Bellerive CC: St. Louis, MO Par 70, 7,316 yards
Defending Champion: Justin Thomas (-8) by three over Patrick Reed, Francesco Molinari, and Louis Oosthuizen
Primary Stats- SG: Tee-to-Green, SG: Off-the-Tee, DK Points, Par 4 SG
Secondary Stats- Proximity, Sand Saves, SG: Approach, 3-Putt Avoidance
Timeframe: Past 24 Rounds unless specified. Will look at last 12 and 100 rounds as well
Roster Lock: 6:50 am CST (7:50 EST, 5:50 MST, 4:50 PST)
This is one of the bigger storylines at Bellerive right now. First off, there are no tee-time advantages, as it looks like it will be 90 degrees and 5 mph winds for each of the first two days of the tournament.
The course got hit with more rain on Tuesday, making the course soggy. Some recent rain already had the course playing soft, so more rain didn't help matters. I saw a tweet that Adam Scott hit the fairway, and a splash of water could be seen from the tee. Then, there was a golf channel article saying that a note had been posted for the players that "Due to the expected high temperatures and high humidity over the next couple of days, greens speeds will remain slower than they are planned for the championship rounds." I know this was a concern even back in June, when I was there. Members have not been playing on the course since April (and Media Day in June), but Mother Nature sometimes has other plans. The edges of the greens may not look great; however, players are not complaining about it. Tommy Fleetwood said "The greens are fine. We are just spoiled."
I think this could change throughout Wednesday, as the bomber narrative is starting to pick up a lot of steam. Already playing as a long Par 70, wet conditions will give bombers even more of an advantage. Looking at FanShare Sports, here are the golfers being projected at 20% ownership or higher, as of Wednesday morning: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka. Fantasy National doesn't have anyone above 20% in their projections, but the order of popularity of golfers is similar to FanShare. Two other notes about this: The highest projected golfer in the 7k range is Joaquin Niemann (15-16%), and the highest projected golfers in the 6k range are Russell Henley and Thorbjorn Olesen (12-15%)
Nobody really suprising for me in the 20%+ category, outside of maybe Jason Day. I thought he would be closer to 15%, but his play at Bridgestone last week, and great history at past PGA Championships could be causing this. I'm really surprised to see Niemann be the highest owned guy in the 7k range. It's only his third start in a major, and while the stats, finishes, and talent are great, I would have thought some more established names would be popular. I probably will still play him, but completely understand a game theory fade. I still may end up there as well.
One player that these two sites have some disagreement on is Justin Rose. FanShare has him around 10-11%, with Fantasy National at 16-17%. Regardless, Rose's back spasms from last week are causing people to jump off, though I think he's one of the most underpriced golfers in this field. I do not worry about Rose's back spasms as he's been practicing at Bellerive, and will be putting him into some more of my lineups.
I'm going to list golfers that are definitely ending up in my final player pool
- 10k+: Dustin Johnson
- 9k: Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari, Jason Day
- 8k: Patrick Reed, Tony Finau, Paul Casey, Bubba Watson
- 7k: Marc Leishman, Louis Oosthuizen, Zach Johnson, Ian Poulter, Tyrell Hatton, Gary Woodland
- 6k: Russell Henley, Thorbjorn Olesen, Haotong Li
I mentioned earlier that I will probably have some Niemann; that could change. One golfer I am considering adding that I didn't write abotu in original article is Matt Kuchar (7,900). He hasn't had the best 2018 by his standards, but is still a solid bet to make a cut and end up in the Top 25. He was 9th at The Open and 14th last week at WGC-Bridgestone. He missed the cut at the Canadian Open on the number, thanks to finding the hazards late in his round on Friday. No stat jumps out at me, but he's still Top 50 in almost every stat category. He's being projected right now at 6-8% ownership, which is a little low for me, who has a pretty solid track record of playing well in majors. The only other golfer I may add, if I think driving distance becomes more important is Adam Scott on Yahoo ($21, 20 in minimum). He's underpriced on Yahoo and is 21st in this field, over the last 50 rounds, in driving distance.
Despite some weather concerns about how the course will hold up and play, it still should be a fun week and have drama on Sunday. I don't see anyone running away with this tournament, and wouldn't be surprised if someone unexpected rises up to win. If playing multiple lineups, take a stand against some golfers. I'm taking a stand against Fowler, Koepka, and McIlroy. All three are golfers that can win, and I'm concerned that it will come back to get me on Sunday night. But, I can't play everyone and have to strategically fade golfers. Most importantly, don't play a lineup that you aren't comfortable with. Good luck this week and enjoy the tournament from Bellerive. I will, with memories of how I played each hole when I played there two months ago.
Commonly known as Glory's Last Shot, the PGA Championship is the fourth and final major of the year. Starting next year, it will be the second, as it moves to May. The final August PGA Championship takes place at Bellerive CC in St. Louis; a course I got to play back in June. I'm not going to go into that whole article I wrote about my experience at Bellerive here, but will summarize as best as I can. To read the full article, or to listen to my summary in podcast form, go to any of these links:
Podcast: https://t.co/ecakHs4aKp (Also available on Google, Spotify, Stitcher, Breaker, Pocket Casts, and Radio Public. Should be available on other podcast sites soon, once they approve initial podcast)
My quick summary of what I noticed at Bellerive:
- Lots of bunkers. Greenside ones are 5-10 feet below green surface.
- Greens are huge and have at least two tiers on most
- Rough will be quite thick and almost penal
- Some water comes into play, but not much.
- Most holes are dogleg lefts. Being able to play shots from right to left will be very helpful.
Justin Thomas was there on Media Day and the stat he mentioned would be most important was Off-the-Tee. Who am I to disagree with the defending champion. Approach is always important, but since these greens are large, I think proximity is more important than Greens in Regulation. All of this is combined, with scrambling, in the Tee-to-Green stat. Since the greens are so large, we may see times where golfers have 50-75 foot putts. I'm including 3-Putt Avoidance for that reason. With there being so many bunkers, both off the fairways and around the greens, sand saves is something I will look at. It will play as a Par 70, meaning there are twelve Par 4's. So, Par 4 Strokes Gained is looked at. Finally, I tend to think we could see a winning score in the low double digits; somewhere around -13. Position Points will also be key on DraftKings, so DK Scoring is the last thing I'm looking at. I'm not really looking at tournament history, since the PGA Championship rotates courses.
My initial guess at lineup build will be a balanced approach. There are only four golfers above 10k, and the 6k range isn't as deep as it was for the British Open. There are still some nice plays in 6k range; just not as deep as The Open. So, I think we will either see one 10k golfer, with a bunch of 7k and maybe an 8k golfer, or lineups with golfers from the 7k, 8k, and 9k range only. If you find some values you like, particularly in the 6k range, Stars and Scrubs could be the contrarian build this week. Finally, we don't know how this course will play, as it's been a while since a PGA Tour event was last held here. Even when I played in June, they were concerned about the greens, so I didn't get to play on the fast greens that will surely await the golfers this week. It will be around 90 degrees all four days, so expect the fairways and greens to be fast come the weekend. So, lack of course experience and hot weather means there will be some unpredictability to things here. Onto the picks.
Note: Stats do not reflect WGC-Bridgestone or Barracuda Championship events.
