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

Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte March 9, 2016 06:46

The race to the FedEx Cup Championship is on and Adam Scott is sprinting out in front of the field. A year ago at this time, Scott had just come off of a solid, 4th place finish at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and went through a stretch of six events where he missed two cuts and finished no higher than 35th. He enjoyed a resurgence during the US Open and The Open Championship, but then trailed off to end the season and made it no further than The Barclays. He ended the season without any victories and had only three Top 10 finishes. A year later, it appears that Scott has not only put his putting issues behind him, but has actually turned it into a weapon in his game. With two consecutive wins following a 2nd place finish prior to that, Scott is on an incredible run and looks to be on the verge of a historic season.

The WGC at Doral gave us another exciting event with a tremendous finish on Sunday afternoon. When Rory McIlroy raced ahead by four strokes after the first few holes of the final round, it looked as if he would be able to slam the door on his closest competitors, but once again, for the second time in three weeks, McIlroy faltered on Sunday and really did not give himself many opportunities to score throughout the day, leaving just enough daylight for Adam Scott and Bubba Watson to storm back and knock him from the lead. It has been interesting to see Rory play like this and it is something to be monitored throughout the season as he usually has much more of a killer instinct and tends to lap the field when he opens up a big lead.

Fortunately, for us, Rory’s struggles allowed a few of our top picks to emerge and challenge for the title. Adam Scott, our top pick last week, went surprisingly underowned in the vast majority of GPPs for the week and came in at just 8% for the big promotional $300 GPP. It was a case of recency bias, but in reverse of how we usually think about it. Typically, people react to a missed cut by staying away from that player the following week even when the numbers are telling them to buy. However, a more interesting trend in the last year revolves around staying away from a player that won the prior week.

Owners have the idea that since a player won the previous week that they will lack the focus they need the following week. While I have not run full scale regressions on this, I would contend that a player winning the previous week will have almost no correlation with how well they finish the following week. I would further say that in the case of the truly elite players like Adam Scott, there is even less of a reason to think that a win would hinder his performance at his next event. The same thing can be said for Bubba Watson who entered the week off of a win in his last event at Riviera.

Both Watson and Scott finished in the Top 5 at Doral in the previous year and both statistically checked out well for the course again this year. Each has played well this season and have won events and yet, somehow, people assume they will either be less motivated at the next event, or falsely believe that a previous result can somehow influence the next event. The geniuses in Las Vegas who invented the electronic sign that tracks the numbers on the roulette wheel have taken advantage of gamblers like this for years…. ‘looks like red has hit 7 times in a row, we sure better get our money down on black….it’s due!!!’ Do not let yourself fall into the simple trap. Just look at the win as a positive for that player’s current form and see if his numbers check out at the next event. Scott was a solid play last week, but his win the week prior probably took his ownership levels down by a good 5%.

As for the rest of our picks, we started with a band by having the winner, Bubba as the runner up and Danny Willett in 3rd. That is not too bad of a way to open things up. If you rostered one or two of those players, you probably made some money for those rosters. Unfortunately, we were not quite as fortunate with some of our other picks. JB Holmes and Patrick Reed were big disappointments as both projected out really well with Holmes looking like one of the best form and history plays on the board and Reed looked like a good bounce back contrarian play at an event he had won just two years prior. Henrik Stenson and Matt Kuchar both started strong in the first round before falling off on Day 2 and 3 respectively. The sleeper plays were not terrible as Daniel Berger played above his price, Ross Fisher was average, Shane Lowry fell off as the weekend wore on and Scott Hend was our one real land mine as after 27 holes where he was just a shot over par, he disintegrated over the last 45 holes and ended up near the bottom of the standings.

Hopefully, most of you heeded my advice and did not play cash games or played very little. The optimal lineup took a loss for the week, which was unfortunate as Danny Willett did his best to make us some money. Had just one other player stepped up with a reasonable effort, the lineup would have cashed, but those are the breaks with events where there is no cut. As a general rule, if you have not learned your lesson yet, generally, cash games are generally less profitable and should be limited for events where there is no cut.

This week, we head to another challenging course at Innisbrook Resort, better known as Copperhead. The last three holes are known as ‘The Snake Pit’ which is line with most of the other house of horror type finishes at Florida courses. The course will play at just over 7,300 yards this week and is a Par 71, but a bit unusual in that there are four Par 5 and five Par 3 holes. The normal stats showed up this week in terms of what to look for, but with a little extra emphasis on either staying out of or getting out of trouble. By the numbers, here is how our friends at Fantasy Golf Metrics broke it down for us:

Birdie or Better % – 25%
Strokes Gained Putting – 25%
Strokes Gained Tee to Green – 20%
Scrambling – 10%
Proximity – 10%
Driving Accuracy – 10%

Before getting to the picks, I want to talk a little bit about strategy for the week as this appears to be shaping up similarly to several of the other tough courses that were recently completed. What we have seen so far this season has been a real bloodbath in terms of trying to get six golfers through the cut and into the weekend. I anticipate this trend continuing through this event and over the next few weeks leading up to The Masters. Once The Masters salaries hit a couple of weeks before the tournament, the prices will be soft again allowing for novices to stack their lineups full of chalky plays to make the weekend enjoyable for casual fans. Until then, expect the pricing to be a challenge.

My strategy for the week, even before getting to the optimal lineup will be to focus on players that can make the cut. This sounds so easy and yet it has proven to be an enormous challenge this season. Getting five of six players through the cut is now enough to win in cash games almost every week and with the right four players on a roster even those teams have a better shot than they did a years ago. In a week like this, it is really important to evaluate the composition of the field when making lineup choices. At the top, the defending champion is right there for the picking in Jordan Spieth, but his price will make it tough to build a roster with other reliable players. Working through the others above $10,000 there are certainly some strong players, but none that shout out as an overwhelming play for the week.

The middle range from $8,000-10,000 is where there is a lot of value this week again. None of these players look like they will run away with the tournament, but most have strong recent form and solid course history to back them entering the event. Since I am not really certain about who will emerge from the top, I want to construct most of my lineups around players in this upper middle category with the goals being to get four to six of these players onto every one of my rosters for the week. Once you get down to around the $7,500 range and below, there just are not many standout plays that either look way underpriced or who have a high degree of certainty of outplaying their price.

Much like The Northern Trust Open a few weeks back, it makes a lot of sense to once again drop down as low as you can when building your GPP rosters for your last one or two roster spots. When players at $5,900 have about the same chance of making the cut as some players around $7,000, you are not taking on much additional risk to just drop down in salary and pad your rosters at the top. For cash games, I probably will not take much additional risk at all. More than likely, I will stick right in the middle range and just try to squeeze out as much value as possible. Last week, outside of Danny Willett, I really was not sold on the value players being able to contend for the title, which proved to be correct. In weeks like that, you need to pay up to get upside based on how the event typically plays out. At Copperhead, we have a course that is not dominated by the top players in the game. Outside of Jordan Spieth last year, most of the winners here are middle of the road type of players. In weeks like this, we just want to give ourselves as many opportunities as possible among potential contenders. In summary, we want to be very balanced overall for cash games and for GPPs, we want a stars and super scrubs type of approach to get the most out of how the players are priced this week.

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And now for the moment you have all been waiting for — the unveiling of the Optimal Lineup for the week:

Matt Kuchar – $9,800
Ryan Moore – $9,300
Kevin Streelman – $8,200
Danny Lee – $8,000
Sean O’Hair – $7,800
Martin Laird – $6,900

This is what the model popped out for us this week and it is a reasonable starting point. At the top, Matt Kuchar tends to be Mr. Consistent and makes a lot of cuts, including his last five here. Ryan Moore is playing very well this season and has a number of top finishes along with a 5th place finish here a year ago. Kevin Streelman won this event just a few years ago and has three Top 20 finishes in his last four starts. Danny Lee plays his best golf against softer fields and finished 7th here last year and has only missed one cut this year (CIMB was a WD, not a MC as noted on DK). Sean O’Hair has been playing well as of late having missed just two cuts this season and finishing 2nd here a year ago. Perhaps the least flashy name of the bunch is Martin Laird. He’s missed just two cuts this season and has made four of five cuts here so he tends to get the job done. Overall, it is not the most exciting looking team, but it looks like it will be competitive this week and there should be a good chance that five of six players will make the cut.

