8/23 Northern Trust Draftkings Picks

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The mega chalk all hit, and Garrigus putted like he has a member-guest coming up and his partner asked him to jack up his handicap. My sincere apologies to anyone who took out Sneds because I asked you to. Didn’t see that coming, but good for him. He seems like one of the best guys on Tour and it was cool to see how much it meant to him.

Ridgewood CC

When Ridgewood hosted an event in 2014, putting dominated the leaderboards. In my opinion, one year isn’t even close to enough data to hang our hats on, so I’ll be mostly ignoring this. If I can’t decide between two players, maybe I’ll take the better putter, but putting is so variant on a week to week basis that it would be hard to take advantage of a “putter’s week” anyway. Consequently, I’ll be relying on my models a little more than usual this week. One final note: A week with less course data than usual is a week with more uncertainty than usual. When torn between multiple players, it makes a lot of sense to go the direction of lower ownership.

Northern Trust Draftkings Picks


The first thing that catches my eye in this tier is not a player or price. It’s the ownership projection for Brooks Koepka. Koepka’s ownership projection is around 10%, lagging well behind the rest of this tier (pretty flat at or just below 20%). Koepka is coming in hot. It’s more than  the 5th place finish at Firestone and his second major championship of the year. Focus on his ball striking numbers in those events. At Firestone, he gained five strokes off the tee and six with his irons for the week. At Bellerive, those numbers were six and six. The difference between fifth and first was a jump from -2 strokes gained putting to +4 strokes gained putting. Point being, there’s no reason Koepka should come at such an ownership discount; I’ll be taking advantage. Dustin Johnson is once again, justifiably, the most expensive player. I will never argue against paying for the man who is first in my models by a wide margin. He’s gaining over 3/4 of a stroke per round approaching the green, which basically goes unnoticed because he’s gaining a massive 1.12 per round off the tee. It looks like Justin Thomas will be lower owned than DJ, albeit by a small margin. I actually prefer JT at a slight discount in both price and ownership, as he comes in in better form. He’s gained over six and a half strokes in each of his past two events with his irons. He has shown himself to be a very streaky player in the past and appears to be heating up once again. Jason Day is one of my favorite players to root for, but he rates noticeably lower than the rest of the players in this tier. His ownership projection being on par with the others is likely due to strong course history. He’s played here three times since 2008! Come on, people. That’s not even close to enough data to say he has a particular edge at this course (though it does fit a putting is key narrative). He’s a fade for me. Tiger Woods’ PGA Championship performance was his most impressive of the season. Unlike the Valspar and The Open, there was nothing suggesting, to me or most “experts”, that he would contend. He took advantage of very receptive greens to gain a comically high 8.4 strokes gained approach for the week. His weak driving game still scares me, though. Another concern: The Valspar was the last week in which he was very low owned (prior to the PGA Championship). He became massive chalk in his next event, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same happen this week.


I’ve seen a lot of “Spieth could be sneaky” arguments this week. Jordan Spieth is not that sneaky. His ownership projection is higher than Koepka’s, for example. Plus, his 12th place finish at the PGA was a bit of a mirage. He gained under two strokes on the week with his ball striking, yet nearly seven putting. For the billionth consecutive week (that he plays), Justin Rose will be quite chalky. He’s gaining just over and just below half a stroke per round in SG:OTT and SG:APP, respectively. He’s third in my earnings model and fifth in my cut odds model, so you won’t get any argument from me if you want to lock him in. He should probably be in the top pricing tier. Jon Rahm is my favorite play in this tier. He ranks second in my models to DJ thanks to .918 SG:OTT and .384 SG:APP on the season. Like Koepka, he had virtually identical, strong ball striking weeks at Firestone and Bellerive and used improved putting to jump from 17th in the WGC to 4th in the PGA. He’s an outstanding pivot off Rose, as he should see little more than half the ownership that Rose sees. I was hoping Francesco Molinari would start flying below the radar again, but his ownership projection is right in line with Rahm’s. Still, he’s a great play. His ball striking bounced right back to elite in the PGA following a good, but not great, week at Firestone.


