Expert handicapping
February 05, 2020

2020 AT&T Pebble Beach pro-am DFS picks: Is course history enough to take Jordan Spieth this week?

GOLF: JAN 24 PGA - Farmers Insurance Open

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The question posed on a weekly basis to fantasy golf players, or anyone tasking themselves with the impossibility of predicting success in a sport as fickle as golf, like we're doing before this week's 2020 AT&T Pebble Beach pro-am, often comes down to: Should you trust past performance at a particular tournament, or rely more heavily on recent form? The answer, of course, is not cut and dry, or else industry experts would be making money every week. (And no, we can assure you that's not the case.)

Course history and a proven track record at a given layout must provide some level of performance indication. For anybody who has competed in this sport, some venues fit a golfer's eye more than others, and then add in the fact that we can track how golfers perform on particular grass types and types of courses, there is certainly a level of predictability. But if a golfer has lost their form, then how much does that course history matter if they're hitting it all over the map? Finding an in-form golfer at a course where they have had past success, though rare, is the perfect combination—and what we seek to deliver to you on a weekly basis.

That's part of the reason why you don't find Jordan Spieth on this list from our experts, which includes 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. Spieth has excellent course history at the AT&T Pebble Beach pro-am, but he hasn't yet proved he's back from his slump. Most experts are taking the wait-and-see approach with the three-time major champion, rather than gambling on a return to form. Contrast that with golfers like Jason Day, Paul Casey or Brandt Snedeker, all of whom will be popular plays this week given their stellar course history. Snedeker and Casey have played well lately; J-Day has been in a bit of a slump until a top-20 finish at the Farmers. So again, we pose the question: What should we value most? The below picks hopefully help clarify what your approach should be to that question ... at least, as it relates to this week.

Here's who our panel likes for this week:

2020 AT&T Pebble Beach pro-am: Under-the-Radar Picks of the Week

Brandon Gdula, FanDuel Harold Varner III (FanDuel: $8,500; DraftKings: $7,000) — Varner is the same price as Tringale (see below), who figures to be a popular value pick. Varner’s not accustomed to this format and has missed three straight cuts. However, he missed the cuts while generating field-average performance, and he rates out as someone who can score fantasy points over 54 guaranteed holes. So the form isn’t as bad as the cuts imply, and birdies can be had for HVIII.

Pat Mayo, DraftKings: Luke Donald (FanDuel: $7,200; DraftKings: $6,500) — I mean, Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell already have wins this year, why not the former world’s No. 1? Look, this is a reach, but there are positive signs. Still one of the premier putters on the planet, he’s actually gained on approaches in four of his past five events, and gets to tackle three courses where driving is deemphasized. The Pro-Am generally turns into a pitch and putt if you can keep the ball out of the ocean off tee, and Donald is still one of the best in those areas.

Lee Alldrick, FanShare: Scott Stallings (FanDuel: $9,200; DraftKings: $7,600) — Stallings ranks ninth in our Courses Suitability Ranking this week. It’s not surprising then that his last 3 finishes here have been 14th, 7th and 3rd. Over the last 2 months, the World Number 286 ranks 48th in the field this week for Shots Gained Tee 2 Green over the last 2 months and has made his last 5 cuts in a row. The reason he ranks so high in the CSR is because Stallings is one of the best putters on fast, Poa in the field this week. He ranks 7th in the field this week for Shots Gained Putting on fast, Poa greens.

Golf Digest editors: Mark Hubbard (FanDuel: $8,400; DraftKings: $7,100) — Let's give Mark Hubbard his due. He's gone under the radar by most this season, recording three top-10s and making nine of 12 cuts. And he's going back to a place where he has really, really good vibes. In 2015, Hubbard proposed to his girlfriend after the opening round of the AT&T Pebble Beach pro-am, and he has two made-cuts since then. Hubbard is a more complete golfer since then, as his season's results have proven, so he feels like a nice pivot who will be low-owned against others in his price range.

2020 AT&T Pebble Beach pro-am, Value Plays of the Week

Gdula, FanDuel: Cameron Tringale (FanDuel: $8,500; DraftKings: $7,000) — Tringale is the likeliest golfer below $9,000 to make the cut according to my win simulations, and he is also a good poa putter. He has not thrived at this format (cut, 47th, 57th) but is golfing his best entering this weekend’s event.

Mayo: Paul Casey (FanDuel: $11,700; DraftKings: $10,500): Then, because you’re guaranteed to get 3 rounds from everyone, go back up to the top and take Paul Casey. Per usual, Casey's ball striking has been at an elite level to start 2020, even if the results haven't followed. The Brit’s now gained both Off the Tee and through Approach in every measured event dating back to last year's Players Championship. Casey clearly has an affinity for Pebble Beach too. In two starts the past two years he's finished second and Tied for 8th; and put up a T-21 result at last year's U.S. Open.

