Last week was a lot of fun. An, Stanley, and Bryson were all highly touted here at FTA. Along with guys like Cantlay, DJ, Keegan, Woodland, List, Finau, and Rose, there was a lot of Sunday sweat going on. Hopefully we can have more of the same this week.
Datagolf’s historical event data shows us that ball striking is emphasized here at the expense of putting (hooray!). A likely explanation for this is that there are only two par 5s, and relatively long par 4s, meaning scoring has to come by hitting approach shots close. With the weaker field, people will likely lean a little too hard on course history for value, giving us an advantage simply by sticking to the models. With that, let’s see where they take us.
FedEx St Jude Classic Draftkings (and Yahoo!) Picks
As usual, I will focus on DK pricing throughout, commenting on any noteworthy pricing differences between DK and Yahoo (like Niemann).
Dustin Johnson leads the way again. As usual, he is far and away the highest rated player in my models. I’d love to have him this week, but it may be tough with how little depth there is in this field. On Yahoo, he’s nearly a lock considering the free space that is Niemann (more on him in a bit).
Henrik Stenson is second in the models and stands out above the rest of the upper tier, minus DJ.
Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson are likely to be just as popular (or at least close) to DJ and Stenson, but don’t rate nearly as well. Daniel Berger rates even worse in the model, so I recommend choosing between Stenson and DJ if you insist on paying up.
Two plays stand out for me in this range; they are Byeong-Hun An and Tony Finau. They’re 5th and 4th in my models, with An rating even higher using stats from this year alone. Finau has played some of the best golf in his career this season despite seeing a slight bump in his off the tee performance (still gaining almost .4 strokes per round), while An has been dominant off the tee, gaining .681 strokes per round. Both are gaining over .5 strokes per round approaching the green.
Joaquin Niemann looks like he’ll be a star for years to come, but I’m not ready to put him as high as these two who have stood out in my models all year. Niemann is, on the other hand, an absolute LOCK on yahoo at minimum price. Consider him a free space and build from there.
This might be the busiest tier. The following players should all carry ownership that qualifies them as chalk (listed in my order of preference):
- Luke List
- Charles Howell III
- Peter Uihlein
- Kiradech Aphibarnrat
- Steve Stricker (maybe)
List is as close to a lock as there can be for me. He’s third in my model, gaining .904 off the tee, .284 with his irons, and 1.56 tee to green on the year. Speaking of, I want to comment on something I’ve seen around the industry…
Rankings vs. Specific Stats
I think it’s important to focus on the actual numbers for each stat, not just a player’s rank during a specific time period. I’m going to use Luke List as an example of why this distinction is important. Here’s a breakdown of how List’s Strokes Gained metrics compare to the rest of the tour.
|SG OTT||SG APP||SG ATG||SG P||AVG|
When looking at his ranks, the 154th place in strokes gained putting would seem to cancel out most of the advantage he gains off the tee. His average rank is 58.25. However, putting is so variant that he loses fewer strokes putting per round than he gains in any other category. In fact, despite his poor putting, he’s 16th this year in total strokes gained, excelling in the areas of golf that are the most stable.
Point being, I think you lose a lot of important context by simply ranking a player in a certain category.
Anyways, back to the 8k range – I much prefer Howell to Aphibarnrat and Uihlein. Aphibarnrat is gaining almost all of his advantage putting (he’s losing with his irons what he gains off the tee). That’s a red flag for me. Meanwhile, Uihlein trails Howell in every SG category.
Stricker has seen a resurgence in his ball striking this year and is a viable pivot off the slightly chalkier players above.
JB Holmes is coming off his best finish of the year, is projected for low ownership, and rates well in the models. Outside of List, he’s my favorite play in this tier.
First, let’s try to identify the most popular plays in this tier.
Ben Crane and Joel Dahmen seem to be getting the most buzz, and while Dahmen rates well in my models, Crane does NOT. Crane will be popular because of his course history. As I’ve mentioned before, I trust course history only when a player’s SG profile suggests they should have a little extra success there. Crane is losing strokes tee to green, with driving as his biggest weakness. Full fade for me.
I wish there were good, low owned options to pivot off Dahmen with, but I just don’t see much that cheap. My favorite is J.T. Poston and in the interest of ownership, I think I’ll play Poston over Dahmen if I need the savings. There are some decent values above him, though.
Keith Mitchell was on a great run before last week’s bogey (and double bogey) fest. He’s excellent off the tee (.914 strokes gained), but awful approaching the green (.577 strokes lost). He’s also losing nearly half a stroke per round putting, so while he’s risky, positive regression on the greens could lead to a bounceback week. In this awfully shallow field, he’s arguably worth the risk.
My Preferred Plays
I’d like to concentrate my ownership to the following players in this tier:
- Kevin Chappell
- Kevin Tway
- Chez Reavie
- Scott Piercy
- Corey Conners
Chappell is struggling, but easily has the highest chance to win in my opinion. He rates just under An and Phil, just above Koepka and Berger in my models, for reference.
Reavie and Piercy are the higher rated players in the models (of the remaining four) when including 2016 and 2017 stats (weighting recent stats more heavily), while Tway and Conners pop a bit more when looking at only 2018 stats.
Stewart Cink actually rates quite well in my models, but hasn’t been sharp recently. He’s still gaining over .7 strokes per round with his irons for the year, for what it’s worth.
Brandon Harkins doesn’t do anything special, but does seem like a nice option for being so cheap.
I think I’ll be trying my best to avoid this price range.
Good luck with the grind this week, and remember: the terrible field means the US Open is right around the corner! The options are scarce this week, but we’ll be complaining about having too many options at Shinnecock.
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