The PGA Tour's fall season rolls along this week with the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, which is played at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas, Nevada. Wait, did somebody say … VEGAS?!
You bet we did. Sin City has hosted the tournament since its inception in 1983, way back when it was a 90-hole tournament and it was called the Panasonic Las Vegas Pro Celebrity Classic. Fittingly, the following year, it became the first PGA Tour event to offer a purse that exceeded $1 million. You may not win a mil this week, but we hope our handicappers help you come out on the plus side come Sunday.
Our expert picks this week, like every week, include a PGA Tour caddie offering insight from on the ground at TPC Summerlin thanks to our partnership with The Caddie Network; picks from Jason Sobel, a senior writer at The Action Network, which is becoming the leader in sports betting and handicapping analysis, and is growing its presence in golf; two of the most respected experts in the daily-fantasy community, Pat Mayo of DraftKings and Brandon Gdula of FanDuel; Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports, which tracks DFS ownership and sentiment; and Columbia University senior lecturer and Ph.D. Lou Riccio, who uses predictive analysis and modeling to forecast winners in golf.
The field is stronger than usual at the Shriners, as a number of big-name players look to collect some early FedEx Cup points that can come in handy at the end of the season. Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau are among those making their 2019-'20 PGA Tour debuts. Read on to see who are experts like this week.
2019 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open Picks To Win (Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie Guest Picker of the Week: Bryson DeChambeau (17-1) — I know he faded last week, but he’s close to finding his form. This course suits his game. He’s long enough to take advantage of the par 5s. He’s already shown some really good form early in the new season. He’s already on the upcoming Presidents Cup team, but I feel like a lot of the guys on that team would love to win prior to heading to Australia in December.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National analyst: Jason Kokrak (50-1) — Two swing-season events have given us two breakthrough winners, so why not back a guy who’s been due for his first win for … probably a half decade now. He’s not one of the elite in the field, but Kokrak strikes it like an elite player. Just don’t ask him to chip and putt. The chipping likely won’t just randomly get better; putting can, though. And if Kokrak is playing well enough tee-to-green to contend, I’m not too concerned about the short game. After four straight top-20s to finish the 2018-19 season, Kokrak flamed out at The Greenbrier, yet still gained more than four strokes on the field with his driver and irons in two rounds. And it’s not like he can’t putt; per FantasyNational.com, there were four separate times he gained more than five strokes on the greens last season. It’ just not that often.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire editor: Adam Scott (17-1) — I’m sticking with Scott as someone I’m backing until I see reason to divest. Scott ranks second in the field in adjusted strokes-gained average in 2019 based on my adjustments. According to FantasyNational, he leads the field in strokes gained/approach and is third in birdie-or-better rate. Winners will need to go low here.
Dr. Lou Riccio, Columbia University: Matthew Wolff (60-1) — Let’s keep in mind Wolff won six times in the 2018-'19 season at Oklahoma State, including his NCAA individual title. Now, he has a PGA Tour victory to go with that. What’s stopping him now? He is a birdie machine, and the Shriners historically asks you to go low. Without the pressure of winning your first tour event, Wolff should have the green light to fire at pins and possibly lock up a second tour win before the end of the calendar year. The number is too big to ignore.
Jason Sobel, Action Network senior golf writer: Webb Simpson (20-1) — Reason No. 1: He won this event in 2014, finished T-4 the next year and hasn’t missed the cut in the desert in a decade. Reason No. 2: He just finished a season that included three second-place finishes in the last three months, so he’s due to win again. Reason No. 3: If there’s one player who won’t go off the rails in Vegas this week, it’s Simpson. My guess is that he’ll be in bed by 9 p.m. with a warm glass of milk each night. He won’t have the most fun in Sin City—until it’s time to kiss the trophy, that is.
Golf Digest editors: Tony Finau (20-1) — After a bit of a June swoon that included three straight MCs last season, Big Tone rebounded with three top-six finishes in his last six events and was no worse than T-30 during that stretch. This is his first event of the new PGA Tour season, and he tends to do very well right out of the gate, beginning each of the last two years with runner-ups in his first start. (He also played well the last two weeks while moonlighting on the European Tour, finishing T-10 at the Dunhill Links on Sunday.) We like that trend to continue at Shriners, where he's made the cut in all five of his appearances in the event and finished T-16 or better three of those times.
Lee Aldrick, FanShare Sports golf expert: Adam Scott (17-1) — Scott has never played this event before but he does rank fourth in our course suitability metric. After a great first round last week, he faded away disappointingly, but he does rank eighth in the field this week for strokes gained/tee-to-green over the last two months and sixth for opportunities gained over that same period. If he makes a few putts, the Shriners is his for the taking.
