DraftKings PGA Preview: WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational
DraftKings has eight golfers priced at $9,500 or above this week for the latest World Golf Championship event. Brooks Koepka is the highest priced golfer at $11,600. Dustin Johnson ($11,400) and Rory McIlroy ($11,100) are the only other players in the 11k range. Justin Thomas ($10,700) and Jon Rahm ($10,400) 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 (like Jim Herman at the last week’s Barbasol after missing 16 of 19 cuts). On the flip side, even the best golfers in the world are capable of missing the cut in a given event (like Rory, Tiger, Bryson, and Hideki last week).
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.
The WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational is played at the TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee. This World Golf Championship event used to be the WGC-Bridgestone in Akron, Ohio. A PGA Tour event has been held at TPC Southwind every year since 1989 and has had a number of different names (most recently the St. Jude Classic). It becomes the WGC event this year, replacing the event held in Akron.
The Par 70 course measures 7,237 yards. The Bermuda greens measure 5,400 square feet.
64 players are expected to tee it up this week. There is no cut in a WGC event so anyone that starts will play all four days (as long as they don’t withdraw).
46 of the Official World Golf Ranking’s top-50 players are scheduled to play this week. The players that are not going to be playing this week are Tiger Woods (5), Francesco Molinari (7), Rickie Fowler (14), and Bernd Wiesberger (40).
Last year this course played as the 11th most difficult PGA Tour stop. Water is in play on more than half of the holes and more balls find that water than any other course on the PGA Tour.
Justin Thomas is officially the defending champion of the WGC event as a result of winning last year’s WGC-Bridgestone at Akron’s Firestone Country Club. However, Dustin Johnson has the trophy from last year’s regular PGA St. Jude Classic in Memphis. That was his second win at TPC-Southwind (2012 was the other). After his win this year in Mexico, DJ now has the most WGC victories (six) of any golfer.
The average winning score of the St. Jude Invitational has been 13-under par and the average cut line has been 1-over par.
The course was designed in 1988 (partly by Fuzzy Zoeller) to test all aspects of a golfer. All-around golfers seem to be best at this course.
There are 12 par 4’s and many of them have some length to them. All 12 of them measure at least 400 yards with eight of them playing at 450 yards or more.
There are four par 3’s with three of them playing fairly normal at 175-200 yards. However, the fourth measures a crazy 240 yards.
There are two par 5’s (530 and 554 yards) and both are very reachable in two shots. The birdie or better rate has been nearly 50% on both of those par 5’s.
Winners of the last 14 no-cut stroke play events (2017-2019) are:
2019 WGC-Mexico: Dustin Johnson
2019 Tournament of Champions: Xander Schauffele
2018 WGC-HSBC: Justin Rose
2018 Tour Championship: Tiger Woods
2018 BMW Championship: Keegan Bradley
2018 WGC-Bridgestone: Justin Thomas
2018 WGC-Mexico: Phil Mickelson
2018 Tournament of Champions: Dustin Johnson
2017 WGC-HSBC: Hideki Matsuyama
2017 Tour Championship: Xander Schauffele
2017 BMW Championship: Marc Leishman
2017 WGC-Bridgestone: Hideki Matsuyama
2017 WGC-Mexico: Dustin Johnson
2017 Tournament of Champions: Justin Thomas
COURSE FIT & KEY STATISTICS
The St. Jude Classic has been a regular tour stop for years. We have some good data as to who plays the best at this course. In looking at the last six years, the 10 golfers that have the best course history (in ranked order) are Dustin Johnson, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Chez Reavie, J.B. Holmes, Adam Scott, C.T. Pan, Webb Simpson, and Billy Horschel.
With this being a no-cut event, it makes sense to target golfers that can score. With each golfer having four guaranteed rounds, a bad Thursday or Friday round doesn’t kill them. These no-cut events often have players outproducing their finishing positions. In my customized model, the ten golfers that rate out the best for scoring (in ranked order) are Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Adam Scott, Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose, Gary Woodland, Xander Schauffele, and Dustin Johnson. The model looked at a combination of fantasy scoring, birdie or better percentage, and Par 5 scoring (which is important on this course with all of the Par 5’s serving as scoring holes). We also looked at various time frames from the last four rounds all the way to the last 100 rounds to find the golfers that are the most consistent at going low.
In my customized model, the 10 golfers with the best recent form (when considering fantasy scoring and total strokes gained over the last 4, 8, 12, and 24 rounds) are Shane Lowry, Rory McIlroy, Danny Willett, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Xander Schauffele, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Thomas, and Brooks Koepka.
No Cut Events
In looking at the results from the last three years at no-cut events (WGC’s, Sentry Tournament of Champions, and the last two events of the FedEx Playoffs – Tour Championship and BMW Championship – the best 10 golfers (in ranked order) are Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Jason Day, Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia, and Tommy Fleetwood.
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Dustin Johnson ($11,400)
Dustin Johnson is my second favorite play in the high-priced tier (behind Rory McIlroy). He has not been playing like the DJ we expect as of late, but he is still number two in the world and has the best history at this course, as well as at no-cut events. He is the defending champ in Memphis and won the no-cut WGC-Mexico this year. In addition to DJ, I will have a little bit of all the top guys in my MME builds, hoping to hit on my core of players below. Though, for my single-entry and 3-max tournaments, I will focus primarily on Rory McIlroy.
