PGA DFS Strategy and 2018 Preview
I’ve played PGA DFS for about two years now and have been quite successful. My aim each week is to double up in cash games, and hopefully the guys I select in my main lineup will all absolutely crush. Unfortunately, this is a salary based game and as with any other DFS sport, you can’t pick all the studs. What you can do is identify which players may be too cheap for the outcome you expect out of them given a variety of statistical metrics, and sometimes just a hunch. Each week the lineup build might differ, and each week the strength of the field likely will differ.
For starters, I take a look at recent form, but not just in terms of results, measured by finishing position. I prefer to look at “Strokes Gained” statistics, which measure where a player is doing well, and what parts of his game are getting him to those positive results, holding him back from performing better, or are the root cause of some poor results. I do this mainly because every course is different, and I want to see players doing well what the course requires the players to do well. Some courses are more forgiving around the greens, and some are best attacked with length off the tee. Also, putting is a noisy statistic. This makes sense when you consider what putting statistics measure. They do not see by how much a player misses a putt, but rather that the player missed the putt. It could be by a foot, or a few inches. On the other hand, nailing a putt prevents a whole separate stroke from being taken. Some players do well some weeks simply because of a hot putter, even when that player isn’t known for strong putting. These are the type of players I love to fade – the “results” suggest strong form, but the stats suggest a bit of luck.
I also like to look at course history. If a player has played well at a particular course before, there’s a good chance that that player fits well statistically, he may have an affinity for the course, and maybe you can overlook recent form a bit, hoping he gets a strong performance where he’s done so before. A prime example of this is Zach Johnson at The John Deere Classic. Last year, ZJ was in middling form heading in to the tournament, leading some to question whether he would be worth a high price tag. From a course history perspective, ZJ absolutely dominates that tournament. He finished tied for 5th, and was one of the best stud plays of the week.
Ideally, I find a player with great recent form and great course history, who is for some reason priced too low on one or both sites. As you may expect, it’s not always that easy. In fact, it’s almost never that easy.
PGA DFS requires us to deal with a four-day tournament, and there is usually a cut after the second round. This means that only golfers T70 or better will advance to the third and fourth rounds. Sometimes if there are over 78 golfers making the cut, there will be another cut after the third round, and your golfer will receive an MDF if he is cut at this stage. Golfers receive points for a variety of things, but I try to shoot for solid finishing position rather than any sort of “points/$” or raw points number. Additionally, a made cut and poor finish is much better than a missed cut. You’d rather have your guy out there making pars than having him on a flight home.
For “Weekend Only” formats, things are a little different. I like to look at golfers who played better in Round 2 than Round 1. I’d rather pick a guy trending up than trending down heading into the weekend rounds. Also, sometimes I can check in-tournament stats, so if I see a guy putting well the first two rounds who usually does not, I’ll probably fade him on the weekend. Players who also have solid course history or form tend to stick out to me too, since I figure they might have a better chance of getting to that strong result they’ve shown before. I tend to avoid Weekend Only due to poor contest offerings and the lack of an edge the cut provides, but I’ll give some picks each week anyway.
For a preview of what my content will look like, check out my twitter @mandrews93DFS and follow my youtube link. Those videos break down my process week to week.
Everyone knows Tiger Woods and what he has brought to the game of golf. The man who used to be revered as a model of competitive spirit, diversity, and pure mastery of golf has become divisive in the last decade, and largely remained out of the golf spotlight. That will end this season. Tiger is back, and while we can’t expect him to enter too many tournaments, I do expect him to pick his spots. He’s already committed to play the Farmers in late January at Torrey Pines, where he’s absolutely dominated. He also put in a very strong four rounds competing with the world’s best in the Bahamas a few weeks ago. I hope he stays healthy and we see him return to form, but I’m keeping my expectations tempered. All in all, I don’t think it’s a bold call to say Tiger gets a win this season with the performance we saw him put in already, and I wouldn’t be shocked if it came a month from now at Torrey Pines.
