The Daily Spin – DraftKings Daily Fantasy Golf Preview – WGC Bridgestone

Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte June 29, 2016 13:10

The Quicken Loans National came and went and what a weird weekend it was for watching the leaderboard. Obviously, Jeff and I have always been believers in utilizing tournament history in order to help us with making our player selections each week, but last week took it to the extreme as hometown here, Billy Hurley III took home his first ever PGA win after going through a lot of personal drama last year when his father committed suicide in August. I was happy to see Billy win as he is a fellow service academy graduate out of Annapolis, and spent five years in the Navy upon graduation.

If you looked only at statistics last week, you probably missed Hurley completely. While I did take into account his two Top 10 finishes at Congressional, his body of work this season had been so poor that it just did not seem conceivable that he could pull off another result of that caliber. The only reason that Hurley was even in the field was due to an exemption granted to him so the win truly will be a life altering event for him and his family. Another standout was Robert Garrigus last week who finished tied for 8th place. Garrigus can best be described as a journeyman player with talent off the tee, but not much else. He entered the week on streak of four straight made cuts, but his numbers at Congressional were much more eye catching as he had never missed a cut there and only added to his status after another nice finish.

We have probably beaten this point to death over the last few months, but it is worth bringing back up when we have such a telling result from two players that would absolutely not even be considered for a roster unless it was just the right course where they had enjoyed success. You know that the sports books are taking this information into consideration and so does DraftKings with its pricing. Some will make the argument that a part of that is done to force those with knowledge of the course to pay up for course history, but I am fairly convinced that even the odds makers have run the numbers and believe that course history is in fact predictive to a degree.

Our picks started off last week doing pretty well. I was able to sneak 21 of 23 picks through the cut which was great, but unfortunately, as it was an invitational event, most people did pretty well getting players to the weekend so getting six of six on a roster was essential in order to cash in most contests. The two players who missed for us were Tim Wilkinson and Adam Hadwin. Both players started out playing really well and each played a below par round on Thursday. Unfortunately, Friday was a total disaster for Hadwin who was terrible in all phases, most surprisingly with his putter of all things. Wilkinson, on the other hand, could not hit a fairway or a green on Friday, but scrambled magnificently through the first 14 holes and needed to gain back just one stroke on the final four holes (with two being Par 5) to make the cut, but could not manage to find a birdie and missed the cut.

My best pick for the week by far was young, John Rahm, who finished in 3rd place in his professional debut on Tour. Outside of an absolutely ridiculous tee shot on the 13th hole on Saturday, Rahm looked great. In his last 16 starts (which includes his college and PGA events), Rahm has finished in the Top 10 fifteen times and ten of those times in the Top 5. His lone finish outside of the Top 10 came at the US Open where he finished 23rd. It appears that Rahm might be the guy that everyone thought Bryson DeChambeau was supposed to be this year. Has has now qualified for The Open Championship next month so he will definitely be someone we continue to watch, and roster, throughout the summer months.

The rest of the picks were a mixed bag in terms of results. Charles Howell III and Jamie Lovemark were both amazing in stretches last week, but terrible in a few rounds. Patrick Reed made a run for the top of the leaderboard early on Saturday, but then completely staggered to the finish line. Daniel Summerhays and Harold Varner III were both strong core players for us that played beyond their salary and continued their recent hot streak of play. Patrick Reed continued his run of confusing play ad he reached eight under par midway through his round on Saturday and had worked his way into contention only to give it all back the last 27 holes to finish 39th. Robert Garrigu and Webb Simpson were two other nice surprises for us as the smaller buys we had on each of them paid off nicely. Overall, the leaderboard was really scattered with little correlation coming between a higher salary and a higher finish in the tournament. While a lower correlation would not have surprised me, no correlation at all was a little shocking. I certainly did not get wiped out over the weekend, but when you have that many of your players make the cut, you expect better results, even if it was an invitational event.

