It’s amazing to think, given how long the PGA season is, but we’re finally at the last major of the year. The PGA Championship may get the label as the weakest major, but in truth its field is likely stronger than at least two of the other majors, and it always brings us to some of the best venues in the world. This year were headed to one of the most revered stops on tour in Quail Hollow, which has been renovated quite extensively for this year’s event. I’ll talk more about the course in my notes but for now know that the course has been changed to a par 71 (with only three par 5’s now) and will play at a very long 7,600 yards.
The Course: Quail Hollow has traditionally been the host of the Wells Fargo event, but it gave up hosting that for a year so it could be renovated for this year’s PGA. I won’t go over everything, but do know that new holes were created and a couple essentially change dramatically. The course now plays as a par 71 (three par 5’s) and uses Champion Bermuda on the greens. Its signature finishing stretch, dubbed the Green Mile, remains intact and will test any leader to make par down the stretch. Of note, there is now up to eight par 4’s on the course that can play 450 yards or longer and two that will play over 500 yards for the week.
The Weather: It gonna rain. There are literally thunderstorms in the forecast for all four days of this event as of now, so expect some starting and stopping. This will likely be similar to last year which saw disjointed rounds throughout. The course already suits bombers, but a wet course could definitely magnify this advantage even more. We saw two of the biggest hitters off the tee—and also most inaccurate—duel down the stretch last year in wet conditions, and a similar scenario could play out here.
Rickie Fowler ($10,700): While most people will likely flock to Rory McIlroy and his superb Quail Hollow record, I’m inclined to take the discount on a player who has nearly as good a track record at this venue. Fowler is in the midst of his most consistent season on tour, and while he still only has one win to show for it, that could all change here. Over six appearances at Quail, Rickie has picked up three top sixes (including a win), and his proficiency in both par 5 scoring and par 4 efficiency from 450-500 yards (top ten in both stats) means he should be up for a toughened course. He’s performed well in the majors this year and this venue and event might just be the perfect mix.
Hideki Matsuyama ($10,500): While it was nice to see one of my main picks run away with things last week, it’s slightly unfortunate from a DFS perspective as Matsuyama will be coming into this major with a lot of fanfare. Hideki’s tee to green game has been flowing for about the past month or so and even though he doesn’t have much experience playing Quail, like Fowler, his rank of first in par 5 scoring and fourth in par 4 efficiency form 450-500 yards on the season means he should be ready for this beefed up test. I doubt we’ll see another run away win, but if he putts to field average again we may see Japan’s rising sun grab his first major title. There’s too much to like to fade.
Justin Thomas ($8,900): Thomas finally pulled out of a short slump last week. While he only posted a T28 finish, the fact that JT was third in SG: Tee to Green for the week is very encouraging. Thomas had been struggling with his irons and off the tee in his last three starts, but his putting is really what held him back last week, and a change to Bermuda greens, at a venue he finished seventh at in 2015, might be the solution to that issue. Don’t be shocked if the birdie machine posts another strong major finish, he’s a great DraftKings target this week.
Others: Marc Leishman
Paul Casey ($7,800): If going with the adage that consistency will eventually be rewarded, than it’s hard not to like Paul Casey. The Englishman has now finished T26 or better in each of his last eight starts and has seemingly been only a miss or two away from being there for the win at the end of his last three starts. Regardless of whether you think he can win or not, Casey is sub-8k this week on DraftKings and has performed well at other longer par 71 and 72 venues with some correlation to this week, including the Golf Club of Houston, Riviera and this year’s Wells Fargo venue (Eagle Point). He’s fantastic value on DK.
Daniel Berger ($7,700): There’s a lot of good values in Berger’s range on DraftKings but given his price drop, and the fact he’s coming off a decent warm-up at the WGC last week I’d venture to say he’s still one of my top plays. He’s had two solid outings at Quail the past two seasons and has performed well at other venues with similar characteristics over his short career. He’s also top 25 for the season in par 5 scoring and par 4 efficiency ratings from 450-500 yards.
Thomas Pieters ($7,500): Many of the past winners of the PGA Championship have preceded it by a good week at the Bridgestone. Pieters was leading that event after round three, but struggled badly with his putter on Sunday. Still, the improved form we saw from Pieters has to make him a great target for this week on a course that features more par 5’s and should favour big hitters off the tee. Pieters was sixth in SG: Off the Tee at the WGC and second in approaches. A slight improvement with the putter could mean a massive week from the Belgian star.
Gary Woodland ($6,700): Of all the players who struggled last week, Woodland is the one I’d be most likely to give a pass to. After finishing T3 in Canada, the 33 year old was likely a little spent form coming so close (yet again) to a win and also has new responsibilities as a Dad that likely caved in on his WGC focus. I’d imagine his attention is 100% back on golf this week though as Quail really does set up great for him. Having won at Copperhead a few years back, another classical tree-style venue with long par 4’s, and having finished T4 here in 2015, this may represent Woodland’s best shot at winning a major. He’s good value in DFS and should rebound in a big way after a down week.
Others: Charley Hoffman, Tony Finau
High-upside GPP Picks
Russell Henley ($7,400): Henley has been solid at the first three majors, and I see no reason why he can’t possibly save his best for last here. The Georgia native was sloppy in Ohio last week, but has shown the ability to turn his play around in a hurry. He has little course history at Quail but his performance at venues like Copperhead and the Golf Club of Houston suggest this is a venue he can excel at. For DraftKings purposes, Henley sits at 37th in birdie or better percentage, so even if he slips down the leaderboard at some point, big bonus points are still in play for gpp purposes.
Patrick Cantlay ($6,900): Cantlay may not have put up many results lately, but there’s every reason to believe this could be the spot for a real breakout. Cantlay has elite par 5 scoring numbers and with Top 5 placings at Copperhead and Hilton Head (two longish par 71’s) the potential for a big week at Quail Hollow definitely exists. In DFS, Cantlay is great value and in tournaments should be fairly low owned giving him nice gpp upside.
Sean O’Hair ($6,700): O’Hair has been up and down since Texas when he recorded a couple of top 5’s on the back of mostly hot putting. His recent outing was impressive though as he had an excellent week with his irons in Canada, finishing T10 for the week and T3 in Greens in Regulation. O’Hair is a good par 5-scorer who still averages over 297 yards off the tee making him a great fit for Quail Hollow; and the fact he’s a past champ (2009) is a pretty good indication of this too. At almost guaranteed sub-5% ownership, he’s a great Milly Maker target this week on DraftKings.
Other: Dustin Johnson
Players to Consider (in no order)
– Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, Daniel Berger, Thomas Pieters, Justin Thomas, Paul Casey, Gary Woodland
– Charley Hoffman, Russell Henley, Patrick Cantlay, Sean O’Hair, Marc Leishman, Tony Finau
Thomas Pieters 50-1 EW
Paul Casey 60-1 EW
Gary Woodland 125-1 EW
Sean OHair 250-1 EW and 8-1 Top 20