PGA DFS: Safeway Open Picks
The new Tour season kicks off at its first stop, Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, California. The course is a Par 72 that plays right around 7,200 yards.
The average golfer at this event will hit around 53 percent of fairways, which is about 8 percent lower than a typical event. While it’s slightly more difficult to hit fairways, the greens are slightly easier to hit this week. The course also features Poa Annua greens, which should factor into your decisions when building lineups.
Attacking The Course
Since 2015, there have been 114 golfers that have finished the week 20th or better in DraftKings Points. That group hasn’t seen much of a bump in either driving stat. Top 20 scorers averaged 32nd in distance and 33rd in accuracy off the tee. From a correlation standpoint, driving accuracy does have a slight bump (0.04 r-squared) versus driving distance (0.032 r-squared). Even for golf standards, those are pretty low and noisy. Strokes Gained: Off the Tee has nearly a 0.13 r-squared to DK points. While you might be able to get away with different strategies off the tee, hitting greens is invaluable.
Hitting greens in regulation is about twice as correlated to DK success (0.23 r-squared). The 21 golfers who have scored at least 100 DK points at Silverado Resort have averaged 52.5 greens hit for the week (72.9 percent). There have only been two golfers in that group to lose strokes on approach and they needed to gain over 5.5 strokes with their putter to make up for it. Predicting putting isn’t something that I’m interested in trying to do, so give me the ball-strikers.
Expensive Golfers ($9,000+)
Patrick Cantlay ($11,600) is the highest priced golfer in the field this week. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where he fails except that golf is just random sometimes. He’s 1st in SG: Total over the past 50 rounds and just, in some people’s eyes, got snubbed from a Ryder Cup appearance. It’s narrative street, but Cantlay should come out on fire this week.
We have four guys in the $10,000 range this weekend. Phil Mickelson ($10,900), Ryan Moore ($10,700), Joaquin Niemann ($10,300), and Emiliano Grillo ($10,000) all fit the bill in Napa. Give me Niemann out of these four in any format. Niemann turned pro heading into the Valero Texas Open last year and promptly finished in 6th place. Since that time, he played in 11 events. Niemann’s made eight of those cuts including five Top 25 finishes. His performance dipped a little bit at the PGA Championship, but other than that he’s been usable on DK in all of his starts since July.
Honorable Mention: Denny McCarthy ($9,700)
Mid – Range Golfers ($9,000 – $7,500)
Luke List ($8,800) is the most enticing name in the $8,000 range. Over the past 50 rounds, he’s 15th in DK Points. He isn’t the best poa putter. If you know anything about List, though, you know that he loses strokes putting on every surface. List has a ton of cut equity at a reasonable price, in a weak field. There’s always a downside with List, but if you catch him on a hot week he is as good of a play as anyone in this field.
If you’re looking to build a more balanced GPP lineup, the two guys right below List make some sense as well. Kevin Tway ($8,700) and Chris Kirk ($8,600) are 18th and 17th in DK Points in the past 50 rounds. By no means are they the safest plays, and I wouldn’t touch Tway or Kirk in cash, but if you catch a couple of hot putters with those two in a weak field, they could pay off nicely. With Luke List likely soaking up quite a bit of ownership, either of those guys (or both) could come in very low and have GPP winning upside with a Top 5 finish.
Chez Reavie ($7,600) has been a bit of a rollercoaster since missing the cut at the RBC Canadian Open. In those five events, he’s averaging .9 SG: Approach. Reavie has had uncharacteristic swings in his ball-striking. He’s put up SG: Approach numbers anywhere from the literal worst performance to the 13th best performance of his career over the past five weeks. I’m willing to write off his performance at the Dell Championship as a crazy outlier and think he finds something with his irons in California this weekend.
Honorable Mention: Jason Dufner ($7,800), Peter Uihlein ($8,200)
Value Golfers ($7,500 and Below)
Bronson Burgoon ($7,600) is the highest ranked golfer in my model regardless of price counting the last 24 rounds. In that time frame, he’s Top Ten in SG: Approach, DK Points, and strokes gained on par 5s. For his price, he’d make quite a bit of sense in any format.
Sungjae Im ($7,000) is a trendy pick for the upcoming PGA season. His 2018 was excellent on the Web.com Tour as he found the winner’s circle twice and added three runner-up finishes. He’s already ascended to the Top 100 OWGR, without playing much on the PGA Tour. In fact, he’s just a few spots below guys like Jhonattan Vegas ($6,700) and Brendan Steele ($9,000). Last we saw him on the PGA Tour, he finished in T42 at the PGA Championship. While it isn’t the best finish you’ve ever seen, it’s impressive for a guy to step onto a major stage like that from the Web.com Tour.
Once we get into the $7,000 range in weak field events, it can be a bit like rolling the dice. Going balanced is the play in cash, but if you want to fit in the Cantlay’s and Mickelson’s of the world, you’re going to need some value. Sam Ryder ($7,400) is 8th in DK Points over his past 50 rounds. It’s been a couple of weeks now, but the last few times we’ve seen Shawn Stefani ($7,300) he was striking the ball well. He’s averaged 3.5 strokes gained on approach his last two starts.
Honorable Mention: Hunter Mahan ($7,500), Brandon Hagy ($7,200), Joel Dahmen ($7,100)