The Daily Spin – DraftKings Daily Fantasy Golf Preview – Shell Houston Open

Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte March 30, 2016 07:09

I looked at last week with a good amount of trepidation as the Tour swung through Puerto Rico with an incredibly weak field. As the prices were released, my initial thought was to be extremely cautious with my bankroll and to hang back until the field strengthened over the next couple of weeks. It seemed like the right play, but then I started to reflect on things a little more and came to a different conclusion. I decided that much like the fall season, those of us that pay attention and work hard each and every week are actually at a distinct advantage over most of the math guys blindly working off of models which work great when the data is dense and the field is deep, but tend to falter when many golfers in the field are virtually unheard of or who have only limited data to work with.

With that in mind, I opted to play roughly 70-80% of my normal bankroll and reversed my game mix to be around 70% GPP/30% cash games. Since a stars and scrubs approach looked to be both the safest route as well as the one with the most upside, I did not feel like cash games offered a greater advantage towards being profitable. With so few players between 7-9k having a real advantage over the players in the 6-7k range, it made sense to lock in value at the top and fill in the rest of the lineup spots with cut makers.

The picks came through in big way for us last weekend with 16 of 18 making it through the cut with a number of strong finishes near the top of the leaderboard. I utilized the ‘aim small, miss small’ approach and chose to really swing for the fences in terms of roster construction. A lot of the really successful DFS players have big weeks not so much due to the risks that they take at the top of their lineups, but for how heavily concentrated they are in the middle and bottom portions of their rosters. If they have confidence in one or two players at the bottom, they will move all in or nearly all in on them and then rotate a few stars at the top. Guys like Saahil Sud (formerly known as maxdalary) and jetblackx execute this strategy to perfection. When they are right on those players, they put a lot of teams into position to win big GPP events.

The risk with this strategy is that on weeks when they miss on player that they own across the board, it obviously is crushing for their rosters that week. However, most weeks are going to be a struggle for GPPs regardless of whether or not you are heavily concentrated on a few specific players. What guys like Saahil are doing with their strategy is to ensure that those weeks where they hit their small handful of heavily owned players just right is that they now have maximized their chances to win a big prize since they might have many lineups up near the top and they no longer have to just hope that a single magic bullet works perfectly to take down a big prize.

I had a question this week from a subscriber about my use of Ian Poulter. I had not written him up in my article last week, but he ended up being the one guy who I used on a $300 GPP team from outside of my picks. I wanted to make sure to give some rationale as to why he made the roster for the week.

The Poulter pick was really situation specific. I had two $300 GPP teams for the week. 11 of the 12 lineup spots came directly from my picks for the week. The $300 and $1060 teams are probably the ones I put the most work into each week and usually wait until late on Wednesday night before hitting submit. As I constructed my lineups from the bottom up, I locked in my scrub players first (Hubbard, Van Aswegan and Thompson) and then worked my way up. Brown was the guy I felt was the most dependable for a top finish so I locked him in at the top. After that, I knew I would need one player in the 9k range and 1 in the 10k range. I settled on Cejka in the 9k range due to form, stats and solid play there before. For my last pick, I wasn’t thinking so much about favoring one player a lot more than another. What I wanted was the best player in the 10-11k range that would also be the lowest owned.

From my research, it looked to me like Poulter would be that guy. Even though I was not really excited about his recent form, given his lack of course history and the fact that a lot of people generally just do not like the guy, I figured I could count on him being owned by less than 10% of the field for the $300 event as ownership levels tend to be really exaggerated to the extremes for the highest and lowest owned players. The more I thought about it, the more okay I felt with the risk since Poulter was the top ranked player in terms of the world golf rankings and if he showed up, I would be among the few in a small field that would own him. This is the kind of play that I make in the bigger buy in events where strategy is really important in constructing lineups and it isn’t just about nailing all 6 players near the top. In a field of 370 entries, only 18 of us ended up with Poulter. Had he managed to win, I would have been close to winning the event for the week even though a couple of guys on my roster did not do all that much. Strategy is one the fun aspects of the bigger events and an area where you can outmaneuver your opponents to win rather than having to pick the absolute perfect lineup.

