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The Field

The Field for this week’s tournament is without a doubt one of the strongest of the year.  156 players will tee it up and for the most part, it will include all of the strongest players from the PGA tour and European Tour.  One of the things about the field in this event that really sets it apart from other majors is the fact that every year the top 20 low finishers form the PGA Professional National Championship are allowed in.  These are essentially club/teaching pros (not regular tour pros) who play in a qualifying tournament every year for a spot.  While some of these players are exceptional golfers they are generally not recommended fantasy plays as they simply don’t have the competitive experience to match the rest of the field.

In terms of injuries or possible withdraws amoung top players, the only real name to keep an eye on is Rory McIlroy.  He injured his ankle just before the Open Championship but has been practicing and playing at Whistling Straits this week.  His status is still currently unknown but it does look like he is leaning towards teeing it up.  If you use him make sure you check for updates later in the week.

Tee Times

http://www.pga.com/pgachampionship/scoring/teetimes

The Course

Whistling Straits, Kohler, Wisconsin

Par 72, 7500-7800 yards depending on setup

Whistling Straits is a majestic Pete Dye creation.  It’s located in Kohler, Wisconsin and borders the banks of Lake Michigan.  At its most simplistic Whistling Straits is a pure links setup.  It appears and looks like a course you’d find nestled in the hillsides of the British Isles, and the surrounding farmland and architecture give it a very ancient feel, especially considering it opened a mere 15 years ago.  However, the course is not as simple as it appears.  Huge elevation changes, tons of strategically placed bunkers and waste areas, and huge cliffs and drop-offs give this course some real bite.  It also means that a lot of the creative links style shots you saw at St. Andrews won’t be as useful here and a more traditional approach will be needed.  The course plays as a par 72 and features four par 5’s, and although none of them are particularly easy they will offer birdie chances for most players.

The real teeth of the course however can be found in the longer par 4’s.  Whistling Straits features three par 4’s of 500 yards or longer on the scorecard, including two in the final four-hole stretch.  These monsters can be brutal on the players, especially if they are against the wind.  The wind is yet another factor to be aware of.  Although the winning score here in 2010 was 11 under par if the wind gets up a low single digit winning score is possible.  Expect some real drama on the back nine on Sunday.  The final four holes can be brutal and pars will most likely be hard to come by late Sunday afternoon.

 

Last 5 WinnersUSATSI_8571158_168381090_lowres

Rory McIlroy—2014 (Valhalla)
Jason Dufner—2013 (Oak Hills)
Rory McIlroy—2012 (Kiawah Island)
Keegan Bradley—2011 (Atlanta Athletic Club)
Martin Kaymer—2010 (Whistling Straits)

 

DFS Strategy

The pricing this week allows you some more flexibility than normal.  There’s some real value plays down in the $6000-7000 range and even some players under $6000 I’d consider to have top twenty upside.  I think that will allow you to create some good DFS teams which feature two or even three of the top players.  With the large field events like the Millionaire Maker going off this week it’s definitely ok to take a chance with some lineups that feature more of the boom or bust type fantasy plays.  For cash games I’d identify who the top players you want to target are and then round your lineups out with some of the highest upside value picks.  You can probably go lower than normal here as some very strong plays exist in the under $7000 range.

Stats:

Even though the last time this event was played at Whistling Straits was 2010 there’s still some things we can take away from that leaderboard.  In 2010 many of the best finishing players were at the top of a few different categories for the year, I’ve listed which I think the most pertinent were below:

Proximity: 200-225 yards, 200 yards or greater
Birdie Average
Par 4 scoring
Scrambling

There are a couple longer par 3’s at Whistling, both around 200-240 yards in length, and they favour those with good long approach games.  Additionally, with the length of the par 4’s, good par 4 scoring here is going to be vital.  Even if you score well on the par 5’s, giving too may strokes back on the tougher holes will make winning tough.  With over 500 bunkers on the course, good short games are also vital and so looking at scrambling and even sand-save percentage is a decent idea.

Who’s Hot

A look at who’s been playing well coming into this week’s event
  • Robert Streb has been playing great golf now for the past couple months. In his last 7 events he has two top 5’s and four top 20 finishes.  He also finished 5th last week at Bridgestone
  • Jim Furyk has once again been showing the great form that makes him a favourite amoung fantasy players. He finished T3 last week and now has three top 5’s in his last 6 events.
  • Bubba Watson might be the hottest player in golf right now. After winning 7 week ago, he’s now finished second in his past two events.
  • Danny Lee looks like one of the best young players in the game right now. After winning 6 weeks ago he’s collected two more top 5’s and added a 6th place to that haul last week
  • Danny Willet is another hot young player. He finished 6th at the Open and then the week following that over in Europe.  He landed a 17th last week and maintained his good form.
 

Who’s Not

A look at who’s been playing poorly coming into this week’s event
  • Hunter Mahan has really been spinning his wheels lately. Before last week (where he finished 72nd out of 77) he had missed 2 of 4 cuts with a high finish of 49th.
  • JB Holmes has cooled off after his early season run. He’s missed his last two cuts and wasn’t able to crack the top 30 at Bridgestone.
  • Ryan Palmer has looked a little off for a while now and completely imploded last week, posting a 14 over par total. He has a nice all-around game but will be hard to trust.
  • Graham DeLaet hasn’t had a decent finish for a while and also had injury issues that forced him to pull out of the Canadian Open. He’s very risky, and not recommended for fantasy.
My Recommendation:

Two types of players seemed to thrive at this course in 2010.  Those who were long off the tee and ranked well in proximity to the hole from 200 yards or greater and those who drove it accurately and ranked well in scrambling. Focusing on players with those attributes is probably a decent starting point.  Good form is also almost always a factor at this event and since 2010, the worst a winning player has finished the week before the PGA is 22nd.  Given this trend, I’d really recommend checking the leaderboards for the past couple weeks and focus in on players coming in hot.

My Pick: Jason Day USATSI_8719344_168381090_lowres

There’s already been a lot of chatter about Rory, Spieth, Tiger, and Dustin, but for my money the player I think is primed to make a splash this week is Jason Day.  Day has been in superb form, even with his health scare at Chambers Bay, and has the length and touch around the green to really dominate this course.  I think he makes Australia proud and snags his first major win here.