PGA All-Star - Lesson 02 - Statistical Tools to Help Build Lineups

Geoff Ulrich is one of the lead PGA contributors to the DraftKings Playbook. You may see him playing at DraftKings with the username ‘wavegoodbye’ where he’s made a name for himself specifically playing daily fantasy golf, hockey and football. Follow him on twitter @thefantasygrind

As a fantasy player, the amount of information and statistics available can often be overwhelming.  Choosing what stats to ignore and what information to use in the creation of your lineup can be a difficult process.  One piece of information I recommend always taking into account when setting your PGA lineups is the actual betting odds for a given tournament.  These stats are easy to use, widely available and can give you an accurate forecast of which golfers may be in for a good week, and more importantly, which one’s might be underpriced for fantasy purposes.

Where to Find

There are a plethora of places on the internet where you can find betting odds for a golf tournament. One of the easiest places to look is http://www.oddschecker.com/golf, which gives you a comparison of the various online sportsbooks.  Additionally, viewing a website such as the one mentioned above will allow you to see the line changes as they occur and compare and contract prices at various books.  As we will discuss further, seeing the line movement can be a large advantage as we seek out lower priced fantasy players who are being tapped for a large week by betting prognosticators.

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What to Look For

There are a ton of different betting odds available for each and every tournament that is played on the PGA tour.  However, for our purposes I would suggest focusing on the “to win” odds and the “top 10” or “top 20” odds.

How to Use

One of the great things about using betting odds to help you make your team is that it’s often-times very simple.  Looking at a player’s odds “to win” or finish in the top ten or twenty of the tournament, and comparing them to the odds of another player with a similar price on Draftkings, will allow you to see exactly what the bookies and betters think of a group of players’ chances for that particular week.  Since sportsbooks have major incentive to ensure their forecast about the player is right (they pay out more if they’re wrong), betting odds are often a very reliable source of information to use to help create your lineup.

Using “To Win” Odds

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A great example of how to use the “to win” betting odds to your advantage can be gleaned from a recent PGA tournament.  During the lead-up to the Northern Trust Open J.B. Holmes began the week priced at various odds that ranged between 50-1 and 40-1 to win the tournament.  At the same time, Holmes’ price on Draftkings was also set at the beginning of the week at $8800.  However, after a day of betting, Holmes’ betting price shrank drastically on most sites to between 35-1 and 33-1.  Clearly, his recent form coupled with his history at the tournament meant betters felt he was being underpriced compared to the rest of the field.  However, while Holmes’ betting price shrank, his price on Draftkings remained the same.

By looking back, we can see now that Holmes’s betting odds at the starts of the tournament were actually similar or even lower than some of the other players who were priced higher than him on Draftkings.  At $8900 Webb Simpson was being given 40-1 odds to win the tournament, while Charl Schwartzel, at $9300 on Draftkings, was now being given similar priced odds to Holmes.  Going up in price even further, we could see that some sportsbooks were giving both Bill Haas ($9500) and Hideki Matsuyama ($10200) similar or only slightly better odds to win than Holmes.

What this all means for fantasy purposes is that the betting odds in this case were actually doing our work for us.  Betters had recognised Holmes’ great history at Riviera and recent stretch of good form and agreed that he was set too highly at 50-1.  For fantasy players we could have used this line movement to recognize Holmes’ value on Draftkings without doing any other actual research except looking at his odds throughout the week.  Seeing a player like Holmes with similar odds to win as his higher-priced peers on Draftkings was a great indication that he was a great value play for this particular week of golf.

1J.B Holmes went on to finish T22 in the Northern Trust Open, ahead of higher priced players Webb Simpson, Charl Schwartzel, Bill Haas and Harris English.

Using Other Odds

A similar strategy to the one applied above can also be used with top ten and top twenty odds.  These odds may not be as readily available as the “to win” odds but most major online sportsbooks will have them.

Looking at top ten or top twenty odds can often be useful for finding hidden value plays in the lower price ranges.  While a lower priced fantasy player may not have great “to win” odds in a given week, certain golfers may have slightly higher odds to finish in the top ten or top twenty in a tournament than some of his similarly-priced peers on Draftkings.  This sort of discrepancy by the sportsbooks is often recognizing the fact that certain factors may be working to a golfer’s advantage in a particular week to increase his shot at a high overall finish (and making him a potentially great fantasy play).

This sort of betting angle can often be seen during Master’s week.  Since Augusta National is known for being excruciatingly tricky to navigate for first time players, experience playing at the course is often valued quite highly.  Because of this we often see older players or past champions play well there even though, for all intents and purposes, they are past their prime as pro golfers.  Often times, these players will still have very long odds to actually win the tournament, but their odds to finish in the top ten or twenty will be decreased because of their past experience.  Sportsbooks are essentially telling fantasy players that these golfers are unlikely to win the tournament but that they stand a better chance than some of the other lower-priced fantasy players on Draftkings of making the cut or finishing in the top 10-30% of a tournament.  Player’s such as Bernard Langer and Fred Couples, both well known for their ability to score well at Augusta—but long past their prime in terms of challenging for the outright victory—are great examples of players who may fit this sort of description when the Master’s betting odds are released.

Comparing a player’s top ten or top twenty betting value with other player’s in his price range on Draftkings is a quick and easy way of learning who some decent value plays are in the mid-to-lower-tiered salary range.  This, in turn, should allow you a better chance of finding those elusive salary-saving players who can make the cut and score you some extra fantasy points on the weekend.

Conclusion

Hopefully this article was able to aptly describe how simply looking at the betting numbers each week and applying them to the salaries on Draftkings can give you some insight into the potential outcome for certain players.  Odds are certainly not the only stat you can or should look at, but, as described above, they can hold a lot of information inside a simple number.  Try to use that information to your advantage whenever possible.


Continue Reading PGA Training Camp

PGA All-Star – Lesson 01 – Getting Past the Cut Line
PGA All-Star – Lesson 02 – Odds to Win, Place and More
NEXT LESSON PGA All-Star – Lesson 03 – Distributing PGA Salaries
PGA All-Star – Lesson 04 – Using Recency to Draft
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