There has been a distinct international flavor to the PGA TOUR fall series this year, and after stops in Japan and Bermuda, this week, the top golfers in the world head to Mexico for the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba. The tournament began in 2007 as an alternate event to a WGC tournament but moved to October and has awarded full FedExCup points since 2013.
The event has always been held on the same course, El Camaleon Golf Club at the Mayakoba resort in Playa del Carmen just outside Cancun. Typically, the course gives players plenty of birdie chances, with the winner reaching at least 20-under par in four of the past five seasons. The course gets its name from the fact that, like a chameleon, it shifts from background to background and does a nice job highlighting three distinct Mayan Rivera landscapes ranging from a section of the tropical Mayan jungle to the mangrove wetlands with some of the Mexican Caribbean Seaside and freshwater canals mixed in as well.
Based on past results, we’ll focus on players who have shown an ability to go low in a hurry and who have fared well in low-scoring events in the past. The par 3s on this track play shorter than average, and many holes are set up for shorter approach shots. While I always rely heavily on SG: Approach in my picks, SG: Around-The-Green will be another key factor to consider.
This will be the third straight event held on a par 71 track, and this week’s venue has many similarities to last week’s stop in Bermuda. It’s a tropical environment with low scoring, so players in good form can hope they can carry over their success. It will demand more accuracy off the tee than last week, though, since fairways are slightly harder to hit than the average PGA TOUR tournament. Accuracy is more important off the tee this week than pure length based on past statistical predictors of success.
Overall, the course is relatively short, and as a result, players with accuracy off the tee and strong approaches will find plenty of birdie chances. Aside from Hovland, recent players to find success have typically been veteran players who can use their experience and craftiness to smartly maneuver around the course. It’s known as a shotmakers course much more than one on which you can use the “grip-and-rip” strategy.
While it isn’t as elite as the field we had recently at THE CJ CUP, this week’s field is an upgrade from last week’s in Bermuda. There are 13 of the top 50 golfers in the Official World Golf Rankings expected to play, including two-time defending champion Viktor Hovland ($11,200) along with big-name stars Scottie Scheffler ($11,400), Collin Morikawa ($10,600) and Tony Finau ($10,400), who will be teeing it up for the first time since the TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP at the close of last season.
Last year, Hovland fired a 62 on Saturday and cruised to a four-shot victory. Justin Thomas finished third, with Scheffler in fourth, but neither star was able to mount a serious challenge to Hovland. Scheffler is back for another chance this year, and he could regain his World No. 1 ranking if he pulls out a win in Mayakoba.
It should be another fun weekend of golf as players continue to try to set themselves up for success with a strong Fall Series. Some of the Korn Ferry Tour grads are starting to settle into their new home on the PGA TOUR while we’re getting the final few full-field events before the holiday hiatus at the end of this month.
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 $300 K Pitch + Putt, which pays out $100K 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.
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, while GPPs call for high-risk, high-reward options with low projected ownership. To find specific guidance for those contests, check out the other articles in our Daily Fantasy Golf coverage for this 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 prefer 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-Priced PGA DFS Picks
Scottie Scheffler $11,400
Maybe it’s because he’s so close in price to Hovland or because his recent form hasn’t been elite, but Scheffler looks to be coming in as a nice pivot play based on our projections. Scheffler is projected to be the 11th most-owned player in this contest and definitely brings more potential than that to walk away with the win. Hovland is projected for over 20% ownership, and Scheffler’s ownership projection is all the way down at just over 13%.
Our model gives him a field-leading 25.52% chance of being in the perfect lineup and the highest SimLeverage of any golfer by almost a full five percentage points. His implied percent chance of winning the tournament, according to Vegas, is 10%, which is also the highest in the field.
Recently, Scheffler has been trying a new putter and hasn’t quite been able to find a rhythm. He finished T45 at THE CJ CUP in his only appearance this season on the PGA TOUR. Still, his SG: Approach numbers remain solid, and he leads the field in adjusted birdies per tournament, SG: Tee-to-Green, and SG: Total over the past 75 weeks.
Scheffler has shown that when he’s at his best, he can beat anyone in the world. The reigning PGA TOUR Player of the year won four events last year and finished in the top three at the BMW Championship and the U.S. Open over the past few months. While he hasn’t won since April at The Masters, his sky-high projected ceiling and lower projected ownership signal that he’s a great GPP option this week.
Scheffler matches eight Pro Trends, tied for the most in the field. His balanced game is too strong for a prolonged slump, and bounce-back is on the way. This is a great chance to take advantage of the public chasing Hovland’s course history in this price range
Tony Finau $10,400
Finau is another player whose ownership doesn’t match his potential production. He’ll be making his season debut, so his current form is a big enough question that many players are looking at the rest of the top tier and overlooking Scheffler and Finau. Finau’s ownership projection is only a little higher than Scheffler’s at just over 16%, and his Perfect% is second only to Scheffler, setting him up for the third-highest SimLeverage in the field.
