The Dustin Johnson Effect

One of the greatest things about the game of golf is its relative unpredictability. This is probably unfair, but in other sports, the code has been cracked [or at the very least, as close to cracked as possible]. In baseball, a .300 hitter is more than likely to hit .300. In football, a great RB against a weak run defense is probably going to have a good game. In golf, we are still waiting for that golden nugget, the one predictive metric that indicates the potential for success.

What is the Dustin Johnson Effect? It’s my golf-enabled twist on pyrrhonian skepticism, an Ancient Greek philosophy centered on how people digest information and gain knowledge. Seems simple enough, but what Pyrrho suggest is that people, and the masses are typically wrong. People’s starting point to understand information is wrong and that sometimes the best path is to go against the prevailing narrative.

The Dustin Johnson Effect? Take a look at this year’s US Open. Dustin Johnson was owned in more than 25% of DraftKings lineups. In my own one-and-done home league, almost 50 guys (35%) took DJ for the US Open. And why not? The course was perfect for him. He was the defending champion. He never misses a cut at the US Open. He seemed like the safest play in the field. Every major golf site was pumping DJ as the pick. What happened? He missed the cut.

Why? I don’t know, neither do you. It is easy to play Monday Morning Quarterback and point to the fact he had missed the cut at the Memorial two weeks earlier, that he hurt his back while wasted falling down the stairs at the Masters. Maybe he just sucked? What I do know is that this happens a lot. How many people picked Sergio to FINALLY get over the hump at the Masters? Did anyone see Si Woo Kim coming in to win the Players? My point (or lack of point) is that nobody has found that secret sauce for golf-so what does that mean for this blog? Let’s revisit my friend Pyrrho.

From hedge fund mangers to poker players, nobody can predict a result, but what you can is put yourself in the best position to get lucky and more importantly, reduce your risk. Last year, I picked Brooks Koepka to win the US Open (pat-self-on-back), but why? He didn’t seem risky to me. He had made of ton of cuts, has great history at US open courses, plays tough courses well, and most importantly, wasn’t too hyped up. Frankly, I knew his ownership would be down and was overshadowed by the stars in a big event. Is it a sustainable strategy to ying while everyone else yangs? Probably not, but who carried more risk going into the US Open? Brooks or DJ?

The goal of this blog is to plow a path through the narrative and find golfers who are in a good position to be successful. We’re also going to try and finally find that predictive metric that could indicate future success. Frankly, the paint-by-numbers content in the fantasy golf world is tired and we feel doesn’t satisfy the needs of the golf community. It’s too convenient to look at a big golf course like Erin Hills and claim Dustin Johnson as the pick. DJ won’t win you a golf millionaire maker if 25% of of entries also have him picked. We’re going to dig a little deeper, try a little harder, and frankly, we don’t care if we’re wildly wrong some weeks because in the end we’ll be right.

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2018 BOLD Predictions

I’ve already given up on all my New Year’s resolutions. No gym. No saving money. No laying off the beers. It’s all gone and it’s Jan 2nd. My focus, golf (and betting the NFL playoffs). There’s nothing I love more than making some preseason predictions so I can look back in October and see how stupid I actually am.

Kevin Chappell wins a major this year. I said BOLD. It’s very early, but Chappy is 2nd so far in SG Tee to Green but near last in putting (202nd). Last year, he struggled with the flat stick finishing 108th in putting average. Thing is, he straight up performs when the putting gets tough. He’s made the cut in 10 of 13 career majors. Think about that stat for a second. He made the cut in his first Masters and finished t-7 last year? He fits the mold.

Rickie Fowler doesn’t win in 2018 or contend at a major. Nobody likes this prediction. Like every other red-blooded American male, I want Rickie to take over the Phil role in our lives and start winning. I completely admit this is more narrative-driven than golf, but Butch Harmon’s chat with Rickie last year got me thinking. I think some guys handle the off-the-field-stuff better than others. I get he just won, but he’s picked up a new girlfriend (good work by the way) and doesn’t really seem to be taking to Butch’s advice. He just seems distracted to me.

Patrick Cantlay is this year’s Justin Thomas. I don’t think we’ll see anyone repeat the year JT had anytime soon, but I love Cantlay to fill that “wow, that came out of nowhere role.” Cantlay made the cut at all 12 of his tour events last year. All. Of. Them. He bagged a few top 10’s and contended at some tough tracks (Innisbrook, Harbor Town, Sawgrass). What I really love is how he closed (and opened) the year. He battled in the FedEx Cup and bagged his first win a few weeks ago at the Shriners.

