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.
This week, the Tour heads back to Torrey Pines, a staple of the California swing. Therefore, we have plenty of course history to draw upon for this field. This event is held on two courses, the North and South courses at Torrey Pines. Each player gets one round on each track before the 36-hole cut, so unless there’s extreme weather one day, starting course doesn’t make a huge difference. There is however, a major difference between the courses.
The South course is brutal, playing nearly 7,700 yards and averaging a stroke and a half over par, historically. The North Course historically plays about four strokes easier, but has undergone recent renovations. Trees and bunkers have been removed, the greens have been made larger, and one of the par-4s has been extended into a par-5. If your picks manage anything under par on the South course, you’ll be in great shape heading to the weekend. In terms of stats to focus on this week, par-5 scoring and driving distance are two keys. Historically, bombers have great track records here, although there have been shorter hitters who have excelled at this event. These greens are tough to hit, to elite iron players and scramblers are good targets as well. The last thing I’ll mention – as usual – is to keep playing the local angle here. Many junior golfers growing up in California played events at Torrey Pines, and are very familiar with the courses. One popular name this week, Beau Hossler, won here as a junior.
This week’s field is headlined by Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler, .Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama, Phil Mickelson, and Tiger Woods. Yes, Tiger Woods, y’all.
Recent Tournament History
This rotation of courses has only been used the past few years, so these are the most important data points we have. Here are the leaderboards from the past three installments of the Farmers Insurance Open:
Current Form Review
Each week, we’ll look backward at the last three tournaments on the PGA and European Tours. Because this is the start of a new season, many of the world’s best haven’t played since the Tour Championship. Tread lightly. Here are the leaderboards from the past three events: the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the Sony Open, and last week’s CareerBuilder Challenge.
Strokes Gained Approach (SG:APP): Ball-striking, especially with irons, is going to be a major key for players this week. Although driving distance will play a role, ball-striking has always prevailed at Torrey Pines. We’ve seen shorter hitters contend, and that’s due to the unpredictable weather. In terms of recent play, the players to target in strokes gained approach are Lucas Glover, Hideki Matsuyama, James Hahn, J.J. Spaun, Luke Donald, Patrick Reed, Jon Rahm, and Bud Cauley.
Strokes Gained Off-the-Tee (SG:OTT): Every week, off-the-tee play is a main target. Guys who can hit it long and straight have a huge advantage over the rest of the field. It makes courses shorter, and allows them to hit approach shots from shorter distances, setting up birdies. Given that players will play a 7,700 yard course three times, elite off-the-tee game will be a major factor. Some of the best off-the-tee players are Jon Rahm, Tony Finau, Kevin Streelman, Patrick Cantlay, Tom Lovelady, Matt Jones, and Brendan Steele.
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. This event should lend itself to low scores, with some short par-4s and reachable par-5s. The best players in this field in recent birdie or better percentage are Jon Rahm, James Hahn, Martin Piller, Ollie Schniederjans, Brian Harman, Hideki Matsuyama, and Bud Cauley.
Par-5 Scoring (P5): These courses can play very tough, especially the South which stretches over 7,700 yards. Par-5 scoring is going to be key, because these holes yield the most birdies. When Tiger won here in 2008, he eagled both par-5s on the back nine. Rahm won last year with a majestic eagle on the 18th hole, too. This could mean bombers, or it could mean elite wedge players. Some of the best par-5 scorers in this field are Cody Gribble, Ollie Schiederjans, Kevin Tway, Tony Finau, Gary Woodland, and Patrick Cantlay.
*In order of my rankings
Jon Rahm ($11,800) – What else is there to say about Jon Rahm? He’s going to make it to world #1 sooner rather than later, and I don’t think there’s anyone who can stop him. Rahm won last week’s CareerBuilder Challenge, becoming the 2nd-fastest professional to win four times (only Tiger Woods did it in fewer events). Faster than Rory, faster than Spieth, faster than Thomas, faster than DJ. He’s a bomber off-the-tee, but has dramatically improved his iron game. He’s also a fearless putter, which will carry him very far in his career. Oh, and he’s the defending champion.
