Every fantasy sport has its set of data that helps to project what’s going to happen, and fantasy golf is no different. In professional golf, that’s done by a metric called Strokes Gained. Created by Mark Broadie, a Columbia professor, it measures a golfer against others on a shot-by-shot basis. That’s compiled then for daily, weekly, and yearly stats, or however long your database goes for. The database we will be working with for PGA DFS covers about 18 months’ worth of tournaments. While making PGA DFS picks is typically about recent form, we like to learn players’ strengths and weaknesses to better understand where they might perform best. Let’s dig in.
Fantasy Golf: PGA DFS Strokes Gained Analysis | CJ Cup
Seventy-eight players are in the field this week, with six of them having little to no data. The span of my dataset is 46 tournament weeks, dating back to the 2019 PGA Championship. There’s no real reason for choosing this timeframe; it just happens that this point is where I have my formulas working off of, so that’s how I chose it. It is easier to leave the formulas alone rather than re-write them all the time.
Sungjae Im has the most starts in the dataset with 37, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. The next closest set of competitors comes in at 34, which includes Brian Harman, Adam Long, Tom Hoge and Carlos Ortiz. Tommy Fleetwood has the fewest amount of starts, outside of the Korean/Asian PGA Tour players, at 15.
Strokes Gained Total
- Data Set: Three golfers over the past 46 events have gained at least two strokes double-digit times: Rory McIlroy, Tony Finau and Justin Thomas. Seven other golfers have done it seven times: Im, Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Viktor Hovland, Daniel Berger, Kevin Na and Dustin Johnson.
- Looking at it a different way, in terms of percentage of starts, Thomas and Schauffele have each gained at least 1.5 strokes on the field in 14 of 24 starts in the dataset, or 58%. Matsuyama is at 57%, with McIlroy, Johnson, Patrick Cantlay and Harris English being the only others to do it in at least 50% of their starts.
- Graphic: Johnson’s performance at The Northern Trust was one of the best we’ve seen on record, gaining over eight total strokes against the field. Other winners like Sergio Garcia and Jim Herman are also up here, but some other not so notable names are Billy Horschel, Si Woo Kim and Kevin Kisner.
Note: Dustin Johnson has dropped out due to positive COVID test.
Strokes Gained Tee to Green
- Dataset: Thomas and Matsuyama are the only two golfers that have gained over 1.75 strokes gained tee to green more than nine times. In fact, Collin Morikawa is the only other golfer to have done it nine times. Four are at eight — McIlroy, Hovland, Finau and Russell Henley.
- Switching to percentage as our barometer, Thomas reigns supreme, as he has gained over a stroke tee to green in two-thirds of his starts. Johnson is at 62%, Rahm 59%, and McIlroy and Hovland are above 50%.
- Graphic: When we take out putting, Johnson still has the best number by a large sum. But others like Cameron Smith, Paul Casey, Keegan Bradley and even Mark Hubbard have gained over two strokes tee to green once over the last 10 weeks.
Strokes Gained Off the Tee
- Dataset: While we may be in an era of golf where off the tee and distance reign supreme, it has amounted to sustained and consistent success for Cameron Champ, who is the only golfer in the field to have gained at least one stroke off the tee over 10 times. Bubba Watson has done it nine times, while Schauffele and Corey Conners have done it eight.
- Champ may have a higher ceiling, but McIlroy has been the most consistent off the tee in gaining a half a stroke against the field, doing it in 85% of his starts. Fourteen others have done it in at least 50% of their starts, including Im, Garcia, Conners, Matthew Wolff and Jason Kokrak.
- Graphic: Garcia has looked incredibly off the tee these last few weeks and was a big factor in his win two weeks ago. Im is also trending in the right direction, having led the field in the category last week.
Strokes Gained on Approach
- Dataset: Golfers that can get hot with their irons are always dangerous to go low, when matched with a hot putter, of course. No one gets hotter than Morikawa or Hovland, both of whom have gained more than a stroke at least 10 times. Thomas and Henley have each done it nine.
- If consistency is what you are after, Thomas has been the most consistent golfer with his irons, gaining at least a half a stroke in 70% of his starts, with Hovland and Casey coming in just shy of that mark. Nine others have accomplished this in at least 50% of their starts. Some names we haven’t mentioned yet include Joaquin Niemann, Tyrrell Hatton and English.
- Graphic: Johnson’s three strokes gained at TPC Boston was one of the best martks we’ve seen on the approach spectrum in quite some time. Tyler Duncan, Lanto Griffin and Smith are all names to watch out for this week, having gotten hot at least once over the last 10 weeks.
Strokes Gained Around the Green
- Dataset: I suspect there will be plenty of missed greens this week, much more so than last at least. The golfers that one should feel most comfortable with if they do miss the green are Jordan Spieth, Byeong Hun An, Bradley and Harman. Each of them have gained over a stroke around the green at least six times.
- The only golfer in the field to have gained at least a half a stroke around the green in 50% of his starts is Spieth. I mean, when one doesn’t hit greens and is chipping every hole, they give themself more opportunity to do so.
- Graphic: Schauffele has had the best tournament around the green of anyone in this field over the last 10 weeks, gaining just over 1.5 a few weeks ago.
Strokes Gained Putting
- Dataset: Believe it or not, Spieth’s putting has been terrible lately. In fact, he hasn’t even gained over a quarter of a stroke in the last eight weeks. Talor Gooch now leads with seven starts in the database where he’s gained over 1.25 stroke with the putter. Five others have done it six times, including Spieth, Berger, Na, Horschel, Brendon Todd and Alex Noren.
- Graphic: Speaking of Noren, he also has one of the best putting performances over the last two months, along with Mackenzie Hughes. Others like Todd aren’t far behind either.
Strokes Gained Sheet
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