This Week’s Event: 2018 PGA ChampionshipPat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds for the 2018 PGA Championship and make their picks for Bellerive CC. Plus, Tim Anderson joins to tell the people know who is ANDERCURSED at the year’s final Major.
2018 PGA Championship — Picks and Preview | Picks/Field/Course | Player Previews | Golfer Stat Power Rankings | Quick Picks | One and Done | Picks Cheat Sheet | All Stats | Favorites | Tiger Woods | Middle Range | Long Shots | All-Golf Cust Corner | Tiger vs Phil | Players to FADE | Wednesday Viewer Q & A Replay
2018 PGA Championship DraftKings — Updated Picks | DK Cheatsheet | Pricing Review | Picks Podcast | Stats/Tools | Tee Times/Forecast | $10K-Plus | $9K Range | $8K Range | $7K Range | $6K Range | Stats/Course/Strategy
DraftKings Golf Strategy — Starting Research and Building Lineups | Full Strategy Session | Building 20 Lineups | Single Entries | Course History vs. Recent Form | Common Mistakes/Bad Habits | Weekend DK Golf Tips | Audio Podcast
PME 2018 Fantasy Football Draft Kit — Complete Draft Kit | Tough Players To Rank | Confusing Backfields | Early Rankings: RB | WR | QB | TE | Rookies/Dynasty | ADP Review: Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3 | Round 4 | Picks 50-100 | Sleepers/Picks 100+ | Busts
Anytime Mayo: Best Sports Movies — Baseball | Football | Best Of Mayo | State/Future of New Media | Breaking Into The Fantasy Industry | Top Simpsons Episodes | Best Seinfeld Episode Bracket | Top TV Shows on Right Now
2018 PGA Championship Picks: Show Index1:11 Giveaways
51:57 Middle Range
1:30:22 Quick Picks
1:33:54 One and Done
2018 PGA Championship Field156 Players | Top 70 & Ties Make The Cut After 36 Holes (No MDF)
First Tee: Thursday, Aug. 9 at 7:50 a.m. ET
Defending champion: Justin Thomas
156 golfers head to St. Louis for the season’s final Major, but, let’s be real, there just isn’t the same buzz surrounding the PGA Championship than at the other Majors. Even the PGA knows this, which is why the 2019 schedule readjustment has the PGA Championship moving to mid-May, bumping THE PLAYERS Championship into early March.
It’s a great move, because loaded fields with ALLLLL the world’s best players should be something special. With the Open Championship three weeks ago and a condensed, star-studded WGC Bridgestone concluding a mere three days before first tee, gathering all the game’s elite again so quickly makes it loose its luster. Additionally, were going to see all the field again in a few weeks time when the playoff commence. Pure fatigue. I love the move to May. Plus, it should open up some southern courses, which couldn’t be in the August PGA Championship rotation because of extreme heat.
That’s for next year, though. The 2018 PGA Championship features each of the world’s Top 50 players along with the current Top 70 in the FedEx Cup points standings. Chuck in anyone else not qualified who played on the 2016 Ryder Cup squads, the Top 15 finishers from last year’s PGA Championship, the 2018 KitchenAid Senior PGA champ, former winners, special invites and the Top 20 from the PGA Professional Championship, and it brings the total up to 156 participants doing battle for the Wanamaker Trophy.
The 156-player field matches the US and British Opens in terms of size, but when you subtract some the older former victors and the 20 PGA pros who rarely ever make the cut, you’re down to a field size that actually resembles THE PLAYERS rather than the other Majors. Sure, there are players in those field that have a minuscule chance to play the weekend, however, it’s far more pronounced at the PGA Championship. Meaning, at least statistically, you have a better chance of getting all six of your players through to the weekend as opposed to the previous two Majors.
As for the cut line, it’s exactly the same at the British Open. The Top 70 and ties after 36 holes will play the weekend, and there will not be a secondary cut following the third round (No MDF), so if you can sneak someone through the cut, they’re getting all four rounds to pile up points.
As mentioned, every name you expect to be at Bellerive is going to be there, but we’re getting an infusion of fresh names as well. Das Wunderkind, Joaquin Niemann, will play his first Major as a professional. One of the first rookies in while to have a legitimate chance of winning. With his scorching start to his pro career — along with the limited sample accompanying it — Niemann actually pops up with the second-most win equity based on the early event simulations. It’s jarring to see his name so high; for a moment I just assumed I was high while reading it. I wasn’t.
We’ll also get a glimpse of 32-year-old South African Justin Harding. Who, you may ask? Fun Fact: Harding’s the hottest player in the world right now. On the course, not aesthetically; it’ll be difficult to ever top Adam Scottin that regard.
