The Professional golf season is a long, very long season. Meaning we may have a PGA DFS contest in 50 out of the 52 weeks of the year. Of them, five are typically much bigger than the other: The Players Championship in March, the Masters in April, the PGA Championship in May, the U.S. Open in June and the Open Championship in July. Each of the last four has a Millionaire Maker contest offered by DraftKings, where much of the focus is. For more on the types of contests PGA DFS offers check out my “How to Win 100K or more playing PGA DFS” article.
PGA DFS Basics
Each week presents an entirely different set of circumstances, including:
- The Field: Who is competing that week. Typically a field size will range from 120-144 players for normal PGA and European PGA Events.
- The Course: Each golf course is vastly different from the last, requiring different skill sets to perform. Not one course is like the last.
- The Weather: To avoid stating the obvious, Professional Golf is drastically affected by weather conditions, but unlike Baseball Games, usually don’t get canceled, or cause that many golfers to miss playing holes*.
- The Cut Sweat: One of the most important things is to have a golfer you roster play every 72 holes they are projected to play. This is the way a golfer misses playing their expecting number of holes. Professional golf tours around the world all have what’s called a “cut.” This reduces the field to the top 65 players and ties from the above numbers, creating an element in PGA DFS like no other.
Projecting Player Performance
Mark Broadie, a professor at Columbia University, and author of “Every Shot Counts,” created a ‘revolutionary’ way to look at golf statistics, formulating what’s known as “Strokes Gained.” This metric, in its simplest of definitions, is a way to measure the performance of a specific aspect of the game of golf, like putting against the rest of the players in the field. The PGA Tour has always had plenty of statistics, like Greens In Regulation, or Driving Accuracy and Distance, and Birdie or Better %, but nothing like what Broadie came up with. Not only has it been the most predictive set of statistics on projecting player performance, but even the golfers themselves have adapted the theories as ways to improve their game. In addition to this vital set of statistics, the golf course and the weather will also affect player performance, but to a lesser degree.
Strokes Gained & Other Statstical Information
Each round generates its own set of strokes gained analysis, so the data is rather easy to come by. The number of rounds or weeks that one should use in the study of Strokes Gained data is up for debate. No analysis is necessarily right nor wrong; it’s instead just used as a confirmation bias for or against the player. Long term form—a 3 to 6 or even 6 to 9-month time horizon—is typically deemed to be more predictive than shorter-term form, but blindly ignoring short term form can be painful on the wallet. As we dig deeper into strokes gained analysis, four areas are tracked:
- Strokes Gained Off the Tee
- SG: on the Approach
- Strokes Gained Around the Green
- Strokes Gained Putting
Putting has proven to be the most variable, thus the hardest to predict. Of course, there are plenty of outliers within each area, but this is typically the case.
As we look past Strokes Gained information, and try and find other stats that could be useful in trying to project player performance, the golf course itself can help us do that. Some courses are longer than others, making Driving Distance more important than Driving Accuracy, or vice versa. Since most of the courses are the same each year, we have plenty of history on each golfer and their results at said golf courses and can be added into the analysis.
PGA DFS Ownership
The discrepancy in ownership between the low dollar and high dollar buy-ins in PGA DFS seems to be the most significant amongst all the sports. This is mainly because there are a lot of recreational players playing and taking the touted information and applying it. Whereas, in the higher dollars, the ownership is heavily correlated to the Odds’ to win. Thus, we get a vast number of “chalky” players each week, where fading them can make or break a week. Game Theory extraordinaires thrive or dive in PGA DFS.
Other Types of PGA DFS
All of the above information is generally applied to week-long PGA DFS contests. Of the 50 Tournaments, we will cover it’s roughly 40 of them. Ten of them don’t have a cut, or have an entirely different format altogether, “Match Play.” Because we only get “Match Play” twice a year, we won’t spend much time going over it. No-Cut events don’t use anything different in terms of projecting performance; it just guarantees you that your golfer will play all 72 holes, barring a withdrawal from the tournament for some medical reason.
All PGA DFS Contests will offer daily tournaments for every round; this is the PGA DFS form of Showdown contests. As I mentioned above, the strokes gained information is available after each round and also provides opportunities to stack based on weather conditions. It uses an enhanced scoring system, similar to that of the normal PGA, but no captains spot is offered.
Strokes Gained information is excellent and really helps analyze golfers’ current strengths and weaknesses. However, the stats don’t just stop there. There’s a myriad of advanced statistics that some like to lean on, without really applying the concepts thoroughly. Getting into the “weeds” with stats like Strokes Gained: Bermuda, or Strokes Grained: Poa, or proximity from 125 yards in the left rough, can cause one’s brain to explode. The information is readily available, and easy to use thanks to some incredible design work, but can at times feel overwhelming. Sometimes less is more, and that can be the case with the availability of the statistics.
Putting it all together
Hundreds of thousands of dollars, and sometimes millions, are on the line each week in PGA DFS, and a good week can equal life-changing amounts of money. Beyond golf being very hard to predict, even with the introduction of strokes gained data, there is a tremendous amount of variance. Not much more proof is needed for that fact than over ten times last year, a golfer that wasn’t priced in the top 20 of DraftKings to start the week won the tournament. It’s essential to take all aspects of PGA DFS into account each week, to put yourself in the best position to succeed. However, dark times can come to those that press in PGA DFS; I know first hand.
We aim to help you be as prepared as possible, heading into each and every week covering all of the aspects talked about above. Best of luck to everyone in their PGA DFS season!