The Cheat Sheet provides DraftKings fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.
Set your DraftKings fantasy golf lineups here: $2.5M Fantasy Golf Millionaire [$1M to 1st + ToC Semifinal Entry] (PGA TOUR)
THE PLAYERS Championship is the first big event on the golfing calendar for 2023. While not technically a major, THE PLAYERS still possesses a major-caliber field and one of the biggest prize pools of the year. Like all of the other elevated events, there’s a ton of money up for grabs, as the winner will take home a cool 4.5 million. This week will again feature a strong field, but there will also be 144 players teeing it up, which is expanded from the 120 players we saw last week.
THE PLAYERS also has a course in TPC Sawgrass that brings a lot of variance into play with its smaller greens and precariously placed water hazards. For DFS purposes, this event is one of the toughest to navigate, as the elite players tend to miss cuts at Sawgrass at a higher rate than any other event on the schedule. Getting 6/6 players through the cutline is always a huge accomplishment. This event has produced some shock-type winners for betting as well, with Craig Perks (2002) and, more recently Si Woo Kim (2017). The last three iterations have also seen Lee Westwood, Jim Furyk, and Anirban Lahiri finish in the runner-up position.
While last year’s winner, Cameron Smith, isn’t playing, there are still plenty of past champions teeing it up, including Rickie Fowler (2015), Webb Simpson (2018), Rory McIlroy (2019), and Justin Thomas (2021). Despite the elevated event status, the cut line at the PLAYERS remains like a regular PGA TOUR stop in that the top-65 and ties will get to play the weekend.
TPC Sawgrass (Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida)
Par 72, 7200-7300 yards depending on setup; Greens: TifEagle Bermuda overseeded with Poa trivialis/velvet bentgrass)
TPC Sawgrass is a stadium course that was designed and created specifically for this event in 1981. It was designed by Pete Dye (his wife Alice is responsible for the island green on 17), who has also designed a lot of courses in the PGA TOUR rotation, including Hilton Head at the RBC Heritage and TPC Stadium, host of the American Express. TPC Sawgrass features hard-to-hit, smaller-than-normal bermuda greens and water that comes into play on nearly every hole (17/18).
The course itself is set up as a traditional par 72 (four par 5s and four par 3s), but each hole presents a unique challenge to players. While the 17th island green can be tricky on Sunday, it’s the 18th hole that plays as one of the hardest on the course every year and requires a pinpoint drive over water from players just to hit the fairway. The rest of the course is made up of risk-reward par 5s and a couple of treacherous, if less well-known, par 3s. As for the par 4s, five of them come in at 450 yards or more and tend to stress long iron approaches, while only three will play at under 400 for the week.
The fairways at sawgrass are generally easier to hit than an average PGA TOUR stop, but placement on certain sides is still key. Two of the last three winners of the PLAYERS (Thomas and McIlroy) gained multiple strokes off the tee, although it’s worth noting that last year’s winner, Cameron Smith, lost over 5.0 strokes off the tee.
Smith’s splits are extreme and not likely to be repeated anytime soon, but it still emphasizes the point that if a player is hitting his irons well at Sawgrass, he has a chance. The one thing the last three winners all have in common is that they gained over 6.0 strokes on approach for the week — and finished top six for the week in the strokes gained approach stat.
The move to March in 2019 has seen scoring stay on the easier side, with greens playing a little softer (as the Bermuda grass here is still somewhat dormant in March). Weather can always be a factor, and this season, the potential for some weekend havoc does exist. Lean on players who are trending well in the approach department and who also have some kind of savvy around the greens to save them on the more difficult days.
2023 Weather Outlook: The first two days of the week don’t have a ton of in-climate weather to discuss. Temperatures on Thursday will be cooler than the seasonal average, but highs in the morning are still set to be in the low 60F range. Wind will be minimal on day one, with gusts potentially subsiding as the day goes on, making the afternoon wave slightly more appealing. On day two, the wind is expected to be less severe in the a.m., with gusts in the afternoon potentially hitting 15-17 mph. If the splits get more severe as the week progresses, then the pm/am starters could be the ones to target. Saturday could also be an adventure for the entire field, as gusts are set to be above 20mph for the entire day.
Last 5 winners
2022—Cameron Smith -13 (over Anirban Lahiri -12)
2021—Justin Thomas -14 (over Lee Westwood -13)
2020—COVID-19 (no event)
2019—Rory McIlroy -16 (over Jim Furyk -15)
2018—Webb Simpson -18 (over Charl Schwartzel and two others -14)
2017—Si Woo Kim -10 (over Ian Poulter and Louis Oosthuizen -7)
- Nine of the last 11 winners of THE PLAYERS had already bagged a T4 or better finish on the PGA TOUR in the same calendar year of their victory.