Since the beginning of 2018, Tiger Woods has moved up over 600 spots in the world rankings. Harding? The same. Now up to 99th in the world ranks, he’s reeled off four wins and seven Top-6 finishers in his past eight starts (the other result was a T18). Not even Francesco Molinari can top Harding’s recent form. Now, all these elevated finishes have come on the Asian and South African Tours — aka minor-league tours. While I like to say it’s akin to an MLS player transferring over to the EPL, it’s not an HOW BOUT DEM apples-to-apples comparison. Golf is still a single player (or team, if you’re Jordan Spieth) taking on a course. Of course the fields are weaker, and it’d be ridiculous to think Harding has much of a chance at winning, but if he can continue to strike the ball as well as he has been, simply having better players around him shouldn’t detract from recent heat.
Speaking of heater, at least in terms of sucking them back on the course, as of now, John Daly hasn’t withdrawn. So look forward to two days of hilarious pants blowing out the contrast of your TV. That man was not built for 4K.
2018 PGA Championship Key StatsStrokes Gained: Approach
Par 4s Gained (450-500 Yards)
Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee
Sand Saves Gained
Strokes Gained: Putting
2018 PGA Championship CourseBellerive CC (Course Details/Trends) | Par 70 | 7,317 Yards
Greens: Bentgrass | Fairways: Zoysia
This will be the second PGA Championship contested at Bellerive CC and third Major (1992 PGA Championship; 1965 US Open). Rees Jones redesigned the course in 2005, however, so it’s difficult to glean too much of the skill sets that prevailed on those setups. Also, most of the participants from those events are either dead or like 80 now, so lets toss those away. Even old man Phil Mickelson wasn’t in the 1992 field.
Post-redesign, the lone event event Bellerive has hosted was the 2008 BMW Championship, the third leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. And the strokes gained results were bizarre. The key to unlocking a spot near the top of the leaderboard was a combination of approach and putting. Yes, that’s prevalent at most tournaments, but it’s rarely this pronounced. When you hear players discuss the setup at Bellerive for this year, many continue to preach the importance of driving. By the numbers, in 2008 at least, Strokes Gained: Approach was five times as influential to the Top 10 finishers than Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (+0.96 to +0.19). While Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green barely registered at all (-0.01).
Examining the course, and factoring in the GIGANTIC greens (average size 7,600 square feet), the correlation between a lofty amount of strokes gained through approach and low short game number makes intuitive sense. You can gain strokes from greens if you’re always hitting the green. That’s likely the primary reason the numbers are so skewed. Obviously, 10 years have elapsed, and Bellerive will now get a Major championship, but digesting the 2008 numbers is a solid place to start.
Because of the more difficult setup (Camilo Villegas won at -15) this year, primarily the far more penal rough, expect placement and accuracy from the tee box to play a larger factor. While not as daunting as first expected, Bellerive still will play 7,317 yards as a Par 70, but waver between 7,200 and 7,400 each day depending on the setup. And, since almost half the holes are set as dogleg veering left, expect much of the field to dial it back on the driver a little bit to gain a higher degree of accuracy and smack longer irons into the massive putting surfaces. Driving distance is almost always an advantage, but the gap between the longer and shorter hitters will be less pronounced this week.
The greens are comprised of Bentgrass, as we’ve seen throughout much of the summer swing on the PGA Tour, but the fairway are zoysia grass, last seen in May at Trinity Forest for the Byron Nelson. There are 76 bunkers scattered across the grounds, along with 16 water hazards. With so many green-side bunkers, sand saves gained will factor into the top of the leaderboard if scoring conditions are tough, while the water shouldn’t be too concerning unless the field overdraws the ball on the opening few holes. Now, if the wind begins to pick up, after reviewing the hole fly overs, you can see how some balls will get wetter than Ethan Hawke on a drive-around with Denzel. The greens are YUGE, but a slight miss short or just off to the side, and you’re dunked in the aqua.
Taking a peak at previous Rees Jones redesigns, especially those with loaded fields and set to Major conditions, there are a few common themes. Tiger used to dominate these tracks. But, which courses didn’t he dominate in the early to mid 2000s? Rory McIlroy also performs well.
The big one, though: Look at the string of historic crummy putters who’ve notched victory at these events. When Keegan Bradley and Lucas Glover have Major wins at your courses, expect ball striking to be the more predictive metric than putting for lead-in research. Strong putting ultimately will factor in to the final leaderboard, but as it goes, even the worst putter can be the best over any four round stretch; Wes Bryan is never going to gain more strokes off the tee than Dustin Johnson.
