This week is the PGA Championship, the conclusion to what might be one of the most dramatic major season's golf has seen in years. Oak Hill Country Club is a formidable test that will challenge all facets of a player's game. So who should fantasy owner's start this week? Let's delve into the stats to help you set your lineup.
Oak Hill is a tight, tree-lined golf course. Everyone who has stepped foot on the property this week has noted the rough is up (though its super height may just be a mechanism to allow for it be cut to the desired height later this week), so hitting fairways and greens will be a premium. Here are the top-five players in each category in the field this week.
Tim Clark, 70.47% - Clark is not a long hitter (he averages 275 yards per drive, 181st on tour), and when you don't hit it long, it's easier to keep it in the fairway.
Ken Duke, 70.46% - Ditto, as Duke only hits it two yards farther than Clark.
Henrik Stenson, 70.13% - Stenson's appearance on this list is slightly surprising as he hits it almost 291 yards a pop. As a result, it's no surprise to see him fourth in total driving, the stat that combines distance and accuracy.
Jim Furyk, 69.89% - Furyk has made a living off fairways and greens, and it starts with accurate drives.
Zach Johnson, 68.10% - Johnson won a green jacket laying up on every par-5 he saw, and part of that came from hitting it in the fairway every time.
GREENS IN REGULATION
Graham DeLaet, 71.27% - DeLaet might be the best player never to win a PGA Tour event who no one knows about, and his all-around strong game shows in how many greens he's hitting every week.
Henrik Stenson, 71.09% - Stenson has gone 2-T2 over his last two starts, and hitting greens is one of the reasons why.
Bubba Watson, 69.77% - If you're wondering why Watson of all people hits a lot of greens from where he hits it, see the next stat category.
Boo Weekley, 69.74% - Weekley has seen a resurgence in 2013, nabbing his first victory in years and getting his card back. That positive momentum starts from hitting a lot of greens.
Vijay Singh, 69.19% - Vijay's iron work on the back of the TPC Sawgrass range has payed off in this category, albeit not in the victory category, however.
GREEENS IN REGULATION FROM OTHER THAN THE FAIRWAY
Here's a PGA Tour ShotLink stat that you don't hear much about but could be crucial for this week: Greens in Regulation from Other Than the Fairway.
Vijay Singh, 60.14% - Singh's gym work pays off here as his ability to get on the green from precarious spots puts him tops on the list of those in the PGA Championship field.
Charles Howell III, 59.74% - Howell's inclusion here is frankly surprising for someone who is relatively small (the PGA Tour lists him at 155 pounds), but his consistent swing helps him get out of trouble.
Graham DeLaet, 59.41% - Another part of DeLaet's success has been his recovery from errant drives, which has helped elevate his overall GIR ranking to one of the best on Tour.
Bubba Watson, 58.22% - Here's why Watson is so high on the greens in regulation hit. He hits greens nearly two-thirds(!) of the time he misses the fairway off the tee. His creativity is coming in extremely useful.
Dustin Johnson, 58.19% - Upon reflection, another reason why Watson – and Johnson, too – can hit so many greens after errant drives are because their drives go so far. If you get the ball down there far enough – especially on golf courses without thick rough – it's fairly easy to get short irons or wedges onto greens from no matter where they are, whether it's rough a bunker, or near a tree.
STROKES GAINED - PUTTING
Strokes Gained - Putting is widely considered the best putting stat available. Simply put, the stat measures how many strokes a player "gained" or "lost" on the field (culled from what the average tour pro does from that given distance) on every putt on the PGA Tour.
Sergio Garcia – Garcia's off-the-course comments have overshadowed a fairly solid 2013, where his putter of all things has shined brightest. Garcia enters the PGA Championship with four top-10s in 11 starts on the PGA Tour.
Tiger Woods – You don't get five victories and shoot a 61 without a hot putter and especially since Steve Stricker's tip at Doral, Tiger's putter has really come on strong this year. It is imperative to note, however, that the four majors do NOT use the PGA Tour's ShotLink laser system, so as a result this stat does not include Tiger's weekend putting woes so far at the majors.
Luke Donald – While it might seem, to some, like Donald has had a disappointing year, he does have four top-10s in 12 starts in 2013, so his putter has helped him get several strong finishes.
Phil Mickelson – While this doesn't include his win at the Open Championship, Mickelson has said over and over again that this is the best putting year he's ever had on Tour, and the stats bear it out as well. By the way, smart choice on putting a practice putting green in your backyard last offseason, Phil.
Brandt Snedeker – His inclusion on this list is also no surprise, as his unique "pop" putting stroke has led to two victories this season.
In a recent radio interview, CBS Sports' Jim Nantz recalled that the final leaderboard at the 2003 PGA Championship at Oak Hill – with the top-four finishers consisting of four complete unknowns in Shaun Micheel, Chad Campbell, Tim Clark (this was before he won The Players) and Alex Cejka – was the oddest he'd ever seen. In fact, when you dig deeper, the only player who finished in the top-10 that week who is still a bonafide player is Ernie Els. (Clark's game is on the rise, however, after injury issues beset him for several years). Taken with the fact that Tiger was in the middle of a swing change and Phil backed up on the weekend (and was living with the burden of not having won a major yet), one comes to the conclusion that a history lesson is probably not the best indicator of who to start or sit on your fantasy team this week.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Keegan Bradley – Bradley, who won the PGA Championship in 2011 and finished second last week at Firestone, is third in all-around ranking (the combination of a player's ranking in every key stat category) this year.
Jordan Spieth – Spieth, the brand-new American star whose stellar 2013 includes the playoff win at the John Deere Classic, is fourth in all-around ranking.