WATCH: Major Upside: Picks for The PGA Championship
The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course information, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.
The fourth major of the year has all the top international and American players in the field, but it also has a few names you likely won’t recognize. The PGA Championship honors PGA club professionals by inviting the top 20 PGA club pros every year into the event (determined by a qualifying event in June). This is a nice side story for the week, but these players rarely, if ever, are a factor in the actual tournament. This is important for this week on DraftKings, as several of these players might look enticing based on their price alone, but all will be hard-pressed to compete in this field. Make sure you research any minimum-priced golfer before rostering.
A couple names to monitor this week leading in are Justin Rose (back), who withdrew from the WGC last week, and Henrik Stenson (wrist/elbow), who stated he still is dealing with soreness in his arm. Other than that, the field is one of the deepest of the year with more than 150 total players and all of the top players in the world in attendance.
The first three majors have seen high-end winners with Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka and Francesco Molinari all ranked inside the top 25 in the world when they won, and given the depth on tour right now, seeing another top player win here wouldn’t be shocking. The cut this week is the same as a traditional PGA event with the top 70 and ties all making the weekend, with the caveat being that there is no secondary MDF cut on Saturday no matter how many players qualify for the weekend.
Bellerive Country Club, St. Louis, Missouri
Par 70, 7,380 yards (depending on setup)
Bellerive will be hosting the PGA Championship for the second time (1992) and its first professional tournament since the 2013 Senior Players Championship. Even though it has played at different yardages and setups before, it will play as a par 70 this week — two par 5s and four par 3s — and should set up between 7,300-7,400 yards most days. The venue underwent a redesign in 2006 under Rees Jones that “toughened” the venue up. Jones also previously had worked on other US Open venues (Torrey Pines, Winged Foot), and many of the holes set up now as tough driving holes — a thought echoed by last year’s champion, Justin Thomas, who played a practice round here earlier in the year and had this to say about the venue:
“You really have to drive it well to score well here. … The fairways aren’t overly narrow or wide. They’re just a good width, but they have some curve to them. … You really just need to have control of your ball off the tee, so that way you can come into the greens from the fairway and leave it in the right spots.”
On top of putting a premium on driving, Bellerive will test players’ short games with long bunker shots and wide greens that could play fast given the heat this time of year. Three-putt avoidance and sand save skills will be tested this week. The course features Bentgrass greens, and its layout includes six par 4s that measure in at more than 450 yards, including the 524-yard 4th hole that is usually a par 5 for members.
One of the most interesting aspects of this layout is the elevation fluctuation, specifically on the back nine, which certainly will test the players’ irons as they attempt to get the correct yardages for their approaches. The tree-lined venue has several aspects reminiscent of Augusta — elevation changes, complex greens and bunkers and tree-lined fairways — but its redesign and overall length also should make it have a bit of a US Open feel this week. Expect tougher scoring (similar to last year at Quail Hollow) and a high-ranked winner.
Weather Report: As of writing, everything looks good for this week. Winds are expected to be low or non-existent for the first two days, with no gusts forecast above 7 mph Thursday and Friday. Highs will be in the low-90s to high-80s all week with the only blemish on the forecast being a chance of thunderstorms Saturday and Sunday. Expect the course to play fast, though, as the heat and humidity will dry out whatever rain there is pretty quick — even if it’s during play. Overall, scoring conditions should be good, but expect fast, tough-to-hold greens all week.
PAST FIVE WINNERS
2017 — Justin Thomas -8 (over Patrick Reed and Louis Oosthuizen -6)
2016 — Jimmy Walker -14 (over Jason Day -13)
2015 – Jason Day -20 (over Jordan Spieth -17)
2014 – Rory McIlroy -16 (over Phil Mickelson -15)
2013 – Jason Dufner -10 (over Jim Furyk -8)
– Six of the past seven winners of the PGA Championship finished T15 or better in their previous start before winning this event (Thomas finished T24 in his prior start in 2017).
– Four of the past seven winners of this event ranked sixth or better for the year in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee in the year of their win (Dufner 46th in SG:OTT in 2013; Justin Thomas 30th in 2017).
– The past four winners of the PGA combined to average 308.7 yards in Driving Distance for their years of their win.
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee
Par 4 Scoring, Par 4 Efficiency 450-500 yards
Approach Proximity >200 yards
Like many recent PGA venues, Bellerive is set to play long and present players with several tough tee shots throughout the week. Two of the past four winners (McIlroy 2014 and Day 2015) ranked first in SG: OTT for the week they won, and last year’s winner, Thomas, was no slouch, ranking 22nd for the week at Quail Hollow. Outside of pure tee-to-green stats, off-the-tee metrics would be worth weighing here from a strokes gained perspective.
Bellerive is set to play as a long 70, which means plenty of tough par 4s. Looking at both Par 4 Scoring and Efficiency from 450-500 yards seem like good metrics for this venue.
Finally, like last week, the longer holes will present players with more long iron approaches than normal. Proximity stats from 200 yards and beyond — a range that likely will be key given both the long approaches on the course and the longer par 3s — seems relevant.
