RBC Heritage Preview: FanDuel

Apr 6, 2017; Augusta, GA, USA; Matt Kuchar lines up a putt on the 2nd green during the first round of The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

FanDuel recently updated their PGA DFS offering, so players are trying to figure out the new format and optimize their lineups accordingly. Basically, they’ve taken away their eight-man rosters, and made their PGA product very similar to DraftKings’ product. The main difference is that you’ll have to adjust to the scoring system and new pricing.

 

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

 

Harbour Town is a narrow, seaside course where accuracy is key and winds will wreak havoc on the players. These greens are tiny, the fairways are narrow, and trees in front of greens block approach shots that are not coming from the correct angle. It’s a typical strategist’s track, with recent winners including Wesley Bryan, Branden Grace, Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar, Carl Pettersson, Brandt Snedeker, Graeme McDowell, and Boo Weekley. No bombers in that group. Typically, the greens here are fast and firm, which creates a lot of missed greens and emphasizes scrambling ability. I’m also going to factor in course history a little more this week, because there are 5 players who have won this event multiple times. It’s a track where you have to miss in the right places, be comfortable with your sight lines, and stick to detailed plan of attack.

Driving accuracy may be the one accuracy stat to ignore, because this is a less-than-driver course most of the way around. Players will be hitting a ton of fairways with irons and hybrids, so don’t emphasize that as much. In terms of strokes gained statistics, strokes gained approach and strokes gained around the green are the two I will weigh heaviest this week. I will also be looking at certain trends, such as players who gain strokes in the wind, on Bermuda greens, and on short courses. Looking at the Florida, Georgia, and Carolina residents who perform well on Bermuda greens, you’ll see names like Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar, Harris English, Bill Haas, Lucas Glover, and Ben Martin. The other connection that I’ll mention is that Harbour Town is a Pete Dye design. His unique course style caters towards a certain type of player, and many of these players are in the field this week: Matt Kuchar, Webb Simpson, Kevin Kisner, Bill Haas, Russell Knox, Marc Leishman, and Ben Martin.

 

Recent Tournament History

Here are the leaderboards from the past three installments of the RCB Heritage:

 

 

Current Form Review

Each week, we’ll look backward at the last three tournaments on the PGA Tour. Here are the leaderboards from the past three stroke-play events: the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Houston Open, and last week’s Masters Tournament.

 

Statistical Report

Strokes Gained Approach (SG:APP): Ball-striking, especially with irons, is going to be a major key for players this week. The greens at Harbour Town are some of the smallest on Tour, so controlling iron shots into the greens will be extremely important. If players hit their irons shots off-line, they’ll be challenged around the greens and in the bunkers. In terms of recent play, the players to target in strokes gained approach are Blayne Barber, Paul Casey, Stewart Cink, Ian Poulter, Marc Leishman, Bryson DeChambeau, and Adam Hadwin.

Strokes Gained Around-the-Green (SG:ARG): Because the greens are so small at Harbour Town, I’m adding extra emphasis on the short game. I want elite scramblers who can save pars when they miss approach shots. The best around-the-green players in recent weeks are Paul Casey, Derek Fathauer, Adam Hadwin, Chris Stroud, Michael Kim, and Ollie Schniederjans.

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 plenty of birdies, with some short par-4s and reachable par-5s. The best players in this field in recent birdie or better percentage are Grayson Murray, Kevin Na, Brice Garnett, Robert Garrigus, Dustin Johnson, Harris English, and Bryson DeChambeau.

Par-5 Scoring (P4): Harbour Town is a par-71, meaning players won’t see the usual four par-5s. That, plus the narrow tree-lined fairways will add extra emphasis on accuracy, not distance. Par-4 scoring is what will separate players this week, so I’ll have a heavy weight on strokes gained on par-4s. Some of the best par-4 scorers in this field are Michael Thompson, Marc Leishman, Charles Howell, Sean O’Hair, Chad Campbell, Emiliano Grillo, and Ryan Palmer.

 

Studs

*In order of my rankings

 

Dustin Johnson ($12,800) – There’s no doubt who should be the favorite this week, so that’s why he’s headlining my rankings. DJ struggled home on the weekend at Augusta, but there were plenty of encouraging signs showing that his game is trending back to early 2018. Harbour Town – on paper – doesn’t suit his game, and his early results here show that. But DJ is a new player now, and he can clearly win anywhere he wants. The only concerns I have are that Harbour Town mitigates his greatest strength (distance), and he’ll have many sponsor obligations as the newest member of Team RBC.

