Golf can be a difficult DFS market to manipulate due to the volatility of each individual players results for any given PGA tournament. One players missed cut can turn what could have been a GPP winning lineup on DraftKings or Fanduel into a lineup barely in the money. Results like this can be frustrating for fantasy golf players, but there are several strategies you can implement to combat the volatility of so many independent commodities.
Below, we'll address these strategies and provide tangible examples of how this advice can work in practice.
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Any golfer in a field can win a tournament, and any golfer in a field can miss a cut. At the Desert Classic this year, Aaron Wise and Luke List were two of the pricier and most coveted golfers in the field. Wise was given 3.2% odds to win the tournament, and List was given 2.8%, both relatively high numbers. Adam Long was minimum-priced and given 0.2% odds to win the tournament. Most DFS players had never even heard of him. Wise and List missed the cut and Long won the entire tournament.
While I dont expect Long to win any more tournaments this season, this extreme case shows just how wide the range of possible results is for a golfer in any given tournament. The best way to manage this reality is to diversify your lineups up and down the pricing scale.
A heavily diversified approach in golf has two primary advantages. More than perhaps any other sport, I avoid overinvesting in any one golfer, regardless of value or their perceived dominance over the field. This helps to limit the damage a single golfer can do to your lineup portfolio if they miss the cut. Given the unpredictability of any golfer in one tournament, I prefer this approach.
Additionally, effective diversification will create exposure to more golfers. While even the most diversified strategies likely wouldnt have mixed in Long for the Desert Classic, some strategies may have included Phil Mickelson, who was overlooked by most of the field. Mickelson saw very limited ownership despite solid 2.4% odds to win. He was only 7.3% owned in the biggest DraftKings GPP and finished second only behind Long in fantasy points scored. Unless highly contrarian, an overconfident, undiversified strategy would likely have faded Mickelson. The best way to manage golf tournaments is to diversify your lineups and allow the frequent volatility to work in your favor instead of against you.
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Emphasize historical success over recent success
Many golf experts constantly talk about the importance of a golfers form, which is essentially just a buzz word for whether a golfer has been hot or cold of late. DFS players often target players in good form hoping that they will carry their recent success over into the tournament of interest. Recent results are far too heavily weighted in DFS contests both in terms of ownership and price.
Because golf results are so volatile in the short run, recent data generally has a much weaker predictive power than long-term performance. Even the best golfers go through slumps, and depending on the severity of the slump, they will therefore usually see a significant price drop. With most of the field focusing on golfers in strong form, you can swoop in and target proven golfers at both a price and ownership discount.
Despite the discomfort you may feel taking a golfer who has been missing cuts or just not performing up to their usual standards recently, almost every golfer with strong historical statistics bounces back eventually. There is no rule that says an ice-cold golfer cant post a top five finish or a golfer that is on fire cant miss a cut. Both happen all the time.
One of the best ways to combat unpredictability is by increasing your sample size. By weighing longterm historical results over short-term, recent hot streaks, you can more confidently attack the markets inefficiency.
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Take a balanced statistical approach
DFS players tend to lean heavily on certain statistics when selecting golfers. Without injuries or other absences creating value in sports like football and basketball, factors like Vegas odds and course fit can become the clearest path to value. The problem is, while these metrics are statistically significant, they are not as highly correlated with value as, for example, a sudden spike in projected snaps for a football player.
Phrases like Its a bombers course, meaning the course is well-suited for longer drivers, are tossed around by DFS analysts before most contests. Although the occasional course has an extreme layout which may benefit some players strengths over others, most high-level golfers can compete on any course. A bombers course can quickly turn into an accuracy fest if there is heavy enough wind to impact long drives. Shorter hitters can and do win on bombers courses.
Dont fixate on popular indicators like Vegas odds, course fit, and course history. Not only are these numbers not as predictive as perceived, but the edge that they would otherwise offer is negated by an increase in ownership on the resulting players of interest. Implementing a more balanced analytical strategy will help to generate natural diversification in your lineups and more sustainable profitability.
Aaron White graduated from Northwestern University with a B.A. in Economics. He has played DFS professionally for several years and has won featured NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and golf GPPs on both FanDuel and DraftKings.