The Daily Spin – DraftKings Daily Fantasy Golf Preview – The Players Championship

Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte May 11, 2016 08:32

Quail Hollow lived up to expectations last week in terms of excitement. On Thursday, I sat looking at the leaderboard in utter disgust as many unlikely names climbed into the Top 10, while the bigger names in the field started off at a snail’s pace. Fortunately, by the end of the weekend, players like Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy made strong charges towards the finish line and all ended up near the top. Each of those players had ample opportunity to win the event had they only been able to avoid disaster on one or two holes during the weekend.

Phil blew up his weekend on Saturday on the final hole with a jaw dropping quadruple bogey. Rickie Fowler started Sunday with the lead only to then blow a short par putt on the first hole and then inexplicably double bogeyed the 7th to finish two shot back. Rory started off so terribly the first day that he had to spend the better half of the first two rounds rallying just to make sure he made it through the cut. With some of the toughest greens that players will see all season, Justin Rose could never get comfortable and finished last in the field in strokes gained putting on Sunday.

For us, it was a week of getting very close to a big payoff, but falling just short. Our core players performed admirably with Phil finishing T4, Lucas Glover T8, Brendan Steele T14 and Adam Scott finished T17. The one blemish, and it is always going to be big when it hits the core group, was Charles Howell III blowing the cut. Howell made plenty of birdies, but offset them with too many mistakes, only hitting 32% of fairways and scrambling at a miserable 21% for his week. It was an uncharacteristic performance for CHIII who has been amazingly consistent this year for us.

Our secondary players did well last week as well. One notable surprise exception to that came when Webb Simpson managed to miss the cut badly on a course where he actually lives and owns a home on. He looked terrible from start to finish and did not hit the ball well at all on a course he has played probably well over 100 times. While I did not necessarily think Webb was a lock for a high finish, missing the cut as badly as he did was a bit of a shock.

Overall, my 100 $3 GPP lineups held their own and were about even for the week based on the ownership percentages that I outlined in my last article. I chose 15 of those teams to enter in the $33 GPP and was slightly down for the week, but was able to offset that by cashing with two of the three teams I entered in the $300, allowing me to make a nice profit overall for the week. Had I not been 100% CHIII for that event, it could have been a substantial payday.

Hopefully, the week went well for you and your teams. We heard a real mixture of reactions from subscribers last week with a few that had really big results and some who struggled. Like I tell everyone who gets involved with playing a large number of GPPs each week, it is the type of venture that you are going to lose more weeks that you will win. If you are solely focused on those types of events, be prepared for your results to be volatile. You play for the big payday, which does not come that often. You need to hit the perfect core group and have it hold through the weekend. Even when it is just five players that you weight this heavily, it will still be a struggles to get all through the cut.

Going into this week, excitement is at a high with the arrival of The Players Championship. Some like to consider it the fifth major due to field strength and how challenging the course plays every year, but what really makes it unique is that TPC Sawgrass tends to be a course that has tripped up almost every great player at one point or another with very few dominating course history. The Pete Dye designed course will play at just over 7,200 yards for the week and is a Par 72. Unlike many of the recent courses on tour, TPC Sawgrass is not slanted towards the bombers. The course is full of bunkers and water is an issue around nearly every hole so staying out of trouble is almost as important as scoring this week. Last season, I vividly remember Brooks Koepka hitting two quadruple bogeys in the first round and then rallying furiously to just miss the cut.

Strong tee to green play is going to be important, but with added emphasis on the approach portion this week as hitting greens is important along with being able to get up and down from out of trouble. The most notable hole will be the Par 3, 17th hole which features the famous island green. While just 137 yards, this hole will see more than a few errant shots go into the water which always makes things especially exciting during the final round. The 18th hole is also one of the toughest on tour as for the second week in a row, we get a long, brutal, water lined Par 4 hole to close out the action.

Be ready for some surprises this week. Last year, I came into this event full of confidence and left shaking my head. Rickie Fowler came out of nowhere for a thrilling victory that was a lot of fun to watch, but the carnage before the cut was rough last year. Many notable players missed the cut last year; Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk, Jimmy Walker and Brooks Koepka to name just a few that ruined my teams. As I mentioned before, this course claims everyone as a victim at one point or another so I anticipate that once again, more than a few big names will be fighting from the wrong side of the cut line on Friday afternoon.

Take it in stride and keep to your strategy. Enter GPP events that fit your bankroll and allow you to build massive numbers of lineups to give yourself a chance to avoid the mess that this tournament usually creates. I have had so many positive conversations with folks the last couple of weeks since really diving into lineup construction in my columns. If this is an area where you are still struggling, please speak up and get in touch with us so that we can help you to get on the right track.

DraftKings has helped our cause this week with the way that the pricing is structured. Since this is a bigger event for the PGA Tour, DraftKings has put together a number of bigger contests with large prize pools. When this happens, pricing tends to be a little softer at the top and really soft through the middle and bottom of the salary tiers. One of our favorite contests is back this week, the $3 Driver the Green GPP with a 1st place prize of $100,000. It’s a perfect place to build a lot of lineups and have a shot at a big prize without having to spend crazy amounts of your bankroll.

As for how to approach the event this week, since it one that is not dominated by the stars, I think a balanced approach will be beneficial this week. The winner could literally come from any part of the field this week so most of my lineups will focus on just a couple of my favorite players near the top with the emphasis being on the middle of the field where there is a lot of potential to produce a winner. For your core, think of building it around 4-5 players distributed between the top, middle and bottom salary tiers. The value range is really full of strong plays so make sure that you give yourself a lot of salary cap space to go after strong players here.

I want to emphasize something that Jeff and I discussed on the webcast this week. You can own chalk players on your GPP teams. Say it out loud…exclaim it for the world to hear! Let them own chalk!! Remember, it is not individual players that must be avoided due to high ownership levels, but rather full teams loaded up with chalky picks. Rory was owned by just under 40% of the field in the $300 GPP last week. It did not stop the winning team from take down the event. People tend to look back at guys after they have missed the cut with a high ownership number and proclaim that the player should have been avoided. This is an oversimplifying things too much. Lucas Glover soaked up close to 14% ownership in the $300 GPP, but how did I feel about owning him when he finished T8? Not bad at all.

Analyze each player to see how capable they are of performing well and then be conscious of how your overall rosters are composed. The best fades usually come from the following types of players:

1) the hot, young rookie that performs well at an event or two and that everyone now proclaims is a must own even when they are playing most courses for the first time (DeChambeau)
2) the journeyman who puts together a couple of Top 10 finishes in a row who starts to generate buzz about a ‘resurgence’ (Freddie Jacobson early this seasons)
3) more often than not, when the top priced player or players are well above the rest of the field due to it being a weaker tournament, skipping over those players as a strategy will typically be the right move more often than not and allow for you to take advantage of events where there is extreme clustering of ownership among the top players (Zurich)

Obviously, these are easier to see when looking back after they have fallen on their face, but these scenarios pop up every year so pay close attention when they arrive. In order for it to be a good fade, it should be a decision that feels counter intuitive. If everyone is in agreement on it, it won’t be a move that generates an edge for you.

Before departing here, let’s take a quick look at the keys stats for the week as provided by our friends over at Fantasy Golf Metrics:

Strokes Gained Tee to Green – 35%
Strokes Gained Putting – 20%
Birdie or Better % – 15%
Par 5 Scoring – 15%
Proximity – 10%
Driving Accuracy – 5%

Good luck this week. Keep us in the loop with how your teams are doing throughout the weekend. It is always so much fun to hear about how much fun people are having while sweating out there results in a close finish, especially for an event like this one. If needed, I will try to wield some of my famous black magic in the right direction to help you get the results that you want to happen.

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Interesting things are happening this week with the optimal lineup. A couple of key players missed the cut last week rendering both lineups to an early dumpster fire doom, but this should be a better week for cash games in such a strong field. A good rule of thumb for picking contests each week is to first evaluate the field. If the field is really weak, it becomes very difficult to project which players will make or miss the cut with any confidence, making cash games tougher than normal. Usually, with a strong field like this, I like to amp up my cash game exposure, but this event is a little trickier than most. The course is an equalizer this week and will take out victims at all levels without regard to player rankings so I will will play about the same amount in cash games and probably spread my exposure to 4-5 teams to limit volatility.

