AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 26: Dustin Johnson poses with a pair of custom cowboy boots after winning the World Golf Championships - Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club on March 26, 2017 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)

Tournament Overview

This week the PGA Tour is headed to Austin, Texas for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play event. The tournament will be held at Austin Country Club for the third consecutive year, a Pete Dye design that overlooks Lake Austin. Last year’s tournament was also held at Austin Country Club and Dustin Johnson was the winner over Jon Rahm.

We have a unique match play format for this tournament, which changes the entire outlook and strategy for the week. There are 16 groups consisting of 4-players each that will square off in this bracket style round-robin tournament. The players were seeded according to their Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR). They were then divided into four groups (A-D) in order of their seed:

  • Group A – Seeds 1-16
  • Group B – Seeds 17-32
  • Group C – Seeds 33-48
  • Group D – Seeds 49-64

The top-16 players each headline their own group and their first round opponents were then filled with one player from each subsequent group, selected at random. Players with the best record from the round-robin in their original groups will advance to the next round of 16, which they will then be facing off head to head until a champion is crowned.

This event will start on Wednesday due to the structure of the tournament, which requires more rounds of golf than the standard stroke play. Wednesday-Friday will be the round-robin matches from each group, where the player with best record will advance. The round of 16 will be Saturday morning, followed by Quarter Finals on Saturday Afternoon. The Semi-finals, Finals and consolation matches will take place on Sunday.

There will be a number of different factors to consider this week when making fantasy lineup decisions, outside of the normal players statistics. I will dive through all the things to consider in the fantasy strategy, but here is a look at the bracket.

 

 

Course Breakdown

Austin Country Club is a 7,100 yard par 71 with four par 3’s and three par 5’s. As mentioned above, it is a Pete Dye design, so there are some drive-able par 4’s to go along with some very score-able par 5’s. Scoring on par 5’s can definitely be an indicator of success here, and something I will be strongly considering.

The course should suit all types of golfers as the fairways are tight and distance does not lead to a distinct advantage. The Bermuda greens play firm, fast and are protected by some classic pot bunkers that players will look to avoid. There is also some water throughout the course that will force players to be mindful of shot they are hitting. We have also seen wind play a role in how the course plays, so that is something to keep track of, but again with match-play it is not as significant.

 

Key Stats

There is not a ton of data for Austin Country Club in terms of what stats are crucial for success, again due to the match play format. I will be targeting a couple of stats that play into the specifics of Austin Country Club and Pete Dye courses to help me make some player selections. I will be looking at more recent form as well because players have to win on day one to advance. Here is a look at stats I will use to help with player selection:

  • Strokes Gained Approach (20-25%)
  • Driving Accuracy / Good Drives Gained (20-25%)
  • Par 5 Scoring (10-15%)
  • Proximity 100-125 yards (10-15%)
  • Birdie or Better % (5-10%)
  • Strokes Gained Putting (5-10%)

I will be focusing mainly on the first four stats mentioned above to identify players who fit that mold. I will be looking at the last two stats in recent performances to attempt to identify any players who I think can get hot. I do not typically like to use SG Putting, but in an event like this, one day of good putting can potentially propel a player to the next round. Here is a look at early model and some players that fit the course profile:

 

 

Fantasy Strategy

General Thoughts

This week the strategy for player selection will be unlike any tournament we have played so far this year. It will be more about what foursome a player is in and their potential to advance rather than how they rate out in key stats identified above.There will be an extra few steps and considerations that you need to make when filling out a roster. Having the bracket in front of you while building rosters will be absolutely crucial.

You should be analyzing players on a more micro-scale rather than comparing them to the entire field. Each foursome should be considered its own mini-field, since those are the only players they are going against on the first three days. You can then expand that out for the next four they would potentially match up with in the round of 16, all the way to the entire side of the bracket a particular player is on.

For instance, it will not be useful to compare DJ and Justin Thomas against each other from a statistical perspective in terms of key stats, since they are on opposite sides of the bracket. You want to look to see who has the better chance of advancing multiple times.

Roster Construction

First and foremost, make sure you only have one player per foursome on each individual roster that you build. You do not want to be automatically drawing dead from the start, this may seem obvious, but still worth noting.

To expand that even more, I do not think you should have any two players that can potentially play each other in the round of 16 on the same team. This would automatically eliminate one of them from being able to advance past Saturday morning, and would kill the upside of that lineup.

I will be looking at each group of 8 golfers who can potentially meet in the round of 16, and then identifying who I think has the best chance to advance. I will also try to identify who I think will be chalk and if they are chalk worth eating. I think identifying ownership is even more crucial this week than in normal stroke play tournament. With that being said, I think it may be that much more difficult to do accurately.   

There is a lot of information going around about match-play records and who historically does well at match play events. I think this is useful to look at and use for tie-breaking situations, but I would be careful using this as an end-all-be-all. The nature of match-play is the match-ups, and comparing one year to the previous should not have much correlation in terms of player success.

