The PGA Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s slate, using the Fantasy Labs Tools and metrics to highlight notable golfers.

The Desert Classic isn’t your typical tournament. Golfers will play on three different courses, with the cut happening after three rounds. The courses they play on will consist of:

  • La Quinta Country Club: Par 72, 7,060 yards
  • Nicklaus Tournament Course: Par 72, 7,159 yards
  • Stadium Course: Par 72, 7,113 yards

The final round will be played at the Stadium Course, so that course will be played twice if they make the cut. The Stadium Course is also the toughest of the three, with an average score of 71.18 while La Quinta and Nicklaus checked in with average respective scores of 68.83 and 69.45 last year.

Since La Quinta isn’t in our database and 50% of the tournament will be played at the Stadium Course, that’s the course I chose to backtest in our Trends tool. Additionally, the way the backtesting panned out for Stadium Course, it wouldn’t have changed my overall strategy for this week.

The Course

As always, I backtested various metrics in our PGA Models to find out which ones have been the most valuable at the Stadium Course. Per our Trends tool, here’s how the top 20% of golfers in various metrics have done at this course (in Plus/Minus valuation).

Historically, this course has yielded averages of 66.04 DraftKings points and a +16.72 Plus/Minus with a 73.2% Consistency Rating to the field.

I’m listing only those metrics that tested positively above the baseline:

  • Long-Term Par-5 Scoring: +9.55
  • Recent Par-5 Scoring: +9.07
  • Long-Term Birdies: +6.98
  • Recent Eagles: +6.69
  • Recent Birdies: +5.35
  • Recent Missed Cuts: +5.29
  • Recent Par-3 Scoring: +5.14
  • Long-Term Driving Distance: +4.77
  • Long-Term Missed Cuts: +4.06
  • Recent Driving Distance: +3.96
  • Recent Adjusted Round Score: +3.71
  • Long-Term Par-4 Scoring: +3.45
  • Recent Greens in Regulation: +2.96
  • Long-Term Eagles: +2.88
  • Recent Putts Per Round: +2.36
  • Long-Term Bogeys: +1.80
  • Long-Term Greens In Regulation: +1.70
  • Recent Scrambling: +1.65
  • Long-Term Adjusted Round Score: +0.87
  • Recent Par-4 Scoring: +0.78
  • Recent Bogeys: +0.15

Key metrics to focus on: Par-5 scoring, birdie or better scoring, par-4 scoring, Long-Term Adjusted Round Score (LT Adj Rd Score).

I’ve also decided to change the format of this column to focus on each pricing tier as it relates to DraftKings pricing simplicity, though FanDuel pricing will also be listed. Let’s get to it!

$10,000 and Above

The top-priced golfers are incredibly interesting to try and decipher. John Rahm ($11,600 DraftKings; $11,900 FanDuel) is the defending champion and checks in with the highest odds to win.

I’d expect him to be one of the highest owned golfers ahead of Justin Rose ($11,000 DraftKings; $12,100 FanDuel) and Patrick Cantlay ($10,600 DraftKings; $11,300 FanDuel) since Rose and Cantlay don’t have much history here.

Meanwhile, Adam Hadwin ($10,000 DraftKings; $10,700 FanDuel) has finished third, second and sixth at this tournament in the past three years. And Charles Howell ($10,300 DraftKings; $11,100 FanDuel) has finished 20th, 11th and 11th within the same timeframe.

Given Rose leads this entire tier in LT Adj Rd Score, birdie-scoring, adjusted strokes on par 4s and par 5s, he could be my preferred option for a slight discount over Rahm. Rose’s -2.9 adjusted strokes on par 4s leads Rahm by 1.2 strokes and leads the other three golfers over 2.0 strokes. And outside of Rahm and Cantlay, Rose’s -5.6 adjusted strokes on par 5s leads Howell and Cantlay by 1.4 or more strokes.

The primary risks with Rose are that this is his first tournament of the year and he’s going through an equipment change after deciding to leave Taylormade and sign a 10-year deal with Honma. Howell and Hadwin both have their appeal since they’ve been playing in the Hawaii events and have played well at this tournament in previous years.

Adam-Hadwin

Credit: Steven Flynn-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Adam Hadwin

If looking to differentiate, Rose is my preferred option of this group.


