The PGA TOUR travels west to San Francisco for the first major of the season, the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park. The course will play as a par 70, measuring 7,251 yards, and the putting will take place on bentgrass greens.
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The PGA Championship usually plays as the second major of the season, but COVID-19 caused it to be the first. Last season was the first year it was played in May (the event’s permanent date moving forward) but it was moved back to August this year due to the scheduling change. The field will be similar to last week with most of the top 50 in attendance, along with Tiger Woods, who will make his first appearance since nearly missing the cut at the Memorial and his second appearance since the return. He and Rory McIlroy are the most recent winners at TPC Harding Park. Woods won the 2005 WGC American Express Championship, and Rory claimed the top spot at the WGC Match Play in 2015. They’ll both be looking to dethrone the back-to-back champ, Brooks Koepka, who just finished T2 last week in Memphis at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
Although TPC Harding Park plays shorter in pure distance than the previous two PGA Championships (Bellerive CC, Bethpage Black), it will be a behemoth with seven par 4s measuring over 460 yards and a 251-yard par 3, one of the longest on the PGA TOUR. The PGA Championship played as the hardest courses in scoring relative to par last season and ranked 14th the previous year. Even though longshots like Y.E. Yang and Shaun Micheel have won the PGA Championship, it has mostly been the top ranked players who have hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy. Since 2014, the winners have been Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka. Walker does seem like the outlier in this group, but the year he won, he finished the season as the 21st ranked golfer and moved up to 15th the following week after being ranked 48th coming into the tournament.
Not only do the golfers have to be playing well enough to be ranked high, but they’ll also need an acumen off-the-tee. Distance will be significant this week, and while it’s advantageous most weeks, we should also be focusing profoundly on accuracy. The two water hazards on TPC Harding Park will not be in play, so the course’s primary defense against the golfers are 47 bunkers and very thick rough off the fairway and around the greens. We’ll also see a few tee boxes that’ll increase the course close to 7,400 yards in some cases.
Our lineups will need to focus more on Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green this week as opposed to just extrapolating either off-the-tee or approach. In 2018, over their previous 12 rounds leading into the tournament, the average tee-to-green rank of the golfers who finished inside the top 10 was 24th, and last season it was 33rd. Still, approach will be essential this week, especially from 175-plus yards away with golfers most likely prioritizing accuracy over distance off-the-tee this week, forcing them to lay back and have longer approach shots into these bentgrass green complexes.
The term ‘stacking’ in golf DFS isn’t used much, and if it is, it often refers to rostering golfers during similar tee draws due to weather concerns early or late in the day. Another definition refers to rostering players of the same skill set. Targeting players who can hit it long off-the-tee is a prudent strategy this week, and rostering six players who have a proclivity to pull driver off-the-tee may be successful. There should also be consideration to fill your roster spots with the shorter hitters/elite iron-players as the contrarian strategy. The overarching consensus is the course will play long and fast, and while that’s true, we’ve seen players like Webb Simpson, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth rank inside the top 12 in Strokes Gained: Total at the PGA Championship since 2014.
Lineups will look a lot like they did last week at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, so deploying a similar strategy of using less than the allotted $50,000 salary will again be heavily advised.
Dustin Johnson ($9,000)
We shouldn’t have a ton of question marks about a player who won a little over a month ago, but here we are. Johnson came into last week with two rounds of 80 and one of 78 before shooting four rounds in the 60s en route to a T12 in Memphis. There are a few golfers who have the distance off-the-tee to go along with solid wedge-play; Dustin Johnson is one of them. He’s changed his putter since his win in Cromwell, so we’ll need to monitor what’s happening pre-tournament, but his solid play last week and his propensity to play well in California makes him one of the better golfers in this salary range.
Daniel Berger ($8,800)
A few golfers are playing better than Berger right now, but none have been more consistent since returning. He did miss the cut at the Memorial, but in the other three events, he’s finished no worse than third and won the Charles Schwab Challenge, proving he can win without a ton of tournament reps. He’ll make his way to TPC Harding Park with a ton of confidence, gaining the most strokes in approach on the weekend in Memphis while ranking inside the top 40 off-the-tee and 17th in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green over the last two months.
Abraham Ancer ($7,700)
Ancer looked like he might’ve been dealing with an injury before the Memorial, which may have led to his poor iron-play, losing 7.5 strokes through approach, his worst outing since joining the PGA TOUR. Last week was his first tournament back and he didn’t disappoint, posting a top 15 finish while gaining four strokes tee-to-green on the weekend. We’ve seen players like Jimmy Walker, Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner win their first major at the PGA Championship, and Ancer could be in line for a similar fate if his irons stay hot.
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Shane Lowry ($7,500)
Not being able to defend his Open Championship hasn’t stopped Lowry, who finished inside the top 10 last week at TPC Southwind. As one of the best long-iron hitters on the PGA TOUR, Lowry should be feeling confident on this coastal course even if he doesn’t have a ton of distance off-the-tee. Lowry ranks first in proximity to the flag from 200-plus yard approaches over his previous 12 rounds.
Henrik Stenson ($7,300)
Stenson made his return last week at TPC Southwind and finished in the top 35, gaining 0.83 strokes tee-to-green. He had his irons working nicely on Thursday and Friday, gaining just about four strokes total through the approach but struggled on the weekend, losing 1.8. Stenson could be rusty after a long layoff and probably felt some fatigue over the weekend golf, but it’s a good sign that Henrik was able to play well in his first competitive rounds since March. He’s one of the best long-iron players and one of the most accurate off-the-tee (with his 3-wood), ranking second in fairways gained over his previous 50 rounds.
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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.