By: Edward Egros

The "Reliable" Open

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Colloquially, Carnoustie might be considered the toughest test of all courses that are part of the Open's rotation. Often when the course adds to the already high degree of difficulty a major provides, those who reliably do well at majors become natural favorites when picking a winner and putting together fantasy lineups.

In the last five years, when measured, the winner of the Open finished in the Top 25 in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green, and the only reason why it isn't even more selective is because of Phil Mickelson's 2013 victory when he hovered around the 25th position in both metrics.

Perhaps the most intriguing option for a winner is Henrik Stenson. In the last five years, the player with the lowest score to par in the Open is Stenson, who won the 2016 championship in what was essentially match play that Sunday. However, he is battling through an elbow injury and even claimed he is not 100%. The second lowest score in the last five years belongs to the man Stenson beat that year, Mickelson. Given Stenson's price in DFS, I'm willing to take a risk on him and make a "preliminary" favorite to win.

If, for some reason, his injury prevents him from playing to his potential, my pick to win is Justin Thomas. He currently ranks 4th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and has performed well in other majors that were played on links style courses, such as the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in 2015 and the U.S. Open at Erin Hills in 2017.

Here are my two DFS lineups:

Justin Thomas
Patrick Cantlay
Marc Leishman
Luke List
Francesco Molinari
Henrik Stenson

Keegan Bradley
Tony Finau
Sergio Garcia
Rory McIlroy
Alex Noren
Xander Schauffele

World Cup Finale

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Just like with statistics themselves, analyzing the results of any model can be manipulated and spun to fit a narrative. On the one hand, our World Cup model was not perfect when it came to picking the result of every match correctly. Again, our ground rules were to correctly predict if the designated "home team" would win, lose or draw in the group stage and win or lose in the knockout stage. Here are our results:

Group Stage: 27/48 (21 results were one of the two other outcomes than predicted)
Round of 16: 5/8
Quarterfinals: 2/4
Semifinals: 1/2

On the other hand, most of the misclassifications were often marked as having poor odds. For instance, for the Semifinal between England and Croatia, our model gave England a 53% chance to win. The odds were small enough to suggest extra time would be a decent possibility, and in fact
that was the outcome. Also, no other models I was actively monitoring forecasted the more unbelievable results, such as Russia knocking off Spain. In general, we are pleased with our results.

On that note, here are our predictions for the final weekend of the World Cup:

Final: France defeats Croatia (78%)

3rd Place: England defeats Belgium (65%)

World Cup Quarterfinals

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Eight teams remain in contention for the World Cup. Our model went 5-3 predicting "Round of 16" matches. While many were predictable, few saw Russia upsetting Spain; the other two we missed (Uruguay beating Portugal and Sweden knocking off Switzerland) were essentially toss-ups. So far, we are quite pleased with our results.

Our next step is to predict Quarterfinal matches, and if you cannot wait for our social media posts or our reveals on Good Day, here they are:

Brazil defeats Belgium (76.4%)
Russia defeats Croatia (50.7%)
England defeats Sweden (58.2%)
France defeats Uruguay (67.8%)

World Cup Predictions

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Once again, I'll begin this post by apologizing for so few updates in the last several weeks. However, I have been diligent with analytical research; and now I can share with you one of these projects, and it pertains to the World Cup.

In collaboration with students from Southern Methodist University, we have devised a model that predicts the outcome of every match. The data used includes outcomes of international matches between national teams dating back to 2003 (this does not include friendlies), the location of where they were played, what tournament that match was a part of, the distance each country had to travel to play that match and the total market value of each team, meaning the sum of each professional contract for each player belonging to that team.

Since the start of the tournament, I have reported these results on Fox 4, while also providing context of how the tournament is unfolding, using analytical tools. You can see these videos both at the bottom of the home page
and on my YouTube page.

Lastly, I have assembled all of the data and other files onto a Github page so you can follow along with what we have been doing.
Click here for that information.

As always, I would appreciate feedback you can offer. You can also share your own models by clicking the link: "Contact Edward".

Need Reasons Not to Pick Spieth at the Byron Nelson?

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Even the youngest of golf fans know how big of a favorite Jordan Spieth is at the Byron Nelson. Vegas odds have the Dallas native as a heavy favorite, he's the only golfer in the Top 20 in every Strokes Gained category except for putting (and putting is a volatile statistic), he's played at the tournament's new home at Trinity Forest a lot and the field is one of the weaker ones on the PGA Tour. In fact, only five of the Top 50 in the world will compete this weekend. Spieth is 3rd in the Official World Golf Rankings, by far the best in the field.

Then again, Spieth was also familiar with the tournament's old home at TPC Four Seasons and he failed to notch a Top 10 finish there. What makes Trinity Forest different is it's a links style, with wind playing a significant factor, no trees on the inside of the course—only outlining the exterior—and unusually large and detailed greens (this course even features one green with two holes). Because no PGA Tour event has been held here until now, there is no historical data to help determine who is likeliest to win. For my analysis, I am replacing course history with other links style courses, and wouldn't you know it? Jordan Spieth shines in this model too, the defending Open Champion with a 4th place finish in 2015 and a U.S. Open championship at Chambers Bay.

Here's one more perspective: as golf analyst
Mark Broadie points out, winners average about 35% of their total strokes gained from their approach shots. At a links style, it is possible that statistic inflates, what with handling the unique greens and unusual winds. Those playing this week who have better Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green numbers than Spieth are Scott Piercy and Sergio Garcia, who has handled other Texas tournaments well. There are a few players who could spoil Spieth's first win at this tournament, but it's hard to find them.

Here are my daily fantasy teams:

Jordan Spieth
Sergio Garcia
Robert Streb
J.J. Spaun
Hunter Mahan
Robert Garrigus

Adam Scott
Marc Leishman
Rory Sabbatini
Kevin Na
Scott Piercy
Bill Haas