This week’s 2022 Hero World Challenge isn’t an official PGA TOUR event, but it does draw a great field and set up for a fun event during the holiday break before full-field events return to the tee in 2023.
The Hero World Challenge format has changed a little bit over the years but has always focused on drawing a small but elite field of the top players from around the world. This year continues that pattern with just 20 players in the field. For DFS contests, it’s more important than ever to try to focus on players with low ownership and differentiate your lineup where possible. Just because the field is smaller, though, doesn’t mean there aren’t some full-size GPP contests to attack.
The field makes up for its lack of quantity by focusing on quality, drawing some of the biggest names in golf. The biggest name is still Tiger Woods, who was planning on playing play in his fourth event of the year before announcing on Monday that he’ll continue as the tournament’s host but not as a competitor. He is still hoping to play at The Match and the PNC Championship, where he’ll play alongside his son, Charlie.
Even without Woods in action, there is plenty of star power. Six of the top 10 in the World Rankings will be teeing it up with Woods, led by No. 2 Scottie Scheffler, who finished runner-up last year to Viktor Hovland, who is back to defend his title. Major champions Matt Fitzpatrick and Justin Thomas join Scheffler in the field, meaning three of this year’s four major winners are in the small field. Recent winners Tony Finau and Tom Kim are back in action as well, and Kim is one of the seven players playing in this event for the first time. Sepp Straka will enter the field in Tiger’s spot.
The course should be a familiar one to those returning to this event or tuning in to add some Bahamian sunshine to their holiday season. The tournament will be held at Albany Golf Course in the Bahamas for the seventh straight tournament (not held in 2020 due to COVID-19). Albany was designed by Ernie Els and plays as a par-72 that stretches over 7,400 yards. It includes five par-5s and five par-3s, one more or each than a typical par 72, which allows for more variance and excitement as the top players in the world dual it out over the four rounds.
With such a small field and no cut, this event offers a very different feel than typical DFS fantasy golf, but it’s still a fun way to get in some action during the holiday break.
In this weekly post, the focus is players who are strong plays in GPP contests. These contests usually have lots of entries and pay out big prizes to the top few percent. One example is the DraftKings $300K Pitch + Putt, which pays out $100K to first place. In large contests like this one, it is critical to try and target players who have a chance to outperform salary expectations and come with low projected ownership.
The players highlighted will be good options if they deliver in all formats, but they come with risk factors that usually keep them from being the safest plays. Safety and reliability should be the focus of lineups in cash and double-up contests, where finishing in the very top spot isn’t quite as important. On the other hand, GPPs call for high-risk, high-reward options with high ceilings and low projected ownership. To find specific guidance for all the different kinds of contests, check out our full Daily Fantasy Golf coverage each week.
No matter how you prefer to play, be sure to use the FantasyLabs PGA Models to help you make the best choices. These models use stats and simulations to highlight different players’ strengths and weaknesses. A couple of key new stats to specifically use for GPP play are Perfect% and SimLeverage, which are further explained here.
Usually, I rely on the Stroked Gained Model, which is very predictive of results. I also tend to lean into players that gain shots on approach since week-to-week putting performance can be extremely volatile, even for the best players on the PGA TOUR.
As you dig into the numbers, you can enjoy the many tools that FantasyLabs offers, including the Lineup Optimizer, which effortlessly creates up to 150 lineups. Alternatively, you can use the Lineup Builder if you prefer a more hands-on approach.
Check out my top picks in each price range listed below.
High-Leverage PGA DFS Picks
Normally, there are only a few of the most popular options in a full-field event that reach over 20%, but with only a 20-man field, 85% of the 20-man field is projected to be owned in over 20% of lineups. Normally I give a couple of picks from each pricing tier, but for this week, I’ll just give the players I think will offer the most leverage bringing high upside at low (relatively speaking) projected ownership.
Justin Thomas $10,200
Of all the players over $8,500, JT checks in with the lowest projected ownership. Granted, 33.3% projected ownership is much higher than usual, but “low ownership” is definitely going to be relatively this week. Maybe some of the reason people aren’t in on Thomas is that we have hardly seen him this fall. He played on the winning Presidents Cup team and posted a T40 at THE CJ CUP in his only two PGA TOUR appearances this since last season, which he concluded T5 at the TOUR Championship. He actually hasn’t won since the PGA Championship back in May and has only posted two top-10 finishes since then.
Thomas’s game is always one that can bring him a win, though, if he’s in top form. He brings the sixth-highest SimLeverage on this slate and is in just under 40% of perfect lineups from the sims, the fifth-most on the slate. Sportsbooks also have him as the fifth-likeliest to win the tournament, so there’s definitely a chance he significantly outperforms his ownership.
Another thing Thomas has going for him is his experience on the course. He has played this event each of the past four seasons and finished in the top five in each of the last two years. With so few options to choose from, he’s a nice one to chase for some differential, enabling you not to have to reach in the rest of your lineup just to avoid too much chalk.
Sungjae Im $7,800
Im has the highest SimLeverage in the entire field since he’s in over one-third of perfect lineups in our sims and only projected for a 29.8% ownership. Since he plays so often on the PGA TOUR and is an international player, it’s a little surprising that this will be his first trip to the Hero World Challenge.
Im has looked solid this fall, although he hasn’t been so good to be an overly popular play. He finished seventh at the Shriners Children’s Open and posted a T29 at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP and T34 at THE CJ CUP. While he hasn’t contended, those aren’t awful results, and it wasn’t long ago that he was near the leaderboard every Sunday this Summer.
In addition to his co-runner-up finish at the TOUR Championship, he had four other top-15 finishes over his final five events last season, including runner-up finishes at the 3M Open and Wyndham Championship.
According to sportsbooks, Im is the eighth-most likely player to win this tournament, so getting him under $8K is a solid play to consider, especially since he’s not projected to be as popular as other players priced around him.
Corey Conners $6,300
Conners offers the fourth-highest SimLeverage on the slate since he has a 22.48% chance of being in the perfect lineup and is only projected to be owned in 16.1% of lineups. He also brings the second-highest leverage on the slate.
Conners has not played this event before but has been putting up steady results over the past few months, including top-25 finishes at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP and the CJ CUP. He posted four straight top-30 finishes to close out last season and his only significant slip-up was a missed cut at the Fortinet Championship.
Typically, Conners is known as an SG: Approach specialist who just needs his putter to get hot to contend. Even in this elite field, he’s ranked third in long-term form SG: Off-The-Tee, and if his irons cooperate, he could get on a run and outproduce his very affordable salary and reasonably low projected ownership.
Billy Horschel $6,100
Horschel played a few events this fall in Europe on the DP World Tour, posting top-10 finishes at both the BMW PGA Championship and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship before coming back to the United States and posting a T7 at THE CJ CUP. He did crash out of his most recent start, missing the cut at Mayakoba, but he comes at such a cheap price that he can still make sense if you need to go cheap.
Horschel hasn’t played the Hero World Challenge since 2015, when he finished 16th.
He brings the highest Projected Plus/Minus on the slate, the third-highest leverage, and even the eighth-best SimLeverage, so take a look at Billy Ho if you need to save some dough at the Hero this week.