The PGA Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s slate, using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics to highlight notable golfers.
The 2021-22 PGA TOUR season kicks off this week in Napa, Calif., as Silverado Resort hosts the Fortinet Championship. The course is a short par-72 course that measures at 7,166 yards with poa 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
For more information on Strokes Gained data and how to use it, check out this article from Bryan Mears on The Action Network, which unpacks each of the above metrics in detail. I also recommend Chris Murphy’s Strokes Gained column after each round of that week’s PGA TOUR event, which highlights golfers to buy and fade, along with Matthew Vincenzi’s weekly “Stats That Matter” column that highlights which Strokes Gained sub-metrics matter the most for a given course.
The following players listed are based on DraftKings scoring and pricing.
Jon Rahm ($12,100 DraftKings)
Rahm sticks out like a sore thumb this week.
He’s always the best golfer in any field he tees it up at as the No. 1 player in the world, but the gap between him and the rest of the field this week is comparable to Walter White’s next closest competitor in Breaking Bad.
Having said that, there is still no guarantee that Rahm wins this week; this is golf we’re talking about here. He is, however, the shortest I’ve seen a player in a full-field event maybe since Tiger’s heyday (+350).
The good thing is we are not betting him to win, instead simply playing him on our cash game rosters, even at his sky-high $12,100 DraftKings salary. Rahm ranks No. 1 in this field in total Strokes Gained over his past 48, 36, 24, 16, 12, and eight rounds. There’s a slight chance he’s simply using this event as a tuneup for next week’s Ryder Cup, but Rahm could legitimately show up to Silverado in a fugue state and still win.
There is just no way under any circumstance you could play cash games this week and not use Rahm. The last time he didn’t finish inside the top 10 was early June. There’s more than enough value on the board to fit him.
If you’re building multiple lineups in our Lineup Builder, you’ll need a heavy dose of Rahm to be overweight relative to the field.
Harold Varner III ($9,100 DraftKings)
This field is not great, which is why we are seeing some more middling players priced significantly higher than normal this week.
HV3 is in that category, but he has a really strong history at Silverado, which mitigates some of those concerns. He finished T-29 here last year and posted three top-20s in three of his previous four trips, as well.
Varner has been playing some strong golf of late, posting back-to-back top-12 finishes during the FedExCup Playoffs. He ranks fourth in this field in SG: Approach and seventh in total Strokes Gained over his past 16 rounds, and he makes for a really nice second golfer in your lineups this week. You can pair him with Rahm pretty easily.
Chez Reavie ($8,300 DraftKings)
Reavie has quietly made eight of his past 10 cuts dating back to the Palmetto and is coming back to a course where he’s had major success in the past. He finished T-3 here last year and had five consecutive top-33 finishes prior. Reavie gains an average of 1.74 strokes tee-to-green per round at Silverado, which ranks in the top 11 of this field and has positive splits on poa.
He’s coming off a strong showing at the Northern Trust his last time out, where he gained strokes Ball-Striking in all four rounds. He ranks seventh in this field in that department across his past 24 rounds as well. The veteran has been hard to trust over the past year or so, but when you play him at courses he’s comfortable at, he usually comes through. I see no reason to fade him at this very reasonable price tag this week.
Doug Ghim ($7,900 DraftKings)
After a couple of missed cuts in a row, Ghim got back on track his last time out at the Northern Trust, finishing T-31. He gained at least 1.12 strokes off-the-tee in three of his four rounds, including a whopping 2.21 in his third round. He ranks 17th in this field in SG: Ball-Striking over his past four rounds, and if you take a long view (48 rounds), he ranks ninth in that department.
He finished T-14 here last year and is a bit underpriced for his talent level in this field. He could easily be an $8,000 golfer this week so let’s take the discount on him and move along.
Luke List ($7,100 DraftKings)
List is a bit hit or miss normally, except he usually plays well at courses where he’s had success. Silverado is just that as he’s made four of five cuts here with a T-4 in 2019. Any time we get one of these weaker field resort course type of events, List is always on my radar, and it’s nice that we do not have to pay a premium for him this week.
We know the drill with List; he’s a phenomenal ball-striker that struggles mightily with the putter. Thankfully he does average .34 strokes fewer per round on poa compared to other surfaces. He ranks 12th in this field in SG: Ball-Striking across his past 48 rounds and is a really nice value option if you’re trying to play Rahm and another $9,000 player.
Patrick Rodgers ($7,000 DraftKings)
Rodgers has been a staple at this event over the years, teeing it up here every year since 2015. In that time frame, he’s made five of seven cuts with a pair of top-25s. He’s a California guy, so it makes sense that he’s had success here in the past. He is another poa specialist that is long off the tee and can get up and down when he needs to. Rodgers is a GIR specialist, ranking 12th in this field in that department over his past 48 rounds. He’s shown serious upside in the past, and we can roster him for just $7,000 this week, putting him firmly on our radar for cash games.
Bo Hoag ($6,800 DraftKings)
Hoag is a course history play that we can get for pretty cheap. He’s played on the Korn Ferry Tour each of his last three starts but made the cut each time, and before that was striking it very well. He actually ranks fourth in total Strokes Gained in this field over his past 12 rounds, which is an added bonus since he’s already made the cut both times he’s teed it up at Silverado. You can do a lot worse for $6,800 in this spot.