- The last 14 winners of THE PLAYERS had already achieved a finish of 23rd or better at THE PLAYERS in a previous year.
- The last five winners of THE PLAYERS had all finished T22 or better in their previous start (aka, the one directly prior to their PLAYERS win).
Winners Stats and Course Overview
2022 Winner: Cameron Smith (13-under par)
2022 lead-in form (T33-T4-MC-1-T4)
· Since 2011, two winners (Simpson 2018, Smith 2022) have finished outside the top 10 for the week in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green stats. Simpson and Smith both were massively positive with the putter for the weeks of their win
· Players at Sawgrass have excelled in a variety of different ways, but good play around the green has been one of the biggest constants. Greens here are small, and GIR%’s are generally well below the PGA TOUR average for the event. The last six winners here have all gained +1.5 strokes or more around the greens for the week of their win and three of the past six winners have gained +3.0 strokes or more around the greens.
· Four of the last eight winners didn’t crack the top twenty in Off the Tee stats for the week of their win, but five of the last six winners have gained +4.0 strokes Approach or more for the week.
· From an approach perspective, Sawgrass requires a good blend of shorter (125-150 yards) and longer approaches (>200 yards). The dogleg setups and risk-reward par 5s mean good long-iron players will have a big advantage here.
Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value compared to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
Tom Kim +3500 and $8,100
- Will Zalatoris +3500 and $8,800
- Tyrrell Hatton +3500 and $8,300
- Cameron Young +3500 and $8,500
Keegan Bradley +4500 and $7,500
- Adam Scott +10000 and $7,700
- Justin Rose +13000 and $7,700
- Billy Horschel +15000 and $7,600
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Adam Scott ($7,700; best finishes: win-2004, T6-2017): Scott is a veteran with a great track record of producing for daily fantasy golf purposes at TPC Sawgrass. Prior to last season, when he missed the cut, he had made the cut at THE PLAYERS in 13 straight seasons. A winner back in 2004, Scott has a great Florida record (wins at Doral and PGA National) and recorded top-12 finishes at this event in three of the last five seasons.
2. Justin Thomas ($9,400 best finishes: win-2021): The 2021 winner of this event also finished T3 at Sawgrass in 2016 and has never missed the cut at THE PLAYERS in seven appearances. He’s fourth in strokes gained total stats at Sawgrass over the past six years, and comes in with solid form posting four top-25 finishes in a row.
3. Keegan Bradley ($7,500; best finishes: T5-2020, T7-2018): Bradley leads the field in strokes gained total stats at TPC Sawgrass over the past five seasons. The veteran has the kind of consistent tee-to-green game which keeps him out of trouble in Florida and has done well around the Sawgrass greens, gaining strokes ATG at this event in each of the past four seasons. His recent run at Sawgrass includes making the cut in each of the past six seasons.
4. Si Woo Kim ($7,600; best finishes: win-2017): 2017 shock winner Si Woo Kim has shown a solid penchant for playing well on tricky Pete Dye designs. He finished T23 at this event on his first attempt in 2016 and won on his second in 2017. Kim has made the cut in five of six appearances at THE PLAYERS, with his only blemish being a WD (injury) last season. He also has a win at the AMEX, which is played on TPC Stadium, another Dye design.
5. Jason Day ($8,000; best finishes: win-2016): Day has three top 10 finishes at Sawgrass since 2016. He’s a multiple-time winner in the state of Florida and has gained over 1.5 strokes putting on the Sawgrass greens in three of the past four seasons. His game is trending exceedingly well right now, and he looks primed to compete for the win in 2023.
1. Scottie Scheffler ($10,600, T4-T12-win): Scheffler looked like he might win again at Bay Hill, but a final hole bogey dropped him to T4 for the week. He enters playing great golf and has gained multiple strokes on approach in each of his past three starts.
2. Rory McIlroy($11,000, T2-T29): McIlroy let one slip last week but still posted a respectable T2 finish. His putter started to heat up at Bay Hill, and if he finds more gains with that club at Sawgrass, he could be in line for another win.
3. Tyrrell Hatton ($7,700, T4-T40-T6): Hatton had a great tournament going at Bay Hill until the final few holes. The Englishman has finished inside the top 10 now in two of his last three starts and looks in exceedingly good shape to take a run at the title this week.
