2019 PGA Championship Picks, Rankings, Sleepers

Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2019 PGA Championship Picks. The guys give their fantasy golf picks, provide their one and done strategy for the event from Bethpage Black. But first, Tim Anderson joins to be TRIGGERED about golf technologies and power carts while giving his picks to win the 2019 PGA Championship

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2019 PGA Championship — Picks and Preview | Picks/Field/Course | Picks Podcast | Stat Power Rankings | Quick Picks | One and Done | Picks Cheatsheet | Stats/Tools | Favorites | Long Shots | Sleepers | Busts

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2019 PGA Championship Picks: Show Index

0:22 Giveaways
4:33 Initial Thoughts
39:26 PGA Championship Course/Conditions
42:19 Key Stats
47:49 Favorites
53:35 Tiger Woods
55:38 Second Tier
1:09:49 Middle Tier
1:19:59 Longshots
1:29:48 Quick Picks
1:32:52 One and Done

Editor’s Note: Justin Thomas (wrist) has withdrawn from this weekend’s PGA Championship.

2019 PGA Championship Field

Field: 156 Players | Top 70 and Ties Make the Cut
First Tee: Thursday, May 16 at 8 a.m. ET
Defending Champion: Brooks Koepka

Major season is back on Long Island for the second year in a row. This time for the 2019 PGA Championship. The schedule move from August into the PLAYERS’ former spot in May, the only thing we can judge as it pertains to the event right now is the event tagline has been severely impacted. I might be on an island with this, but “Glory’s Last Chance” has a superior ring to it than the “Second Major of the Season.” The shift into May actually works in the favor of this event overall, though.

While golf crazies all still were jazzed up in August, the average sports fan — the ones who move the ratings needle for Majors — just didn’t care. For fans of NFL, college football, baseball, or whatever else is intriguing in August, who tune into golf a few times a year, golf season usually ended with the British Open. Unless, you know, Tiger Woods is in contention. But, when that happens, it doesn’t matter if it’s the PGA Championship or the Valspar Championship. Tiger is Tiger, and people would tune into him winning your local club event in droves.

By positioning it after the Masters and before the more important US and British Opens, the momentum from Augusta hasn’t quite evaporated and should translate into greater interest. So, instead of having a Major and Playoffs no one cared about, now they just have a Playoffs to attempt to garner interest for in the future. That’s likely a tougher task.

Having the PGA Championship — it’s the 101st this year as an FYI — follow the Masters in the Major rotation also allows for the stark juxtaposition to get highlighted. It’s not impossibly difficult, like a US Open, and it doesn’t have the weird variables of the British Open, but it presents a far different challenge than the tournament at Augusta.

Unlike the Masters, where more than 75% of invitees make the cut, the PGA Championship field is stacked at 156 players, and only the Top 70 and ties make the weekend after two rounds. That gets competitive with the Top 100 players in the world rankings, representing 27 countries, are vying for those 70 weekend spots, along with the next best of second-tier talent of worldwide talent, across all Tours. PGA players like Kevin Tway, Max Homa, Sam Burns, Danny Lee and JJ Spaun along with Euro talent like Erik van Rooyen, Kurt Kitayama, David Lipsky, Lucas Herbert and Michael Lorenzo-Vera are closer to the bottom rung of players in this event, and all of them are just outside the world Top 100.

Now, like all the old dudes at the Masters, there are also 20 PGA Club pros in the field. Cross those guys off immediately. Feel free to do the same with some of the ancient former winners like John Daly, Shaun Micheel, YE Yang and Rich Beem. Just an easy way to make first cuts to the player pool.

Beyond that, however, the middle- to upper-bottom of this field is very close. It gives you plenty of options for stars-and-scrubs builds in the PGA Championship DraftKings Millionaire Maker. If you’re convinced Tiger and Brooks Koepka are going to finish first and second, the depth of talent leaves you with almost $7,100 remaining for your average player for the final four spots on your roster. While there’s a lot of risk at $7,100 and below, there’s also a lot of quality talent, if you can choose wisely. Now, if you decide to punt the $10,000 range, the balanced lineup of beginning with $9,000 players might be more esthetically pleasing to look at on the page. While there’s no Tiger, Brooks, Rory McIlory, Dustin Johnson or Justin Thomas (WD), starting your squad with three players from the Justin Rose, Francesco Molinari, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Tony Finau, Matt Kuchar tier not only gives you an extra top-end player on your roster, but actually leaves you more money remain for your final three spots.

I’d say there’s no correct answer to this lineup construction problem, but since the tournament will happen, and someone(s) will end up winning a million dollars in the DraftKings Millionaire Maker, clearly there is a right answer. I just don’t know what it is. If I did, trust me, I wouldn’t be writing this article; I’d be winning the million dollars. While I don’t have the right answer to properly build your lineups, I do have tip for what not to do: If you’re playing a bunch of lineups, and by “bunch” I mean anything over five lineups, make some tough choices and load up on mostly the same players across your roster. Concentrate your core. It’s hard enough to have the magic six golfers it requires to end up close to the top of the leaderboard, but imagine if your guys hit but get submarined by a crappy $6,000 player performance, and the remainder of your entries don’t have any of those players in them because you decided you were a coward, couldn’t make a decision and just played everyone. That’s what you don’t do. If you’re going to enter a tournament where the top prize is a million dollars and features more than 175,000 lineups, if you’re not playing to win, you’re already doomed.

2019 PGA Championship: Key Stats

Strokes Gained: Off The Tee
Proximity Gained: 75-100 Yards
Strokes Gained: 7400+ Yard & Difficult to Par Courses
Strokes Gained: Approach
Par 4s Gained: 450-500 Yards

Mayo’s Custom Stat POWER RANKINGS from FantasyNational.com

2019 PGA Championship: Course

Course: Bethpage Black
Par: 70
Yardage: 7,425
Greens: Poa

2019 PGA Championship: Past Champions

2016 Barclays: Patrick Reed -9 (Leaderboard)
2012 Barclays: Nick Watney -10 (Leaderboard)
2009 US Open: Lucas Glover -4 (Leaderboard)
2002 US Open: Tiger Woods -3 (Leaderboard)

2019 PGA Championship: Notes

On Long Island, 60 miles from last year’s US Open at Shinnecock hills, the 101st PGA Championship will be hosted at Bethpage Black for the first time. It’s an A.W. Tillinghast design, like other Major venues Baltusrol and Winged Foot. But it’s not like you don’t know the course. Bethpage played host to the US Open in 2002, when Tiger won his second National Open, as the only player to finish under par for the event, topping Phil Mickelson by four strokes. Sergio was fourth that year, too.

Seven years later, a rain-soaked weekend at Bethpage was up again in the US Open rotation. This time, Lucas Glover and Ricky Barnes. Seriously, The Glove and that guy with the painter’s hat. They entered the final round tied at -7, five shots clear of the field, and proceeded to start giving them all back. Glover made his only birdie of the round on the 16th hole, and that was good enough for a two-shot victory over Barnes, David Duval and Phil Mickelson. Tiger finished even par in a tie for sixth, while Sergio, Stenson, Rory and Ryan Moore all churned out a Top 10 finish.

Over the next 10 years, Bethpage was moved into the Playoff rotation, twice kicking off the run up to the FedEx Cup. While there was a noticeable drop off in difficulty between a playoff event and a US Open set, it’s not like the field had an easy time. As a playoff event event, Bethpage Black did switch to a Par 71 from a Par 70, turning one of the hardest Par 4s into an easy Par 5. Still, it was the 11th toughest course on TOUR in 2012. Nick Watney wound up hoisting the novelty check at -10, three strokes clear of Brandt Snedeker. Dustin Johnson finished in a tie for third, with, get this, Sergio. Bubba Watson, Bud Cauley, Louis Oosthuizen and Brian Harman all popped up inside the Top 10 that year too. Among others.

We most recently saw Bethpage in competitive play in 2016. Again, as the first leg of the playoffs, and again, as a Par 71. And, yet again, was the 11th most difficult course that year, Majors included. Patrick Reed edged out a one-shot win at -9 over Emiliano Grillo and Sean O’Hair. The Aussies, Day and Scott, tied for fourth along with Gary Woodland. Rickie, Ryan Moore, Jason Kokrak, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas round out out the Top 10 finishers on the leaderboard.

And if you didn’t know Bethpage Black from those years, you’re likely familiar with that arrogant sign displayed on the first tee. “Recommended only for highly skilled golfers.” This is America; don’t suggest things in my direction.

For the PGA Championship, that easy Par 5 has been dropped back to a daunting Par 4, and the difficulty should fall somewhere in between US Open Bethpage and Playoff Bethpage. Playing as a Par 70, it will measure 7425 yards with three of the four Par 3s playing more than 200 yards and three Par 4s coming in at 500+ yards. Finding the shortgrass is always important at Majors, but there should be some leniency, as the PGA Championship won’t sport US Open unfair rough. The players will be able to find a few greens in regulation from the rough, instead of just instantly making a bogey.

The one wrench in all of this has been the insane amount of rain in the Northeast this spring. There even are multiple days of rain expected in the run-up to the event. So, there’s a chance the course won’t see the roll that’s expected at Bethpage, and the elevated greens might be a tad more receptive, at least early in the event to players with high ball flights. But that’s merely speculation for now. Some times, tracking the weather is just as important as researching stats.