There will always be a few players that I use each week that do not make the writeup. Typically, I will take a few extra risks in the $27 and $3 GPP events as I know that hitting that low owned player that goes crazy is huge in winning those contests. I managed to build one 6/6 roster last week that started at the bottom with Fito Cazaubon and Michael Bradley…just didn’t hit the right studs at the top to push it up near the top of the standings. For the most part, the guys I use will be directly from my picks. I usually just find one or two picks on Wednesday night that I will slip in as underowned guys to try to take the overall ownership levels down a bit…feel plays mostly.

Needless to say, my lack of shares of Tony Finau knocked me back in most of the GPPs for the week, which was really frustrating. If you used Finau and got paid off last week, congratulations. I am still happy with my fade on him even though it hurt me. The biggest case against owning Tony Finau last week was that going in, he was a very obvious candidate to be one of the highest owned players of the week. I estimated that in most events he would be owned by somewhere around 25-30% of entries and that proved to be pretty accurate as he did hit 30% in the $300 GPP. For owners who knew that this would be the case ahead of time, it should have made Finau almost an automatic fade.

The time to own a player like Finau is either when he is out of favor among owners or is playing as consistently as he was last summer when he was making one Top 25 after another. Finau entered last week having missed four of his last five cuts and only made it at Bay Hill after hitting a 36 foot eagle putt on the 16th hole in the 2nd Round. He went on to score a lot of points the last couple of days and as a result, saw a big leap in his price and popularity going into Puerto Rico. Considering his recent form, struggles on Bermuda grass and high expected levels of ownership, the expected outcome from avoiding Finau was higher than from owning him. With 25-30% owning him, he needed to finish in the top couple of spots to hurt me, which he just is not going to do regularly enough for me to feel like I should have owned him.

If I had it to run back again, I would make the same play and will do so when volatile players capture the attention of owners in droves throughout the season. It is difficult to avoid these player as they will be heavily touted and are usually priced to draw you in, but if you take the time to project ownership levels with the help of our Ownership Projection Tool, you will be able to see these trends for yourself before building your rosters and it will make these types of heavily owned players easier to fade. In the long run, this will be a profitable play as can be seen from looking back at all the times throughout the last couple of seasons when some of the highest owned player disappointed owners.

Moving on to Houston, we arrive at the last stop before we get to Augusta next week for The Masters. I could not be more excited for next week to arrive. As I prepare for my first trip down to Augusta, I have heard nothing but amazing things about seeing the course in person and taking in the full experience over the weekend. If any of you are planning to head down to the tournament next week, please let me know and we can grab a drink. It should be amazing…other than the fact that I have no idea how to take in a golf tournament without having my cell phone in my hand to check shot tracker every 20-30 seconds to see how my players are advancing throughout the day.

The brilliantly named, Golf Club of Houston plays host to this week’s tournament where a real assortment of characters have won over the years. The field is a little stronger than usual here as few of the bigger names have elected to try to keep their form locked in before The Masters next week. While it is nice to have the name value at the top of the field, it can also present some issues the week prior to a major tournament. While some players like Phil Mickelson seem to thrive in the weeks leading up to big events, others, like Dustin Johnson have shown a little more of a lackadaisical approach and have withdrawn from these types of events when not getting off to the best start in the opening round.

The course itself will play as a Par 72 and around 7,450 yards with four Par 3 and four Par 5 holes. The bigger hitters should do well here with plenty of birdie opportunities for those that can shorten the course for themselves. The scoring tends to be pretty low here so players will need to capitalize on the chances that they get each round. The weather could play a roll this weekend as intermittent storms are expected on Thursday and Friday morning. Be sure to get a good weather check on Wednesday night to see which times will be most effected by rains and winds. This could be a week where picking the right tee times pays huge dividends so pay close attention before building your lineups tomorrow night.

