The PGA Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s slate, using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics to highlight notable golfers.
The TOUR heads to the beautiful beaches of Playa del Carmen, Mexico, this week as El Camaleon Mayakoba Golf Course hosts the World Wide Technology Championship. The course is a short par-71 that measures at 6,982 yards with paspalum greens.
I’ll be highlighting the best cash game/single-entry plays on the DraftKings main slate, but these players are often great options in any contest.
My analysis will frequently reference Strokes Gained, a set of proprietary metrics generated by the PGA TOUR using millions of data points to calculate how many shots on average it takes a player to get the ball in the hole from every distance and situation. Strokes Gained is now available in the FantasyLabs PGA Models.
There are a variety of Strokes Gained-related metrics, but the six main categories you need to know include:
- Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (SG: Off-the-Tee)
- Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: Approach)
- Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green (SG: Around-the-Green)
- Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: Putting)
- Strokes Gained: Ball-Striking (SG: Ball-Striking), which is SG: Off-the-Tee + SG: Approach
- Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (SG: Tee-to-Green), which is SG: Ball-Striking + SG: Around-the-Green
For more information on Strokes Gained data and how to use it, check out this article from Bryan Mears on The Action Network, which unpacks each of the above metrics in detail. I also recommend Chris Murphy’s Strokes Gained column after each round of that week’s PGA TOUR event, which highlights golfers to buy and fade, along with Matthew Vincenzi’s weekly “Stats That Matter” column that highlights which Strokes Gained sub-metrics matter the most for a given course.
The following players listed are based on DraftKings scoring and pricing.
Justin Thomas ($11,200 DraftKings)
JT is the best player in this field and will now be making his third career start at El Camaleon. His first two starts resulted in a T-12 and a T-23. As you will read shortly, there is quite a bit of value on DraftKings this week, making it rather easy to lock JT onto our cash game rosters. After a subpar season for his standards, Thomas closed strong, posting a pair of T-4’s at the Northern Trust and TOUR Championship.
As Matt Vincenzi laid out beautifully here, Thomas’ normal putting woes are not an issue on paspalum greens, as he ranks No.1 in this field in SG: Total Paspalum across his past 24 rounds. That is a scary thought for the rest of the field, being that JT is arguably the best ball-striker in the world. Over his past 48 rounds, Thomas in this field ranks No.1 in SG: Tee-to-Green, and No. 2 in all of SG: Approach, Ball-Striking, and Total. He’s a measly 16th off-the-tee in that stretch.
This is not rocket science here, nor am I reinventing the wheel by touting the most expensive player in the field; however, it’s a unique spot for JT. Four of his 14 career PGA TOUR victories (28%) have also come in the fall, in case you needed another reason to play him. Thomas can run away with this field, and I would be remiss if he wasn’t on my cash game roster when that happens. Play the man.
Abraham Ancer ($10,700 DraftKings)
This one will be short and sweet. Playing Ancer this week is like betting Alabama in Tuscaloosa. This is a massive home game for him, having grown up in Mexico. He’s played this tournament six times and posted three top-12’s in that stretch, with each of which coming in the past four years. It’s no surprise that Ancer has had major success here, as this course fits his game to a T.
He’s one of the most accurate players on TOUR and is a greens-in-reg monster. We know he will absolutely be up for this event and has really strong numbers across sportsbooks. He’ll likely be the highest owned player in cash games this week, and for good reason. Fade Ancer at your own risk this week.
Emiliano Grillo ($7,500 DraftKings)
Grillo is a resort course specialist. As you will see below seems to be one of the themes of the week. Maybe it’s the paspalum greens which neutralize his normally awful putting, but whichever way you slice it, Grillo loves this event. The Argentine four top-15 finishes in five starts at El Camaleon, with three of those resulting in top-10s. I normally do not trust Grillo as far as I can throw him, but there is something about this course that clearly catches his eye.
The playbook on him is the same as it’s always been, as he’s one of the best ball-strikers on TOUR that simply cannot do anything with the flat stick. At just $7,500, we’re basically looking for a top-40ish finish here, and I think that is well within Grillo’s range of outcomes this week. He will likely be popular, but it’s well worth eating the chalk in this spot.
Russell Knox ($7,300 DraftKings)
Knox has quite the track record here at Mayakoba, which is a theme for many in the field this week. The Scott has teed it up at this event eight times and made the weekend all eight times. His worst finish in that stretch has been T-37, while also posting a runner-up, T-3 and T-9 as well. Over his past 48 rounds in this field, Knox ranks 16th in driving accuracy and eighth in greens in regulation.
El Camaleon features paspalum greens which evens out the playing field for poor putters like Knox. He checks off a ton of boxes this week and is coming off a T-12 last week in Bermuda. This is Knox’s favorite time of year, so we should be in on him at just $7,300.
Joel Dahmen ($7,000 DraftKings)
Dahmen loves these resort course-type events, as he’s had a ton of success here at Mayakoba as well as Punta Cana. The bucket hat wearer has played this event four times, going T-20, T-6, T-41, T-23 in those trips. He’s also been playing some real solid golf of late, ranking 35th in this field in driving accuracy, 18th in SG: Approach, and 23rd in total strokes gained all over his past 12 rounds. Dahmen is coming off a T-24 at the Shriners and simply has too much upside for a $7,000 player.
He is a very strong cash game play.
Charles Howell III ($6,900 DraftKings)
Chuckie Three Sticks might have the best course history in this field, as it feels like he’s been playing this event since its inception. Dating back to 2011, Howell has played this event 10 times and has made the weekend in eight of those, with his worst finish in that stretch being T-23. He has finishes of T-7, T-6 and T-4 mixed in as well. He clearly circles this event on his calendar every year, so who are we to fade him?
His lack of distance will not impact him here, and he’s extremely accurate with a strong short game. I’d really like to stack some studs at the top this week, and by getting Howell at this price, it allows us to do just that without losing much upside.
Chris Kirk ($6,700 DraftKings)
Kirk is too talented of a golfer to be this cheap. The disrespect shown to him by DraftKings by pricing guys like Scott Stallings, Adam Schenk, and Brendan Steele more than him this week is quite surprising. Kirk has made each of his past six cuts and is coming to a familiar track in very good form. His course history at El Camaleon is awesome for someone with his price tag, having made all four of his cuts here with a T-7 mixed in.
Kirk is always in play on shorter courses, as he’s not the longest off the tee, but is quite accurate and pretty strong with his irons when dialed in. I fully expect him to make the weekend in this spot, making this $6,700 tag quite the bargain. Lock him in across all formats this week.