$9,900-$9,000

Andrew Putnam ($9,700 DraftKings; $10,500 FanDuel) has been solid to start the season, finishing 14th at the Tournament of Champions and second at the Sony Open. Over the past 75 weeks, he’s been able to gain strokes on par 3s, 4s and 5s, and his -1.2 adjusted strokes on par 4s rank sixth in the field. While his 13.4 birdies per tournament is nothing to write home about, his bogey avoidance shouldn’t be overlooked as Putnman is averaging just 7.5 bogeys per tournament.

Luke List’s ($9,000 DraftKings; $10,100 FanDuel) -4.7 adjusted strokes on par 5s leads this tier, and he has a respectable 69.2 LT Adj Rd Score, which is the second-best mark behind Phil Mickelson in this price range.

Abraham Ancer ($9,300 DraftKings; $9,900 FanDuel) and Chez Reavie ($9,200 DraftKings; $9,800 FanDuel) are both solid plays, who should fit well into balanced builds, but if paying up for Rahm or Rose, they won’t fit well since you’ll have to head to the $7,500 range once you plug in an $11,000-plus golfer.


$8,900-$8,000

Lucas Glover ($8,600 DraftKings; $9,800 FanDuel) has averaged a solid -4.8 adjusted strokes on par 5s and an excellent 16% missed cut rate over the past 75 weeks. Overall, his adjusted strokes on par 5s and 69.3 LT Adj Rd Score leads this price range on DraftKings.

Sungjae Im ($8,100 DraftKings; $8,800 FanDuel) has never played this event, but his long-term metrics look great, sporting a 16% missed-cut rate, 14.8 birdies and 0.5 eagles per tournament, along with -5.4 adjusted strokes on par 5s. However, a lot of those metrics come from Web.com, but he did manage a 16th-place finish at the Sony Open.

Sungjae-Im

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Sungjae Im

I like Beau Hossler ($8,000 DraftKings; $10,500 FanDuel) as another guy who is decent at generating birdies (13.6 per tournament) and limiting bogeys (8.0 per tournament) over the past 75 weeks.


$7,900-$7,000

Zach Johnson ($7,700 DraftKings; $10,300 FanDuel) burned a lot of people by missing the cut last week, but his 68.9 LT Adj Rd Score is still tied for the fourth-best (!!) mark in the field, and he’s priced at just $7,700.

Daniel Berger’s ($7,700 DraftKings; $10,800 FanDuel) 9.7 bogey per tournament is concerning, but his -4.0 adjusted strokes on par 5s is one of the best marks in this range and his 69.2 LT Adj Rd Score is the seventh-best Adj Rd Score in the field, which is quite the bargain since he’s priced as the No. 27 golfer.

Joaquin Niemann ($7,600 DraftKings; $10,400 FanDuel) is perhaps my favorite player in this price range. Niemann’s -1.7 adjusted strokes on par 4s trails only Rose, and his eagles and birdies per tournament both rank inside the top 10.

Sam Ryder ($7,100 DraftKings; $8,800 FanDuel) and Ryan Armour ($7,100 DraftKings; $8,200 FanDuel) are likely the lowest I’d go for cash games. Ryder’s 12.7 birdies per tournament isn’t great, but his 7.1 bogeys per tournament is one of the lowest marks in the field. Historically, golfers with comparable salaries and LT birdies and bogeys per tournament have averaged a +5.25 DraftKings Plus/MInus (per our Trends tool).

Armour’s 13.8 birdies per tournament, -0.8 adjusted strokes on par 4s and -4.0 adjusted strokes on par 5s are some of the best marks in this price range.


$6,900 and Below

Most of Roberto Castro’s ($6,900 DraftKings; $8,700 FanDuel) metrics are based off his numbers on Web.com, but he did make three of the four cuts in his PGA events last season, with his one missed cut happening at the U.S. Open.

Roberto-Castro

Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Roberto Castro

Castro’s metrics on Web.com are outstanding, averaging 15.6 birdies per tournament and an absurd -6.2 adjusted strokes on par 5s. He’s too risky for cash games, but if you need a tournament punt, you could do worse.


Good luck, and be sure to check out The Action Network if you’re looking for more golf coverage!

Pictured above: Justin Rose
Photo credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports