DraftKings PGA $3M Millionaire Maker: 2015 Open Championship – Preview, Strategy, Picks
Thanks to the great people at DraftKings, we have another shot at $1 million in the PGA $3M Millionaire Maker for the 2015 Open Championship this week.
We had huge success for the PGA 2.5 Millionaire Maker at the U.S. Open. Aaron Steinberg, a big contributor to Daily Fantasy Winners and gave tremendous input to our U.S. Open analysis, came in fifth place.
Granted he did have the luxury of making 163 lineups, but he and myself had just under 20 percent of our lineups of all players making the cut. That may not seem very good, but the field average was 14% and we know we can do better. Plus, the more lineups you make, the more chances you have at the big score to an incredibly top-heavy prize pool.
The Open Championship, also known as the British Open for the DFS players unfamiliar with golf (you’d be shocked how often this comes up), is a different animal than the U.S. Open. While the U.S. Open was a major championship and did have a links style feel, this is still significantly different for several reasons.
One of those reasons is St. Andrews, the home of the 2015 event and the birth of golf. Let’s take a look.
Breaking Down St. Andrews
St. Andrews is a very unique track. As you can see, it’s links style, and most of the trouble is on the right. It’s an old style course – the first six holes go straight out, holes 7-11 are in the back corner (amazingly No. 7 and No. 11 have their fairways cross each other) and the last seven holes come in parallel to the opening holes.
This is also intriguing from a DFS perspective. It’s a par 72 of 7,297 yards. However, while most par 72s have 10 par 4s, four par 5s and four par 3s, St. Andrews has 14 par 4s, two par 5s and two par 3s. This means fewer eagle opportunities right?
Wrong. Here are your possible eagle holes that won’t need a hole-out.
No. 5, 570 yards, Par 5 (13 eagles in 2010)
No. 7, 371 Yards, Par 4 (2 eagles in 2010)
No. 9, 352 Yards, Par 4 (4 eagles in 2010)
No. 14, 614 Yards, Par 5 (1 eagle in 2010)
No. 18, 356 Yards, Par 4 (6 eagles in 2010)
No. 5 will be a green most can reach in two, especially when the wind is blowing Northwest. Length off the tee will certainly help though as the winds are supposed to be blowing Southwest Friday through Sunday with an East direction Thursday. More on this later. No. 7 plays slightly shorter than the distance with a slight dogleg right, and that is favorable for a North wind. No. 9 can be reached off the tee from 352 yards, and that helps with a wind blowing toward the East. No. 14 at 618 yards only featured one eagle in 2010 (another hole favoring an East wind), and since we saw several eagles on other holes in the same direction, it’s safe to say eagles here are only for the longest hitters. No. 18 at 357 yards is a drivable par 4 for longer hitters, which is also heading East.
So, what do we make of this? With length being required on four of the five possible eagle holes, plus it being a fairly beneficial factor on the fifth, length is a great thing to have. Also, if you look at the previous leaderboards of Open Championships at St. Andrews, the longer hitters have typically had greater success. You’re going to run into bad luck with pot bunkers, unfortunate lies in the rough and face brutal luck with the wind gusts. The fairways are wide enough and you can bail out left (sometimes a good thing to hit it on the other hole for a better angle) where the length of having a shorter club in gets you the advantage.
Four Statistics to Look At
Danny does an excellent job breaking down the four statistics that will be helpful in figuring out who should benefit from St. Andrews. They are:
1. A left miss tendency (Almost all the trouble is to the right on this course)
2. Long putting (here’s what one of the greens at St. Andrews looks like in Keegan Bradley’s yardage book
4. Play well in wind
Check out the forum for his breakdown.
While You Can Find Some Useful Data from Previous Open Championships at St. Andrews, Having one or Two Good Results Doesn’t Mean Much
While there are some things you can look at from the Open Championship in years past (2010, 2005, 2000), most of the data you’ll find is irrelevant. Why? Along with it being a small sample size, you’re also examining tournaments that were played several years ago when many of the great or even solid players today were just turning professional.
Furthermore, specifically with 2010, there was extreme weather at times, including a wind delay (yes a wind delay). The No. 11 green was essentially unplayable, although they fixed the green slightly to be more friendly to high winds for 2015. In any case, if you take a look at the Thursday and Friday scores from 2010, you’ll notice several of the players who missed the cut shot significantly higher on Friday. You guessed it, they were unlucky with the timing of their tee times.
Yes, weather is a big deal, especially for the Open Championship. Not only is it because of links style golf in Scotland, it’s because everyone tees off No. 1. It isn’t a strict Thursday morning/Friday afternoon, Thursday afternoon/Friday morning wave of tee times where you have players going off of No. 1 and No. 10. Additionally, it’s not a straight inverse for tee times on Thursday and Friday, meaning if you tee off first on Thursday, you don’t tee off last on Friday.
So, unfortunately, we have to do the research in determining when everyone tees off on Thursday and Friday to find the best fits. We can filter this a bit though. The marquee players (approximately players who are $7k and more) are teeing off approximately between 8-10 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. Therefore, for most players (not all, because there are some good plays outside those tee times) we can determine morning and afternoon tee times clearly.
As of right now (Tuesday early evening), it’s expected that 2015 weather could be very similar to 2010 – brutal at times. But what will make this year different is that the course is already wet. St. Andrews has seen an abnormal amount of rain recently, and the approach shots to the greens where we usually see the ball bounce forever won’t be happening, especially with the weather we are going to see later this week.
So, this week – Thursday will be relatively calm with approximately 5 MPH winds the morning and 15 MPH winds in the afternoon. There are, however, weather concerns for Friday and Saturday. The weekend obviously doesn’t matter for DFS players, since we simply want everyone to make the cut. There is rain expected throughout Thursday night and during the day Friday. Winds are expected to be around 15 MPH Friday morning, but they increase later in the day and there will be gusts over 40 MPH in the afternoon (via Kevin Roth of RotoGrinders).
Also, we need to look at the specifically at what direction the wind is blowing each day and how that will impact the eagle holes. On Thursday, the wind is blowing to the East. On Friday through Sunday, we are getting winds blowing toward the Southwest.
I have to be clear about this – weather does change. Also, the closer we get to the tournament, the more accurate predictions can be. Plus, we don’t know if the tournament officials will suspend play on Friday. However, given that they fixed the No. 11 green and that Saturday’s weather is expected to be tough, I really believe the players teeing off later in the day on Friday are at a disadvantage. This is by far the biggest factor when it comes to Open Championships in the past and your probability of making the cut.
But still, forecasts change. Many of the picks listed and the percentages will be based off of this weather and when players’ tee times are. So, what is listed in this article could certainly change by tomorrow and as late as just before the first tee times Thursday morning. Be sure to check the forum for updates.
Why You Shouldn’t Target European Players Specifically
When DraftKings did the salaries for the Open Championship last year, they were ridiculously mispriced. However, similar to most of the tournaments in 2015, they’ve done a much better job for the 2015 Open Championship.
One of the biggest reasons for the bad prices in 2014 was not taking sportsbooks’ odds into account (or not enough). This was multiplied by the fact that DraftKings doesn’t factor in European Tour events (or not well enough). While we could use a lot of horribly mispriced European players last year, that’s not the case this year.
You’ll notice that Euoropean players’ prices are a bit more expensive in general while U.S. players are a bit cheaper. Most people will tell you European players do better in the Open Championship in comparison to U.S. Players or in comparison to the U.S. Open.
In terms of making the cut, which is very important, that’s actually not the case. In fact, U.S. players have had a better cut made percentage in the Open Championship in comparison to the U.S. Open. European Players have had a better cut made percentage at the U.S. Open in comparison to the Open Championship.
There is a flaw to this though – a portion of the bottom-end U.S. players who play in the U.S. Open don’t play in the Open Championship and vice versa for the European players. More clearly, if your tournament is in your home country, more golfers from your country participate.
For example, at the 2015 U.S. Open and 2014 Open Championship, 40 of the 84 U.S. golfers (48%) made the cut in the States while 31 of 56 made the cut in Scotland (55%). Then, while 16 of 38 Europeans made the cut (42%) in the States, only 25 of 61 made the cut in Scotland (41%).
As I went back and did this for the last few years, the same trend continued. So, while it might say U.S. Players are actually better off in the Open Championship or European Players are better off in the U.S. Open, it’s just that the worse players are hurting the percentages.
But what it is telling us is that U.S. players are actually fairly with European players in both nations. The game of golf has changed drastically overtime, even in the last decade. It’s significantly easier for players to travel, they are playing on both the PGA and European Tours more frequently and you shouldn’t fall for the myth of a huge home course advantage.
If you see more European players than U.S. players near the top of the Open Championship leaderboards in general, well guess what, there are more European players participating. Don’t fade U.S. players because of it.
Quick Review Before Picks
Okay, that was a lot of information. To recap, here’s what we are looking for plus a few other positive factors to look for:
- Weather and tee times (This is the most important of anything. If this actually plays like 2010, tee times will determine who makes the cut substantially. Even if the weather is brutal all day Friday, the tee times from morning to afternoon should still have a greater impact than Thursday.)
- Longer hitters (helps particularly for St. Andrews and eagles)
- Odds per dollar
- Guys who have performed well at the Open Championship with a reasonable sample size
- Long putting
- Players who don’t miss to the right often (I am personally not sure how much of a factor this will be since the fairways are incredibly wide. But a bad miss way right is really bad)
- Being a positive-oriented player (there is going to be brutal weather and bad luck with the pot bunkers. This helped tremendously at the U.S. Open with the randomness of Chambers Bay. We saw plenty of blowups. We will here too, although for different reasons.)
These are some of my top picks, but please keep in mind, I will use A LOT more players than this (some just as much as these guys). Check out the forum for a full list of who we will play at approximately what percentages. Keep in mind, a a vast majority of the players who are $7,500 or more tee off Friday afternoon and are therefore not going into the top picks. Highlighted in green are players who tee off Friday morning (until about 10:30), red is Friday afternoon (anytime after noon) and yellow is late morning Friday. The left column are players $7,500 or more and the right column are players between $7,400 and $6,800 (chose $6,800 as a cutoff to give you an idea on the disproportionate tee times by skill level).
Unfortunately, this means the reasoning for my top picks are fairly vanilla. There aren’t that many good tee times for the best players, so the reasoning may not seem as good as it should. Nevertheless, factoring the weather and making the cut is the most important thing.
High Salary: Justin Rose, $10,900 – You’d think Rose would have a fantastic Open Championship resume, but it’s quite the opposite. In 13 attempts, he’s missed the cut five times (three in the last five years), his best finish was T4 as an amateur back in 1998 and hasn’t had a top 10 besides that. So why do I like him? Believe it or not, Rose has had horrific luck when it comes to tee times in the Open Championship, particularly in 2010 when the Open was last at St. Andrews (didn’t play in the 2000 or 2005 Open Championship). Rose has been outstanding on the European Tour and has performed well on links style courses before. We obviously know he’s one of the best players in all of golf. His length will give him several eagle opportunities, especially on all the holes heading East on Thursday. He’s one of the most upbeat players who handles adverse weather very well. Plus, we know the 2013 U.S. Open Champion has the ability to go off on the big stage (looking at that 59 in the Ryder Cup last year).
High-to-Mid Salary: Paul Casey, $9,200 – The best player this year that no one is talking about. Casey is a longer hitter who has five top 10s on the PGA Tour this year, He’s a very good player in windy conditions and really doesn’t have a flaw in his game at all.
Mid Salary: Matt Kuchar, $7,900 – If you’ve read my golf stuff for a while, you know if there’s one guy I want to have make the cut for me (who isn’t the most expensive player), it’s Kuchar. He’s made 20 of his last 21 cuts at a major and is the definition of consistency. Despite not being a longer hitter and relaying on his mid-to-longer irons at times, he can rip it on par 5s and shorter par 4s when needed and is usually an aggressive player (eighth in eagles per hole), contrary to popular belief. Kuchar also finished second in the Scottish Open last week (better field than you think and lost by one to Rickie Fowler) and is playing well as of late.
Mid-to-Low Salary: Francesco Molinari, $7,500 – Not a long ball hitter by any means, but Mollinari has been on cruise control this year no matter how big the event is. Since he’s been healthy in 2012, his last three Open Championship results are T39, T9 and T15. Again, I want someone who will most likely make the cut and have a legit shot at a top-10 finish at this price.
Low Salary: Keegan Bradley, $7,400 – Obviously I’m sort of cheating the low salary category here, but I really do like Keegan on St. Andrews. His length should play very beneficial on St. Andrews, he’s three-for-three on cuts made at the Open Championship (with plenty to spare) and has been very consistent this year. His salary is simply too cheap for how good of a player he is too.
Under-the-Radar Play: Rafael Cabrera-Bello $7,300 – A long-ball hitter on the European Tour who has been crushing this year with five finishes of 13th or better in his last six events, three of which have been top five. He also has a really early tee time Friday at 7:27 a.m.
View all posts by Nick Juskewycz