If the Optimal Lineup is your starting point, a couple of pivot plays for other cash game plays this week would be to drop down from Kuchar, Moore, or both and work back towards the middle. Other players that work well in this range as potential cash game options for me will be:

Harris English – $9,600
Jason Dufner – $9,400
Graeme McDowell – $9,200
Webb Simposn – $8,900
Ryan Palmer – $8,600
Luke Donald – $8,300
Freddie Jacobson – $8,100
Charles Howell III – $7,900

I get lineup e-mail questions every week about players for cash games. If you stick to this range of players, you should greatly be able to increase your chances for success this week. It does not make a lot of sense to jump up to grab a player like Spieth or Stenson given the questionable talent from around $6000-7800. There will be a few players down here that jump up and do well, but it will be tough to pin them down with a high degree of certainty.

BLUE CHIPS

Jordan Spieth ($12,800)
Henrik Stenson ($11,500)
Matt Kuchar ($9,800)
Harris English ($9,600)

Jordan Spieth is probably too expensive to be on more than one or two of my cheaper GPP teams for the week. At his price, he needs to be in the Top 3 to make him worth the price. While this was an event that he won a year ago, it is never easy to finish near the top and so for the most part, fading the more expensive players in events like this tends to make the most sense. Obviously, Spieth has a solid tee to green game and putter and will make a lot of birdies on a course that fits his game well. His season was off to a somewhat similar start last year before he won this event and went on a roll so a small buy here seems reasonable as the tour heads to a stretch of courses that should start to favor his style of play.

Henrik Stenson played well in three of his four rounds last weekend and probably would have finished in the Top 10 were it not for the one rough round. Stenson is a ball striking wizard and while he does not win a lot of events in the U.S., he is a prolific Top 10 machine and tends to stay out of trouble due to his accuracy and scrambling ability. He is an expensive option this week, but given his placement between Spieth (the top player in the world) and Danny Willett, who will be popular after his big finish a week ago, Stenson should not be over owned this week and he has plenty of upside for GPP lineups.

Matt Kuchar was a bit of a letdown for us last week with a 28th place finish, but was really only one bad round away from a Top 10 finish, much like Stenson. Kuchar will not win many events anymore, but he is dependable to make the cut and can almost always compete for a Top 25 finish, which given the recent volatile environment, has a lot more meaning than even just a year ago. Kuchar is not long off the tee, but he is reasonably accurate, has a good tee to green game, putts very well and can score a lot of birdies. He is worth mixing into both cash game and GPP lineups.

Harris English has moved up from being a pure cut maker a year ago to a cut maker with upside after two Top 10 finishes in his last three starts. Given that he has also finished in the Top 10 in two of his last three starts at Copperhead, it looks like the stars will be in alignment to make English a popular pick for the week. His tee to green game and putting make him a good option on most courses. He is not a standout in any other category statistically, but he does not miss many cuts and is priced in a way so that you can still fit another player or two from his range on your roster and still have your options open. I like him more for cash games this week, but there is enough upside potential to use him for tournaments as well.

TOP TIER VALUE

Jason Dufner ($9,400)
Ryan Moore ($9,300)
Graeme McDowell ($9,200)
Webb Simpson ($8,900)
Ryan Palmer ($8,600)
Gary Woodland ($8,400)

The buzz on various podcasts this week is that since this is Jason Dufner’s sixth event in a row that he will be tired and not play as well. This is more statistical nonsense. There is no correlation between the number of weeks in a row that a golfer has played and his level of success. Obviously, it is nice if a player is feeling fully rested, but these guys are professionals and a player like Dufner should have a better feel than most for how much additional rest he needs during the season. It is also telling that Dufner chose to play this week. He has made seven straight cuts here and all finishes were in the Top 30. My guess is that he likes the course so I am not going to shy away from him in cash games. However, I think the right play might be to limit your shares of Dufner for GPP events as I suspect he will be one of the higher owned players given his course history and 11th place finish last weekend.

