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Everything You Need To Know To Win At Fantasy DFS Golf

McNealy Playing DFS Golf
OLYMPIA FIELDS, ILLINOIS – AUGUST 28: Maverick McNealy of the United States plays his shot from the seventh tee during the second round of the BMW Championship on the North Course at Olympia Fields Country Club on August 28, 2020 in Olympia Fields, Illinois. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)

DFS Golf, or Daily Fantasy Sports Golf, is one of my absolute favorite sports to play on sites like DraftKings, FanDuel, and elsewhere. The game play is pretty simple, the stakes don’t need to be sky high, and there are lots of ways to win. There are all kinds of games to play, but the basic concept is to pick the best six players that you can on a hard (and virtual) salary cap of $50,000. Unlike nearly every other DFS sport, there aren’t positions. Just pick the best six guys and prepare for dominance over your friends in a 50-50 game, or become an overnight millionaire on a $25 or $35 bet (good luck on that one, by the way).

Picking Your PGA Tour DFS Lineup First
Some people start by picking the game that they want to play in first, but I often start with my lineup(s), so that I can import them into various other games as a next step. You never know when you are going to fall in love with a lineup, and you might want to use those six studs to humiliate your friends, win a 50-50 game, and then dominate the entire field of players. Who could blame you for wanting to make all of those bets if you were really feeling it? 

Every event field is different in terms of DFS Golf, but overall, I tend to look at the players falling into three general categories: A-list, B-list and C-list guys. For a major, expect the field to be loaded with studs, thus very top-heavy. A guy who would have been a star the week before, costing $12,000 or more, might be $7,700 at a major just the next week. Fan favorites (think: even an aged Tiger Woods) can get a bump, just as you would see in the Vegas odds for, say, the Yankees in the World Series, as they have a global fan base. Outside of the majors, you need to look carefully at the players in that given week. Is the field top-heavy, or more bell-curve-shaped? Are there some low-cost studs that you can get near the bottom of the price range (think: $6,000 range) that will allow you to pick a pair of high-priced studs who are red hot? 

While you want to use your money wisely, don’t feel pressure to spend every dollar. It is okay to leave a few hundred dollars on the table if you have some guys that you’ve scouted who are trending up or playing well. I’ve won many an event without spending the whole $50,000 budget.

Be a Student of History In Order To Win At DFS PGA Tour Golf

Some players play better on certain courses than others. This is just fact. And it is something that you can very easily research before you pick a lineup. Tiger Woods kills it at Muirfield Village in Columbus for The Memorial, as well as at Torrey Pines in San Diego, where he’s won both on tour many times, as well as a U.S. Open (on a bum leg). He doesn’t put well on Poa Annua green (like they have at Torrey), and he doesn’t play well at my beloved Riviera, but he now plays there every year because, like Jack and Arnie before him, that is his signature invitational event every year on the tour. The Genesis Open, as it is now called, packs a world-class field as if were The Masters, thus the competition is tough. Tiger is a hometown favorite, and definitely a fan favorite, but his his history on the course isn’t very good. Moreover, he doesn’t putt the tricky Poa greens very well, yet Tiger is always pricey every year at the Genesis Open at the Riviera. In recent years, he’s missed cuts, or barely made the cut and finished at the bottom of the leaderboard on Sunday. You can see how history might have him as a better pick at Augusta National (where he has recently won a rare major after 40), at Torrey Pines or at The Memorial. You can also see why I nearly always win a nice bottle of Scotch from some of the other “young” members at Riv (we are all about Tiger’s age) when I bet “Tiger to miss the cut,” which is a pretty safe bet at The Genesis Open each year, even if thousands of fans in attendance would disagree with me. I would take all of their action if I could.

So that begs the question: what if the player has never played the course before? This can be a real conundrum. If the player is red hot in recent weeks, then that factor is normally baked into the price, as he could play well anywhere at that time, and the guys at DraftKings and FanDuel know it. I would normally say “stick with players with more data,” but that isn’t a hard rule. We will get to hot streaks later, but if you’ve got a horse that is winning for you, or likes this variety of greens or this course architect, then run with them. This is also why you “stack” players. Perhaps you’ve got two guys who you are convinced are going to kill it in a given week. Picking varieties of players to compliment them is how you stack your lineups to see if you can catch lightning in a bottle. If you are playing the GPP or “lottery ticket”-style events, where you bet a small amount of money to win enough to pay off your mortgage, this is likely how you might win someday. Just remember, GPPs are close to impossible to win, as you need to pick an awful lot of the best players all in one ticket, all in one week, whereas a 50-50 game allows you the chance to double your money if you are better than half of the field. These games require you to take pretty different strategies, which I will also explain. 

