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DraftKings PGA Preview: The PLAYERS Championship (2020)

Mar 11, 2020

Patrick Reed has seven top-10 finishes in his last 12 PGA starts.

DraftKings is running their Milly Maker for the first time this season if you are feeling like playing the DFS lottery. The PLAYERS Championship is a star-studded field with all but two of the world’s top-50 golfers teeing it up this week. Out of the seven golfers priced at $9,500 or above, only Rory McIlory ($11,700) and Jon Rahm ($11,000) are in the 11K range. Justin Thomas ($10,800), Brooks Koepka ($10,200), and Dustin Johnson ($10,000) are the only other golfers with five-figure price tags. DraftKings provides us with a salary cap of $50,000 to select six golfers (average roster spot of $8,333).

This is one of the few times during the year other than the majors that pricing comes out before the previous week’s tournament was finished. That, combined with all the stars playing, means you can find some great values and should have a lineup that you love. If you finish constructing your roster and you do not feel good about it, then you need to start over. Every lineup that you submit should feel like a good lineup this week, which includes even if you try to go contrarian. There will be a number of players that you’ll like that will be low-owned and have the potential to win or finish in the top five.

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.

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Tournament Notes

  • The Pete Dye designed course is played at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedre Beach, Florida. The course is a Par 72 that measures 7,189 yards. It is a beautiful course that has a number of signature holes, with none more famous than the Par 3 17th island green. There have been more bogeys than birdies at hole number 17. It has hosted the event since 1982.
  • 144 golfers are scheduled to tee it up for The PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP. The top 65 golfers (and ties) make the cut and move on to the weekend.
  • All of the OWGR Top-50 are scheduled to tee it up this week with the exception of Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood.
  • Past champions scheduled to play this week include Rory McIlroy (2019), Webb Simpson (2018), Si Woo Kim (2017), Jason Day (2016), Rickie Fowler (2015), Martin Kaymer (2014), Matt Kuchar (2012), Henrik Stenson (2009), Sergio Garcia (2008), Phil Mickelson (2007), and Adam Scott (2004).
  • The best finish by a defending champion is T5 (1977, 1990, and 2001). The last time a defending champion finished in the top 10 was in 2005 (T8).
  • Water is in play on 17 holes and there are 88 bunkers scattered throughout the course.
  • The greens are Bermuda.
  • This course doesn’t favor any type of golfer. There will be an unknown near the top and a stud will miss the cut. Bombers, short-hitters, short-game specialists, ball-strikers, and putters will litter the leaderboard. This is a great golf event to watch but it is difficult for DFS. Last year, out of the six highest-scoring golfers on DK, four of them were priced at $7,100 or less on DraftKings. Good luck!
  • The average winning score the last 10 years has been 14-under par.
  • The cut line was -1 last year. In the four years prior, it was -1, +2, -2, and Even.

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, Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Collin Morikawa, Paul Casey, and Tyrrell Hatton.

Recent Form
The golfers that rate out the best in my customized recent form model (in ranked order) are Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Tyrrell Hatton, Daniel Berger, Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas, Sungjae Im, Patrick Reed, Talor Gooch, and Scottie Scheffler. Among the golfers in this week’s field, Collin Morikawa leads the PGA Tour with 21 consecutive made cuts. Webb Simpson and Matthew Fitzpatrick are close behind with 18 each. The only other golfers in this field coming into the week with double-digit cut streaks are Patrick Cantlay (14), Paul Casey (14), Tyrrell Hatton (13), Talor Gooch (12), Jon Rahm (11), Brendon Todd (10), Hideki Matsuyama (10), Shane Lowry (10), and Rory McIlroy (10).

Course History
The golfers who have gained the most total strokes at this course during the last five years (in ranked order) include Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama, Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Ian Poulter, Tommy Fleetwood, and Si Woo Kim. Jason Day as three top-10 finishes in the last five years. In that same time frame, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Tommy Fleetwood, and Francesco Molinari are the only other golfers with multiple top-10 finishes.

Pete Dye Designed Courses
A Pete Dye course has some unique characteristics and many players seem to do well at the various tracks that he designed. Some of the other courses on the PGA Tour include (TPC Stadium Course at LaQuinta, Harbour Town (RBC Heritage), and TPC River Highlands (Travelers Championship) to name just a few. In looking at the last two years, the following players rank out the best at fantasy scoring when playing on a Pete Dye designed course: Bryson DeChambeau, Jason Day, Tommy Fleetwood, Webb Simpson, Ian Poulter, Abraham Ancer, Billy Horschel, Ryan Moore, Brooks Koepka, and Dustin Johnson.

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 (#1), Jon Rahm (#2), Brooks Koepka (#3), Justin Thomas (#4), Dustin Johnson (#5), Patrick Cantlay (#6), Webb Simpson (#7), Patrick Reed (#8), Adam Scott (#9), and Tommy Fleetwood (#10).

Favorite $10,000+ Play 

Justin Thomas ($10,800) 
Yes, he has missed the cut in two of his last four events, but in his last nine made cuts he has finished outside the top 10 only once and that was a T17 at the ZOZO. In those nine made cuts, he has eight top-six finishes, including three wins. He is nearly $1,000 less than Rory and outside of those two weird MCs, he would probably be a co-favorite with Rory this week. In the last 50 rounds, only Rory has gained more total strokes and fantasy points.

