The PGA DFS Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s slate, using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics to highlight notable golfers.
The PGA TOUR stays in California this week, but heads from La Quinta to La Jolla for the Farmers Insurance Open. Iconic Torrey Pines Golf Course will be the host. There will be a two-course rotation in play this week over the first two rounds, but we are back to a standard 36-hole cut. Each golfer will play Torrey Pines North and South Course over the first two rounds, before finishing up the weekend on the South. Both courses are par 72s, with the North measuring at 7,258 yards and the South measuring at lengthy 7,765 yards. The greens are different as well, with the North featuring bentgrass and the South boasting poa.
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
If you missed it, we added two new metrics in our models — Perfect% and SimLeverage. You can find an explainer on those metrics here.
The cliff notes version is that you can use SimLeverage to quickly find leverage plays in tournaments, while Perfect% is great for finding the best price-considered plays for cash games.
And don’t forget to utilize our various PGA DFS tools like our Lineup Optimizer, Lineup Builder, PGA Correlation Dashboard, and our Trends tool.
The following players listed are based on DraftKings scoring and pricing.
PGA DFS Core Picks
Jon Rahm ($11,600 DraftKings)
I say this every week, but I am really running out of superlatives to describe Rahm at this point. He won another event last week, taking down The American Express for his ninth career PGA TOUR victory. He’s now won three of his past four worldwide starts and four of his past six.
He now comes back to Torrey Pines, where he won this very event back in 2017, before returning for the U.S. Open in 2021 and taking that down as well. Over his past four years at the Farmers, Rahm has gone T2, second, T7, and T3, making it quite apparent that he loves this course. He still can’t hit a wedge, but it doesn’t matter when you can hit it as long and as straight as he can. It also helps when you drill every fairway and make every putt.
He’s finally priced appropriately this week, but good luck thinking this run of his is going to slow down. Fade at your own risk.
Max Homa ($9,100 DraftKings)
Homa has been a bit of a mixed bag at Torrey Pines in his career, missing the cut both last year and in 2017 but finishing T18 and T9 in 2021 and 2020. He’s coming off a great showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he finished T3. Homa picked up his fifth career PGA TOUR victory at the Fortinet back in September and has established himself as one of the game’s elites over the past year or so.
Over his past 48 rounds in this field, the Cali native ranks sixth in Total Strokes gained and ninth in SG: Tee-to-Green. When you zoom in, it looks even better, as only Tony Finau and Jon Rahm have gained more total strokes than him over the past 16 rounds.
This price is ridiculous for someone with Homa’s upside and win equity, making him an incredibly strong play in all formats this week.
Maverick McNealy ($8,600 DraftKings)
McNealy is on a heater right now, having finished T12 or better in four of his past six starts. He posted a T7 his last time out at the Sony Open, thanks to his elite putter, where he gained 6.53 strokes with the flat stick. Normally I would scoff at something like this, but McNealy has established himself as one of the best putters on the planet.
He ranks No. 1 in this field in SG: Putting over his past 48, 36, 24, 16 and 12 rounds, out-gaining the next closest golfer by .18 strokes per round. In case you needed more positive reinforcement, McNealy also gains .25 more strokes per round on poa greens than any other surface,
He’s also played Torrey Pines four times in his career, finishing T30 or better in three of those four starts. His ball-striking has left much to be desired of late, but he does sit 11th in this field in driving distance over his past 48 rounds, which is an extremely useful skill at this course (s).
At just $8,600, he makes for a great second or even third golfer to put on your roster this week.
PGA DFS Value Picks
Taylor Pendrith ($7,900 DraftKings)
Pendrith has had a lackluster Fall Swing outside of a T15 finish at the RSM Classic but was one of the hottest golfers on TOUR for the better part of last season when he rattled off six top-13 finishes in a seven-start span. Over this stretch, the Canadian ranks 13th in SG: Tee-to-Green in this field, including second in SG: Off-the-Tee, trailing only Jon Rahm. Pendrith also sits third in driving distance and 10th in birdies per round in that time frame as well. He’s got all the tools.
In his lone start at Torrey Pines, which came last year, Pendrith finished T16, and I am expecting a similar result this week at a very friendly $7,900 price tag on DraftKings.
Kurt Kitayama ($7,600 DraftKings)
Kitayama missed the cut here last year, but that was not due to his tee-to-green play, as he gained almost two strokes in that department in his lone round on the South Course. He’s is coming off a strong Fall where he finished runner-up at the ZOZO and solo seventh at the Italian Open on the DP World Tour. We saw him pop off multiple times last year for some high finishes, and the 30-year-old ranks 19th in this field in SG: Tee-to-Green and 22nd in Total Strokes Gained, both over his past 48 rounds.
Many people don’t realize this, but Kitayama is extremely long off the tee and ranked 20th in driving distance on the PGA TOUR last season. Most people also don’t realize that he’s gotten himself up to the 43rd-ranked player in the world right now. Kitayama showed up at some pretty prominent events last year, and it would not be surprising at all to see him contend this week, making him quite a nice value play at $7,600.
Robby Shelton ($7,200 DraftKings)
Bob Shelton has been playing some great golf of late, having posted a T6 last week at the Amex, which was on the heels of a T10 at the RSM back in November. He gained a whopping five strokes on approach over his two rounds at the Stadium Course last week and has been dialed in with his irons for some time now, ranking ninth in this field in that department over his past 24 rounds.
Shelton has played Torrey Pines twice and has failed to miss a cut while posting T36 and T16 finishes, respectively, in 2020 and 2021. If you’re going to want to fit Jon Rahm along with another stud at the top of the board, you’re gonna have to find some comfortable plays in the low $7K range, and Shelton has both the recent form and course history to make you feel good about this play at just $7,200.
Joseph Bramlett ($7,000 DraftKings)
Bramlett is another punt play that can absolutely send it off the tee. He ranked seventh on the PGA TOUR in driving distance last season. That’s helped him go three-for-three in cuts made here at the Farmers over the past three years, including a T18 finish in 2021. Bramlett had a nice Fall swing, making four of six cuts with a pair of T12 finishes at the Fortinet and Houston Open. He then opened the 2023 season with a pair of made cuts at the Sony and Amex and now ranks 12th in this field in SG: Tee-to-Green over his past 24 rounds.
I am having a hard time finding holes in anything Bramlett is doing right now, and at just $7,000, he’s one of the better punt plays you’re going to find on the slate when you factor in his course history and the recent stretch of made cuts.