Dustin Johnson (11,400)
If you have followed me and any of my picks in the past year and half that I've written for MyFantasyFix, you know that I often choose DJ. He struggled for a couple of days at Bridgestone, but rallied on Sunday to end up 3rd. He has two wins and two 3rd place finishes the past five tournaments (missed cut at The Open is the fifth). He hasn't missed a cut on U.S. Soil this year, and has 11 Top 10s, with three wins. Whether I look at 12, 24, or 100 rounds, DJ is #1 in my stat model. For 24 rounds, he ranks 1st in Tee-to-Green, Proximity, DK Points, and SG: Off-the-Tee. Starting your lineup with DJ leaves just over 7,700 each for your remaining golfers; something you can easily do with former major winners and players enjoying a nice 2018 below that price threshold. He's the favorite and in good form. I will have shares of him this week, and I think you should as well. (GPP, Cash Game Playable)
Thoughts in This Tier:
DJ is the only one I want to play in this tier. Though I'm not looking at past PGA Championships much, Rory McIlroy (11,000) does have a great history, with two wins, one missed cut, and no finish worse than 22nd in the past six years. It feels like something is missing with him in the U.S. this year, and I would rather pay the extra 400 for DJ. Jordan Spieth (10,700) is a fade for me. Outside of the British Open, he just hasn't been in good enough form for me to have confidence in, especially as the third highest priced golfer. His stats are good from a long-term perspective, but not great in past 12 or 24 rounds. Rickie Fowler (10,200) has been solid this year; but, outside of his 2nd at The Masters, hasn't done enough in majors to make me want to pay this price for him. I think there are better plays in the 9k range that I would have paid 10,200 for if they were in Rickie's spot. So Fowler is a fade for me.
Justin Thomas (9,700)
Thomas got an early look at Bellerive back on Media Day in June. I believe he said he shot a 65, which included a 125-yard hole out on 18. Perks of being the defending PGA Champion. I'm going to be curious to see what people do with him as the defending champion, and coming off of his win at Bridgestone; a similar course layout to Bellerive. Prior to his win last week, I'm not sure people would have been on him. In 2018, his worst finishes are a 56th and a missed cut. Everything else has been a Top 25, with two wins, and five other Top 10s. In the past 24 rounds, he ranks 6th Tee-to-Green, 11th Off-the-Tee, and 28th in DK Points. Over the last 100 rounds, he is 1st in DK Points, and Top 25 in every stat. If we are to think Bridgestone is similar to Bellerive, Thomas has to be in play. I also don't think he gets above 20% with so many good plays in this range, and others not wanting to play a defending champion. (Cash and GPP)
Thoughts in This Tier:
- Tiger Woods (9,900): There were some concerns over the weekend that Tiger didn't look right and may have an injury. I will keep an ear out for that. The reason I won't play him is twofold: He'll be popular (He's Tiger Woods!) and he has struggles in SG: Off-the-Tee, Sand Saves, and 3-Putt Avoidance over all three timeframes.
- Brooks Koepka (9,600) may end up being a strategic fade for me. He's always popular, and stats don't overwhelm me: Good: 3rd DK Points, 5th Par 4 SG, 6th Off-the-Tee. Bad: 113th in 3-Putt Avoidance, 93rd in Approach, 85th in Sand Saves. Ranks are similar over 12 and 100 rounds as well.
- Justin Rose (9,400) is my favorite value in this range, IF his back spasms were a temporary issue last week. 2nd, 10th, and 12th at first three majors this year, already has three wins this season in 18 starts with 13 Top 10s and no missed cuts. 1st in Par 4 SG, 4th in DK Points and 3-Putt Avoidance, and no worse than 26th (Off-the-Tee) in any stat. Will be chalk if healthy.
- Tommy Fleetwood (9,300) also has a good major record this year: 2nd, 12th, and 17th. Makes a ton of birdies in rounds, but also tends to have the one bad round keeping him from winning. 2nd in DK Points and 8th in Par 4 SG, the 99th in Proximity and not great record in three starts at PGA Championships are the slight concerns.
- Francesco Molinari (9,200) is another one I am really curious in seeing what people are doing with. After being on fire through the Open Championship (3 wins, two 2nds, and a 25th at the U.S. Open), he struggled to finish 39th at Bridgestone. One of the 3 wins was at the Quicken Loans at TPC Avenel, which I think is a decent comparison course. 2nd Tee-to-Green, 3rd in Par 4 SG, and 5th in DK points, Sand Saves is the concern across all timeframes.
- Jon Rahm (9,100) will probably be another that I take a stand against, though I don't think he's a bad upside play. Three Top 10s and a 17th in his last six starts. Problem is his two missed cuts in that time frame were the U.S. Open and British Open. 4th Off-the-Tee and 9th in DK Points, the 3-Putt Avoidance and Proximity stats worry me with him.
