The PGA Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s slate, using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics to highlight notable golfers.
The TOUR heads to Japan this week as Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club hosts the ZOZO Championship. The course is a par-70 that measures at 7,040 yards with bentgrass 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.
Collin Morikawa ($11,200 DraftKings)
This is a pretty unique week as the field is extremely top-heavy. The two top options are Morikawa and the X man, who we will get to in a moment. Being that this is a no-cut event where we are guaranteed four full rounds from even our worst players, I will be stacking both Morikawa and Schauffele in all formats this week.
The reigning British Open champ started slow last week at the CJ Cup before setting the world ablaze over the weekend, shooting a combined 17-under par to finish in solo second. He has been the best player in this field over the past 48 rounds, ranking No. 1 in total strokes gained, SG: Tee-to-Green, and SG: Approach. He played this event back in 2019, finishing in a tie for 22nd place. He’s obviously a way more polished player now, and I don’t see a reason to fade him in such a weak field.
Xander Schauffele ($11,000 DraftKings)
Yet again, there is not much to say about Schauffele. The last time he played a no-cut event in Japan was the Olympics back in August, where he won the gold medal. He shot a final-round 63 to finish in a tie for 18th at the CJ Cup last week, gaining strokes both on approach and putting in three of his four rounds. He looks primed for a strong finish this week at the ZOZO.
It cannot be overstated how good Schauffele is in no-cut events. He just simply makes less mistakes than everyone else, and over the course of four rounds, he will always find his way to the top of leaderboards. Much like Morikawa, he played this event as well back in 2019, finishing T-10. As previously stated, I believe stacking both X and Morikawa is the favorable strategy this week in cash games. They simply have too much win equity.
Jhonattan Vegas ($8,900 DraftKings)
It’s obviously weird seeing Vegas priced up to $8,900 this week, but based on the field strength and the way he’s been playing, you could almost make the argument he’s underpriced. Vegas gained strokes T2G in all four rounds last week and ranks No. 3 in total strokes gained over his past 48 rounds in this field, including No. 1 in SG: Off-the-Tee in that span.
He’s been playing some incredibly consistent golf for the last few months and even finished T-16 at the Olympics, which is nice to see since we are back in Japan this week. If you do not choose to stack the two top options this week, making Vegas the second golfer in your lineups makes a ton of sense.
Sebastian Munoz ($7,300 DraftKings)
I love to target Munoz at no-cut type events as he’s an incredibly volatile player, but one that usually outscores his DraftKings salary due to his scoring ability. Thankfully, we do not have to worry about him missing the weekend, and with his prolific birdie making, this $7,300 price tag allows us to fit studs in up top without sacrificing much in terms of value.
Munoz gained strokes on approach, off-the-tee, and T2G in two of four rounds last week at the CJ Cup and absolutely shined at the Olympics back in August, finishing T-4 in what was a much stronger field. He makes a ton of sense this week in cash games, and it would surprise no one to see him top-20.
Matt Jones ($7,200 DraftKings)
Jones is simply a professional golfer and is certainly too cheap for his talent level in this field. He’s opened the 2021-22 season pretty strong, finishing T-27 and T-38 at the Shriner’s and CJ Cup, respectively. There will be smallish greens this week, which means scrambling will be at a premium, an area Jones thrives in. He ranks No. 1 in SG: Around-the-Green and 12th in SG: Short Game over his past 48 rounds in this field.
There is nothing too flashy about Jones in this spot, it’s more about being able to fit both Schauffele and Morikawa without suffering elsewhere, and playing Jones lets us accomplish both things.
Doug Ghim ($7,000 DraftKings)
Ghim is one of the purest ball-strikers on TOUR and would enter the upper echelon of players if he simply putted better. Obviously, you can say that about a bunch of guys, but it’s especially frustrating with Ghim because he’s still so young and is incredible from tee-to-green. He ranks eighth in this field in that department across his past 48 rounds in this field, but 63rd of 78 in SG: Putting.
The fact that we get four guaranteed rounds from him alleviates some of those concerns, as his ball-striking should shine through over the course of the week. We are getting a massive discount on a supremely talented player this week, so let’s take full advantage and lock him onto our cash game rosters.
Sung Kang ($6,300 DraftKings)
The stone punt play of the week to help fit all the studs will be Kang. He’s got a bunch of things working in his favor this week, first and foremost his recent form. He’s made each of his past four cuts and posted three top-32 finishes in his past five events. That may not seem like some great feat, but this is Sung Kang we are talking about here. He’s been getting it done with his irons of late as well, ranking 24th in SG: Approach over his past 16 rounds in this field. His putter has been hot as well, sitting ninth in SG: Putting in the same time frame.
The other thing working in Kang’s favor is that he played this event back in 2019 and finished a very strong T-17 in what was a much stronger field then. He is simply way too cheap, considering we’re getting four rounds from him, and he’s the perfect punt play in stars and scrubs builds.