4. Sahith Theegala ($7,600, T14-T6): Theegala enters this event having posted three top-15 finishes now in three of his last four starts. He’s gained multiple strokes on approach in each of those top 15 finishes.
5. Keith Mitchell ($7,400, T2-T16-T6): Mitchell ranks fourth in strokes gained total stats over the last six events. The American led the field in strokes gained stats off the tee at Bay Hill, and will look to improve upon his T13 finish at Sawgrass in 2022.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: Pay up for McIlroy and Thomas
While we don’t see a ton of players end their careers with multiple PLAYERS wins; certainly Justin Thomas ($9,400) and Rory Mcilroy ($11,000) are the types of elite talents who could accomplish the feat. Both men played well last week and enter with loads of experience and ball-striking form that will make them hard players to beat this week. For DFS, they also have very solid made cut rates at Sawgrass. If you’re starting DFS lineups with both, the stronger field will provide you plenty of solid value targets down below $7,500 to work with. The likes of Jason Day ($8,000), Keegan Bradley ($7,500), Webb Simpson ($6,800), Emiliano Grillo ($6,800) and Davis Riley ($6,600) all make sense as targets for this format.
Tournaments: Finau a wildcard worth exploring
Tony Finau ($9,200) has gained over 3.0 strokes on approach in each of his last five PGA TOUR starts. While TPC Sawgrass isn’t the prototypical power venue we’d normally want to target Finau at, he’s shown the ability to handle more technical tracks, posting runner-up finishes at TPC Scottsdale, Colonial and Copperhead. The narrative on Finau won't be strong this week, but he’s played remarkably consistent golf to start the season, and he makes sense to target in larger field GPPs where his ownership will likely be quite low. Other potential targets for this format include the likes of Chris Kirk ($7,900), Russell Henley ($7,300), Justin Suh ($6,600), Danny Willett ($6,400), and Dylan Frittelli ($6,200).
MY PICK: Patrick Cantlay ($9,700)
The cream has certainly risen to the top at this event over the past few seasons. Justin Thomas (2021) and Rory McIlroy (2019) both won at odds of +2000 or lower, and Cameron Smith, prior to his win last season, had already cemented himself as a perennial top 20 player in the world.
Patrick Cantlay enters this year’s PLAYERS with form similar to what we saw from both McIlroy and Thomas on their lead-ins and with the need to add a big title to his resume. The 29-year-old grabbed his fifth top-10 finish over his last eight PGA starts last week at Bay Hill, gaining over 7.5 strokes ball-striking for the second week in a row.
Cantlay likely would have won the event had he been able to find even a little bit of momentum on the greens, but his big finish is still extremely encouraging, and the event will undoubtedly supply him with some great prep for this week. Cantlay’s record at Sawgrass is underwhelming, but he’s eaten up Dye venues like Harbour Town and TPC Stadium in the past and ranks second in strokes gained total stats at Pete Dye venues over the last 50 rounds.
Cantlay’s ball striking is in absolute peak form, and his ability with the putter is underrated, given he’s now gained 3.0 strokes or more on the greens in five of his last 12 measured PGA TOUR starts. At under 10k on DraftKings, he’s a solid core play for PGA DFS tournaments, and even with shorter +1600 outright odds, his recent form makes him a target on the DraftKings Sportsbook as well.
MY SLEEPER: Francesco Molinari ($6,400)
This event has produced enough surprise performances by classy veteran players that we should not discount the chances of Francesco Molinari this week. Molinari placed a surprising 14th at Bay Hill and broke out of a three-event missed cut streak on the PGA TOUR by gaining multiple strokes on approach and putting. The 2018 Open Champion had shown some form already in 2023 — when he finished T5 against a relatively solid field at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January — so his Bay Hill performance wasn’t necessarily a one-event blip.
Monlinari’s already posted a win in Florida on the PGA TOUR (Bay Hill 2019) and, from a style perspective, sets up better for the shorter TPC Sawgrass. The Italian has placed inside the top 10 four times at Sawgrass throughout his career and also posted a T6 at TPC Stadium (another Dye design and sister course to Sawgrass) in 2022. From a DFS perspective, his price is so cheap that just making the cut — something he’s done at Sawgrass in five of his seven starts at this event — will make him a valuable asset in any DFS format. At +900 odds for a top 10, he also makes sense to look at for placing bets this week on the DraftKings Sportsbook.
Set your DraftKings fantasy golf lineups here: $2.5M Fantasy Golf Millionaire [$1M to 1st + ToC Semifinal Entry] (PGA TOUR)
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is wavegoodbye) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.