2022-23 Golf Draft Kit: One-and-Done Strategy

2022-23 Golf Draft Kit: One-and-Done Strategy

This article is part of our Golf Draft Kit series.

Of all the ways to play fantasy sports, is there anything more basic — and therefore more open to the masses — than one-and-done pools?

And yet, they are not easy. They are hard. They can be frustrating. For many years in a row potentially. (Not that I'm bitter or anything.)

One-and-done pools are most commonly associated with the NFL, where they are also known as survivor pools or knockout pools. If your team loses that week, you're out of the pool.

It's not that way in golf — everyone gets to stick around for the entire season, which is an attractive selling point if you're trying to start up a new pool.

The 2022-23 PGA Tour season encompasses 47 events, from the lid-lifting Fortinet Championship in mid-September through the Tour Championship in August. Some of those are alternate-field events. With the RotoWire OAD pool, we go from the Tournament of Champions at the beginning of January to the Tour Championship, minus the opposite-field events, which this season will total 33 tournaments. Either way, it's a long haul, but somehow it goes fast. We customize the season for our needs, and of course you can, too. For us, starting in January works best across all the RotoWire in-house golf pools — in large part because the NFL regular season is either done or close to done by then. But if you want to include the Fall Season, go for it.

We pick one golfer every week and can't pick him

Of all the ways to play fantasy sports, is there anything more basic — and therefore more open to the masses — than one-and-done pools?

And yet, they are not easy. They are hard. They can be frustrating. For many years in a row potentially. (Not that I'm bitter or anything.)

One-and-done pools are most commonly associated with the NFL, where they are also known as survivor pools or knockout pools. If your team loses that week, you're out of the pool.

It's not that way in golf — everyone gets to stick around for the entire season, which is an attractive selling point if you're trying to start up a new pool.

The 2022-23 PGA Tour season encompasses 47 events, from the lid-lifting Fortinet Championship in mid-September through the Tour Championship in August. Some of those are alternate-field events. With the RotoWire OAD pool, we go from the Tournament of Champions at the beginning of January to the Tour Championship, minus the opposite-field events, which this season will total 33 tournaments. Either way, it's a long haul, but somehow it goes fast. We customize the season for our needs, and of course you can, too. For us, starting in January works best across all the RotoWire in-house golf pools — in large part because the NFL regular season is either done or close to done by then. But if you want to include the Fall Season, go for it.

We pick one golfer every week and can't pick him again the rest of the season (you can customize that, too, if you like to, say, have the option to pick a golfer twice). But unlike with NFL knockout pools where your team that week has to beat only one other NFL team, in golf your guy has to beat maybe 155 others. Sounds very hard. It is, brutally so. If someone picks three winners all season, that is an outstanding result. Two is very good. Some of us get shut out. (Not that I'm bitter or anything.)

Like with a lot of fantasy pools in different sports, you can fall behind pretty fast. But it's a bit easier to make up ground in a golf OAD. Besides, we have devised ways to incentive everyone to stay the course of the eight months by giving them to chance to win something even if far behind.

There are season-long winners in our pool — the top five or six finishers — but we also have quarterly winners and an aggregate winner for the four majors. We have a nominal entry fee. The quarterly component is an especially good feature to keep those who have fallen far behind interested until the very end. This is an important point: It's imperative that everyone keeps trying, even if far behind, to maintain the integrity of the pool. You'd hope people would do that anyway, but the quarterly segments give them a strong impetus.

At the end of the season (or quarter), all you do is add up the money earned by each of your golfers across all tournaments and the player with the most wins. If your guy misses a cut that week, you get what he gets: ZIPPO.

That's about it. There are not a lot of moving parts to one-and-done pools. So we have just a few tips.

First off, think about how many tournaments you want in your pool. 

Let's use the RotoWire OAD as an example. Last year, it was 32 tournaments (four quarters of eight). We don't necessarily pick the top-32 golfers in the world — there are lesser tournaments with not many or any big-name guys — but you also shouldn't have to go overly deep either. There's nary a reason to ever go far outside the top 50, if at all, except maybe for a tournament such as the John Deere Classic.

Second, certain golfers do well at certain events, the proverbial "horses for courses." 

We're talking Justin Thomas at Kapalua (Tournament of Champions), Jon Rahm at Torrey Pines (Farmers Insurance Open), Rory McIlroy at Quail Hollow (the Wells Fargo), Jordan Spieth at Augusta (the Masters) and Xander Schauffele at East Lake (the Tour Championship). There are other, but you get the idea. Those are all big-name guys. Even lesser guys fit the mold, such as K.H. Lee, who has won the past two Byron Nelson Classics at TPC Craig Ranch. Sometimes there's more than one course horse, such as McIlroy also at East Lake. These aren't locks, no one is, but this is a good starting point to consider.