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful of putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their odds of winning this week.
|Joaquin Niemann||66-1||$7,600||Louis Oosthuizen $7,700 and 66-1
Branden Grace $7,800 and 70-1
Adam Scott $7,600 and 70-1
|Thorbjorn Olesen||80-1||$6,700||Russell Henley $6,700 and 150-1
Stewart Cink $6,700 and 150-1
Kevin Na $6,800 and 125-1
HORSES FOR COURSES
The PGA Championship is a rotating group of courses, so we’ll be looking at overall performance in past PGA Championships but not direct course correlation.
Rory McIlroy has thrived at this event since he joined the tour. Since 2009 he has finishes of T3-T3-T8 and two PGA Championship wins to his credit — five top-10s overall in nine starts. He was T22 at Quail Hollow last year, and his form has been improving of late, so another strong finish at the PGA wouldn’t be shocking.
Jason Dufner has been solid at this event since 2010. Over the past eight years he’s 7/7 in cuts made at this event (with one WD). Including his win in 2013, Dufner also has a T5 from 2010 and a solo second place from 2011 (playoff loss to Keegan Bradley). He made the cut at the past two majors and has found his best major success at this event.
Jason Day has a ton of good major results to his name, but he definitely plays some of his best golf in late summer and has six finishes of T15 or better in eight appearances at the year’s final major. The 2015 PGA winner hasn’t finished worse than T15 at this event since 2013 and will look to bag his second major this week.
Keegan Bradley is someone who not only comes in with good recent form, but a good track record at this event, too. Bradley won the PGA back in 2011 and has made 6/7 cuts at this major. Bradley finished T3 in 2012 at Kiawah Island and finished T33 last year at Quail Hollow. He finished four in his lead-up event this year in Canada two weeks ago.
1. Francesco Molinari is still the hottest player in the world — even with a mediocre T39 finish last week. He has three wins and two second-place finishes over his past six starts with wins at the BMW PGA, Quicken and the Open.
2. Dustin Johnson cooled off for one event in Europe (MC at the Open), but it didn’t last long. DJ has two wins — Fed Ex St. Jude and RBC Canadian Open — and third-place finishes at the US Open and WGC Bridgestone over his past five starts.
3. Tommy Fleetwood faded to a T14 at the WGC last week but has finished T7 (Players), solo second (US Open) and T16 (the Open) at the past three big events. Even without a win since early in the year, he’s in great form.
Top Strokes Gained: Tee to Green (on season)
1. Dustin Johnson
2. Justin Thomas
3. Francesco Molinari
Top Strokes Gained: Putting (on season)
1. Jason Day
2. Phil Mickelson
3. Alex Noren
Cash Games: Dustin Johnson ($11,400) would be my preferred anchor here (more on that below). You can pair DJ with a $9K player like Justin Thomas ($9,700), Tommy Fleetwood (9,300) or multiple players in the $8K range like Tony Finau ($8,100) or Xander Schauffele ($8,200) and have lots left over for some good value plays. Bryson DeChambeau, Louis Oosthuizen, Ryan Moore, Kyle Stanley, Luke List and Kevin Na are all potential value targets here under $8K who offer good upside and recent form for their price tags.
Tournaments: Justin Rose ($9,400) withdrew last week due to back issues but was in great form prior to that and likely will garner lower ownership due to the WD. He’s risky but has plenty of appeal at this price. Jason Day ($9,000) has played well his past two times out and at $9K, he is also either a good pair with Johnson or a good target for a balanced approach. Other GPP targets I like this week include: Phil Mickelson, Shane Lowry, Thorbjorn Olesen, Gary Woodland, Russell Henley and Ted Potter.
MY PICK: Dustin Johnson ($11,400)
From a statistical perspective, there’s no denying who the best player in the world has been this year. DJ enters this week first in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, first in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and first in par 3, par 4, and par 5 scoring. Given his recent run of form and the way Bellerive has a chance to set up perfectly for a longer ball-striker, this easily could be the venue for him to land his second major. Six par 4s at Bellerive will measure in at over 450 yards (two over 500 yards), and given that Johnson leads the tour in efficiency from 450-500 yards, this type of challenging setup should favor him over four days.
There’s also the trend of recent winners of the PGA, which seems to set up greatly in his favor. Four of the past five winners of this event had landed at least a T15 or better in one of their final two starts before winning, with both Jason Day (2015) and Rory McIlroy (2014) winning one of their final two starts. Johnson is not only coming in off a win in Canada two weeks ago but also a T3 last week in Ohio. He might be expensive, but given the setup, the trends of past winners and the way Johnson has performed all season, he’s my choice to bag the Wanamaker Trophy this week and take home his second major championship.
MY SLEEPER: Gary Woodland ($7,000)
It’s been an up-and-down season for Woodland. He won early on with a dominating performance in Phoenix, breaking a five-year winless drought and displaying a very efficient tee-to-green game that was on par with the world’s best at the time. He then underwent a solid streak of missed cuts before regaining some form after the Memorial. He enters the year’s final major having made five cuts in a row, finishing a solid T17 last week at the WGC Bridgestone.
Woodland is a big hitter (sixth on tour in distance), and it’s no surprise a couple of his best finishes in majors have come at the PGA (T22 last year, T12 in 2011), an event that has favored the bombers of late. His tee-to-green and off-the-tee skills have been solid over the past few events, and he ranked first in the field in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee last week against strong competition. He already has bagged a win in 2018, has shown some increasingly improved form of late and should find the course favors someone with good length off the tee and a strong tee-to-green game. To see him push for a top-10 finish at the year’s last major wouldn’t shock me at all.
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