Cut versus No Cut Events – PGA Strategy
If you’re new to watching golf or new to playing DFS PGA you may have noticed that not every PGA tour event is the same. While almost every event consists of 4 playing rounds, not every event works in the same manner. As a DFS player it’s important to know how the events are structured as certain factors will effect scoring and will thus lead to different lineup strategies being more optimal for different events.
Events with Cuts
Most regular PGA events, including majors, have a cut after the first two rounds of play to reduce the field. After round two, everyone who is either tied for 70th or better is allowed to play the weekend, and everyone lower than that is “cut”. However, if the cut allows for more than 78 players to officially make the weekend, there will actually be a second cut after round 3. So if 80 players make the cut due to ties after round 2, round 3 will again mean only the top 70 plus ties will get to play round 4.
Still confused? The rules are spelled out here:
So what does this mean for the DFS player?
Quite simply, you need to pick players who will play all four rounds or you will be at a distinct disadvantage. Since regular PGA events tend to be large fields of over 140 players, making a team means researching not only who you think will do well at the event, but also researching what lower priced players will at least give you a chance at victory by surviving until the last round.
In this sense, PGA events with cuts mean that a DFS player must not only focus on finding the right mid-priced and high priced talent who will finish in the top of the field, but also find those important “punts” who will give his or her team a chance at victory by qualifying for all four rounds. In fact, given the fact that having a full team of 6 on Draftkings play all four rounds is often more valuable than having the actual winning player on your team—and only having five players who played all four rounds—finding those cheaper players who will survive until Sunday should actually be considered the most important part of putting together a successful team for a regular PGA event.
What to look for in a “punt” in a cut event
When targeting a lower priced player in an event with a cut, there’s many factors I tend to look at. Lower priced players often tend to either be veterans or journeyman who have not been playing well or are inconsistent, or up and coming young players who no one knows about.
If I am targeting an older, experienced player one of the key factors I will tend to look at is course history, or course tendencies. Experienced players will often have played events multiple times in the past, and looking up their history can give you an idea as to whether or not they might be primed for success at the event, even if they have not been playing well coming into it. Additionally, some players might be more inclined to play better on certain styles of courses. A great example is a player like Zach Johnson who isn’t strong off the tee, but is one of the top wedge game players. Shorter tighter course tend to suit him more than others.
If I am targeting a younger up and coming player, I will often have no history to look back to and will instead rely on current form, their style of game (and whether it suits the course) and any possible history or connection to the event in question I can find (local ties, where they grew up). This may sound less scientific, but the fact of the matter is it is often the younger talented players who provide more upside.
Regardless, my decision on which “punt” player to choose will be governed by one factor, who do I think has the best chance of making the cut? Sometimes that will mean going with the young player with no course history who is playing in his hometown and has a large motivation to be out there till Sunday; and sometimes that will mean picking an older grinder who has the played the course before and needs the points to stay on tour through 2016. But either way, making the cut and getting four full rounds from my “punt” is the goal, everything else I get from that player in terms of where they finish is gravy.
No cut events
Some weeks during the season, there will be reduced field events, where there is no actual cut involved. Instead the field will start at around 70, give or take, and the entire field will be allowed to play the whole weekend regardless of score. These are generally referred to as WGC or World Golf Championship events and feature fields laden with all of the tops players in golf and large prize pools.
The nice thing about these events is that you don’t need to worry about your guys getting in four rounds. The bad news, neither does anyone else. Any advantage you might have had at picking golfers solely on their ability to make a cut is gone and instead the way to make hay in non-cut events is to simply field as many top finishers as possible. Hence, while the same concept of choosing low-priced players to help build a team still applies, a team with a player who finishes in the bottom 10% of the field will have their chances drastically reduced since the cut does not exist to reduce the field. Hence, any low priced “punt” player must be chosen with an eye toward that player having a possible top 30-40% finish to give the rest of his team a chance. Gone is the advantage of simply needing a “punt” player to make a cut to have that player “pay off”; the player now must not only play, but play well.
What to look for in a punt at a no cut event
No cut events tend to have much stronger fields, even though they are not as big. Because of that, sometimes even the lower priced golfers will be quite accomplished. Generally in these events I am all about looking for someone who is primed for a big week as simply finishing the event will not be enough to get you near the top of a GPP leaderboard. Couse history can be a factor, but current form can be huge. Has a player been driving it well but just missing with the putter? This was the case late last year with Hunter Mahan before his victory in the Playoffs. In his previous events he had some decent finishes but had not come close to winning. This was of course masking the fact that in those previous events he was actually leading or close to leading the field in greens in regulation, meaning he was hitting it great but just not getting putts to drop. That first week of the PGA Playoffs they did and he ended up winning.
I like to think of the regular large field PGA events with cuts in the same way I do as playing a full Sunday NFL schedule. You have a ton of guys to choose from which means there is more strategy involved and more likelihood people will overlook some sort of key information or matchup. The larger pool of golfers in a regular PGA event means you can take advantage of lessor known golfers who are playing well and who recreational DFS players may not know or trust. The fact there is a Sunday cut, also means that you can essentially pick most of your team with eye to them simply being favorites to make the cut rather than having to pick based on them finishing in the top 10% or so of the field; a much trickier and more variable proposition.
In contrast, I view the smaller no cut events as equivalent to playing a thanksgiving day NFL schedule. There’s less of a field to choose from and hence different strategy involved. Additionally there are much higher ownership percentages which make GPPs more of a crapshoot, but also easier for a less knowledgeable player to win. A beginning player will ultimately find the no cut events much easier to navigate as the advantage a more experienced player will gain from the cut rule, and larger pool of golfers to choose from, will be gone.
Hence, if you’re just starting out or playing for fun, I’d recommend targeting as many no cut events as possible, the more experienced DFS players will have less of an edge and you’ll get a full four rounds of sweat in from your team (barring injury or DQ). For the more seasoned PGA DFS player, I’d recommend wagering less on no cut events and targeting the regular larger field events where a larger edge awaits you.