Even though he hasn’t played in the past month, it hasn’t been all that long since Finau strung together back-to-back victories at the 3M Open and the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Both those events are “birdie fests” like this one, and Finau showcased his ability to go low by getting all the way to 26-under at Detroit Golf Club to claim that Rocket Mortgage win.
While he and Scheffler both bring similar differential between projected ceiling and projected ownership, Finau does have one thing going for him that Scheffler does not — course history. While Scheffler will be making his debut at this track, Finau has made the cut in four of his six trips to Mayakoba, notching a pair of top 10s and a T16.
Finau matches five Pro Trends this week and joins Scheffler as elite plays worth a look if you’re trying to go against the flow at the top of the salary structure.
Mid-Priced PGA DFS Picks
Jason Day $9,200
Day also matches five Pro Trends coming into the week and seems to be moving past his most recent injuries and settling back into fine form. In his two most recent starts, he posted a T8 at the Shriners Children’s Open and a T11 at THE CJ CUP with a much stronger field.
While the Aussie always brings plenty of length, his accuracy has been trending up lately, and he ranked 11th in SG: Approach in his most recent event. He has the third-most SG: Approach and the third-most SG: Tee-to-Green in the field over the past six weeks. He also has the best GIR% in the field over that six-week span.
Of all the players over $9K, Day has the highest leverage, and he has the fourth-highest rating in the Strokes Gained Model of all players under $10K. He isn’t ultra-cheap, but his slightly higher salary should keep his ownership manageable.
The veteran should be set up for a strong week, and he could even sneak in and steal a win. He does have slightly lower odds of finishing in the top 10 than other similarly-priced players, which shows his “boom-or-bust” profile.
For GPP, though, boom-or-bust is just fine since it’s all about targeting upside.
Matt Kuchar $8,000
Kuchar has the third-highest ceiling of all players under $9K this week and the third-highest median projection as well. He won this event in 2018 and finished in the top 25 in each of his two trips back since that victory. Last season, he finished T22, continuing to show that his accuracy and ball striking fit the venue extremely well.
Coming into this week, he has the second-most SG: Around-The-Green in the field over the past 75 weeks, so if that metric is one you’re emphasizing due to course layout, Kuch is a nice fit.
The veteran has also been playing well this season. He posted a T12 at the Fortinet Championship to open the year and returned from a brief issue with his knee to post a solid T29 at THE CJ CUP. He has the fifth-most SG: Approach in the field over the past six weeks and the fifth-best GIR% over that span as well.
He’s a little chalkier than is ideal for GPP, but his statistical profile is strong enough to eat a little chalk here and differentiate at other spots in your lineup. He does offer the third-highest leverage of players priced at $8K or more.
Value PGA DFS Picks
Nick Hardy $7,800
Hardy was in my picks last week and played his way to a T23 in Bermuda after an up-and-down week. He finished strong, though, with a five-under closing round on Sunday. That finish was his third tournament in a row in which he has made the cut and exceeded expectations, highlighted by a T5 early in the year at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
Over the past six weeks, Hardy has the most SG: Approach of any player under $9.5K and the second highest among all the players in the field. That has resulted in the second-most SG: Tee-To-Green over that span of the players under $8.5K and the fifth-best GIR% of players in that salary range.
Joel Dahmen $7,200
The projections love Dahmen this week, who has made the cut in three straight events this Fall after missing the cut at the Fortinet Championship to start the season. He’ll be teeing it up for the first time since finishing T16 at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP, his second top-20 finish of the young season.
Of all players under $8K, Dahmen has the highest ceiling projection and the highest median projection by wide margins. He has the fourth-best Perfect% in that price range as well and the highest mark of a player below $7.5K. Dahmen is also the only player under $8K with a positive projected Plus/Minus, demonstrating his projected points outpace his salary expectations.
The 34-year-old from Washington state also brings good course history to Mayakoba, where he has made the cut in each of the last five years with three top-25 finishes highlighted by a T6 in 2019.
Sleeper PGA DFS Picks
Ryan Palmer $6,900
Many of this week’s picks are veteran ball-strikers since those are typically the players that do well at this track, and this Sleeper pick lines up with that trend as well.
Palmer brings the fourth-highest SimLeverage in the whole field since he is expected to have extremely low ownership but was in 6.8% of the optimal lineups in our simulations.
He has exceeded expectations in four of his past six tournaments and finished up his most recent event, THE CJ CUP, with back-to-back rounds of 68 to climb to a T45. While that final showing isn’t remarkable at first glance, it’s impressive since he opened with a 76 in Round 1.
Last year at this track, he finished T27 for his best career finish in three trips to Mayakoba. Of all the players under $7K, he trails only Brandon Wu ($6,900) in implied winning percentage, according to Vegas.
Tyler Duncan $6,500
Duncan doesn’t have the length to contend on some tracks, but on shorter courses like this one, where his ball-striking can carry him, he has shown he can deliver results. In his five career starts, he has made the cut five times and posted a T23 two years ago.
This week, he has the third-highest median projection and the third-highest ceiling projection of all players under $7K. He offers the most projected points per $1,000 of salary from that price range as well, and he can definitely serve as a cheap punt play with how well the course maximizes the strengths of his game.
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