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Redkacheek’s DFS Rundown: 2018 Safeway Open

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The beginning of the 2018-2019 season is already upon us…basically a two-week break! The good news is most casual fans have completely shifted their focus to the NFL which means we should see “softer” competition during the Fall Swing. Another note during the Fall Swing, you will see a lot of names you are not familiar with due to rookies from the Web.com Tour getting their careers started early, but don’t let them fool you! There are some extremely talented players that have far more upside than guys like Charles Howell III or Chez Reavie and they should be mostly under-the-radar.

Before we get into my core plays, let’s take a look at the course and what the players will be facing. The 2018 Safeway Open, formerly the Frys.com Open, will be held at Silverado Resort and Spa North in Napa, Calif. Historically one of the easier courses on the PGA Tour every year, the winning score has exceeded 15-under par each of the past three seasons. The Silverado Resort North course tips out just shy of 7,200 yards (7,166) and plays to a par of 72. Although it may be difficult to statistically dig into the entire field with so many rookies on Tour playing in their first event, birdies-or-better (BoB) will certainly be a key stat this week.

Let’s take what we now know about scoring and step back to take a bigger picture of the course. Looking at accuracy numbers from last year, these were some of the easiest greens to hit on Tour with last year’s GIR number coming in at 66.82 percent — yet diving accuracy was one of the worst at only 50.25 percent. That is a red flag to me and immediately removes any notion to include driving accuracy in my model. Why is that? Essentially this data tells us there is no real premium on hitting the fairway because these numbers are not correlated.

To expand upon this further, the average driving distance here last year was pretty significant, averaging 299.4 yards. Strictly from a stat-based appearance, without looking at the course photos, this is a bomber’s paradise as far as hitting lots of drivers and not paying the price if fairways are missed. Perhaps adding driving distance to your model or your player research is not a bad idea this week. The numbers certainly show that bombers will have an advantage.

The last thing I will touch on is the green complexes, and more importantly, putting. These greens are somewhat complex (no pun intended), which is where much of the bite comes in and why we do not see sub-20 under winning every year. I would not suggest weighing putting however, as 3-putt avoidance, one-putt percentage and overall putting average are all middle of the pack for PGA Tour difficulty. Guys should be hitting a lot of greens and whoever can get the putter going will fair very well. If you are still on the “putting is the key to golf” bandwagon (which is technically true just not for DFS), taking a look at longer term putting splits inside of 10 feet may prove beneficial, as that range ranked second most difficult on Tour last year.

With all that out of the way, let’s get into my core plays for this week.

Patrick Cantlay (DK $11,600)

Patrick Cantlay at $11.6k is really borderline for me, but if I had to pick out anyone in this field to rely on, it would be him. He can certainly pay off the price tag but rostering him is for one of two things: 1. You are playing cash and need a solid building block, or 2. You think he is a class above the rest of this field and should certainly finish in the top five. Statistically this course grades out as his type of course, as he ranks third SG:T2G, seventh SG:OTT and fifth in DK points. He is surprisingly long, so I think that adds to his appeal. I certainly do not see Patrick Cantlay “breaking the slate” this weekend in one way or another but as far as a core play, I think he is worth the spend.

Emiliano Grillo (DK $10,000)

I am severely torn between Grillo and Niemann, but Grillo grades out better for me mainly due to his course history (Niemann has none). Grillo has played here three times and has a win and two top-28 finishes under his belt. Again, 10K requires a top finish to pay off, but I like Grillo’s chances of adding a second victory here this week. He had a really rough stretch during the middle of this past season but started to come into form really well leading into the Fedex Cup Playoffs. He rates out in the top 15 of all the major stat categories I am looking at this week, including fourth in SG:Putting which could actually be a big difference maker on these greens.

Sang-Moon Bae (DK $8,400)

After those 10k and up guys, I am not in love with many. I think Brendan Steele is in the conversation for a core play but hard to know which Brendan Steele shows up. The one I am most interested in going into the $8k range is Sang-Moon Bae, and from what I am seeing he should be somewhat under-owned. Sang-Moon won this event back in 2015 but then had to leave the United States to fulfill his military obligation in Korea. Well since his return last season, he has really underperformed…until about five weeks ago! To finish off his season, he had to go to the Web.com Tour to try to regain status. Well, he is back on Tour this year due to this incredible stretch of golf. Beginning at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, Sang-Moon finished T35, T6, and then 1st. Keep in mind this last event was only three weeks ago so still very relevant form. I am taking that Web.com form mixed with his course history here and putting him in a lot of my lineups this week.

Chez Reavie (DK $7,600)

Chez does not fit the bomber profile but he does like this course. As I mentioned on the FGB Podcast, Chez has finished T17, T22, T13 the past 3 years and overall just seems to play the Fall Swing really well year in and year out. That part is hard to explain, but I do know that the form he takes into this event never seems to matter. He is one of the highest ranked putters on Tour so this is probably what offsets his driving distance. At 7,600 Chez is one of the few mispriced Tour veterans in this field that we can count on.

Sungjae Im (DK $7,000)

This one here is really exciting, but sadly he probably won’t be under-the-radar. Sungjae just came of a historic season on the Web.com Tour where he won twice and finished 2nd three times! His last few events to finish the season were 1st, T51, T16, and T43 finishes, so I would certainly say his form has not diminished. He played in two majors this year, the U.S. Open where he MCdd (so did Tiger, Rory, Jason Day, Speith, etc.) and the PGA Championship, where he finished 42nd. He ranked 23rd in driving accuracy, 21st in GIR% and 17th in putting average. This kid is good, and I want to be sure to have plenty of exposure early in the season when he is essentially playing against Web.com guys anyways.

Tyler Duncan (DK $6,800)

Tyler is another player, like Chez, that doesn’t fit the bomber narrative but has just been so solid for the last year. He had a stretch earlier this year where he made 11 cuts in a row. ELEVEN! That is really strong. He did play here last year and finished fifth, so his price just doesn’t make sense. I will gladly add Tyler to my Cash and GPP pool, take the savings and count on a made cut and another potential Top 10. To put the cherry on top, Tyler ranks seventh in SG:T2G and fourth in SG:APP. His numbers and course history look really good so I just don’t understand why he is priced down under 7K.

Also consider…

Ryan Moore
Joaquin Niemann
Denny McCarthy
Brendan Steele
Harold Varner III
Sam Ryder
Curtis Luck
Joel Dahmen

Good luck this week everyone!

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I am ranked in the Top 35 of all DFS Golf players and best known for winning the DraftKings Millionaire Maker contest during the week of The Masters earlier this year. I am very active around the community, always willing to help whether with strategy or research and you can find me on Twitter @Redkacheek and also each week on the Fantasy Golf Bag Podcast. One last note, my history is in professional golf, which definitely adds a unique perspective to DFS that most people do not have and you will find really gives you an edge when evaluating players each week.

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