Rickie Fowler ($11,400) – Here’s an interesting nugget: From 2010-13, Fowler finished 5th, 20th, 13th, and 6th here. In 2013, he signed an endorsement deal with Farmers Insurance (the title sponsor) and has since posted MC-61st-MC-MC. I don’t think that can be a coincidence, but more likely Fowler has too many obligations off-the-course this week to really focus on his game. Fowler is playing some of the best golf of his career, so I’m sure he’ll play better than he has here, but if we’re choosing between him and Rahm… it’s a no brainer
Justin Rose ($10,600) – I’m surprised that Rose doesn’t have a very good record at Torrey Pines, but he did post his first top-10 finish here last season. He’s a completely different golfer since 2016, and is probably one of the three hottest players in the world (behind Tommy Fleetwood and Jon Rahm). Rose won twice in the fall, and strung together five straight top-10 finishes. He struggled in Abu Dhabi last week, but still managed a 22nd place performance. Rose is in high-gear this time of year, leading up to the Masters, the event which he wants to win most.
Marc Leishman ($9,200) – After a handful of top-10 finishes and near-misses across the globe, Leishman cooled with a 47th place finish at the Sony Open. I’m going to give him a pass, especially since we’re coming to a venue he absolutely loves. Leishman has made seven of nine cuts here, with two runner-up finishes. Like Brian Harman who I’ll mention next, he’s playing the best golf of his career. I’ll continue the ride the heater until I see a few bad weeks in a row.
Brian Harman ($9,600) – Harman continues to play at a ridiculously high level. After five straight top-10 finishes, his streak snapped last week with a 20th at the CareerBuilder. Still pretty good. He’s accurate off-the-tee, a fantastic iron player, and one of the best putters on Tour. Although we target bombers here, Harman seemed to solve the riddle of Torrey Pines last year, posting a 9th place finish. He’s playing the best golf of his career, and I’m a believer in his talent and grit.
Tony Finau ($8,700) – This is the part of the country where we want to target Finau, and this is his favorite event of the bunch. In three starts here, he’s steadily improved his finishes: 24th, 18th, 4th. I don’t think he’s quite ready to win in this elite field, but I expect another great week from him. Although his form is mediocre right now, he’s making cuts and posting top-35 finishes consistently. Finau has the distance I’m targeting this week, and has as much birdie making upside as anyone in the field.
Jhonattan Vegas ($7,700) – Vegas is severely undervalued in this field, in my opinion. In his last two starts, he’s finished 7th and 11th, showing that he’s on one of his famous heaters. Vegas is an elite driver and birdie-maker, which fits this event perfectly. His course history is solid, making six of seven cuts with high finishes of 3rd, 11th, and 18th. He’s a safe bet to make the cut, and can really be of value with the number of birdies and eagles he’ll make.
Stewart Cink ($6,800) – The veteran continues to plug away and post top-25 finishes, regardless of the venue. Cink has cracked the top-20 at Torrey Pines five times in the past ten years, so he’s got a great shot again this week. His ball-striking is solid, he’s accurate off-the-tee, and he makes a ton of birdies. A solid 20th place finish last week at the CareerBuilder should help him come into this week in a good frame of mind. He’s a cash game lock.
Tiger Woods ($9,700) – I couldn’t get through an article this week without including Tiger, so I’ll add him as a potential pivot. His pricing is kind of ridiculous, so I expect under 10% ownership in all contests. In higher buy ins, he may not be owned at all. Tiger’s won here seven times, so course history isn’t the issue. He showed flashes of his former self at the Hero World Challenge, posting a 9th place finish. I think he makes the cut this week, so the rest is all gravy.
Brandt Snedeker ($9,000) – Snedeker missed the cut last week, but progressed throughout the week and finished Saturday with a 67. He’s recovering from a couple injuries, but I want to buy him while popularity is low. Snedeker plays well on the west coast, and has won this event twice. He’s a fantastic putter on poa, and can handle any weather conditions players might see. He wouldn’t be playing this week if he weren’t healthy enough for back-to-backs, so I’ll buy him at under 10% ownership.
This section focuses on “odds” players – those players whose odds vary the greatest with respect to 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 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 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 Farmers Insurance Open:
Stars and Scrubs: