One and done leagues have gained popularity in the last few seasons and contests have been popping up like crazy! This is because one can find success in these contests without a lot of skill or much work. I’ll be highlighting some of the tips and tricks to hopefully help you find success in your one and done league.
Know Your Rules
Believe it or not, this is the number one problem area I see every year. Understanding the rules of the contest is the easiest fix to help give you an edge since so many of the participants in contests do not know them. The standard one and done rules typically include picking one golfer each week and not picking the same golfer again for the rest of the contest. The money that your golfer earns is equal to the number of points you earn, and the contest participant with the most points at the conclusion of the contest season is the winner.
Some leagues have variations of these rules. A contest may allow participants to pick two golfers during major championships or allow a mulligan (two and done). Another important part is knowing which event marks the conclusion of the season. If the TOUR Championship is included, the point distribution may or may not include starting strokes or the bonus money. For example, if your league includes 20% of the bonus money from the TOUR Championship, that may be the biggest payout of the year and you may want to save or designate a specific golfer for that event.
Know The Payouts
Is it winner take all? Does the top 10 percent get all the prize money? This is something that may drive some of your decisions. For example, if the payouts are winner take all, you may want to take a high-risk, high-reward type of approach since only one spot pays out. If the top 25% get paid, you may be happy taking a safer, more chalky approach.
Know How Many Entries There Are
Knowing how many people are in your contest crucial. If you’re only playing with nine others and it’s a 10-team league, you can probably take more safe plays and pile on the chalk since averaging about 200,000 to 250,000 points per week is probably more than enough to win that league.
If there are hundreds or even thousands of other participants in your league, you’ll probably want to take a more high-risk, high-reward strategy since the person who wins a multi-hundred- or thousand-person league is going to need a “ceiling season” by getting multiple winners over the course of the season. Understanding these details about your league before you click a golfer name is going to help set you apart from the rest of your competitors.
Top 5 Strategy
The Top 5 Strategy is one that I have been using successfully for the last couple of years. It revolves around choosing one golfer from the top 5 odds on the betting board each week. This makes your decision-making process very easy because it narrows your choices down to a handful of golfers. Also, oddsmakers have already considered course fit, recent form, and other history which are factors we consider when we are making a weekly one and done pick.
I tested this theory – Based on a 32-event set in 2021, I took the top 5 players (and ties) on the betting odds each week and I ran an analysis on their finishing positions compared to other players further down the board. In 10 out of 32 events, one of the “Top 5” won the event (31.25%). Considering that some of these fields are 140+ golfers, this is very impressive. The missed cut rate was 38 of 182, meaning that someone in that range won more frequently than the combined missed cut rate of all the “Top 5” across all the events. This analysis illustrates that you should be generally picking a golfer with one of the top 5 odds.
One critique that this strategy could be that there might not be enough variety of golfers in the top 5 of the betting odds to be able to only use each golfer once and stay within the parameters. I tested this in those 32 events. There were 47 different golfers that at some point were in the top 5 of the betting odds. If you are strategic about where you play them, that’s likely more golfers than picks you must make so the critique does not hold.
Where To Use Which Golfers
The best average finishes from the golfers in the top 5 betting odds have come at events with large purses. In my analysis of the 32-event set from 2021, the best events for the “Top 5” were the US Open, the Open Championship, the CJ Cup, the Travelers Championship, WGC Workday, and the ZOZO Championship. This means that five of the top six events in which you want to absolutely deploy your “Top 5” are major championships and no-cut events (exception is Travelers Championship).
Now, if you want to be different and find an edge, you should stay out of the “Top 5” for certain events. According to the analysis I did on the 32-event set from 2021, the five worst events to deploy the “Top 5 Strategy” are the Wyndham Championship, Shriners Children’s Open, PGA Championship, John Deere Classic, and Rocket Mortgage Classic. These events have a very large field with a bit more volatility, so they lend to the worst finishes for the “Top 5.”
Set A Yearly Outline
Setting a yearly outline ahead of time is great exercise for anyone trying to take their one and done more seriously because the worst thing you can do is be a prisoner of the moment. By looking just at last one or two weeks you may subject yourself recency biases that can lead you down the wrong path. I have run parallel one and done entries: one that I would set each week and another that I had set from the before the year started. Oftentimes, the entry I had set from before the year started would beat the entry I would set week-by-week. Of course, there were times that I had assigned a golfer who didn’t end up playing the event leading me to have to swap out.
This strategy helps also helps with making sure that you use all the top golfers. I often get messages from league participants who are down 2 million points asking which of the many top 10 golfers they have remaining they should deploy in the 3 events remaining in the season. If there are only three events left and you still have Rahm, DeChambeau, Spieth, McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Schauffele, and Hovland to use, you have been saving for too long and you should have used some of them already! Setting a yearly outline helps prevent this from happening because it helps you plan to deploy the top golfers over the course of the season. Using the Holy Grail on RickRunGood.com allows you to check the average finishing position for each golfer, allowing you to plan to deploy golfers at courses where they commonly find success. Because often there are “breakout golfers” and because golf can be so random, I would much rather plan to use the top golfers rather than save them for the very end and risk not being able to use them at all.
Play Your Position
Up until this point, the topics we have discussed have revolved around making sure you are playing in your league optimally rather than discussing strategy. In a vacuum, that is all that should matter. However, you must consider what your position is in the league as the season goes on, especially in a sport as volatile as golf.
For example, if you are in the chasing position, where you are in the middle or bottom of your league and you have ground to make up halfway through the season, make sure you are not picking the same golfer that it seems like everyone else ahead of you is going to pick. Let’s say it’s the PGA Championship, Rory McIlroy is in the top 5 odds, he has great form coming in, and a lot of people ahead of you have not used Rory McIlroy yet. This is your chance to be contrarian! If you pick the same golfer that it seems like everyone else will, your position won’t really change. If you pick someone else who is a few percentage points less likely to win but far less owned, you have a chance to improve your standings.
Conversely, if you’re leading your contest, you can play the safest and chalkiest golfers and let everyone else try to chase you. In the PGA Championship example, you would pick the safest option, Rory McIlroy, and keep piling up the two or three percentage points of advantage. Therefore, knowing your position and making picks accordingly is one of the most important in-season adjustments that you can make.
To recap everything that will help you have a leg up in your one and done league:
- Know the rules,
- know your payouts,
- consider setting a tentative schedule, at least for practice, before the season starts,
- live within the top 5 of the betting odds (and use them especially at the big payouts, the major championships, and the no-cut events), and
- know your position; when to chase and when to front-run.
If you understand those aspects, you will be much better than most of the people in your one and done league. Of course, a little luck and skill will be involved but this should at least help provide a good foundation. Be sure to check out a subscription to RickRunGood.com for all of your golf data needs.
Best of Luck!