In this series, I’ll highlight six guys that my PGA models identify as high-upside players who are projected for low ownership. Note: these will not always be my core plays. For my core, find me in FTA+ chat each week!
Finally, here’s a breakdown of my model. You’ll find I refer to the top 10/3/1 percentages a lot. In my mind, Cut Odds is a floor projection, Earnings is a median/average projection, and the probabilities of a top 10/3/1 finish are akin to a ceiling projection.
Let’s get to it.
Course Breakdown – Muirfield Village
I hate course history. The sample size for each player is too small to get a reliable sense of how a player fits at the course, or whether that fit even matters. However, what if we could see how numerous players perform at a given course in order to dramatically increase the sample size? Thanks to DataGolf’s Historic Event Data, we can.
To begin, I take the top 25 and bottom 25 golfers in CH Index (DG defines CH Index as “the average (adj. for field strength) strokes-gained at the course”). Next, I regress the CH Index of each player on their strokes gained profiles, bogey avoidance, and birdie or better percentage to find out which stats best translate into success at the course of interest. This strategy makes the model predictive, whereas most course breakdowns are inherently more descriptive. The difference is simple; predictive tells us what will happen while descriptive tells us what did happen. DFS is all about the former. Put another way, what use does knowing iron play plays a key role if you can’t predict whose irons will be on that week? The CF Model combines what will be important with what we can best predict.
I love this week’s CF Model. The model has seemed to perform best when one or two stats really stand out. This week, driving and iron play are significant (barely), but it’s all about SGATG and birdie or better percentage.
Essentially what this says is twofold: the key here is being able to find birdies where there aren’t many. The best way to do that is with your wedge game (ATG), but also by being aggressive and taking advantage of the par 5s (BoB). Finally, ATG play gets emphasized again when the aggression doesn’t pay off and you’re forced to recover. That’s my theory, anyway. The beauty of the CF Model is we don’t need to know why each metric is predictive, just that it is.
CF Model Favorites
Sticking with the theme of six players, these are the six whose CF Model ranking stand out the most, given their price (in order).
- Justin Thomas
- Rory Sabbatini
- Bud Cauley
- Byeong Hun An
- Hideki Matsuyama
- Si Woo Kim
Justin Thomas – Core Play
What is this price? Let’s take a brief look at his rankings and then talk about his wrist:
- Course Fit Model – 1st
- Recent Form Model – 4th
- Top Ten Odds – 3rd
- Earnings Projection – 2nd
- Odds to Make Cut – 7th
Obviously, he deserves to be up there with Tiger, Rory, and Rose in price. If not for his wrist injury, he would be mega-chalk at this price, but most of his ownership is actually going to Kuchar. He’s currently projected for a little under 15%. Even though I believe he will come in higher than that, he’s too good of a play at too cheap of a price for me to fade him. There’s give and take with the wrist: of course I would prefer him to be healthy, but I also prefer the suppressed ownership his lingering wrist issue is providing us.
Note: If we happen to see his ownership projection skyrocket by tonight, he’ll still be one of my favorite plays, but not necessarily a core play.
Of all places for our boy Luke to overachieve, it was at the PGA Championship! List is a darling of the CF Model this week, as he’s never had any issues making birdies (long term BoB % is over 22%). Plus, he has a shockingly solid short game, gaining over .2 strokes per round.
Additionally, his ball striking is in form (14th in the RF Model), and his game is tailor-made for GPPs – List is 12th in top ten odds and 8th in earnings projection, but just 34th in odds to make the cut. As such, the decision of whether or not to use him often comes down to ownership, and he is projected for under 10% this week.
Aaron Wise – Core Play
Aaron Wise’s golf game took a major step forward at The Masters. He clawed his way through the cut with solid play on Friday before going low each day of the weekend (my Showdown lines thanked him dearly!). Ever since, the kid has been firing on all cylinders, coming in 17th in the RF Model. He has an elite long term BoB% of 23.9%, fueled in part by his 24.8% BoB mark this season.
Finally, like List, his top ten odds and earnings projection ranks outpace his odds to make the cut due to his high-birdie/high-variance nature. We’re not just okay with that, we welcome it – especially for a player in such good form.
Si Woo Kim
I hope Pat Mayo reads this, cause he’ll love all this hype for his guy. For all Pat and Geoff’s talk of his irons, the strength to his game has been around the green. Si Woo is gaining a ridiculous .473 strokes per round ATG, which he’s used to catalyze an elite 25.2% BoB mark. In fact, his birdie or better percentage is 7th on Tour this season. The result of this combination is an 11th place rank in the CF Model, putting him firmly in play considering his 2% (!!) ownership projection. Si WOOO!
Will he burn us again? Let’s find out. Im’s poor play of late has driven his price all the way down to $6700, where he’s still projected for just 5% ownership. Despite his recent struggles, Im is still gaining over .2 strokes per round with his short game and has a well above-average 23.2% BoB %. His RF Model rank is poor (48th), but I like that he gained strokes off the tee last event for the first time in about a month. Driving has been the best aspect of his game in his first year on tour (+.424 per round still). If he can continue to rediscover that driving form, I love his chances to take advantage of a really good course fit this week.
Fade – Matt Kuchar
Kuchar has been my most popular choice for “fade of the week” this year, and honestly, it hasn’t worked out too often. He’s playing crazy good golf this season, but there are a few compelling reasons for this fade. First, there’s the ownership. He’s currently projected for over 25%! Personally, I would much prefer the three players immediately below him in price (JT, Day, and Hideki). Second, there’s the course fit.
Kuchar’s monster season has been powered by his improved ball striking. He is gaining nearly .3 strokes per round off the tee (compared to a long term average of .07) and .953 strokes per round with his irons (compared to a long term average of .444). However, his performance around the green has only been slightly above average, at +.096 per round. Additionally, his long term birdie or better percentage is lower than any other golfer in the field priced at or above $8700. Chances are he’ll make 200 feet of putts every day like he did at The Masters and my distaste for him will grow ever stronger, but I’ll be full-fading Kuch.
In all seriousness, it’s hard to envision a missed cut here, but I just don’t see him contending at Muirfield Village.
Good luck this week and find me on Twitter at @alexblickle1!Fantasy Golf