Rory McIlroy ($11,100)
Maybe I was sucked into the Open Championship drama when he shot a 65 on Friday and nearly pulled off a miraculous comeback to make the cut. Unfortunately, he fell one stroke shy of the cut line. I was fascinated as I watched his entire round. He was dialed in. Only Shane Lowry’s Saturday 63 was better than Rory’s Friday performance. Rory was absolutely incredible. I have no idea what his ownership will be this week, but I plan on playing a ton of him. I will be extremely overexposed to him. He is my pick to win (unfortunately I used him in my One and Done league last week, though). He is one of the most likely golfers to go low on multiple days. He is the top golfer in my customized ranking. He is first in stats, first in scoring, second in form, third in no-cut events, and fourth in course history.
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Justin Rose ($9,500)
He rates out third in my customized rankings. That surprised me as I thought he would be lower. He is second in the field in no-cut events over the past three years. In the last 36 rounds, he ranks third in fantasy scoring. He is ranked in the top 10 for scoring ability and in my customized stat model. He is fresh off a T20 (absolutely terrible Sunday) at the Open Championship and a T3 at the U.S. Open. Last Fall, he played in three straight no-cut events and finished in the top four in all of them.
Xander Schauffele ($9,300)
Xander opened the 2019 calendar year by winning the no-cut Sentry Tournament of Champions He also has a WGC event and the Tour Championship among his victories. I understand that he was a bit under the weather last week. He didn’t perform poorly but that could account for why he wasn’t more of a contender at Royal Portrush. He ranks fifth in the last three years in no-cut events. He is also ranked sixth in my customized recent form model. He will probably be popular this week but can definitely emerge victorious.
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Hideki Matsuyama ($8,900)
He missed the cut last week, which was the first time that had happened in a full calendar year. Despite that missed cut, he is second in fantasy scoring in the last 24 rounds played. He had six straight top-25 finishes prior to the missed cut. In the last four years, he has finished in the top five a total of six times at no-cut events, including two wins.
Webb Simpson ($8,200)
Struggled mightily on Sunday at the Open Championship but still managed to earn his seventh straight top-30 finish. In the last 24 rounds, he is eighth in fantasy scoring but is the 20th most-expensive golfer. He provides consistent value at his price point. He has three top-10 finishes in his last four no-cut events.
Paul Casey ($8,200)
Casey does well in no-cut events. He is ranked eighth in no-cut events for the last three years. In his last four no-cut events, he has finished T11 at the Tour Championship, T16 at the WGC-HSBC, T16 at the Tournament of Champions, and T3 at the WGC-Mexico. Overall, he has three top-five finishes in his last seven events. He is also fifth in my customized overall stat model. I liked the way he played at the Open Championship, but he left a lot of shots on the green. That is unusual and I expect him to play well this week.
Gary Woodland ($8,100)
He has missed both cuts since winning the U.S. Open, but the good news is that there is no cut at this event. Woodland can play carefree to a degree and just focus on playing good golf. He lost to Xander Schauffele at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and finished T17 at the WGC-Mexico this year. For a guy that was on top of the world just a few weeks ago and has had the best 12-month stretch of his professional career, his price tag is just too low.
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Chez Reavie ($7,900)
Admittedly, he is not coming in with much momentum as he has missed both of his cuts since he won the Travelers and finished T3 at the U.S. Open the week prior. However, he has demonstrated the ability to compete at a very high level in just the last month or so. He is a very good ball-striker and has a strong history at this course. Last year he finished T6 after finishing T4 in 2017 and T12 in 2016.
Andrew Putnam ($7,800)
He is the 28th most expensive player but in the last 24 rounds played, he is 10th in fantasy scoring. He has really started to play well with six straight made cuts, including two top-five finishes at the Scottish Open and the Charles Schwab. He also finished runner-up to DJ last year here in Memphis.
Danny Willett ($7,600)
I am not sure if I have ever played Willett in any DFS contest, but I am considering it this week. He has not historically done well in no-cut events, but the 2016 Masters champion has started playing well lately. He has made five straight cuts on the PGA Tour. Three of those resulted in top-15 finishes, including a T9 at the Open Championship last week. Not only is he finishing well from a placement standpoint, but he is 15th in the last 24 rounds in fantasy scoring.
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Keegan Bradley ($6,900)
I absolutely do not like playing Keegan Bradley but I need to find someone at this price point and he might be the guy this week. He is very streaky and is as likely to shoot 65 as he is to shoot a 75. Remember that he is a guy that went from first-round leader to missing the cut in Phoenix a few years ago. But, streaky is not a terrible thing when dealing with no-cut events. He has performed decently in the last few no-cut stroke-play events that he has played in. He was T10 in Mexico, T27 at the TOC, sixth at the WGC-HSBC, T25 at the Tour Championship, and he won the BMW. He recent form is just average but he did finish runner-up a few weeks ago at the Travelers.
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.