DraftKings Millionaire Maker Golf Strategy: The Wild But Predictable World Of Putting

DraftKings is running a $20 buy in Millionaire Maker tournament this Thursday for the British Open, where first prize is $1,000,000. For such a small investment, the chance at winning that much money is quite alluring. I’m probably going to put in over 100 lineups myself. My brother Aaron is going a bit more hardcore. He nearly won the Millionaire Maker for the US Open and already has won over 200 tickets to the tournament from baseball.

With such a top heavy tournament, it’s important to dig deep in your analysis and find some players who are great plays but won’t be highly used. After some research, I think I’ve found a great way to find good plays by predicting putting skill, and figuring out who has been unlucky putting this season.

Putting is the most frequent stroke attempt in golf, and is therefore one of the most important factors in score. Unfortunately for golfers, it is also one of the most luck driven events in golf, which is mostly due to natural deformations in the green.

A green may look quite smooth to us, but relative to the size of a golf ball, the dents, debris, and direction of grass grain heavily influences the direction and distance of a balls path. Balls hit with perfect speed and distance according to the contour a speed of the green will not always go in the hole because of how the green deformations affect the ball path. Research done by Dave Pelz on this phenomenon is outlined here. The gist of research done on putting luck is this: even if you hit a putt with perfect aim and distance, you will only sink it some of the time, and less so as distance increases. Pelz found at Westchester CC that “perfect putts” executed and calculated with mathematical precision from 12 feet only sank 73% of the time. When he tried the same putt the next day, after players walking on the green ostensibly affected the playing surface, the 12 footer only went in 30% of the time. And further research found as distance increased, variability also increased.

In other words, when a golfer makes a putt of reasonable length, it’s often just as much because of random variations he didn’t account for than his actual skill reading and hitting the putt. Putting is mostly luck in the short term.

But is putting all luck? Almost certainly not. To prove it, I looked at Strokes Gained data for putting from 2007-2015 on the PGA tour, which can be found at the PGA Tour website. You can read about the definition of Strokes Gained there, but the most important thing to know is it is the most accurate measure of putting skill on the PGA tour. If there is a such thing as putting skill, the previous year or several years of data should be predictive of the next year of data. When I averaged data from 2007-2014 and measured the correlation to 2015 data, I got a correlation coefficient of .53, which is around the same as when correlating to 2014, and 2013 data as well. This is a strongly positive relationship, especially considering the variance of just a years worth of putting data.

Because we can predict putting skill using an average of previous years Strokes Gained data, we can also see how lucky or unlucky golfers have gotten relative to their putting skill so far this season.

You’ll find the data for 2015 here. The AVERAGE columns are Strokes Gained Putting per round, Projected being the mean from 2007-2014, and the adjacent column being 2015. BadLuckMetric is simply the difference between the projected average and the 2015 average.

I think my only issue with this metric is the concept of the yips. Some players simply completely lose their ability to hit short putts because of their nerves, and I think that can be a trend that has nothing to do with luck. So when you look at this data, keep the data from 5 feet and under in mind, found here.

The most unlucky putter in the BadLuckMetric is Lucas Glover, but if you look at the five feet and under data, he’s dead last. With that said, Glover is last in short putting year to year, so he’s just a really bad short putter who has been even worse this year. My favorite guy on this list is Luke Donald, who is by far the most obvious golfer experiencing bad luck. He is an above average short putter, but has gotten extremely unlucky this year on longer putts.

On the other side of the coin, Jimmy Walker is the most relevant lucky putter playing in the British Open. Walker has gotten extremely lucky putting and has therefore over performed this season. I’m not saying he can’t do well, but this is some evidence that he’s looked a lot better this year than he really is.

The idea behind this signal is that putting accounts for a large amount of scoring. A player who has gotten unlucky putting this season will have a depressed salary and likely be good value. A player who has gotten lucky this season putting should have an inflated salary and will likely be bad value. Since putting skill should not change much year to year, this signal should be useful.

Use putting luck in conjunction with Nick’s article on picks and odds per dollar to hopefully help you win a million dollars in DraftKings Millionaire Maker tournament which starts on Thursday. Good luck!

This week, DraftKings PGA Millionaire Maker! For only $20, you could win $1,000,000 by the time the last putt drops on Sunday. Sign Up Today!

View all posts by Daniel Steinberg
Daniel Steinberg

About the Author

Daniel Steinberg Daniel Steinberg is a former bond trader at a multi-billion dollar proprietary trading firm in Chicago. He uses his knowledge of statistics and his creativity from his career as a poker professional to create the most advanced Daily Fantasy statistical analysis that you will find anywhere. Follow him on twitter @DanielSingerS

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