Jon Rahm suffers the dreaded sophomore slump. I’m really not sure how to define “slump” since the expectations for Rahm are so crazy high, but let’s say he slips outside the top 20 WGR by the end of the year. Like Rickie, this is narrative-driven. He’s a head case and if he has a few bad weeks I could certainly see him slip into a deep slump. Look at how he’s performed at the majors (and major-like events). He missed at the US Open and struggle at the others (again, by his high standards). When things get tough, he seems to fold and I feel like in your second year you may start to grind-especially if the results aren’t there.

Gary Woodland win the FedEx Cup. I’ll admit it. I love Gary Woodland. I always have for some reason. It’s hard not the pull for the guy after some of the personal stuff he dealt with last year. Despite all that he had a decent year. He made 22 out of 26 cuts with 5 top 10s. Last year he was 13th in driving distance, 15th in GIR and finished 27th on the money list without a win. Why the FedEx Cup? He seems to play well at the end of the year and on the Cup courses. He’s made East Lake 4 out of the last 5 years. I think he racks up a win or two this year and breaks through at East Lake.

Russell Henley makes the Ryder Cup. How many guys made the cut at all 4 majors last year? Well, add Henley to that list. This guy just pops from a statistical prospective. He can bomb it off the tee and is a great putter. He’s a great DraftKings pick in the major because he’s always underpriced. I think he has a breakout year.

Patrick Reed doesn’t make the Ryder Cup. This is unfair to me because even if he doesn’t automatically qualify I’m sure he’ll be on the top of any captain’s choice list, but I am predicting a down year for Reed.

Stephan Jaeger is that weird European who comes out of nowhere and everyone will know by the end of the year. He’s got a tour card this year after finishing 5th on the Web.com money list. He also made the cut at the US Open last year. He’s also German. I’m not sure if that matters, but seemed like it should be mentioned.

It will be a quiet year for the Europeans…. Until the Ryder Cup. Rory, Rose, and co. will have a quiet year. Rory could make me look foolish because he has the talent to rip off multiple majors any year and Rose? He seems motivated, but he’s getting up there in years. And….

Jordan Speith wins multiple majors and becomes the “Tiger Woods” figure of our generation. This isn’t exactly bold and some could argue he’s already there but I think this year will be different. I’m a Patriots fan and believe it or not a few years ago people used to debate Brady vs. Manning (not so much anymore). My take on this argument (aside from my overwhelming pro-Brady bias) is that numbers don’t make legends—moments do. At the end of the day, all the stats blend together but the only thing that will matter in 20 years is this. Jordan, like Brady, just has it. He’s clutch. He’s likable. He has his shit together. He has the best caddie in golf. He’s ready to take that next step to legendary status. Enjoy the ride.

Obligatory Tiger Wood prediction. I think this is real. Everything about him just seems different, including the personal note he wrote on his blog last week. Like everyone else in the world I would love to see him play a real event, but all systems are go for me. The issue is expectations. He contends early and at the Masters to get everyone going, but doesn’t win until later in the year. The real key is he has a successfully HEATHY 2018 and is back.

 

 

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MMGP – Valero

With the Florida swing behind the tour it is onto the short lived Texas track before the Masters in a couple of weeks and what do you know we have another random ass first time winner. Please don’t pretend you know WTF Steven Bowditch is because even if you watched the tournament you still are asking yourself who, what, how? Anyways congrats to another first timer who punched his ticket to Augusta. As far as the overall reactions go:

Steven Bowditch – Again WTF is this guy. Missed the cut in 3 of last 4 tournaments. Best finished was a T-19 at Pebble months ago and he pulls off the victory on a tough, long and windy course. But please let’s not sugar coat this. He shot a +4 (76) on Sunday and almost gave it away. If anyone had tried to make an actual move he would have surely lost. Not to say that he didn’t deserve the win because he had a decent lead heading into Sunday, but seriously that wasn’t too much fun to watch.

Sunday Chokes – No one wanted this thing on Sunday. Sure it was a tough day to play, but look at the guys who were close to the top:

Kuchar – +3 with T-3 finish. Started 3 off the lead after a great Saturday and followed up with crap.
Loupe – +3 with T-3 finish. Stated 3 off like Kuch but couldn’t keep game going.
Perez – +5 with T-11 finish. Started 4 off the lead and after a great week imploded.
Na – +4 with T -11 finish. Started 5 off the lead. See everyone above.

