Jack’s place and event draw an excellent field year after year. Personally, I love weeks like this: a strong, major-like field without the loose pricing we’ve seen in golf’s championships. The course is equally exciting from a DFS perspective; its numerous difficult par 4s emphasize ability off the tee and on approach shots (as most courses do). I’ll be in Springfield, Ohio for US Open Sectional Qualifying so I’m hoping to catch some of the weekend action. Maybe I’ll see a couple of you out there!
My Models – A Refresher
Since I had to take the past two weeks off due to my own golf, let’s review my models. The first projects earnings and the second projects a player’s odds of making the cut. Both are quite predictive for such a volatile sport, with 2017’s results regressed against 2016’s stats yielding an r^2~.45 for each. Both models emphasize SG:OTT the heaviest, as driving proves to be the most stable year to year by a wide margin. In fact, the closer to the hole, the less stable the SG measures become. If you’re a first time reader, you can read about my research here.
The Memorial Draftkings Picks
Well, Dustin Johnson is back where he belongs as the most expensive player in the field. It’s a small gap between him and the rest of this tier price-wise, but a large gap in my models. As a result, I love him this week. His top 20 finish at the Players continued his streak of top 20s in every event since last September. That kind of floor is unmatched. Typically we don’t talk about floors as being very important in GPPs, but his is… It allows us to be significantly overweight on him while diversifying the value picks, without assuming a ton of risk at the top. Hopefully the leading price tag and crowded top tier suppress his ownership, too.
As much as I love DJ, it’s hard to argue against Jason Day, Justin Rose, or Justin Thomas. When I last wrote about Justin Rose, his iron play was fairly unimpressive, just below .2 strokes gained per round. It’s now at .553 per round on the year, so it’s fair to say he’s feeling it. JT is playing as well as anyone and actually comes close to DJ in my models when looking at 2018 alone.
Day has become less reliant on his insane putting ability in recent weeks as his strokes gained driving is on the rise (and in a hurry). I would argue Rory McIlroy is the only wrong pick in this tier, but I do prefer DJ to the rest.
This is a really interesting range, as all plays are similarly rated in my models. Henrik Stenson and Tiger Woods seem to have a slight edge over the others. Stenson has been especially impressive this year, with over half a stroke gained off the tee, and over a full stroke gained on approach shots.
Jordan Spieth rates just as well, but his putting is only getting worse (putting is generally incredibly unstable, but Spieth’s has been consistently terrible). I think the exception to the rule is when a player cites the same issue (alignment) over and over. It’s hard to imagine the frustration with his putter won’t eventually seep into his long game, too. Things may get worse before they get better for Jordan.
I’ll be targeting two or three players from this range.
Adam Scott suddenly has hope and a bit of confidence on the greens since returning to his long putter. His final round 64 last week was probably his best round of the season. We’ve been getting him at a more discounted price than this in other stacked fields, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him carry a discounted ownership this week instead.
Emiliano Grillo is tough to figure out. His ball striking has actually been less stellar in the last few weeks despite coming off a third place finish. His strokes gained putting is up over .6 on the year and was the main reason for his great play last week. I think he’s a great play, but the high finish last week for a guy who’s routinely a bit chalky to begin with could make him a fade for me based on ownership alone.
Tony Finau will definitely find his way into my lines. He’s capable of creating a massive advantage off the tee here, and has the iron play to take advantage of it.
Ownership will be especially influential for my plays in this range. Charles Howell III rates well in my models, but I expect him to be chalky. Furthermore, Bryson DeChambeau rates even better in my models, and has a clear advantage this season in ball striking. He’s gaining over .6 strokes off the tee AND approaching the green. This tag is way too cheap for him.
Aaron Wise is one of the most impressive young players of the year, but his numbers don’t measure up to the rest of the players I like in this range. A direct pivot is Byeong-Hun An, whose ball striking has been almost equal to Bryson’s.
One of my favorite plays of the week is Kyle Stanley. Ownership aside, my models suggest he’s not QUITE as strong a play as An, Bryson, or Howell. However, he’s close, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see his ownership below 5%.
As usual, lots to like here. Let’s start with who I think is the best value of the week: Keegan Bradley. Like Adam Scott, a recent change in putting style (he has adopted the Webb Simpson/Matt Kuchar putter-up-the-left-forearm strategy) has shown promise. His .3 strokes gained off the tee is dwarfed by his full stroke per round gained with his irons. Even if his putting goes back to being awful, he should have no issue paying off his 7.2k salary.
There are three players at 7.4k that rate very well in my models. Luke List, Patrick Cantlay, and Xander Schauffele have been popular targets of mine all year. List’s two missed cuts in the past three weeks are concerning, but even his most recent numbers look good. Cantlay is also coming off of a missed cut (his recent numbers ARE concerning), but he’s the tenth highest rated player in the field in my earnings model, and THIRD in the cut odds model.
Schauffele backed up his 2nd place finish at the Players with a missed cut in Fort Worth. He definitely has the upside, but I prefer List and Cantlay.
Keith Mitchell, Jason Kokrak, Charley Hoffman, Kevin Chappell, Joaquin Niemann, and Kevin Tway are all good plays. I won’t hedge off Keegan with any of them, but I would be comfortable with any of them alongside Keegan if I need the salary relief.
Gary Woodland has unique upside for under 7k. Typically when I spotlight a player in this range it’s because his cut odds are significantly higher than the price suggests (think Lucas Glover), or I simply consider them a risky, yet tolerable punt. In this case though, you can get a player who won as recently as February. The issue, and reason for the price tag, is he’s been terrible since from a results standpoint. His stats, on the other hand, suggest valid reason for optimism. On the season, he’s gaining an elite .854 strokes gained off the tee and over .2 with his irons.
Sam Burns crashed and …burned last week (sorry). Burns first caught my eye at the Honda when he played a terrific round of golf alongside Tiger. He’s been excellent on the Web.com tour, and has consistently racked up DK points that outpace his finishing position. The risk here is that he missed the cut in a web event prior to last week’s MC. The aforementioned upside is enhanced by the fact that his ownership has been consistently in the mid to low single digits.
Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins provide a little extra salary relief and project okay in the models.
I normally tend to avoid this price range, but I like the idea of splitting Woodland and Burns. I think we can expect at least one to hit with low ownership.
As always, thanks for reading, thanks in advance for any feedback, and best of luck this week!