tournaments on the Tour, this venue has only been the host since 2010… be careful looking at course history before then. Although TPC San Antonio stretches out to over 7,400 yards, it has some similarities to last week’s course, Harbour Town, which was much shorter. The fairways are lined with trees and bunkers, and we will have weekly tilt with ShotTracker telling us that our players have driven into the “native areas” or “unknown” areas. Another major factor here is going to be the weather, and specifically the wind. In 2015, players in one wave of tee times had a huge advantage over others, just by luck of the draw. But if the weather turns, I’ll be focusing on wind specialists and players who have played well in Texas previously. Another angle to play up this week is to use the Aussies in the field. Not only are they accustomed to playing in similar windy conditions, but many Aussies - Steven Bowditch, John Senden, Rod Pampling, Jason Day (formerly) - have taken up residences in Texas. Furthermore, the course was designed by Greg Norman, and although it’s impossible to quantify, there are bound to be some idiosyncrasies of the course design that Aussies are familiar.

Without getting too in depth with stats this week, I’m going to focus on bombers and players who excel with long irons. There’s a lot of distance in the par 3s and par 5s, so that should neutralize a lot of the field. Scoring on the par 4s is going to be imperative, and I think bombers who can approach those holes with wedges and shorter irons will have a big advantage. The previous four winners at this course (Charley Hoffman, Jimmy Walker, Steven Bowditch, and Martin Laird) are all bombers who have experience in windy conditions.

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: Charley Hoffman, Daniel Summerhays.

Finished in the top-20 in two of the last three years: Matt Kuchar, Jimmy Walker, Brendan Steele, Billy Horschel, Kevin Na, Zach Johnson, Ryan Palmer, Chris Kirk.

Current Form Review

Each week, we’ll look back at the last three tournaments on the PGA and European Tours. I have included the top-20 from the past three events: the Shell Houston Open, the Masters Tournament, and last week’s RBC Heritage.

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. There’s going to be plenty of bogeys this week, so we need birdies to offset the damages. Guys like Anirban Lahiri, Luke List, Scott Piercy, Brooks Koepka, Chris Kirk, and Adam Hadwin lead this week’s field in birdie or better percentage. 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 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. If a player sticks approach shots inside 10 feet consistently, he’s going to shoot up the leaderboard and contend on Sunday. Some names that stand out in the field are Ryan Palmer, Adam Hadwin, Brendan Steele, Ryan Moore, Bud Cauley, and Jimmy Walker.

Strokes Gained Off-the-Tee (SG:OTT): Strokes gained off-the-tee and specifically distance, is going to be another major key this week at TPC San Antonio. Looking back at the past four winners, we see bombers who can play in the wind: Charley Hoffman, Jimmy Walker, Steven Bowditch, and Martin Laird. Names that stood out to me in this field are Tony Finau, Luke List, Jason Kokrak, Keegan Bradley, and Charley Hoffman.

Studs

*In order of my rankings

Matt Kuchar ($10,200) – I’m surprised Kuchar is playing this week, given how much golf he’s played the past month. He’s playing well and wants to secure his spot on the U.S. President’s Cup team this fall. He comes to TPC San Antonio where he’s posted a very Kuchar-esque record: 5/5 cuts, with an average finish of 19th. His peak was a 4th place finish a few years ago, and I expect Kuchar to lurk in the top-10 most of the weekend.

Charley Hoffman ($8,300) – Seven top-15 finishes here, including a win last season, a runner-up, and a third place finish. Texas Charley loves this track and loves playing in windy conditions. After a fantastic run at the Masters, Hoffman had a huge letdown last week at Harbour Town. That’s not surprising and it’s not worrisome. Expect him to come out guns blazing and set the pace early on this week. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him contending late on Sunday evening.

Brooks Koepka ($9,200) – Is Brooks back? I’d like to think so. He’s flashed some signs of a return to form, mostly notably with an 11th place finish at Augusta. Koepka has had serious issues since switching from Nike irons, so hopefully, he carries the momentum with him to San Antonio. On paper, this course should fit him perfectly. There’s not a lot of short game work required, there are easy par-5s, and there are short par-4s. These factors all point to a great week for Brooks Koepka.

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