Other Rees Jones designs/resigns
East Lake — Tour Championship: 2017 Xander/2016 Rory/2015 Spieth
Baltusrol — PGA Championship: 2016 Walker over Day/2005 Phil over ELK/Bjorn
Bethpage Black — US Open: 2009 Glover/2002 Tiger; Northern Trust: 2016 Reed over Grillo/O’Hair/ 2012 Watney
Atlanta Athletic Club — PGA Championship: 2011 Keegan over Dufner/2001 Toms over Phil
Congressional — US Open: 2012 Rory over Day; Quicken Loans: 2014 Rose/2013 Haas; 2012 & 2009 Tiger
Medinah — PGA Championship: 2006 Tiger over Micheel/1999 Tiger over Sergio
Oakland Hills — PGA Championship 2008 Harrington over Sergio/Curtis
Torrey Pines — US Open: 2008 Tiger; Farmers Insurance: 2017 Day over Noren/2016 Rahm/2015 Snedeker
Hazeltine — PGA Championship: 2009 YE Yang over Tiger; 2016 Ryder Cup
Cog Hill — BMW Championship: 2011 Rose/ 2010 DJ/ 2009 & 2007 (Tiger)
2018 PGA Championship Picks — Targets From Each RangeRory McIlroy ($11,000)
Unfortunately, Rory’s Major upside comes with more downside than the other top-priced players. Things are looking up for McIlroy, though. Despite what many consider a down season, he won at Bay Hill, has three runner-ups and seven Top 10s in 17 starts.
Statically, over the past 24 rounds, the No. 8 player in the world ranks Top 25 against this field in every permanent metric expect one: Putting. Of the 139 qualified players with enough stats to measure, Rory’s 109th. But, as we know, the flat stick can flip at a moment’s notice. I’d much rather lock myself in with a solid tee-to-green game than rely on a hot putter. He’s the second-most expensive player on DraftKings, but his form, stats and past success at Rees Jones redesigns — 2012 US Open win at Congo, and an East Lake victory in 2016 — along with his Major performances this year (T5/MC/T2) make Rory a favorite to claim a third Wanamaker Trophy.
Paul Casey ($8,000)
Can Casey win a big one? History would say … no, he cannot. But at his price tag, he doesn’t need to win. Lock in a Top 20 Paul, with an opportunity for more, and you’ve done your job. The Brit is always a stat model darling, so much of that based on his consistency. He’s missed just a lone cut in 2018, picked up his first PGA win in nine years at the Valspar and churned out a Top 20 finish in 21 of his past 25 events dating back to last season.
Luke List ($7,100)
List is the team captain of Team Can’t Putt. After scotching out of the gate in 2018, making nine of 10 cuts from February through April, with five Top 15s, List hit a wall and lost his ability to consistency hit irons. That has all come roaring back lately, and all it took was a quick trip overseas. After picking up a Top 5 at the Scottish Open, List churned out a quality T39 at the British Open before returning stateside and hanging with the world’s elite at the WGC Bridgestone.
He’s never going to lap the field on the greens, but if he can produce a net zero with the putter or even a slightly positive performance, the rest of his game will have him in contention. Over the past 50 rounds, List is second to only Dustin Johnson in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green.
Nick Watney ($6,800)
Kevin Na likely will be a safer play from this price range; however, Watney is sharping up to be a legitimate sleeper. Like most of the players getting talked up in here, Watney is dreadful with a putter in his hands, although, he’s seven times better on Bentgrass surfaces than on Bermudagrass. At this price tag, you just need players to get through the cut line, and Watney’s been one of the best all year. He’s missed just two cuts in 18 starts, while only losing strokes to the field on approach five times.
Of his five PGA victories, two have come at Rees Jones courses (2012 Bethpage Black; 2009 Torrey Pines), both of which emphasis a draw off the tee. Watney is risky, most definitely, but is almost guaranteed to come in at sub 3 percent ownership in the DraftKings Millionaire Maker, giving you a lot of leverage against the field if he can sneak his way into the Top 20.
Other notable names appearing near the top of stat models and the win simulator at FantasyNational.com: Dustin Johnson, Joaquin Niemann, Justin Rose, Tony Finau, Jon Rahm, Adam Scott, Kevin Na, Tiger Woods, Webb Simpson, Billy Horschel, Bubba Watson
Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo’s (@ThePME) 14 Fantasy Sports Writing Association nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting) and genre (humor). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at ThePatMayoExperience@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is ThePME) 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. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.