When filling out a DraftKings lineup, picking among the favorites is a fairly safe proposition. It’s when you have to choose between a pool of golfers down the line is where you make or break your chance to win big.
Here’s the critical decisions you’ll face as you fill out your lineup this weekend:
Golfers Valued $8,000-$8,900
- Marc Leishman – $8,900
- Paul Casey – $8,800
- Adam Scott – $8,700
- Tommy Fleetwood – $8,600
- Matt Kuchar – $8,500
- Cameron Smith – $8,400
- Chez Reavie – $8,300
- Sergio Garcia – $8,200
- Branden Grace – $8,100
- Louis Oosthuizen – $8,000
This is a pretty solid group of golfers, and a much stronger offering in this range than what we saw last week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. There’s not a lot to go wrong here, but I do have a few favorites in this group – starting with Marc Leishman right at the top. Leishman isn’t the longest hitter on tour but he has enough pop to overcome what’s expected to be a slightly longer Riviera thanks to heavy rains and the kikuyugrass slowing down the fairways. If he’s driving the ball well, he’s one of the best ball-strikers with his irons on the PGA Tour and has the precision to hit his marks on Riviera’s challenging greens.
Over his last three events Leishman is gaining about 3/4 strokes on the field on his approach shots. The last time DFS contestants saw Leishman was a ho-hum performance at Torrey Pines, and despite a T5 finish at Riviera in 2016 he’s missed the cut in his last two trips there. Maybe he’ll get bypassed for similar priced Paul Casey, who contestants just saw play very well at Pebble Beach a few days ago.
Another golfer that might get tossed into the scrap heap by some is Tommy Fleetwood. As a touter of him last week at Pebble Beach, I was very disappointed with his opening round 73 at the easiest golf course of the tournament rotation. But he battled back very nicely afterwards, going -6 over his next three rounds including a very impressive 68 at Spyglass Hill, the toughest golf course of the tournament. He once again fits the profile of a golfer I’m looking to target this week – an efficient player from tee-to-green with laser-point precision with his irons from the fairway. Fleetwood gets a stay of execution from me and should be a much more useful part of a DFS lineup this weekend.
Lastly, while I’m a little concerned that Matt Kuchar’s lack of pop off the tee might limit him, with the way he’s hitting his irons over the last three months he’s tough to ignore. Kuchar has recorded positive strokes gained over the field on his approach shots in four of the last five tournaments and is averaging 1.14 Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green in that span. He has solid recent history at the Genesis, finishing no worse than T26 in his last three trips to Riviera including a Top 10 there in 2016. Kuchar likely will be a popular play in DraftKings this weekend. DFS contestants who stick to low-risk 50/50’s should be fine using him, but in larger contests he’ll have to be surrounded by more contrarian plays to differentiate the lineup enough. Regardless, he should be a fine option in DraftKings and continue his streak of solid play.
Golfers Valued $7,500-$7,900
- Charles Howell III – $7,900
- Adam Hadwin – $7,800
- Rafa Cabrera-Bello – $7,800
- Sungjae Im – $7,700
- Tyrrell Hatton – $7,700
- Jason Kokrak – $7,600
- Cameron Champ – $7,600
- Martin Laird – $7,600
- Andrew Putnam – $7,500
- Scott Stallings – $7,500
- Kevin Na – $7,500
I’m not head over heels for anyone in this pool. Still, there’s a few options worth seeing if they’re a good fit for a lineup.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello played three very good rounds last week at Pebble Beach to put himself in the Top 10, but a final round 74 sent him plummeting down the leaderboard. Despite that, Cabrera-Bello is the solid, consistent ball-striker I like slotting into a lineup at this price range because I generally know what I’m getting out of him. While his ceiling isn’t all that high, I can normally count on him to linger around the Top 30 all weekend and be one hot round away from moving up towards the Top 10. As someone without much exposure on the PGA Tour recently, more attention might be paid on Adam Hadwin or Charles Howell III for DFS lineups at Riviera.
A word of caution on Jason Kokrak – he might be the highest owned golfer from this group at Riviera. That normally screams to run for the hills in DFS. But if you can’t resist the urge of reading his name as everyone’s sleeper at Riveria and find your thumb sliding down towards his name on your phone, may I make the case of why exactly he’ll be a warranted and popular pick to give you peace of mind.
Kokrak has three consecutive Top 20 finishes on the PGA Tour and has averaged over a stroke gained tee-to-green in each of those tournaments. He’s finished no worse than T22 at Riviera in his last three starts there, including a T2 finish in 2016. Kokrak ranks highly in several key 2019 categories of types of players to target this weekend at Riviera – 36th in Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green, 35th in Strokes Gained Off-The-Tee, 24th in Strokes Gained – Approach, and 24th in driving distance. There’s a lot of reasons to like Kokrak at Riviera, and there will be a lot of people who like him. Like Matt Kuchar, he’s fine to use if you surround him with some more contrarian plays. But if you think he’ll be the ace up your sleeve, think again.
Bottom of the Barrel (Golfers <$7,500)
I find a lot more value from golfers under the $7,500 price this week at Riviera. It allows me to squeeze in an extra high valued player or two without leaving me feeling like the back end of the lineup is a complete dumpsterfire.
Bud Cauley – $7,400: It’s been a long road back for Bud Cauley since his car accident the week of the Memorial. Cauley fractured his ribs and leg in the accident, as well as suffered a collapse lung and put on hold what was his best golf he’d played since 2012. Following a missed cut at the Desert Classic, Cauley has shown quite well in his last two events, finishing T13 at Torrey Pines and T26 at TPC Scottsdale. He’s also gained about half a shot on the field in both tee-to-green and on his approach shots over his last three tournaments. Cauley wasn’t very highly owned in either of his last two tournaments, and I’ll expect him to be an under-the-radar option again this weekend.
Keegan Bradley – $7,300: I’m not exactly sure why the #32 ranked player in the world is valued this low at Riviera. Sure he doesn’t have tremendous recent history at Riviera, missing the cut in two of his last three tries. But Keegan hasn’t missed a cut since the U.S. Open last June and is back to being one of the best ball-strikers in the world following a two year slump when the anchoring ban seemed to derail his entire game. Keegan has gained about 3/4 strokes on the field on his approach shots over his last four tournaments. While that has only translated to a high finish of T29 at the Sony Open (His T27 out of 30 golfer finish at the Sentry TOC doesn’t count) he seems long overdue for a good finish.
Sam Ryder – $6,400: Anyone who backs Sam Ryder at this price point is just looking for him to make the weekend, something that he’s only done in three of his last five tournaments. Still, finding a guy priced this low who’s 66th in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green and 58th in Strokes Gained – Approach is at least worth a sniff, especially for lineups really hurting for cash in the last few spots. As long as he makes the weekend, anything past that is gravy for your lineup.
Others to consider – Charley Hoffman ($7,100), Harold Varner III ($7,000), Jhonattan Vegas ($6,500)