PGA Betting, DFS Picks: Waste Management Phoenix Open

PGA Betting, DFS Picks: Waste Management Phoenix Open article feature image

This isn’t the Rams offense of 20 years ago, but the Phoenix Open does call itself “The Greatest Show on Grass,” and two football players in John Elway and Aaron Rodgers will play in the pro-am. The real show, however, comes from the loaded field, topped by studs like Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, and Rickie Fowler. Matsuyama is worth the price of admission by himself, as he’s crushed this course, winning in each of the past two years and coming in second and fourth in 2015 and 2014, respectively.

Here’s everything you need to know from a betting and DFS perspective for the 2018 Waste Management Phoenix Open, including six guys with enticing odds to win the tournament, a slew of underpriced players in DFS, and why Matsuyama is in a historical class of his own.

The Course

TPC Scottsdale, which checks in at 7,266 yards for a Par 71, is a pure ball-striker’s course. The last four holes create the potential for dramatic swings on the leaderboard, with the reachable par-5 on No. 15, the stadium par-3 at 16, a driveable par-4 with water in play on No. 17, and a difficult drive on the 18th that has water and tough bunkers in play.

Look no further than Matsuyama, to find the type of profile a player needs to succeed in the desert. I’m targeting a combination of good drivers and elite iron players this week; I’m not weighing putting as heavily in my calculations. — Joshua Perry

In this week’s PGA Flex podcast, Colin Davy highlighted accuracy metrics — particularly Greens in Regulation (GIR) and Driving Accuracy — as ones to focus on. I’ll put a little data to that: Using the FantasyLabs Trends tool, I backtested a variety of metrics to see which types of golfers have performed well here at TPC Scottsdale. The metrics that came out the best include Long-Term GIR, Long-Term Eagle Percentage, Long-Term Birdie Percentage, Recent Adjusted Round Score, and Recent Driving Distance. The first three were easily the best ones tested, although the fact that recent play and even recent distance tested well goes to Josh’s point that a combination of a good driver and great irons is key here. — Bryan Mears

The Field

We have five clear-cut stars in the field this week, and the books have placed them in the 9-1 to 16-1 range. Matsuyama and Spieth open as the 9-1 co-favorites with Jon Rahm (10-1), who played his college golf at nearby Arizona State. Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler are a notch below that trio at 16-1.

The Studs

Betting angle: Of the big five guns, I’m targeting Rickie Fowler this week at 16-1. Fowler has played well the past couple of years here, reaching a playoff in 2016 and taking fourth last year. He also owns a second-place finish in 2010. I like that we’re getting nearly double the odds on him compared to the other favorites in the field. Outside of a missed cut at Torrey Pines, where he’s struggled recently, Fowler has put together strong finishes wherever he’s teed it up. — Joshua Perry

DFS spin: The top players are underpriced relative to their odds to win the tournament. If you want to maximize your odds of rostering the winner in your lineup, and you should definitely do so in top-heavy DraftKings and FanDuel tournaments, your best bet is to roster the studs. The two players with by far the highest Vegas Bargain Ratings on both DraftKings and FanDuel are Matsuyama and Spieth. They lead the field with 10.0 percent implied odds to win, which, according to our regression formula, should put them at about $13,100 on DraftKings and $16,600 on FanDuel. They’re pricey this week, but not that pricey.  — Bryan Mears

Read more on Bryan’s Vegas Bargain Ratings metric in this week’s piece at FantasyLabs.

Jon Rahm appeared to be on track to take down back to back tournaments on the PGA Tour after the first two rounds of the Farmers Insurance Open last week, but he shot rounds of 75 and 77 on the weekend to end up finishing a disappointing 28th. Even with the weekend letdown, Rahm’s 67.6 Recent Adj Rd Score is the best in the field among golfers with more than one start in the past six weeks and his 16.3 LT Adj Bird Avg ranks third overall. Rahm’s 68.0 Course Adj Rd Score ranks fifth among golfers with more than one start here. — Kelly McCann

Mid-Tier Players

Betting angle: I’m eyeing Daniel Berger at 40-1. Berger has a couple of wins under his belt, but both were at the same tournament in Memphis, and he’s ready to diversify that win portfolio. TPC Scottsdale has been a good spot for Berger thus far in his career: He’s finished in the top-10 in two of his three starts. Plus, he’s coming off a top-15 finish in Hawaii.

I’m also adding Scott Piercy (66-1), Russell Knox (90-1) and Xander Schauffele (90-1) for that sub-triple-digit range. All three have the tee-to-green capabilities to compete here; it’s just a matter of whether their putters will heat up this week. — Joshua Perry

DFS spin: Poor Francesco Molinari cannot get a price hike on DraftKings. He is one of the best golfers in the world, and yet he remains just $7,300 on that site. He’s averaged a solid +9.47 Plus/Minus over his past 10 tournaments, and he has a top-25 in his only visit here in 2015. While his salary is tied for the 43rd-highest mark, his Long-Term Adjusted Round Score of 68.8 is the eighth-best mark in the field. He has a superior score to someone like Berger, who is $9,500. The pricing of Molinari remains ridiculous, and he should be easily in the cash-game mix until he sees a dramatic increase. — Bryan Mears

The Long Shot

Betting angle: I’m going pretty far down the board with Sung Kang this week at 175-1. Kang is very hit-or-miss, but I like him on courses where the driver really matters. We’ve seen bombers like Brooks Koepka and J.B. Holmes win here, and, while Kang doesn’t have that type of distance, the tee ball is where he usually gains the most strokes. — Joshua Perry

DFS spin: Benjamin Silverman has the lowest salary among players who rank inside the top-20 percent for two key statistics. He is tied for sixth in the field with his 70.1 LT GIR percentage and tied for 13th with his 14.3 LT Adj Bird Avg. Silverman has made two straight cuts at 1.1 percent ownership or less. — Bryan Mears

Course History or Recent Play?

On this week’s PGA Flex podcast, we debated what was more important: Excellent recent play or excellent course history. Two players have caught my eye that will test this question: Chez Reavie and Kyle Stanley. They have been elite of late, averaging DFS Plus/Minus values of +16.07 and +18.38, respectively, over their past 10 tournaments. Both players have exceeded salary-based expectations in nine of those 10 outings. They have poor history here — Reavie, for instance, has missed the cut in each of the past three years — but they’re in great form at the moment and seemingly fit the course very well. If the public decides course history is more important than recent play, this could be an intriguing buy-low spot for the talented ball-strikers. — Bryan Mears

The Matsuyama Problem

It’s hard to fully appreciate just how dominant Matsuyama has been at this track. There are guys with notable strangle holds on particular courses — think Spieth at Augusta or Henrik Stenson at Sawgrass. So where does Matsuyama fit in historically? Well our Trends tool can look at only the past decade or so, but he seems to be in elite company. Hideki’s 66.8 Course Adjusted Round Score is slightly inferior to Spieth’s absurd 65.8 mark in his first two Masters trips, but, among players with four-plus visits to the same course, Matsuyama sits at the top. The only other player to post a 67.0 or better over a sample size of at least four visits is Matt Kuchar in 2014 at Muirfield Village. Thus is the Matsuyama problem this week: How in the world do you fade that type of course dominance? — Bryan Mears

Photo via Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports