Multiple Pick Strategy for Golf One And Done Pools

Some One And Done golf pools require you to pick more than one golfer per tournament, so we talk strategy for those pools.

Should you ever pick Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland on the same One And Done entry? (Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire)

While Golf One And Done Pools typically involve picking exactly one golfer in each tournament (and using that golfer once all season), some pools view the term “One And Done” as more of a guideline. A subset of pools will require multiple picks, whether it be in all tournaments used, in the Majors, or in other designated events. (Our Golf One And Done Pool Picks provides support for pools that require up to three picks per event.)

The strategy when picking more than one golfer in a week can change, so let’s go through some of the key things you might want to consider in a multi-pick pool.

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Stack Tournament Picks, or Balance Them?

If you can pick multiple golfers in the same week, but are limited in how many total times you can use them, then you have to decide how you want to employ strategy in pairing golfers.

To put it in a concrete example, would you want to use Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy in the same tournament, or split them up and pair them with lower-ranked options? Both will likely be among the biggest favorites in most tournaments they play in 2024.

From a theoretical standpoint, we should want to use the best golfers when they have the upside to win the most prize money, as hitting winners in the highest-value events is a big factor in winning One And Done pools. However, there can be only one winner, so when you have to pick two golfers, they are limiting each other’s upside.

A four-tournament hypothetical example

Let’s explore this concept with a hypothetical example using eight golfers spread across four tournaments. To make it simple, let’s assume that the fields for each of these four tournaments are very similar, all eight golfers are playing in each, and the odds for each golfer to win each are the same across all four events.

I’ll put some golfer names, but understand, again, this is a hypothetical. Let’s say the golfers have the following win odds for each tournament:

  • Scottie Scheffler: 10%
  • Rory McIlroy: 9%
  • Xander Schauffele: 7%
  • Collin Morikawa: 6%
  • Ludvig Aberg: 4%
  • Brian Harman: 3%
  • Sam Burns: 2%
  • Tony Finau: 2%

We’ll examine two different strategies for dividing our golfers across the four tournaments. In the “Stack” strategy, we are pairing our top golfers (Scheffler and McIlroy) at one tournament, our next two (Schauffele and Morikawa) at another, and so on, with the remaining pairs of Aberg/Harman and Burns/Finau. In the “Balance” strategy, we pair No. 1 (Scheffler) with No. 8 (Finau), No. 2 (McIlroy) with No. 7 (Burns) and so forth.

Here is a table showing the chance of different results happening, given each strategy:

Stack strategy vs. Balance strategy

WINNERSSTACKBALANCE
40.007%0.013%
30.33%0.44%
25.23%5.52%
131.52%30.59%
062.92%63.44%

The first thing that this re-emphasizes is this: it’s really hard to hit tournament winners. Even with getting two picks at it across four tournaments, you are an underdog to get even one tournament winner correct.

The “Stack” strategy is slightly more likely to hit exactly one tournament winner than the “Balance” strategy is. On the other hand, “Balance” is more likely to correctly hit two or more tournament winners (6.0% to 5.6%). The difference in those numbers may seem small, but remember, that’s over a only four-tournament span. The effect gets stronger with more tournaments involved, for example if you have to make two picks at every tournament over the full One And Done season.

Balance in Large Pools, and When Trailing

What can we take away from this exercise, where you are more likely to win multiple tournaments by keeping a balanced pick set, and spacing out your top golfers?

Sure, the chances of hitting three different tournament winners is only around 5-in-1000 by going balanced, versus about 3-in-1000 by stacking your best golfers. And that may seem meaningless. But we are hunting outlier results when we are playing in a large One And Done pools with several hundred entries. Nearly doubling our chances of hitting an outlier result that increases prize money seems like a good strategy.

So we should have a general preference of spacing out our top golfers, so they aren’t competing against each other directly on our entry for the first place prize, and we have better odds to hit with multiple of them. In large pools, we should probably be pairing the top-rated golfers like Scheffler with golfers who have relatively lower odds.

The same philosophy applies later in the season when trailing a prize position. Our best chance of hitting multiple winners to complete a comeback is to balance our best individual win odds golfers across different events.

Stacking Makes More Sense in Small Pools or Leading

On the other hand, stacking is a more understandable strategy in a small One And Done pool. You do not need to hit as many tournament winners on average to win a small pool, and can afford to be more stack vs. balance-neutral in your decisions. Using multiple of the top golfers on one tournament can work to increase your chances of grabbing a win in that event.

Similarly, if you are in a leading position and have several golfers to consider for the final events, loading up with top options in one of them can slightly increase your chances of hitting one more win, and potentially locking up first place.

Balancing Across Different Tournament Purse Sizes

In addition to balancing golfers across similar events, you also have to think about how you want to balance your picks based on the purse size of the tournament. In a pool that requires two picks for every tournament, for example, you could be going 60 golfers deep. Do you prioritize the second pick in the big money event over your top pick in the other events?

We would prioritize having better second picks for the top events. That’s because the relative amount you can win is better, even if you already have a top golfer as your first pick. Second place is usually worth more, and third place often about the same, as the prize money for winning one of the non-Signature events or Majors.

Let’s take the Sentry vs. the Sony Open to start 2024 in Hawaii. The Sentry was a Signature event with an elevated prize purse; the Sony was not.

Here were the highest money amounts won at the two events combined this year:

PlayerPlaceEventMoney
Chris Kirk1stSentry$3,600,000
Sahith Theegala2ndSentry$2,160,000
Grayson Murray1stSony$1,494,000
Jordan Spieth3rdSentry$1,360,000
Byeong Hun An4thSentry$975,000
Byeong Hun An2nd (t)Sony$738,700
Keegan Bradley2nd (t)Sony$738,700
Brian Harman5th (t)Sentry$690,500
Sungjae Im5th (t)Sentry$690,500
Collin Morikawa5th (t)Sentry$690,500
J.T. Poston5th (t)Sentry$690,500
Scottie Scheffler5th (t)Sentry$690,500
Jason Day10th (t)Sentry$530,000
Xander Schauffele10th (t)Sentry$530,000
Patrick Cantlay12th (t)Sentry $450,000
Sepp Straka12th (t)Sentry $450,000

Thirteen of the top 16 in money won in Hawaii came from the Sentry. You earned more by getting a top 12 finish at the Sentry than by getting a golfer who finished tied for 4th at the Sony Open. And most importantly, even if your top Sentry pick won the tournament, capping the upside of your second pick at second place, that’s still a higher upside than a potential first place finish at the Sony Open.

Because of that, we would prioritize using our best golfers across all picks needed in the Signature events and Majors.

That means if you are in a “Double Picks in Majors” pool with 15 Signature Events and Majors, we would be targeting our second pick in the Majors coming from golfers inside the top 20, and save those golfers instead of using them in smaller purse events. In a full “double pick” pool that used 30 total tournaments, with 15 Signature events, we would prioritize having all the picks in the Signature events coming from roughly the top 30 golfers available for the season.

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