 

Matt Kuchar ($11,800) – One of the oldest members of Team RBC is Matt Kuchar, who is not shy about calling this one of his favorite weeks on Tour. Not only is he a past champion here with multiple other top-10 finishes, but he has friends and family locally who he stays with. Kuchar got off to a blistering start at Augusta before fading a bit on the weekend, but I was very encouraged by what I saw there and in Houston. Kuchar is a Pete Dye specialist, who can navigate these narrow holes and keep himself in position. He’s an excellent wedge player, which is one of the major keys to success here.

 

 

Paul Casey ($12,000) – Of all the studs at the top of the field, Casey is probably the one I’m most worried about. He made an epic charge on Sunday at Augusta, just falling out of the top-10 with a bogey on the final hole. He’s been on fire this season, most recently with a win at the Valspar. His course history here is okay, with 11th, 18th, 22nd, and one MC. My concern for Casey is a letdown in a week that doesn’t’ matter too much to him. He’s locked up his status, he’s locked up a Ryder Cup spot, and this seems like a prime letdown week on the schedule.

 

Webb Simpson ($11,500) – Nobody has come closer to a win the past two years than Webb Simpson, and he’s still looking for it. He’s made five straight cuts on Tour with two top-10s and a top-20 at the Masters. He’s really improved his putting this season, which has propelled him to a level of consistency that we haven’t seen in years. He’s posted four top-15 finishes at Harbour Town, including a runner-up finish. He’s a great ball-striker and tends to play his best on Pete Dye tracks. If he doesn’t get a win soon, we may see some regression.

 

Steals

 

Cameron Smith ($9,800) – Dropping down a tier, Cameron Smith is one of my favorite picks of the week. Even though he finished in the top-5 last week at the Masters, he doesn’t get the attention he deserves. All season, he’s been one of the most consistent ball-strikers on Tour, and just can’t seem to get a hot week with his putter. Well I think that’s coming, and Harbour Town is just the track for him. Smith has played here twice and finished top-30 both years, so I’m not worried about course fit. He plays well in the wind, and has become a prolific birdie-maker.

 

Brian Gay ($8,200) – Team course history here. Gay famously won this event by ten strokes, so he’ll have plenty of fond memories. Besides that win, he has two other top-10 finishes, including last season. Gay finished runner-up at the RSM Classic earlier this fall, one of the most similar courses on Tour. He’s a deadly accurate driver, and probably has one of the best short games of anyone on Tour. If he gets off to a quick start on Thursday, I expect to see him lurking on the first page of the leaderboard this weekend.

 

 

Matt Every ($7,500) – Another southeast / bermuda specialist here. I am usually the biggest anti-Matt Every guy out there, but the trends are pointing his way. The two-time Bay Hill champion plays his best golf in this region, and he’s coming off two strong weeks. Every finished 35th in Punta Cana and 8th at the Houston Open in his last two starts. He comes to Harbour Town where he’s posted three top-20 finishes, including one top-10. He could win or finish last, and I wouldn’t be surprised.

 

Pivot plays:

 

Adam Hadwin ($11,000) – Hadwin will probably pick up steam as the week rolls on, but he’s by far my favorite play on the board. In every iteration of my statistical model, he gets closer and closer to the top. We know how great of a putter he is, and he’s become an elite iron player in 2018. He couldn’t get much going at Augusta, but it was still a solid top-25 finish. He’s improved at Harbour Town each and every year he’s played, and I fully expect to see him inside the top-10 on Sunday.

Ross Fisher ($9,200) – This is a shot in the dark, since his form has been horrible. But Ross Fisher is a world-class talent. We’ve seen him contend in majors and WGCs, win on the European Tour multiple times, and be a factor in Ryder Cups. His past few starts have been poor, but they’ve been on difficult courses for his skill set. Fisher isn’t long enough to contend at Augusta or Houston, but this track is right up his alley. The Brit is accurate off-the-tee and with irons, and shouldn’t have any issue putting the small, flat greens at Harbour Town. With the success of countryman Luke Donald, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fisher and the British flag atop the leaderboard at some point his week.

 

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.

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 RBC Heritage:

Stars and Scrubs:

Kuchar, Simpson, Leishman, Snedeker, Barber, Varner

 

Balanced: