The Daily Spin – DraftKings Daily Fantasy Golf Preview – The Waste Management Phoenix Open

Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte February 3, 2016 05:44

Here we are again, late on a Tuesday night, still trying to digest what happened at The Farmers last weekend. Between the gale force winds and rain, mixed with a rough that proved to be much more challenging for some veterans than normal, last week was truly an anomaly for golf. It mattered less how many players you had make the cut than the quality of those players who did. Some players actually gained very few points over the final two rounds, though I did not actually take the time to verify if anyone actually went backwards and lost points which would be nearly impossible to do. When it was finally finished up on Monday afternoon, the last man left standing was Brandt Snedeker who was the only player in the final round to shoot under par and who’s score managed to hold up as several other contenders fell back towards the end.

Let’s start with the good news for the week. I was all over Brandt Snedeker and Jimmy Walker in my writeup which helped to propel a few extra teams into the money just on their presence alone. I actually managed to cash in the $100 GPP with a team that had 4 of 6 through the cut due to Snedeker’s victory, which is something you would never normally see. Getting the right three or four players through the cut was even enough to take down most cash games so I want to make sure to give a big shout out to Erik Dantoft, our model building wizard for having Walker and Snedeker right at the top last week. I know that really helped me to curb some of the losses by getting them into a number of my lineups. I actually was able to get a Sned/Choi/Walker lineup with six players through the cut deep into the $3 GPP last weekend, but unfortunately, the other three golfers could not hold up their end of the bargain and I ended up somewhere around 340th for my efforts.

Finally, I felt like my column last week ended up being perfectly timed as news poured out early on Wednesday that Jason Day was withdrawing from the Pro-Am event. Immediately, the touts and those clamoring to earn tout status filled the message boards with speculation as to what his withdrawal signified. Much like trying to decipher ancient Egyptian scrolls, the daily fantasy golf world dove into the reports and speculated on any number of plausible and absurd possibilities. I have exactly one high level source in the golf world who answers me when I contact him with any regularity and when I asked him to give me his opinion, he simply told me to check Day’s injury history and that when it comes to injuries or illness, Day is pretty soft.

With no other information to go off of, Jeff and I discussed the situation and made the call to put a fade on Day for all cash games and to cut our exposure to day to minimal levels. Once we made that call, I went about setting my lineups for the week. Did you do the same or had you already put together dozens of lineups earlier in the week? If you had built most of your lineups, did you then go back and alter your teams that included Day or did you simply decide to roll the dice and go with what you had already constructed? My guess is that a lot of players out there decided to leave their lineups alone since it is generally human nature to select the path of least resistance.

That leads right back to the point that I wanted to get across last week which was that I want you to split the contest selection process from the lineup building process when it comes to daily fantasy golf. Make the decision on Monday as to how much of your bankroll you are willing to place at risk, select your contests, and then start your research for the next couple of days. Do not go back to build your rosters until you absolutely have to in order to get it done. This will take away the any chance of reluctance to go back and reshuffle your lineups around when there is late breaking news.

A quick strategy tip that I want to talk about this week is something that I have been reflecting on over the last couple of weeks and discussing at length with other players and writers is how we choose to build our cash game lineups. The standard strategy for many is to look right in those middle ranges of $7000-9000, never straying too far above or below that window due to fear of taking on too much risk. It’s a view that I shared for some time until recently when studying the GPP numbers for the writeup that I did back in December. I thought about it in particular over this past weekend when I saw my cash games saved by the presence of a player that had a shot to win the tournament versus teams that had more players get through, but without any standouts.

With PGA, there is a lot of debate over the proper composition of a cash game lineup. I am certainly not a statistician and I will not be collecting thousands of data points to prove my point, but I wanted to do just a quick little exercise to try to illustrate my point. When building a cash game team each week, we are looking for guys who make the cut on a consistent basis. If we take the approach of picking solid cut makers, we will say for arguments sake that we select six golfers that each average making the cut 80% of the time. Do you know what your actual odds are that this nice looking roster will make it to Saturday still intact? The number is a paltry 26.2%, roughly one time in four will this group of players all collectively make the cut in a given week.

The implication of this is important to consider. If your roster is going to lose one or possibly two player in many of your cash games, a balanced approach may end up hurting you if the remaining players all finish somewhere in the middle of the pack. So what can we do to give ourselves a little bit of help? Going up in salary for a player with a reasonable chance of winning seems like a good solution. When we run the cut numbers again, we will now select a player with a 90% chance to make the cut and then be forced down to select a player with only a 65% chance to make the cut. When we run the numbers again, our odds of getting six players through drops only 2% down to 24%. It is almost negligible.

In terms of scoring, the impact can be dramatic if you have a top finishing player on your cash game roster. Obviously, the winner will not always be the player with the highest salary, but there is certainly a higher likelihood for a better finish. Often times, a Top 5 or Top 10 finish is enough to secure over 100 points, sometimes well in excess of that. In most cases, that is going to be enough to offset having a player miss the cut on your roster and when you consider that the risk you take on in order to go for a more expensive player is fairly minimal, it makes a lot of sense to start your cash game rosters with a stud who has a better than average chance to carry a broken roster to the cash window when things go sideways on a Friday afternoon for one or more members of your roster.

This week, the tour travels to TPC Scottsdale for one my favorite events of the season, the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Known for its signature 16th hole which is surrounded by stadium seating and a roaring crowd, this is an event that is fun for both the players and the spectators and allows golf to set aside its overly conservative standards in favor of more fan friendly fare. TPC Scottsdale is slightly longer than 7,200 yards and plays as a Par 71. It is a scorer’s course, but that said, there are plenty of bunkers and water hazards to ruin rounds for players who get too aggressive. The cut line should hover somewhere close to Even for the week, but the winning score should be somewhere around -15 to -18.

In previous years, those players with the ability to crush the ball off the tee have held the advantage over others, though hitting greens is also important. As with previous weeks where bombers tend to be preferable, Par 5 scoring is important, Birdie or Better % will be key in getting to those lower scores and strokes gained tee to green is always important. Two other stats to look at this week will be strokes gained putting and also proximity as some of the greens are on the small side so a bit of precision on approach shots will be advantageous.

Good luck this week and be sure to keep us updated on Twitter with how your teams are doing throughout the weekend. Be sure to send me all of your lineup questions tomorrow and I will do my best to get you all squared away before lineup lock on Thursday morning. I will be doing Periscope tomorrow night around 9pm CST so be watching Twitter for updates on that throughout the day. Also, if you have been thinking about submitting a Wacky Wager challenge, please step up and go for it. We have had a lot of fun offers and we will get to as many as we can throughout the season, but it is becoming one of our most popular promotions so do not delay in submitting your item to wager!

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The weather looks great this weekend without any run or much in terms of winds so for once, it appears that we will not need to worry about tee times and since it is all on one course, there is no need to think about the advantages or disadvantages of which players to start based on tee time or course like the last couple of weeks.

BLUE CHIPS

Bubba Watson ($12,100)
Brandt Snedeker ($11,800)
Jason Dufner ($10,700)
Kevin Kisner ($10,400)
Kevin Na ($10,000)

Last year, I faded Bubba Watson when he was the top priced player at this event. However, his salary a year ago was around $14,000, making him somewhat price prohibitive. He finished 2nd for the second year in a row and could have burned us had I not been on eventual tournament winner, Brooks Koepka. Watson stepped up all aspects of his game in 2015 when he was second on the tour in Driving Distance, first in strokes gained tee to green, first in Par 5 scoring and third in Birdie or Better percentage. Bubba has finished in the Top 5 in three of the last four years and with weather being a non-factor, Bubba has a high likelihood of finishing in the Top 10 once again. He will be popular this week, but there is enough value in the middle and lower ranges to make him a useful cash game play. As I suspect his ownership levels will be around 20%, he is playable for GPP events, but you will need to find several lower owned players to offset Bubba if you choose to go this direction for tournament play to balance out your exposure levels.

Brandt Snedeker is playing the best golf on tour over the last month with a 3rd, 2nd and 1st place finish in his last three events. He is not the big hitter, but his game is balanced as he has been great from tee to green and has always been a good putter. He keeps himself out of trouble and does not make a lot of mistakes and after getting some coaching for his swing in December, he has elevated his game to another level. With four Top 10 finishes here in nine starts, Snedeker has some upside potential. I will not be playing him in cash due to his elevated price, and the fact that Bubba’s ceiling seems a little higher. With Bubba garnering a lot of buyers, Snedeker is an acceptable GPP play for the week. If you are truly looking for a pivot play for GPP events, Rickie Fowler might be the player that gets overlooked.

Jason Dufner is making his first start since winning the CareerBuilder two weeks ago. Mid-sized Duff seems to have found a happy medium between the large and small versions of himself and is playing well having made five straight cuts and three straight Top 10’s. Dufner missed the cut here last year, but that was right in the middle of when he was going through a terrible, public divorce. Dufner has two Top 10 finishes at this event and should be owned at a slightly lower level than others in this range making him a nice GPP option this week.

While Brandt Snedeker might be playing the best golf over the last month, Kevin Kisner’s form is not far behind as he has finished in the Top 10 of four straight events including a win at the RSM Classic. In this field, Kisner will not have extremely high levels of ownership the way he would in a weaker field. He is a top ball striker, particularly with regards to his accuracy so he will stay out of trouble wherever he plays. He’s in the Top 20 in both Strokes Gained Tee to Green and Strokes Gained Putting helping him to be 5th in Birdie or Better percentage and 17th in Par 5 scoring. His history here will not show him to be a great fit, but it was not until the middle of last year when he flipped the switch and became an elite player. Kisner is a great play in both cash games and GPP events this week.

Kevin Na is off to a nice start this season making six of six cuts with four Top 10 finishes to his credit. He is not a bomber, but stays out of trouble, plays well from tee to green and is a slightly above average putter. He scrambles well and ranks 8th in Birdie or Better percentage. In ten starts here, Na has four Top 10 finishes and has only missed one cut. Na makes for a good starting point for cash games and has just enough upside to be included in GPP lineups.

TOP TIER VALUE

Ryan Palmer ($9,900)
Webb Simpson ($9,200)
Brendan Steele ($8,800)
Charles Howell III ($8,200)
Si Woo Kim ($7,800)
Scott Piercy ($7,700)
Martin Laird ($7,700)

Ryan Palmer did not have the big season that some predicted last year, but this has become one of his better events over the last few seasons as he finished in 2nd place last season and 5th place in 2013. He has kicked off 2016 with two straight Top 20 finishes and is on an upward trend. He has plenty of length off the tee, has traditionally been a good putter and plays well from tee to green. In fact, in this field, Palmer has been the best putter over the last season on Bermuda grass. His price is a little on the high side so I probably will not play him in cash games, but his ownership level should not be out of the ordinary making him a GPP option this week.

Webb Simpson is one of the most exhilarating and frustrating players to own in the world of fantasy golf. Although everyone knows that his putting is not his strength, he actually tends to putt pretty well on Bermuda grass so there is less need to worry about that aspect of his game. All other aspects his game are in good order as Simpson dominates the game from tee to green and ranked 4th last year in Par 5 scoring. He has made four of five cuts at TPC Scottsdale including three straight Top 10 finishes. He is trending in the right direction with two straight Top 20 finishes to start the year. I like Simpson for GPP play, but he is a bit expensive as a cash game play and still capable of the occasional blowup and missed cut.

Bremdam Steele is one of my favorite plays this week for both cash games and GPP events. He has never missed a cut in five starts here with three finishes in the Top 10. Steele is a Top 20 player in ball striking with the emphasis on distance and greens in regulation. He ranked 28th in Par 5 scoring and 14th in Birdie or Better percentage. In a field this deep, his price ended up getting capped below $9,000 giving him plenty of value at all levels this week.

We say it each week, but Charles Howell III is on one of the better runs of his career. He is now eight for eight in making the cut this season with seven Top 20 finishes. His putting has been the difference this season as his numbers went from being below average to well above the tour average. Whether he can maintain that or not is questionable, but he is playing in another event where he has had some success missing only two cuts in fourteen starts with two Top 10 finishes. At $8,200 CHIII makes for a great cash game play this week although given his price, I anticipate high levels of ownership making him less enticing for GPP play, particularly since he is the type of player that just does not win tournaments capping his upside.

20 year old, Si Woo Kim, continues to exceed expectations this season by making six of eight cuts with six finishes in the Top 25. Not even Torrey Pines could slow up Kim last week in his first start there so I anticipate another strong debut at TPC Scottsdale this week. Kim is a good ball striker who excels from tee to green and is not bad on the greens. He scrambles well and currently ranks 31st on Par 5 holes. Dare I say Kim is good enough for cash games this week? I think he has earned that privilege and I will use him for both cash games and GPP events.

Scott Piercy can be a dangerous player if he can stay consistent. After making the cut last weekend, things went a bit off the rails in the bad weather, but that is forgivable. Piercy is now six for six this season in making the cut with four Top 25 finishes. He hits it 300 yards off the tee and though most of his game is unremarkable, when he is playing well, he tends to minimize his mistakes the way he has over the last few months. He missed the cut here last season, but has three Top 10 finishes in seven starts here. With the way he has been playing, he is a decent play for cash games and has the upside for GPPs as well.

My friend, Glen Chorny is playing against me in the Wacky Wager contests and one of his least favorite players on tour is Martin Laird, thus he must be included this week in my recommendations. Although Laird is originally from Scotland, he now lives in Scottsdale giving him a nice advantage of playing on his home course this week where he has had some success. Were it not for mistakes on the last two holes in the final round a year ago, Laird would have won this event outright and I think he is coming in hungry this week after a T8 finish at The Farmers last weekend. He was a top cut maker early in the season for us last year, but I think he can do more than that this week and I will have him on a few GPP tickets although I think more consistent options are available for cash games.

