The PGA TOUR finishes its two-week stop in Texas as the focus shifts from Austin to San Antonio for the final tournament before The Masters. It’s a final chance for players who haven’t qualified to win and get into the field at Augusta National next week. The Valero Texas Open isn’t just a prelude, though, it has quite a history of its own, dating back over 100 years to 1922, when it was first called the Texas Open.
While most of the big names are sitting out this week and gearing up for The Masters, there is still a solid field this week. Ten players who have already qualified are choosing to play anyways, led by Tyrell Hatton, Hideki Matsuyama, Corey Conners, and Chris Kirk. On the other hand, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Taylor Montgomery, and defending champion J.J. Spaun lead a group of players who are outside next week’s first major of 2023 but can qualify with a win this week.
To help this week’s event get participating players geared up for Augusta National, this week’s course has been designed with many similarities to that fabled venue. This will be the 13th time the Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio hosts the Valero Texas Open. It usually plays tough with the cut line over par and can be almost impossible if the wind kicks up.
For more on the course and what stats to be on the lookout for, check out the full stats preview from Matt Vincenzi.
In this post, we try to focus on players who have lower ownership projections than their potential performance. Finding these high-leverage plays with low ownership is critical for GPP lineups. I’ll try to highlight ways to go against the grain and take advantage of golfers who most fantasy players won’t be watching as closely.
Since these are GPP picks, we also can accept a little more risk if it raises the ceiling of the lineup. High-risk, high-reward options with low ownerships create the “boom-or-bust” style lineups that usually lead to large-field success.
This weekly post focuses on 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. The biggest example this week is the DraftKings $800K Pitch + Putt, which pays out $200K to the winner. 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 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 what type of format you prefer, 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 300 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-Priced PGA DFS Picks
Corey Conners $10,100
Conners is the third-highest priced golfer and is projected to be the third-highest owned, but he’s still offering positive SimLeverage since he’s in the third-most optimal lineups. Even though he is a little chalky, there are plenty of opportunities to differentiate your lineup in the other spots on your roster.
Conners is 4-for-4 in his career making the cut at TPC San Antonio, and he won the event back in 2019. He exemplifies the kind of grinding second-shot specialist that typically finds success at this track and has shown the ability to tame the wind and read the course.
Last week he went 2-1 in the group stage at the WGC-Match Play, with his only loss coming to Cameron Young by one hole on Thursday.
The weekend off could actually help him be fresher for this week as he continues to look for his first top 10 of the season. He has made the cut in eight of his past nine events, with his only missed cut at THE PLAYERS Championship earlier this month. He showed enough last week at the Match Play for me to discard that as an outlier and expect him to bounce back with a strong showing on this course where he’s comfortable.
Ryan Fox $9,000
I’m thrilled to see Fox’s ownership projection at under 15%. He has just the 16th-highest ownership projection even though he is in the fourth-most optimal lineups with a 20.4% Perfect%. His low projected ownership and high ceiling give him the second-most SimLeverage in the field and the most of any player under $10K.
The 36-year-old from New Zealand has been impressive with a pair of top-30 finishes in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and THE PLAYERS Championship, which were both Elevated Events. He went 2-1 last week but lost to Andrew Putnam, who advanced to the knockout stage. Before coming to the PGA TOUR, Fox had notched three straight top 20s on the DP World Tour, so he comes in playing very well.
This will be his first appearance at the event, but the style should fit his game well. He’s got the length to attack the longer holes and set up good chances around the green, where he also has showcased a strong short game. He has the fourth-most SG: Total over the past six weeks.
Mid-Priced PGA DFS Picks
Thomas Detry $8,400
There are only eight players priced between $8K and $9K on this slate, and as a result, there’s a lot of ownership concentration expected in this area. Detry is one of six of the eight players with over 12% projected ownership, but he is the one that brings the highest Perfect%.
The Belgian has quietly been a strong DFS contributor this season, with 11 made cuts in 13 appearances. Last week, he played at the alternate-field event in the Dominican Republic at the Corales Puntacana Championship rather than in Austin. He surged into to a T8 for his third top-10 finish of the year.
Like many European players, he has shown he can thrive in the wind and deal with links-style layouts like this one. He has shown he can scramble consistently and content in fields like this one. It wouldn’t be surprising to me if he breaks through for a big win this week or at least contends right to the end on Sunday.
