DraftKings PGA: PGA Championship

DraftKings PGA: PGA Championship

This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

Purse: $11M
Winner's Share: $1.98M
FedEx Cup Points: 600 to the Winner
Location: San Francisco
Course: TPC Harding Park
Yardage: 7,251
Par: 70
2019 champion: Brooks Koepka

Tournament Preview

It's early August. Last year at this time all four majors were done. Now they are just beginning. Well, three of them anyway. For many years, the PGA Championship was Glory's Last Shot. Thanks to the worldwide pandemic, it will be the first major in 2020, followed by the U.S. Open in September and the Masters in November. There will be no Open Championship this year, meaning Shane Lowry will hold his title for another year. The feel-good winner at Royal Portrush is, in fact, the last golfer to have won a major, now more than one year ago.

For the second straight year, the PGA Championship will be contested at a public municipal course. Unlike at Bethpage Black, there will be no fans. But that has proven to be a minimal factor in the return of golf and should continue that way this week, with a multitude of story lines in play all at once. Where to begin? Probably with Brooks Koepka, who will try to become only the second golfer in history to win the PGA three years in a row. As you'll surely recall, Walter Hagen ripped off four straight during the Roaring '20s. The PGA was match play back then, so you could say that for Koepka this would be a record unto himself.

Koepka finally, finally showed his old form last week in Memphis, ending in a four-way tie for second behind Justin Thomas after holding the lead on the back-nine. That doesn't mean his knee couldn't flare again, especially during eight intense rounds in a span of 11 days. So calibrating Koepka remains a tough call. In the PGA Championship rankings posted on Saturday ($), we listed Koepka seventh.

Tiger Woods twice won two PGAs in a row (1999-2000, 2006-2007), but it's now incredibly been 13 years since he's won his last (thanks very much, Y.E. Yang). He is back for only the second time since golf's restart, and, like Koepka, slotting him was a real challenge among the field of 156, 91 of whom are in the top-100 in the world rankings. Woods has a good history at Harding Park, albeit a bit of ancient history, having won the WGC-American Express (now Mexico) there in 2005. The 2009 Presidents Cup and 2015 WGC-Match Play were also played at the course surrounded on three sides by Lake Merced and situated in the middle of one of America's greatest cities.

Harding Park opened in 1925, having been been designed by Willie Watson and Sam Whiting, and if their names sound familiar it's because they also designed the Olympic Club, which is just across the lake. Harding Park, yes, is named after former president and avid golfer Warren G. Harding (because he died in San Francisco, oddly enough). There have been big tournaments there through the years and it played host to a regular PGA Tour stop in the 1960s. Gary Player, Ken Venturi, Billy Casper and Chi Chi Rodriguez were among the winners. But the course faded from popularity and even fell into disrepair, its nadir coming when it served as a parking lot for the 1998 Open at the Olympic Club. But it found its way back and in 2010 entered into an agreement with the Tour to become a TPC. It is thriving and also scheduled to play host to another Presidents Cup in 2026.

The track is a little bit short in relation to recent PGA Championship behemoths. It has only two par-5s, none after No. 10. The fairways are narrow and guarded by cypress and eucalyptus trees and the rough is said to be ankle high. The course has an interesting setup, with the first nine holes in the middle of the property and the back-nine spiraling around the outer edges, the final five holes situated by Lake Merced. But water will not come into play this week. There are some intriguing holes, including two potential driveable par-4s, though we're sure designers Watson and Whiting would be stunned to learn that they can be reached. There's the 340-yard 7th and the 336-yard 16th. The tees could be moved up on both of them during the tournament. There are also some long holes, including a monster par-3, the 251-yard eighth. And seven par-4s exceed 460 yards. All in all, it's a pretty straightforward, no-tricks track, though there are plenty of danger spots – very narrow fairways, trees and rough. But not many bunkers, not even 50. So success surely will be correlated to accuracy off the tee and greens in regulation – think: ball-striking. The bentgrass greens are large, averaging about 7,000 square feet, and are pretty flat, though expected to be speedy. We'll delve a bit deeper in the key stats and Champion's Profile below.

Now, onto the field. It was configured a little bit differently because of the golf stoppage in the spring. But it's largely the same elite collection of golfers, plus the usual complement of 20 club pros. Invariably, one or more could make the cut, and three who did so last year are back this time around. There are about a dozen golfers in the field who also participated in the 2005 WGC-Amex, in which Woods defeated John Daly in a playoff. Woods, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Zach Johnson and Lucas Glover were in the 2009 Presidents Cup. And about 40 golfers here this week were in the field of 64 at the 2015 WGC-Match Play, won by Rory McIlroy over Gary Woodland in the finals. We usually see some shorter hitters navigate their way into the top-25, or better, and that surely will be the case this year, because accuracy will matter so much.

Weather-wise, have you heard the one about the coldest winter was a summer in San Francisco? Seriously, it won't be that bad, but it will be a far cry from the annual PGA steam baths. Temperatures will top out in the 60s, drop into the mid-50s overnight, with little humidity, but the wind could gust off the Pacific. There will be zero rain.