Rickie Fowler – $10,600
Matt Kuchar – $8,100
Marc Leishman – $7,300
Zach Johnson – $8,300
Charley Hoffman – $7,900
Kevin Na – $7,800

Hideki Matsuyama – $9,700
Bubba Watson – $9,300
Matt Kuchar – $8,100
Marc Leishman – $7,300
Charley Hoffman – $7,900
Russell Knox – $7,600

BONUS:

Henrik Stenson – $9,500
Danny Willett – $8,900
Zach Johnson – $8,300
Matt Kuchar – $8,100
Chris Kirk – $7,800
JB Holmes – $7,400

These are three really well balanced lineups. We did not even need to go below $7,300 to get some very solid looking cash lineups. Matt Kuchar obviously scores well as a cut maker and Pete Dye course specialist. Zach Johnson has been very successful here over the years, missing just one cut in his last 11 starts at TPC Sawgrass. Marc Leishamn was a standout in the model this week and made the cut here the last four years. Charley Hoffman has been one of the best players on tour over the last couple of months and has been consistent here in nine starts. About the only head scratcher on the list is Bubba Watson, who has never excelled in this event. While his upside looks like it might be capped, his stats fit really well with the key stats for the week and his game has improved a great deal over the last couple of years. Combine that with a lower than normal price and Bubba does not look like a totally terrible play for the week.

CORE

Rory McIlroy – 60% ($11,700)
Henrik Stenson – 60% ($9,500)
Chris Kirk – 60% ($7,800)
Marc Leishman – 60% ($7,300)
Emiliano Grillo – 60% ($6,700)

I love our core group of players this week. I am sure one or two will be tap dancing around the cut line come Friday, but hopefully, this is the week that all five burst through the cut and kick start the rest of the team into gear. Rory admitted freely that he did not play much golf during his time off after The Masters and it showed during the first nine holes last Thursday when he dug a huge hole to get to +4 early on. By Sunday, he was making a charge for the title and nailing every shot from all over the course. He is ready to win this week at a tournament where he has finished in the Top 10 the last three years.

Henrik Stenson missed his first cut in over 30 starts last week at a course where his game just did not fit. I think the only reason he played the event was to get tuned up for The Players Championship. He loves TPC Sawgrass and has a win here back in 2009. After a missed cut, we like to go back to these types of star players and load up, which worked well for us with Justin Rose a week ago. Stenson should be well positioned for a nice rebound.

Chris Kirk is never a terribly popular pick, but his play over the last two months should start to change that moving ahead. After a wrist injury sidelined him last season, he was slow to recover in regaining his form. However, in his last six events, he has five Top 25 finishes and has finished in 13th place at TPC Sawgrass in each of his last two starts. His tee to green game is strong and his putter is starting to come around in recent events. As a bonus, there are a lot of other players in his price range that will soak up ownership so this is a great play for helping us to diversify our lineups.

Marc Leishman really stood out in the model this week as a bargain for his price. His stats from tee to green command attention and he has really been putting well. He has good distance off the tee, is not too wild and can put up a lot of birdies. He is also a player that tends to get overlooked and without a big result over the last couple of months, that could be the case again although he has made four straight cuts here so I cannot imagine too many people will forget him this week.

Emiliano Grillo is our wild card, low priced cut maker this week. He is playing here for the first time, but I am not terribly worried about that. Other than one bad round at the North Course at Torrey Pines, he has handled himself well on tour this season at a variety of courses and looked great back at Augusta against a tough field where he finished 17th. Grillo has some experience here as well. Last year, he won the Web.com Tour Championship at TPC Sawgrass (the Valley Course, not the Stadium Course). He did play at the Stadium Course at the 2010 Junior Players where he finished in a tie for second place with another player by the name of Jordan Spieth. I am not sure that much of this information will remain under the radar as I have already heard a couple of others voice their support for Grillo, but at a 60% clip, I am not worrying about being hemmed in by other owners so that we will still get maximum benefit when he performs well this week. He is very accurate off the tee, hits greens at a high rate and generally just does not make a lot of mistakes on the golf course.

SECONDARY

Jordan Spieth – 25% ($11,400)
Hideki Matsuyama – 25% ($9,700)
Brandon Grace – 25% ($8,600)
Zach Johnson – 25% ($8,300)
Matt Kuchar – 25% ($8,100)
Russell Knox – 25% ($7,600)
Rafa Cabrera Bello – 25% ($7,100)
Luke Donald – 25% ($6,900)

Our secondary players are a very strong group this week. Some of these players are going to be highly owned, but many will also perform really well and we are not going to want to miss out on that. Matt Kuchar and Luke Donald are both solid Pete Dye course players and although they each missed the cut here a year ago, both have been making cuts at a high rate this season and each did well at Harbour Town a few weeks ago, another Pete Dye course. Russell Knox fits into the same category as the first two players mentioned. He is designed for this course and despite his lack of distance off the tee, he is extremely precise, hitting fairways and greens at elite levels. His putter might keep him out of the Top 10, but he has done well in his only two starts here the last two seasons (34th and 17th). Zach Johnson has had some struggles adjusting to his new PXG clubs this year, but seems to be finding his footing. He was near the top at The Heritage going into the lat round before a poor final round knocked him back a bit. He has been outstanding at TPC Sawgrass over the years, missing just one cut in his last 11 starts with a couple of Top 10 finishes. He is accurate off the tee, hits greens and his putter has actually improve somewhat this season. He is a very solid play at a great price this week.

