Daily Fantasy Golf: FanDuel PGA Strategy

What stats correlate to fantasy points on FanDuel? Find out here.

There's a key difference between "denotation" and "connotation."

Denotation refers simply to a word's literal meaning, and connotation, on the other hand, refers to what a certain word can evoke from you, the more abstract meaning of a word.

Let's try it. "Volatility."

This word means, by its denotation, likely to change suddenly or unpredictably. To the experienced daily fantasy sports player, it means something a little different.

Based on its denotation, the actual definition, volatility is a bad thing, and it makes predicting performance difficult. And that's actually very true in daily fantasy sports, but learning how to use volatility while building lineups is crucial. That's particularly true when it comes to daily fantasy golf.

Volatility, in sum, is why a top-ranked golfer such as Jason Day can miss a cut and why a long-shot can run hot and pick up an unexpected win. The unexpected should be expected with golf, but that doesn't mean that trying to predict things is futile. Rather, it just means that there's more you need to factor in.

So, with all of that said, what can you do to try to narrow down your player pool when building PGA lineups on FanDuel?

Let's break it down.

Scoring and FanDuel Points

Given FanDuel's scoring for PGA, birdies are vastly important, as is finishing position. The math backs that up.

We'll examine the correlation coefficients between fantasy scoring on FanDuel and actual scoring from the 2016-17 CareerBuilder Challenge, the Farmers Insurance Open, and the Waste Management Phoenix Open. That's only three tournaments, but that does span a few hundred golfers and thousands of strokes.

A perfectly positive correlation would be 1, a perfectly negative correlation would be -1, and correlations around 0 imply no relationship between the two numbers. Golfers who were cut had their Round 1-2 scores matched with their performance, and golfers who finished the tournament had their full-tournament fantasy points compared to their full-tournament scoring.

FanDuel PGA Correlation with Scoring

Let's start from left to right and top to bottom, eh?

Eagles don't really have much of a relationship with fantasy points for players who got cut. That seems wrong, but instinctually, players with an eagle probably are the ones pushing through, which we see for players who finish all four rounds, as the correlation of 0.351 is moderately strong.

Birdies, though, are the bread-and-butter, which makes sense as they're far more common than eagles. Essentially, birdies are the strongest path to fantasy points, and that makes birdie or better percentage a vital stat each week.

Pars won't lead to big fantasy points for players who finish the tournament, as those flirting with par will likely be at the tail end of the post-cut standings. However, pars from your Round 1-2 golfers who happen to get cut aren't all that bad. If your selections aren't racking up enough birdies to push through, getting positive points is enough.

That gives weight to the idea of "punting" some of your options on your Round 1-2 roster, though you'll be missing out on the finishing bonuses, which we'll get to in a bit.

Obviously, bogeys and worse are going to have a negative correlation with FanDuel points, but it really comes into play for those guys who finish the tournament. Bogeys are nearly as hurtful to your fantasy point column as birdies are helpful based on this sample.

How can that be if bogeys are worth -1 and birdies are worth 3.1? Well, birdies and bogeys are directly tied to finishing position, which is the most important "scoring" category possible.

In fact, the correlation between holes at, over, and below par and finishing position are pretty telling.

Finishing Position and Holes At, Under, Above ParCorrelation
Under Par-0.572
Over Par0.575

So, we can see that -- in order to rack up fantasy points -- you want guys who score below par, avoid bogeys, and finish high in the tournament.

Groundbreaking, right? The bigger question, now, is whether or not certain stats correlate to eventual fantasy performance.

What Stats Matter?

There are tons and tons of stats available for the PGA Tour, but some of them are naturally tied together.

We can examine the relationship between fantasy points and driving distance, driving accuracy, total driving, strokes gained: off-the-tee, and good drive percentage, but at a certain point, we're possibly obscuring things.

So we'll keep things pretty simple and scope out how some of the major catch-all, one-number stats for these golfers (from the entire 2016-17 season) correlated with their FanDuel performance in these tournaments.

FanDuel PGA Correlation with Stats

So, based on this, driving distance and driving accuracy have moderate correlations with FanDuel points. That's a good thing. Not every course rewards all types of drivers (more accurate but shorter, inaccurate bombers, and so on). That also means that you'll need to tune into which is more important on that week's particular course.

There has been a pretty weak relationship between FanDuel points and season-long greens in regulation percentage, and the same goes for scrambling.

Really, what is going to make all the difference is the ability to avoid bogeys and to break par, as those two stats have the strongest correlations of those examined.

Of course, those correlation coefficients are still fairly mild overall, but in combination with the knowledge of how important birdies are, we can now say with some confidence that you need to target golfers with a penchant for racking up birdies rather than playing for pars when building your lineups. After all, birdie-bogey combination (2.1 net fantasy points) does rule out the bogey-free round bonus, but it is more fantasy-friendly than two pars (1 fantasy point).

In sum, no particular stat like driving distance or putting is going to be enough to get you fantasy points. You'll need to figure out what stats will lead to holes below par and top-25 finishes each and every week as the courses and entrants change -- but we'll be here to help.