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PGA DFS: Horse For The Course - Safeway Open

Welcome back PGA DFS family! I'm not going to dig into the Ryder Cup, because the pain is still fresh...needless to say, it was a disastrous outing for the United States. After a very brief break, we are back in action on the PGA Tour this week for the Safeway Open!

The fall season is a really interesting time of year, especially for DFS players. We are going to see tons of names that we might not be very familiar with and names that we are familiar with will most likely carry a much higher price tag than we are used to seeing. This is the time of year when rookies and Tour graduates will take their shot at the big-leagues of professional golf.

Lineup construction will be more difficult than normal in the upcoming stretch of tournaments, but hang in there. The fall season rewards those who work hard during the research process. There is a definite edge to be had for those of us that are willing to do our homework. I'm ready to go to work and hope you'll join me right here at RotoBaller every week, let's tee it up!

Horse For The Course will take a look at players that have traditionally flourished at the course that hosts this week’s PGA TOUR event. This is not a traditional picks column, but rather an attempt to pinpoint players that have outstanding results at a specific course. "The Horse" is a player with an elite course history and that has a great chance to repeat his success in this week's tournament. "The Ponies" are players with very good course history, that might be entering this week's tournament under the radar or have a DFS price that is a great value.

For a full review of the DraftKings PGA Slate this weekend, check out Seth Finklestein's column reviewing picks at every price point.

You can also find out who the smart money is on by checking out Spencer Aguiar's PGA DFS: Vegas Report every week.

Editor's Note: Our friends at Fantasy National have built some incredible DFS Golf lineup tools including a Lineup Optimizer, Stat Engine, Ownership Projections and Course Breakdowns. They are by far the best daily fantasy Golf tools in the industry. Seriously. You can read all about them here and see screenshots. 

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The Course: Silverado Resort & Spa (North) - Par 72 - 7,166 Yards

Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed and contructed to 18-hole courses in the 1960's. After an off-and-on relationship with both the PGA Tour and Champions Tour throughout the years, the property received a massive upgrade after being purchased by Johnny Miller in 2010. Silverado North has hosted this tournament since 2014. The course offers an advantage to long-hitters on it's closing stretch, which features two long par-5's over the last three holes. Ball striking, both off the tee and on approach are of the utmost importance this week. Silverado North has poa greens, so we can also pay attention to players that excel on that putting surface.


The Horse

Brendan Steele (DraftKings - $9,000 & FanDuel - $10,000 )

I tried to avoid going with Brendan Steele as my first horse of the 2019 PGA Tour season, I really did, but his history at Silverado North is undeniable. Steele is the two-time defending champion of the Safeway Open and will head into this week trying to become the first player to consecutively three-peat at a tournament since 2011. The 35-year-old missed the cut in his first ever appearance at Silverado in 2014, but hasn't faltered since at the Napa Valley track, finishing T21-T17-1st-1st over four starts since 2015.

The reason I'm reluctant to highlight Steele, despite his amazing history at the Safeway, is his horrendous play throughout the summer of 2018. The native Californian kicked off the 2018 season by winning at Silverado for the second consecutive trip and played very well during the fall of 2017 and into the spring of 2018. That's where the good news ends. Steele's game ran off the rails after a bad Masters appearance and remained, how should I put this...really bad throughout the summer. Over his last 10 starts in 2018, Steele missed five cuts and never cracked a finish in the top-45.

Steele suffered through the summer despite ranking 11th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, 12th in Driving Distance, and 31st in Greens in Regulation on the PGA Tour. His issues are easily identifiable, as Steele was consistently horrendous both on and around the greens in 2018 and ranks 126th in Strokes Gained: Putting over his last 36 holes according to our friends at Fantasy National. However, if there is one sliver of a bright side, it's that Steele ranks 72nd in Strokes Gained: Putting over his last 36 holes on poa greens.

The beauty of this tournament is that it represents a fresh start for every golfer in the field. The downside is, as DFS players we are forced to guess as to how players will comeback from a lengthy layoff. I'm assuming lots of DFS regulars will be turned off by Steele's ugly summer, but he has obviously shown that he handles this season opener well. I'm willing to gamble that he finds his form in the mother of all bounceback spots.