This week is going to be another strange event for us to work with as the tour heads to lovely, Akron, Ohio for the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. Typically, there would be 70 players in the field for the event, but this week there are only 61. With the Olympics this year and the Ryder Cup in the fall, the schedule on both sides of the Atlantic is a mess and there are several notable players that have opted to play in the French Open this week instead of the WGC as a result. We also must consider the fact that there is no cut this week so no matter how poorly some of these players perform, if they can simply survive four rounds of golf, they will take home a fat paycheck. For us in the DFS world, that means we need to be thinking about strategy again as it changes quite a bit from week to week.

In an event like this one, we have limited flexibility as owners. There are around ten to fifteen players in the field that are simply not worth rostering in any format which leaves a very small pool for us to work from. Since there is no cut, owners are not penalized as severely for taking risks so we have to remember to build that into our mindset when crafting our rosters. For GPP events, you are going to need three to four very strong performers at the top, including the winner to have any sort of chance at a big prize. What makes this event a little tricky is that many of the elite players are tough to read on this course. Jason Day and Dustin Johnson both have really mediocre histories here and several other elite players in the field have also had some ups and downs in Akron. The elite players that have done well here like Rickie Fowler and Jim Furyk come in with a few question marks around their game right now which makes player selection a tougher process. The three keys to victory this week will be:

1) Which 2-3 stars to overweight
2) The 1-2 scrubs to overweight
3) Finding 1-2 players that are somewhat underowned to get into a good portion of your lineups

While these are all areas that we try to focus on each week, for this event you need to be precise. With such a small field, you will not be able to miss in these areas and still make any money where in full field events with a cut, so long as they play the weekend, you can still be okay. Ownership percentage will not be as important this week The winning GPP roster will likely need to contain two or three key players that are on all of the top teams this week so do not get too fixated on finding the lowest owned players at the top. An aggressive strategy is to use those lower owned players in the hopes that they outperform expectations leading you to have many more opportunities to win a big prize when they do well, but overall, this is just a week where you will need to hit the right six players where your whole roster plays well.

The course itself is the South Course at the Firestone Country Club. It is a challenging Par 70 course and plays at around 7,300 yards. Part of the reason that the bombers are not dominant here is that there are only two Par 5 holes on the course, the second and sixteenth holes. The second hole plays at just under 500 yards and will provide some scoring opportunities, but the sixteenth is 667 yards long and is protected on the front portion by a large pond. Nobody will be getting the green in two so Par 5 scoring is really not a huge factor this week. We are looking for players this week who are strong off the tee, but also those who stay out of trouble and can capitalize on the few opportunities that this course presents to score some birdies. The key stats for the week (supplied by Fantasy Golf Metrics):

Strokes Gained Tee to Green: 25%
Strokes Gained Putting: 25%
Strokes Gained-Approach: 20%
Par 4 Scoring: 15%
Birdie or Better Percentage: 7.5%
Birdie or Worse Percentage: 7.5%

This is not a week for getting too crazy with your bankroll. Since you are unlikely to be able to really outmaneuver other owners with any real strategic plays, it all comes down to how you weight your pool of players and the handful at the top and bottom that you choose to emphasize. From an owners perspective, the European event this week is a little more interesting and actually has enough talented players to make it a more enjoyable viewing experience. As there is no event next week with the Greenbrier Classic getting cancelled due to flooding, I recommend taking this week and next to really focus on the European Tour. With The Open Championship just a few weeks away, this will give you a jump start on many of your competitors and should also help you to become familiar with many of the players from Europe that have risen to prominence this season and who will have a chance to contend. David and Pari do an outstanding job for us in providing coverage of the European Tour so even if you just check it out for one month out of the year, this is definitely the month where that little extra investment will pay off in giving you an edge.

Enjoy the event this week. I am anticipating a fun event, but as it is a little less DFS friendly for us, be sure to take that into consideration with contest selection. There really is no difference this week between GPP and cash game strategy so about any type of roster can be in play for each. Normally, a true stars and scrubs roster would be optimal, but given that the highest priced players have not been dominant here, a mixed approach could work of players just below the 10k range through the upper 6k and lower 7k range.

