The PGA TOUR rolls into the Quad Cities for another low-scoring tournament this week as a great summer of golf continues. After fan favorite Rickie Fowler broke through to win the Rocket Mortgage Classic last week in a playoff with a total score of -24, this Fourth of July week is also expected to feature plenty of fireworks as the PGA TOUR players go low with plenty of birdies available at this year’s version of the John Deere Classic. This event is the last stop before the pros head across the pond for the Scottish Open and Open Championship the past two weeks.
This tournament has been an official PGA TOUR event since 1972 and has been held at TPC Deere Run since 2000. To see the kind of players that have typically had success on this track, check out Matt Vincenzi’s stats preview.
This week’s field doesn’t have a ton of big names, but this tournament typically does give younger players a chance to shine. Rising stars will be on display alongside some veteran favorites. Five of the last 11 winners at this event were first-time PGA TOUR winners, so this is a great chance for players to get a breakthrough win. The course setup typically results in a lot of variance since GIR and pin proximity are usually among the highest of any course on the PGA TOUR, turning this into a contest to see who can get hottest with the putter and pile up birdies.
The top-ranked player in this week’s field is Cameron Young, who won the PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year award last season but is still looking for his first PGA TOUR win. Nine of the top 50 players in the OWGR are teeing it up, including Canadian legend Nick Taylor, Russell Henley, Denny McCarthy, Sepp Straka, and Taylor Moore. A few of the young players to keep an eye on this week are amateurs Gordon Sargent and Michael Thorbjornsen, along with rookies Ludvig Aberg, Ross Steelman, William Mouw, and Tommy Kuhl. They’ll be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Jordan Spieth, who claimed his first PGA TOUR win at this event when he was only 19.
J.T. Poston, Lucas Glover, Dylan Frittelli, and Michael Kim have won the past four versions of this event, and each will be back at TPC Deere Run looking to be the first player to claim multiple wins at the venue since Spieth won for the second time in 2015.
This weekly GPP post focuses on players with lower ownership projections than their potential performance. Finding high-leverage plays is critical for GPP success. The picks here are designed to go against the grain and take advantage of players that may be overlooked or not selected due to risk factors.
Since these are GPP picks, we can accept more risk if it raises the lineup’s ceiling. High-risk, high-reward options with low ownership create the “boom-or-bust” style lineups that usually lead to large-field success.
This weekly post focuses on players who are strong plays in GPP contests. These contests usually have large numbers of entries and pay out big prizes to the top few percent. This week the largest GPP on DraftKings is the $750K Pitch + Putt, which awards $200K to first place.
The players highlighted will be good options if they deliver in all formats, but they come with risk factors that usually keep them from being the safest plays. Safety and reliability should be the focus of lineups in cash and double-up contests, where finishing in the top spot isn’t quite as important. To find specific guidance for all contest types, check out our full Daily Fantasy Golf coverage each week.
No matter what type of format you prefer, be sure to use the FantasyLabs PGA Models to help you make the best choices. These models use stats and simulations to highlight different players’ strengths and weaknesses. A few critical new stats for GPP play are Perfect% and SimLeverage, which are further explained here.
Usually, I rely on the Stroked Gained Model, which is very predictive of results. I also tend to lean into players that gain shots on approach since week-to-week putting performance can be highly volatile, even for the best players on the PGA TOUR.
As you dig into the numbers, you can enjoy the many tools that FantasyLabs offers, including the Lineup Optimizer, which effortlessly creates up to 300 lineups. Alternatively, you can use the Lineup Builder if you prefer a more hands-on approach.
Check out my top picks in each price range listed below.
Editors note: SimLeverage and Perfect% numbers may change after this piece is published. Be sure to check the PGA Models for any updates to the sims.
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High-Priced PGA DFS Picks
Russell Henley $10,400
There are 13 golfers priced at $9K or more for this event, with Denny McCarthy checking in with the highest salary and defending champ JT Poston at exactly $9,000. In stronger fields, these players would fall in the mid-range, but they stand out among the players teeing it up this week as the top available options. Even though high-priced DFS options don’t historically win this event, there are some options that stand out as strong plays
Henley is actually projected to be the highest-owned player in the field, with a projected ownership of just under 24%. However, I still like him as a GPP play as long as you make sure to use other spots in your roster to look for ways to make it unique.
Despite the high projected ownership, he has the second-highest SimLeverage in the field since the sims have him in a field-leading 29.7% of optimal lineups. No other golfer in the field is in more than 22% of optimal lineups. Henley is also the only golfer in the field that matches eight Pro Trends.
Henley is known as an SG: Approach specialist, and when his putter cooperates, he can go extremely low on any course. He has a history of success at TPC Deere Run, finishing in the top 30 in each of his three appearances. He was runner-up in 2019, finishing two strokes behind Dylan Frittelli despite a closing round 61 that was the lowest round carded that year.
Last fall, Henley claimed his fourth PGA TOUR victory with a win at the World Wide Technology Championship on a similar low-scoring course. He has continued to play well and has exceeded salary-based expectations in seven of his past 10 events with an average Plus/Minus of +9.5 DraftKings points. Since missing the cut at the PGA Championship, Henley has posted four straight top 20s.
He brings the highest median, ceiling, and floor projections in the field, and he’s a great centerpiece to build around if you’re going with one of the players priced near the top of the salary structure.
He will have high ownership, so just compensate for that in your lineups built around Henley.
Adam Schenk $9,500
Schenk has been the kind of boom-or-bust play that scares people away for cash contests but sets up perfectly for GPP use. He has four top 10s and six made cuts in his past 11 events. He finished runner-up at the Valspar Championship at the start of that streak and added another runner-up finish at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth.
