THE PLAYERS Championship has long been referred to as the “fifth major,” and it is certainly treated as such over on DraftKings as they roll out the first Millionaire Maker of the season with a mid-level $25 buy-in. There are 118,713 entries with a prize pool of just over $2.5M, leaving 40% of that pot to go to the winner. It’s a top-heavy payout as we’ve come accustomed to with these Milly Makers.
Our goal in this article will be to structure a lineup to win that GPP.
There are a few strategies to take. The first is to leave money on the table. Most DFS players will build their lineups to use the entire $50,000 salary, so even leaving just a hundred dollars available will help in the process of making a lineup that is less likely to be duplicated.
Next, ownership is even more vital in weeks like this. Pivoting off of the chalk builds can make you just different enough to give you a chance to move up near the top. One way to look at it is by using overall lineup ownership and keeping that combined ownership under a certain number; around 70-80%. This strategy is easy to implement with the FantasyLabs Lineup Optimizer as you can set your optimizer rules to whichever max ownership you prefer.
Outside of the general build strategies, there are some other ways to be a bit more specific as you make lineups this week. One thing that is almost sure to be impactful during this year’s Players Championship is the weather. It simply doesn’t look good, and there is a real scenario where one side of the draw gets a sizeable advantage. The problem is that there is almost nothing that can lead us to just building to one side leading into the week as the chance for play stoppage could throw everything off in a hurry.
I will be making some lineups that are full of golfers in the same wave and doing so on both sides of the draw in the hopes that it will give me a chance at hitting the right side of that draw.
Now that we have some of the strategies out of the way let’s get right into the plays for the week. I am going to change things a bit to mostly focus on ownership pivots that will help in making those unique lineups with the upside to win the week.
Rory McIlroy $10,800
The player at the top that looks set to be squeezed by ownership this week is 2019 PLAYERS Champion Rory McIlroy. I think his ownership currently projected in single digits is a combination of things.
He is being squeezed by World No. 1 Jon Rahm above him and the popular Collin Morikawa just $100 below him. There is also some recency bias built in as Rory started last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational with a 7-under 65 but took big steps back the rest of the way, including going 76-76 over the weekend to finish 13th.
He was outspoken about the difficult conditions at Bay Hill and that he needed a day to regroup. Those comments have been well bantered about on all of the talk shows as well as social media, which I think is contributing to his lesser sentiment this week.
I’ll happily take the leverage on a former winner that has performed well at this event and on this course in his career. There’s no reason to get too caught up in the results of last week, as even if for just a round, he showed us the ability he has when he is on, and that player could just as easily show up this week.
Dustin Johnson $9,800
There was a time when all of the DFS world would be all over Dustin Johnson at a rare price tag under $10,000. Now, he is coming into THE PLAYERS this week without much tournament golf under his belt and off of his first season in a long time where he didn’t capture a victory on TOUR.
Even with those factors, I don’t think it merits the 7% ownership that our friends at Fanshare Sports are currently projecting for DJ as he is still a world-class player.
He is one that has been open about his preference for the move to March on this course and the fact that one of his big goals is to win this particular event. It won’t take much to get above the field this week on DJ, and at this price, you have all of the build options at your disposal with an ability to pair him with a big stud up top or event start a more balanced build with him.
Louis Oosthuizen $8,700
One of the most consistent players on TOUR in big events over the last few years has been Louis Oosthuizen. Sure, he hasn’t gotten that elusive stateside win, but he doesn’t have to this week to pay off $8,700.
Louis ranks well in all of the metrics I am looking for this week as he is steady in hitting fairways and greens, ranking third in TOUR-based ball-striking, which is a combination of Total Driving and Greens in Regulation. This is a stat that is really prevalent for TPC Sawgrass, as finding the short grass and connecting on these smaller putting surfaces is a key to success.
I really like Oosty’s setup for this course, and he does have a signature runner-up finish in this event, but he is also a nice pivot from the heavily owned Daniel Berger just above him.
Shane Lowry $8,000
As I mentioned in the lead-in, it’s really hard to project which wave will end up the most affected by the weather, but one player I don’t have concern with is Shane Lowry. The 2019 Champion Golfer of the Year is battle-tested in all types of wind and rain. He is also coming in with some great form off of a runner-up finish at the Honda Classic, which ironically could have been his if not for a last-minute rain squall on the final hole.
Either way, he is bringing great form and an excellent skill set for everything this week may bring.
Gary Woodland $7,400
The resurgence we thought might be coming last year for Gary Woodland seems to just have been delayed as he has certainly put his name in the mix of players in form over the last two weeks of the Florida Swing. He even had a chance to win on Sunday at Bay Hill when he took the lead after a long eagle put on the 16th hole before giving those shots back on the par-3 17th.
It still resulted in consecutive top-five finishes for the 2019 U.S. Open Champion as he heads to a venue that can play to his strengths with the setup that allows for him to dial it back off the tee. I’ll be looking to ride his hot form this week as he appears to be carrying all kinds of confidence.
Alex Noren $7,000
Similar to Lowry, Alex Noren is a player that I won’t worry too much about in any draw or weather issues. He has shown the ability to grind in tough conditions in his career and is also carrying some excellent form into the week.
I’ve been going to Noren on a consistent basis this year as I am starting to see the player that was once a top 20 player in the world and the top-five result at the Honda Classic certainly bares that out. He was one of the most consistent players in the entire field that week at PGA National.
The only problem was that he was consistently making pars and ended low in the birdie rankings. He will certainly need to score better this week to be a part of the optimal lineup, but he loves bermuda greens, and his form has me believing he has immense upside this week at TPC Sawgrass.
Aaron Wise $6,600
Aaron Wise has been a popular player in DFS to start 2022, but he has mostly failed in those chalky spots as the usual strong ball-striking let him down as he missed the cut in three of his last five events. There were new signs of life at Bay Hill, where he finished 17th and gained 10.6 shots on the field tee to green.
Even more encouraging was the 8.1 shots gained ball-striking, which would be quite handy this week at THE PLAYERS. We know we will get some up and down results on the greens from the former Oregon Duck, but at $6,600, I’ll happily take that chance on a player starting to show some form at a really cheap price.
Sam Ryder $6,300
I’ve noted a couple of times in the last week on Twitter about Sam Ryder being a resident to the area and spending a lot of his practice time out at TPC Sawgrass. He has said that he is really comfortable on this course and understands what he needs to do, especially around some of the more difficult holes. That alone doesn’t make him a play as he hasn’t quite executed on that plan in the past with consecutive missed cuts, but at this price, he is certainly a player of interest, especially with the way he scores.
Ryder finished his week at API with 56 DraftKings points, despite finishing outside of the top 50. He outscored a number of players that were in the top 40 just by virtue of his ability to find eagles and birdies alongside some bogeys and doubles. I love the scoring ability we get from Ryder where we may not need him to finish in the top 20 to pay off for us, but he certainly has that upside, and those two things combined could make a player like him part of an optimal lineup this week.