Let me tell you something you already know: putting together a daily fantasy lineup takes some strategic thinking. I won’t say it requires a “strategy” because that implies that you should pick a particular approach and use the same one every time. The truth is the opposite – you need to be flexible, willing to change your approach as conditions dictate. There is no one strategy not because none of them work, but because all of them do. You might have learned this playing fantasy football, or baseball, or basketball, but drafting your daily fantasy golf lineups is no different.
Just like anything else, there are all kinds of factors to consider when you’re trying to decide which golfers are going to be successful on any given weekend. You start with the players:
* Who is playing well lately?
If you’ve ever played so much as a handful of rounds of golf, you know that your ability to hit the ball cleanly can come and go at a moment’s notice. So yes, all of these players are REALLY Good at golf, but if one of them happens to be really good AND is striking the ball well right now, ride him. Yes, all streaks – good ones or bad – come to an end eventually, but you can’t predict that any better than you can predict when your 3-wood off the fairway is about to take a hard right into the woods.
* Who has played well historically on this course?
Have you ever heard a golf analyst or announcer say that for any particular player, a certain course “fits his eye?” It’s a phrase that basically means that for whatever reason, a player is comfortable playing on a particular course. Maybe the natural distances that he hits all his clubs just work perfectly for the different approach shots. Maybe they have fond memories of playing there, so they play loose, or maybe maybe the way the light shines on that particular mixture of grass allows him to read the greens better than usual – who knows? But not only does former glory on a course trump the “who is playing well lately” question, it also often can jump start a “playing well” streak.
And once you’ve answered these two questions, you move on to analysis of the course and the tournament themselves (before the final step – combining it all!). About the tournament:
* How big is the field?
If you play fantasy baseball, hockey, or basketball, you’re used to this. If you mainly played Daily Fantasy Football, you likely got your first taste in the playoffs, but valuing a player changes dramatically depending on how many players are in the field. If you want to rely on mid-range talents, a huge field can be dangerous, even if it is bottom-heavy, because it is just pushing down the odds of your mid-level choice actually cracking the top 20, or ten, or five, or whatever your goal was.
* How many top players are playing?
As in any other sport, what you are paying for in fantasy golf is consistency, with upside. No matter how expensive a player is, there is no guarantee he will score you any kind of meaningful fantasy points. But the odds are better. He probably will.
For that reason, a big field is one thing, but a field that is loaded with top players is something else entirely. If you have a big field, and a handful of players ranked near the top in the world playing against a bunch of also-rans, you almost have to choose those top guys. They are the only ones left with a win likelihood % that hasn’t been reduced to nothing by the glut of players near the bottom.
A small field that’s entirely made up of top players (think FedEx Cup Playoffs) is another kind of beast entirely, when all of a sudden guys like Patrick Reed are the cheapest play on the board. Strategy goes out the window in that case – maybe some guys are more likely to play well (or else they’d all cost the same), but every single guy out there has a chance to win. A good chance.
* Is there a cut?
If there is one lesson for you to take away from reading this, here it is: a birdie and a bogie is worth more fantasy points than two pars. Not having a cut can allow you to take more chances – maybe you take a player who has a lot of under-par holes, but is wildly erratic, because you know he’ll be out there scoring you points until Sunday. A good example of this is Sergio Garcia – he often has the highest fantasy point scoring average on the board, but is rarely the most expensive. He gets that average with a ton of birdies, but he ends up cheaper than the top couple of players in the world because you’re never 100% sure what you’re going to get from him.
About the course itself (note: some knowledge of players is still required to make the most of this information):
* What is the total par?
Are there six par-5’s, or four? What are going to be considered the scoring holes on this one – holes that require length, or an accurate approach?
* How long is the course? How open?
Will long drivers dominate because shorter drives just won’t have the opportunity to score? Or can you score while driving 280, making those 340 yard drives extraneous? Are those bombs going to leave you with a half-wedge to that par-4, or a chip, or, more likely, with a shot from the rough?
* What is the scoring average?
Is this is the U.S. Open? Is a -1 going to win it? Because if it is, then the points you get for the finishing position of your player are going to be that much more crucial. In that case, you don’t care about a guy who can get a ton of birdies, but you want a guy who can nail that pressure par-saving putt and who isn’t going to wilt coming down the back nine on Sunday.
We will take on the most important of these questions every week in this space, depending on what is most applicable that weekend. We love a good “players to target” article as much as the next guy, but this space will be designed more to give you the tools you need to decide for yourself which players you think will help you win… so good luck!