DraftKings PGA Preview: John Deere Classic

Jul 10, 2019

Chucky Three Sticks is the top-ranked player in the field.

DraftKings has nine golfers priced at $9,500 or above this week. There are no golfers inside the top 50 of the Official World Golf Rankings playing this week so there will be some sticker shock as to which golfers are the highest priced. However, remember that the pricing is all relative to each week’s field. Rookie Viktor Hovland leads the way at $10,900. Fellow rookies Collin Morikawa ($10,700) and Matthew Wolff ($10,500) are the next most expensive golfers. These three golfers have a combined eight starts between them as professional golfers! Last year’s amateur phenom Joaquin Niemann ($10,200) and Kevin Streelman ($10,000) round out the golfers with five-figure salaries. DraftKings provides you with $50,000 to select six golfers for an average roster spot of $8,333.

All of the tips and information that I mention in this article are plays that I will be considering for my own lineups. In fact, most of the plays mentioned are based upon an extensive customized model that is based on a number of statistics and results. However, that doesn’t mean that I will end up with all of the guys that I mention. This article is written early in the week and additional news, research, and roster construction could lead me to different plays. Remember to check the news and social media reports leading up to the first golfer teeing off. Though golf is more difficult to get injury news, you might be able to pick up a nugget or two that helps with roster construction – especially when dealing with possible withdrawals.

Remember that golf is very difficult to play but DFS golf is even tougher. The best golfers will perform at a high level during the course of a golf season. However, from week-to-week, major variance can occur. Any golfer on the PGA Tour is capable of winning an event (e.g. Matthew Wolff winning last week in his third career professional start after missing the cut the previous week). On the flip side, even the best golfers are capable of missing the cut in a given event.

Work at having a solid process week in and week out as opposed to getting bogged down by recency bias or the ups-and-downs of the weekly golf grind. Use all the information available to you to make the best decision possible for your lineup. Good luck and, most importantly, have fun! Whether you win or lose, golf is one of the most entertaining fantasy sports to follow because you get four days of action.

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TOURNAMENT NOTES

The John Deere Classic has been played at TPC Deere Run since 2000. TPC Deere Run is located in the Quad Cities community of Silvis, Illinois and is a Par 71 course measuring 7,268 yards.

156 players are scheduled to tee it up this week with the top 70 (and ties) making the cut. The MDF (secondary cut) is in effect this week. This means that if more than 70 golfers make it through to Saturday, then another cut will occur at the end of that round sending only the top 70 (and ties) on to the final day.

TPC Deere Run is one of the easier courses on the PGA Tour. Last year, it ranked as the sixth easiest course. There were 45 eagles last year, which was the second-most of any event on tour.

The winning score has been at least 20-under par in eight of the last 10 events. Michael Kim won with a 27-under par score last year.

The cut line has been at least two-under par each of the last 10 years, so it should be similar to what we’ve seen the last two weeks in Minnesota and Detroit.

Previous John Deere Classic winners (at TPC Deere Run) that are scheduled to be in the field this week include Michael Kim (2018), Ryan Moore (2016), Brian Harman (2014), Zach Johnson (2012), Jonathan Byrd (2007), and John Senden (2006).

Steve Stricker has won this event three times (2011, 2010, 2009) but will not be competing this week as he will be at the Senior Players Championship at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.

This field is the weakest PGA Tour event of the year. The top-ranked player (according to the Official World Golf Rankings) is Charles Howell III at number 55. All of the top golfers are practicing this week or playing at the Scottish Open to prepare for next week’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

Last year, Michael Kim won the event. He had missed the cut in six of his previous seven events before that win. This proves that anyone is capable of winning on the PGA Tour since he has missed 22 of 26 cuts since that win.

Typically, about 70% of tee shots will hit the fairway. Likewise, about 70% of approach shots hit the green in regulation. This is course tends to be more of a wedge fest and who can get hot with the putter.

The bentgrass greens are average size for the PGA Tour and run only an 11 on the stimpmeter.

The fairways measure around 38 yards on average. About 70% of the field should hit them off the tee this week.

The John Deere Classic provides the final chance for a golfer to qualify for the Open Championship. The winner (if not already qualified) will earn a spot into the Open Championship next week. Typically, the John Deere Classic will provide a charter flight for this golfer.

Both Chad Campbell and Zach Johnson have made 11 straight John Deere Classic cuts.

Andres Romero has made five straight cuts and Charles Howell III has made four straight cuts at the JDC.

Alex Prugh, Boo Weekley, Bud Cauley, Kelly Kraft, Kevin Tway, Michael Kim, Ricky Barnes, Scott Brown, Scott Langley, and Troy Merritt have made the cut each of the last three times they have teed it up here.

There are four Par 3’s on the course measuring 158, 186, 215, and 226 yards.

