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 TPC Scottsdale, where players face the famous Stadium Course. Although we have a ton of course history to draw upon, there was a recent renovation by Tom Weiskopf which dramatically changed the event, and made the course much more difficult. But here’s what we know: it’s a par-71 course, stretching nearly 7,300 yards. Players have different ways of playing the course, but it’s driver-heavy – everyone will be hitting drivers. This makes strokes gained off-the-tee the key stat of the week, in my book. Weiskopf added bunkers, narrowed the landing areas, and created a course that really makes players think. It also will highlight the best players, as we’ve seen the last three seasons (Brooks Koepka win, Hideki Matsuyama wins each of the past two seasons). The course also has a ton of drama, featuring reachable par-5s, a drivable par-4, and the famous 16th hole. It’s a par-3 that’s surrounded by grandstands and stadium seating making for an insanely raucous atmosphere. For correlation courses, I’m focusing on recent form, but will also be looking at results from TPC Summerlin, host of the Shriner’s.
This week’s field is headlined by Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, and Hideki Matsuyama. One thing that I will note – although it’s hard to quantify – is that it’s Super Bowl week. Many of these top players have sponsor commitments and appearances scheduled, and many will attend parties before the Super Bowl. Use that information at your own discretion.
Scottsdale, like Orlando, is a hotbed for PGA golf. Many Tour pros played college golf in the area, and still reside in Scottsdale. Names in the field who still live and practice in Scottsdale include Aaron Baddeley, Pat Perez, Bryce Molder, Martin Laird, Ryan Moore, Phil Mickelson, and Chez Reavie.
Recent Tournament History
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 Sony Open, the CareerBuilder Challenge, and last week’s Farmers Insurance Open.
Strokes Gained Approach (SG:APP): Ball-striking, especially with irons, is going to be a major key for players this week. Looking back at leaderboards over the years, some bombers have excelled, but it’s been mostly ball-strikers. Guys like Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Kyle Stanley, and Brandt Snedeker have solid records here. The players are going to need to back a bundle of birdies this week. In terms of recent play, the players to target in strokes gained approach are Alex Noren, Chez Reavie, John Peterson, Retief Goosen, Keegan Bradley, Scott Piercy, James Hahn, Zach Johnson, and Chesson Hadley.
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. Even on shorter courses like we’ll see this week, hitting the ball long and straight will lead to success. The best off-the-tee players are Kevin Chappell, Jon Rahm, Sangmoon Bae, Nick Watney, Xander Schauffele, Tom Lovelady, Kevin Streelman, and Gary Woodland.
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 Scott Piercy, Jon Rahm, Gary Woodland, John Peterson, Webb Simpson, James Hahn, Austin Cook, Ollie Schniederjans, and Zach Johnson.
Par-4 Scoring (P4): We have a par-71 this week in Scottsdale, which always adds an emphasis to par-4 scoring. I still think longer hitters have a slight edge here, but I’m not discounting elite ball-strikers like Kyle Stanley and Francesco Molinari. Some of the best par-4 scorers in recent weeks are Webb Simpson, Jordan Spieth, Scott Piercy, Kevin Chappell, Brian Stuard, James Hahn, C.T. Pan, Zach Johnson, and Daniel Berger.
*In order of my ranking
Hideki Matsuyama ($11,500) – There’s no denying Matsuyama’s course history here. He’s finished 1st, 1st, 2nd, and 4th in four appearances, and shows no signs of slowing down. He’s been trending in the right direction his past few events, and really impressed me with his putting this past weekend at the Farmers Insurance Open. The 12th place finish at Torrey Pines came after finishes of 5th, 5th, and 4th this fall. Matsuyama is an elite ball-striker, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t be the favorite in Phoenix this week.
Jon Rahm ($11,000) – Right behind Matsuyama, I’ll throw local product Jon Rahm into the fold. He finished 5th here as an amateur a few years ago, and should have plenty of support from the Arizona State faithful. After his win at the CareerBuilder Challenge, .Rahm faded a bit last weekend at Torrey Pines. A couple bad holes likely got to him, and then he was hit by the fatigue of grinding on the PGA Tour. I’ve already declared 2018 the year of Rahm, so there’s no reason to stop playing him now. He’s long off-the-tee, a great ball-striker, and a birdie-maker.
Jordan Spieth ($11,400) – I hope Spieth goes a little under the radar this week with Rahm and Hideki eating up ownership, because I love his chances just as much. In two tries here, Spieth has finished 7th and 9th. He’s likely going to be paired with one or both of his best friends on Tour (Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) this week, so I expect them all to fare pretty well. Spieth strung together three straight top-10s this winter, before falling to 18th at the Sony Open. Either way, Spieth continues to be an elite ball-striker, and his poor recent putting will come around.
Rickie Fowler ($10,400) – Fowler burned a ton of people at last week’s Farmers Insurance Open, backing up the narrative that he was overwhelmed by sponsor obligations. He comes to Phoenix – a course he loves – playing really solid golf overall, so I’m willing to look past last weekend. Fowler has finished 4th and 2nd here the past two years, and will be extra motivated to take down Hideki this time around. Fowler is one of the best scramblers on Tour, but needs to tidy up his iron play this week.
Justin Thomas ($10,300) – 17th-MC-MC is a strange course history for JT, so we have to be aware of that this week. Either way, he’s a much improved player from last season, and has shown the ability to contend anywhere. As mentioned, he’ll likely get a tee time with Spieth and/or Fowler, and these guys always play their best together. A risk-reward course and an event that becomes a birdie-fest screams JT, so I’ll definitely be putting him on some rosters this week.
Brendan Steele ($7,800) – Team course history is all over Brendan Steele this week, who boasts a record of 16th, 17th, 26th, 6th, 6th, and 5th the past six seasons in Phoenix. Steele is an all-around solid player, who can bomb it off-the-tee, make birdies, and scramble. He’s also shown the ability to win events, which a lot of middle tier players struggle to do. He recently had a daughter and took some time off, so he should be in a good frame of mind. In three starts in 2018, Steele has finished inside the top-30 every time.
Zach Johnson ($7,700) – ZJ is probably my favorite play on the board this week, and will be a lock in my cash games. He’s finished 10th 14th and 12th the past three years here, and comes into the event in solid form. ZJ has posted four straight top-25 finishes this season, and nearly won the Sony Open in Hawaii. Looking at recent stats, he ranks 1st in my model. He loves this track, he loves this event, and I expect him to crack the top-10 again this week in Phoenix.
Kevin Chappell ($7,700) – Purely on stats, Kevin Chappell ranks second in my model this week, behind Zach Johnson. His poor course history here in a little confusing, but should help keep his popularity down. Either way, he’s a tremendous ball-striker and has really improved his off-the-tee game in recent weeks. We saw him make a run at the CareerBuilder, and ultimately finish inside the top-6. Chappell is one of my favorite players to target on ball-striking courses, so this one fits the mold.
Marc Leishman ($9,700) – It’s strange to say that Leishman is flying under-the-radar, especially given his recent form, but he’s overshadowed in this field. With Spieth, Rahm, Fowler, Thomas, and Matsuyama all soaking up ownership, Leishman is the next man up. Even in a “poor” week at Torrey Pines, Leishman snuck his way into the top-10. He’s a solid iron player, long off-the-tee, and one of the best scramblers on Tour.
Harris English ($8,100) – Harris English is another one of my weaknesses, as I seem to find excuses to write about him. But now we have reason! He loves this course, with two top-10 finishes in the past few seasons, and he also plays his best on bermuda greens. English finished 11th at the CareerBuilder Challenge and then backed it up with a top-10 at Torrey Pines.
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: