5 DraftKings Plays I Love for THE PLAYERS Championship
I’ll briefly preface my DraftKings plays by saying, I think this is the sort of week where you really need to narratively decide or try to imagine how you think this tournament plays out.
With rain, wind, and thunderstorms forecasted for much of the week in Ponte Vedra, Florida and at TPC Sawgrass (particularly on the weekend), I feel a need to decide if my DraftKings lineups are going to focus on “bad weather grinders,” golfers who are likely to do well if the winning score is in the single digits -OR- “target practice assassins”, golfers who might thrive on a damp softened course where scores actually go quite low.
In reality, as someone who will make several lineups, I’ll likely try to correlate each lineup with how I think this event goes and account for a few different types of outcomes…
That said though, this feels like one of the most random and unpredictable weeks of DFS golf I can remember. There could be hours upon hours of weather delays. There could even be entire days that ultimately get wiped out.
So much of this will be unquantifiable, but in the back of my mind I’m most interested in golfers who I believe can handle all of the unpredictably — all of the curveballs the weather might throw their way and not get flustered by it.
At this moment I believe that the golfers who adapt well to the day-to-day conditions this week will find a way to fire some low scores on what I expect to be a pretty soft course. I’m currently anticipating a winner score in the -13 to -17 range.
Jon Rahm ($11,100)
I’m going to the #1 ranked golfer in the world, who I know for certain can play well in any conditions, at any course in the world.
Jon Rahm’s ball-striking continues to be out of this world good. Even while on this streak of poor short game play, Rahm basically leads the field every week in the ball-striking stats (off-the-tee & approach).
If Rahm’s short game returns anywhere close to his baseline ability, he might win THE PLAYERS this week by 5 shots. That’s how unbelievable the rest of his game has been lately.
On top of that, Rahm’s produced a T9 and T12 finish at TPC Sawgrass in the two years that the event’s been played in March — something I’m focusing on more so than the long-term history of THE PLAYERS.
It appears like many people will hop off the Rahm-train this week in favor of playing Justin Thomas and Collin Morikawa on DraftKings, but I’ll happily roster a lower owned Rahm and just hope he putts better.
Cameron Smith ($9,400)
I wish Cam Smith was priced maybe five-or-six hundred dollars cheaper, but I supposed that will likely keep his ownership down on DraftKings.
On paper I think Cam Smith’s game is a little scary for TPC Sawgrass. It’s just so easy to envision how things go wrong for him — he’s wayward off-the-tee, he’s playing too aggressively going at pins and ending up in tricky spots.
But I went back and looked at how Smith faired here last year (T17), I realized that he did drive his golf ball poorly for 3 of 4 days. 21% driving accuracy in round 1, and 42% driving accuracy in rounds 3 and 4. Despite this , Smith still finished just one stroke outside of the top-10.
In round 3 last year though, Smith hit 9/14 fairways (64%!) which led to him making 7 birdies and 1 eagle…
It’s that type of round-by-round upside that gets me extremely excited to play Cam Smith this week. I think he may even be a better, more confident golfer than he was a year ago too— a guy who just seems to gets into contention, and even win, more often now.
Potential weather issues give me some confidence in Smith as well — living in Florida, while also growing up in Australia, it seems like Smith is well-suited to handle both intense winds and rain.
Will Zalatoris ($8,900)
The $8,000+ range on DraftKings isn’t my favorite this week.
I think there’s just so much win equity at the very top of the board. Then there’s that next tier in the $9,000s — full of guys who routinely contend in events.
And then below 8K, in the $7,000 range, there’s just so much great value…a pool of golfers who aren’t wholly different from the golfers in the $8,000s.
All that said, If I’m prioritizing one guy to roster in the 8K+ Range, it’s Will Zalatoris.
Zalatoris just always seem to show up in these premier ball-striking events. A place where Justin Thomas won just last year, it’s so easy to imagine Zalatoris replicating the same formula — if not this year, then at some point in his career it feels like Zalatoris could become a Players champion.
Willy Z posted a T21 finish at THE PLAYERS in his rookie season a year ago. He comes in with good form in 2022, though perhaps with some scorned DraftKings owners after most recently finishing just T38 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week and T26 at Genesis.
Perhaps those results — along with Daniel Berger being priced $100 cheaper — will keep Zalatoris’ ownership down and thus make him a strong GPP option.
The concern will always be the putting for Zalatoris, but it might be worth mentioning that he putted to exactly field average at TPC Sawgrass in 2021. A repeat of that performance on these greens likely puts him firmly in contention this week…
Sam Burns ($7,900)
After three missed cuts in a row, Sam Burns finished T9 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week. He turned it around off-the-tee after two abysmal performances at Genesis and Waste Management, and then also gained 3.74 strokes on approach and nearly 6 strokes putting.
This was the formula for Burns throughout 2021 when he contended often and statistically was one of the best golfers in the world.
It seems like people aren’t necessarily ready to buy-in to Burns being “back” to his 2021 form just yet, especially when there are guys like Matt Fitzpatrick and Shane Lowry in the surrounding area who come in with clear amazing form and course history.
But for large field GPPs I’m almost certainly willing to take shots on Burns and just hope that I’m earlier on him playing great again than most…
Burns carries only a two-round sample size at TPC Sawgrass, in which he missed the cut in 2021 by an absolute mile. That said, Burns has played well at other Pete Dye designed courses so far in his career — T13 at Travelers last year, T4 at the Zurich Classic (also last year), and a T6 at The American Express in 2020.
A few other potentially lower owned 7K plays I like: Abe Ancer ($7,600), Jason Kokrak ($7,300), Tom Hoge ($7,000).
Jhonattan Vegas ($6,800)
Johnny Vegas has gained strokes ball-striking in every measured event this season. The results aren’t incredible due to some lackluster short game performances, but he did finish T8 at the Saudi International event not long ago.
Vegas finished T3 at the 2019 Players Championship, demonstrating that he does have some good vibes at TPC Sawgrass — the March edition specifically…
Pencil me in for a Vegas top-20 finish this week and I’d be thrilled at $6,800 to have him round out my DraftKings lineups.
Given how strong and value heavy the 7K range is for THE PLAYERS, I’m not itching to dip down into the $6,000+ range this week.
Though I must admit that, along with Vegas, there are a lot of intriguing options and notable names that could play well and perhaps even win if things get nuts at Sawgrass…
Mito Periera ($6,700) interests me immensely, especially if he will be < 3% owned. He’s a long-shot guy who I could even see winning this event, or coming close and being priced in the $8,000s next year.
Aaron Wise ($6,600), who I talked up last week, ultimately came through with a nice finish at API and was near the very top of the field in ball-striking. If you think he can continue that play and just putt a little bit better, then he will be an outstanding play this week. Top-10 upside for sure.