Sobel’s Cheat Sheet for PGA Tour One-And-Done Pools
USA Today Sports. Pictured: Rickie Fowler, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy.
- If you haven't tried a PGA Tour one-and-done pool, you're missing out. The gist: You pick one player at every PGA Tour event, none more than once and no defending champs, then total up those earnings for the overall leaderboard.
- Jason Sobel runs through three players he's eyeing for one-and-done pools at each 2019 PGA Tour stop.
Before I became a professional golf writer, before I’d ever written one word about any player or covered a single tournament, I was in a PGA Tour one-and-done pool.
Still am, too. It’s been 22 years, spanning a period that featured middle-aged guys in pleated khakis to confident young studs in joggers and high-tops. (And yeah, that’s just the dudes I’m making picks against.)
For those unfamiliar with OAD pools, there are a few variations, but this is the most popular: Pick one player at every PGA Tour event, none more than once and no defending champs, then total up those earnings for the overall leaderboard.
(In one of my pools, we also include about a dozen European Tour events and bump up money for majors and playoff events; in another, we pick two players per tourney, so myself and a buddy make our picks fantasy draft-style, with one player each at every event, and the loser between us pays our team’s entry fee the next year.)
It’s a great way of following along with a ride-or-die selection every week, without having to do the research and prep required for DFS and other more intense leagues.
There aren’t many secrets to success in OAD pools, other than the obvious: Pick more winners than everyone else. But I do have a few tips that can help as you prep for the upcoming year.
Give yourself a chance.
There’s nothing worse than taking a DNS, watching your player’s name never show up on the entry list while your fellow pool competitors wave to you from the passing lane. You’ll always endure some MCs, but do some research and pick guys who should at least play in those given events.
Nobody is Nostradamus.
Don’t get too discouraged. You might start out in DFL on your pool’s leaderboard after the West Coast Swing, but things can change in a hurry. While somebody might peel off a few early wins, it’s difficult to maintain consistency in these pools. Just like a pro who shoots 78 in the first round, keep your head up and stay positive.
Don’t overrate the majors.
I used to break this rule every year. They’re the four biggest tournaments, I’d reason, so I should pick four of the best players. Sure, there’s more money available at the majors, but how often do we see chalk anyway?
For example, you might like Justin Thomas at the Masters, but really like him at the Sony Open, which he won two years ago. If you think it’s a sure thing, do it.
Here’s another reason: History doesn’t always repeat itself in golf. If your major selections are, say, Paul Casey, Tony Finau, Bryson DeChambeau and Tommy Fleetwood (ahem, in that order…), you’re likely to cash a few nice checks while never taking the pool fave in any of those four events.
Remember the young ‘uns.
This always happens: A month into the calendar, an up-and-comer will have posted three top-10s and you’ll be kicking yourself for leaving him off your final list.
It’s impossible to predict how every Web.com promotion will perform, but don’t get so locked in to past results that you forget to include guys like Cameron Champ and Joaquin Niemann on your list.
Play some hunches.
You know that thing I just said about history not always repeating itself? Sure, there are times when you look at a player’s recent results at an event, see he finished 2-5-3 the last three years, and lock him in. Nothing wrong with that.
But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that just because a player was top-five the previous year, he’ll easily do it again. In particular, I like looking for outlier scores. If you notice a player finished 29th at a tourney with four rounds of 68 and a third-round 79, there’s a good chance that course fits his eye and he simply had one bad day.
OK that’s enough general advice for now. Let’s get our hands a little dirty.
For this article, I’ve included three potential selections at every PGA Tour stop.
Old Reliable (OR): A player who traditionally fares well at that given event.
Course Horse (CH): A player whose game should match up with the host venue.
Wild Card (WC): A player who I particularly like at a specific event, whether because of an underlying narrative, a home-field advantage or just as a “hunchy” play.
Here are my picks, based on a standard OAD league (which means no defending champions included).
Sentry Tournament of Champions (Jan. 3-6)
OR: Patrick Reed
CH: Jon Rahm
WC: Cameron Champ
There are two ways of looking at the year-opener: With only 34 players in the field, it’s a chance to use a big gun against limited competition, or … with a guaranteed payday, it’s a chance to use one of the less attractive winners from last year and know you’ll get something out of him.
