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PGA DFS: Vegas Report - Safeway Open


In what might be the shortest offseason for any sport, the 2019 season begins this weekend at the Safeway Open. The FedExCup standings will reset, and the first opportunity for points will be up for grabs at the Silverado Resort in Napa, California. But you shouldn't expect to see the regular cast of faces that we are accustomed to seeing week in and week out. The majority of the big names will be inactive until January of next year, and the strength of the fields will continue to diminish in quality throughout each passing week of the eight-tournament fall stretch. December will give a month break to all golfers, but we should still expect to see some restless schedules from "lower-tiered" players hoping to get themselves off to a quick start for the 2019 season.

The fall portion of the season is our first chance to get a look at the 50 newest Web.com Tour graduates. For these 50 players, they will have an opportunity to make an early statement of what 2019 might have in store for them. Some of these golfers will be teeing it up for the first time on the PGA Tour, while others are tour veterans that were able to salvage their card and requalify at the Web.com Tour finals. However, regardless of why or how they got here, the experience of competing at the Safeway Open can turn into a life-changing event for all participants. Without further ado, let's take a look at some value being offered in Napa Valley, California this weekend.

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

And for a more in-depth breakdown of the top DraftKings and Fanduel plays, check out Joe Nicely's weekly "Horse For The Course" column that highlights the best fits for the week's course.

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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2018 Safeway Open - Silverado Resort and Spa - 7,166 Yards - Par 72 - Greens Poa Annua.

The PGA Tour will begin the 2019 season in Napa Valley. Silverado Resort has played host for the previous five Safeway Opens, but it wasn't always a foregone conclusion that they would be hosting the event this season. Shortly after the completion of last year's tournament, fires consumed the area and partially damaged the property. Mat Dunmyer, director of agronomy at Silverado, was thankfully able to restore the course to its original state. Silverado Resort is a 7,166 yard par-72 that has four par-threes and four par-fives. These par-fives are the easiest holes on the course and will be essential to posting quality scores. Brendan Steele is the two-time defending champion at the tournament and will try to become the first man since 2011 to three-peat a PGA Tour event.

Pick to Win

J.B. Holmes (60/1, DK Price $7,900, FD Price $9,100)

While J.B. Holmes' 2018 season was a minuscule improvement over his 2017 campaign, he was still unable to reach the heights of what he provided in 2014 to 2016. During that three-year stretch, the American posted two victories, which included an additional 14 top-10 finishes. In the prior two seasons, Holmes has been unable to produce a win and has only been able to muster four top-10 results.

Still, despite the negative trends in the 88th-ranked players game, there are reasons to be optimistic this week. Since 2014, Holmes is ranked third in the field and 18th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained on Poa Annua greens. His 2.026 strokes gained total is an increase of over half a stroke (+0.518) from his 1.508 strokes gained on other surfaces. While the 36-year-old is far from being a comprehensive putter, he ranks 27th in strokes gained-putting on Poa Annua greens compared to the field over his previous 75 career rounds. When putting on all other surfaces, Holmes ranks just 115th compared to his competitors in the past 100 rounds.

The rest of Holmes' game translates about how you would expect. He ranks first compared to the field over his past 24 rounds in strokes gained on par-fives and second in strokes gained off the tee. Holmes comes into the week as the 22nd highest priced player on DraftKings, 24th on FanDuel and 21st in the betting market. If four-time PGA Tour winners putting can stay respectable on Poa Annua greens, he should be considered a real threat to take home the first title of the 2019 season.

Sleepers

Beau Hossler (40/1, DK Price $9,100, FD Price $10,800)

Beau Hossler's 40/1 outright price seems very generous given the standout rookie season he had on tour. Hossler jumped from 303rd in the world to begin the season to his closing rank of 77th. The 23-year-old managed to make 19 of 23 cuts during the year, which included two second-place finishes at the Houston Open and the Travelers Championship.

Now a resident of Texas, Hossler should welcome a return to his home state of California. As a 17-year-old amateur, the Mission Viejo resident famously threatened to win the 2012 U.S. Open held in San Francisco, holding the outright lead midway through the second round.