Our friends at Fantasy Golf Metrics supplied us with the results of their regression analysis to give us the following weightings for key statistics for the week:

Strokes Gained Tee to Green – 35%
Strokes Gained Putting – 25%
Par 5 Scoring – 15%
Birdie or Better % – 15%
Proximity – 10%

Best of luck to everyone this week! Let us know how your teams are doing and be sure to send me an e-mail if you have any lineup or strategy questions over the next 24 hours. I have heard from several new folks over the past week and have been happy to start a dialogue with them on ways to approach the game. Most folks that are having success have really refined and stuck to their process while those that have struggled usually just need to tighten up a couple of things to get back on track again so let me know how I can help you out and I will do my best to make sure I get back to everyone who reaches out to me.

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The optimal lineup got back on track last week winning for me in all $100, $50 and $25 double ups that I entered it into over the weekend. It was right on the edge of cashing in those events so hopefully it held up in the smaller buy-ins as well. As I have recommended to folks over the last few weeks, for cash games, it makes more sense to play in smaller fields for higher buy-ins. I would much rather play in one $25 double up instead of 25 $1 double ups. The larger the field, the higher the average score will be, pushing up the point total needed to cash in an event. It works the same way as the GPPs do where the larger field sizes always push up the scores needed to cash and to win the event. For this week, we have another strong team as there are a lot of middle tier value plays this week that look to be strong.

Phil Mickelson – $10,500
Jimmy Walker – $9,200
Ryan Palmer – $8,200
Brendon Steele – $7,400
Patton Kizzire – $7,400
John Huh – $7,200

Other options would be to pivot to Koepka from Walker, or dropping down from Palmer to Stricker and up from Huh to Piercy. There are a lot of strong options for cash games in the middle ranges this week so it should be easy to use the optimal lineup and then make a few small modifications to it to create a couple of spin offs to play with. Once again, I think we will probably end up getting five of six through the cut this week which should be enough to cash. This event will probably have its own challenges and I expect a little more carnage than last week so it should be another fight to the finish line again.


Rickie Fowler ($11,000)
Henrik Stenson ($10,800)
Phil Mickelson ($10,500)
Sergio Garcia ($9,900)
JB Holmes ($9,700)

Rickie Fowler did little to impress at the Match Play event last week, but considering that one average round is enough to keep you from winning your group, it is not something that I put much stock in for this week. Prior to that, Fowler has been on a tear this season, missing just one cut and finishing in the Top 10 in five of eight starts on the PGA Tour and a win in Abu Dhabi on the European Tour. Fowler excels in all of the major statistical categories this week and although he has not played well in Houston after making the cut (three finishes lower than 60th in four starts), he has made a habit of breaking through this year on courses where he had previously struggled. I do not expect a letdown for Fowler as last season he recorded a win at the Scottish Open the week before The Open Championship so I am comfortable using him in cash games or GPPs this week.

Henrik ‘Sunday’ Stenson is back this week after inexplicably deciding to skip the Match Play event last week (must be nice to live so well that someone would pass up a minimum of $50,000 to play three rounds of golf). In typical Stenson fashion, he choked away a chance to win at Bay Hill two weeks ago, falling apart on the Par 5, 16th hole for the second year in a row to finish tied for 3rd. This has been a big trend item for Stenson over the last two years with similar blowups taking place at the Deutsche Bank and Tour Championship to go along with his Bay Hill mishaps. However, Stenson makes cuts and finishes in the Top 10 often enough to look beyond his lack of titles. He is a great ball striker with one of the best tee to green games each year. His putting can be streaky, but he puts himself into position to score so often that he usually does not get hurt by his putting as much as others with similar numbers. Stenson will not win this week, but with the pricing structure being so relaxed, he is easy to fit into lineups with one or two other top players putting less need on him to win the event outright. Stenson is a safe cash game play, but just an okay GPP play as his ownership levels will be high enough so that without a Top 3 finish, he probably will not deliver the value you need to make him a worthwhile play.

