The new season is upon us, and it kicks off in wine country as the first sneak-in before next week’s Ryder Cup. Jon Rahm is the only representative of either side set to tee it up this week in Napa as he looks to stay sharp before Whistling Straits.
This week, he takes on a weak field to the point where oddsmakers have listed him at +300 at some books, which is generally unheard of for a full-field event. As we transition this into the week for DFS purposes and this new write-up focusing on small-field GPP DFS strategy, it will be hard to ignore the number one player in the world to start our lineups.
As we work through this new article, this will be separate from my large-field GPP article to be posted on Wednesdays, which looks for pivots from chalk to make lineups different. In these smaller field events, which are often single or three-entry max in structure, we can be more willing to take on the right chalk in a balance of trying to get all six through to the weekend with upside.
In looking at this week’s event, the best place to start is with Matt Vincenzi’s article, which places focus on the course and stats that matter the most for the Fortinet Championship. I will also be looking closely through our models and tools here at FantasyLabs to find the top plays for the week. Now, let’s get right into the picks.
$9,000 and Above
Jon Rahm ($12,100)
I alluded to it above, and I think starting any small-field tournament with any player not named Jon Rahm is getting too cute. He will be highly rostered, I’m sure, but his extreme win equity in this field is just too much to ignore as you start lineups this week.
The Spaniard can come in with less than his best and still run away with the title at this event, which has me expecting a top finish at the bare minimum, which is reflected in his -165 odd to top 5 on DraftKings.
Our Strokes Gained Model agrees, with him as a clear top option, with a rating much higher above the next best player in the field. It all makes sense from a course fit perspective, too, where we have seen players that are Total Drivers of the ball (Driving Distance + Accuracy) rank, of which Rahm was number one on TOUR last season by an extensive margin.
Again, Rahm is an easy first pick for me starting my lineups, especially in single entry formats.
Harold Varner III ($9,100)
The next spot I am looking in this top range is near the bottom of it with Harold Varner III. I have been a truther for HV3 for a long time, and while he has yet to break through, he has put his name in the mix a number of times. He gets a price increase for this weak field, but it is certainly merited as he closed the season with three top-12 finishes in his last five events, and two of those came in the playoffs.
Varner is another top pick of our Strokes Gained Model, and his long game off the tee is a great fit for Silverado Resort. HV3 is generally held back by his flat stick, but this is a course that has seen a number of lesser putters break through, including the likes of Emiliano Grillo.
Varner has performed well here in the past and has made the cut in each of the last five years, but I am buying him to show more upside than his best finish of T15 in 2017.
$7,500 to $8,900
Doug Ghim ($7,900)
My build structure in smaller fields will not allow me to get too much into the $8,000 price range, as it becomes a dead zone unless I decide to pivot off of HV3. This will be an important note for the larger fields as I think it will be popular to structure lineups this way, and we can be different by getting into that range tomorrow.
Today though, I am going just below that level with Doug Ghim. He is a personal preference for me over Pat Perez. Ghim rates highly in our Strokes Gained Model, a few spots ahead of Perez, and I believe Ghim is due to have some breakthrough results, and he started to show that form to close out last season.
Ghim ranks fourth in my own personal stat model across the last three months of play, which takes a close look at the less than 150-yard approach bucket, Birdies or Better rate, and Total Driving metrics.
He isn’t the longest off the tee but makes up for that with his accuracy and is about Top 40 in this field across every important category this week. I can’t ask for much more than that from a player that finished 14th in his maiden trip to this tournament last fall.
Brian Stuard ($7,600)
I noted earlier that a number of lesser putters have had success at this event in years past, so while I don’t think it’s necessary to be good with the flat stick, it certainly doesn’t hurt. Brian Stuard is certainly not flashy off the tee, but he makes up for it with a strong wedge game and hot putter when he has his best.
He is the perfect type of safety that I can play in a single-entry format because there is a confidence level to see him make the cut, but he also has top 10 and better upside.
In fact, he finished third in this event last year and posted a T17 the year before. He hasn’t missed the cut here in any of his last four trips and should provide a great combination of safety with enough ceiling to win you a GPP.
$7,400 and Below
Sam Ryder ($6,800)
The way that DraftKings has priced Rahm will put some stress on finding value in the rest of our lineup. This is a field and event where I think we will see some top finishers priced below the $7,000 level. If we can find those guys, it will set us apart in all GPPs. My first pick here is again off the board, as while I think there is safety in a guy like Ryan Armour, the upside to me is in Sam Ryder at the same price.
Ryder closed the year with some form, peaking with a third-place finish at the Barbosol in July but also posting two top 35s to close out the traditional season. It was a nice accomplishment for him to finish inside of the top 125 and make the playoffs, which can be something for him to build on going into the new year.
He is another player that fits my mold in Total Driving and has some sneaky length that can be to his advantage this week. Ryder is a true GPP-style play as he has missed three cuts in four trips to this tournament, but the only time he posted a positive putting week, he finished T4.
If he’s too risky for you in this small-field format, the safety is there for Armour, but to me, Ryder is the type of player that could win me a GPP.
Nick Hardy ($6,200)
If you’d rather go deeper to be bold in your build structure this week, Nick Hardy can certainly be that guy, and our model certainly agrees. His price point allows for a made cut to pay it off for you, and then you can go up higher at some of the other spots in the lineup.
Hardy had an extremely consistent year on the Korn Ferry Tour last season as he missed just four cuts across 41 events and had 10 top-10 finishes. He has the talent to be the type of player we look back later this year and wonder how he was so close to min price in this type of field.
One added bonus is that he won’t be unfamiliar with this stage as he got a couple of shots on the big tour last season and made the most of it with a top 15 at the Sony and another made cut at Waste Management. If he can produce either of those results again this week, we will be quite happy from a DFS perspective.