As I began to write my first column about fantasy golf and why I love to play Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS), I found myself reflecting on how I got here. Originally, I was never into fantasy. Honestly, I found it kind of cheesy and nerdy. My friends would always talk about setting lineups, making trades and I would think to myself that they were ridiculous.
Week after week, we would be in the bar watching football, and I would be tuned out or playing “Golden Tee Golf” in the corner. I hated football. Hated might actually be an understatement. Golf has always been my passion. Football just never drew me in.
All of that changed about five years ago when I met my girlfriend. She is a die-hard Minnesota Vikings fan, never misses a game. It was love at first sight, and we have been inseparable ever since.
In doing what most guys do, I adapted and pretended to love something that I didn’t. In this case, it was football. The reason that football is important here is that it’s how I got into DraftKings. I didn’t have the attention span for season-long but wanted to have a way to learn players and teams week to week.
DraftKings does a fantastic job of advertising during football about every 15 minutes. I love to gamble, and they promise “FREE MONEY.” Sign me up! I started modestly, playing about $20 per week. I think I lost every week in NFL contests, but it was fun and engaging.
Turns out that DraftKings has a golf product. Now, here’s a way for me to just print money!
Not so much, as it turns out.
But I did get into it. There is no better sweat in DFS than golf. Most contests run the length of the actual golf tournament. You sweat day one. Are my golfers going to start hot? You sweat day two. Are they going to make the cut? You sweat the weekend. Can they make a run at winning? The answer to most of those questions is “no,” but I love it.
I loved it so much that the energy became infectious, and I now have a group of friends who play weekly. We talk about it constantly. We all use stat engines and simulators trying to find an edge. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. Every week we have a blast and come away with good stories from our time out watching sports and having drinks.
In “First Tee to Last Call,” I will share both the stats I’m looking at and the nonsense that my friends and I get into being at the bar watching sports. As you can learn a lot about both life and sports after a few drinks with your best friends.
On to my DFS picks for the Mayakoba Classic.
This week, I built a stats model with a heavy emphasis on shots gained on approach, opportunities gained and putting. I typically do not weigh putting in my models highly or at all, but this tournament is a little different. The last four winners have had strong putting performances against the field, and this is a particularly difficult course for putting. The weather is projected to be a little rainy, which should keep the course soft and receptive. I expect low scores and birdies in bunches here.
*I will do a few columns during the off-season explaining the tools and stats that I use more in-depth.
Mayakoba Classic Plays
Justin Thomas ($11,400)
Justin Thomas (JT) is the most expensive golfer in the field, and he should be. He rates out No. 1 in my model, and is by far the best and most consistent player in the field. He has the second-highest birdie or better percentage in my model, which means he should be racking up the DraftKings (DK) points. He has an excellent approach game and with conditions being soft and wet, I expect him to be pin hunting all week. People will like Brooks Koepka, Tony Finua and Harris English here. They are strong plays as well, but I’m just not willing to pay up for any of them this week. JT for the win.
Joaquin Niemann ($9,100)
Niemann is coming off four consecutive top 25s and has scored more than 93.5 DK points in three of the four tournaments. At $9,100, I like the consistency and scoring prowess he has. Doesn’t hurt that he is No. 1 in my stat model for strokes gained off the tee. This course relies on second shot positioning, and Niemann can be deadly accurate off the tee.
Peter Malnati (7,300)
If you’re going to be paying up for JT and Niemann this week, you’ll need to pay down in some spots. My model loves Peter Malnati, and the simulator seems to agree. He is trending up. He has three top-21 finishes in his last three starts with a fifth and a second place. He scores when he’s on: 121.5, 118, 85.5 DK points in his last three matches. He rates out No. 1 in opportunities gained, and with the wetter conditions, he should be able to catch fire. Added bonus: His projected ownership is sub-10 percent. Seems like a lock to get some leverage.
Dart Throw of the Week
Will Gordon ($6,800)
Looking for leverage or savings? Or both!? I’d target Will Gordon here. He has been steady in his last five starts. He’s making cuts, and at $6,800, I like that. He is projected to be sub-6 percent owned, and I think he could be sneaky good here. No question, he’s a dart, but not an absurd one. Gordon is No. 2 in my model for birdie or better percentage and ranks in the top 40 in all other stats for me. He most likely will not win, but he has the potential to be competitive and score points for you.
Good luck this week!
Conor Coughlin @aRandomGr3nade