The only thing better than FTA’s DFS success for the PGA Championship was the PGA Championship itself. Golf truly is a different animal when Tiger contends. Rather than bask in our good fortunes last week, let’s dive right into the Wyndham… it’s a tricky week.
DataGolf‘s historic event data and Fantasy National‘s course breakdown are perfectly in sync this week. The course breakdown tells us that significantly more greens are hit at Sedgefield than most courses, despite only marginally more fairways being hit. The higher percentage of hit greens leads to an emphasis on strokes gained putting and a deemphasis on short game (reflected in DataGolf’s historical event data). The historical event data also shows an emphasis on performance off the tee and a deemphasis on iron play. To me, this screams that there’s a significant distance advantage off the tee.
The shift in ball striking importance towards driving suggests that getting the ball close to the hole is more about getting a wedge in your hand, or long iron in hand on the par 5s. As usual, these nuggets are not the end-all-be-all when it comes to deciding who to play. However, they will play a significant role in my modeling this week. I’ll do my best to highlight which of my picks could benefit the most, and why.
Wyndham Draftkings Picks
Lately the top tier has started with “DJ is amazing and much better than everyone else”. Well, this week, it’s “Brandt Snedeker is overrated and much worse than everyone else in this tier”. Please don’t play him. Snedeker is losing strokes in the ball striking categories this year.
Webb Simpson is having an excellent year, as evidenced by his automatic qualification for the Ryder Cup. However, he’s projected to be chalky despite the fact that I believe he’s overpriced. He’s losing strokes off the tee, and gains a large portion of his advantage putting (unreliable). His iron play has been excellent, so I won’t beg you to fade him like I did with Sneds.
Hideki Matsuyama is having a very off year in ball striking by his standards. He was at or above .5 in each category in 2016 & 2017. This year, he’s gaining .1 and .2 off the tee and approaching the green, respectively. Name recognition is responsible for this tag. He hasn’t shown signs of returning to previous years’ form so I don’t recommend playing him despite his lower projected ownership than the rest of this tier.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello is an outstanding iron player currently in good form. He’s been trending upwards with his driving, as well. Ownership is my only hesitation with him, but I like him a lot this week.
Shane Lowry rates surprisingly well in my models. He’s gaining just a quarter stroke per round in each ball striking category on the season, but both of the numbers are on a steep incline. He’s expected to be lower owned, like Hideki, making him an excellent pivot off RCB.
Let’s run through the whole tier. There’s lots of chalk (all but Sergio, really).
Joaquin Niemann is my highest rated player in the field, but he’s also projected to be one of the highest, if not the highest, owned players. Niemann made a ton of birdies last week but had a lot of trouble around the greens. The instability of SG:ATG makes this easy to brush aside, but he also lost strokes with his irons for the first time in his professional career. It shocks me to say, but I might fade him. Might.
Daniel Berger was a favorite weekend and showdown play of mine last week because of how well he was hitting his irons. That continued, resulting in an excellent weekend for Berger. I like his chances to continue that success, despite iron play being less important than usual. He’s gaining a fifth of a stroke and half a stroke in the respective ball striking categories.
Sergio Garcia is in bad form. But… he should be the lowest owned player in this tier and only Niemann rates higher in my models (in this tier). Despite his struggles, he’s still gaining slightly off the tee, coupled with a .6 strokes per round advantage with his irons.
Russell Henley and Billy Horschel will be lower owned than Niemann and rate well, both recently and long term.
Ryan Moore is projected for slightly more ownership despite rating a little worse.
Let’s summarize because that was a lot
To reiterate, all of these players are viable, but my GPP preference is as follows:
Harold Varner III has been on fire, especially with his irons. He will certainly be chalky, but it will be very hard to fade him here. In his past four events, he’s gaining over a stroke per round with his irons (and he’s been above .75/round in each event). Oh, and he’s 20th in driving distance…
Julian Suri and Steve Stricker are projected to be the other chalk in this tier. I wouldn’t say they’re bad plays, but I like Kevin Tway more and he has the bonus of a very low ownership projection.
Stricker is rated a little higher in my models, but most of that rating comes from the deemphasized iron play. Meanwhile, Tway’s rating is boosted mostly by his distance advantage off the tee (leading to a SG:OTT of .29). Tway will be one of my cornerstones.
Jason Dufner rates well long term and is projected for low ownership. Unfortunately, even his ball striking is currently in poor form.
Jason Kokrak. I love this guy. He’s been one of my favorite super low-owned plays all year and has come through quite a few times, including in last week’s PGA Championship. If a unique distance advantage is in play this week like I believe it will be, Kokrak could be in for another strong week. We won’t get him anywhere near as low owned as the 1% we’ve had him at multiple times, but he won’t be chalky either. Don’t look now, but his iron play has actually been on fire recently, joining an already solid driving game (he’s a bomber!!).
Abraham Ancer doesn’t stand out in any model of mine, but he does rate pretty well recently in my Fantasy National model. He’s put together a couple tournaments in his past four where one of his ball striking categories was off the charts good. While they could be total outliers, he’s projected for under 10% ownership and he’s at least shown the ball striking upside.
Chris Kirk is a fine play, but he doesn’t pop at all in my models. This is noteworthy because he’s projected for the kind of ownership we saw Finau at last week. Fade, fade, fade.
*Sidenote: do people who played Finau last week realize how lucky they got? He made 24 birdies thanks to an insanely good week putting. His ball striking was nowhere to be found. We made the right play by fading his 36% ownership in tournaments and nearly struck gold.
Do You Trust Me?
Anyway, it’s time for my favorite play of the week. I hope you’re all ready to die on this train with me… I’ll be honored that you trusted me enough to do so.
Robert Garrigus is downright terrible on the greens but man, oh man, can he hit a golf ball. He’s prone to bad weeks with his irons (making him very risky), but they’re typically solid. He’s gaining .356 per round with his irons and nearly a fifth of a stroke per round off the tee. That latter number is rising and driven mostly by distance (and rising towards his norm from the past couple years). To top things off, he’s projected for at or below 3% ownership.
Plays I liked until I saw they were going to be chalkier than I expected:
- Rory Sabbatini
- Richy Werenski
- Tyler Duncan
I’m telling you, DFS golf players are getting sharper as a whole. These kinds of players wouldn’t have been remotely chalky several months ago.
Corey Conners is the only player I will use from this final tier. On the year, he’s gaining .482 strokes per round off the tee and another .312 with his irons. You can’t find that kind of ball striking at this price often. We will get him at low ownership because of consecutive MCs. Luckily, those MCs were mostly due to putting. His ball striking hasn’t left him.
If you need the extra $200, JJ Henry has been hitting the ball well enough to be viable. You’re not going to get much more than a made cut form him though. Conners’ ceiling blows Henry’s away.
The Majors have passed us, but golf is golf. Plus, what else are you going to do on the weekends before football starts? Point being, I’m still excited and let’s keep crushing!
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