2024 Golf Draft Kit: One-and-Done Strategy

2024 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. And they can be frustrating. For many years in a row potentially.

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.

Let's dive right in.

The Basics

It might be easiest to explain things using our RotoWire One-and-Done pool as an example, though you can customize anything in your pool to your liking.

The 2024 PGA Tour regular season encompasses 30 full-field, stroke-play events from the lid-lifting Sentry in early January to the Wyndham Championship in early August. The three playoff tournaments follow, and they surely can be a part of your pool. Along the way, there are a handful of opposite-field events, and those usually are not included. Same for the Zurich Classic team event.

In the RotoWire OAD pool, we pick one golfer every week and can't pick him again the rest of the season. Whatever he earns that week, that's what you earn. And at the end of the year we total up all the earnings. Unlike with NFL knockout pools where your

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. And they can be frustrating. For many years in a row potentially.

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.

Let's dive right in.

The Basics

It might be easiest to explain things using our RotoWire One-and-Done pool as an example, though you can customize anything in your pool to your liking.

The 2024 PGA Tour regular season encompasses 30 full-field, stroke-play events from the lid-lifting Sentry in early January to the Wyndham Championship in early August. The three playoff tournaments follow, and they surely can be a part of your pool. Along the way, there are a handful of opposite-field events, and those usually are not included. Same for the Zurich Classic team event.

In the RotoWire OAD pool, we pick one golfer every week and can't pick him again the rest of the season. Whatever he earns that week, that's what you earn. And at the end of the year we total up all the earnings. Unlike with NFL knockout pools where your team that week has to beat only one other NFL team, in golf your goal is to have your guy beat maybe 155 others. Sounds hard. It is, brutally so. If someone picks three winners all season in roughly 30 tournaments, 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 because of the extreme winner's shares that have become more prevalent. Besides, we have devised ways to incentive everyone to stay the course of the eight-month season by giving them to chance to win something even if they have fallen far behind. (No, not everyone gets a trophy.)

There are season-long winners in our pool — say, the top five 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 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.

Mapping Out a Plan

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

In years past in the RW pool, it was 32 tournaments (four quarters of eight). You don't pick the top-32 golfers in the world over the course of the season — 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 rarely a reason to ever go far outside the top 50, if at all, except maybe for a tournament such as the John Deere Classic.

Okay, so the season starts and you start picking golfers. What's your strategy? Well, you want to pick a guy you think can win, obviously. How to do that? Find a guy who is playing well coming in. On the other hand, there are guys who traditionally do well at certain events, the proverbial "horses for courses."

We're talking 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 others, and it's not an absolute every year, but you get the idea. Those are all big-name guys. Even lesser guys fit the mold, such as K.H. Lee, who won two Byron Nelson Classics in a row at TPC Craig Ranch in 2021-22. Sometimes there's more than one course per horse, such as McIlroy also at East Lake.

Webb Simpson used to be money at two tracks, 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. If a guy played *his* dominant course poorly last year, maybe don't discount him. Two years? Be done with him.

You'll want to keep some top guys in reserve for the Signature events and majors, and to make sure you haven't left yourself short of good players toward the end of your season. The Signature events have really thrown a wrinkle into golf OAD. There are now enormous $20 million purses, of which $3+ million goes to the winner. The money for winning a tournament is so extreme that you absolutely will have to win multiple times over the course of the season to compete for the top prize. While picking a guy who, say, finishes 10th in a given week is a pretty darn good accomplishment, you could finish 10th every week and not even be close to the top of your pool. So every single week you have to pick a guy you think has at least some chance to win.

It's possible to map out an entire season in advance and pencil in golfers at specific events -- Spieth at Augusta, McIlroy at Quail Hollow and so on. In theory, that sounds good, but it's hard to keep that going all season long. That's why we said 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. Also: Sleepers/rookies come along every season and become viable considerations.

A season-long cheat sheet, even if you don't follow it lockstep, could help because it's quite possible to lose sight of the big picture over the course of the eight 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.

More Strategy Than it Appears

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. That was more commonplace before the Signature events came along, but it still happens a few times a season.

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

Max Homa is excellent in the state of California. Do you use him at one of the West Coast events? Or do you save him for some of the other big events 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 90 or 120, 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 two years ago. He did win the overall title, but not by much. The next two guys had three wins and 12 top-5s apiece.

Of course, if your golfer finishes second or third in a given week, that's still pretty dang good. As mentioned earlier, the money drops off down the leaderboard very far very fast. 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.

Shameless Plug

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 until after the lock, but general ownership levels still have value.

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.

Lastly about using a commissioner site, there can simply be too many players to keep track without help. The RW pool has peaked at 50 players. (Good luck collecting all the entry fees from so many players, not that I'm bitter or anything.)

Late-Season Machinations

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 a certain golfer 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 entire purse was $75 million, which is more than enough to throw the entire season out of whack. The winner alone gets $18 million. It might be best use the payout structure for the previous week's BMW Championship. Or, with 33 "regular" events this year including playoffs, end the season at the BMW so you can have four even quarters. It's entirely up to you. That's also customizable on OFP.com.

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 six years now, and we're 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 nine years. Len is a three-time winner of the FSWA DFS Writer of the Year Award (2020, '22 and '23) and a five-time nominee (2019-23). He is also a writer and editor for MLB Advanced Media.
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