There are 11 Par 4’s on the course with seven of them measuring less than 450 yards.

There are three Par 5’s on the course that are all between 550-600 yards. Two of them have Birdie or Better rates of at least 40%.

Kevin Streelman and Peter Malnati have made the most consecutive PGA Tour cuts of the players in this field with eight and seven, respectively. Viktor Hovland, Joaquin Niemann, Kevin Streelman, and Vaughn Taylor have each made six in a row.

COURSE FIT & KEY STATISTICS

Overall Statistics
My customized overall stat model measures all key stats (driving, approach, short game, putting, etc…) from both a short-and-long-form standpoint. The best golfers, in terms of stats, for my customized model this week (in ranked order) are Viktor Hovland, Joaquin Niemann, Collin Morikawa, Kevin Streelman, Sungjae Im, Sepp Straka, Ryan Palmer, Jhonattan Vegas, Sam Burns, and Lucas Glover.

Scoring Ability
This course is one of the easiest on tour with the average score being 21-under par. You’ll want to roster golfers that can go low. When looking at golfers who score best (birdie or better and fantasy scoring) both from a short-term and long-term perspective, the following are the top-10 golfers: Collin Morikawa, Sam Burns, Matthew Wolff, Wyndham Clark, Viktor Hovland, Danny Lee, Ryan Palmer, Jhonattan Vegas, Sepp Straka, and Nate Lashley.

Proximity
This course historically has been a wedge fest with golfers hitting their scoring irons from less than 150 yards) into these greens. The following are the top-10 golfers in my customized proximity model that takes into account proximity, approach, and GIR numbers: Collin Morikawa, Kevin Streelman, Nate Lashley, Ryan Palmer, Joaquin Niemann, Cameron Tringale, Vaughn Taylor, Viktor Hovland, Matthew Wolff, and Kyle Stanley.

RECENT FORM

Viktor Hovland ($10,900)
The rookie has not disappointed this season. While ranked as the world’s best amateur, he also backed it up as the low amateur at both the Masters and the U.S. Open. Since turning pro three weeks ago, he has made each cut and has two top-15 finishes. He is third in total strokes gained in this field for the last 24 rounds played.

Joaquin Niemann ($10,200)
The world’s former number one ranked amateur has made six straight cuts with his worst finish being T31. He struggled a little last week finishing T23 after two straight top-five performances. Nobody has gained more total strokes on the field in the last 24 rounds than has Niemann.

Wyndham Clark ($9,000)
He is on a roll in the last three tournaments. His T5 at the 3M gave him his third straight top-20 finish. In the last 12 rounds, nobody has scored more fantasy points than Clark and only Collin Morikawa has gained more total strokes on the field.

COURSE HISTORY

Zach Johnson ($9,600)
He has made 11 straight cuts at the John Deere Classic, including seven top-five finishes. He was the winner in 2012.

Scott Brown ($8,300)
Has made the cut at the JDC in six of his seven starts. All six made cuts resulted in a top-25 finish. Last year he finished T12. His best finish overall was a T5 in 2012.

Johnson Wagner ($7,200) 
Has made the cut in four of his last five starts here. In those four made cuts, he has finished no worse than T16, including two top-fives.

Chad Campbell ($6,500)
Like Zach Johnson, he has also made 11 straight cuts at the JDC. He has four top-15 finishes in the last five years. His T7 last year was his best finish ever here.

FAVORITE $10,000 PLAYS

Joaquin Niemann ($10,200)
Niemann rates out really well in most statistical categories. It is only a matter of time before he gets a win on the PGA Tour. Nearly 45% of the JDC winners are first-time tour winners so maybe this is the week for Niemann. He is a great ball striker, with a strong approach game. He is second in my overall rankings. He is also tops in the field for SG: TOT in the last six events on the strength of making six straight cuts.

FAVORITE $9,000 PLAYS

Sungjae Im ($9,700)
Im is another rookie that could easily get his first PGA win this week. A number of tour pros have mentioned how he will likely get a win during his rookie campaign. He was the leading money winner on the Web.com tour last year, which is known for its’ low scoring. He is one of the best Par 5 scorers on tour and has so far shown an ability to perform well at the easier courses on tour. His T15 at the 3M last week gave him his fifth straight made PGA cut. During that stretch, he has four straight top-25 finishes. Overall, this season, he has six top-10 finishes and 13 top-25 finishes. In the last 24 rounds, he is third in fantasy scoring and seventh in total shots gained.

Charles Howell III ($9,500)
Chucky Three Sticks is the top-ranked player in the field (#55 OWGR; #15 FedEx) but is only the ninth most-expensive player on DK this week. He is the guy you want to play in the swing season or on the West Coast but in this weak field, he might just excel. He is the only player in the field that has made at least 80% of his cuts this season (minimum 10 events or else Morikawa and Hovland would qualify). The last time out, he finished T23 at the 3M Open. He plays well on the Par 5s and is a good putter, which could bode well for him this week. He has shown that he can play well at this course with four straight JDC cuts, including two top-25 finishes. Those were against tougher fields as well.

