PGA Angle of Attack: Genesis Open
Okay, let’s talk and be very frank and transparent as well. That was a bad week for me. We all have them. The nice thing about terrible weeks is that they are generally more instructive than good ones. Let’s look back at some of the results, as well as my thoughts beforehand, and try to decide which decisions were #TrustTheProcess losses that should even out over time versus which ones were actual mistakes.
THE WIND: So this was the big question mark. As the forecast continued to call for worse conditions, I got really nervous about the wind at Pebble Beach. Now it wasn’t supposed to be pristine at the other courses either, but Pebble is largely right on the water, so I began to consider alternatives. At the last minute on Thursday morning, I made a 2v2 in my primary cash lineup from Shane Lowry and Patrick Reed (both at Pebble) to Scott Piercy and Webb Simpson (both at the easier and slightly more sheltered MPCC).
The outcome: Welp, it was a 55 point swing, which gave me about a 20th percentile lineup. Would have been 75th if I stood pat. To be honest, I’m still not sure how I feel about the decision. I know Lowry has a reputation as a great wind player, but no one is better in the wind. Reed is a really good golfer, but last year’s adjusted round scores between Simpson and him were smaller than you’d think. Ultimately it was so close I let the tiebreaker be avoiding the Pebble guys. I immediately got nervous when I saw that a number of players I really respect had made no adjustment. Turned out MPCC was bothered by the wind just as much and Lowry/Reed both turned in solid rounds.
The lesson: While the weather is usually worth considering, it may have been a mistake to be so eager to switch.
THE TOP PLAYERS: Obviously in the week we all decide it makes sense to go a little more balanced, the five highest priced guys are the five highest scorers.
A couple of things: As I stated last week, it wasn’t so much a problem with the top for me (Sneds excluded, sorry), as a problem with the bottom. I just did not have 3 – 4 sub – $7k guys I was comfortable playing so I was not a fan the double stud lineups I was playing around with. I should have listened to my own joke on the podcast about Oppenheim and Barnes playing with Belichick. The mistake here was more that in a week with a lot of wind, we’re going to have a lot less predictability, and yet as a group we all got forced more onto the chalk. The only real disaster from a point/dollar perspective above $9,000 was Justin Rose, and I still played him around 50%.
The lesson: Golf is crazy, anything can happen. More than any other DFS sport you can benefit from getting away from the hive mind. And if the hive mind is telling you not to play the best players in the world, I MEAN…
STEVE STRICKER: Had an error in my Excel import that had me label him as $7,700, otherwise he would have jumped up with Streb and Garrigus as one of the top options from my dumpster diving pile, maybe would have had more two stud lineups!
The lesson: I think that one is measure twice, cut once. Dunno, I’m not the handiest guy to be honest.
Moving forward to this week, I am pretty excited to be out of course rotations for a while. It definitely makes analysis more straightforward, and with more of the same shots for everyone it should help make things at least a little more predictable. The Riviera Country Club is a par 71 that comes in a little over 7,300 yards. The fairways are narrower, but the rough is not thought of as punishing. We have a situation similar to last week on the greens, with bumpy poa annua that is likely to be wetter than normal. In fact, the current forecast is calling for pretty severe downpour on much of Friday and Saturday, which should both lengthen the already long course and make aggressive approach shots more likely to stick to their targets. Which is good, because these greens are very small.
Length: There are some very long par 4s here, as well as a very short one on which the longer players might be able to advance from tee to green in one shot. We are definitely going to want to put an emphasis on distance, and solid long iron play will also come in handy. Luckily these tend to go together. The shorter guys are going to have to be exceptional from 150 – 200 and 200+ to be considered.
Fairways: Another week we aren’t as worried about accuracy, as the rough is not supposed to be a big deal. The fairways are hard to hit anyway, so I won’t be giving a bump to precision off the tee unless someone is incredibly straight.
Greens: The greens at these courses are all slower poa annua grass, and we have to factor in the rain that will slow them down even more. This should make going at the hole aggressively on the approach a little easier. It is also likely to even out the putting differences. The greens will be bumpy and slow, which means long putts won’t hold their line as well and mistakes won’t roll by as far. This tends to reduce both one and three putt attempts…
…Is exactly what I wrote last week and putting specialist Jordan Spieth still gave me a wedgie before he shoved me into my locker (although I’d bet that the lockers at Pebble Beach are pretty swank), gaining five strokes on the field Saturday to put the tournament away. I am banking on years of data over anecdotal evidence, but obviously remember what this guy is capable of when I recommend fading him in a couple paragraphs. I’m going to be willing to look at scrambling ability more than normal with the greens tough to hit.
Weather: Not a ton to do about rain other than bump up the bombers a little. As always check back Wednesday night/Thursday morning to monitor wind. This week should be actionable if anything crazy pops up as we will have distinct morning and afternoon waves.
On to the golfers:
I am hearing a lot of griping about the pricing this week, and I want to address a few things.
First, I think that while there are definitely some inefficiencies, though they are not as bad as they were two weeks ago, and generally not as bad as people are making them out to be. This is a stronger field than last week, and therefore each player’s relative chance at success becomes lower. Look at what happens in the majors. Scott Piercy seems crazy at $6,500, but he’s trading between 125 and 150. This is traditionally how the sites have determined their pricing.
Second, this should make building cash teams easier. If the working theory is that this will bring in more casual players, who are we to complain? Let’s be smart, do the math, and let other people make mistakes.
Third, this makes for a great spot for game theory plays. If some guy is $500 too expensive relative to the players around him, well, with all this value you can still afford him. With the DFS market becoming more and more efficient, you should be able to get some very good players at very low ownership.
Fourth, this makes the plays section simpler. With ease of roster construction I’m not going to nitpick the difference between hundredths of strokes gained from 150 yards or whatever. Also there are about 40 players I could write up. I’m going to make three piles at each price point – stable, volatile, and fade; with a couple sentences justifying each group.
Stable: Dustin Johnson – $11,600, Adam Scott – $10,300
Volatile: Jason Day – $10,000, Jordan Spieth – $12,600, Sergio Garcia – $9,300
Fade: Jason Day – $10,000, Jordan Spieth – $12,600, Hideki Matsuyama – $11,500
Deej is the best player in the world right now, it’s very easy to afford a stud, and he is where I’m going if I end up at the top in cash.
Hurts to say this because Hideki and Day are two of my favorites, but Day has been playing poorly for nine months (last week was all putting) and I’m not sure this is the course for Hideki. Spieth, I mean, do what you gotta, but I think he’ll be very popular, is too expensive, and is looking at what should be putting conditions that level the playing field. We’ll see.
Mid – range (7.5 – 8.9k)
Stable: Bubba Watson – $8,300, Paul Casey – $8,600, Justin Rose – $8,400
Unpopular stat: The standard deviation on Bubba’s adjusted strokes per round over the last two seasons is in the 20th percentile. He’s traditionally been one of the most stable players out there, and is probably the 8th best golfer in the world. I’m going to bet on regression. Rose and Casey are probably 9 and 10. Too cheap.
Volatile: Bubba Watson – $8,300, Charl Schwartzel – $8,100, Jason Kokrak – $7,800, Phil Mickelson – $7,900, Keegan Bradley – $7,500
Listen, Bubba could also win this thing.
Kokrak finally smashed last week, but it wasn’t enough to save my cash teams. Normally I’d think people would flock to him off a good week and with his course history, but I think they will find that tag too expensive.
Fade: Charles Howell – $7,500, Jimmy Walker – $8,500, Phil Mickelson??? – $7,900
Phil was quietly great last week. Everyone is mad at him for Sunday, but he still outscored Justin Rose by 4 points despite finishing 30 places behind him. And everyone is going to lock in Rose for cash again. I wanna gauge ownership because I think it could go either way, but if people are off him it’s a nice buying spot.
Cheapies (7.4k and below)
Stable: Webb Simpson – $7,000, Brendan Steele – $7,100, J.B. Holmes – $7,100, Branden Grace – $7,300, Tony Finau – $6,800
These are the guys I’m comfortable rounding out my cash teams with. Webb missed the cut by a stroke. J.B. played like a machine last Sunday, when he had something like 33 sub 15 foot birdie attempts. We want sub 15 foot birdie attempts.
Volatile: Scott Brown – $6,800, Chad Campbell – $6,500, Scott Piercy – $6,500, Kevin Chappell – $6,700
Your GPP – flyers – who – haven’t – been – playing – well – but – damn – those – price – tags – are – tempting section
Fade: Brooks Koepka – $7,100, K.J. Choi – $6,400
I’m willing to concede that Brooks could bite me, but this is probably going to be my aggressive stand this week. I just think that tag stands out so much and people love him so much that he’s going to be 15 – 20% owned. I want to believe too, but he has been a pretty awful wedge player, which could be a real problem around these tiny greens. K.J. Choi I’m just not willing to admit is any good, and with his insane course history (5 – 30 – 12 – 33 – 24 – 7 – 27 – 3 – 7 – 22 last 10 years) people will be on him.
Finally, I think this is a week to get specific. There are a TON of plays. Don’t fall in love with too many or you are just going to end up paying rake on these guys. Pick a tighter core, have reasons for each play, and if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. Spreading yourself out too thin is going to be very easy to do, so be cognizant of it.
Go and get it everybody.
You can find me in the FanVice premium Slack channel or on Twitter: @andrewmbarron as well as on the FanVice PGA podcast.