This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
Winner's Share: $1.98M
FedEx Cup Points: 600 to the Winner
Location: Kiawah Island, S.C.
Course: The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort
2020 champion: Collin Morikawa
Life continues to return to normal. In golf terms, that means the PGA Championship is back in May and back at an uber-long course.
Just nine months after the tournament was contested in August as the first major of 2020 and at an uncharacteristically short track, the 103rd edition of the PGA Championship will be played at its rightful place on the golf calendar and on the longest course pretty much ever. The famed Ocean Course checks in at a surreal 7,876 yards, more than 600 longer than last year's Harding Park while eclipsing the 7,741 at Erin Hills for the 2017 U.S. Open as the longest ever for a major.
The 1991 Pete and Alice Dye links-style design has been ranked among the 10 hardest courses in the United States and at times even the absolute hardest. It is extricably linked to golf history, first as the site of the 1991 Ryder Cup, termed "The War by the Shore," and then as home to the 2012 PGA where a still-young Rory McIlroy ran away for a dominating eight-stroke win. Nine years ago, the Ocean Course was extremely long for its time; now it is more than 200 yards longer, with six par-4s of at least 480 yards, but interestingly no 600-yard par-5s.
None other than Tiger Woods – the only golfer in the top-100 in the world rankings at last week's cutoff point who is not in the field – compared the Ocean Course to another Dye design, Whistling Straits, which coincidentally will play host to the the 2021 Ryder Cup later this year. They both feature wide-open spaces with sandy dunes and waste areas – remember Dustin Johnson at the 2010 PGA won by Martin Kaymer? – but there's one thing that Whistling Straits doesn't have that the Ocean Course does: the ocean. There are 10 "exposed" holes on the course. The front nine is far more favorable for scoring; it is shorter and generally plays with the wind. The golfers will have the prevailing wind in their faces on the 4,000-yard-plus back-nine.
So unlike last year when the relatively short-hitting Collin Morikawa was able to navigate Harding Park to victory, this year's tournament overwhelming favors the longest of the long hitters. Not so coincidentally, many of them reside inside the top-10 or so of the world rankings. McIlroy, now up to No. 7 in the world after his win two weeks ago at the very long Quail Hollow Club course, is the betting favorite, along with world No. 2 Justin Thomas. Both are 12-1 on golfodds.com. The good thing for those who like to let fly with driver is that they can do so this week largely free of catastrophe on some wide, wide fairways.
When McIlroy won the PGA in 2012, it was the first major ever contested on paspalum greens. This will be the second. They are a rarity on the PGA Tour, seen at Mayakoba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic – not exactly your most popular events. They tend to run slower than bermuda or bentgrass, though you can be sure the PGA of America will have them cut pretty dang fast. They average only 6,000 square feet, which means all the long iron shots will not have very large targets to hit. And another thing about the greens: While the Ocean Course has some links characteristics, one of them is not being able to run the ball up, as many of the putting surfaces are elevated. There is water on six holes and, while there's plenty of sand all around, there are no actual bunkers.
Let's talk lineup construction. The field is a maxed-out 156. There are 20 club pros who, if we eliminate them from lineup consideration, leave 136. And with 70 and ties making the cut, that's more than half the field. We probably can bring the field down to the 125-130 range after eliminating the older "legacy" champions and some lower-ranked golfers from lesser tours. This means there will be lots of guys in the $6,000s, even the lower $6,000s, reaching the weekend. Which is good, because you will need them to fill out your lineup after taking a high-priced guy or two. With the course so long, we believe the winner will come from a narrow pool of 10-12 or perhaps 15 guys. These are largely the most expensive guys.
Weather-wise, conditions are shaping up to be pristine, and fairly benign. High temperatures will start at around 80 and work their way up by the weekend. It will be sunny with virtually no chance of rain and, most importantly, relatively light wind forecast right now. That can change, and quickly.
Beyond this article, be sure to check out the PGA Championship Value Meter, which ranks every golfer in the field.
Key Stats to Winning at the Ocean Course
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Driving Distance
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation – particularly from 175-200 yards
• Strokes Gained: Putting
• Par-4 Efficiency 450-500 yards
2020 - Collin Morikawa (Harding Park)
2019 - Brooks Koepka (Bethpage)
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 (Ocean Course)
2011 - Keegan Bradley (Atlanta Athletic Club)
We've obviously established a theme of length. But distance alone cannot win any tournament, much less a major. All facets of the game will be required and it's just that much easier from 50 yards or so closer to the hole. But as we always say, there is more than one way to win a golf tournament. We could see a medium-distance hitter emerge with outstanding iron play, otherworldly putting and bogey avoidance (maybe someone with the initials J.S.?). The PGA likes to have its winners somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-under par. Golfodds.com puts the over/under on the winning score at 278.5 – that's 9.5 under.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Rory McIlroy - $11,500 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 12-1)
All it took was one week for McIlroy to re-establish himself in the top echelon of golf. Of course that one week – a win at the Wells Fargo Championship – took 18 months to materialize. McIlroy won the 2012 PGA by eight strokes at this course and, while no one expects an exact repeat, another victory is certainly possible. He is ranked sixth on Tour in greens in regulation from 175-200 yards.
Justin Thomas - $11,300 (12-1)
Thomas used to be among the very longest drivers but he's been slowly creeping back and this season is somewhat surprisingly ranked outside the top-50. But he's long enough, especially with his elite approach game. There's no one better in the game when combining Strokes Gained: Approach and Around the Green. He is ranked third and 10th on Tour, respectively.