Sony Open in Hawaii (Jan. 10-13)
OR: Zach Johnson
CH: Justin Thomas
WC: Charles Howell III
This is hardly the greatest determining factor for success, but I usually try to pick a player who’s already spent a week in Hawaii on neighboring Maui. Their body clocks are adjusted, they’ve already enjoyed a few Mai Tais and, most importantly, they have a week of competition under their belts while the majority of their peers are shaking off the holiday rust.
Desert Classic (Jan. 17-20)
OR: Charley Hoffman
CH: Brendan Steele
WC: Bud Cauley
This event was formerly known as the CareerBuilder Challenge (among other things). This biggest characteristic necessary might be patience, as potentially windy conditions and pro-am rounds can lead to some long days. Cauley finished T-14 last year, including one negative outlier round, and is a strong candidate to bounce back after a season marred by injury following a car accident last summer.
Farmers Insurance Open (Jan. 24-27)
OR: Tiger Woods
CH: Tony Finau
WC: Phil Mickelson
You know Tiger and Phil would each love to win at Torrey again, but Finau is my favorite pick here. He once won a Junior World event on this site and has continued his success, with top-25s in all four starts, including a T-6 last year.
Waste Management Phoenix Open (Jan. 31-Feb. 3)
OR: Hideki Matsuyama
CH: Jon Rahm
WC: Ollie Schniederjans
Your lazy pool competitors will notice Matsuyama’s record of 1-1-2 before last year’s WD and simply plug him in and move on. Might not be a bad play, but if you’d rather zig when everyone else zags, the hatless Schniederjans owns a nice record here in his short career.
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am (Feb. 7-10)
OR: Dustin Johnson
CH: Brandt Snedeker
WC: Jimmy Walker
You have a tough decision to make this year: Take DJ at Pebble Beach (for the Pro-Am) or take DJ at Pebble Beach (for the U.S. Open)? Either way, if you’re looking beyond 18 Mile Drive for a place to use him, you might be doing it wrong.
Genesis Open (Feb. 14-17)
OR: Kevin Na
CH: Phil Mickelson
WC: Keegan Bradley
Bubba Watson (three times) and Dustin Johnson (once) have combined to win three of the past four editions of this event, but don’t be fooled into believing that Riv can only be tamed by the bombers. Na, who grew up in SoCal, is a prime example.
WGC-Mexico Championship (Feb. 21-24)
OR: Justin Thomas
CH: Tyrrell Hatton
WC: Brooks Koepka
With only one previous edition of this event in Mexico, there’s not much history to use here. Instead, with the high altitude, I like taking a big banger and letting him use that to his advantage. Koepka is an interesting choice; he was injured and didn’t play here last year, so most OADers will overlook him.
Puerto Rico Open (Feb. 21-24)
OR: Rafa Campos
CH: Sam Saunders
WC: Sam Ryder
Don’t be fooled into thinking major decisions are the toughest ones. Alternate-field events are brutal to prognosticate, especially months ahead of time — and even more especially in the case of this one, which hasn’t been contested since 2017 due to last year’s devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico.
The Honda Classic (Feb. 28-March 3)
OR: Sergio Garcia
CH: Luke List
WC: Daniel Berger
Tread carefully: With a more condensed schedule this year, players are going to be creative with taking time off, which could mean some stalwarts of the Florida Swing events might not show up. I’d opt toward burning a guy like List or Berger, each of whom has lost in a playoff at this tourney, instead of dealing with the heartburn after taking a top-20 player who doesn’t show.
Arnold Palmer Invitational (March 7-10)
OR: Tiger Woods
CH: Henrik Stenson
WC: Sam Saunders
It says OR next to Tiger’s name, but it should probably say “OG.” If you want to save him for a bigger tourney, Stenson is a guy I always have a tough time finding the right spot for, but owns an exemplary records here. As for Palmer’s grandson Saunders, well, you know you’re not getting a DNS.