The Ponies

Joaquin Niemann (DK - $10,300 & FD - $11,100 )

Am I allowed to name a guy a pony if he's never played in the tournament? My column, my rules...I'm rolling with it! We are trying to win DFS tournaments and young Joaquin Niemann has as much (or more) upside as any player in this Safeway field. The 19-year-old from Chile exploded on to the professional golf scene last year and managed to earn full-time PGA Tour membership in a limited amount of sponsor exemption starts. In just 13 starts, Niemann logged four top-10 finishes and stayed consistent throughout the year, making the cut in eight of his last nine tournament appearances. As evidenced by the top-10's, the upside is definitely there and a win is coming sooner rather than later.

Though we don't have any course history to work with, I love how Silverado North sets up for Niemann's game. He checks all the boxes for what will be needed this week. We can use Fantasy National to dig into Niemann's stats over his last 36 rounds and what we find is absolutely eye-popping. Niemann ranks first in the field in Strokes Gained: Total, Strokes Gained: Ball Striking, and DraftKings scoring. He also checks in at second in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and third in both Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and Approach.

This kid could very well be "the next big thing" on the PGA Tour and I AM HERE FOR IT! Sure, he's priced above $10k, but I could make the argument that the teenager should be second in pricing behind only Patrick Cantlay. Niemann is a ball striking prodigy and I feel his game will be a terrific fit at Silverado North. Even though he is priced near the top of the salary scale, I'm more than willing to pay up for him in GPP's. In a week with a lot of question marks, there is no doubt about Niemann's talent. While we were flying blind much of last year with him stat-wise due to his lack of recorded rounds, I'm blown away when breaking down Niemann statistically. Big future ahead for this kid.

Chez Reavie (DK - $7,600 & FD -$9,500)

We go from a player in Joaquin Niemann that is flashy and exciting, to our next pony Chez Reavie who is, well... neither of those things. While Reavie may not have a major championship in his future, that doesn't mean he can't get it done at this week's Safeway Open. The veteran has been money at Silverado North and is batting a thousand in five trips to Napa Valley. Reavie has never missed a cut at Silverado and has logged top-25's in his last three Safeway appearances.

Reavie will look to replicate his quick start from last season, when he kicked things off with eight top-25's in his first nine tournaments. After the sizzling start, Reavie cooled as the 2018 season unfolded, including an ugly June/July stretch where he missed five consecutive cuts. He was able to bounce back toward the end of the season, logging a very respectable T12 at the PGA Championship. In fact, when we use Fantasy National to see how Reavie has fared recently, we find that he ranks first in the field in Fairways Gained over his last 24 rounds. So I'm confident that his game is heading in the right direction as we kick-off the 2019 season.

Reavie is a fairways-and-greens type grinder who finished 2018 at third in Driving Accuracy Percentage and 39th in Greens in Regulation Percentage on the PGA Tour. He offers some much-needed salary relief and carries very reasonable price tags on both DraftKings and FanDuel. Reavie is a solid cash option, but brings some sneaky upside to the table in GPPs. Though he's not really "fun" to play in DFS lineups, the veteran is the type of player that can grind out a solid top-25 this week and allow us to take some shots at other spots in our lineups.

Sam Burns (DK - $7,100 & FD - $8,800)

Those of you that read this column regularly know I like to take some shots with my last player of the week. This week's value play is a guy that I think the DFS community will get to know really well this year. Sam Burns has the potential to be this season's Joaquin Niemann. The 22-year-old is loaded with talent and earned his PGA Tour card for 2019 after spending most of last season on the tour. Burns made limited appearances in PGA tournaments last season, but flashed his potential by nabbing a T8 at The Honda Classic and a T12 at the Valspar in the spring.

Burns' game profiles perfectly for Silverado North. He is a tremendous ball striker that can make birdies in bunches. stats aren't as extensive as those kept by the PGA Tour, but I definitely like what I see from Burns. Over 56 recorded rounds on the Tour, Burns ranked 10th in Driving Distance, 35th in Total Driving, and 21st in Greens in Regulation Percentage. The kid isn't just a bomber, as he ranked an eye-opening first in Putting Average. His ability to score on par-5's will come in handy this week and he was second on the Tour in Par-5 Scoring Average and first in overall Birdie or Better Percentage.

There's a lot to love about Burns this week, but his price is icing on the cake. At just $7,100 on DK and $8,800 on FD, playing Burns gives us tons of flexibility when constructing lineups. I love pairing him with Niemann or Patrick Cantlay in GPPs. Those that multi-enter tournaments can actually use all four of this week's highlighted players to build a very nice core on DraftKings, while mixing and matching at the other two spots with an average of $8k per player left. We would be satisfied with a made cut from Burns at this price, but there is potential for much more from this exciting young player.


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