For the record, I’ve never done this before. I am a complete nit when it comes to playing within my bankroll and I’ve probably never submitted more than 30 lineups into one specific contest. It’s always something that I’ve wanted to do and was ready to pull the trigger if the right situation presented itself.
That situation was this week’s TOUR Championship for the PGA Tour.
Why This Contest?
Something that has always been on my mind is the ability to find a contest where you could cover a vast number of possible lineup combinations. Yes, I know that there are still millions of combinations for this contest, but much fewer than a usual PGA GPP. The TOUR Championship is a very rare situation that only presents itself once a year. The field is small (3o players compared to 140), DraftKings still offers low buyins ($3) with high first place payouts ($100k) and there’s no cut. That means that every player is going to play all 4 rounds.
That combination of factors drastically lowered the number of possible combinations. Especially since the pricing didn’t allow you to roster two of the big name golfers. Specifically, you could not physically roster the following:
Jason Day & Rory McIlory
Jason Day & Jordan Spieth
Jason Day & Henrik Stenson
Jason Day & Rickie Fowler
Rory McIlory & Jordan Spieth
I knew there would be very similar and identical lineups out there, but I figured with the top prize being a 33,333x multiplier of the buy-in, it was still worth the risk. I calculated that I had a 0.15-0.50% chance of winning first prize. Even those odds are so slim, but compared to the odds you have at wining a GPP, they were significantly better.
This was really the hardest part. Even with 200 lineups, you can’t roster every stud. I defined the studs as Day, McIlroy, Spieth, Stenson and Fowler. So I had to draw a line in the sand somewhere and fade golfers. This was much more difficult than I expected. The TOUR Championship is really the top 30 players in the world who are playing the best in recent weeks. That’s how they got this far! Excluding ANY golfer was a really scary thing to think about.
I knew I wanted Jason Day since he has been the hottest golfer on the planet and I knew you’d have to have the winner in your lineup to win the first place prize. However, with his price, you were going to have to rely on the bottom third of the field to roster with him. I decided to pair Day with Justin Rose who was the next most expensive player you could roster with Day and still have enough for four more golfers. The total number of Day/Rose combinations ended up being 29…perfect! That gave me just enough exposure to Day in case he wins it, but I still had room to enter plenty of lineups. Also, I had a hunch that Day would be wildly owned and fading him might be a decent strategy. He ended up being 33% owned and finishing T10.
After that, I ran through all the different possibilities. Should I take 57 combos of Rory/Stenson? How about 164 of Rory/Fowler? I had a hunch that with only 30 players in the field, it was going to take 3-4 players to finish at least in the Top 5 to win first place. So I wanted to get as many players that I thought could actually win the tournament in my lineup. I settled on taking all 170 combinations of Spieth/Matsuyama/Rose. That means every lineup I entered, had these three players in it, with the other three roster spots spread out over 18 other players. Here was the final breakdown for both the Day/Rose lineups and Spieth/Matsuyama/Rose lineups:
I was really hitching my wagon to Day, Rose, Spieth or Matsuyama winning this thing. That’s a scary thought to not have any of Stenson, Rory of Fowler. Again, I had to draw the line somewhere.
Entering The Lineups
This was actually super easy. Now that DraftKings allows you to import in mass quantity, I used Fantasy Cruncher to export the lineups directly into DraftKings and submitted them. Time spent deciding on the lineups: 72 hours. Time spent physically entering the lineups: 72 seconds.
I knew that this was going to be crazy to follow. With the nature of golf, there is so much shuffling and every shot is jumping you all over the leaderboard. With as much exposure as I had to different golfers, I felt like I was rooting for everyone and no one. Even after three rounds, I still didn’t know who I was actually rooting for, other than the lineup anchors. I gave up on, then rooted for Paul Casey on at least three different occasions in the final round.
When Danny Lee and Justin Rose made a Sunday charge, I was seeing big time money in my future. There was a six minute period where I legitimately thought I was going to win this thing. I had five golfers in the top 4 and my palms were getting sweaty.
After that, Casey made a few bogies and Henrik Stenson drained a 57 foot putt on 18 for birdie to move him back into a T2. I’ve never yelled louder at a TV then when that putt hit the bottom of the cup. I was physically and mentally exhausted after following this for four days and trying to calculate all possible scenarios down the stretch.
It was a very successful tournament despite not winning the grand prize. I was able to cash for $1,201.73 off $600 in buy-ins. Here are the results plus my best lineup:
I don’t know this for sure, but I think there was a very likely scenario that could have won me first prize, or at the very least, jump me up significantly. That scenario would have been for Paul Casey to play the last two holes at even par (he bogeyed 17) and for Henrik Stenson to miss this putt:
I’ve never cursed louder at the TV! You could give Stenson 50 more tries at this putt and he might not make another! That scenario would have meant I would have had the winner and all three second place finishers. Instead, Casey dropped to a T5 and Stenson stayed at T2 with my Rose and Lee. A significant difference when you are only 8.5 DraftKings points out of first place.
Unfortunately, I feel like this is the only strategy to win a GPP. Firing a single entry into a massive field is certainly “possible”, but extremely unlikely. This was eye-opening for me. I think entering 100+ lineups with a core group of players and a ton of other combinations is the way to win GPPs on a consistent basis. That’s not good for the average player. It’s not good for the industry. But it’s true.
I hope you enjoyed! This is something I might try again if a similar scenario presents itself. I think I aged 4 years in just 4 days throughout this process!