Bryson DeChambeau - $10,900 (16-1)
He's the longest driver in golf history. That should count for something at the longest course in golf history. But DeChambeau is so much more than that, up to and including a great putter. His numbers at GIR 175-200 are actually pretty bad. It's hard to figure out why, but he'll be hitting from maybe 25 to 50 yards closer than much of the field. He's ranked far better, 45th, in GIR 150-175. He's also first on Tour in par-4 450-500 yards, the only golfer playing them at par.
Jordan Spieth - $10,100 (16-1)
The PGA is the hardest major for Spieth to win because of its sheer length, so it's no coincidence it's the one he needs to complete the Career Grand Slam. He's come close, finishing as runner-up in 2015 and third in 2019, and that was when he was deep into his years-long funk. Spieth's biggest problems remains fairway accuracy, but rarely are fairways as wide as they will be this week. From that point on in, Spieth's game is as good as anyone's.
Tier 2 Values
Viktor Hovland - $9,300 (25-1)
Hovland has finished tied for third in his past two starts, including at the long Quail Hollow Club course, continuing his great season filled with top-5s. The key has been his improved play around and on the greens. He's already elite in other aspects of his game, despite not being among the very longest hitters.
Patrick Reed - $9,100 (30-1)
Reed makes up most of his ground from 100 yards and in, and he's second on Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting. But his approach numbers (ranked 67th) are also quite good considering how far back in the fairway he is in relation to other golfers. He's ranked second on tour in par-4 450-500 yards, which is just stupid good for such a short hitter. Reed is one of those guys who simply shows up in big events a lot. He's been top-13 in three of the past five PGAs, including runner-up in 2017.
Will Zalatoris - $8,800 (50-1)
Zalatoris hits the ball far and he hits it straight, which, last we checked, is a pretty good combination. He also possesses something a lot less quantifiable: He handles the pressure. He tied for sixth at last year's U.S. Open and was runner-up at this year's Masters, remarkable results for such a young golfer with so little experience in big events. To that end, this will be Zaltoris' first PGA.
Tony Finau - $8,600 (40-1)
We know Finau never wins. But at this price, he doesn't have to. He's finished in the top-10 in eight of his past 12 majors. Really, sometimes the best stat may be the final position on the leaderboard. The PGA may actually be Finau's worst major – he has two top-10s in six starts.
Tier 3 Values
Adam Scott - $7,900 (100-1)
Scott is still among the longest hitters despite now being in his 40s. What's he not is among the straightest, which should be okay this week because of the wide-open fairways. He's another guy who shows up in big events, with 19 major top-10s, six of them at the PGA. He's been top-25 the past thee years. And he also has an affinity for Pete Dye tracks. How is he 100-1?
Joaquin Niemann - $7,800 (60-1)
Still only 22, this will be Niemann's ninth major. He hasn't been very good in them, but at least he's finally started to make cuts, as he's done so in his past two, with a top-25 at last year's U.S. Open. His numbers are simply too good to ignore: ranked eighth on Tour this season in driving distance, 16th in greens in regulation and 29th in putting. That adds up to someone who could be priced a lot higher than $7,800.
Jason Day - $7,700 (80-1)
All Day does is deliver at the PGA. And considering he's now fallen to 65th in the world rankings, it may be the only place he delivers anymore. Seriouly, he has one of the great major track records, especially at the PGA. He's been in 11 and has had nine top-25s and six top-10s. His win came in 2015. He's not among the longest hitters anymore, but it's really his putting that's fallen off the most.
Matt Wallace - $7,400 (125-1)
Wallace caught our eye a few weeks back, we keep returning to him and he keeps paying off. He was 18th at Bay Hill, third at the Valspar, sixth at Quail Hollow, he made the cut at the Masters. Those are all quality weeks. He is an elite fourth on Tour in SG: Approach and 13th in par-4 450-500.
Matt Jones - $7,100 (125-1)
The 41-year-old Aussie has missed just one cut in his past 15 starts and he's the recent winner of the Honda. The win may have been a bit of fluke, but his game is well suited for long, tough tracks. Jones is ranked 33rd in driving distance and 26th in SG: Putting. He's 38th in par-4 450-500. He also just missed a top-25 at the Masters last month (T26).
Jason Kokrak - $7,100 (150-1)
The PGA was built for Jason Kokrak. Or Kokrak was built for the PGA. It's one or the other. Or both. And certainly at this price. He made four straight PGA cuts before missing at last year's shortish aberration in Harding Park. He was top-25 the two years prior. Kokrak arrives having made all 11 cuts in 2021 with three of them top-10s, including Bay Hill and THE PLAYERS. He's ranked 37th on Tour in GIR 175-200 and 21st in par-4 450-500.
Rickie Fowler - $7,000 (150-1)
Yeah, we're going here. Not picking him to win, of course, let's just start out with a made cut and go from there. The 2021 numbers are bad for Fowler, but he does have three top-25s. And he made the cut in two of the three majors last year (not the PGA). Majors are simply a different animal and you can't find many guys at $7000 or lower with so much major success, at least still at age 32.
Thomas Detry - $6,600 (500-1)
The 28-year-old Belgian has never won on the European Tour. But he's made the cut in all but two of his past 34 worldwide events dating to 2019, which tells us he at least shows up ready to play week-in and week-out. Besides, one of those made cuts was last year's U.S. Open, his first and only major until now. And another was less than two months ago when he tied for 13th at Puntacana (paspalum!). He also finished 28th in the very solid WGC-Workday field. Detry got into the PGA by being ranked in the top-100 OWGR; he's currently 98th.