- Jason Day (9,000) is one that's going to come down to ownership for me.15th is his worst finish at the last five PGA Championships, he was in contention at Bridgestone until a five hole stretch where he shot +5. 1st in Sand Saves and 2nd in 3-Putt Avoidance, the proximity and approach stats are my concerns with him.
Cash: Rose, Molinari
GPP: Rose, Fleetwood, Molinari, Day. Everyone in this tier is playable though.
My Ranking in this tier, factoring in Price: Rose, Fleetwood, Molinari, Day, Koepka, Woods, Rahm
Paul Casey (8,000)
Casey is usually a popular option at majors because he consistently makes cuts, gets Top 25s, and is never expensive. A win, a missed cut, and six other Top 10s in 17 starts this year, Casey is again underpriced. His major finishes are 15th, 16th, and 51st at the British Open. He's Top 25 in all stats except Proximity (39th) and Off-the-Tee (67th). Expand this out to 100 rounds and he's 2nd in Approach, 4th Tee-to-Green, 7th in Par 4 SG, 8th in DK Points, 38th Off-the-Tee, but 90th in Sand Saves. If you think -10 is more likely to be the winning score, than Casey is a legit win option. I think he's got Top 10 upside here and I like this 8k price a lot; problem is so will everyone else. (Cash, GPP Playable)
Thoughts in This Tier:
- Patrick Reed (8,900) has a 1st and 4th in the two majors hosted in the states this year. Has 8 Top 10s on the year and isn't doing much wrong right now; just not as good as earlier in the year, as three of his last four finishes have been in the 20-29th place range. 6th in 3-Putt Avoidance, 11th in DK Points, 12th in Approach, and 13th in Tee-to-Green and Par 4 SG. Proximity and Sand Saves are concerns over long-term and even a little bit for 24 rounds.
- Henrik Stenson (8,700) is my fade in this price range. A 35th and 39th in his two tournaments since his wrist injury aren't horrible: just not something I want to pay 8,700 for either. Stenson has said the wrist isn't 100% recently. He will pop in stat models: 3rd in Approach, 4th in Par 4 SG, and 7th Tee-to-Green. I'll pass and if he wins, good for him, as I do like him as a player.
- Tony Finau (8,100) will probably be chalky: but this is what happens to a player who has a Top 10 in all three majors so far this year. 10th in DK Points, 22nd in Par 4 SG, and 29th Off-the-Tee, Sand Saves shows up as a potential issue. That and he's not the best putter either, and has inconsistent stats over the ranges in 3-Putt Avoidance.
- Bubba Watson (8,000) doesn't have a great major record this year and is up and down on the stats. However, this course has a lot of dogleg left holes, meaning those who play the ball right to left should be suited well here. Bubba fits this profile as he likes to cut the ball. Plus, he has won three times this year. More of a potential course fit play than stats or major history based play.
GPP: Reed, Finau, Watson
Ian Poulter (7,400)
Poulter may be playing some of the best golf of his professional life this year, winning in Houston, four other Top 10s. His only missed cut was at The Open, but has been a consistent Top 30 machine since late February. A rough Sunday at Bridgestone cost him a chance to win, but he still finished 10th. He's Top 50 in every stat category, including 1st in 3-Putt Avoidance. There isn't anything fancy about Poulter, but do you need fancy at 7,400? I don't. A Top 25 is great at this price, and the way he's playing, I think there is some Top 10 upside and even some sneaky potential to win, if you like taking a longer shot. (Cash, GPP Playable)
Thoughts in This Tier:
- Marc Leishman (7,800) has seven Top 10s this year, and has a 13th at the Quicken Loans and 14th at WGC-Bridgestone: two courses that I think are similar to Bellerive. 9th in Sand Saves and 30th in Approach, much better longer-term stats than shorter-term.
- Louis Oosthuizen (7,700) has a good track record at the PGA Championship in the past, and has finished 12th, 16th, and 28th at the majors this year. Five consecutive Top 30 finishes coming into Bellerive. Ranks 6th in Sand Saves, 14th in Par 4 SG, and 18th in Proximity. Really bad stats in short-term in 3-Putt Avoidance (100+) but average over 100 rounds. In recent five tournaments, has gained strokes putting in four of them.