I never write up Phil Mickelson so I want to take a moment to relish it. last season, Phil would flash for a week or two before putting up a few clunkers to hurt his large fan base. This year, Phil has been clicking on all cylinders and has been amazingly consistent outside of a brutal Friday meltdown at The Farmers where he posted his only missed cut of the year so far. For the six events he has played in, he has been in the Top 5 three times already and was a short putt away from going to a playoff at Pebble Beach. His tee to green game has taken a dramatic leap this season as has his putting. With a short game that is as good as anyone’s on tour, Phil can make up for some of the wildness he deals with off the tee. He has been great in Houston over the years with five straight Top 20 finishes and a win back in 2011. he will be popular this week, but will still be effective in cash games and limited amounts of GPPs.

Sergio Garcia will be a player that gets overlooked this week. With so many stars between 10-11k and JB Holmes and Brooks Koepka just below him, Garcia could easily end up being a player that falls below 10% ownership if enough folks are quiet about him. he burned us at Riviera in his first event on tour for the year, but bounced back in his next two starts with a 2nd place finish at The Honda Classic and an 11th place finish at Doral. His tee to green game is still elite, even if his putter is still off and on. His price is a little on the high side, but he still fits into cash lineups and will be owned at low enough levels to be worth using in GPPs.

JB Holmes is back in Houston this year to defend the title that he won here a year ago. So far, a surprising number of folks are talking about fading Holmes after a poor effort at Doral and and uninspiring effort at the Match Play event last weekend. The Match Play can be ignored and the result at Doral probably speaks more to how fortunate he was the previous year rather than how mediocre he performed this year. Regardless, prior to Doral, Holmes was on fire with five finishes of 11th or better in seven starts. Outside of his win in Houston, Holmes has finished in the Top 12 there on three other occasions so this should be a week where he plays well again. He works for cash games and some exposure to GPPs for this event.


Brooks Koepka ($9,300)
Jimmy Walker ($9,200)
Charles Howell III ($8,900)
Charley Hoffman ($8,400)
Ryan Palmer ($8,200)

Brooks Koepka, the darling of DFS golf in 2015, is in Houston for the first time and is generating plenty of buzz again with some respectable finishes. Koepka is long off the tee, plays well from tee to green and is above average with his putter. Always a threat to score, Brooks can put up a lot of birdies in a hurry…to go with the bogeys he is likely to put up as well. His lack of tournament history should keep him useful for GPP events and he is playing consistently enough to use in cash games as well.

Jimmy Walker is back in his home state of Texas this week and looking to improve upon his very average course history here. Walker has made eight of nine cuts this season with four Top 10 finishes so far this season. He is long off the tee and an exceptional putter. He hurts himself by being a little wild off the tee, but if you catch him of the right week, you might get a round of 62 or something crazy like that as he usually has one jaw dropping round a week in him. Walker’s course history and location among other popular players will keep his ownership numbers low making him a cash game and GPP play this week.

Charles Howell III makes the list again this week though his price is starting to get to a point where he is less appealing. His tee to green game has been excellent this season and his putter is much improved as well making him much more trustworthy. He has missed just one cut all season long and comes in this week well rested. He has finished in the Top 10 here in two of his last three starts so I do not mind using him in cash or GPPs this week.

Charley Hoffman is another player that rarely makes my columns outside of a few weeks each spring when he tends to heat up. While some folks will tell you to ignore course history, Charley is one of those players who tends to do his best work on specific courses each year and this is one of those courses. He has made the cut in nine of his last ten starts here with five Top 25 finishes. Prior to the Match Play event, he finished 11th and 17th respectively so he is trending in the right direction much the same as he did a year ago. Charley is a good cash and GPP option for the week.

