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DraftKings PGA Preview: Waste Management Phoenix Open (2020)

Jan 28, 2020

Welcome to Happy Gilmore Week. No, Adam Sandler is not teeing it up and bringing his hockey-style drives to Phoenix this week, but no other event on the PGA Tour comes closer to a party than the Waste Management Open. More than half a million raucous fans look forward to having fun this week while watching golf at TPC Scottsdale. The 16th “stadium” hole is a par-3 with stadium seating surrounding the entire hole. The fans do not treat this hole – or the tournament, for that matter – like a normal golf event. Buckle up. It should be fun. Jon Rahm (6:1) and Justin Thomas (9:1) are the 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). Jon Rahm ($11,400) and Justin Thomas ($11,200) are the only golfers in the 11K range. Defending champion Rickie Fowler ($10,500), Webb Simpson ($10,300), and Hideki Matusyama ($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. Their $5 “Drive the Green” is one of the most popular contests that they run with its’ $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, major variance can occur. Any golfer on the PGA Tour is capable of winning an event (e.g. Andrew Landry two weeks ago 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. Xander Schauffele, Justin Rose, Gary Woodland, Scottie Scheffler, and Rickie Fowler all missed the cut).

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 Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale near Phoenix has hosted the event since 1987. TPC Scottsdale is a par 71 measuring 7,266 yards.
  • After two straight weeks of playing on different courses, we’ll only get one course this week. Because of this, there will only be 132 players scheduled to tee it up. The top-65 and ties will make the cut and advance to the weekend.
  • The average winning score for the last five years has been 16-under par, with the cut line hovering around even par.
  • Seven past winners are scheduled to play this week including Rickie Fowler (2019), Gary Woodland (2018), Hideki Matsuyama (2017, 2016), Kevin Stadler (2014), Kyle Stanley (2012), J.B. Holmes (2008, 2006), and Aaron Baddeley (2007).
  • A playoff has decided three of the previous four Waste Management Opens.
  • Water is in play on six of the final nine holes.
  • All three Par 5s are reachable in two.
  • The bermuda greens tend to be firm, slightly larger, and faster than the Tour average.
  • The rough is not very penal (remember, it’s the desert) and this course typically sports the longest average drive on Tour.

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 Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Xander Schauffele, Webb Simpson, Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Scottie Scheffler, Tony Finau, and Sungjae Im.

Recent Form
The golfers who have gained the most total strokes on the field in the last six PGA Tour events (in ranked order) are Tom Hoge, Jon Rahm, Webb Simpson, Scottie Scheffler, Russell Knox, Brandt Snedeker, Sungjae im, Rickie Fowler, Vaughn Taylor, and Colin Morikawa. Among the golfers in this week’s field, Collin Morikawa has the longest streak of PGA Tour made cuts with 17. Webb Simpson and Andrew Putnam are close behind with 16 and 15, respectively. Sungjae Im (13), Matthew Wolff (11), and Brandt Snedeker (10) are the only other players in the field with double-digit cuts streaks. Jon Rahm, Webb Simpson, and Tom Hoge are the only golfers in the field with top-10 finishes in their last two 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 Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, Martin Laird, Jon Rahm, Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson, Brendan Steele, Webb Simpson, Gary Woodland, and Justin Thomas. Hideki Matsuyama has won this event twice in the last four years. Matt Kuchar and Chez Reavie are the only golfers to have top-five finishes here in each of the last two years. Gary Woodland has finished in the top-10 each of the last two years.

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 Jon Rahm (#3), Justin Thomas (#4), Xander Schauffele (#9), Webb Simpson (#11), Tony Finau (#13), Gary Woodland (#16), Bryson DeChambeau (#17), Matt Kuchar (#21), Hideki Matsuyama (#24), and Rickie Fowler (#26).

Favorite Upper-Tier Plays

Jon Rahm ($11,400)
He comes into the tournament with amazing form and solid course history. In his last 17 events worldwide, he has 12 top-10 finishes. Even more impressive is that stretch includes four wins, three runner-ups, and two third-place finishes. He is an Arizona State University graduate that loves playing in front of this crowd. He has finished no worse than T16 here in his last four starts. This doesn’t necessarily pay off his salary, but I believe he wins this week, which definitely does pay off his salary. If Rahm’s ownership gets too high, I could easily see myself pivoting to Justin Thomas or even Hideki Matsuyama.

Webb Simpson ($10,300)
He is ranked third in the field for total strokes gained and fantasy scoring in the last 36 rounds. He doesn’t have the winning equity that some of the other golfers have in this price range, but he is as consistent as they come. Dating back to his fifth-place finish at the Masters, Simpson has made 16 straight cuts, including eight top-10 finishes. In fact, he has four runner-up performances during that streak. Overall, he has made the cut in 32 of his last 33 starts. He has made 7/9 cuts at the WMO, including four top-10 finishes. His best was a runner-up finish in 2017.