- Joaquin Niemann (7,600) was 17th at the Quicken Loans and got in by a special exemption from the PGA of America. Feels like he's either a Top 20 or missed cut golfer this week. Stat models love him (2nd in Approach, 7th in Tee-to-Green, DK Points, and Par 4 SG), but his Sand Saves and 3-Putt Avoidance ranks are not good over 50+ rounds.
- Zach Johnson (7,500) has five straight Top 20s right now, and has made the cut in all three majors in 2018. Top 50 in every stat except Off-the-Tee (69th). Similar across 12 and 100 rounds, but Off-the-Tee is due to him not having a lot of driving distance. I'm not as worried about his lack of distance as I would be with some others.
- Tyrell Hatton (7,200) came into the Open Championship in great form, but finished 52nd there. Last week at Bridgestone, he finished 28th, but his worst round was a 72 (+2). 2nd in 3-Putt Avoidance, 24th in Par 4 SG, and 35th Off-the-Tee over last 100 rounds. I use 100 rounds for him since he mainly plays on Euro Tour and they don't have the in-depth stat keeping as PGA Tour.
- Kyle Stanley (7,100) played well at Bridgestone, finishing 2nd, which is his 4th Top 10 this season. Always a bit of a streaky player, I'll ride streak into Bellerive. 27th in Proximity and 30th Off-the-Tee, 3-Putt Avoidance is concern over all time frames.
- Gary Woodland (7,000) is rounding back into form after a slump. Was 17th at the Bridgestone, where his worst round was a one over 71. A long hitter, distance could help him, especially on the two long Par 5s here. 3rd in Off-the-Tee, he has better long-term stats, except for 3-Putt Avoidance, as struggles mightily with the putter.
Thoughts in This Tier:
- Kevin Na (6,800) has a win, two other Top 10s, a 31st, 51, 64th, and missed cut in his last seven events this year. His stats are really good: 3rd in Sand Saves and 8th in Approach and Proximity. Rates out similarly over 12 and 100 rounds. The BIG issue: He's among the worst in the field Off-the-Tee, in all timeframes. If you can get over that hurdle, he may be worth a chance.
- Stewart Cink (6,700) has a couple of Top 10s and no missed cuts in his last five starts this year. 5th in Sand Saves, 9th in Approach, and 18th Tee-to-Green, he does have a weakness in the short-term in 3-Putt Avoidance, and in Sand Saves and Off-the-Tee long-term. Like Zach Johnson earlier, I think the Off-the-Tee is more distance related, and I'm not concerned with Cink in that regard.
- Russell Henley (6,700) has a 15th at The Masters and 25th at the U.S. Open this year. Missed the cut at The Open. 8th in 3-Putt Avoidance, he's average or slightly above average in every other stat category over 24 and 100 rounds, except Sand Saves.
- Thorbjorn Olesen (6,700) has an interesting last 7 events: Win, 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 12th, and two missed cuts. The missed cuts were at the French Open and U.S. Open, win at the Italian Open, 12th at the British Open, and 6th at Bridgestone. Don't be surprised if he gets a little chalky down here.
- Haotong Li (6,700) has made the cut at all three majors this year, with his only Top 10 being a win in Dubai, beating a pretty stellar field there. Stats aren't great due to most of the time playing on Euro Tour, more of a major form play than anything.
- Patton Kizzire (6,600) is my 1-2% flyer down here. He's been struggling since getting his second win of the season back in January. However, he was 31st at Bridgestone and 30th at the John Deere prior. Stats aren't great, but for a multiple time winner on tour this season, who may be flashing some form, he isn't the worst punt play.
Cash: Cink, Henley
A lot of solid values, if you are confident in them. Narrowing down the player pool will be crucial this week, as it is in any fantasy golf tournament, but especially majors. I will update later this week with any field additions, ownership trends, and weather forecasts Good luck with your lineups and feel free to contact me on Twitter (@skeeterrobinson) if you have any questions or suggestions.