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PGA DFS: The Players Championship (FanDuel)

Fantasy Golf Expert Ryan Baroff helps you DOMINATE the field on FanDuel as players get ready to tee off at the The Players Championship this week!

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

TPC Sawgrass is a tricky Pete Dye design, so we can look to comparable courses such as Harbour Town for an idea of what type of player might perform well. The course is a typical par-72 layout with four par 5s, but it doesn’t favor the bombers. Several par 5s will be reachable for most of the field, but the difficulties of the par 3s and par 4s will mitigate the length advantage of the bombers. Like most Pete Dye designs, the players will be navigating tricky doglegs, mounding, bunkers and water hazards, and will be forced to hit less than driver off many tees. Once in position, the players will hit approaches to very small greens (again, similar to Harbour Town), so proximity and scrambling should play significant roles in targeting certain players this week. Experience is critical. With the exception of journeymen winners like Craig Perks and Stephen “9&8” Ames, past winners here have had at least five years of experience playing the event. Each of the last ten winners at TPC Sawgrass has recorded at least one top-20 finish. You don’t need to avoid first timers here strictly, but like we talked about at The Masters, experience does play a pivotal role.

Recent Tournament History

TPC Sawgrass has been the longtime host of this event, so we have plenty of tournament history to draw. Here are the results from the previous three seasons.

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 Shell Houston Open, the RBC Heritage, and the Wells Fargo Championship.

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 Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Daniel Berger, and Hideki Matsuyama 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 week, as usual with Pete Dye designs. The winds will be up all weekend, so keeping yourself out of trouble will be paramount to success at TPC Sawgrass. There are difficult, undulating greens, so keeping your ball on the right portions of greens will eliminate three putts. If a player 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 Francesco Molinari, Dustin Johnson, Kevin Kisner, Webb Simpson, and Jon Rahm.

Strokes Gained Off-the-Tee (SG:OTT): I’m going to target elite drivers of the golf ball as well this week. You could look at good drive percentage, but I’m going to remain focused on strokes gained metrics. Driving the ball well (whether you’re a bomber or not) will be key to scoring this week. The par-5s are reachable for most of the field, so any player can contend here. Names that stood out to me in this field were Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson, and Tony Finau.

Studs

*In order of my rankings

Dustin Johnson ($11,200)

DJ is a tough read this week. He’s played here eight times, has missed three cuts, and has never finished higher than 28th. However, that 28th place finish was last year, so perhaps he’s starting to figure out this course. In any event, he comes into this week scorching hot, finishing 2nd, 1st, 1st, 1st, and 3rd in his past five starts. After the back injury at Augusta, he came out rusty at Wells Fargo before vaulting up the leaderboard on Saturday and Sunday. I would be shocked if DJ wasn’t in contention this weekend.

Jon Rahm ($10,100)

Like Augusta National, TPC Sawgrass is a course that favors experience, and rarely produces high finishes for debutants. Like at Augusta National, we had this same debate about Jon Rahm, the Spanish phenom. He showed that he could play anywhere, and posted a near top-20 at Augusta with a horrible Sunday, so I’m confident that he can carry over his form this week. He drives it well, he hits deadly accurate iron shots, and he can scramble. There are no leaks in his game.

Rory McIlroy ($10,500)

McIlroy took his time acclimating to TPC Sawgrass, but he’s finally found his groove. After MC in his first three tries, he’s finished inside the top-12 the past four years. That’s the kind of trend I’m looking for when predicting a winner this week. As long as his short game is sharp, Rory should contend this Sunday. He makes birdies and should be able to dominate the par-5s and short par-4s with this massive length off the tee. I’m still waiting for Rory to make his move back towards world #1, and it could start this week.

Jordan Spieth ($9,700)

On paper, this should be the perfect course for Spieth. His inaccuracy off the tee hurts a bit, but he’s solid with his wedges and can scramble as well as anyone on Tour. He dazzled with his 4th place finish in his debut here in 2014 but then missed the past two cuts. Last year was a little bit of a strange season for Spieth, and he seems to have regained his form. He won earlier this year at Pebble Beach and played well in his last start at the Zurich Classic. Sign me up for all the Jordan Spieth this week.

Sergio Garcia ($9,200)

You can’t come to TPC Sawgrass without mention of Sergio, who is a previous winner here. He’s also posted very recent 2nd, and 3rd place finishes at The Players. He comes back to the Tour after a four-week layoff celebrating his Masters victory, so I’m not sure how much golf has been on his mind recently. If you can overlook the time off, and the emotional fatigue, there’s nothing that should keep you off the Spaniard this week.

Justin Rose ($9,400)

After heartbreak at The Masters, Rose looks to bounce back at The Players Championship this week. Although he doesn’t have a very good track record here, Rose’s best two finishes have come in the past three season. He posted a 19th place finish last season and finished 4th in 2014. He’s been playing lights out the past year, riding high since his gold medal victory in Rio. Some players would take the time to bounce back from the loss at Augusta, but I think Rose can overcome those demons this week.

Steals

Pat Perez ($6,800)

Perez has a mixed bag of results here, but did post a 3rd place finish way back in 2006. On paper, this course should suit him well, and we’ve seen him play well at our comp courses. He’s battled back from a shoulder injury over the past year and has made a huge impact on Tour. Perez won in the swing season, and carried that form over into 2017. He comes to Sawgrass red hot on the heels of a runner up finish at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Emiliano Grillo ($6,400)

I’m not sure why I like Grillo so much this week, but I just have a feeling that he gets himself into contention. I don’t think he has the fortitude to win this event yet, but he’s ready to make that next leap on Tour. He’s a fantastic ball-striker who makes birdies in bunches. He just needs to avoid the big numbers. Grillo hasn’t missed a cut in months, and is trending towards a high finish.

Patrick Cantlay ($6,000)

Cantlay has shown his ability to contend on Tour, even with little experience. So even though this is his course debut, I will continue to ride him. He’s finished 2nd and 3rd in two of his past three starts on Tour, and is very motivated to qualify for the U.S. Open this year. In the 2011 U.S. Amateur at Erin Hills, Cantlay finished 2nd, so he has some unfinished business there. He’s a great ball-striker and putter, and somebody that every American fan needs to root for.

Pivot plays

Justin Thomas ($9,100)

Thomas shouldn’t be very popular at this price, which is exactly what I was hoping for. He fits the mold of the type of player who is ready to elevate his status on Tour. Even though he’s been inside the top-10 in the official world golf rankings, Thomas has never won an event of this stature, with this field. He mentioned that this was his favorite week of the year, and backed that up by finishing in a tie for 3rd place last season. He has the length to overpower this course, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see JT holding the crystal on Sunday evening.

Zach Johnson ($7,800)

Nothing says Pete Dye specialist quite like Zach Johnson. Between The Players, Harbour Town, and The Travelers, Johnson has a great record on all things Pete Dye. He’s a solid ball-striker, elite scrambler, and patient player who can excel on these tricky tracks. At Sawgrass, ZJ has only missed one cut in his career. His record includes two top-10s and a handful of other top-15 finishes. He’s struggled with his game this season but flashed some signs last weekend at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Vegas Says…

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:

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 Players Championship

Stars and Scrubs

Balanced


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