Ideally, the player you’re looking for typically plays well at tougher, longer venues. If you use Fantasy National and sort by Strokes Gained Total over the past 24 rounds on courses that play difficult to par and measure over 7400 yards, you’re looking at names like Brooks, Fowler, Rory, Day, Finau, Molinari, DJ and Reed. Take putting out and just look at tee-to-green play with the same perimeters, and Rory, Day, Molinari, Reed, and JT, Finau, Bubba and Stenson top the list. Tee-to-green is always important, but selecting a plus-distance player possessing a modicum of accuracy with a driver who gains strokes in each facet of Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green metric: Off The Tee, Approach and Around the Green.

Beyond those, if you’re considering additional stats, take a gander at Par 4s gained on holes between 450-500 yards, and proximity gained 75-100 yards. Sounds strange, but the player who effectively can get it up and down from range, is the one saving enough pars to remain near the top of the leaderboard.

2019 PGA Championship — Targets From Each Range

Xander Schauffele ($9,100)
I’ve decided to quit being a coward and just turn myself over to the X-MAN. Schauffele’s gained the 15th most total strokes at Majors over the past two years and made the weekend in seven of his eight Majors, with top-six finishes in four of them. He’s won against stacked field at the Tour Championship, a WGC and the Tournament of Champions, and along with Rickie Fowler, Ryan Fox, Gary Woodland, David Lipsky and Keegan Bradley, ranks inside the top 20 in proximity gained from 75-100 yards, and 200+ yards.

Bubba Watson ($8,000)
You want risky, then you want Bubba. Not quite having close to the three-win season from a year ago, but it’s been on the precipice a couple times already, and there’s a lot working in his favor at the PGA Championship. First off, like Patrick Reed, basically no one is going to take him at $8,000, so if he does end up inside the Top 10, it’s incredible value versus the field on an ownership perspective. Secondly, Bubba tends to play well at exactly the same places every year. They’re known as Bubba Tracks. You know them: Augusta, Riviera, TPC River Highlands, TPC Louisiana and TPC Scottsdale. Bethpage; it may just be a Bubba Track, too.

In three starts at Bethpage over the past 10 years, Bubba churned out a T18 at the 2009, a T10 at the 2012 Barclays, and a T13 in 2016. In both Barclays years, gaining positive strokes in all three facets of SG: Tee-To-Green. Even better, Bubba was able to manufacture those elevated finishes despite losing strokes putting both times, an average of -1.6 SG: Putt over both starts. Since his putter change at the beginning of the year, BUBS started the year horrendous on the greens, but since he’s been mediocre to OK. OK, we’ll take. There could be good news, though. In his eight measured events, only two have been on Poa — Genesis and WGC Mexico — and those events were two of the three times he’s gained strokes putting all season.

Sergio Garcia ($7,900)
In three career trips to Bethpage, Sergio’s finished inside the Top 10 every time. He’s one of the few in the field with that plus distance plus accuracy we crave, and sits second in the field in approach, ninth in proximity gained from 75 to 100 yards and 21st on Par 4s from 450-500 yards. And the major factor: The Poa putting surfaces. In his career he’s been almost 10 times better on Poa than all other surfaces and has gained strokes putting in 11 of his past 16 rounds on this specific surfaces. And, you might get an ownership break after he screwed everyone at Augusta. Most will focus on that instead gaining over nine strokes tee-to-green at a difficult Quail Hollow track two weeks ago, en route to a T4 finish.

Ryan Fox ($6,600)
Scan ALLLLLLLLLLLLLL the way to the bottom, then come back up past the local pros and old dudes, and stop at $6,600 with Fox. The Kiwi surely will be overlooked, and, on the surface, completely bypassing him seems sensible. Just 81st in the world rankings, Fox has real issues with accuracy, chipping and putting. Not ideal. But there are certain aspects of his game that should allow him to fill out your roster if you really want to jam in two high-priced players.

Fox notched his first Euro win earlier this year in the gimmick Super 6 event and ranks third on the European Tour in Greens in Regulation while sitting seventh tee-to-green, 15th in approach and 16th off-the-tee. And he hasn’t been terrible stateside, either. He made the cut in all three of his Major appearances a year ago — and five out of six in his career — and like Rickie and Xander, he sits top 15 in this field in proximity gained from 75-100 yards, and over 200 yards — the two most important iron ranges for the PGA Championship. Just pray he doesn’t combust with wayward drives.

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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 (@ThePME) won the 2019 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Podcast of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Video award, and is a finalist for three FSWA Awards in 2019 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year). His 17 FSWA 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), genre (Humor), and game formats (Daily Fantasy and Traditional Season Long Fantasy). 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.