Northern Trust Open Picks, plus a look back at the AT&T Pebble Beach Open

by thesanction1

I’ve read the comment on several other blogs, and I must agree… last weeks golf action was somewhat excruciating. Weather delays were a welcome reprieve from endless montages of Peyton Manning signing hats, and Kid Rock doing whatever it is that Kid Rock does. I found the whole thing somewhat annoying to be honest… Compared to, for instance, the Waste Management tournament, the AT&T was outright boring

And the annoyance wasn’t just that it wasn’t as fun to watch. It was annoying because I knew everything about the tournament was gimmicky and incomparable to other tournaments. Even mother nature didn’t want golf to be played that way – check out the wind on Friday doing magic tricks with one of Greg Chalmers puts.

Alright, enough bitching. Last week is so 3 days ago.

This week we’ve got the Northern Trust Open, which I’m really excited about.  It’s the first time a lot of things get back to normal golf wise.  It’s the first time we get to see a few big names like Justin Rose and Luis Oosthueizen (holy crap I spelled that right first try… gotta slow down on the golf-media-intake) play on American soil. And it’s not last week. Hooray.

Before we can get to this weeks projections we have to do the deed of seeing how last week went. I can tell you ahead of time it was unspectacular – but that doesn’t mean it was uninformative.  We knew that the events and circumstances surrounding last week’s tournament would increase the variance of actual golfer performance – so if we did better overall than we normally do, something would smell afoul.  I hate to use the word fortunately, so instead I’ll go with ‘as expected’, the prediction performance reflected the actual madness in the real world.

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_AT&T Pebble Beach_2014_MFP_Grid

Looking at the RMSE analysis – and almost the exact opposite of what we saw the week prior – last week was the first week in which the Machine’s projections were equally bad or good as were those by Notorious.  Blending the two came out with the optimal RMSE, but the reduction isn’t great – a sign that plenty of externalities that were not accounted for in either model were jacking things up:

Picks_AT&T Pebble Beach_2014_RMSE_Grid

I failed to preserve the output from the blending procedure – which is a shame because it was actually cool looking this week. It’s a giant U shape; the optimal blend was .53 – that is 53% Notorious picks and 47% Machine.

I ended up (stupidly) using a 10% split based on historical data. I should have realized that variance in the conditions was less likely to effect a less-statistically sensitive prediction, and weighing more heavily things like the Vegas Odds – which is a large part of Notorious’ projections – probably would have been a wise move.

Here’s the cut percentage for both of us:

Picks_AT&T Pebble Beach_2014_Made_Cut_Grid

The gale force winds and the presence of my nemesi (dammit spellcheck! – I’ve had enough of your shit for one day – ‘nemesi’ is, without a doubt, the plural form of ‘nemesis’), Young Tom Brady and Darth Belecheck, didn’t only jack up the machine’s predictions…  The machine went from a stellar cut percentage of 70% for the WM Phoenix Open, to a paltry 54% at Pebble, getting beat by Notorious’ much simpler method which posted a respectable 59% compared to his prior 64%.

Lastly – below is the TopN grid I introduced last week. Keep in mind all the caveats around who gets included in this analysis…

Picks_AT&T Pebble Beach_2014_TopN_Grid

Once again Notorious socked it to the robot. Well done, good sir.  I also ought to mention that in Notorious’ handful of named picks last week he managed to pick the winner in Jimmy Walker. So again, props are certainly due even if (or maybe, especially because?) the outing was a bit more random than usual.

At any rate – I think everyone is happy to have moved onto a more sane week in the Northern Trust Open. Without further ado, let’s get to the picks!

Picks for the Northern Trust Open

Here they are (note Webb Simpson and Harris English are new additions here, they did not make the first edition of this post!):

Picks_Northern Trust Open_2014

The red line here represents the cut, based off of these projections, back at the normal 70th spot.

A few comments I have to make about these projections…

If I could pick two golfers to grab a beer with it might be Hunter Mahan and Graham Delaet.  These guys just seem like awesome dudes. So I’m absolutely pumped that, based on how far out Mahan is projected here I will probably have him on every roster. It’s always nice when your strategy and fan-interests intersect.  The downside? Well, the last discrepancy that was this large was when Tiger was playing at Torrey… and we all remember what happened there. And last week Furyk didn’t exactly blow the field away, though he was projected as a fairly clear number one.

Sidebar: Do I think there’s something wrong with the algorithm because of these two data points? Not at all! These are real-world sporting events, and golf no less. The results are highly variable. If anyone could predict winners week in and week out there’d no need to play DFS – they could just go to Vegas and start printing money. The purpose of the algorithm is to perform over the longer term… so two weeks of projected winners performing poorly does not a trend make.  Their underperformance was more than compensated for by the projections of several key fades (see Jason Day last week), and by a stellar performance on most of the top 25 week in and week out.

Other interesting things to note here: Fred Couples with a top 15 finish? Luis Oost (… screw it I’m not risking that spelling again), Keegan, Haas, Dufner, Walker, Jones, Na – all these big/hot names ending up outside the top 20, some even outside the top 30? Seems crazy – but the machine has been right about crazier things before….

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