FAVORITE $8,000 PLAY

Nate Lashley ($8,500)
Last week, Adam Hadwin ranked out really well in my model even though he wasn’t someone that I would have paid much attention to otherwise. Fortunately, I trust my model because he finished T4 at the 3M Open. This week’s Adam Hadwin is Nate Lashley. Before I ran all the numbers and statistics, I never expected that Lashley would be a possible core play, but he ranks fourth in my model. Certainly, a lot of this is due to the fact that this is a very weak field and he won two weeks ago. However, I was playing him before his win (albeit at bargain prices). On the PGA Tour this season, he has made nine of 15 cuts with four top-20s. He is solid statistically. His price is not what I want to pay but, in this field, it is reasonable for a guy that just won. I do not plan on playing many players from this 8k price range this week. My model doesn’t like these guys and my gut doesn’t like any of these guys (except Joel Dahmen). Of course, I will throw a few FOMO Kevin Tway lineups into some contests but overall, I will be avoiding this range.

FAVORITE $7,000 PLAYS

Peter Malnati ($7,900)
I like Peter Malnati because he has been a consistent cut maker, but he does struggle a little off the tee. Fortunately for him, this course typically sees about 70% of drives hitting the fairway and it is a short course so he should be set up nicely for his strong approach game. He has made the cut in 12 of his last 13 events, including seven straight. He is more of a cash game or single-entry type golfer because his upside is limited. His best finish this season was a T15 all the way back at the Shriners in November. In the last 24 rounds, he is ranked eighth in total shots gained.

Cameron Tringale ($7,700)
He has made 13 of 17 cuts this season on the PGA Tour, including five in a row. He had high ownership last week but finished T42. Hopefully, that will get some people off of him this week. He has three top-25 finishes in his last five events, including a T5 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. In the last 24 rounds, he ranks sixth in both fantasy scoring and total strokes gained.

Vaughn Taylor ($7,700)
He has made three of his last four cuts at the JDC with a T19 in 2017 being his best finish. He is playing well this year. He has made the cut in nine of his last 10 events, including six in a row. Three weeks ago, he finished T4 at the Travelers. In the last 24 rounds, he ranks sixth in total shots gained and ninth in fantasy scoring among golfers in this field. Not bad for a player in his price range. He is my favorite value play of the week. He ranks fifth overall in my model but is only the 30th most expensive golfer on DK this week.

Troy Merritt ($7,500) 
He has made four of his last five cuts at the JDC, including three in a row. That combined with his recent T7 at the 3M Open makes him an interesting play. He has only made six of 10 cuts this calendar year but four of those resulted in top-20 finishes. He is not a safe play but is definitely someone that can score. He is the 36th most expensive golfer on DK but is eighth in average DK scoring among players in the field.

FAVORITE $6,000 PLAYS

Andres Romero ($7,000)
I know, I know … he is priced in the 7k range, not the 6k range. I know that, but he SHOULD be in the 6k range. Have you heard of him? Didn’t think so. I am treating him like a 6k guy, though he is overpriced on DK (FanDuel is a great place to play him if you want to feel a little bit better about clicking on his name). You probably won’t see this guy mentioned many places. In fact, I don’t even know what he looks like, but he is an interesting option on paper that I will probably look at in large-field tournaments this week as an ownership play. His form is trending up, but nobody knows that because it has been all on the European Tour. He has made three straight cuts with each finish being better than the other. His T23 last week at a strong Irish Open was impressive. What caught my eye initially was that he has made four John Deere Classic cuts in a row, including a T7 last year. This was on the heels of a respectable T25 in 2017. He is also 10th on the European Tour in birdies so he knows how to score, which is important on this course.

Robert Garrigus ($6,300)
I don’t like any of the golfers in the 6k range this week. But, if you want to really dig deep and throw some darts, then Garrigus is interesting. He just returned and made the cut in his first event since his marijuana suspension. He is a big hitter and is certainly rested so he should be able to let it fly this week. He has competed here each of the past four years and not doing too bad. He has three top-30 finishes. He might have had another in 2017 if not for signing an incorrect scorecard when he was seven-under par after his Saturday round. This is purely a tournament play for those of you with gambling mentalities.

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Jamy Bechler is a regular contributor to FantasyPros for NBA, NFL, and PGA. You can follow him on his DFS twitter @WinningDFS101. When he is not playing DFS, Jamy is an author, host of the “Success is a Choice” podcast, and is a leadership trainer, working with businesses and teams across the country (including the NBA). Even though he offers his advice on players and contests, after additional information and consideration, he may end up using different players and strategies than what he recommends.

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