Ryan Palmer has never been terribly consistent in Houston over the years, but his game has been improving so he is a player who’s course history can be a little less important. The native Texan has been good, but not great this season, and he has settled into a cut maker roll with less upside than previous seasons. He has missed just one cut in nine starts this season, but has yet to record a Top 10 finish. Palmer does have four Top 25 finishes in Houston, but has missed more than his fair share of cuts to go along with his success. Based on our model, Palmer ranked 9th in key stats this week so the skill set is in place, it is just a matter of execution. I will use Palmer in cash games and GPPs this week.


Jamie Lovemark ($7,900)
Scott Piercy ($7,700)
Steve Stricker ($7,700)
Brendan Steele ($7,400)
Patton Kizzire ($7,400)
John Huh ($7,200)

Although he was one of our favorite plays this season coming in off of the Tour and he started really well in the fall, I feel like a lot of owners have forgotten about Jamie Lovemark over the last couple of months. The explanation for that is pretty simple. This is not Lovemark’s first go around on the PGA Tour so at most stops, people see his course history and usually it is pretty ugly which is always a key determinant for ownership levels. Here, Lovemark has a missed cut, a withdrawal and a 51st place finish in three starts in Houston. That alone will be enough to put a low ceiling on Lovemark’s ownership level this week. However, I prefer to focus on the four Top 10 finishes this season and the fact that he is ranked 15th in our overall key stat weighting. He will not be on my cash game teams this week, but has great upside for the price in GPPs.

Nobody is talking about Scott Piercy this week and I cannot figure out why that is the case. He has missed just one cut in nine starts this season and has five Top 25 finishes. He has also been a model of consistency in Houston where he has made the cut in all five starts, including a 10th place finish a year ago. His tee to green game and putting numbers are average at best, but Piercy has found a way to get the job done each week with his ability to handle the Par 5’s well and being above average in scoring eagles and birdies. I like the price point this week and will use him in all formats.

Steve Stricker looks like he has found his game again after a rough start to the season that saw him miss three cuts in a row at one point before bouncing back recently with an 11th and 7th place finish in his last two events. It could not be coming at a better time for Stricker as he arrives at a course where he has always done very well with just a single missed cut in his last ten starts in Houston, which also includes three Top 10 finishes. The stats are a little distorted after a poor initial stretch, but he still stands out in putting this season where he is currently ranked 2nd on tour which has helped him to make up for his lack of distance off the tee. Stricker works best in cash games this week, but I will own a few shares of him in GPP events as well.

Much like last season, Brendon Steel has remained one of the best values on the board week in and week out. Much of his freeze in price can be attributed to his lack of strong finishes after getting to the weekend as Steele has just one Top 10 finish in ten starts. Fortunately, he is priced in a manner this week to where he only needs to do a little more than making the cut in order to pay off his price. His results here have been mixed as he is only three for five when it comes to making the cut, but by the numbers, he is a strong play and ranked 11th overall in our model’s key stat ranking. I will own him in all formats again this week, but will trim some GPP shares due to high expected levels of ownership.

When I trim those shares of Steele, most of what I move will get pushed to Patton Kizzire. Though he has not been as hot as he was to start the season when he leaped onto the scene with two straight Top 5 finishes, he has been a consistent cut maker with some upside. He has three Top 10 finishes on the season and has made seven straight cuts. His lack of tournament history and the fact that he shares the same price as Steele will keep his ownership levels down, but I think he makes for a great play in all formats as he ranks 9th statistically in key stats for the week.

John Huh is not a player I ever thought I would be writing up as a value play. Typically, if Huh made the write up, it was as a sleeper pick and usually then just as a cut maker. His tee to green game has improved massively this season as he went from losing .272 strokes per round a season ago to gaining over .54 strokes per round this season, a gain of .8 strokes per round. That improvement has led to Huh making the cut in eight of his last nine starts and three Top 10 finishes on the season. Huh is playable in all formats this week.


