In the most action-packed PGA season I can remember, we are already on to The Barclays and the start of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. By definition, we’ve got the best 125 players in the world on hand this weekend at Bethpage Black, hosting a PGA event for the first time since the U.S. Open in 2012. We’ve had major after major with other big tournaments mixed in, and once again, everyone is on hand, giving you plenty of options at every price tier. Here are a few names from each price point that you can consider for your lineups as you build up your first set of rosters for the stretch run of the season.
Dustin Johnson ($11,900) – Every single one of these top golfers is a good option – they’re all the best players in the world for a reason, right? With DJ, you have to love his length on a course that can stretch to almost 7,500 yards, but the issue here is that you often have to be long with your irons and able to stick challenging approaches. Despite the overall length, course layout does it’s best to keep players from reaching their max distance off the tee. Thankfully, length is not Johnson’s only strong suit when he is on his game. He finished T3 here in 2012 at the U.S. Open, and before the MC at the PGA Championship, he had been on an epic run of six straight top-10 finishes that included wins at Oakmont and at the WGC-Bridgestone.
Henrik Stenson ($11,700) – I wrote after his win at the Open Championship that he had the skills to go on a Jason Day-like run to close the season, and so far he hasn’t disappointed, following that win with a T7 at the PGA and a silver medal last weekend in Rio. This is the spot in the year where Day really started to turn it on, and Stenson has the precision shot-making talents needed to navigate Bethpage Black successfully. If he had played enough rounds stateside to qualify, his Greens in Regulation (GIR) % would lead the Tour, exactly the kind of skill-set players will need to have at their disposal this weekend.
Rory McIlroy ($11,600) – There is a chance that players might shy away from Rory given the fact that he hasn’t really been in contention much in the biggest events so far this season. But he is still second on Tour in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, and is one of only a handful of players that have the upside of running away with a victory, even in a completely loaded field. He is, as always, near the top in most scoring metrics, and if he can avoid trouble and bring a solid short game to the course this weekend, he could be the top-priced option that leads your team to a big win.
Hideki Matsauyama ($9,900) – Never quite as exciting as some of the other top names, he has been solidly consistent recently, and can use the fact that the course might limit the length of some other players to his advantage. He is now up to 4th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and has jumped more than 50 spots in Bogey Avoidance over the course of his last two outings, a T4 at the PGA and a T3 at the Wyndham Championship. Limiting mistakes like that is imperative this weekend on a course that can squeeze some big numbers out of players if they don’t take the right approach to certain holes.
Matt Kuchar ($9,200) – Kuchar earned bronze at the international games, but that was actually an encouraging sign coming into some big events down the stretch, as Kuchar has been red-hot all season long… except in majors. He once again proved last weekend what we already knew – that he was capable of competing against anyone in the world, as he came through with a 63 in the final round to claim that medal – this was not a situation where he had to “settle” for anything. He had closed out the Travelers with a 65 the weekend before, and with nine top-10s on the year, you have to love how much the top-heavy field has pushed down his price tag for this one, especially in your cash-game lineups.
Brandt Snedeker ($8,900) – His T3 at the Wyndham featured four rounds of 68 or better, and was his second top-5 finish in his last three appearances. He finished second here in 2012, and he is once again arriving with his game in good shape. He has jumped fifteen spots recently to move into the top-20 in terms of Scoring Average on Tour, which he has accomplished with a stellar putting stroke and strong work around the greens, both of which should help him avoid big trouble this weekend. He is a little erratic, seeming to either push to contend or falling way outside the top-20, so I will probably look to him more in bigger tournaments than cash contests.
Emiliano Grillo ($8,300) – Grillo has the length to give himself the most reasonable approach shots possible this weekend (293.8 average yards per drive), and will be looking to extend a recent run of success, hoping to make this his fifth top-15 showing in his last six tournaments. He made 20 birdies to finish 8th in Rio, and so will need to do a better job limiting his mistakes (11 bogeys and a double last weekend as well), but if he can do that, he has the potential to greatly outperform his price. As someone with no experience on the course, I think I would feel more comfortable in my lineup if I was searching for pure upside, but another top-15 performance at this price would certainly qualify.
Gary Woodland ($7,500) – Woodland is likely off of a lot of radars this weekend after two missed cuts and a T38 in his last three outings, and clearly those performances demonstrate that he isn’t a “safe” pick. But the fact is, not many golfers in this price range are sure things, and Woodland, currently inside the top-25 in both Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and Bogey Avoidance, has at least demonstrated the kind of abilities that could let him succeed here if he is making putts.
Russell Knox ($7,300) – I have mentioned a few stats I am clearly looking to focus on this weekend when I am evaluating players, and Knox, more than any other inexpensive option, checks all the boxes. If you believe like I do that the ability to hit greens from a distance and work around the greens to save pars effectively will carry guys to the top on this course, then Knox almost has to be a major consideration, currently sitting second in GIR % and eighth in Bogey Avoidance.
Daniel Berger ($6,900) – Bethpage Black is a long course – real long. But in 2012, players averaged just under 290 yards per drive because the course just doesn’t allow it. Therefore, huge length from the tee just isn’t the advantage you might think it should be – basically, anyone who can hit it as long as the course allows should be in the same position as guys like Bubba and DJ and other huge hitters you know well. Therefore, I wanted to take a look at players who, instead of just being long off the tee, excelled at long approach shots, as players are often going to be left looking at plenty of distance between themselves and the green after their drive. Berger, for his part, ranks 15th in terms of Approach Shots from > 200 yards, a metric led by Adam Scott that also shows players like Rory, Matsuyama and Furyk inside the top-10.
Kevin Kisner ($6,400) – He has been very solid of late, securing a T18 finish at Baltusrol with a Saturday round of 65 and following that up with a T10 last weekend at the Wyndham Championship. You have to look for that the solid play to carry over, because truthfully, you don’t need him to compete for a win to make him a successful pick here. He is inside the top-20 in overall Scoring Average and inside the top-20 in Birdie or Better %, so as long as he avoids trouble enough to make it to the weekend – which recent performances suggest he should – then he should score you enough points to be an asset for your fantasy team.
Jamie Lovemark ($5,600) – Lovemark is a player who was on a lot of radars earlier this season with an extended run of success, until recently at least. This pick is securing a guy who should be little-owned, and who will not put a dent in your budget, who has five top-ten finishes so far on the season. Sure, he had four straight missed cuts in July and August, but he played well enough at TPC Deere Run, finishing with 16 birdies, a showing that could give you some hope that he will return to his early season form and at least play into the weekend for you here.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theasquad) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.