Also for this week, player pricing is not nearly as important for roster construction in terms of maximizing upside. The high-priced players do not warrant a high price as much in a match-play situation where they could be eliminated on day one. Obviously, you have to pay attention to it for building a lineup, but I will not worry if I have $1000 or more left on the table.

Scoring

Make sure that you understand the Draftkings scoring for the week. This is an easy thing to overlook, but it is crucial to your success. Also, it is worth noting the scoring for a match-up that has a player withdraw. The player who “wins” that match will get 33.8 points, getting credit for 10-holes not played and the match win.

 

Picks

For picks this week I am going to outline players per group of 8 that could advance past the round of 16. I will outline one play from each group that I like and some obvious chalk as well. I will say that this format is new to me as well, so I am struggling a bit this week in identifying what I think is an optimal build.

Group 1 & 16

  • Dustin Johnson ($11,800) – There is not too much that needs to be said here, he is the defending champion, is in good form and rates well in my model. He has not played in a few weeks so I am hoping maybe this keeps ownership down a little, but even if he is high owned I think he is good chalk.
  • Zach Johnson ($6,800)  – CHALK – I think he is going to be very chalky from this group. He is extremely mis-priced in my opinion and he should clearly be the favorite to come out of his group. Look for him to be high owned, so differentiate around him if plugging him in to your roster.

Group 2 & 15

  • Luke List ( $7,300) – I like Luke List from this group because he rates well in my model (21st) and has been playing well at a variety of courses this year. His putting can be concerning at times, but it has improved this year. We have seen him go head-to-head with JT a few weeks ago and lose, so maybe some revenge narrative to get him fired up.

Group 3 & 14

  • John Rahm ($10,800) – Runner up last year and rates out well in the model. Similar to DJ, he has taken a few weeks off, so his name is not the hottest in the industry right this second. With that being said he could potentially still be chalky, but it is not chalk that I am going out of my way to avoid.
  • Rafa Cabrera Bello ($8,000) – CHALK –  He has been playing very well lately and draws a fairly easy group, minus Phil, who has been playing exceptional as of late. There has been a lot of chatter about RCB so far this week, so I would not be surprised to see him be pretty chalky come lineup lock.

Group 4 & 13

  • Jordan Spieth ($10,500) – Jordan has not been putting well as of late, but the rest of his game has been very sound. I like him here in Texas to bounce back and hopefully contend. He had an early exit last year, so I am hoping this will keep ownership down a little. He is also in a group with Match-Play teammate Patrick Reed, who has been garnering lots of chatter this week.
  • Patrick Reed ($7,700) – CHALK – Reed is famous for his heroics in the match-play format. He loves this style of play and he has been very good at it. There was also a video of him from the API hounding a rules official for not giving him relief since his name is not “Jordan Spieth”…let the narrative begin. I will not be full fading Reed this week, but I will probably be under-exposed.

Group 5 & 12

  • Patrick Cantlay ($7,400) – Cantlay is a great player and we have seen that early on this season. If he can get by Hideki, I like his chances to advance past the round of 16. I do not have the strongest conviction on this pick, but you will have to take some chances this week if you want to win. With that being said, if I think he is going to become chalk, it’s an easy pivot to Hideki.

Group 6 & 11

  • Rory McIlroy ($10,000) – He is coming off an incredible win and dominating putting performance at the API. I have heard some chatter about a possible let down this week because of that, but I am going to ride Rory a little bit. He rates out great in my model and has shown us in the past that he loves the match-play format. I might be a sucker here, but I like to play Rory.

Group 7 & 10

  • Sergio Garcia ($8,900) – Sergio has been playing really well lately and he seems slightly under-priced. He always draws a really good group and should be able to come out of there with little issue. Just an added bonus, he rates very well in the model for this course.

Group 8 & 9

  • Kevin Chappell – ($7,500) – Chappell does not have the easiest group in the tournament, but I expect most of the ownership to flock to Fleetwood. This is more of a GPP play, but his stats are good and if he can find some putting I like his chances. He also provides some salary relief that may be needed if you really like the top guys.

 

Final Thoughts

This is a new structure for everyone, as Draftkings has never done a match-play style contest before. I want to emphasize again the importance of understanding the DK scoring as well as the format for the tournament. Lineup construction is much more complicated than normal this week, but taking the extra time to maximize upside is crucial. Also, it is going to be crucial to pick group winners, but that is a very difficult task. Picking the top-ranked guys has not necessarily been the way to go, when we look in the past.

I am personally looking forward to this week from a viewing perspective. Match-plays are a very fun shake up from the standard tournament because each day has some fire and importance. I love to see players gutting it out in head to head match-ups, where they only have to worry about beating the guy in front of them.

It will be interesting to see how ownership and lineup construction shakes out for the masses. Good luck to everyone playing, hopefully you take down a GPP.

As always, thanks for reading!

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