Webb Simpson used to be money at Harbour Town (RBC Heritage) and TPC Sedgefield (the Wyndham), but he's been fading for a couple of years and no longer can be expected to deliver.

One thing I haven't done before but am strongly considering come January is mapping out the entire season, or as many of the tournaments as possible, penciling in course horses for their respective tournaments. Of course, that should definitely be pencil and not pen — every golf season is organic and goes in its own direction. We have to allow for current form, strength of the field and, especially, injuries.

Such a season-long cheat sheet could also help because it's quite possible to lose sight of the big picture over the course of the eight-plus months. For instance, you come to a tournament toward the end of the season but you discover you already used the course horse earlier in the season because he seemed like a good fit that week. Of course, that might have been the prudent play. Just be mindful of this possibility.

Here are some other scenarios to consider.

If you see a lone top-10 guy is in a weak field with maybe only a couple other top-25s, do you pick him? Or save him for a major or other big event, where you know the winner will probably come from a small pool of top golfers and the payoff is bigger? Plus, under the RotoWire format, it could be a two-pronged win at a major because of the majors component to our pool. The top guys don't play many lesser fields, but some of them have allegiances to certain tournaments — and that means they like the course, the city, etc. Which, in theory, adds up to playing better.

Here's my thinking: If you can get a top golfer in good form in such a scenario in which he is a clear-cut favorite, grab him.

Deciding whether to "burn" a top guy early in the season is always a hard call. 

Thomas at Kapalua? Rahm at Torrey Pines? Or save them for the majors, or just later in the season? There's no right or wrong answer. But we will say that there are too many good golfers to fit into just the biggest events, including the playoffs. You can use a top-10 guy in a "regular" tournament.

Picking the flat-out winner of a golf tournament is remarkably hard, even if the field is 30 or 70, much less 144 or 156. Often the favorite is about 11-1 or 12-1. Far from a sure thing. As we mentioned, if you can get two or perhaps three outright winners all season, you'll be way ahead of everyone else. That said, someone won a record SIX times in the RotoWire pool this past season. He did win the overall title, but not by much. The next two guys had three wins and 12 top-5s apiece. The winner had only 10 top-5s, still an excellent number.

Of course, if your golfer finishes second or third in a given week, that's still pretty dang good. What you really want to avoid are missed cuts. There is nothing worse in one-and-done golf than burning a top guy and getting nothing for it.

This is a good time to point out that the RotoWire OAD pool uses officefootballpools.com to run our pool. Yes, it's more than football and completely customizable to your pool specs. Besides some of the other specifics above, we skip the Zurich Classic team event, which is a bit clunky for a one-and-done pool.

There are big advantages to the OFP site, at a small cost ($3 per entrant). The site does all the math, it keeps track of everything. It tells you who you've taken and who you haven't, and it actually blocks you from taking a guy twice if that's the way your commissioner has set it up. One other thing I like about our site is it also tells you site-wide who the popular guys will be that week. You won't know specifically who everyone in your pool is taking, but general ownership levels still have value. Now, you can see who everyone in your pool has picked after the fact.

So for instance, if you want to play Collin Morikawa, you can see how many of the other people in your pool have picked him already that season. If a lot have already burned him, that could be a good time to jump on him. If your guy happens to win that week, it's great no matter what, but even more so if you are all alone Of course, this works much better in the second half of the season than the first.

If you are trying to rally toward the end of the season, you definitely could go away from the pack just in hopes of being the only one, or one of the few, to pick him and hopefully make up big ground.

See, even though there aren't a lot of moving parts to OAD pools, that doesn't mean there's not a lot of strategy.

One snafu for us arose when the PGA Tour changed its playoff system, and the payout for the TOUR Championship not only included the tournament purse but all the bonuses. The winner gets $18 million as a season-long bonus. Well, that would throw the entire season out of whack. There are ways around it. In the RotoWire pool, we tabulated 10 percent of those earnings/bonuses for the Tour Championship. And the beauty of it is, again, our host site does the work. Another option is to decide the Tour Championship payouts will match the previous playoff tournament, the BMW Championship. That actually might be the best option.

That's it. Like a golf season or even a golf tournament, your strategy will change at different parts of the OAD season. We've been doing the RotoWire OAD pool for five years now, and still learning the nuances, figuring out new things every year. Just never be rigid, even if you go into the season with a cheat sheet and a plan. There are too many variables and unknowns in a golfer and a golf season.

You won't master it all at once. Being right more than wrong is something good to shoot for. Good luck!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Len Hochberg
Len Hochberg has covered golf for RotoWire since 2013. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years. He was named 2020 "DFS Writer of the Year" by the FSWA and was nominated for the same award in 2019.
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