PGA DraftKings and FanDuel DFS Primer: The PLAYERS Championship (2023)
TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course will be the site for The PLAYERS Championship held at Ponte Vedra Beach on the shores of Jacksonville, Florida. Beginning on Thursday, it’s a course that always challenges a star-studded field, as no one has ever won this event twice since its inception in 1980. Designed in the vision of legendary golf architect Pete Dye, the Bermudagrass fairways and greens will be reminiscent of Bay Hill, however, there are unique sand bunkers and water hazards to overcome in comparison to Arnold Palmer’s course, where Kurt Kitayama out-dueled Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy on the 18th hole to earn his first outright win on the PGA Tour.
Players in a similar position to Kitayama should have a lot of confidence entering The PLAYERS Championship since they watched several experienced winners crumble under pressure, while the first-time winner remained poised despite drawing a triple bogey earlier in his final round. At the same time, it’s going to be a difficult field to contend in, with McIlroy, Scheffler, and Jon Rahm rounding out the top three for outright betting favorites on most sportsbooks. Rahm’s hot start at seven-under-par was quickly buried by an implosion throughout his final three rounds at Bay Hill, proving that even the most talented golfers can succumb to the rigors of a difficult course. This plays right into obtaining value when constructing DFS lineups on DraftKings and FanDuel ahead of Thursday’s opening round. Players who deserve to be valued at a higher salary are often neglected in favor of bigger names like former PLAYERS champion Justin Thomas (20/1), Patrick Cantlay, and Max Homa, amongst many others. Dipping into the $7K – $9K range will uncover quite a few gems in DFS, which I’ve already begun to identify.
Last week’s recommended picks were solid but there were a couple of misses with Sam Burns missing the cut, while Will Zalatoris (T53) and Tommy Fleetwood (T61) both finished over par despite making the cut at Bay Hill. Max Homa had opportunities throughout the weekend to climb the leaderboard but couldn’t get into a rhythm, settling for a T14 (-4) finish, while Keith Mitchell wasn’t far behind at two-under-par (T24) after a strong showing in Round 2. McIlroy was the blue-chip prospect who fully delivered, going two-under-par on Sunday to erase his one-over-par start and nearly forcing a sudden-death playoff match against Kitayama. A T2 finish with birdies galore isn’t an outcome to dismiss, so hopefully, you tailed my McIlroy recommendation.
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- 2022 – Cameron Smith (-13)
- 2021 – Justin Thomas (-14)
- 2020 – Cancelled
- 2019 – Rory McIlroy (-16)
- 2018 – Webb Simpson (-18)
- 2017 – Si Woo Kim (-10)
Relevant Betting Stats
- Driving Accuracy
- Driving Distance
- Strokes Gained Off-the-Tee
- Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green
- Sand save percentage
TPC Sawgrass Stadium course is a par 72 that stretches to 7,275 yards, featuring an even distribution of par 3s and par 5s along its front and back nine. Designed in the vision of Pete Dye and opened back in 1980, TPC Sawgrass has elongated sand bunkers that flank its narrow, doglegged fairways that are comprised of Bermudagrass. All areas of the course are Bermudagrass, with three-inch rough and TifEagle Bermudagrass greens that will run upwards of 13 feet via the Stimpmeter, matching the velocity at Bay Hill which caused players fits all weekend.
There are several notable holes for players to keep an eye out for, including the par 3 17th which features a small green jutting into a massive man-made lake. Precise ball striking and strokes gained tee-to-green will be the recipe for avoiding a bogey or worse on this hole. The par 5 9th hole is set to tip over 600 yards, so driver strength and accuracy will be at a premium to avoid getting stuck in the tall rough. Water hazards abound, along with narrow, tree-lined fairways that can obscure approach shots, but it’s a course that scores lower and produces more red scorecards than the notoriously difficult Bay Hill, as past winners have reached at least -10-under-par or lower in each of the past five events held at The PLAYERS Championship.
Recommended Plays: DraftKings
DraftKings maximum salary is set at $50,000
Rory McIlroy: $11,000
No matter how many times I scour this slate, Rory McIlroy continues to pop up as a must-add prospect. The 33-year-old native of Northern Ireland won this event in 2019 and is playing with a lot of momentum after nearly mounting a monstrous comeback at Bay Hill, performing admirably under pressure. It helps that McIlroy ranks fourth in total strokes gained, first in strokes gained tee-to-green, and possesses the longest driver, averaging 327.6 yards per attempt. He’s also ranked 18th in scrambling this season, countering bad greens in regulation percentage, while averaging 4.19 birdies per round. McIlroy’s skill set will give him an advantage over the majority of the field, plus the added motivation of being the first player to repeat as an outright winner at TPC Sawgrass. McIlroy is well worth the price of admission in DraftKings lineups ahead of Thursday morning.
