As we embark on the unofficial start of the PGA season, I wanted to look back and see if we could identify any trends that will be useful moving forward. I am using data from the start of the 2015-16 season, which is the last 42 tournaments. For this article, I am using the PGA Game Logs which include all relevant information including DraftKings scoring, Vegas odds and more.

Studs Are Studs For A Reason

One thing is very clear in the PGA. It’s worth paying up for the best players on the planet. Looking at players who were priced at $10,000 or more last season, they won 45.24% of the tournaments while only making up 5.51% of the field. Think about that. A tiny sliver of players won nearly half the tournaments. The only problem is that we are in a time of golf where there are so many great players. It feels like there are ten studs on every slate. What can we find in common about those that won on TOUR last year?

Well, for starters, driving accuracy didn’t particularly matter for these guys. Of the 19 winners with a $10K salary or more, only one of them cracked the top 10 in Fairways Hit for their tournament win (Dustin Johnson at the WGC-Bridgestone). Other than that, these winners routinely finished in the 40s or 50s of this stat rank.

Now on the other hand, hitting greens was crucial. The same 19 winners who only got one guy inside the top ten for FWs Hit, ranked 11 guys inside the top 10 for Greens Hit. More amazingly, only ONE winner in this price range was worse than 18th in Greens Hit for the week (Jason Day – Arnold Palmer – 29th). It didn’t matter where their drives ended up, these winners were outstanding at finding greens in regulation.

There is a clear correlation between spending more money and getting more fantasy points, but let’s look a bit deeper:

There’s a few interesting tidbits on this chart. First of all, spending for golfers under $6,000 rarely paid off. They averaged nearly 30 DraftKings points less than their peers who were in the next tier up. While it’s enticing to try and roster these guys, they end up being total duds that miss the cut more often than not.

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Where To Find Value

The rest of the chart fills out how we would expect, except for that $6K-$7K range. What the heck is going on there?! Despite being the 7th most expensive tier, they provided the third most DraftKings points. I want to try and see what’s happening with those guys, but first, here’s a chart of where all the winners came from.

Obviously top heavy, but that $6K-$7K range accounted for five wins in the last 42 tournaments. That’s more than the $8K-$9K range and as many as the $9K-$10K range. Here are those five wins:

Click to enlarge!

What do these guys have in common? Well, no winner ranked better than 41st in driving distance that week, which is rare. All five were in the bottom 13 winners in Driving Distance Rank. That means almost every other winner was longer off the tee compare to their peers for that tournament. On the flip side, four ranked within top 16 of greens hit.

The courses played were a mix, but do have some common threads. Mackenzie Hughes, Vaughn Taylor and Si Woo Kim all won at what would be considered “short courses”, each playing under 7,100 yards. These courses level the playing field since you don’t need to bomb it to be in contention. The other two were Billy Hurley and William McGirt winning at Congressional and Muirfield Village. Those two courses are really tough tracks and much longer than our first three winners. The common thread is that both have small greens that are difficult to hit. Again, that levels the playing field. So according to the last 42 tournaments, these low salary winners tend to be excellent ball-strikers who hit a lot of greens. Combine that with a shorter-than-normal course and you’ve got a recipe for a value win.