Shriners Hospitals for Children Open DFS expert picks: The data loves these 12 must-start players this week
Matthew Wolff, teeing it up for the first time since his U.S. Open runner-up, should excel at TPC Summerlin, where driving distance and putting will be most important.
The tour’s Las Vegas swing (yes, that’s now a thing … rejoice, gamblers) kicks off at TPC Summerlin this week, site of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open since 1992. Eight of the top 20 players in the world are here—with many top players choosing to play back-to-back weeks ahead of next week’s CJ Cup at Shadow Creek.
Though next week will be a bit of an unknown at a venue hosting its first-ever PGA Tour event (and the original Tiger v. Phil match), this week’s site offers 27 years worth of data, which means we can confidently identify the keys to success at TPC Summerlin. What we know, based on my RickRunGood.com regression model: There are only three other courses where strokes gained/putting is more important; and there are only seven other courses where driving distance is more heavily weighted. The rough is not really a factor, so the formula for success here is bombing it out there and making a ton of putts.
Interestingly enough, the name that pops out first is the highest-priced golfer in the field—the defending U.S. Open champion—Bryson DeChambeau. Bryson led the tour in driving distance last season (322.1 yards) and ranked 10th in strokes gained/putting. He also won the Shriners two years ago, so expect him to be perhaps the chalkiest play this week. That doesn’t mean you should necessarily fade Bryson—if you can gain leverage by finding low-owned gems elsewhere in your lineups, you can build around Bryson.
Here are my favorite plays to do that—from upside to value and safest—plus players likely to disappoint for your DFS lineups this week.
Price range: $9,000+
High Upside: Matthew Wolff ($9,600 DraftKings | $11,100 FanDuel)
Coming off his solo second at the U.S. Open, it’s clear that Wolff’s game is maturing at a rapid rate. He now has five top-25 finishes in his past seven starts, and TPC Summerlin should allow the best aspects of his game to flourish. Wolff will be able to bomb away off the tee and not have to worry too much about his accuracy, which ranked 120th last season. Wolff has made only one trip to TPC Summerlin in his young career, finishing T-18 last season.
Safest Option: Webb Simpson ($11,000 DraftKings | $11,900 FanDuel)
It doesn’t matter what course it is, Webb Simpson seems to find a way to pin his name to the first page of the leaderboard. His top 10 at Winged Foot should be plenty of evidence that Simpson’s game fits more courses than we can imagine. He now has four consecutive top-12 finishes to go with his remarkable history at TPC Summerlin. He’s made the cut in eight consecutive trips, has six top-20 finishes in that span and won here in 2014.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Sergio Garcia ($9,100 DraftKings | $10,200 FanDuel)
Garcia was the storyline last week in Jackson, not only winning the golf tournament but doing it with his eyes closed! Garcia’s unusual putting approach did reap benefits; he gained strokes putting in each round of the Sanderson Farms Championship. I scoured the RickRunGood.com golf database and couldn’t find another instance of him gaining strokes putting in each round of a single event in his career. Now with a significant price increase and the small likelihood that he’s able to replicate a career putting week, Garcia is setting up as a disappointment for this week in Las Vegas.
Pick To Win: Bryson DeChambeau ($11,800 DraftKings | $12,200 FanDuel)
It’s rare that I advocate rostering the most expensive golfer on the slate, but I can’t make an argument against DeChambeau in this spot. Per the RickRunGood.com course model, DeChambeau is tops in this field looking at strokes gained/putting and driving distance. His ability to bomb it around TPC Summerlin without regard for accuracy should play right into his hands. He’s played this event on four occasions, with the last three resulting in top-10 finishes, including his victory in the 2018-’19 season.
$8,000 to $9,000
High Upside: Kevin Na ($8,600 DraftKings | $9,500 FanDuel)
Na is one of the most erratic golfers on the PGA Tour, but he sure does love TPC Summerlin. He’s a multiple time winner here, taking the title in 2011 and last season. He also has a runner-up in 2016 and four missed cuts in his past six starts. It’s the true definition of “boom or bust.” Na will need to rely on a hot putter if he wants to find success again this season. Luckily for him, he’s the fourth-ranked putter in this field.
Safest Option: Brian Harman ($8,000 DraftKings | $9,600 FanDuel)
The solid lefty is flexing his consistency with seven consecutive cuts made, including back-to-back top-15 finishes in the FedEx Cup playoffs to end last season. He hasn’t played this event every year, but he has made the trip on five separate occasions. He’s made the cut in his last four, dating back to 2014, and he has two top 20s in his last two trips (last season and 2017).
Most Likely To Disappoint: Keegan Bradley ($8,000 DraftKings |$9,100 FanDuel)
We finally got a great putting week from Bradley last week, and it still “only” resulted in a fourth-place finish. He’s a notoriously poor putter who had lost strokes putting in nine consecutive events before gaining 2.99 strokes on the field last week. That is the exact path to success for Bradley who didn’t finish inside the top 25 in any of those other starts during that stretch. He is reliant on a decent putter week, which for him, are few and far between. He’s gained strokes putting only three times in his past 20 measured tournaments. It’s unlikely he has another good putting week in Las Vegas and regresses back to his baseline.
Pick To Win: Louis Oosthuizen ($8,800 DraftKings | $10,300 FanDuel)
Oosthuizen was the second-most expensive golfer on the slate last week before withdrawing. Now he’s $2,000 less expensive on DraftKings coming off his third-place at the U.S. Open. Oosthuizen has made the cut in eight consecutive events, which shows how consistent he can be, but he also has three top-15 finishes, which show that he possesses plenty of upside.
$7,000 to $8,000
High Upside: Harold Varner III ($7,500 DraftKings | $9,000 FanDuel)
Varner’s game can translate to lots of different courses since he is such a great ball-striker. Per the RickRunGood.com golf database, Varner ranks seventh in this field in strokes gained/tee-to-green since the tour’s restart. That puts him amongst peers like Sergio Garcia, Hideki Matsuyama and Scottie Scheffler. We are still waiting for HVIII to put it all together but he continues to knock on the door. His last run at glory was his T-7 at the Wyndham Championship at the end of last season. This will be the sixth consecutive year that Varner has played the Shriners, and he enters with four consecutive cuts made.
Safest Option: Lanto Griffin ($7,300 DraftKings | $8,700 FanDuel)
Griffin is one of the handful of golfers in this field who is positive in all four strokes-gained categories. That solid, all-around game is translating into results for him. He’s made the cut in seven consecutive events and has top-20 finishes at the PGA Championship and the BMW Championship. This will be his first start since the U.S. Open, so I expect many fantasy players to overlook Griffin.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Matt Kuchar ($7,600 DraftKings |$8,800 FanDuel)
I understand that it can be comforting to pick a familiar name, but it’s been eight months since Kuchar has legitimately contended in a tournament. That was back in February at The Genesis Invitational where he finished T-2. Since then, in 10 events, his best finish is T-18, and he has seven finishes outside the top 30. This is an uncharacteristically bad stretch of golf for Kuchar, and I’ll need to see some signs of life before investing.
Pick To Win: Denny McCarthy ($7,700 DraftKings | $9,200 FanDuel)
Steven Ryan/Getty Images
It’s coming—McCarthy is trending toward victory. He’s known for being the best putter on the PGA Tour (first in strokes gained/putting in two straight seasons), but the rest of his game is starting to turn a corner. In the six measured events since the 3M Open, McCarthy has gained a total of 12.9 strokes on approach. To put that into perspective, in his six starts before the 3M Open, he lost a total of 15.9 strokes. That’s a nearly 29-stroke swing between those two stretches. His T-6 last week was buoyed by gaining strokes in all four major categories, something he’s only done one other time in his career. If this is the new version of Denny McCarthy, watch out!
$6,900 and below
High Upside: Xinjun Zhang ($6,600 DraftKings | $7,700 FanDuel)
If you like consistency, look elsewhere! Zhang offers a floor that is essentially below sea level. The good news is that he offers significant upside at a tiny ownership number. In his past eight events, he’s missed the cut in half and finished in the top 15 in the other half. That’s bonkers! He’s played this event twice in the past with, you guessed it, one missed cut and one T-16.
Safest Option: Adam Schenk ($6,900 DraftKings | $8,100 FanDuel)
This spot will be reserved for Schenk as long as he has this cut streak going! Now up to nine events in a row, he’s tied with Harris English for the longest active streak in this field and it’s the fifth-longest active streak on tour. The only golfers with longer streaks are named Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Viktor Hovland and Jon Rahm. That’s elite company! In three trips to TPC Summerlin, Schenk has missed the cut once and finished T-20 and T-18 in his other two starts.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Russell Knox ($6,600 DraftKings | $8,000 FanDuel)
Knox has been known for his ball-striking prowess over the course of his career, but recently, he hasn’t been as sharp as we’d expect. He has lost strokes on approach in five of his past eight starts, leading to six missed cuts in that stretch. It will be tempting to support Knox’s course history, which is highlighted by never missing the cut in six trips and a third-place finish in 2015. But I encourage you to look past that and consider that he might not have the same skill-set in his bag anymore.
Pick To Win: Henrik Norlander ($6,900 DraftKings | $8,700 FanDuel)
Norlander was a DFS sweetheart when the tour returned, making six consecutive cuts from the Travelers Championship to the Wyndham Championship. That came to a screeching halt with three straight missed weekends from the Northern Trust to Corales. Now coming off a T-4 last week in Jackson, Norlander may be primed for another run of success.
Rick Gehman, founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.