The chalkiest player in this tier is unfortunately my favorite. Patrick Cantlay has been one of the darlings of my models all year. He’s fifth in projected earnings and third in odds to make the cut. On the season, he’s gaining just shy of 3/4 of a stroke off the tee and half a stroke per round with his irons. This tier is lacking in depth so I’ll probably eat the chalk here and diversify elsewhere. Hideki Matsuyama gained almost 7.5 strokes per round with his irons last week, but it was versus a weak field and it came following two mediocre at best ball striking showings. He doesn’t pop in my models, so I don’t believe he’s worthy of his double digit ownership projection. Adam Scott is my pivot off Hideki. His ball striking has been significantly better than Matsuyama’s all season and he’s coming off his best finish of the season. Whether he’s anchoring or not (the PGA says he’s not, I say ehhhh), he seemed to have more confidence on the greens at Bellerive and that confidence can only help his already stellar ball striking. It looks like Tony Finau’s ownership is going to come back down to Earth this week, making him a fine play. He rates high in my models, but his ball striking form puts him a step down from Scott and two steps down from Cantlay.


I’m just going to lead with my favorite play in this tier because I can’t believe he’s projected for under 5% ownership. Byeong-Hun An has been a favorite of mine all season. For a lot of it, he’s been chalky, too. He’s gaining right around half a stroke in each ball striking category, which easily puts him near the top of this tier in ability. I’m guessing people are fading him because of mid-50s finishes in the WGC and PGA. At Firestone, he lost nine strokes putting throughout the week. He gained with his irons. At Bellerive, he gained with his irons and matched the field off the tee. This ownership projection actually makes him my favorite play of the entire week, not just from this tier.

Chalky Options

There’s a large group of players with similar ratings in my models and similar ownership projections. I like them all, but don’t love any of them. They are:
  • Rafael Cabrera-Bello
  • Stewart Cink
  • Bryson DeChambeau
  • Ian Poulter – Ryder Cup Qualifying Narrative
  • Ryan Moore
  • Keegan Bradley
Gary Woodland is playing really good golf right now. He’s projected for similar ownership as the guys in the above list, but he’s my preferred option. His SG:OTT is up to +.91 on the year (!) and his iron play is trending even more aggressively upwards, to +.4.

Contrarian Options

CT Pan had an excellent week in North Carolina, gaining over nine strokes with his iron play. He’s an exact price pivot off Keegan, although I think I prefer Keegan since Pan’s ownership projection is barely below 10%. Pan rates well, but not as well as Keegan, in my models. Billy Horschel is in great ball striking form and has a low ownership projection. Luke List is another great gpp play. He has shown flashes of brilliance and flashes of ineptitude all season. He’s outstanding off the tee (+.855), but his iron play has let him down recently. Considering his putting lets him down more often than not, he needs his iron play to return to form quickly. His ownership projection is equivalent to An’s and he certainly has the upside.

sub 7k

This tier is deeper than usual, but all plays still carry quite a bit of risk. As a result, two players stand out to me as over-owned (according to projections). These players are Chris Kirk and Joel Dahmen. The case against Kirk is easier. He has two pretty good finishes in a row, but those are primarily due to putting performances that gained 4.1 and 7.6 strokes. His ball striking has been okay at best. In other words, those that played him at 36% last week got lucky, just like the Finau crowd at Bellerive. For those who really want a reaosn to play Kirk, he’s still gaining .6 strokes per round approaching the green. The case against Dahmen is much tougher, since his ball striking truly has been excellent. He’s gained in both ball striking categories in each of his past four events. Fading him is purely a game theory move, since other quality options are here at a fraction of the ownership. Abraham Ancer was close to having one of those upside ball striking weeks I mentioned prior to last week. However, his irons never showed up on Sunday. Still, he gained over a stroke per round off the tee for the event, continuing a very nice run he’s in the midst of for the past couple months. I would play Ancer over Dahmen or Kirk, as he’s projected for just 5% ownership. Two other plays I like down here are Ryan Armour and Beau Hossler (Armour > Hossler).

Super Cheap

If you want to take a chance on putting reigning supreme here once again, Brian Harman is one of the best putters on the planet, at $6500, projected for nearly negligible ownership. His ball striking has been terrible, but hey… weirder things have happened (looking at you, Sneds). My favorite play in this tier strikes me as way too cheap. Keith Mitchell is gaining over 3/4 of a stroke per round off the tee. That’s a stable, consistent edge he gets week after week. His irons have been trending up for the past month or two and he’s coming off his first week of positive SGP since early June. It’s nice to actually see the plus side of variance with his putter for a change. Oh, and he’s projected for just 3% ownership (I expect it to be a bit higher, but still).

As we approach the NFL season, there’s still plenty of exciting golf ahead. Let’s kick off the playoffs with a bang!

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