Golf is back, which is truly great. But, man, do we have a tough week of DFS.
The reason, as I’ve written extensively already, is because there’s just so much uncertainty. The PGA Tour will return for the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club for its first event in months. I don’t need to explain the pandemic; we’ve all lived it. But the layoff does provide a unique situation we haven’t seen before, thus making it difficult to handicap.
That said, there are some important data points to know, and I think there’s one strategy in DFS you should use above all else this week. In fact, it should really be the only thing you do.
Let’s dive in.
The Course: Colonial Country Club
Colonial in Forth Worth, Texas, is a par-70 track that plays around 7,200 yards. That’s definitely not a bomber’s distance, and as expected long drivers have historically been below expectations.
But as I wrote here, that doesn’t mean it’s a pure ball-striker’s course, either. Players in the top 90th percentile entering Colonial in both long-term driving accuracy and greens in regulation have underperformed as well.
The most predictive metric in our golf models was consistency — the percentage of rounds over the last year in which a golfer has been within a standard deviation of expectations — and then long-term scrambling and putting.
I’ll admit: I’m not a putting guy. I think it’s mostly random on a week-to-week basis: The golfers who typically win tournaments are those who get hotting in that regard, and pegging that player is largely unpredictable.
That said, if it were to ever matter a bit more than usual, this would be the week. The layoff is one thing that could give a boost to naturally good putters — the theory is that feel might be more important than repetition — and the course also really sets up for good short-game players given the tiny, fast greens. It will be really difficult to hold those greens, so golfers who can scramble and get up and down with their short irons will have an edge on the field.
In a vacuum, take consistent golfers who have good short games. And I’ll also be looking at course history a little more too, since it’s one of the few data points we can rely on this week following the pandemic.
DFS Strategy for This Week
But note I said “in a vacuum” in the paragraph above. That’s because I don’t think it should supersede the most important strategy tactic this week. In fact, I think that strategy should be essentially the only thing that matters.
Sell out to ownership plays.
I’ll repeat it again: Do not use likely high-owned golfers in tournaments, and be careful about cash games.
When there’s so much uncertainty, one way to play it is to find an edge through that uncertainty. There are a ton of narratives you can try to do that with: Will golfers with less travel do better? Should you take golfers who aren’t guaranteed a tour card and have been grinding during the layoff?
The other way to deal with uncertainty is to simply embrace it. If this week is truly a free-for-all (that’s likely overselling that point, but it’s probably underrated by the DFS community and betting market), then no golfer should be 30% owned. Honestly, no golfer should be 15-20% owned.
There’s your strategy: Find golfers who are going to be popular and find pivots and ways to create unique lineups in GPPs. I’d lean toward pivots who fit the course as I’ve described above, but that’s honestly somewhat secondary. Pivots, pivots, pivots; ownership, ownership, ownership.
OK, Who Are Those Pivots?
Our ownership projections have several studs projected at 17%+ ownership. Let’s find some pivots.
- Webb Simpson $9,800 (21-25% projected ownership): Pivot to Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka
- Rory McIlroy $11,800 and Jon Rahm $11,000 (17-20%): Pivot to Justin Thomas and Bryson
- Patrick Reed $9,200, Collin Morikawa $9,100 and Sungjae Im $9,300 (17-20%): Pivot to Rickie Fowler and Marc Leishman
We have some data points within our models to help you identify worthy pivots across all price points. For example, our Leverage Score metric combines projected ownership and projected ceiling to identify the golfers with high upside who are likely to be underrated by the public. Here are some of the top golfers in that metric currently:
- Rory Sabbatini: $7,200
- Jhonattan Vegas: $6,700
- Kevin Streelman: $6,900
- Tom Hoge: $7,200
- Jason Day: $8,300
- Shane Lowry: $8,600
- Matthew Fitzpatrick: $8,200
A lot of those golfers I actually like this week anyway. That’s the perfect storm: Play the ownership game, especially if it includes a pivot to a golfer you think fits the course or is undervalued anyway.
Here’s an example. Look at this lineup…
- Webb Simpson ($9,800): 21-25% projected ownership
- Collin Morikawa ($9,100): 17-20% projected ownership
- Ryan Palmer ($7,400): 13-16% projected ownership
- Kevin Na ($7,600): 13-16% projected ownership
- Matt Kuchar ($8,500): 13-16% projected ownership
- Harris English ($7,500): 13-16% projected ownership
That gives us an average ownership of 16.6% — in a week that may be largely random!
Here’s a similar lineup with pivots…
- Bryson DeChambeau ($10,100): 9-12% projected ownership
- Marc Leishman ($8,900): 9-12% projected ownership
- Shane Lowry ($8,600): 2-4% projected ownership
- Abraham Ancer ($7,300): 9-12% projected ownership
- Adam Hadwin ($7,300): 5-8% projected ownership
- Kevin Kisner ($7,600): 9-12% projected ownership
That gives an average ownership of just 8.6% — literally half the lineup above. Maybe you’re in love with that first lineup; on a normal week, I’d certainly prefer it. This week, though? It’s not even close. Give me the second one.
And in the second one I didn’t even include the super low-owned options I listed above in the Leverage Score section. Pivot and sprinkle some of those guys in and you’re very likely to have way more +EV lineups.
Good luck this week.
And don’t forget to pivot.