Hideki Matsuyama nearly snuck into the Top 10 last weekend after starting quietly the first three rounds at Quail Hollow. He was highly owned last week, but that should drop back in a stronger field this week. He is a tremendous ball striker that gets good distance and hits a lot of greens. His tee to green game is elite which mostly makes up for his below average putting. He is a consistent cut maker and has plenty of upside on a course where he has been in the Top 25 the last two years. Brandon Grace broke out at The Heritage with an amazing final round where he distanced himself from the field to win after a rough beginning to his stint in the US. He followed his win with a Top 10 finish in San Antonio and looks to be locked in right now. He still will not be that highly owned with all the other big names around him, so I think he is still a great GPP play this week. Rafa Cabrera Bello broke out in Europe last year, but was quiet initially when arriving in the US. That Changed quickly after an 11th place finish at Doral, a 3rd place finish at the WGC Match Play event, a 4th place finish in Houston and a T17 at Augusta. At $7,100, we get one of the hottest players on tour at a bargain price.

Finally, we are definitely going to own some shares of Jordan Spieth this week. After crumbling at The Masters and missing the cut here a year ago, he will come out with something to prove and will want to show the golf world that he has put Amen Corner behind him. He has the game to win here and will not disappoint for a second year in a row. he was 4th two years ago so I think he will be in at least that range again.

Tertiary

Billy Horschel – 15% ($8,200)
Charley Hoffman – 5% ($7,900)
Kevin Na – 15% ($7,800)
Bill Haas – 15% ($7,500)
Patton Kizzire – 15% ($7,300)
Jason Dufner – 10% ($6,700)
Shane Lowry – 5% ($6,400)
Freddie Jacobson – 5% ($6,100)
Retief Goosen – 10% ($5,900)
Scott Brown – 5% ($5,700)

This is where we mix things up a bit. Billy Horschel should be well disguised right between Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar, but has been playing great this year, having missed just one cut in twelve starts with three Top 10 finishes. His ball striking has not been quite what it was a year ago, but his tee to green game overall is much better than a year ago. He has been strong here the last two years so I want to make sure to have a decent amount of shares this week. Charley Hoffman has been amazingly consistent this year, getting a win and making his last ten cuts with a lot of Top 25 finishes. I did not have a lot of room for him, but could not leave him off this week. Kevin Na has three Top 10 finishes here in his last six starts and is coming of of a 4th place finish at Harbour Town. He is accurate and has played great from tee to green since the start of the season back in the fall.

Bill Haas finished in 4th place here a year ago, but missed the cut and burned owners a week ago. However, he did finish in 14th place at The Heritage, keeps it in the fairway and hits greens. He can scramble well and should be a cut maker with upside. Patton Kizzire locked up another Top 25 finish last weekend. He finished in 14th at The Heritage a few weeks ago. I am a little nervous about how wild he is off the tee, but seems to adjust well from course to course and is a Top 10 putter so I’ll stick with him another week. Jason Dufmer is another great ball striker with great tee to green numbers who struggles with his putter. He has actually been good on Bermuda greens over the last year so hopefully he can get it going this week. He missed the cut here a year ago, but had made five of six before that.

At $5,900, getting Retief Goosen seems like a steal. He has made nine straight cuts and has had good success at The Players throughout his career. His numbers are not flashy, but he continues to find ways to make cuts. Although I really never like taking Freddie Jacobson, we need cut makers in this range and Freddie can scramble and putt just well enough to get through this week. Shane Lowry seems really cheap for a Top 40 player in the world. He is not playing great, but makes for a great contrarian pick with an upside if he gets some momentum going. Scott Brown disappointed owners last week after having played well over the last couple of months. He’s a good value for his price so a small sample is in order for a player who is capable of playing well here.

Good Luck,

-myz
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Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte May 11, 2016 08:32

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