Keep us informed of how your teams are doing this week and enjoy your 4th of July weekend. I will be back with you in two weeks and excited to talk about The Open Championship!

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Well, our run of luck in cash games hit a bump last week and we only finished 1-2 halting our winning streak. Getting five through the cut just was not good enough and Adam Hadwin and Tim Wilkinson each took down one roster. As I mentioned in my column a week ago, the optimal lineup that the model kicked out for us was pretty aggressive. It definitely was not my favorite for cash games which I discussed, but the numbers were there so we did use it as one of our three lineups. As I mentioned earlier, this week does not provide a lot of opportunity to differentiate yourself from others which will make cash games a little trickier than normal. A stars and scrubs approach here is a solid way to play it, although who those stars should be is a little less obvious. In the scrubs range, our goal is to simply find players that get through the weekend and do not go full Bowditch on us and crater for all four rounds.

Jason Dufner – $8,500
Rickie Fowler – $9,000
Russell Knox – $7,500
Brooks Koepka – $9,900
David Lingmerth – $7,600
Kevin Na – $7,300

Daniel Berger – $8,200
Jim Furyk – $9,500
Branden Grace – $9,700
Zach Johnson – $8,300
KT Kim – $6,200
Marc Leishman – $8,100

Jason Dufner – $8,500
Smylie Kaufman – $6,900
Russell Knox – $7,500
Brooks Koepka – $9,900
Matt Kuchar – $9,800
Kevin Na – $7,300

We did not go too high with our star picks this week and only dabbled a small amount in the scrubs range. Most of our rosters are pretty balanced with players from the upper middle ranges leading the way. I really like the way certain players in that range are rounding into form and so I think we can skip the players above 10k this week and still have success at a no cut event for cash games. We are really well rounded in the middle of our rosters with players like Jason Dufner, Rickier Fowler and Zach Johnson among others and each of those guys have always played solid golf here over the years.

I mixed it up a little bit this week and will be giving you the weighting from top to bottom. Without a cut, the strategy changes this week and we are less focused on who we can get through to the weekend and more on who we will overweight or underweight at the top and bottom of the player pool. We need home runs from our contenders a few solid finishes from out middle range of players and no whiffs from our sleeper range players. Position points are no as prominent in scoring this week unless one of your players finishes outside of the Top 50 which will hurt for those eleven players that get no position points at all.

Player Pool

Brooks Koepka – 75% ($9,900)
KT Kim – 60% ($6,200)
Kevin Na – 60% ($7,300)
Branden Grace – 50% ($9,700)
Rickie Fowler – 40% ($9,000)
Jason Dufner – 35% ($8,500)
Russell Knox – 30% ($7,500)
David Lingmerth – 30% ($7,600)
Smylie Kaufman – 30% ($6,900)
Jason Day – 25% ($12,100)
Zach Johnson – 25% ($8,300)
Justin Rose – 20% ($10,200)
Danny Lee – 20% ($7,400)
Matt Kuchar – 15% ($9,800)
Daniel Berger – 15% ($8,200)
Marc Leishman – 15% ($8,100)
Emiliano Grillo – 15% ($7,000)
Charley Hoffman – 15% ($7,100)
Soren Kjeldsen – 10% ($6,700)
Chris Kirk – 10% ($7,000)
William McGirt – 5% ($6,800)

From the top, we start with Brooks Koepka this week. He was a fantasy golf wizard last season and looks to be returning to form here in the middle of this season. He is a big hitter off the tee and can handle himself well on the greens. He is the type who can play very hot and very cold, but the upside is usually worth the risk. He has finished in the Top 15 in his last three starts with back to back second place finishes at the Byron Nelson and St Jude. With his distance off the tee and his strength on longer Par 4 holes, the course sets up well for Brooks. He finished 6th here a year ago and this marked the time last season when his game really took off. It is always a risk to go big on Brooks, but we get some savings here by selecting a player below the 10k level and we know the upside is there.

