DraftKings PGA Preview: Farmers Insurance Open (2020)

Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! Welcome to the first “Tiger Week” of 2020. We haven’t seen Tiger in a long time, but when we last saw him, he was finishing fourth at the Hero and winning the ZOZO. This week’s PGA Tour stop is in La Jolla, California, at the Torrey Pines Golf Course. Tiger has won this event seven times and won on this course again during the 2008 U.S. Open. Not only has Tiger been playing well, but this field is very strong, with half of the world’s top-10 players teeing it up this week. Rory McIlroy (6:1), Jon Rahm (8:1), and Tiger Woods (10:1) are the three favorites in the betting markets this week.

DraftKings provides us with a salary cap of $50,000 to select six golfers (average roster spot of $8,333). Rory McIlory ($11,600) and Jon Rahm ($11,300) are the only golfers in the 11K range. Tiger Woods ($10,800), Justin Rose ($10,300), and Xander Schauffele ($10,100) are the only other golfers on DK with five-figure salaries. The site has a variety of contests at different price points starting at $0.10 per entry. A contest that will be popular this week is their $5 “King of the Pines” with a $100,000 first-place prize.

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 my customized model that includes a variety 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 throughout the course of a golf season. However, from week-to-week, some major variance can occur. Any golfer on the PGA Tour is capable of winning an event (e.g., Andrew Landry last week after missing five straight cuts). On the flip side, even the best golfers in the world are capable of missing the cut in a given event (e.g., Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, and Matt Kuchar all missing the cut two weeks ago at the Sony Open despite being three of the highest-ranked golfers in the field).

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

  • This is another pro-am event, which means the play will probably be a little slower and adds a slightly different dynamic to a normal PGA event. Each pro will be paired with an amateur.
  • This is a 156-player field with the top-65 (and ties) making the cut and playing the weekend at the South Course.
  • The players will play two different Par 72 courses during the first two rounds, but the South Course will be used exclusively on the weekend. The South Course is long (7,707 yards), has narrow fairways, and the rough is penal. The North Course is shorter (7,258 yards), also has narrow fairways, but has manageable rough if the drive misses those narrow fairways. The greens are different at both courses. The South Course has Poa greens, and the North Course has bentgrass greens.
  • Justin Rose became the first player in the last nine years to win the event having played his first round at the North Course.
  • Before Justin Rose’s 21-under par last year, the average winning score in the previous five years was 9-under par.
  • The name of the golf tournament was changed from the Buick Open to the Farmers Insurance Classic in 2010.
  • Nine past winners are scheduled to play this week including Justin Rose (2019), Jason Day (2018, 2015), Jon Rahm (2017), Brandt Snedeker (2016, 2012), Scott Stallings (2014), Tiger Woods (2013, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2003, 1999), Bubba Watson (2011), Nick Watney (2009), and Phil Mickelson (2001, 2000, 1993).
  • In the past 11 years, only Jon Rahm and Scott Stallings have won here without a top-10 finish on their Torrey Pines resume.

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. From a stats perspective, this week’s best golfers (in ranked order) are Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Xander Schauffele, Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Colin Morikawa, Scottie Scheffler, Sungjae Im, and Tony Finau.

Recent Form
The 10 golfers that are playing the best coming into this tournament (in ranked order) are Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, Sungjae Im, Cam Smith, Tiger Woods, Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm, Lanto Griffin, Denny McCarthy, and Xander Schauffele. Among the golfers in this week’s field, Colin Morikawa has the longest streak of PGA Tour made cuts with 16. Sungjae Im is second with 12, and Justin Rose has 11. Matthew Wolff is the only other player in the field with a double-digit cut streak with 10. Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Scottie Scheffler are the only golfers coming into this week with back-to-back top-five finishes in their most recent PGA Tour starts.

Course History
The golfers who have gained the most total strokes at this tournament during the last five years (in ranked order) include Tony Finau, Justin Rose, Jason Day, J.B. Holmes, Gary Woodland, Brandt Snedeker, Harris English, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, and Keegan Bradley. Tiger Woods has won at Torrey Pines eight times (seven at this event and once at a U.S. Open). Jason Day is the only golfer with top-five finishes in each of the last two years. In the last five years, only three players have three top-10 finishes (Justin Rose, Jason Day, and J.B. Holmes). Gary Woodland, Tony Finau, Brandt Snedeker, and John Huh are the only golfers to make the cut here in each of the last five years.

Even though the North Course has bentgrass greens, if a golfer makes the cut, they will play the South Course (and its Poa greens) three times. Putting on Poa greens can be challenging because it has inconsistent speed and smoothness, and not every player is good at putting on them. If you are looking for a tie-breaker, the best putters on Poa greens in the last two years (in ranked order) are Jason Day, Patrick Rodgers, Cam Smith, Phil Mickelson, Peter Malnati, Brandt Snedeker, Beau Hossler, Jamie Lovemark, Harris English, and Hideki Matsuyama.

Bogey Avoidance/Scrambling
This course had seen winners in the single digits in three of the last six years with the cut hovering near even par (when 70 and ties made the cut). It is always important to score fantasy points, but if a golfer can’t avoid bogeys, and they scramble when they miss fairways, their week might be cut short. When looking at the best scramblers and bogey avoiders, the top 10 (in ranked order) include Patrick Reed, Bud Cauley, Brandt Snedeker, Hideki Matsuyama, Rory McIlroy, Russell Knox, Xander Schauffele, Carlos Ortiz, Byeong Hun An, and Harris English.