Tiger Woods

Golf Course Architecture As It Relates To DFS

Knowing the courses, conditions and the golf course architects for the courses on the PGA Tour is a serious DFS advantage for people playing to win and win often. I am a total, unabashed golf course architecture snob. I am trying to play the Golf Magazine Top 100 U.S. Courses list (2014-15 list), and I have 71 of the top 100 and 19 of the top 20 under my belt so far. This current global viral pandemic isn’t helping me get access to the courses, or have very trustworthy access to air travel, but someday I will get back on the horse and finish the list as best I can. My past golf travels have given me the chance to play some of the courses that the big boys on the tour have played, and knowing some of the subtleties between, say, Pebble Beach, Monterey Peninsula Country Club (Shore Course), and Spyglass Hill can be key information if you are playing DFS fantasy golf during the week of the AT&T. Tour pros tear up Pebble Beach as the first seven holes are pretty easy for them. Wind (we will talk about weather next) can change everything at this event – especially at Pebble and MPCC, but overall, guys can go very low at Pebble. The tour guys love MPCC Shore Course as, in reality, they don’t get to play a whole lot of the truly best, most fantastically designed, private clubs in a normal year beyond Riviera, the Pebble Beach AT&T week (Pebble, Spyglass and MPCC), Harbour Town, most PGA Championships, most U.S. Opens, and a few other exceptions. They generally get to play long, increasingly “stadium” courses, which are designed to sell a lot of tickets and promote the long hitters on tour. 

Speaking of long hitters, a good example of where they don’t always have an advantage is an event like the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas at The Colonial. This is a tight golf course, where someone like Bryson DeChambeau or Brooks Koepka might not be able to overpower the well-aged Perry Maxwell design. Ben Hogan loved it there, because it is a ball striker’s course. A great player who doesn’t crush on the ball, like today’s modern player, might do better at Colonial such as a local like Jordan Spieth or say a Zach Johnson. Both are not crazy long, but can be deadly accurate. 

Can Garry Woodland win the 2020 US Open
OLYMPIA FIELDS, ILLINOIS – AUGUST 28: Gary Woodland of the United States looks on after he plays his shot from the 7th tee during the second round of the BMW Championship on the North Course at Olympia Fields Country Club on August 28, 2020 in Olympia Fields, Illinois. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)

If you are playing to win at DFS PGA golf, a quick check to see what the weather looks like can really help. Wind can keep the scores low. Players from Texas and overseas tend to be more used to playing in the wind than typical American players are. As mentioned before, an ocean course with crazy winds like Pebble Beach or Monterrey Peninsula (Shore Course) can be a lot harder, but a course like Spyglass Hill, which has 12-plus holes back in the trees, can be more protected. Maybe you can find a little arbitrage with a player around that fact and specific weather conditions? Every advantage helps, right?

You can also look at the start times to influence your picks. Let’s say you are looking at two comparable players in the B-list $7,500 range, and you can pick, but one is going off at Pebble Beach at 8:30 AM, and the other is slated to start Pebble at 2:00 PM PST and it is slated to be windy – you might want to pick the guy with the morning start. If you aren’t sure about how to play the move, perhaps split your bet and do two lineups to cover your risk a bit, and rely more on your other picks?

Justin Thomas DFS
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL – MARCH 12: Justin Thomas of the United States plays a shot on the 9th hole during THE PLAYERS Championship on March 12, 2020 at TPC Sawgrass – Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fl. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire)

Types of DFS Golf Games To Play

In our free “how to” content, we’ve covered the types of DFS games pretty extensively. Some of the basics are head to head games, which is a chance to go mano a mano with your buddies, or just some random player. I love beating up on our head golf writer and former USC men’s golf coach, Kurt Schuette. He and I know each other’s favorite players, and that factors into those specific contests. The use of the Jedi Mind Trick is in effect here, which often leads to over-thinking all sorts of things. Considering that the weekly bet is a $5 pillow fight, it is more for bragging rights than to help pay our country club dues or make a down payment on a new Mercedes. It is still fun. On a slightly different note, playing head to heads with randoms allows to you to see how they craft their lineups, which can be well worth the experience, even if you lose, for future winning DFS golf lineups.