Viktor Hovland: $8,900
25-year-old Norwegian Viktor Hovland claimed his first T10 finish since Mayakoba last weekend at Bay Hill, squandering a few opportunities to climb atop the leaderboard. At under $9,000 on DraftKings, Hovland is a significant value to acquire, especially considering that he drew a T9 finish at TPC Sawgrass in 2022. He has not missed a cut in 10 events played this season, delivering at least 80 DK points in four of his previous six events. Hovland’s ball striking is among the best on the PGA Tour, and he can drive tee shots far and accurately, something few players can claim in this event. He averages over 4.4 birdies per round and is ranked inside the top 40 for scrambling, making Hovland one of my favorite value plays at TPC Sawgrass this weekend.
Tyrrell Hatton: $8,300
We saw Tyrrell Hatton have a chance to climb into a tie for first place down the stretch at Bay Hill but, like many other proven veterans, he was unable to cash in under pressure. Still, the 31-year-old Englishman has a game that fits the billing for TPC Sawgrass. The last time he competed here, Hatton logged a T13 finish, only straying above par once in Round 2, before finishing five-under-par across the final two rounds last season. Hatton is exceptional with his irons, which makes him a premium ball striker, while his putter is ranked 40th in strokes gained putting, giving him an edge over a lot of players on the fast Bermudagrass greens. Even Hatton’s driver is powerful and accurate and he’s capable of scrambling over 64 percent of the time. Plus, Hatton one-putts 42 percent of the time, ranking 29th, so you should feel extremely confident plugging him into DraftKings lineups at The PLAYERS Championship.
Recommended Plays: FanDuel
FanDuel maximum salary is set at $60,000
Scottie Scheffler: $11,800
OK, hear me out. Quite a few prominent players have missed the cut at TPC Sawgrass in recent appearances, including Scottie Scheffler in 2021. Last year, Scheffler was dominating nearly every event but he only managed a T55 finish at TPC Sawgrass, going four-over-par in two rounds, but I like how confident he’s playing right now. He missed a birdie putt off of the fringe on the 18th hole to force a sudden death playoff against Kitayama, however, Scheffler is extremely talented with his irons and driver, ranking first in greens in regulation, bogey avoidance, and bounce-back percentage. Scheffler is as tough as they come when it comes to the mental aspect of golf, which is a massive piece that often gets ignored in the heat of the moment. Not to mention, he ranks 14th in scrambling, so even on the rare occasions where he doesn’t find the green in regulation, he recovers admirably. Scheffler is cheaper than Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy on FanDuel, so you’re getting a slight bit of value with one of the best players on the PGA Tour right now. Take it and don’t look back.
Keegan Bradley: $9,200
One of the biggest values on the slate has to be Keegan Bradley. The 36-year-old proved that he still has plenty to offer with a five-under-par outing in the final round at Bay Hill, sinking birdie putts and drilling greens with precision. Last year, Bradley logged a fifth-place finish at TPC Sawgrass and he already has an outright win under his belt this season, plus he’s ranked eighth in three-putt avoidance, which means he won’t burn you once he reaches the greens. Averaging over 4.2 birdies per round, plus providing at least 77.3 FD points in three of his past four events played, Bradley becomes a must-add salary-saving prospect. Yes, he did miss the cut at the Sony Open and Genesis Invitational, but he’s playing a course where he’s had a lot of sustained success in the past and should transfer his momentum from Bay Hill seamlessly into this event. Add Bradley and watch the points pile up in your FanDuel lineups.
Thomas Detry: $8,500
TPC Sawgrass will be a new challenge for 30-year-old German, Thomas Detry, who has had some nice outings on the PGA Tour this season. Detry is ranked 24th in driving distance, 37th in strokes gained around the green, and ninth in scrambling. The last statistic is most important, as it shows that he’s capable of reaching par or better even if his approach shot ends up with an errant lie off of the green. Detry also is equipped with a good putter, ranking 22nd in putts per round, 33rd in three-putt avoidance, and 36th in one-putt percentage. A 4.22 birdie average only boosts my confidence in Detry during his debut at TPC Sawgrass, so go ahead and plug him into lineups, as he has only missed one cut this season, while previously reaching over 100 FD points earlier in the season. Mild risk for a floor player who has proven to deliver a ceiling in stacked events.
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Matthew MacKay is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Matthew, check out his archive and follow him @Matt_MacKay_.