Phil – Not a good sign for Lefty. Clearly his age isn’t helping him these days and his game as been anything but Phil-like. But you know he only cares about the Majors, and is definitely just trying to win another Green Jacket, but a WD on Saturday can’t be good. With Phil and Tiger both hurting it seems like Augusta might have a different feel this year.

JON

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Remember the Alamo – Valero Open Locks

Kevin Chappell – To call Chappell’s start to 2014 slow is an understatement. Before his T-14 at Bay Hill, his best finish was a T-23 at the Northern Trust. This is a guy who had a great year in 2013 finishing 2nd at the Memorial and making the weekend in every PGA event he entered, including the US Open at a tough, narrow, Merion Golf Club. The most important stat at the narrow TPC San Antonio is driving accuracy and Chappell was T-5 last week at Bay Hill on the way to a respectable T-15 finish. His history at the Valero is very good. He was T-15 in 2013 after an opening round 75 and was 2nd in 2011 (WD in 2012). Seems like first time winners are trendy this year and with Chappell, it seems like the ingredient are all there to make it happen.

Brendan Steel – He clearly likes this course given he won here as a rookie in 2011 and followed that with a T-4 in 2012. Sure, his T-48 in 2013 is a red flag but he really wasn’t playing well at this time last year and his T-20 last week at Bay Hill makes me more comfortable with his current form. Brendan is 3rd in total driving, 22nd in overall ranking and 7th in scrambling from the rough. Last week he was T-19 in driving accuracy and GIR. Form meets course history, the perfect combination.

Fredrik Jacobson – Obvious choice alert. I bet he’s the experts’ “love child” this week because he’s on a role and has great history here. The “junkman” loves this course. He’s finished in the top 20 the last three years and was T-5 in 2011. His form is coming around too. He was 10th last week at Bay Hill and has been top 20 in this last 3 PGA Tour starts.

STEVE

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MMGP – Bay Hill

I’m not gonna lie I love this tournament. Love Arnie being there on the 18th to shake hands with the winner. Love the course which is challenging but has a lot of risk reward. Love the last hole which can create a lot of drama and has given us more than a few Tiger highlights over the year. This year wasn’t quite as exciting, but it had plenty to offer and kept the theme of the Florida swing being the real start to the season. A couple expert thoughts about the tournament.

Matt Every – Well done. First win and did it with some solid consistency. Sure there wasn’t anything too flashy about his game or any of his rounds but weekends posts of 66 and 70 proved to be the difference. Every had been playing some solid golf of late with T-8 at Valspar and a T-6 at Northern Trust so it shouldn’t have come as that big of surprise but still a major accomplishment. Not a bad day when you pocket your first PGA Tour win, over $1 million and top with a handshake from Arnold Palmer. Not bad at all.

WTF Adam Scott – How do you let this tournament slip away? Scott open with course record tying 62 (-10) on Thursday. Follows with 68 on Friday for a commanding lead and he finishes in solo 3rd, 2 off the lead. If you are one of the top few players in the world and you are taking the meticulously thought out approach to a limited schedule you can’t let this happen. Top guys don’t do this and they don’t let a “never won” guy steal a tournament from you. Shape up Scott.

Allergies My Ass – So Bubba’s allergy situation has actually be well documented and apparently he is a walking pharmacy on the course just trying to survive around all of the grass and foliage the tour provides. However, while his allergies may have been so bad to make him WD after Thursday I’m not sure you can blame his 11 on the 10th hole. Let me restate that in case you thought it was a typo. An 11. He hit 3 straight tee shots into the drink before finding the fairway on his forth and lying 8. I may suck at golf but at some point you find a way to just put it in play. A freaking 11.

Tiger – His back issues continue to be a major concern and him missing a tournament he loves to dominate is not a good sign for him, the tour or the rest of the season.

JON

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Knee Jerks – MMGP Valspar

Golf is a difficult game, so when my weekly wish of having someone hit an amazing shot to win a tourney fails to come true, I accept that and move on. So when John Senden holed out on 16 (hole #1 of the “Snake Pit” no less) and all but guaranteed himself the win, I thought it was pretty cool. Imagine what the reaction and coverage of this shot would have been were it Rory, Phil, or dare I say….Tiger…it would be insane! I’m not here to tell you to be excited for a win by a 42 year old Aussie journeyman with one PGA victory that came eight years ago, but dammit, we should all applaud that shot.