Fun PGA Championship factoid: Hard to believe, but the PGA has not been held in the Western time zone in more than two decades, since 1998, when Vijay Singh won the first of his two PGAs at Sahalee Country Club outside Seattle. That means we're all in for a treat, what just about all golf fans love: prime-time golf.

Key Stats to Winning at TPC Harding Park

Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.

• Driving accuracy/ball striking/strokes gained: off the tee
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: approach
• Scrambling/strokes gained: around the green
• Par-4 efficiency 450-500 yards

Past Champions

2019 - Brooks Koepka (Bethpage Black)
2018 - Brooks Koepka (Bellerive)
2017 - Justin Thomas (Quail Hollow)
2016 - Jimmy Walker (Baltusrol)
2015 - Jason Day (Whistling Straits)
2014 - Rory McIlroy (Valhalla)
2013 - Jason Dufner (Oak Hill)
2012 - Rory McIlroy (Kiawah Island)
2011 - Keegan Bradley (Atlanta Athletic Club)
2010 - Martin Kaymer (Whistling Straits)

Champion's Profile

We haven't seen the course in action, at least with the same conditions we'll see this week. The 2005 WGC-Amex and 2009 Presidents Cup took place in another lifetime in golf. The 2015 WGC-Match Play would clearly be relevant if it were, you know, not match play. But we know enough to know that the PGA of America sets up its tracks a certain way. The fairways are said to be averaging 22 yards wide. That's tiny; they're normally at least 30. Some years, PGA tracks have been gettable, but don't expect that this year. Two of the past three years the winning score was 8-under: Koepka at Bethpage and Thomas. In between, Koepka at Bellerive won at 16-under. The biggest hitters will still have an advantage, they always do. But not if they miss the fairway. They will need to take a little (or a lot) off the gas this week. Driving accuracy, ball striking and total driving all matter. Missing the fairway will make greens in regulation significantly harder, putting an emphasis on scrambling.

DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS

Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap

Tier 1 Values

Brooks Koepka - $11,100 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 10-1)
In some ways, this guy is a bigger gamble than the guy in the next paragraph. Sure, Koepka looked his old, awesome self in Memphis. Yet how did his knee all of a sudden get all better? It held up for four rounds; can it hold up for eight? He's going for a PGA three-peat, but the pressure won't be so extreme without fans. This will be a very muted major. He almost won last week. The water ball on 18 on Sunday was a dagger but somehow may make Koepka even more motivated.

Rory McIlroy - $10,700 (12-1) 
McIlroy is almost never low-owned. Indications are he will be this week, under 10 percent. Sure, you could say, well, there's a reason he'll be low-owned. No argument. But he's still Rory McIlroy (unlike Jordan Spieth, who's no longer Jordan Spieth). McIlroy shot himself out of Memphis in the first 15 holes on Thursday, going 5-over-par. For the week, he still ranked sixth in driving distance, still ranked 13th in GIR. After all his poor play since the restart, he's still ranked fourth on Tour in SG: Off-the-Tee, 20th in SG: Approach and fifth in SG: Tee-to-Green.

Jon Rahm - $10,500 (16-1) 
The former world No. 1 (cheap shot, we know) has been outstanding in majors the past two years. He notched three top-5s across eight starts, and added another top-10 and just missed a second. Rahm is very long with his driver and pretty straight, adding up to an elite ranking of sixth in SG: Off-the-Tee. Really, there is no weakness in his game, other than his temperament. Rahm had a clunker last week, but that's to be expected after such a big win and taking over the top ranking, however short-lived it was.

Xander Schauffele - $10,000 (18-1) 
Another major, another chance for Schauffele to add another high finish, perhaps even win it. He's finished in the top-6 five times in 11 major starts. He's always sniffing the first page of the leaderboard in big events, including last week at the WGC, at which he tied for sixth. Schauffele is ranked fifth on Tour in greens in regulation, sixth in SG: Tee-to-Green.

Tier 2 Values

Webb Simpson - $9,700 (25-1)
Simpson won the 2012 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club just across the lake. It's not the same course, but the length and weather conditions were. He has only two other top-10s in majors, but they came in the past two years at the 2018 U.S. Open and 2019 Masters. Simpson is not as short off the tee as the narrative goes. Of course, he is highly accurate with just about all his clubs, including his putter. He very quietly tied for 12th last week.

Patrick Cantlay - $9,400 (25-1) 
Cantlay had a great year in the majors in 2019, including a tie for third at the PGA. He's been so-so since the restart. He does have a T11 and a T7, but he has yet to contend, and last week was no different. He tied for 35th. But Cantlay did some things well – he was 23rd in driving accuracy, he was tied for 13th in GIR, he shot 65-67 on the weekend after Thursday-Friday torpedoed his chances. He lost almost four strokes putting to the field in the first round alone, then gained the next three days. If he can repeat last week's Saturday and Sunday across four days this week ...

Collin Morikawa - $8,500 (30-1) 
Morikawa is elite tee to green: ranked second on Tour in SG: Approach, fourth in SG: Tee-to-Green. His short game is far from elite, but there's not a lot to these Harding Park greens other than speed. And besides, Morikawa is very familiar with this track from his days at Cal. After winning the Workday over Justin Thomas, Morikawa understandably was off the next week at the Memorial. But he rebounded last week with a T20 at Memphis.

Jason Day - $8,400 (35-1)
Day has won only one major, but his overall record in them is outstanding. He has 15 top-10s in 37 career starts, plus nine more top-25s. He won the PGA at Whistling Straits in 2015, finished second the next year, ninth the next year and top-25 the past two years. Of course, his recent form has been fantastic, with top-7s in his past three starts. Day is ranked 21st on Tour in SG: Tee-to-Green, thanks largely to ranking second in SG: Around-the-Green.

Tier 3 Values

Matthew Fitzpatrick - $8,100 (50-1)
The caddie doesn't seem to matter, the course doesn't seem to matter. Actually, the tracks have both been tough in Fitzpatrick's past two starts, and he followed up a tie for third a the Memorial with a tie for sixth at TPC Southwind. This will already be his 20th career major. He had three top-25s in them last year, though the miss was at the PGA. He's among the more accurate off the tee, which he'll really need this week, what with his short distance. Fitzpatrick has moved to second on Tour in SG putting.

Abraham Ancer - $7,700 (50-1) 
At this price, this will be one popular pick. Ancer has finished in the top-15 in four of his past five starts, including last week in Memphis. He tied for 16th in last year's PGA. Ancer has medium length off the tee and is pretty accurate. He's ranked 20th on Tour in SG: Tee-to-Green. And his putting has improved – he's now ranked 42nd.

Chez Reavie - $7,400 (125-1) 
Reavie has been playing majors for almost two decades now. He's really starting to get the hang of them. His last three PGAs have been T22-T12-T14. He also tied for third in the U.S. Open last year. This course will be long for him, but so were all of those. He rides three straight top-25s into San Francisco, including a tie for sixth last week. Reavie is ranked sixth on Tour in driving accuracy. His GIR numbers aren't great, but his scrambling is.

Henrik Stenson - $7,300 (125-1)
This pick is all about the price. The upside is big. A missed cut is possible. Stenson has played only once since the restart – and he tied for 35th last week while finishing dead-last in driving distance in the 78-man field. In some ways, that's pretty good, to still be able to tie for 35th. And when you see he was tied for 13th in the field in greens in regulation from so far back in the fairway, that's very good. He also was third in scrambling. Stenson – who by the way is still ranked 33rd in the world – has had many great finishes in majors. He made all four cuts last year, tied for ninth at the U.S. Open, for 20th at the Open Championship. This pick is all about the price.

Long-Shot Values

Kevin Kisner - $7,100 (125-1)
Kisner has a lot of bad results on his ledger, but he manages to keep his world ranking (34th) propped up with some good finishes – such as last weeks's tie for 25th in Memphis. He's made the cut 15 out of 20 times in majors, and ran off a great stretch at the PGA from 2016-18 –T18-T7-T12 – before missing the cut last year. His stats don't fit our model, other than a ranking of 38th in driving accuracy. But Kisner usually seems to get the job done with his short game and his smarts.

Doc Redman - $6,900 (250-1)
If you're looking for someone to get from Point A to Point B in the shortest possible distance, this is your guy. The 22-year-old Redman is a medium length hitter who's very accurate, leaving him tied for 11th in total driving. And he's 12th in GIR, which is especially important for him since he's terrible around the greens (and not much better on them). He's also sixth in ball striking. Redman tied for 20th at the Open Championship last summer, just his second major. He has six top-25s this season, three since the restart.  

Russell Henley - $6,600 (250-1) 
Not sure you can say a player ranked 181st in the world is peaking at the right time, but Henley surely is playing better than he was earlier in the season, when he missed five straight cuts. He's made five of his last seven, with two top-10s and a third top-25. He's a short but accurate driver, and ranks fifth in SG: Approach and 18th in SG: Tee-to-Green. That's a perfect recipe for making the cut. Henley is good at making cuts in majors, 16 times out of 24 – and half of them have been top-25s, including 2015-16 at the PGA.

Zach Johnson - $6,500 (250-1) 
We're at the bottom of the page. The last golfer. You're looking to make a cut. Johnson is no longer the same guy who won two majors; he won't win a third. But despite his plummeting world ranking, now in the 200s, he has somehow been able to stick around for the weekend at major after major. He had made 10 straight cuts in majors before missing at the weather-plagued Open Championship last summer. He's made six of his past seven cuts on Tour this season. He hardly ever gets a high finish, though he did notch a top-20 at the PGA just two years ago. And another one at the Travelers a little more than a month ago. Oh, one more piece of advice: Don't pick the other Zach JohnsonZach J. Johnson, one of the club pros.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Len Hochberg plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DK: Bunker Mentality.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Len Hochberg
Hochberg covers golf for RotoWire. A veteran sports journalist, he contributes to Sports on Earth and was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years.
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