Nicolai Hojgaard $8,000
Hojgaard could set himself up for the “Special Temporary Membership” category that has been so often a topic of discussion this season with another strong finish this week. He’s only played one PGA TOUR event this year, but he finished runner-up behind Matt Wallace last week in Puntacana. He finished tied for the top mark in the field in GIR as well as birdies recorded but came up just one stroke short.
The 22-year-old Dane has already won twice on the DP World Tour in his career and made the cut in all five of his DP World Tour events before coming to the PGA TOUR last week. He has five top-15 finishes in his seven most recent events across all tours, and he’ll look to stay hot during his Texas Open debut.
Hojgaard is one of the longest hitters in the field, and if he can keep his approach game on point, he may be ready to start picking up more paychecks on the PGA TOUR.
Value PGA DFS Picks
Aaron Rai $7,900
Rai has the second-highest Projected Plus/Minus in the field and has the second-highest Perfect% of all players under $8K.
The 28-year-old Englishman has gained strokes tee to green in five straight starts and finished an impressive T19 at The Players Championship in his most recent tournament. His approach game also looked good in his debut at this event last season, firing a 67-74-68 over his first 54 holes to enter the final round in the top 10. He faded a bit on Sunday to a T29, which was one of nine top 30s in his 28 events last season.
Like many of the options I like this week, he’s a steady grinder, which is the style of golfer that has often posted high finishes at TPC San Antonio.
Erik Van Rooyen $7,200
Last week in Puntacana, Van Rooyen made the cut but struggled Sunday while sinking to a non-impressive T56. He was in good form, though, prior to that and has enough upside to be worth a long shot on in GPPs. He tends to be a boom-or-bust performer, either crashing and missing the cut or surging toward the top of the leaderboard.
His volatility is mostly due to his putter, but he remains one of the better ball strikers in this field. He has picked up over a stroke on the field, both tee-to-green and on approach, over his last 20 events.
While he’s too risky for cash lineups, his upside makes him a good GPP option. The fact that his ownership is only projected to be a paltry 4.0% makes him even more attractive in that format. That low ownership also gives him the seventh-highest SimLeverage in the field.
Van Rooyen looked sharp at the Valspar, posting his second top 10 of the season, and he also played well in his only appearance at this event back in 2021, finishing T14.
Sleeper PGA DFS Picks
Dylan Frittelli $6,800
Although he was born in South Africa and plays under that flag, Frittelli is an alum of the University of Texas and has played well on Texas tracks in his career. He is 3-for-3 making the cut in his three appearances at this event, including his T8 finish last year in which he shared the lead after Round 3.
Frittelli is so cheap and will be under-owned due to his lack of recent form. He missed back-to-back cuts at THE PLAYERS Championship and the Valspar, although he did post a T29 at The Honda Classic and a T14 at the WM Phoenix Open earlier this season.
Frittelli crushes it off the tee and can definitely lean into the “bomb and gauge” strategy. His experience in the environment should also give him the edge if the wind kicks up and things get wild.
He’s a boom-or-bust play, but so are most players in this salary range, and I like Frittelli’s track record of success here enough to include him in my top GPP options for this week.
Michael Kim $6,500
Kim has a much higher ceiling than his salary indicates and has the highest Perfect% of any golfer under $7K. His ownership is projected to be just 1.3%, so he also brings the third-highest SimLeverage of any golfer under $7K. He also has the second-highest Projected Plus/Minus of all players in that price range.
It has been a long journey for Kim, who won the 2018 John Deere Classic but only made 14 cuts in 71 events of the following three seasons. His only top 10 last season was in the Barbasol Championship, and he missed the first five cuts this season as well.
After that long run of struggles, however, Kim has started to show much better form lately, making five cuts in his past six events, including a T11 at Pebble Beach and a solo fifth at the Puerto Rico Open. He has exceeded salary-based expectations in eight of his past 10 events with an Average Plus/Minus of 10.14 DraftKings points.
He finished just outside the top 25 in Puntacana last week, and he’ll look to continue his resurgence this week in San Antonio. He has played this event four times in the past, making the cut just one time in 2016 and finishing T21.
His recent form has been enough to make him eye-catching at this salary in this field, and he could end up being a great differentiator if he can make the weekend at this bargain rate.