- Breakthrough Players
Last year we saw a few breakout seasons coming from a variety of different players. Pat Perez isn’t a young player, but he had by far his best season ever and was a strong player on Tour from start to finish. Xander Schauffele was a Web.com Tour graduate who struggled his first couple of months in the big show, but found form just before the US Open. X never looked back, picking up a T5 there along with wins at The Greenbrier and The TOUR Championship, ultimately propelling him to a 3rd place finish in the FedEx Cup Standings. Tony Finau also had a very strong season, rounding out the rougher patches in his game and turning into a steady performer.
This year, I have my eye on a few guys I think could break out. First is Austin Cook, who some might say already broke out with his first Tour win at the RSM a month ago. I think it takes more than just one win to have a breakout season though, and I expect Cook to be a solid competitor during his rookie season much like Schauffele was last year. Second is Chesson Hadley, a good friend of many players on Tour who just hasn’t been able to make a real breakthrough himself over the past few years. Hadley played some great golf in one of the best runs of his career to close out the 2017 season after earning back his PGA Tour card, and I expect his form to continue now that he’s back. Third, and the player I’m most excited for this season, is Patrick Cantlay. Only 25 years old, Cantlay was a college standout in 2011 during his freshman season at UCLA and he became entrenched as the world’s top ranked amateur golfer. Unfortunately, a lingering back injury and the hit-and-run death of his caddie led to Cantlay missing out on professional golf for most of the last few seasons besides ten medical exemption starts last season. He made the most of those, and like Cook, came through with a win during the recent fall swing. I expect Cantlay to have a big year given the sheer quality and grit he’s shown, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he came up with multiple wins.
- First Time Major Winners?
This is always a tough call, since some first timers are guys who have been knocking on the door. If Rickie Fowler or Hideki Matsuyama won a major this year, nobody would be surprised at all. These guys are usually around 20/1 or less to win majors – their times will likely come. Other guys like Webb Simpson, Lucas Glover, and Keegan Bradley have won majors virtually out of nowhere. I’m going with Justin Rose to win The Masters. It might feel cheap given his narrow loss to Sergio Garcia in a playoff last year and strong Masters record, but I can’t go against him right now. I wish The Masters was this weekend and these stats would prove more relevant, but nonetheless, Rose is scorching hot right now. In his last ten tournaments, guess how many top 10’s he has? If you guess a number less than ten, you are wrong. In those ten tournaments, he has not one, not two, but three wins. If this form continues into The Masters, I think he takes home the coveted Green Jacket. Am I picking another? Yes…but I can’t decide between these two young Brits. Tommy Fleetwood was fancied by some to win last year’s Open Championship (The British Open) because the tournament was played at his “home course” but I just didn’t think he could get it done. He set the course record just this past year at Carnoustie, where this year’s Open will be held, and that performance means more to me than a hometown narrative. Add in that he won the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, and I think he’s rounded into that all around player who can win a major. My other pick for The Open is Tyrrell Hatton, who won the event in which Fleetwood set the Carnoustie record. Hatton’s always been a great putter and a great links player, which bodes well for Carnoustie if the weather gets rough. He’s also a notoriously streaky player, missing 6 of 7 cuts before going on a recent streak of results including 8 straight top 20’s with back to back wins mixed in. Fleetwood and Hatton both have the game to win a major, and I think one of the two could get it done this year. I’d pick a third Brit, Matthew Fitzpatrick, for The Masters, but Rose is too hot to go against right now.
I hate picking a “disappointment” because I like seeing the best players consistently compete at their highest levels. That said, I feel like Adam Scott has lost his touch. After a somewhat rough season last year, he hasn’t shown anything recently to make me think that he will turn it around.
- Early Major Picks
The Masters – Justin Rose
US Open – Rory McIlroy
Open Championship – Tommy Fleetwood
PGA Championship – Dustin Johnson