Hossler's first win is going to come before long, and this would be the perfect time to experience a breakthrough in a weak field. The American has an all-around game, which helped him to finish last season ranked 49th in strokes gained off the tee and fourth in strokes gained-putting. Hossler is the 10th highest priced player on DraftKings, seventh on FanDuel and 10th in the betting market. His 9.6 percent projected ownership on DraftKings makes him a desirable commodity throughout their entire slate and one of the better contrarian plays for the week.

Sang-moon Bae (60/1, DK Price $8,400, FD Price $7,100)

After spending two years of his athletic prime doing required military service in his native home of South Korea, Sang-moon Bae is back on the PGA Tour after winning the Web.com Boise Open event, which secured his tour card for the season. During the 2018 calendar year, the 327th-ranked golfer in the world was only able to make four out of 12 cuts on the PGA Tour, but with a year under his belt since his return to competitive golf, the 2019 season will hopefully work out much differently for the 2014 champion of this event.

The 32-year-old has gained 1.245 strokes on poa greens, a 0.877 stroke increase over other surfaces. Bae has also gained 0.939 strokes in California, which is over a half-stroke better (+0.571) from his 0.368 strokes gained in other states. In all his rounds to date on Poa greens compared to the field, the South Korean ranks fourth in birdies or better gained, 10th in proximity from over 200 yards, 11th in strokes gained approach and 16th in putting. Bae has struggled with his par-five scoring, ranking only 80th, but if his approach game can rival the 6.3 strokes he gained during his victory in 2014, he should be able to overcome and thrive at Silverado Resort.

Bae is the 17th highest priced player on DraftKings and the 19th overall golfer in the betting market but comes in at an astronomical 107th on FanDuel. The South Korean is a volatile option this week, but his reduced price on FanDuel makes him a must-play throughout their entire slate. Bae's 60/1 outright price isn't a mistake, and there is a reason why the books have him priced as low as he currently is right now. I would expect some sharp money to trickle in on the two-time PGA Tour winner and drive his price to around 50/1 before the tournament starts and maybe even lower.

Bronson Burgoon (85/1, DK Price $7,500, FD Price $8,400)

Bronson Burgoon had an inconsistent season during his 2018 campaign, only making nine of his 20 cuts on the year but showed flashes of brilliance during the season. A share of second place at the John Deere Classic highlighted Burgoon's season, but five of eight made cuts during the closing stretch of the year, including a share of 11th place on the Poa Annua greens at the Northern Trust helped the 161st-ranked player in the world close the season in style.

Burgoon's statistics haven't always created a recipe for success. From a golf analytical standpoint, the Texas A&M product has been brilliant. In his last 24 rounds compared to the field, he ranks second in strokes gained on par-fives, eighth in strokes gained approach and 10th in birdies or better gained. Burgoon's success on par-fives is probably the most encouraging sign for him this weekend. He is a birdie maker, and the shootout nature of the event should play right into his hands. Burgoon comes in as the 29th most expensive player on DraftKings, 46th on FanDuel and 44th in the betting market. The 31-year-old will be a popular play and will be over 15 percent owned, but he possesses enough upside to warrant GPP consideration.

Jhonattan Vegas (125/1, DK Price $6,700, FD Price $8,800)

Jhonattan Vegas didn't capture a title on tour during the 2018 season for the first time since 2015, granted his two wins in 2016 and 2017 came at the same tournament (RBC Canadian Open). The explosive Venezuelan will try to find his way back into the winner's circle this week at the Safeway Open. Vegas is a boom-or-bust option that is priced way too high in an average caliber field. The 34-year-old has captured three PGA Tour titles in his career, shooting a 27-under, 12-under and 21-under par in those wins. He also has a Nationwide Tour win in 2010, which he shot 20-under par.

In Vegas' previous 50 rounds on Poa Annua greens compared to the field, he is ranked seventh in strokes gained off the tee, seventh in par-five scoring, eighth in proximity from over 200 yards, 13th in greens in regulation gained and 18th in strokes gained approach. Since 2014, Vegas has gained 0.714 more strokes on Poa Annua grass than he has on all other surfaces, which is the seventh largest disparity on the PGA Tour. The 90th-ranked player in the world comes into the week with a six percent projected ownership percentage on DraftKings and is well worth a flier in large GPP fields.