Official World Golf Ranking
All the statistics and course history are good to know, but sports (in particular, DFS golf) oftentimes comes down to playing the best golfers. Sure, salary is involved, but the more good golfers you can fit in your lineups, then the better chance you give yourself. According to the OWGR, the best ten golfers in this field (in ranked order) are Rory McIlroy (No. 2), Jon Rahm (No. 3), Tiger Woods (No. 6), Justin Rose (No. 8), Xander Schauffele (No. 9), Patrick Reed (No. 12), Gary Woodland (No. 15), Tony Finau (No. 16), Francesco Molinari (No. 21), and Hideki Matsuyama (No. 23).

Favorite Upper-Tier Plays

Rory McIlroy ($11,600)
McIlroy could take over the top spot in the world rankings with a win. We haven’t seen him since November at the DP World Championship. The 2019 PGA player of the year comes into this event with three straight top-three finishes, including a win at the HSBC. Last year, he took a significant amount of time away from golf after the DP Championship and came back to finish T4 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T5 here at Farmers. I am not worried about is time off.

Jon Rahm ($11,300)
In his last 16 events, he has 11 top-10 finishes, including four wins, two runner-ups, and two third-place finishes. The 2017 Farmers Insurance champion finished T5 last year.

Hideki Matsuyama ($9,900)
In the last 24 rounds, only Rory McIlroy is better in fantasy scoring, and total strokes gained. His worst finish in his last seven made cuts was a T16. He has a runner-up and two third-place finishes in his last seven made cuts. In his most recent tournament, he finished T12 at the Sony. Last year, he was T3 here after a T12 in 2018.

Favorite Mid-Tier Plays

Scottie Scheffler ($8,800)
I will be loading up on Scheffler this week because his price came down despite his third-place finish at the American Express. He now has three top-five finishes in his last four starts. The one exception was his T18 at the OHL. In the last 36 rounds, he is fourth in this field in total shots gained and sixth in fantasy scoring. He has made the cut in eight straight PGA Tour events. Overall, this is a strong field, and a case could be made for most golfers at about 10K.

Cameron Smith ($8,700)
The last time that we saw Smith, he was winning the Sony Open. Two tournaments before that, he was T3 at the CJ Cup. In his last 11 starts, he has seven top-30 finishes. He also has three straight top-35 finishes here, including a T9 last year. In the last 24 rounds, he is third in fantasy scoring.

Ryan Palmer ($8,000)
Palmer combines strong recent form and course history. He finished T13 last year here, after a runner-up in 2018. His T4 at the Sony Open was his fourth straight top-17 finish. He has played the weekend in 10 of his last 11 starts.

Lanto Griffin ($7,900)
Including the Korn Ferry Tour, Griffin has made 21 cuts in his last 25 starts. Of those 21 made cuts, 18 have produced top-25 finishes, including two wins and a runner-up. He finished T7 in his last PGA event (Sony Open). In the last 36 rounds, he is eighth in fantasy scoring and 11th in total strokes gained.

Favorite Lower-Tier Plays

Harris English ($7,400)
He has had top-six finishes in four of his last seven events. In the last 24 rounds played, he is fourth in total strokes gained and 10th in fantasy scoring. He missed the cut here last year, but that was the first time in seven starts. He has three top-15 finishes here, including a T8 in 2018 and a T2 in 2015.

Cameron Tringale ($7,100)
In the last 36 rounds, Tringale is ranked 17th in total strokes gained in this field and 21st in fantasy scoring. He has made the cut in 13 of his last 14 starts. However, none of his three cuts here from the last five years have resulted in very impressive finishes.

Cameron Davis ($7,000)
He has started off the calendar year playing well with a T29 at the American Express last week and a T9 at the Sony Open the week before. He has made the cut here each of the last two years.

Carlos Ortiz ($6,900)
He has made seven straight cuts on the PGA Tour. That streak includes three top-five finishes back in the Fall swing season. In the last 24 rounds, he is eighth in this field in total strokes gained and ninth in fantasy scoring. He did miss the cut here last year but made the cut in his two previous appearances, including a T11 in 2015.

Favorite Punt Plays

John Huh ($6,100)
He has made the cut here each of the last five years, including a T25 last year and a T8 in 2016. If he could just sneak by again this year, then he pays off value and allows you to spend up on a stud. His T48 last week at the American Express was nothing special, but it was his third straight made cut. He is certainly worth a look as a punt play. If you want to keep dumpster diving for punt plays, you could also consider Chase Seiffert ($7,800), Steve Stricker ($7,500), Sebastian Cappelen ($7,300), and Tim Wilkinson ($7,100). Seiffert has made five straight PGA cuts. Stricker is not really a course fit since he isn’t a long hitter, but he is really good around the greens and is someone that could grind out the cut (unlike last week, when he couldn’t score enough in that birdie fest). Cappelen can hit the ball a mile and earned a T6 last week. Wilkinson has made four cuts in a row, including a T21 last week.

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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 a leadership consultant, 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 recommended in this article.

Jamy Bechler: Jamy Bechler is a die-hard Michigan Wolverine fan, who feels conflicted and disloyal every week of the NFL season when he doesn't roster Tom Brady on his fantasy team. He is a regular DFS player under the very creative name of "JamyBechler". Jamy uses his DFS skills to drive his season-long league opponents crazy with constant waiver wire pickups. He was a college basketball coach for 20 years but now is a full-time motivational speaker who may or may not live in a van down by the river. However, he won enough in the past year with DFS to buy new rims, fuzzy dice and paint a big block "M" on the side of that van. You can follow his DFS twitter account @WinningDFS101 or his personal account @CoachBechler. His website is JamyBechler.com

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