Results from this season: We have predicted the season’s first two winners, but couldn't make it three in a row at the Safeway Open. Brandon Gdula picked Sebastian Munoz (65-1) at the Sanderson Farms Championship, and four of our experts correctly predicted Joaquin Niemann in the season opener at The Greenbrier (Gdula, Pat Mayo, Dr. Lou Riccio and Lee Alldrick, hitting him at 22-1).
Sleepers/Dark Horses That Could Win at the 2019 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open (odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie: Aaron Wise (66-1) — He lives there. He practices out of there. He’s got his coach there. He plays the golf course a ton, has a top-10 in the past and it would be a great place to break out and get the train back on the tracks. He’s too good to be finishing outside the top-100. I think he should be a top 50 FedEx player every year.
Mayo: Kyle Stanley (125-1) — Who’s off to a rough double missed-cut start to the season? Kyle Stanley. Still, like Kokrak, he just needs a reasonable week on the greens to vault back up the leader board. Despite playing just the two rounds at the Safeway, Stanley still finished sixth in the field in approach. That was tied with Adam Scott, who had four rounds of stats. Plus, the past two winners, DeChambeau and Cantlay, where have they also won on bentgrass? Memorial. You know who has quite the Muirfield Village track record? Kyle Stanley. And you can grab him at triple digits.
Gdula: Emiliano Grillo (100-1) — Statistically, Grillo is one of the best iron players in the world, but his big struggle is putting. The silver lining for this week is that he’s playing on bentgrass greens, his only positive putting surface. Constantly in scoring position because of his precision, it’s a week where I want to take a shot on Grillo to convert.
Riccio: Aaron Wise (66-1) — The young Oregon bomber lives in Las Vegas, which puts him at home, literally, in this role. My model projects his odds closer to the 25-1 to 30-1 level. His skill set should be a direct match to this course, and my model expects him to be a factor this weekend.
Sobel, Action Network: Harold Varner III (80-1) — My predicted winner for last week’s Safeway Open didn’t exactly pan out, but I liked what I saw from his 17th-place finish. More importantly, I’d hate to jump off this bandwagon one week too soon. Cameron Champ winning for his terminally ill grandfather was a great story on Sunday, and sometimes great stories come in bunches. There wouldn’t be a more popular first-time winner amongst his peers than HV3, and I think he’s knocking on the doorstep right now.
Golf Digest editors: Kevin Na (70-1) — Home game for Na this week in Vegas, where his history at TPC Summerlin is impossible to ignore. In his last 11 trips he has one win, a T-2, a T-15 and three more top-25s. Is that good? Good enough to back him at 70-1.
Aldrick, FanShare Sports: Zach Johnson (100-1) — Following a tough time of it of late, ZJ is just starting to find a bit of form again. With his 14th-place finish last week, he's now made five of his last seven cuts. FantasyNational shows us that over the last two months, Johnson ranks fifth for Opportunities Gained and 12th for strokes gained/tee-to-green. He also ranks 37th in our course suitability metric so he should have no problem playing at TPC Summerlin. In fact, he shot a 62 here en route to a 10th-place finish in 2008.
Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)
PGA Tour Caddie: Matthew Wolff (60-1) — He’s a young, talented player, but this course can be tricky, and you need to have played it a few times. It gets extra tricky on 10 and 11. You need to pay attention and plot your way around 15. You need to understand the situation and know when to dial it back. I just think this course requires some experience that Matthew hasn’t had there just yet.
Mayo: Brooks Koepka (8-1) — Of course Brooks can stretch this field but it’s a short price for a guy who’s likely more concerned about how much he wins at the blackjack table and getting his brother a sponsor’s exemption than crushing a swing-season event.
Gdula: Bryson DeChambeau (17-1) — DeChambeau won here last year, but he was a different golfer then than he is now. He’s coming off a 13th last week, but we’ve seen a flash here and there from him. Priced with the last-year’s-winner allure, Bryson is a bit too expensive for me.
Riccio: Adam Scott (17-1) — You’ll have to convince me that Scott cares about this tournament, and then you’ll have to convince me his stats will translate to an unfamiliar desert layout. This is not like most Aussie layouts, or the parkland courses Scott thrives on. This is a hard pass based on his lack of pedigree on courses such as these.
Sobel, Action Network: Brooks Koepka (8-1) — Yeah, yeah. I get it. Fading Brooks in a field this inferior is like fading the Harlem Globetrotters against the Washington Generals. But he’s been all-or-nothing in four starts at this event in the past—a second-place finish, a fourth-place finish and two MCs—and I’m banking on less all and more nothing this time around. He’s shown a reluctancy to bring his best stuff to small tourneys. Also, just a wild guess, but the guy with the Michelob Ultra deal who poses nude in magazines probably won’t be solely focused on his game this week.
Golf Digest editors: Gary Woodland (35-1) — He just hasn't been the same since Pebble (understandably). Even after some much-needed time off, we don't see that changing this week.
Aldrick, FanShare Sports: Bryson DeChambeau (17-1) — No way should DeChambeau be the third favorite to win this week. He ranks 90th in the field for opportunities gained over the last two months and 31st for strokes gained/tee-to-green. Other than his seventh in the short-field Tour Championship he has not finished in the top 10 of a tournament since July.
2019 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open: Matchups
PGA Tour Caddie: Phil Mickelson (+100) over Bud Cauley (Sportbet) — Even though Phil is getting long in the tooth, he seems to be taking care of the fitness part. It’s only a matter of time before his game matches his body. He’s always out to prove everyone wrong. It’s a gambling theme, and he’s in Vegas. As long as he stays away from the tables and gets rest, bet on Phil!
Mayo: Patrick Cantlay (+105) over Brooks Koepka (Bet 365) — Cantlay has a first and second in appearances at TPC Summerlin. Plus, he'll likely be more focused on golf rather than having an awesome time in Vegas.
Gdula: Dylan Frittelli (-110) over Cameron Champ (FanDuel) — Frittelli and Champ both have recent form to get excited about, but Champ converted on the high end of his variance last week with a win. Frittelli has been steady himself, with consecutive top-10s and ranks 13th in strokes gained/tee to green over the past 50 rounds. Champ is 93rd.
Riccio: Tony Finau (+115) over Adam Scott (Sportbet) — Scott has proven nothing on desert layouts. It’s great he’s playing so much over on the PGA Tour before the calendar year turns, but it doesn’t mean these courses are fits for him. Finau, meanwhile, grew up at altitude in Utah and is an absolute monster on these type of courses. My model says to fade Scott, and Finau at plus-odds is super attractive.
Sobel, Action Network: Dylan Frittelli (-106) over Scottie Scheffler (DraftKings) — I’m not so sure the markets have corrected to the point where Frittelli is being listed against similar talents. Following a season during which he won his first PGA Tour title and contended in a major, he’s now opened with a pair of top-10s to start this campaign. He’s a bit unassuming in that he doesn’t overpower courses or putt lights-out; he just does everything well. There’s no reason to think he won’t have another solid performance, which should place him above whomever the books pit against him.
Golf Digest editors: Charles Howell III (+100) over Adam Hadwin (DraftKings) — Hadwin has a great track record when it comes to desert golf, but Howell has a good track record when it comes to cashing massive checks every week. CH3 at even odds against anybody will always be enticing.
Matchup results last week: PGA Tour caddie: 0 for 1 (Sungjae Im (+115) over Adam Scott); Mayo 0 for 1 (Lucas Glover (-120) over Marc Leishman); GD Editors: 0 for 1 (Nate Lashley (-135) over Brendan Steele); Riccio: 0 for 1 (Hideki Matsuyama (+110) over Adam Scott); Alldrick/FanShare: 1 for 1 (Brandt Snedeker (-111) over Francesco Molinari); Gdula: 0 for 1 (Patrick Cantlay (+116) over Justin Thomas).
Matchup results this season (assuming each matchup is a one-unit wager: PGA Tour Caddie: 2 for 3 (up 0.95 units); Mayo: 2 for 3 (up 0.91 units); GD Editors: 2 for 3 (up 0.82 units); Alldrick, FanShare Sports: 3 for 3 (up 2.50 units); Action Network: 1 for 2 (even on the year); Riccio: 1 win, 1 loss, 1 push (down 0.09 units); Gdula: 1 for 3 (down 1 unit)
Top 10 (odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie: Keith Mitchell (+1600) — Obviously, he’s a banger. He can take care of the par 5s with irons. He’s rested up and probably eager to get going.
Mayo: Scottie Scheffler (+550) — Already with a pair of top-20s in two swing starts, Scheffler’s odds are benefitting from the elite names at the top of the board. In six PGA Tour starts over the past two seasons, he’s never lost strokes off the tee, and has gained over four strokes with his irons in half those appearances.
Gdula: Andrew Landry (+1600) — Landry’s ball-striking is solid enough for him to push for a top-10 here. He grades out 10th over the past 50 rounds in opportunities gained, a FantasyNational stat that indicates scoring chances. When Landry clicks, he pushes for high-upside finishes.
Riccio: Webb Simpson (+250) — There is a talent gap here with Simpson. He expects to win in teeing it up in fields like these. And his stats say he could. A top-10 finish is likely, more so than his odds say. You probably think of Webb Simpson as a ball-striker with sub-par short-game stats. Not so much: In his last 50 rounds according to FantasyNational.com, Simpson is fourth in strokes gained/short game, third in sg/putting and fourth in strokes gained/overall. If he has a solid ball-striking week, he will contend to win.
Sobel, Action Network: Scott Piercy (+600) — There are Bermuda specialists, there are poa annua specialists, there are links specialists—and yes, there are desert specialists, too. Perhaps nobody fits this mold better than Piercy, a Vegas resident who loves playing desert golf. It shows in his results here, too, as he’s posted four top-10s in his last eight trips to this event.
Golf Digest editors: Patrick Cantlay (+135) — Hate, hate, hate using the L word (it rhymes with rock), but Cantlay finishing top-10 at the Shriners (win in 2018, solo second in 2019) is as close to a L word as it gets. At plus odds, it seems foolish to pass that up.
Aldrick, FanShare Sports: Byeong Hun An (+500) — An ranks second in our course suitability metric this week. He comes in this week playing excellent golf, ranking 23rd in the field for opportunities gained over the last two months and sixth for strokes-gained/tee-to-green. It’s no surprise then that he has posted two top-five finishes in his last six events.
Top 10 results last week: Gdula 1 for 1 (Collin Morikawa (+380)); GD Editors 1 for 1 (Dylan Frittelli (+550)); Everyone else 0 for 1
Top-10 results for the year (assuming a one-unit wager): Mayo: 1 for 3 (+14 units); Alldrick: 1 for 3 (+5.5 units); Action Network: 1 for 3 (+1.5 units); PGA Tour Caddie: 0 for 3 (-3 units); Riccio: 0 for 3 (-3 units); GD Editors: 1 for 3 (+3.5 units); Gdula 1 for 3 (+1.3 units)
Mayo: Keep riding the hot irons with Collin Morikawa ($9,500). While his price doesn’t seem like a discount, by the time he returns to this event next year, he may be the highest priced player. Additionally, one of the best ways to uncover value in the DraftKings pricing is to compare DK price to betting odds. This week, Aaron Wise ($7,500) sees the widest gap among potential contenders.
Here's who I'd build my lineups around on DraftKings this week: Collin Morikawa ($9,500); Scottie Scheffler ($8,800); Jason Kokrak ($8,600); Aaron Wise ($7,500); Kyle Stanley ($7,000)
Aldrick, FanShare Sports: Here's who I have in my lineup this week: Adam Scott ($10,000); Joaquin Niemann ($9,400); Byeong Hun An ($9,000); Emiliano Grillo ($7,600); Zach Johnson ($7,100); Harry Higgs ($6,700)
FanShare Sports' Under The Radar DFS Pick of the Week: Harry Higgs ($6,700) — Last year’s Korn Ferry Tour star has gotten off to a nice start on the PGA Tour. In three events he has already had two top-25 place finishes. His stats are impressive, too. Over the last two months, Higgs ranks 33rd for strokes gained/tee-to-green in the field this week and 17th for opportunities gained. We don’t have enough data available to judge his course suitability but he does gain shots on the field when putting on bentgrass greens. Expect Higgs to post another impressive finish this week.
Gdula: This week, there are plenty of stud golfers in the field to pick from. I have my preferences, but it’s quite close among the top. The good thing is that the low $9,000 range offers plenty of strong values to help us spend up for the favorites: Brian Harman ($9,400), Aaron Wise ($9,400), Emiliano Grillo ($9,100), Kevin Streelman ($9,100), and Rory Sabbatini ($9,000).
About our experts
Dr. Lou Riccio, a PhD senior lecturer, teaches rational decision making at Columbia's Graduate School of Business and has served on the USGA's handicap research team for three decades. His predictive analysis and modeling helps him make expert picks for our column.
Pat Mayo is known as one of the pre-eminent experts in daily-fantasy sports and golf handicapping specifically. Mayo is a 17-time fantasy sports-writers association finalist, the most of any writer this decade, and Mayo won the 2019 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Podcast of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Video award. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com. Here’s a link to watch his complete DraftKings preview of the 2019 Wyndham Championship.
Brandon Gdula, a senior editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year (congrats, Brandon!). Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.
Jason Sobel is a senior writer for The Action Network. To read The Action Network's full betting breakdown for this week, click here.
Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports started out writing an article highlighting the best bargain plays for fantasy golf under his twitter handle @DKGolfBargains. His success at this prompted FanShare Sports to enlist him as a guest writer, which evolved into him writing the weekly Under The Radar article. As a UK based expert, Alldrick’s insight into European Tour regulars and low priced, low owned plays has provided an invaluable edge for readers when it comes to DFS GPPs.