We’re coming in hot! Hopefully the success we had at Firestone carries into the PGA Championship. This is one of the rare weeks where most of the relevant field all played the same event in the week prior, so we’ll be looking a lot at how the players performed at Firestone.
Most of what we “know” right now about Bellerive is just speculation or second hand reporting. However, the more information we have, the better. Several players, including JT, have said finding fairways will be imperative. Chamblee said a right-to-left ball flight will win, then touted Rory as a result (also puts a damper on Tiger). Tiger himself didn’t mention anything about his comfort level with shot shape here, but did say that players with high ball flights will have an advantage.
Finally, we have course condition uncertainty. The PGA announced that green speeds will be kept a bit slower this week than originally intended to cope with heat and humidity. On Golf Channel’s Morning Drive, the greens were said to be tender and overly receptive. Hopefully they’re nowhere near as bad as Chambers Bay’s US Open greens, but in any case, there could be some extra volatility in putting results this week as the greens get chewed up and bumpy.
Again, only time will tell exactly how all of this will tie together to affect scoring, but we should keep it all in mind as we dive into this week’s picks.
PGA Championship Draftkings Picks
Dustin Johnson was actually bad the first two days at Firestone and still managed to finish third. He dominated the weekend with towering drives and really precise iron/wedge play. Without Chamblee’s declaration that a right-to-left ball flight will win, I would have DJ as the clear number one option. His 2018 numbers are astronomical; he’s gaining 1.136 strokes per round off the tee and another .794 with his irons. It’s no surprise he’s the only player with a birdie or better percentage over 27%.
Rory McIlroy is the only other option I’ll consider from the top tier. He’s capable of dominating any event, and it sounds like this course could be an ideal fit for him. However, while he placed well at Firestone, he actually lost strokes to the field approaching the green. A hot putter made up for most of it, but we shouldn’t count on that happening again.
Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler are overpriced according to my models. Spieth has some ownership appeal, but Rickie is always healthily owned.
Tiger Woods has a projected ownership of 5% right now. What?? Tiger at 5% is a dream, but there’s a lot to worry about with him. Putting was the only category in which he gained strokes at Firestone. Perhaps more concerning, he has struggled all season with right-to-left shots. Chamblee was all over Tiger at The Open precisely because Carnoustie called for left-to-right ball flights. It seems foolish to ignore Chamblee here for the same analysis he nailed at Carnoustie.
Justin Thomas is the obvious play in this tier. JT made Firestone look like a municipal course. Plus, what was one of the major keys coming into the week at Firestone? Fairways. I actually think his ownership may stay at a reasonable level because people are biased against players trying for back to back wins. JT is more than capable.
Brooks Koepka might be my pick to win this week. I used him in both showdowns and the weekend contests because his strokes gained profile fit what we look for perfectly. He was striping the ball in both categories, yet missing everything on the greens… and he delivered. Look for his poise and confidence to return with putter in hand, accompanying a dominant tee-to-green game.
Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood are elite ball strikers, and are always chalky. Both are terrific plays, especially in cash, but I prefer JT and Koepka.
Jason Day has been underowned recently, but is projected to be just as chalky as JT, JR, and Tommy this week. This leaves Jon Rahm as a potential gpp pivot. Rahm is gaining .92 strokes per round off the tee, giving him the 2nd highest rank in my models. He gained strokes in both ball striking categories at Firestone, but terrible putting kept him out of contention. I like him more after writing this blurb than I did before.
Tony Finau and Paul Casey seem to be leading the charge ownership-wise in this tier. Both rate well in my models, especially Casey, but neither combine rating with form quite like Patrick Cantlay.
Cantlay is third in my cut-odds model, thanks to .708 SG:OTT and .476 SG:APP. He gained a stroke and quarter per round off the tee at Firestone… doing so at Bellerive would give him a great chance to contend.
Henrik Stenson is another popular play deserving of his expected ownership. His ball striking numbers were quite good at Firestone, which should put to rest any lingering questions about his wrist.
Bubba Watson is an excellent GPP play. If Chamblee is right about right-to-left having a distinct advantage, Bubba could shine. Plus, he’s gaining an elite .859 strokes per round off the tee. He’s projected for single digit ownership.
Chalk- Good and Bad
Bryson DeChambeau is projected to be chalky, and my models agree that he is underpriced. He’s gaining over half a stroke in each ball striking category. His Firestone showing wasn’t great, but he did improve his score in each round. There are definitely some form concerns here that make him worthy of a GPP fade in my opinion.
Webb Simpson could be equally chalky, but my models suggest this is a mistake by the public. Simpson is losing strokes off the tee in 2018 and while his irons have been great, he’s gaining fewer strokes approaching the green than on the green. His iron play was great at Firestone, but his driving was even worse than usual.
Joaquin Niemann is my favorite play in this tier. I’m hoping people will buy into the narrative that 19 year olds can’t handle the pressure of Majors in order to suppress his ownership, but don’t count on it. He’s gaining .756 strokes per round driving and a massive 1.028 approaching the green in his short career. Small sample size, yes, but those are numbers that cannot and should not be ignored.
Fortunately, my two other favorites in this tier are less chalky. They’re also basically the same golfer.
Gary Woodland and Luke List were a big part of our success last week and we should ride them again. At 7k and 7.1k, they give us a ton of flexibility at the top and each have explosive upside. For as well as JT and Rory drove it last week, these two were even better off the tee. This should come as no surprise, as both are north of .85 SG:OTT (coupled with strong iron play).
Kevin Chappell is another great GPP play. He’s projected for even less ownership than List and Woodland, and is on fire. He followed up his 6th place finish at The Open with a disappointing 39th at Firestone. However, he was good off the tee, money with his irons, and dreadful with the putter. Chappell is gaining over half a stroke in each ball striking category in 2018. He really is a world class ball striker.
Ian Poulter is a man on a mission, the mission being making the Ryder Cup team. He’s in great form and I expect that to continue. I’m going to have a healthy mix of Niemann/Woodland/List/Chappell/Poulter.
There are a surprising amount of quality plays in this tier. Let’s run through each.
- Russell Henley is chalk numero uno. He’s gaining over half a stroke per round on the season with his irons. His current form is even better.
- Thorbjorn Olesen is on a heater, making him chalk numero dos. I’m thinking that if you’re dipping this low, make it a super low owned guy.
- Jason Kokrak is that super low owned guy for me. Kokrak is gaining strokes off the tee and approaching the green on the season. My only concern is that a lot of his advantage off the tee comes from distance as opposed to accuracy. That said, if he’s in a groove with driver he could be a GPP winner.
- Chez Reavie rates very well in my models but is in awful form.
- Aaron Wise is another name whose strokes gained profile really popped for the showdowns last weekend. He came through, gaining in each ball striking category for the week. His putter was lights out, so don’t expect him to repeat his top ten finish.
- Brendan Steele was a huge disappointment last week, but he’s still gaining almost three quarters of a stroke off the tee and just under half a stroke with his irons. Bad putting got into his head last week. A hot putter early on and the PGA could be an entirely different story for Steele.
- Finally, Stewart Cink has been outstanding all season with his iron play, gaining almost three quarters of a stroke per round. That kind of iron play gives him immense upside at such a low price (and near zero ownership).