As I mentioned previously, the next big key this week is going to be to find a couple of players in the lower salary range that can hold up and maybe, just maybe outperform their price. One strategy is to pick a handful to mix and match on rosters. You will hit a few and miss a few and it will temper volatility for your bankroll. If you do not fear the downside risk, you can join me in buying a huge share of KT Kim this week. If you have not seen him before, he is a Korean golfer that plays primarily on the Asian Tour where he went on a six event stretch this season where he won three events and finished no lower than 3rd in any of them. He played in this event twice previously, recording a 24th place finish in 2013 and a 6th place finish in 2012. While he may not replicate his previous performances here, at $6,200 he really does not need to do a lot to earn value at his salary so I think he makes for an amazing play this week which helps to free up salary for the rest of our roster.

Kevin Na is priced really well this week which means I will be putting in a nice sized buy on him. Na has not overwhelmed at this event, but does have back to back Top 25 finishes. His tee to green game is well above average and at a course like this, he will not be punished for being below average on Par 5 holes as he can score on the shorter one and few will be able to score on the longer one. His numbers are elite for on Par 4 holes where he ranks 4th this season in scoring and in his most recent two events on Par 70 courses, he has finished inside the Top 10. We’re not buying this many shares in hopes that he will win, but if he can hang around the Top 20 or 10, if we’re fortunate, it will be a big week for us.

Branden Grace is player exceptional gold this year and his course history should throw off potential owners this week who will see good, but not great results. Like Na, Grace has been fantastic in his last two outings on Par 70 courses, getting a win at The Heritage and finishing in 5th at The US Open. Like Na, he excels from tee to green, putts well and is a master of the Par 4 holes. I think Grace is a top player and that we are getting a small price break while the rest of the world figures it out.

We are really getting aggressive this week and will continue our buying spree of top players with Rickie Fowler who enters this event in miserable form having missed three cuts and finishing 44th last weekend. I am not going to tea him apart too much though. Two of the cuts he missed were at The Players and The US Open. I understand he won at TPC Sawgrass in 2015, but that is a course that can take down any player at any time. The US Open style courses have also given him fits the last two years so I can overlook that as well. What I cannot overlook is a $9,000 salary for one of the best players in the world. Rickie has three Top 10 finishes here in six starts to go along with being ranked 6th in SGTG, 12th in BoB%, 2nd in Par 4 Scoring and 1st in BoW%. Does this sound like a $9,000 player or an $11,000 player? I usually do not try to catch a falling knife, but Rickie is a bargain this week and we will not get many chances to own him in this range. Remember, this is still the same player with seven Top 10 finishes this season. He will turn things around soon. I do not want to wait to buy him until after he has done it.

Jason Dufner has put together a nice season with a win, five Top 10 finishes and only three missed cuts in nineteen starts. He has been heating up lately with two Top 10 finishes in his last three starts and has made his last six cuts since missing at Augusta back in April. Dufner follows our established pattern of excellent tee to green players who stay out of trouble and handle Par 4’s well. He has had success at Firestone with two Top 10 finishes in three starts and his game seems to be rounding into form. Dufner is a Cleveland native so with the recent run of success for Cleveland sports (Miocic winning the UFC title and the Cavs winning the NBA title) we’ll look for a little more magic this week as he plays close to his hometown.

Although Russell Knox has no experience at this event, I have a strong reason to believe that he will play well this week. Knox is solid from tee to green, plays Par 4’s exceptionally well and doesn’t make many bogeys. He does struggle with his putter and is not a distance player, but those factors should be mitigated by the overall difficulty of how the course is set up. Knox can make up for his putting with good proximity play much the same way that Jim Furyk is able to with his game. Knox has played in two WGC events this season, winning the first back in November and finishing in 27th at Doral, a course that did not really fit his game. There is plenty of upside here for his price.