He has looked like a player on the verge of a breakthrough win and is only projected for 15% ownership this week, which ranks in the middle of the pack in this top tier of salaries and slightly outpaces his 12.6% Perfect%.
The native of Indiana has strong Midwest ties, and those vibes helped him post top 10s on this track in 2019 and 2021. He had to withdraw last year after a brutal opening round but will look for a much better showing this year, entering in much better form.
Schenk is coming off a sizzling 66 on Sunday of last week, and he’ll look to keep that momentum rolling as he gets the tractor fired up this week.
Mid-Priced PGA DFS Picks
Alex Smalley $8,900
There are 10 players available from $8K to $9K, and Smalley has the highest Perfect% and the second-highest ceiling projection of the group. He’s a little bit chalky at 14% projected ownership but still brings a positive SimLeverage, in many offering similar characteristics to Henley at the very top of the salary structure. He’s a solid play, but just be sure to find differentiators for other roster spots.
Smalley comes in with good recent form, having made the cut in six of his past seven events and exceeded salary-based expectations in five of those tournaments. His best finish during that run was two weeks ago when he posted his third top 10 of the season at the Travelers Championship. He made the cut last week in Detroit as well, despite opening with an ever-par first round.
During his recent run of success, Smalley’s irons have been razor sharp, including an impressive 7.3 SG: Approach last week. If he can get his putter rolling this week, he could definitely be in contention for his first PGA TOUR win on Sunday. He has played well on this track in the past, making the cut in both appearances and finishing T16 last season.
Doug Ghim $8,000
Of the players in this price range, only Ghim matches five Pro Trends. In fact, no one else between $8K and $9.5K even matches four. Ghim is projected for a 12.4% ownership and brings a high enough ceiling that I’m OK targeting him in that range.
Ghim has turned things around after a rough start to 2023. He has made five straight cuts since the Mexico Open, with top 20 finishes at the Byron Nelson, the RBC Canadian, and the Travelers Championship. He has positive SG: Approach in six of his last seven events, which has fueled his turnaround, and should play very well on this track where SG: Approach is key.
Two years ago, Ghim posted a top 20 at TPC Deere Run after finishing Round 1 in the top 10 and staying in the top 25 almost the whole week.
Ghim will look to be the latest Texas Longhorn to get his breakthrough win at TPC Deere Run, following fellow Texas alums Spieth and Frittelli.
Value PGA DFS Picks
Samuel Stevens $7,400
Stevens has the highest ceiling projection of any player under $7.5K and the fourth-highest of all players priced under $8K. He brings positive SimLeverage as well since he has the highest Perfect% of any player under $8K and just a 10% projected ownership.
The PGA TOUR rookie has put together a solid season, making 15 of 25 cuts overall and nine in his 11 most recent events. He showed that he can contend with a runner-up finish at the Valero Texas Open in April but has been mostly just churning out made cuts without any high finishes since then.
Stevens has the highest Projected Plus/Minus in the entire field.
If you can afford a little more chalk in your lineups, Chez Reavie, Dylan Wu, and Lucas Glover are all plays I like in this range as well, but they are getting much more attention than Stevens. Michael Kim and Peter Kuest are two other plays I like from a very strong group of options in the $7K range.
Carson Young $7,200
Young has been one of my go-to options in the low $7K range this season, and the PGA TOUR rookie has regularly delivered despite a lack of course history, which is again the case this week. Young has made the cut and exceeded salary-based expectations in seven of his past nine events with an impressive average Plus/Minus of +23.8 DraftKings points.
The 28-year-old from Clemson has five top-25 finishes during that span and also posted a T3 at the Puerto Rico Open earlier in the Spring. Young is in the top 10 on the PGA TOUR from SG: Approach within 200 yards, a range that should regularly come up this week in the Quad Cities.
He has been too hot lately to overlook at this salary, and he has proven he can go low on tracks like this. His upside is definitely worth a look at this price.
Sleeper PGA DFS Picks
Davis Thompson $6,900
Thompson finished runner-up all the way back at The American Express but had been off the radar for most of the season since then. He checked back into my picks and the DFS landscape last week, as he fired four strong rounds at Detroit Golf Club to finish in the top 25.
He has the highest ceiling projection of all players priced $7K or lower this week and is still projected for just 4% ownership. He also brings the second-highest floor projection, 74% Leverage, and a SimLeverage which ranks just inside the top 10 of players under $7K.
Thompson has a 6.0% Perfect% this week, while no other player under $7K has a Perfect% of 4% or higher. He also has the second-highest projected Plus/Minus of players in this price range.
The 24-year-old isn’t quite as young as some of the college plays highlighted in the open, but he’d still follow the trend of young players on the rise getting their first win at the event. He has proven he can go low and is ready to contend when he’s at the top of his game, and from under $7K, he offers a lot of upside.
Ryan Moore $6,900
Moore has proven to be a horse for this course and is showing enough form to be worth a look under $7K. He has a projected ownership of 2.3%.
Moore won this event back in 2016 and has five top 25s in his seven career appearances compared to just one missed cut. He finished runner-up two years ago and notched another top 25 last year.
This season has been a rocky one for the 40-year-old, with 13 missed cuts in 19 events. However, he has shown some positive signs lately, with two made cuts in his three most recent events, including a T25 at the RBC Canadian Open and another made cut last week in Detroit. Moore has gained strokes on approach in each of his last 16 rounds, and playing on this familiar track should help the veteran outproduce his price point this week.