Collin Morikawa ($9,200)
He leads the field with 17 straight made cuts. Nothing is safe when it comes to the game of golf but that kind of cut probability combined with his price makes him a great option. He has four straight top-25 finishes, including a T7 at the Tournament of Champions. He is playing even better if you look at his longterm form. Since making his pro debut this past summer, he has been playing very well. In the last 50 rounds, he is eighth in fantasy scoring in large part because he is first in SG: T2G and second in SG: APP.

Favorite Mid-Tier Plays

Sungjae Im ($8,800)
In the last 36 rounds, he is fifth in total strokes gained and sixth in fantasy scoring in this field. He has made the cut in 19 of his last 20 events, including 13 in a row. Included in his last 20 events are 13 top-25 finishes and five top-10 finishes. In his first appearance at this event, he finished T7 last year.

Scottie Scheffler ($8,500) 
I will be going right back to Scheffler after his first missed cut of the year in last week’s event. There was a lot of carnage among the big names last week, so I am not going to hold one missed cut against this rookie phenom. He had made eight straight cuts prior to last week, including three top-five finishes in a span of four events. In the last 24 rounds, he is fourth in this field in fantasy scoring and sixth in total strokes gained.

Corey Conners ($7,900)
Conners has made the cut in 11 of his last 12 starts, including six in a row. He has been incredibly consistent with top-20 finishes in each of his last six starts. His worst finish in his last 11 made cuts is a T27 at the WGC-St. Jude back in July. He is a world-class ball-striker, who struggles around the greens. He has a top-30 floor with upside if he could get the flat stick working. In the last 24 rounds, he is eighth in total strokes gained and 12th in fantasy scoring.

Favorite Lower-Tier Plays

Andrew Putnam ($7,500)
Only Collin Morikawa and Webb Simpson have made more than Putnam’s 15 consecutive PGA cuts. He is only an average ball-striker but is a great putter. As evidenced by his cut streak, he is fairly safe but has a limited upside. His T10 at The American Express two weeks ago was only his second top-10 finish during this streak.

Vaughn Taylor ($7,500)
He has made the cut in 17 of his last 18 starts, including seven in a row. In the last 24 rounds, he is 14th in both fantasy scoring and total strokes gained on the field. As for the WMO, he missed the cut last year but was T11 in 2018.

Tom Hoge ($7,400) 
After missing the cut in four straight tournaments, he has now gone T12 at the Sony, T6 at The American Express, and T5 at the Farmers Insurance last week. I don’t remember him ever being at this price but objectively speaking, this price is a great value for a guy that has three straight top-12 finishes. He made the cut here last year finishing T44.

Martin Laird ($7,200) 
This local golfer seems to love playing this event. Only Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama have gained more strokes here in the last five years than Laird. He has three top-10 finishes in the last five years. Last year, he finished T26 but that was only disappointing because he opened with a first-round score of 65. His form is terrible as his T55 last week was the first time he had made the cut in four starts. That is not as concerning as it would be normally because his form has not been good any of the last few years coming into this tournament.

Favorite Punt Plays

Cameron Tringale ($6,900)
Has made the cut in 14 of his last 15 starts, including eight in a row so he is a good value at this price tag for cash games. However, he doesn’t have a lot of upside from a finishing place standpoint. In the last 24 rounds, he is ranked 24th in fantasy points and 27th in total strokes gained. If you need a tiebreaker with him and another golfer, he hasn’t played well here in the past. He didn’t play here last year but missed the cut each of the previous four years.

Brian Stuard ($6,600)
I don’t think you need to wander very far down this week even though you will want to fit in Rahm or JT. I like the 7K range enough. However, Stuard is not a bad play as he comes in with good form as he has made nine straight cuts, including two top-10 finishes. He has also made the cut here in each of his last four starts, including a T16 in 2017 and T10 in 2015. He doesn’t have a lot of upside, but he is a good bet to make the cut at this price. If you want more upside then you could click on the boom-or-bust Danny Lee ($6,600) who is as likely to miss the cut as flirt with the top 10. Sebastian Cappelen is also interesting after leading the Farmers after round one. He ended up finishing T21 on the heels of a T6 at The American Express.

Zack Sucher ($6,200)
This is a bonus selection and a pure fan-boy mention. If you haven’t been following Sucher lately, then you need to immediately go check out his Twitter. He has completely embraced the DFS community. He even got DK to finally add a photo to his profile and it is the most unique photo on DK. If you are going to punt and play somebody that you couldn’t pick out of a lineup, then you might as well play somebody that is fun to play. He does not look or act like your typical golfer. He was a late add to this week’s field after Monday qualifying. He finished a surprise T36 last week and did finish runner-up at last year’s Traveler’s Championship. Give the guy some love… and a follow.

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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.

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