Ryan Moore tends to burn me when I write him up so I go into this having to get over my anguish from his implosion just a few weeks ago, marking the only cut he has missed this season to go along with four Top 11 finishes. Moore is an accurate player off the tee, plays well from tee to green and can putt. His scrambling and scoring abilities are well above average compared to this field and he did take 5th place here a year ago. He has missed a few cuts here over the years so we have that hanging over our heads with the Optimal Lineup, but I am comfortable enough with his game to take my chances.

Graeme McDowell is a sneaky play for us this week. His lack of tournament history here provides us with a golden opportunity to be in on him without having the rest of the field chasing us. Although people give tournament history a small weighting in most models, the truth is that it is usually the deciding factor for people on the fence about lineup decisions. McDowell did well with a 5th place finish at the Honda two weeks ago, and had a respectable 28th place finish at Doral last week so he will not attract too much attention this week. McDowell is very accurate off the tee and has played great from tee to green this year, although his putter has not been as good as previous seasons. In terms of proximity (9th), scrambling (10th) and birdie or better percentage (33rd), McDowell hits most of the high points here statistically. His low levels of ownership will make him a perfect GPP play and given his recent success, I am comfortable using him in cash games as well.

Webb Simpson is a little bit of a mystery this week. After a sudden withdrawal a couple of weeks ago (for undisclosed reasons), Twitter was buzzing this week to try to determine what had happened. The result…no news on why Simpson was out two weeks ago. Apparently, there are no health issues, but in golf, you just never know for certain. As is the case almost every week, Simpson is a statistical giant here in all categories except….putting….no surprise there. With four Top 20 finishes in his last five starts here and three straight Top 20 finishes this season, Webb looks like another player for whom the stars are aligning. Given that he has been out a few weeks, people will have forgotten him a bit, but he is still a recommended cash game and GPP play for the week.

Ryan Palmer is usually a popular pick each week although he lacks the super strong tournament history here to attract too much attention. Palmer is another golfer with an amazing tee to green game who has yet to find his putting stroke this season. Fortunately, Palmer is priced for value this week so all we are looking for here is to have Palmer make the cut and put himself in the mix at various points on Sunday. He has played here only two times in the last six years, making the cut each time, but without a substantial finish. Palmer makes for a great cash game play, but be is a little short on upside this week to use much for GPPs.

I thought I would be one of the few to mention Gary Woodland this week, but have already been proven wrong by several podcasts. Woodland is in form this season and has yet to miss a cut. Although this is not a bomber’s course, Woodland did win here several years back and had another Top 10 finish two years ago. His tee to green game should give him a chance (12th), but this is more of a form play than anything else. I would be okay with using Woodland in cash games this week, but I would much prefer to use him for GPP instead.

VALUE PLAYS

Kevin Streelman ($8,200)
Freddie Jacobson ($8,100)
Danny Lee ($8,000)
Charles Howell III ($7,900)
Sean O’Hair ($7,800)
Patton Kizzire ($7,600)

Kevin Streelman is accurate off the tee and hits a lot of greens which has helped in making him one of the best tee to green players on tour so far this season. His proximity play and birdie making ability put him high up in our statistical ranks this week and he is also one of the best in Par 3 scoring which is nice considering the extra Par 3 hole this week. Streelman won this event four years ago and has made the cut here in four straight starts. In terms of his current form, Streelman has also finished in the Top 20 in three of his past four events. Streelman is usable in cash games and GPP events this week.

Although I have a big bet in against Freddie this season versus Roger Casey, I still believe that this could be a decent event for him this week. He has made the cut in both starts at Copperhead and is playing reasonably well this season. He is the rare player that I recommend with a lousy tee to green game. It is all scrambling and putting for Freddie, but another bonus is that he is ranked 3rd in Par 3 scoring, so a little added bonus there. I like Freddie primarily for cash games as I think his upside is limited this week.

Danny Lee is a great value this week at $8,000. He tends to really show up in events where the field is week so it is a perfect spot for him to take off. His stats are not quite what they were last season, but I think a lot of that can be attributed to the types of courses that are on the early part of the PGA season. Lee is accurate off the tee and has solid tee to green numbers, but his proximity play has not been what it was a year ago. I think this is a good chance to rebound as Lee finished 7th here a year ago which helped to launch the rest of his season.

After a week off, Charles Howell III is back this week and although he missed the cut at the Honda by one stroke, I am not going to hold a grudge for long as weather conditions hurt a number of players. He has missed just two cuts in his last ten starts at Copperhead and notched four Top 20 finishes along the way. His resurgent putter has been the story thus far for Howell this season as he is rarely the type of player who is able to use it as a weapon. He is also very consistent from week to week having missed only one cut all season. I like CHIII primarily for cash games given the fact that he will be more popular than others in his salary range.

Sean O’Hair looked washed up just a few years ago. Last season, however, something clicked for O’Hair and since then, his game has become much more consistent. He does most of the damage with his putter and is a good scrambler to help work his way out of trouble. He has missed just two cuts this season and tends to finish near the Top 25 when he does get through to the weekend so plenty of upside for a player who has won here before and finished 2nd a year ago. I am more comfortable with him as a GPP play (even if the Optimal suggests him), but you could use him in cash games as well.

Quietly, Patton Kizzire is having a nice rookie season. After starting with two Top 10 finishes, he struggled a bit in missing two cuts, but since then, he has reeled off five straight made cuts in a row and at some fairly challenging events. I do worry about him being wild off the tee, but his overall tee to green game is good and he is currently ranked 10th in strokes gained putting. He scores plenty of birdies and has some upside for his price. He is more of a GPP play this week as there just are not a lot of great players available in this price range.

SLEEPERS

Andrew Loupe ($6,900)
Martin Laird ($6,900)
Jeff Overton ($6,900)
Nick Taylor ($6,700)

Andrew Loupe is one of the hottest young players on tour right now having recorded three Top 10 finishes early on this season. He is an incredible athlete and has found his form in recent weeks in making five straight cuts. He is long off the tee, but wild. His tee to green game is just a little above average, but his putter makes him dangerous on the greens. Overall, he is not a perfect statistical fit for the course, but when you combine his numbers with his form, you get a nice sleeper pick for GPPs as he has some upside potential.

Martin Laird makes an appearance this week just to agitate a few folks who read my column and hate him. He is not the most exciting player, but sometimes having a player that can just get through a cut at an affordable price is plenty to get excited about. Laird’s numbers are pretty balanced this year as he is an okay tee to green player, decent putter and a little above average in proximity, scrambling and birdie or better percentage. it is a formula that has helped him to make four of five cuts at Copperhead and and seven of nine cuts on the season. Laird is mostly a GPP play even though he did rank highly enough to make the Optimal Lineup this week.

I am hoping that Jeff Overton gets overlooked this week. I tried to find sleepers that were not going to attract too much attention. Given that there are players like Will Wilcox and Patrick Rodgers right in that range, I wanted to find a couple of GPP plays that would help to make our lineups distinct. Overton is having a nice season so far. he missed two cuts to open the season, but has not missed another since then (WD at NTO due to injury). He also has a lot of experience at Copperhead where he has made the cut in five of seven starts (one WD and one MC). He is a form and course history play as his stats do nothing to up his stock this week, but I do suspect he will be a nice GPP option with low ownership.

Finally, Nick Taylor rounds out our sleeper selections for the week. He should be another player in this range that is not widely owned, but who has played well this season in making seven of ten cuts with a few Top 25 finishes. Taylor finished 24th here last year in his first start at Copperhead and enters the event having made his last three cuts. Like a couple of our other picks down here, Taylor makes his money with his putter and his decent ability to scramble. He probably does not have the upside of a couple of the other players in this range, but I like that he has been making cuts and I will use him on a few GPP teams this week for salary cap relief.

Before I leave you, I also want to mention that there are a few players below $6,000 worth taking a look at this week for owners who want to take a stars and super scrubs approach this week. None of them are brilliant standouts so I am not going to get into their mediocre to poor stats, but the are capable of making a cut for a GPP team. Use these deep value plays to really take a shot at stacking up talent at the top of your GPP lineups.

Hudson Swafford – $5,900
Spencer Levin – $5,900
Bronson Burgoon – $5,900
Mark Hubbard – $5,700

Good Luck,

-myz
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Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte March 9, 2016 06:46

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