The PGA Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s slate, using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics to highlight notable golfers.
The PGA Tour is off to Connecticut for the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands. It’ll be a fun field, as we get seven of the top-10 golfers in FedEx Cup standings and five of the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings.
As always, I back-tested various metrics within our PGA Models to find out which have been the most valuable at River Highlands. Per the Trends tool, here is how the top 20% of golfers in various metrics have done (in Plus/Minus valuation) at this course. Historically, the tournament has yielded averages of 48.40 DraftKings points and a +1.33 Plus/Minus with a 47.8% Consistency Rating to the field.
I’m listing only the metrics that tested positively above the baseline:
- Recent Tournament Count: +10.04
- Long-Term Missed Cuts: +5.82
- Course Birdies: +5.29
- Course Greens in Regulation: +5.25
- Recent Missed Cuts: +5.24
- Course Missed Cuts: +4.32
- Recent Driving Accuracy: +4.16
- Recent Greens in Regulation: +3.68
- Course Driving Distance: +3.25
- Course Adjusted Round Score: +3.24
- Long-Term Par-5 Scoring: +3.14
- Long-Term Adjusted Round Score: +2.88
- Long-Term Greens in Regulation: +2.78
- Recent Par-4 Scoring: +2.30
- Recent Adjusted Round Score: +2.24
- Long-Term Driving Accuracy: +1.83
- Long-Term Par-3 Scoring: +1.69
- Recent Par-5 Scoring: +1.60
- Course Count: +1.26
- Long-Term Driving Distance: +1.24
- Recent Par-3 Scoring: +0.85
- Recent Driving Distance: +0.70
- Long-Term Tournament Count: +0.62
- Course Driving Accuracy: +0.56
- Long-Term Birdies: +0.48
- Recent Birdies: +0.41
- Long-Term Par-4 Scoring: +0.14
The golfers will get their third straight par-70 course over the past three weeks, but luckily for them TPC River Highlands checks in at only 6,841 yards. That’s a nearly 600-yard difference compared to Shinnecock Hills. Given this is a Pete Dye course, we know the golfers will need to contend with daunting visual tactics, distracting hazards, and blind tee shots. The first thing that jumped out to me this week is that seven course history metrics back-tested favorably here, including Course Adjusted Round Score (Course Adj Rd Score). This means I may weigh course history more heavily than I normally do on a given week.
As usual, it’ll be essential to target golfers who can hit greens in regulation (GIR). It shouldn’t be necessary to target only bombers, as various skill sets can succeed here with eight of the par 4s checking in at 435 yards or less. Two of the par 4s are also quite short at 341 and 296 yards. Given the 12 total par 4s, par-4 scoring will also be something to pay attention to, which shows up in the back-testing. Last but not least, don’t forget about par-5 scoring.
You can easily make a case for any of the golfers whose salary rings up at $10,000 or above: Justin Thomas ($11,500), Brooks Koepka ($11,300), Rory McIlroy ($10,900) and Jordan Spieth ($10,600) are all tied with 7.7% implied probability to win. Spieth and Thomas are tied for a field-best 68.2 Long-Term Adjusted Round Score (LT Adj Rd Score), and they’re two of the best par-4 scorers in the field over the past 75 weeks. Spieth won this tournament last year, but he’s in poor recent form over the past month:
Spieth is still hitting greens over his past five tournaments (70% Recent GIR), but his putter is running cold (29.8 putts per round), contributing to his awful 44.2% Recent Scrambling rate. Eventually, Spieth should bounce back considering he’s coming off two missed cuts and a 21st-or-worse finish over his past five tournaments. The trouble is forecasting when it’ll happen. Playing at a course where he has won before that fits different styles of golfers would make sense.
Patrick Reed ($10,000) comes in as the cheapest among the top-priced guys. While his +0.6 average adjusted strokes on par 4s over the past 75 weeks is underwhelming, Reed’s -4.4 average adjusted strokes on par 5s is tied for the ninth-best mark in the field. He’s also been playing outstanding golf since March:
Rory is always enticing considering his overall upside and his 68.7 LT Adj Rd Score. He boasts a field-best -5.5 average adjusted strokes on par 5s, but his 24% missed cut rate is the highest of this group.
The Value Plays
One way to find value is to leverage our LT Adj Rd Score metric. If you sort the field by LT Adj Rd Score, you are looking at a list of players who have been the best golfers over the past 75 weeks. Among these golfers, those who have low salaries make great value plays.
