AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Picks, plus a look back at the WM Phoenix Open

by thesanction1

I’m just going to come out and say it: I enjoyed watching the Waste Management Phoenix Open more than the Super Bowl. 

It’s not just that the Super Bowl was a sham of a game, that Seattle was so obviously better than Denver in almost every facet of the game, and that Denver couldn’t get out of it’s own way. But also the Phoenix Open was really exciting!  Bubba’s downfall, and the big boy Stads pulling through with the victory, along with a monster weekend comeback from Graham Deleat, and Phil deciding to play after all.  Golf is really fun to watch, particularly when you’re playing daily fantasy golf and every stroke has implications on whether or not you’ll profit for the week. 

I managed to pull down an 8th place finish out of 140 in the big GPP, and made out handsomely in DraftStreet as well. So far I’ve been on a roll with golf, and so far all of my teams have been 100% determined by algorithms (although I have spiced them up with anywhere from 5-15% of the projections made by Notorious at  

Let’s hope that the magic doesn’t stop.  Feeling really good about this week – despite the fact that the format of the tournament is similar to the whacky Humana Challenge with three courses in play, a pro-am/celebrity feature, and the cut coming at the end of 54 holes.  Unlike Humana, this tournament should not be as much of a shootout – which is always something to consider heavily when making a DFS roster.  And, just because, here’s Bill Murray wearing camouflage in the 2011 tournament (he’s a staple at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but wont be participating this year due to schedule conflicts with the filming of a new flick… Caddie Shack 3 anyone?!?).  

Look back at The Waste Management Phoenix Open Fantasy Projection Performance

The same caveats as always apply to this analysis.  

As usual the comparison picks are from Notorious at, a very well respected name in the daily fantasy sports industry. If you don’t know what these graphs are showing (and you care) then just go to first fantasy golf post that’s hyperlinked above – it contains all the explanations of the relevant concepts used in this analysis. 

Below is a grid showing Notorious’ draft street points projections (DSP), the converted mean field draft street points projections (%MFDSP), the machine’s %MFDSP and the actual %MFDSP’s:

Picks_Phoenix Open_2014_MFP_Grid

Last week was one of the first weeks of what I might call a ‘traditional’ golf tournament (well, sort of). No pro-am, all rounds played on the same course, a traditional cut at the end of day 2, etc. This format obviously lent itself to algorithmic prediction.  Looking at the RMSE analysis, this was the first week in which the Machine didn’t really benefit much at all from being blended with the projections by Notorious, reducing the RMSE by half on their own:

Picks_Phoenix Open_2014_RMSE_Grid

Here is the output from the blending procedure to find the optimal blending alpha between the two:

Picks_Phoenix Open_2014_Blending_Plot

The farther left you are on this line, the more of the machine’s projections you are using, the farther right here represents Notorious. So the optimal blending parameter for the WM Phoenix Open turned out to be about 3% Notorious and 97% Machine.  I will probably reduce the split I use personally back down to 8% or so this week and see how things go. Although, I must say, even using a 15% split which was – post facto – suboptimal, I fared quite well anyway as a credit to the value of Notorious’s simple methodology. 

Here’s the cut percentage for both of us:

Picks_Phoenix Open_2014_Made_Cut_Grid

This week was closer to what I’d seen to this point in the season.  A 70% made-cut percentage is basically as good as we can hope for. If the machine could do that every week, I think it’d be tough not to make a profit.

Lastly – and a new feature for the blog – I want to give those less mathematically inclined an idea of how many of the ‘top-n’ players were predicted correctly in each method.  Keep in mind all the caveats around who gets included in this analysis… If I get the comment ‘But, so-and-so didn’t finish in the top 10!’ I’m going to be very disappointed, dear reader. 

Picks_Phoenix Open_2014_TopN_Grid

I’d say we both had a solid predictive outing.  If you can predict 1 of 5 top 5’s and 3 of 10 top 10’s, you’re firing on all cylinders.  As for Notorious, while the machine ousted him in the top 10 picks – look at how awesome his top 25 picks were!  That 52% mark – or 14 of the top 25 – is pretty incredible IMO.

Ok, so given my earlier comments about how relatively normal the format of the WM Phoenix Open tournament is, the same cannot be said about the atmosphere. There were over 500,000 visitors to the tournament over its four day span, and 190,000 on Saturday alone – making it the second largest sporting event next to the Indianapolis 500. Many golfers thrive on this environment – with loud chanting and roars that can be heard around the course emanating from the stadium surrounding the 16th par 3 hole (see last week’s description). Some of them despise it, and it may well have been the cause for Bubba’s break down coming down the stretch, that allowed Stadler to steal the victory. This crazy environment may well serve as an externality that we cannot account for mathematically – so perhaps there is still some predictive edge to be eked out as the tournaments progress, and we get into the more meat-and-potatoes, bog-standard tournament formats.

All is ultimately leading up the to Masters, where DraftStreet has already announced the first ever $100K guaranteed tournament for fantasy golf (they are running satellites into this tourney this week for the AT&T Pro-Am).  It’s crazy how fast DFS golf is growing – it seems like just last year when $100K tournament was a big deal for daily fantasy football, and we were lucky to get a $10K golf event.  The tournaments run weekly for golf on DraftKings are larger than the largest tournaments in the industry were just last year. I absolutely can’t wait to see how DraftKings counters to DraftStreet’s masters tourney… and we’re just getting started.   

Ok, enough anticipation of the great events to come – we’ve got ourselves a humdinger teeing off on Thursday! Let’s get into it…

Picks for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

Here they are:

Picks_AT&T Pebble Beach_2014

The red line here represents the cut, based off of these projections. Keep in mind the cut is on Saturday, and to add to the weirdness it’s the top 60 golfers and ties instead of the traditional top 70. 

A few comments I have to make about these projections. 

First – Jim Furyk being by far the top projected golfer looks, to my eyes, like a giant dollar sign. No one likes to pick Jim – he’s the least sexy name in golf. has totally ignored him in their top 15 power rankings for this tournament, even though he’s by far the most accomplished player in this field (besides Phil), he has a solid track record at this event, and his form at the end of last season was top-notch.  I expect him to be relatively under-owned, representing a chance for relative value.  

There are some other interesting projections in there, but I’ll leave them to the reader to discover. 

Good luck everyone in your contests.  Talk to you next week.