I win the most money in 50-50 events. Where in the world can you be truly middle-of-the-pack and actually double your money in a week? What money manager can double your money in a week, and give you a chance to do it damn near every week (and can I have his or her number)? I do see as the pot gets bigger in 50-50s, the competition gets better. Like the random head to heads above, this is another place to learn how the big boys do it every week. Scroll up to the dude winning at the top, see who he or she has picked, and repeat. There are some good learning opportunities here, but the chance to double your money every week is very tempting for me. I rarely miss out on DFS golf 50-50s each week.

GPP contests are what I refer to as lottery tickets. GPPs have tremendous upside, but only a limited number of people in the field can make the big payout. The buy-in can be low, so why not throw $0.25 or an extra dollar on a lineup that you love, but know that, in order to turn that dollar into $4,000, you likely are going to need to pick some real gems and have nobody miss the cut. For the majors, the GPPs get crazy. A $35 bet could win you $4,000,000. But in order to win, you better be one hell of a genius, and likely a bit of a contrarian. On the genius front, I am suggesting that it is pretty damn hard, when looking at one of the handful best fields of the year, to say that you somehow know that Tony Finau is the right pick over 10 other studs who are just as good. In the GPP golf DFS majors, you need a lot of luck, paired with your excellent research, in order to have a chance to go for big time. As for being a contrarian, you likely will need to have some real off-the-grid picks. Here’s an example from my past, with a USC twist. A guy I know from the USC golf team named Stewart Hagestad is one of the best amateur golfers in the world. He’s out of school and working in finance the last I heard. But he still can really play, and through the USGA Mid-Am, has made it to The Masters. He’s played there many times (the last two USC athletic directors are members, and that is one hell of a recruiting tool), and has done well. You’d figure this $6,000, less-than-one-percent-owned player is going to shoot 88-92, right? Wrong. He’s actually made the cut at The Masters, and for $6,000, you’ve got four days’ worth of points, which I will get into more. He also gets you points that almost nobody else is going to get. I am not saying picking a player like Stuart, or some club pro that makes the PGA, is the best play, but it might just be what it takes to win a DFS GPP one day. 

The Most Important Winning Factor In DFS Golf Is Making The Cut
In a standard week (not a WCG event, where everybody makes the cut), the concept of picking guys who make the cut is paramount to your decisions. Some players have high upside, but when they flame out (Phil, I am talking about you, buddy), they gas up the G-550 and head home. Others are cut-making machines, and you just can’t have enough of these guys every week. The reason is obvious: if player A has four days of opportunities to rack up points, while Player B is in Vegas by Friday night, “making it rain” at  Sapphire Las Vegas with some strippers dripping in glitter and named after exotic cars, you can see which player is going to help you have a better lineup. I am not saying you wouldn’t want to go the Champagne Room with Lexus or Porsche while hanging out with your baz-illion-aire PGA Tour buddy, but he should be staking your losing DFS tickets because he missed the cut. 

The hedge against having a bunch of guys miss the cut in your lineup is picking the winner which obviously is pretty hard. The extra points that come from picking the winner can lift you up in ways nothing else can in DFS golf. With that said, not everybody is going to make the cut, and you will have lineups where you take risks and get burned. That’s how the game works, and you likely know that. Look more to your overall win-loss record for the year than a flashy GPP result, or and don’t beat yourself up over some unlucky lineups. These days, players catch COVID and are gone. Others get injured out of nowhere. Crazy stuff happens. Remember when DJ three-jacked it on the 72ndhole of the U.S. Open to lose? It happens.

Knowing The European Tour Players Can Be Your Secret Weapon
DFS Golf has made me much more of a fan of professional golf overall, and this now includes me watching a little European Tour Golf. Yes, the Euro Tour is often on the Golf Channel at odd times, and some of the players are less-than-household names, but they also make their way over to the PGA Tour for a few events every year. And when they travel over the pond to these fine 50 states, they tend to be bargain players. Not everybody knew who Tommy Fleetwood was when he (and his hair) came over, but savvy DFS players learned quickly, and they learned to love him. 

In the spirit of beating up on your friends in a head to head, doing a $1 European Tour DFS match can be perfect. They’ve got funny names like “Nacho Elvira,” who might, in that case, be irresistible in a lineup. There are other guys over there who you can learn about who are cut-making-machines, long ball hitters and guys who can go low from time to time. If you want to build a lineup with three A-list players, you might look to a Euro Tour guy or two to round out your lineup, as they can often be lower percentage-owned yet excellent players who also could be on a hot streak on that “other” tour.

Overall, there are a lot of ways to win and more importantly have fun playing DFS golf. You don’t have to invest a ton of money to get the buzz and in a COVID-19 world, sometimes sitting at home when it is cold with your big ol’ flatscreen TV, watching your boys for the week dominate can be some good, clean fun.