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 heads to Arizona this week for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. TPC Scottsdale will host one of the most exciting events of the year and is a par 71 measuring at 7,261 yards with Bermuda grass 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
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
Rory McIlroy ($10,800 DraftKings)
The current world No. 1 will be making his 2023 PGA TOUR debut. He enters play this week the exact way he finished off last season, which is by dominating. McIlroy last teed it up two weeks ago at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic on the DP World Tour, where he edged out Patrick Reed for yet another win. It marked the third time over his past six worldwide starts that he found the winner’s circle.
Jon Rahm has been on fire as well, but McIlroy should be the most expensive golfer in any field he tees it up at until further notice. The Northern Irishman ranks No. 2 in this field in SG: Total over his past 48 rounds while ranking No. 1 in SG: Ball-Striking. He finished T13 at TPC Scottsdale in 2021, which was his lone start at this event this decade.
McIlroy has now finished T10 or better in 14 of his past 17 starts, including eight straight. There is no one that can touch him at this juncture, and even at $10,800, he’s a bargain this week.
Using our PrizePicks promo code LABS ($100 sign-up bonus), you could bet Rory to finish under 67.5 strokes in Round 1.
Patrick Cantlay ($9,500 DraftKings)
It gets pretty thin if you try and pair McIlroy with either Rahm, Scheffler, or Schauffele, so we will drop down to Cantlay, who feels like massive value at just $9,500. He’s been a bit quiet to start the year, finishing T26 and T16 over his first two starts, but he finished runner-up to Scottie Scheffler at TPC Scottsdale last year. Out of all the guys in this range, Cantlay’s win equity stands out above the rest, as it just does not feel like the Matsuyamas or Hovlands of the world are in the same class as the 2021 FedEx Cup champion right now.
Cantlay has zero weaknesses in his game, ranking ninth in SG: Total over his past 48 rounds. He sits 12th in SG: Tee-to-Green, 15th in ball-striking, 19th in putting, and even 37th around-the-green.
The man is a machine, and his price is pushed down a bit due to the strength of this field, making him an elite play in all formats.
Sungjae Im ($9,200 DraftKings)
Im is just a beacon of consistency. He plays nearly every week on the PGA TOUR schedule, and rarely misses cuts, while routinely posting high finishes. He’s in the midst of a really strong run after finishing T4 at the Farmers, T18 at the Amex, and T13 at the Hero across his past four starts. Unbeknownst to many, but Im ranks third in SG: Total over his past 48 rounds in this field, trailing only Rory McIlroy and Tony Finau.
His course history at TPC Scottsdale is also quite strong, having played here three times while making the cut in each and posting a T17 and T7 in two of the three. Much like Cantlay, Im’s price almost always gets pushed down in deep fields like this, and this week is no different.
His $9,200 tag makes him one of the premier values on the board.
PGA DFS Value Picks
Corey Conners ($7,700 DraftKings)
Conners is basically an auto-play anytime he’s in the $7K range in these types of events. In much weaker fields, we see his price soar to the mid-$9K range, so getting $2,000 in savings on one of the elite ball-strikers in the sport is quite appealing. Only four players in this field rank better in SG: Ball-Striking than Conners over the past 48 rounds, and they are McIlroy, Finau, Scheffler, and Steele (!).
Conners has played the WMPO each of the past three years, while making the cut each time and posting a T17 in 2021. He’s been on a really nice run of late, having finished inside the top 25 in each of his past four full-field events, and is coming off a T12 his last time out at the Sony. We can expect another made cut this week with clear top-20 upside beyond that at just $7,700 from the Canadian.
Brian Harman ($7,400 DraftKings)
Harman is just too good of a golfer to be priced significantly below the likes of Taylor Montgomery, Sahith Theegala, Tommy Fleetwood, and Rickie Fowler. No offense to any of those guys, but Harman is just as likely, if not more likely, to post a top-10 finish. The lefty is coming in with really strong form, even after missing the cut his last time out at the Amex, having posted a pair of runner-up finishes at the RSM and Mayakoba, with another two top-16 finishes at the Tournament of Champions and Shriners.
Harman has played the WMPO nine of the past 10 years and has made the cut eight times in that stretch with a pair of T25s as well. He’s yet to really pop off here, but he’s coming in with great form and is flat-out too cheap for his talent level.
Expect him to be chalky in high stakes contests this week.
Keith Mitchell ($7,400 DraftKings)
Mitchell played phenomenally last week at Pebble Beach, finishing T4 after gaining 2.79 strokes on approach and 4.46 from tee-to-green in his final round. He will now tee it up at TPC Scottsdale for the fifth time after making the cut in three of his past four, which includes a career-best T10 finish last year.
Mitchell ranks 15th in this field in SG: Ball-Striking over his past 48 rounds, mainly due to his elite off-the-tee play, where he ranks third behind only Jon Rahm and Cameron Young. It’s also widely known that ‘Bermuda Keith’ does his best putting on Bermuda grass, which is what we have on tap this week. The former Honda Classic champion is an elite value option at just $7,400.
Brenden Steele ($7,200 DraftKings)
I mentioned it briefly before, but Steele’s ball-striking has been other-worldly for quite a while now. He ranks fourth in that department over his past 48 rounds in a field with 18 of the top 20 players in the world in attendance. Steele has played this event each of the past 10 years, having posted three top-six finishes and three additional top-26 finishes. He’s a west coast guy, so it’s no surprise to see him have success out in the desert.
Fresh of a T20 at the Farmers his last time out, Steele is striking it too well to be just $7,200. And just to add to the appeal, he’s also gained .11 strokes per round putting for his career at TPC Scottsdale. We should expect another strong performance from the veteran this week.