We are going to stay aggressive in our player pool with a good sized buy on David Lingmerth this week. Lingmerth is never the easiest player to project and so you never know exactly which version of him you will get, but this really is a course where he can excel as he did when he finished 6th last year. He has finally put together three solid finishes in a row and looks like he may be getting back into the form that he had last summer if he can keep his putter on track. He should be the type of player that gets overlooked by others this week.

Smylie Kaufman offers us some much needed salary cap relief at $6,900. He played great at his first WGC event in March and finished tied for 8th place. He has had some injury concerns since The Masters, but it appears to be behind him now as he has finished in the Top 20 in two of his last three starts. We need a little salary cap relief here again, but we do not want to sacrifice upside. If he can play his game and not get rattled, he can be a Top 20 player again this week.

I considered fading Jason Day this week, but just could not do it. His history here is nothing special, but he is at a new level this year and I expect him to contend this time around. He does not have many weaknesses in his game as he is a bomber who hits greens ranks as the best putter on tour…and he wins a lot, too. I did not want to go overboard with my buy as his price makes it difficult to overweight him and still find room for others, but I needed to buy him up at least as much as the field since he the most likely of the highest priced players to perform well this week.

Zach Johnson rounds out the group of players that we are focusing on for our biggest purchases this week. Johnson has been a tricky player to track this season with some ups and downs since changing clubs. However, this style of course seems to suit him well and he has finished in the Top 25 here in eight of his last twelve starts. He is balanced across the board statistically and I selected him here not so much because I think he will dominate, but more due to the fact that I just think it is really unlikely that he will disappoint us. His salary is reasonable so this is just a spot where we plan to hold ground, but do have the potential for a better than expected finish.

Justin Rose – Has dealt with some injuries of late, looked good in one of two rounds at Oakmont, finished in the Top 5 in three of his last four starts at Firestone, excellent tee to green player, could be overlooked due to lack of play the last two months

Danny Lee – Very good from tee to green, good on Par 4’s and can score a lot when in rhythm, six Top 25 finishes on the season, finished 6th here a year ago, reasonable price for upside potential

Matt Kuchar – Will be very popular this week, good course history, never finished below 27th in six starts, finished in the Top 10 in four of last five starts and five of last seven, excellent statistically across the board and should do well this week

Daniel Berger – first start at Firestone, statistically strong from tee to green, putting, scoring and Par 4 play, nine Top 25 finishes on the season and a win at St Jude, playing some of the best golf on tour and needs to be on our rosters every week at this price

Marc Leishman – A bit of a placeholder play in this spot, will not necessarily contend, but probably will not disappoint, stats are strong across the board from tee to green, putting, excellent Par 4 play, he does not get a bigger buy due to a lack of Top 10 finishes (only 2) for his price

Emiliano Grillo – saving some salary here on a player that can deliver some upside, putting stats say he is struggling, but is actually very good on bent grass, he is accurate off the tee and stays out of trouble, not expecting much, but he has the ability to surprise us here

Charley Hoffman – salary makes him a good deal this week, getting a very good tee to green player for a low price, has never been outstanding or awful at this event, but is having a very good year overall that includes a win and six Top 25 finishes

Soren Kjeldsen – 12th place here a year ago, three Top 10 finishes on the season, including one at The Masters, utilized here for some additional salary cap relief and has shown the ability to perform well in these stacked fields

Chris Kirk – A boom or bust type of player this year, either Top 25 or missing the cut over the last few months, stats are skewed on the season as he really only found his form beginning this spring after recovering from a wrist injury, without a cut, there is not a lot of downside risk for rostering Kirk although it seems unlikely that he can deliver a big finish

William McGirt – no previous experience on this course, incredibly sound statistically this sesaon, 37th SGTG, 27th SGP, 34th SG-App, 14th in Par 4 scoring, and 57th in BoB%, a lot to like for $6,800 but nervous about how he’ll handle this course for the first time and most of his numbers were racked up against weaker fields (except for his win at the Memorial)

Good Luck,

-myz
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Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte June 29, 2016 13:10

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