Kyle Reifers ($6,900)
Alex Cejka ($6,800)
Chez Reavie ($6,700)
Hudson Swafford ($6,000)

Our sleepers were great to us last weekend and this week should be no different. Kyle Reifers was a player that Jeff and I both talked about at the beginning of the season as a potential rising star. He has had some solid weeks on tour and has had runs of a few good weeks where it looks like it is all coming together only to hit a cold stretch and to have owners forget about him again. He has made three straight cuts and 10 of 14 on the season. Statistically, it has not been amazing, but good enough and improved enough to keep himself alive more often than not. He is also three for three making the cut in Houston and finished T11 last year. Reifers is a GPP play this week.

Alex Cejka was popular last weekend and played pretty well on his way to an 11th place finish in Puerto Rico. Though he was massively popular early in the season, a couple of missed cuts helped owners to realize that he was still just Alex Cejka. That said, he is playing well currently and has made three straight cuts, improving on his result each time. He has also made four straight cuts in Houston with a T11 finish last year. He ranks 22nd statistically based upon our model this week. He is a borderline cash game play and a nice GPP option this week.

Chez Reavie is another player that has made a big leap with his tee to green game this season which has translated to him having quite a bit more success than previous seasons and an improvement in consistency. He has missed only two cuts in twelve starts this season and has made the cut in his last two starts in Houston. Though his stats are not strong outside of his tee to green numbers, he is making cuts and at this price, makes for a solid GPP option this week.

DraftKings has sent Hudson Swafford into salary purgatory this season and as a consequence, I will be forced to keep writing him up until he gets the respect he deserves and sees a jump in price, or if he starts to play down to his price. Considering he has made nine of thirteen cuts this season and that every time he makes the cut, he outplays his price, he is still a real bargain this week. By our model, Swafford ranks 14th statistically this week which is amazing for a player priced this low. He does tend to struggle when I write him up, but he is tough to overlook and a huge value for his price. I will use him primarily in GPP events this week, but it would not be a bad decision to use him in cash games as well to help stack your team at the top.


Padraig Harrington ($5,900)
Jason Gore ($5,700)
Jhonattan Vegas ($5,700)

There are a lot of players who could end up making the cut below $6,000 this week. After taking a long look yesterday, I decided to give Paddy Harrington the nod this week as one of three players below $6,000 worth taking a look at. Paddy has been playing well lately having made four straight cuts in some pretty challenging events. Like several other players profiled here, Paddy has turned his tee to green game around by more than one stroke per round this season, helping him to achieve success on a more consistent basis as he has missed just one cut all season. Paddy has made the cut in Houston in seven of his last nine starts. However, he has made only one cut in his last three starts so he has not been the course horse of previous years. Still, for his low price, any made cut will be all upside so I will plan to own him on GPP rosters this week.

Jason Gore is one of many golfers in the 5-6k range that makes one cut after another and continues to see his price decline. Gore has missed just one cut in ten starts this season, but his lack of a big finish keeps him in the lower price range. He has not played much in Houston recently, but did manage a 19th place finish here two years ago. The stats really are not that impressive, but when it comes down to simply making or missing the cut, Gore has a better chance than most folks and works in GPP events.

Jhonattan Vegas makes a rare appearance in The Daily Spin this week. It took a little time for Vegas to grow on me this week, but his numbers were a little better than I had thought and he has been making cuts lately. He has made seven of ten cuts this season with two Top 10 finishes as well. Vegas has made the cut here in his last three starts and while they were not impressive finishes, he is priced in a way where that does not matter. Vegas is one of many players below 6k this week that will have a better than average chance of making the cut so he is well positioned to anchor some stars and scrubs GPP lineups.

Good Luck,


Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte March 30, 2016 07:09

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