Carlos Ortiz (150/1, DK Price $6,800, FD Price $7,200)

Carlos Ortiz, who was the 2014 Web.com Tour "Player of the Year," has had a long climb back to the PGA Tour. Ortiz captured three Web.com titles in 2014, which included two shot victory over Justin Thomas at the El Bosque Mexico Championship. In his first full PGA Tour season in 2015, Ortiz finished 93rd in the FedExCup standings and had a season-best finish of T9 at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. Unfortunately, 2016 turned into a tumultuous season for the Mexican golfer. Ortiz missed 19 of 29 cuts during the year and failed to post a top-15 finish during the calendar season, losing his tour card in the process.

Ortiz is still far off from where he was in 2014 and 2015, but the 474th-ranked player in the world will finally get a chance to compete on a more consistent basis on the PGA Tour. Ortiz has made his past 12 cuts on the Web.com Tour and finished the season as the 21st highest earner. Two statistical elements stuck out to me on the 27-year-old. For starters, Ortiz has the most significant disparity since 2014 in strokes gained on Poa Annua greens versus other surfaces. His 1.537 strokes gained is a 1.206 stroke increase over the 0.331 strokes he gains on different grass types. The second thing that intrigued me was his play in California during that same time frame. Ortiz was also the number one player on the PGA Tour with his disparity in strokes gained in California versus other states, outplaying his standard production by 1.278 strokes.

Bonus Bomb

Maverick McNealy (300/1, DK Price $6,500, FD Price $8,400)

In a list full of longshots, Maverick McNealy will conclude the outright selections at a price of 300/1. Similar to the thought process on Beau Hossler earlier in this article, McNealy was born and raised in Northern California and attended college at Stanford. In 2015, he won the Haskins Award, which is presented to the best collegiate male golfer in the United States and was the highest rated golf prospect that our country had. In August of 2017, despite rumors that he would enter the world of business, McNealy decided to turn pro and made his debut at the Safeway Open. The 22-year-old opened the tournament with rounds of 68 and 71 before weekend rounds of 73 and 74 slipped him into a share of 52nd place.

McNealy comes into the event as the 46th highest priced player on FanDuel but only 101st on DraftKings. The American's 300/1 outright price is 119th out of 144 players in the tournament. Asking McNealy to win the event is going to be a difficult task, but at a price tag of $6,500 on DraftKings and less than a five percent projected ownership, the Portola Valley, California resident makes for an extremely intriguing GPP flier and is worth a small investment in the outright market.

Head-to-Head Play of the Week

Sang-moon Bae +130 over Chris Kirk -150
Sang-moon Bae $8,400 price tag on DraftKings vs. Chris Kirk $8,600 price tag on DraftKings
Sang-moon Bae 5.3 percent projected ownership vs. Chris Kirk 15.0 percent projected ownership

Sometimes value can be found outside of just statistics. The way a player feels about a course or a given surface can alter their play for the week. And I think we have a classic case of one golfer happy to be competing on Poa Annua greens and the other wishing he wasn't.

After Chris Kirk's poor putting performance on the Northern Trust's Poa Annua greens one month ago and his bounce-back effort on the Bentgrass greens at the Dell Technologies Championship, the American was asked why he could read the greens at the Dell Technologies Championship but struggled so badly at the Northern Trust. His response was, " I suck on Poa Annua."

From a statistical standpoint, Kirk is not lying. Since 2011, he has gained strokes putting on Bentgrass and Bermuda greens but has lost strokes on Poa. In fact, in total strokes gained on Poa versus other surfaces, the 33-year-old has been 0.465 strokes worse since 2014, making that the 24th largest disparity of all golfers on that surface.

As stated in our write-up of Sang-moon Bae above, he is the exact opposite. He is a Poa specialist that loves to play in California. The South Korean is more volatile of an option than we would usually take in our head-to-head wagers, but if his win at the Boise Open is any indication, he appears to be on the fast track back to PGA Tour success. And at a course that he has won at in the past, I am willing to take a chance that he can refind his game and capture us a head-to-head victory.

 

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