Need more convincing to be skeptical about stats?  David Lingmerth finished this week 1st in “Greens in Regulation” and “Proximity to the Hole”, yet finished 58th. James Driscoll was best in “Strokes Gained Putting” and finished 54th. Kevin Na finished 2nd in scrambling and second in the tournament, showing some positive correlation, muddying the waters even further for guys looking for a statistical edge.  As I’ve stated before, stats can be a good tool in the tool belt, but have limitations and should be treated as such. Basically, no stat can convince me that David Lingmerth is anything but a mediocre player.

By all accounts Kevin Na seems like a decent human being, but to watch him play golf is something I don’t wish up anyone.  Here’s to hoping he has more holes like this early on in tournaments to ensure we don’t have to see him on TV over the weekend.

From golfchannel.com: Snedeker: I’d welcome gay player on PGA Tour”.  I can’t wait for the day where a) this isn’t a story, and b) it isn’t a story used simply to drive ratings. I like “Feherety” as much as the next guy, but this seems like a cheap publicity stunt.  Take a southern boy and have him support the gays and all the sudden there’s controversy. Except not really because Brandt is a multi-millionaire with endorsements and he knows as well as the next guy that in the “PC” world, taking any other stance is sponsor suicide. I’m not saying he doesn’t believe what he says; I’m just saying that even if he didn’t, he would say it.

Another doozie from golfchannel.comJohn Daly continues to receive sponsor exemptions on the PGA Tour … why, exactly? Because he’s a fan favorite? Those fans must enjoy seeing bad golf, because JD hasn’t won since 2004, has just two top 10s since 2006, has 38 career withdrawals and now has 62 rounds of 80 or higher. Because he’s a two-time major champion? Sorry, but his most recent major triumph was 19 years ago. Jordan Spieth was about to celebrate his first birthday. At least use an excuse from this century. Daly, No. 582 in the world, has made five sponsor-aided starts this season – or one more than talented up-and-coming American Peter Uihlein, who is No. 73 in the world. Something is wrong with that picture. – Ryan Lavner.  

Ummm, this ass-hat could not miss the point more on Daly. Daly is absolutely still a draw for all sorts of reasons, not the least out which is his inability to control his personal life. This is a flawed human with incredible talent who everyone roots for. He understands his flaws and embraces them; he is incredible sound bites like this after posting a 12 on a par 4: “It was a good 12. I got up and down for 12,” Daly told reporters after his round.”  This guy needs to get off his high horse and embrace the legend of Long John Daly.

CHRIS

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Valspar Championship Locks

Harris English to WIN (15-1, $100 to win $1500):  Oh Harris my Harris.  He seems to like this course and has been playing great golf recently.  He won he 2011 Southern Amateur on this track and finished T-7 last year.   If the season ended today, the only thing missing on his player of the year resume would be a win.  I also liked how he battled at Doral.  He shot a 77 in the wind on Friday but battled back with a 74 and a 72 for a T-16.  I think he gets it done this weekend.

Jordan Spieth to WIN (16-1, $100 to win $1,600):  I’m jumping back on the Speith train.  He actually has course history at Innisbrook with a T-7 (tied with Harris).  I don’t think Jordan handled the wind very well at Doral (captain obvious) with a 79 in the bad conditions, but like English, he battled back with 73 and closed with a 69 to finish T-34 last weekend.  I wish there was a line for an English-Spieth final group.

Cameron Tringale to WIN (55-1, $50 to win $2,750):  Cameron also fits the profile.  He was a solo 3rd here last year and shot a 66 on Sunday (did something click?)  He’s made six straight cuts and has been in the top 13 in three out of his last four.  He seems like a guy who could surprise and win here.

Bryce Molder to WIN (65-1 $25 to win $1,625):  I’m ‘Cised for Bryce this week!  Bryce is 6 for 6 in cuts this year and has finished in the top 10 in his last 2 tournaments.  He hasn’t played since the Northern Trust in early February, but that may be a good thing?  He’s been OK here in the past, T-20 in 2012 and aT-30 in 2013, but last year he played 4 of those rounds in the 60’s.

Billy Hurley III to WIN (250-1, $25 to win $6,250):  Sure, you probably don’t know who his is and as you’ve probably predicted this is his first start at Innisbrook, but this guys looked really good going solo 5th at the Honda and has made 6 of 8 cuts this year.  You want stats?  Ok.  He’s inside the top 25 in GIR, driving accuracy, scoring average, scrambling and sand saves.  Look, I’m not looking for much at 250-1, but he’s as good a lottery ticket as any.

STEVE

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