Alldrick, FanShare: Jimmy Walker (FanDuel: $8,700; DraftKings: $7,200) — Walker ranks 5th in our Courses Suitability Ranking this week. It’s not surprising then to learn that he has a previous victory here and 5 other top 11 finishes. One of the reasons he does so well here is his excellent ability to putt well on Poa greens and his razor sharp approach game on short courses. He ranks 5th in the field this week for Shots Gained Putting on fast, Poa greens. He also ranks 4th in the field too for Opportunities Gained over the last 2 months. He should certainly be converting a higher number of these chances on these greens.

Golf Digest editors: Harry Higgs (FanDuel: $9,000; DraftKings: $7,200) — Strokes gained/around the green will be a key stat at Pebble Beach this week, with these small greens. Higgs has gained more than two strokes on the field the last two events in that category, and he has a ninth-place and a 25th-place to show for it. The approach stats were poor for him last week, but he still managed to place high. If he can improve slightly on those approach numbers, the rookie should be in for another good week.

2020 AT&T Pebble Beach pro-am, Recommended Lineup Builds

Gdula: — With the cut being the top 60 and ties, we have a situation with both a 54-hole cut but a small percentage of golfers playing all four rounds. Cuts made will be paramount this week. Starting your lineups with Dustin Johnson ($12,400), Patrick Cantlay ($12,000), or Paul Casey ($11,700) is the right anchor play. From there, it looks best to hover down into the second tier for your player of choice, making sure that there’s enough salary not to go too heavy on the low-priced picks. Vaughn Taylor ($9,400) and Kevin Streelman ($9,100) rank as solid value plays this week. A stud-plus-balanced approach looks to be the optimal way to go for Pebble.

Alldrick: — The pricing on DraftKings is fairly kind this week, meaning I can get in all my favorite plays. So here’s a lineup I like where I truly believe all six can finish top 10.

Dustin Johnson - $11,600
Cameron Champ - $8,800
Scott Stallings - $7,600
Nate Lashley - $7,500
Cameron Davis - $7,300
Jimmy Walker - $7,200

With DJ being a little cheaper on FanDuel it allows you to get a few more players in that have received a lot of buzz this week. Such as this one.

Dustin Johnson - $12,400
Russell Knox - $10,000
Cameron Champ - $10,000
Scott Piercy - $9,600
Scott Stallings - $9,200
Jimmy Walker - $8,700

Dr. Lou Riccio, Columbia University: My lineups this week:

DraftKings:

Dustin Johnson - $11,600
Cameron Champ - $8,800
Henrik Norlander - $7,000
Tyler McCumber - $6,600
Kramer Hickok - $6,300
Josh Teater - $6,300

FanDuel:

Dustin Johnson - $12,400
Cameron Champ - $10,000
Henrik Norlander - $8,400
Tyler McCumber - $7,600
Kramer Hickok - $7,400
Josh Teater - $7,300

GD Editors: — Forgive us if this ends up being a chalky lineup. We can see why. Paul Casey and Brandt Snedeker are two of the favorites with incredible course history. Vaughn Taylor is a past winner here and dominates on wedge shots. Scott Stallings is in the top five for strokes gained in recent years at Pebble Beach. Adam Long just popped at the Waste Management, and J.J. Spaun is on a bit of a heater with his approach shots, gaining 6.7 strokes against the field on approaches last week. This feels like a safe lineup, though I can see pivoting off Long, maybe, if you think he's better suited for courses where his off-the-tee game can be a separator.

DraftKings:

Paul Casey - $10,500
Brandt Snedeker - $10,100
Vaughn Taylor - $7,700
Scott Stallings - $7,600
Adam Long - $7,300
J.J. Spaun - $6,800

I'll start my FanDuel lineup the same way, with Casey and Snedeker, and then include a couple of guys, again, with great course history (Viktor Hovland and Scott Piercy); before rounding it out with two guys who I don't think will be popular, to give me some leverage: Nick Watney, who you might remember was a 54-hole leader with Dustin Johnson at the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach (yes, major THROWBACK) and Doc Redman. Watney is in the top 15 on the PGA Tour in greens in regulation this season, which is key to playing well at Pebble, so I like him to make the cut and give you some solid points. And Doc Redman is a birdie machine and actually gained two strokes around the greens last week after struggling in that category all year. Birdies will be key in a 54-hole cut event, and I think all of these guys have the firepower to do just that.

Paul Casey - $11,700
Brandt Snedeker - $11,200
Viktor Hovland - $10,200
Scott Piercy - $9,600
Nick Watney - $8,900
Doc Redman - $7,900

Here's a look at who's buzzing this week, according to FanShare Sports:

Most-DiscussedPebbleFD.jpeg

About our experts

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 2020 AT&T Pebble Beach pro-am.

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.

Stephen Hennessey and Christopher Powers are Golf Digest's main gambling writers. Listen to this week's Golf Digest podcast, where they break down their favorite bets for the 2020 AT&T Pebble Beach pro-am, as well as major winners and season-long predictions.

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.

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 U.K.-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.

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