Fresh off a two-week hiatus, the new PGA TOUR season kicks off with a stop at The Old White at TPC in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia for A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier. The September slot will be the first installment of the new PGA TOUR schedule. Back in June of 2016 the course was completely underwater due to massive flooding caused by a storm, and golfers never had a chance to tee it up. The tournament was canceled and was closed for architect Keith Foster to completely restore the course’s original layout. Foster also rebuilt every green complex, introduced new grass and thinned out trees throughout the course to accentuate beautiful views for the fans to admire.
The field will consist of some PGA TOUR vets like Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Marc Leishman and Jason Kokrak. Don’t look for any elite players to show up in West Virginia — the highest ranked golfers playing this week are Bryson Dechambeau (No. 10) and Marc Leishman (No. 24). Conversely, this allows for a bevy of past and recent Korn Ferry Tour graduates like Tom Lewis, Scottie Scheffler, Doug Ghim and Viktor Hovland the opportunity to get off to a solid start. Sungjae Im, the only 2018 rookie to make the TOUR Championship last season, also will make his first of six starts over the next eight weeks.
The Old White at TPC will play as a par 70 and measure just south of 7,300 yards. This course has played host to the tournament since 2010 and not much has changed, even with the storm in 2016. The fairways have been relatively easy to hit, recording 10% higher here than PGA TOUR average, and the highest approach shot distribution historically has been hit between 125 to 150 yards, putting a priority on wedge play. We also have seen Strokes Gained: Approach play an important role here as well as Strokes Gained: Putting, which was the highest strokes gained category amongst top-five finishers at this tournament.
As with most par-70 courses, Strokes Gained: Par Four also will be a key statistic we should be focusing on when building our lineups. Lastly, we want golfers who can rattle off birdies or better on a course that recorded the ninth most total birdies on the PGA TOUR in 2018.
Targets from Each Range
Bryson DeChambeau ($11,000)
He’s the best player in the field by a long shot and played well throughout the summer, finishing with a top-12 at the TOUR Championship. We’ve seen DeChambeau start off strong in his past season-openers with a top-20 at The Safeway Open in 2017 and a victory at The Shriners in 2018. DeChambeau has made eight of his past 10 cuts and has been solid with his irons, ranking top-15 in Greens in Regulation Gained over the past 24 rounds. DeChambeau is an excellent player on Bentgrass greens, ranking fifth in Birdie of Better Gained and just outside the top-25 in Strokes Gained: Putting. Of his five wins on tour, four have been on Bentgrass greens.
Sungjae Im ($9,800)
With all the buzz focused on Viktor Hovland, Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa this past season, we might’ve forgotten how good Im played in his rookie campaign. Of the 35 tournaments he entered last season, he made the cut 26 times and recorded seven top-10s. Sungjae has gained strokes putting in nine of his past 10 events and ranks fifth in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting over the past six tournaments. Im got off to a great start in his first tournament last season finishing fourth at The Safeway Open, which happens to be a course we see a lot of leaderboard crossover with this one.
Scottie Scheffler ($9,300)
The hottest Korn Ferry Tour graduate will be fully exempt on the PGA TOUR this season and should feel confident in his first 2019 PGA TOUR start. Last season, he finished second in Strokes Gained: Ball-Striking and fifth in Greens in Regulation Percentage, which lead to winning twice and ranking first on The Korn Ferry Tour’s “The 25” Point List. Not only has he done well on the Korn Ferry Tour; he made three of four cuts on the PGA TOUR last season with a top-20 finish at The Valero Texas Open. Over his past 24 rounds on the PGA TOUR, which dates back to 2014, he ranks fifth in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and just outside the top 30 in Strokes Gained: Par Four.
Harold Varner III ($8,700)
Varner should have familiarity with the course after a top-five finish here in 2018 and a top-30 the previous year. His best finish of his career came last month at the Northern Trust Open, where he gained 9.5 strokes through approach and 11.3 tee-to-green. Varner also has two top-15 finishes at The Safeway Open, a tournament with a lot of similarities to The Old White at TPC. His putting needs improvement from his 146th ranking last season, but hopefully he (and we) can rely on his ability to score ranking inside the top 25 in Birdies or Better gained over the past 24 rounds.
Sepp Straka ($7,600)
If we’re looking for birdies, look no further than Straka, who ranks fourth in Birdies or Better gained over the past 24 rounds. Even though he made only 13 of 25 cuts last season, Straka finished with two top-15 finishes and a top-three, resulting in a solid rookie season. He’s a strong player on par 4s, ranking just outside the top 30 in Strokes Gained: Par Four and hits his wedges well, ranking just outside the top 15 in proximity from 125-150 yards.
Put your knowledge to the test. Sign up for DraftKings and experience the game inside the game.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is reidtfowler) 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.