Kyle Stanley ($7,700) owns the 13th-best LT Adj Rd Score (69.2), but he’s priced as the 27th-most expensive golfer. Stanley’s 1.5% Vegas odds are among the highest in this pricing tier, and he has a reasonably balanced game that could succeed here. Over the past 75 weeks, Stanley’s hit 69.1% of GIR while averaging -4.1 average adjusted strokes on par 5s. The primary concern with Stanly is his putting ability: His long-term and recent putts per round (PPR) marks are above 29.0. Still, golfers with comparable LT Adj Rd Scores and Vegas odds have historically been solid investments on DraftKings:
Emiliano Grillo‘s ($7,700) 69.3 LT Adj Rd Score is in the same realm as Stanley’s. However, Grillo is in better recent form than Stanley, boasting the sixth-best Recent Adj Rd Score in the field (67.7). Before the U.S. Open disaster, Grillo had been playing steady golf since April:
He’s a solid fit for River Highlands and sits with 1.4% Vegas odds to win. His low 19% missed cut rate over the past 75 weeks is an excellent mark in this field.
Beau Hossler ($7,400) seemingly gets off to hot starts in tournaments but then tapers off as the tournament progresses. However, his cut-making ability is still valuable considering he’s averaging a +16.93 DraftKings Plus/Minus with 90% Consistency over his past 10 starts. Hossler’s last missed cut was at Valspar in March.
Speaking of consistency, Chesson Hadley ($7,300) could be ready for a bounce back after Shinnecock Hills gave him (and everyone else) trouble. Just like Hossler, Hadley’s last missed cut prior to the U.S. Open was at Valspar. Hadley is the only player in this field to gain strokes on par 3s, par 4s and par 5s over the past 75 weeks. Within the same time frame, he’s also one of a handful of golfers who is averaging over 300 yards off the tee and hitting over 68% of GIR. Hadley’s recent form will look slightly skewed after hitting 47.2% of GIR at Shinnecock last week, but otherwise he’s been solid in all facets of the game.
The Bump and Run
Paul Casey ($9,600) is priced just below the stud tier. He’s rocking a 68.2 LT Adj Rd Score just like Spieth and Thomas, but his 5% missed cut rate trounces them and the majority of the field. Moreover, Casey’s -5 average adjusted strokes on par 5s trails only McIlroy and Patrick Cantlay ($8,400). Speaking of Cantlay, looking at his metrics over the past 75 weeks, he’s been basically the discounted version of Casey. Their long-term metrics are eerily similar:
Bryson DeChambeau ($9,500) has underwhelming 26th- and 47th-place finishes at River Highlands, but he’s in excellent recent form over his past four tournaments. He is sporting an excellent 67.7 Recent Adj Rd Score, along with averaging a 20.76 DraftKings Plus/Minus with 80% Consistency over his past 10 tournaments.
Marc Leishman ($9,300) is a former winner here and owns the fourth-best LT Adj Rd Score (68.6) in the field. He also has a 100% Consistency Rating at River Highlands, and he hasn’t missed a cut here in his past six appearances. While his recent PPR (30.1) isn’t great, Leishman has still hit 70.5% of GIR and 71% of fairways over the past six weeks.
After missing the cut at Southwind, Daniel Berger ($8,900) bounced back nicely at Shinnecock Hills with a sixth-place finish. Berger’s shown success at River Highlands in the past two years with a second-place finish in 2017 and a fifth-place finish in 2016.
Charley Hoffman ($8,700) has been all over the map in 2018. He’s shown flashes of upside, but he’s also been bad at times:
Hoffman showed up the U.S. Open last week and managed an excellent 20th-place finish at the difficult course. Now he returns to River Highlands, where he’s been exceptional. He finished third in 2017 and has five top-25 showings in his past five appearances.
Webb Simpson ($9,100) is another course horse at River Highlands:
Simpson’s 68.7 LT Adj Rd Score is tied for the seventh-best mark in the field with Rory and Koepka. Further, Simpson’s 14% missed cut rate is the fifth-best mark in the field, making him a reliable option in all formats. Simpson’s perfect blend of course history and long-term metrics (-0.7 average adjusted strokes on par 4s and -4.0 on par 5s) makes him a solid cash-game building block this week. I wouldn’t be shocked to watch him build upon his 10th-place finish at the U.S. Open.
Good luck, and be sure to check out The Action Network if you’re looking for more golf coverage!
Pictured above: Webb Simpson
Photo credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports