Welcome back to Golf News Net’s weekly fantasy golf picks. Each week of the PGA Tour season, we’ll present our top picks for that week’s tournament and make recommendations for DraftKings’ one-week fantasy leagues.
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We keep getting blindsided by random winners at PGA Tour events. There’s no way anyone saw James Hahn winning or Roberto Castro getting into the playoff at Quail Hollow. However, golf has been wacky in 2016, and that’s the new normal.
We take all of this drama to The Players Championship, which has a penchant for creating fascinating, bizarre, compelling finishes. The best in the world are in the field — perhaps golf’s deepest — with the game’s biggest purse.
For GNN Plus subscribers, you can access our NEW searchable database of PGA Tour results from 2011-present, our top-15 finish chart and season-long trends on DraftKings valuations. They’ll be available at your disposal as part of a growing set of tools to help in your research. Going forward, GNN Plus subscribers will also get access to the last five years of leaderboards for an event, namely the top 15 and ties from 2011-2015, the data that we use to define our horses for courses each week.
Now, on to the picks!
1. Rory McIlroy — Been in the top eight here in the last three years. He’s figured out how to play his game here, and he made another Sunday charge to get in the winning spirit at Quail Hollow.
2. Sergio Garcia — Most weeks, it’s hard to tell you Sergio Garcia will win. Just too much scar tissue. But Garcia’s 2008 Players win seems to shelter him. He’s a top-15 staple here and has been in the thick of it two of the last three years.
3. Jason Day — We love Day here for a few reasons. He’s the No. 1 player in the world. He tears up Pete Dye golf courses. We don’t absolutely love Day because he’s missed the cut here half the time the last four starts.
4. Jordan Spieth — Spieth nearly won the Masters without his best stuff. That’s remarkable — more so than what happened on No. 12. However, if Spieth hits greens at Sawgrass the same clip as Augusta National, he could very well miss the cut.
5. Hideki Matsuyama — Sawgrass is a ballstriker’s paradise. Placement is key. That’s why Matsuyama is a gem for this course. He’s just so silky smooth from tee to green.
6. Rickie Fowler — The defending champion has let his last two chances to win slip through the cracks. He’s playing great golf. Just remember, however, that it took the best six holes of his life just to get in a playoff.
7. Justin Rose — Rose couldn’t buy a putt to save his life last week at Quail Hollow. Otherwise, he might have won in a runaway. He’s a risk here, however, because he’s missed the cut in two of the last three years.
8. Henrik Stenson — Stenson missed his first PGA Tour cut in two-plus years last week at Quail Hollow. That said, the 2009 winner has been in the top 17 here in three of his last four Players starts.
9. Chris Kirk — He’s been in 13th here the last two Players, and he was T-5 in NOLA, which is another Pete Dye track. He’s getting his game together.
10. Zach Johnson — Z.J. hasn’t sniffed a win this year, but he’s a steady player week-to-week and he’s got three top-15s here in the last five years. His game lines up with what you must do to succeed at Sawgrass.
My DraftKings team for this week:
1. Rory McIlroy – $11,700
2. Sergio Garcia – $9,900
3. Chris Kirk – $7,800
4. Luke Donald – $6,900
5. Daniel Summerhays – $6,600
6. Harold Varner III – $6,400
If you want to win at DraftKings daily fantasy golf, you have to figure out a way to find six golfers that play all 72 holes and earn roughly 85 points each.
You likely have to identify a couple of players in the top five, at least the top seven, and you’d ideally not have a player finish outside the top 20.
Doing that takes research, looking at a variety of factors, including:
- Finish trends, both in recent weeks on the PGA Tour and at that week’s event,
- Salary trends, deciphering which players are showing value based on their performance, and
- Statistical trends, identifying the common threads among winners in that week’s event
That’s what Golf News Net will deliver each week to GNN Plus members in this space, offering a complete research package which dives into these three areas to find the players that should be in your lineup for this week.
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We start by looking at the recent past, back at players who have finished inside the top 15 in the last five PGA Tour events — not their last five starts. Here are the players in this week’s field with the most top-15 finishes in the last five PGA Tour events:
- Branden Grace – 2 – WIN RBC Heritage, T-9 Valero Texas Open
- Brendan Steele – 2 – T-13 Valero Texas Open, T-14 Wells Fargo Championship
- Bryce Molder – 2 – T-6 RBC Heritage, T-8 Zurich Classic of New Orleans
- Chad Collins – 2 – 3rd Valero Texas Open, T-15 Zurich Classic of New Orleans
- Charley Hoffman – 3 – T-14 RBC Heritage, WIN Valero Texas Open, T-11 Zurich Classic of New Orleans
- Chris Kirk – 2 – T-13 Valero Texas Open, T-5 Zurich Classic of New Orleans
- Daniel Summerhays – 2 – T-13 Valero Texas Open, T-14 Wells Fargo Championship
- Harold Varner III – 2 – T-9 Valero Texas Open, T-8 Zurich Classic of New Orleans
- Hideki Matsuyama – 2 – T-7 Masters, T-11 Wells Fargo Championship
- J.B. Holmes – 2 – 4th Masters, T-13 Valero Texas Open
- Jason Day – 2 – T-10 Masters, T-5 Zurich Classic of New Orleans
- Justin Rose – 2 – T-10 Masters, 3rd Wells Fargo Championship
- Kevin Chappell – 2 – T-9 RBC Heritage, T-4 Valero Texas Open
- Luke Donald – 2 – 2nd RBC Heritage, T-13 Valero Texas Open
- Patton Kizzire – 2 – T-14 RBC Heritage, T-8 Zurich Classic of New Orleans
- Ricky Barnes – 2 – T-9 RBC Heritage, T-4 Valero Texas Open
- Rory McIlroy – 2 – T-10 Masters, T-4 Wells Fargo Championship
We’re also interested in the players in the field that have finished in the top 15 at The Players Championship multiple times in the last five years:
- Sergio Garcia – 4 (2011, 2013-15)
- Rory McIlroy – 3 (2013-15)
- Zach Johnson – 3 (2011-12, ’15)
- Brendon de Jonge – 2 (2012, ’13)
- Chris Kirk – 2 (2014, ’15)
- Henrik Stenson – 2 (2012, ’13)
- Jimmy Walker – 2 (2013, ’14)
- K.J. Choi – 2 (2011, ’14)
- Kevin Na – 2 (2012, ’15)
- Luke Donald – 2 (2011, ’12)
- Martin Kaymer – 2 (2012, ’14)
- Martin Laird – 2 (2012, ’13)
- Rickie Fowler – 2 (2012, ’15)
Ideally, we want to find players who are both playing well now and have a history of playing well at the Stadium Course. Our guys this week: Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Chris Kirk.
DraftKings salaries change from week to week, depending on field strength and size, as well a player’s recent record and their history on a course. It’s in looking at how a salary changes over time that we might get some clues as to players that could be a little overrated or underrated.
Here’s the list of players in the field playing over their average salary this season (we typically do $1,000 over, but the values are very low this week):
- Billy Horschel
- Danny Willett
- Chris Kirk
- Kiradech Aphibarnrat
- Sergio Garcia
- Chad Collins
- Bernhard Langer
Here are players with multiple top 15 finishes in their last five events that are playing $600 below their average salary for the season:
- Branden Grace
- Brendan Steele
- Bryce Molder
- Daniel Summerhays
- Hideki Matsuyama
- J.B. Holmes
- Jason Day
- Luke Donald
- Patton Kizzire
- Ricky Barnes
- Rory McIlroy
If you want to win at Sawgrass, you’ve got to place the ball pretty much where Pete Dye wants, both off the tee and from the fairway. The targets are small. Missing them leads to a big penalty. So, hitting greens in regulation is key. More specifically, scoring from 150-175 yards is crucial, so that’s what we look at this week. As a bonus stat, we put approach distance from the hole from 100-125 yards, keeping in mind that 20 feet separates the top and bottom of the PGA Tour, or a little more than an inch between players.
2. Bernd Wiesberger (T-18)
5. Phil Mickelson (T-37)
T-6. Adam Scott (9)
T-6. Bubba Watson (T-66)
8. Lucas Glover (T-49)
9. Paul Casey (T-188)
10. Scott Brown (197)
11. Rickie Fowler (T-71)
13. Patrick Rodgers (T-56)
14. Danny Lee (T-81)
15. Russell Knox (T-52)
16. Hideki Matsuyama (T-89)
17. Graham DeLaet (T-43)
18. Keegan Bradley (T-56)
T-19. Henrik Stenson (204)
21. Sergio Garcia (T-33)
22. Scott Pinckney (T-102)