WGC Match Play

Jon Rahm
Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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.

 

Tournament Stop

This week, (the good players) on Tour head to the WGC-Match Play in Austin, while (the not-so-good) other players head to the Dominican Republic. We’ll touch on both in this piece, but I’ll keep the bulk of my article for the WGC-Match Play, for which there are larger DraftKings contests. This is obviously a unique week, due to the reduced field size and the format. Sixty-four golfers will compete in a match play bracket, beginning with round-robin “pods”. If you have the best record in your four-man pod, you advance into the round of 16, from where it’s single-elimination match play. Make sense? Last year was full of upsets, but it ultimately came down to a championship match between Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm.

The course this week is Austin Country Club, so you can imagine the ties Jordan Spieth (a University of Texas alum) has here. It’s a short par-71 track, measuring just 7,073. The main defense of the course is the wind, which will definitely wreak havoc this week. That keeps the course playing firm and fast, and gives us an idea of which players to target. One of the cool parts of this course is how well it sets up for match play. There are short par-5s, long par-5s, drivable par-4s… the works. You’re going to see plenty of fireworks, and we’re going to be targeting birdie makers this week. The format for DraftKings is correlated with number of holes won and number of matches won, so we just want to rack up as many birdies and eagles as possible, while hopefully nailing the finalists.

This week’s field is headlined by Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama, and Rory McIlroy. If I had to pick one of these guys to win this week, it would be Dustin Johnson.

 

Recent Tournament History

Here is the data we can draw upon for this week’s Tournament History:

 

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 WGC-Mexico Championship, the Valspar Championship, and last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.

 

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. Guys like Justin Thomas, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed, Xander Schauffele, and Jon Rahm come to mind in this week’s field when targeting birdie makers. We also need points for matches won, which will be a product of guys making a ton of birdies and eagles.

Strokes Gained Approach (SG:APP):

Austin CC will bring out the elite ball-strikers, thanks to firm conditions and extreme winds. There are also a ton of longer par-4s, so I’m targeting elite long iron players this week. I’m going to target SG:APP because players who find the most greens and give themselves the most short birdie opportunities will capitalize most. If you have a player who 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 Adam Hadwin, Justin Thomas, Phil Mickelson, Luke List, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, and Xander Schauffele.

SG:Off-the-Tee (SG:OTT):

Off-the-tee play is key each and every week. Austin CC is no exception, with players needing to play as aggressively as possible. Match play is a different format than stroke play in that risks are worth taking. Names that stood out to me in this field were Bubba Watson, Tommy Fleetwood, Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm .Tony Finau, Justin Thomas, and Kevin Chappell.

 

Studs

*In order of my rankings

Jon Rahm ($10,800) – Rahm seems to have hit a mini-slump, but it’s only because he’s making too many bogeys. He continues to be a prolific birdie-maker and threat to win every week. Rahm finished 2nd here last season, and is out for redemption. He drew a very easy opening pod, so there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll advance. He’s long off-the-tee, an elite iron player, but struggles around the green at times.

Dustin Johnson ($11,800) – With tough pricing and unpredictable results this week, I think people will hesitate to roster DJ. However, he’s the defending champion and got one of the best (softest) draws. He will cakewalk through the round robin, and should be primed for another deep run. He’s one of the most prolific birdie-makers on Tour, and can demoralize opponents with his distance off-the-tee.

Jason Day ($9,200) – There aren’t too many players hotter than Jason Day right now. After winning Torrey Pines and finishing 2nd at Pebble Beach, he flashed some game last weekend at Bay Hill. He’s an extremely talented driver and putter, so the irons will dictate his success this week. Day is a two-time champion of this event, so there’s something about match play that he really enjoys. Day is firmly in play this week and for the Masters.

Rory McIlroy ($10,000) – That was vintage Rory at Bay Hill. A Sunday 64 stole the show and stole the tournament, and he seemed to have his swag back. This is gearing up to be one of the best years in golf history, with the returns of Tiger Woods and Rory. He’s a past champion of this event, and has a pretty friendly opening pod. My only concern for Rory is that he still makes a ton of mistakes, and could struggle to focus after a win.

 

 

Steals

Paul Casey ($8,800) – This is an egregious misprice for Casey, who is coming off a win at the Valspar. Casey plays very well in this format, is an elite ball-striker, and has been making as many birdies as anyone in the field. Casey also drew a very easy group, facing Matt Fitzpatrick, Russell Henley, and Kyle Stanley. He’s the first player in my cash games this week.

Charley Hoffman ($6,900) – Hoffman continued his sharp play with a T-14th at Bay Hill, which would have been much better if not for a late double bogey. He’s one of the most prolific birdie-makers on Tour, which is perfect for this format. He’s also great in the wind and one of the best players in Texas. Hoffman has a nice group, but he’ll have to get past Tyrrell Hatton.

Zach Johnson ($6,800) – ZJ will have to go against a couple veterans in his group – Matt Kuchar and Ross Fisher – if he wants to advance for the third consecutive year. ZJ has found some form in recent weeks, and fits this course well. He’s accurate, makes birdies, plays well in the wind, and enjoys firm and fast golf courses. He’s won two majors, so playing in tough fields has never bothered him. ZJ also has years of experience on the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, which will serve him well.

 

Pivot plays:

Brian Harman ($7,500) – I have a feeling Harman will make noise this week, but he’s unfortunately stuck in Rory’s pod. However, Harman can challenge him. He’s an elite ball-striker and putter, and is one of the best match play golfers on Tour. He was an absolute assassin in college and junior golf match play events, so I’m sure his tenacity will carry over. Harman has had a career resurgence over the past year, and is now inside the top-25 in the official world golf rankings.

Luke List ($7,300) – List is playing as well as anyone in the world right now, and I’ve been impressed by his consistency. He’s backed up his runner-up at the Honda Classic with two great weeks at Valspar and Bay Hill, so his confidence should be high. This is his first appearance here, but his boom-or-bust game fits match play very well. He’ll have to get past Justin Thomas in group play, but I think he gets the job done. A darkhorse to make the quarterfinals.

 

 

Vegas Says…

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:

 

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: