There's an important point about the depth of the Players 2020 field and the flexibility that it allows fantasy golf players this week that is key to understand. Sure, you can make the argument for why most of the top competitors in the field will play well and why they're rosterable, but the top-to-bottom talent makes it imperative to incorporate some game theory into your lineups.
There are some heavy-duty prizes up for grabs, and to differentiate your lineups enough, you'll want to avoid all-chalk (popular) picks to give you some different lineup builds. For instance, the five players that are projected to be the highest owned in FanDuel and DraftKings formats this week, according to FanShare Sports, are Bryson DeChambeau (24.76 percent projected ownership, as of Wednesday morning); Rory McIlroy (24.69); Collin Morikawa (22.29); Webb Simpson (21.36) and Jon Rahm (19.93). No matter your format (one-and-done, office pool or whatever fantasy league you play), you want to be cognizant of the most popular picks and pivot where you can. In a field like this one, you can do so by targeting some players who are going slightly under the radar.
Dustin Johnson is one of those players. You might forget that he nearly won Rivera a few weeks ago, mainly because he played so poorly at WGC-Mexico, where many expected him to succeed. For that reason, you're getting a discount on DJ this week—especially so in the betting market, where we've seen him 28-1 some places. That's bananas for one of the best players in the world. Read to hear why our experts like DJ this week.
Our experts (including Pat Mayo of DraftKings; Brandon Gdula of FanDuel; Dr. Lou Riccio of Columbia University and Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports) make the case for why they'll build around particular players over others this week. Our panel is the hottest in golf—predicting nine of the 21 tournament winners so far in the 2019-'20 season, netting followers placing a $10 bet on every outright bet would have you up $2,190.
Here's who our panel likes for this week:
Players 2020, Under-the-Radar Picks of the Week
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel Dustin Johnson (FanDuel: $11,800; DraftKings: $10,000) — It’ll sound strange, but Johnson will fly under the radar this week because of McIlroy ($12,200), Rahm ($12,000), and Thomas ($11,900). He tanked at the WGC-Mexico, an event that was supposed to signal DJ’s return, but he still gained 4.2 strokes tee to green in that event. He just lost 6.2 strokes as a putter. At the Genesis, he gained 6.3 strokes tee to green. He’s going to be dismissed more than he should. If you’re seeking cheaper golfers who will offer ownership advantages, consider Rickie Fowler ($10,800), Billy Horschel ($9,800), Matthew Fitzpatrick ($9,200) and Harold Varner III ($7,900).
Lee Alldrick, FanShare: Jason Day (FanDuel: $10,600; DraftKings: $8,400) — Despite being a past champion and a return to form, a lot of people will not play Day this week after his WD last week. However, his run up to his eighth-place finish here at the Players last year follows an eerily similar path. Both this year and last he recorded a top-16 finish at the Farmers, a fourth at the AT&T and a WD at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Therefore, I don’t think the WD is anything to overly worry about. Day's got the win and two other top-10 finishes at Sawgrass in his past four appearances, so this is a fantastic price. The reason Day does so well here is because he is the best putter in the field on fast, Bermuda greens.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings: Ryan Palmer (FanDuel: $8,000; DraftKings: $6,500) — Palmer's game is well suited for shorter tracks. That seems counterintuitive because of his distance, but his best results general come at the less-than-driver courses. He’s already played well at the Sony and Honda (short tracks also with Bermuda greens) this season, and he has a history of either missing the cut or finishing inside the top 25 at the Players. Hopefully this is one of his good years.
Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest: Jimmy Walker (FanDuel: $7,700; DraftKings: $6,000) — Before you scoff and close this article, hear me out. J-Walker is quietly returning to a bit of form. He has back-to-back top-25s in the past two weeks. And particularly last week, his irons were on fire, gaining almost seven strokes on approach compared to the field. If he does that this week, he's a good bet to make the cut. And that's all you need him to do to return value (he's the minimum salary on DraftKings). You might not remember Walker finished second here in 2018, but he does. He also has another top-10 to his name here. A decent course fit with a resurgent golfer that oddsmakers/salary makers haven't caught up to yet? That's value.
Players 2020, Value Plays of the Week
Gdula, FanDuel: Tyrrell Hatton (FanDuel: $9,000; DraftKings: $7,400) — Hatton is kind of the obvious choice here after his win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Pricing came out before the end of that event, and Hatton benefitted from it. He is super cheap and is a no-brainer play from a process standpoint due to his recent form and all-around game. However, when we factor in game theory, his popularity could lead us to fading (i.e. not rostering him at all) or being underweight (e.g. if we expect Hatton to be on 35% of total lineups, we have him on fewer than 35 percent of our own lineups to gain an edge on the field in case he implodes). To be clear, he’s a great head-to-head play but someone I’m considering avoiding in big tournaments.
Mayo: Patrick Cantlay (FanDuel: $11,400; DraftKings: $9,800): Even with victories at Memorial and Shriners in his young career, Cantlay is still looking for that next level win. And Sawgrass has been that place for a lot of rising stars the past 15 years—Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler. Cantlay could very logically be next. His ball-striking is among the world’s elite; he enters ranked fifth in the field over his past 24 rounds in SG: Approach, has no finish worse than T17 in any if his past five starts, and maybe the biggest thing, he’s vastly improved his short game. Something once seen as a liability. If his putter cooperates, the 27-year-old gets you a discount from the top priced players which keeps your DraftKings squad from dumpster diving.
Alldrick, FanShare: Sam Burns (FanDuel: $7,000; DraftKings: $7,000) — Out of all the golfers in the field, Sam Burns ranks first in FanShare's Course Suitability Ranking this week, in large part due to his excellent putting on Bermuda greens— he ranks 10th in the field in strokes gained/putting on firm Bermuda greens. Burns also ranks 11th for Opportunities Gained over the past two months. It’s no surprise to see that he has made five of his last six cuts, which includes a sixth-place finish at the America Express.
Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest: Harold Varner III (FanDuel: $7,900; DraftKings: $6,900) — Though they're different golf courses entirely, you need to be ultra precise with your approach shots at TPC Sawgrass, just like you do at Riviera, so I'm using the Genesis as a good indicator of performance this week. Sure, you heard (though you didn't see) HV3 topped his tee shot at 10, but let's not forget how good his iron play was that week. He gained 4.5 strokes against the field with his irons, which should bode well for success at TPC Sawgrass. HV3 can be a little erratic off the tee, but players will use less than driver off many of these tees. That plays into HV3's strengths. I'd add a decent amount of exposure to HV3 this week; I expect big things.
Players 2020, Recommended Lineup Builds
Dr. Lou Riccio, Columbia University: Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas top my model this week, so their win equity makes them the players I'd want to start my lineups with (for FanDuel and DraftKings). I'm favoring strong iron play with the rest of my lineup build, and these four are some of the strongest in the field.
Justin Thomas: $11,900
Dustin Johnson: $11,800
Rickie Fowler: $10,800
Joaquin Niemann: $9,400
Luke List: $8,000
Kyle Stanley: $7,500
DraftKings: My same strategy applies here.
Justin Thomas: $10,800
Dustin Johnson: $10,000
Jason Day: $8,400
Joaquin Niemann: $7,600
Kyle Stanley: $6,600
Luke List: $6,500
Gdula: — Rory McIlroy ($12,200) and Tyrrell Hatton ($9,000) will be a very popular duo, and this week, ownership will be fairly flat after the top two or three golfers. Both project to be around 25% to 30% owned. Frankly, they’re building blocks in head-to-head lineups, but we have plenty of alternatives for our tournament lineups because of the field. This week for my tournament lineups, I’ll be focusing in on a few studs (including Xander Schauffele ($11,200) and Webb Simpson ($10,700) and rotating in my favorite value pieces, such as Matthew Fitzpatrick ($9,200), Hatton ($9,000), and Abraham Ancer ($8,900).
GD Editors: — I have a couple interesting choices in my DraftKings lineup. To me, Webb Simpson and Bryson DeChambeau, despite the chalk, are going to be in my lineups this week. I'm then torn between Adam Scott and Dustin Johnson. We like DJ for the reasons stated above, but Scott looked just slightly sharper at Riviera, which is important to me, so I'll go with him. And then I was torn between Harold Varner III and J.T. Poston. Poston might be somewhat more popular given his lower price, so I opted HV3 for the Riviera narrative. But Poston is a great Bermuda putter also, who won at Wyndham, a corollary course to the TPC.
Adam Scott: $9,600
Webb Simpson: $9,200
Bryson DeChambeau: $9,100
Sungjae Im: $8,600
Harold Varner III: $6,900
Max Homa: $6,600
FanDuel: I'm going Rahm over Rory at the top. Rory has played three of the past four weeks, and being in contention nearly the entirety of each tournament, he's got to be a little fatigued. I've been fatigued just thinking about his possible fatigue. Rahm is fresher and will be less popular, so I'll take some ownership leverage and the cheaper price by pivoting to him. That allows me to use DJ and Webb, both with great win equity, and then a strong, balanced lineup to bring us home.
Jon Rahm: $12,000
Dustin Johnson: $11,800
Webb Simpson: $10,700
Tyrrell Hatton: $9,000
Abraham Ancer: $8,900
Sam Burns: $7,000
Alldrick: — FanDuel pricing allows for some killer stars and scrubs lineups this week such as the one below.
Rory McIlroy - $12,200
Jon Rahm - $12,000
Webb Simpson - $10,700
Jason Day – $10,600
Talor Gooch - $7,000
Sam Burns - $7,000
DraftKings pricing this week is so soft you can have a very solid balanced lineup, like the one below:-
Xander Schauffele - $9,400
Webb Simpson - $9,200
Patrick Reed - $8,500
Jason Day - $8,400
Daniel Berger - $7,200
Brandt Snedeker - $7,200
Here's our betting podcast, where we discuss our favorite plays for the 2020 Players:
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Here's a look at who's buzzing this week, according to FanShare Sports:
About our experts
Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com.
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.
Dr. Lou Riccio, a PhD senior lecturer, teaches rational decision making at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs and has served on the USGA's handicap research team for four decades. His predictive analysis and modeling helps him make expert picks for our column.
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 Sony Open, as well as major winners and season-long predictions.
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.