VALUE PLAYS

Smylie Kaufman ($7,500)
Patton Kizzire ($7,300)
Fabian Gomez ($7,200)
William McGirt ($7,200)
Patrick Rodgers ($7,100)

I keep waiting for the salary of Smylie Kaufman to rise and week after week, it stays about the same. He has made all eight cuts this season with five Top 25 finishes and a win to kick off his rookie season. He is a tee to green specialist and can putt pretty well. He ranks 20th in Par 5 scoring and 26th in Birdie or Better Percentage. Eventually, his salary will rise enough to push owners off of him or he will hit a few bumps in the road to settle down the enthusiasm, but right now, he is playing consistent golf with upside making him a good option for cash games and GPP events.

Patton Kizzire could end up surpassing Smylie Kaufman in terms of the level of success he achieves at some point this year, but a couple of missed cuts slowed down the hype train at the beginning of 2016. He plays exceptionally well from tee to green and is a great putter as shown by his dominant season in 2015 on the Web.com Tour. Whether or not he can perform under pressure remains to be seen, but I think at this point, he is priced well for all formats.

Fabian Gomez is one of my favorite under the radar plays this week for GPP play. He has not ever played at TPC Scottsdale and most owners will be predisposed to selecting bombers leaving a player like Gomez overlooked. Gomez enters the event having missed the cut last week by a single stroke after having made five straight cuts and winning the Sony Open. The key for Gomez this week is that he is back on Bermuda grass where he is a radically different player than when he is on bent grass or similar variations and he finishes on average, 24 places higher. I will not take the risk of using Gomez in cash games due to his lack of course experience, but I think he will be lightly owned this week with the potential for another strong finish making him a very interesting GPP option.

One of the best times to roster a player is when that player has a great history a particular course, but just missed the cut in the last event he played. This is the case for McGirt who started the season by making four straight cuts including two Top 10s before missing the cut at the CareerBuilder two weeks ago. McGirt has always played well at TPC Scottsdale where he has never missed a cut and never finished below 32nd in four appearances. He is playable in all styles this week.

Speaking of players that I like who just missed the cut, Patrick Rodgers was pretty awful last week and let a lot of owners down who had high expectations. It may have been a miscalculation on the part of Rodgers to makes his first appearance of the year at Torrey Pines where he was playing for the first time. it is hard to doubt his talent as he opened the season by making five straight cuts with four Top 20 finishes. He is a top level ball striker and his tee to green game has the potential to be elite. Though he struggles with his putter, he has been dramatically better on Bermuda grass where he has finished 35 spots higher on average than on Bent grass. I am confident enough in Rodgers this week to use him in cash and I think this is the sort of event where he had the potential for a Top 10 finish making him a tremendous GPP option as well.

SLEEPERS

Aaron Baddeley ($6,900)
Hudson Swafford ($6,700)
Sean O’Hair ($6,500)
James Hahn ($6,400)

It is not the most exciting play of the week, but Aaron Baddeley is going to get the job done for us this week as a sleeper play and should make the cut this weekend. He has made seven straight cuts here and won here back in 2005. He has made five of six cuts this year with two Top 10 finishes and enters on the heels of a T8 finish at The Farmers. He has been awful from tee to green for many years, but holds his spot on tour by being one of the best putters each year. He also ranked 11th in Par 5 scoring last season. He is mostly a GPP option for me this week.

Hudson Swafford made the cut when I wrote him up two weeks ago so I think we have turned a corner in our relationship after he burned me the first three times around. Swafford looks like he is starting to play up to his potential as he has made the cut in six of eight starts this year with four Top 25 finishes. He hits the ball 310 yards off the tee and his putting is exceptional. His tee to green game is lacking, but his approach game outside of 200 yards is very good. He also plays well out of the sand which should further help his cause in his first appearance at TPC Scottsdale. He is strong enough to play in cash and GPP formats this week.

Sean O’Hair enjoyed a nice resurgence in his game last season with a handful of top finishes sprinkled throughout the year. His history here is a little spotty, but it has been a few years since he last played here so attention should be low on O’Hair this week. O’Hair has made four of five cuts this season with three Top 30 finishes. The numbers do not point towards anything special, but O’Hair took big strides last season and he has continued to play well into this season. He is strictly a GPP play this week.

James Hahn is not going to remain in this price range all season so take advantage of it while you can. he has not missed a cut in five starts this season and has a Top 10 finish to his credit. He has made the cut at TPC Scottsdale in two of his three starts and finished 16th here in 2013. Hahn is a decent ball striker with a slightly above average tee to green game and an average putter. Hahn’s recent form, experience here and low salary make him a nice GPP option for rosters looking to get 2-3 stars in a lineup.

Good Luck,

-myz

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Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte February 3, 2016 05:44

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