One final note, I would not be shocked if Rory wins. In a bubble, he is my favorite play this week. He is the world’s number one player and has been an automatic top five the past few months. However, when it comes to DK pricing, he is a bit too high compared to all the other top players in the world (I will get most of my exposure to him on FanDuel and Yahoo, where is he at a similar price point to all the other elite players). Also, I will put a lot of stock in ownership percentages this week. If an elite player looks to be vastly under-owned, I will most likely pivot to them.

Favorite $9,000 Plays

Webb Simpson ($9,200)
The 2018 champion is the “safe” option. He had five straight top-10 finishes until he went to Mexico (where he never plays well), including a win at the Waste Management. In the last 24 rounds played, he is sixth in fantasy scoring. Other than his win in 2018, he was T16 in 2019 and 2017.

Bryson DeChambeau ($9,100)
In the last 12 rounds, no golfer has gained more total strokes or fantasy points on the field than Bryson. This is on the strength of three straight top-five finishes at the API, WGC-Mexico, and the Genesis. He has bulked up and dramatically improved his distance to the point that he is playing slightly better than even Rory off-the-tee. He was T37 here in 2018 and improved to T20 last year. I fully expect him to be on the leaderboard on Sunday.

Favorite $8,000 Plays

Hideki Matsuyama ($8,800)
In his last 10 events, he has only two finishes worse than 16th. His putter keeps him from being a top-five player, but even last week was unusual for him. He lost six strokes at the API. Prior to that, he had finished T6 at the WGC-Mexico and T5 at Riviera. In the last 36 rounds, he is second in fantasy scoring and third in total strokes gained. He missed the cut here in 2018 but otherwise, has finished no worse than T22 in the last five years, including two top-10 finishes.

Sungjae Im ($8,600)
This kid is the real deal. He was the Korn Ferry Tour player of the year two years ago. He followed that up with PGA Tour rookie of the year last year. Now, he has a win and a third-place finish in back-to-back weeks. Overall, he has made the cut in 17 of his last 18 PGA Tour starts. He doesn’t have many weaknesses and has shown an absolute lack of fear. His price tag makes him an easy play this week in all formats.

Patrick Reed ($8,500)
No one likes to play this guy but since the playoffs started last year, he has been on a roll. He started off with a win at the Northern Trust back in the Fall and has just kept that mojo going. In that span of 12 starts, he has two wins, a runner-up at the Tournament of Champions, and a third at the Hero World Challenge. He has seven top-10 finishes in his last 12 PGA starts. He is second in fantasy scoring and fifth in total strokes gained in the last 24 rounds. He was T15 last week at the API and that was one of his worst finishes. That bodes well going into this week.

Favorite $7,000 Plays            

Collin Morikawa ($7,900) 
His T9 at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational gave him a PGA-leading 21 straight made cuts. He has yet to miss a cut as a professional. In the last 24 rounds, he is 10th in fantasy scoring and is a ball-striking maestro ranking first in approach, second in ball-striking, and third in tee-to-green during that same period. He finished T7 at the Tournament of Champions, so he has demonstrated an ability to play well against the world’s elite players.

Abraham Ancer ($7,200) 
Even though he putted poorly at the API, he still made his 11th straight cut worldwide. During that stretch, he has four top-10 finishes. In the last 24 rounds, he is 15th in fantasy scoring and 16th in total strokes gained. He was T12 here at The PLAYERS last year.

Daniel Berger ($7,200)
He is third in total strokes gained and fourth in fantasy scoring in the last 12 rounds on the strength of three straight top-10 finishes, including a T4 at the Honda and T5 at the AT&T. Overall, he has made the cut in 11 of his last 12 events, including six in a row. He has made four straight cuts here, including a T9 in 2016.

Favorite $6,000 Plays

Max Homa ($6,600)
Despite finishing T24 last week at the API, his price fell more than $1,000. He has made the cut in 16/17 events, including nine in a row. His finish last week was the worst he has done in his last five starts, which include three top-10 finishes. In the last 24 rounds, he is third in total strokes gained and ninth in fantasy scoring. He is another of the strong value plays this week.

Joel Dahmen ($6,600) 
He comes into this week with some great form to try and improve upon his T12 here last year. He has back-to-back top-fives at the API and Genesis. Overall, he has five top-15 finishes in his last seven events. He ranks seventh in fantasy scoring and 10th in total strokes gained in the last 24 rounds played.

Adam Long ($6,100)
There are other plays in the 6k range that I like better (e.g. Harold Varner, Vaughn Taylor, Wyndham Clark, Russell Henley, and Patrick Rodgers) but I mention Long because I think he’s the best “punt play”. I don’t think I will get this deep, but if I have to punt a spot, Long is my favorite option. He has finished T24 and T27 the last two weeks on tough Florida courses. Not only did he win on Tour last year, but he has a runnerup at the OHL and a T8 at the Waste Management this year demonstrating some upside. Another option I might consider would be Zach Johnson ($6,000) at DK’s minimum price. He has made the cut in 13/15 starts here and was the round one leader two weeks ago at the Honda.

Final Reminder

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 or contending on Sunday. On the flip side, even the best golfers in the world are capable of missing the cut in a given week (e.g. Tommy Fleetwood last week after making 32 straight cuts).

Make sure 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.

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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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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