This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
Location: Kohler, Wisc.
Course: Whistling Straits
2018 champion: Europe
They are moments that are seared into our memories: Justin Leonard's epic 45-foot putt at The Country Club in 1999 ... Bernhard Langer agonizing six-foot do-or-die miss at Kiawah in 1991 ... Patrick Reed shhhs-ing his way past Rory McIlroy at Hazeltine in 2016 ... Ian Poulter's five straight birdies – all of them daggers into the heart of the American team at Medinah in 2012 with the memory of Seve Ballesteros galvanizing the Europeans.
There are few things in sports, and nothing else in golf, quite like the Ryder Cup. It's hard enough for the golf world to wait two years for each biennial competition, but it's been three long years since the United States and Europe last met at Le Golf National in Paris in 2018, as last year's matches were a casualty of the worldwide pandemic (technically, they are still calling this the 2020 Ryder Cup).
This year, captain Steve Stricker ushers in the start of a new era for the U.S. squad, with half of his 12-man squad comprised of Ryder Cup rookies. Conversely, European captain Padraig Harrington will try to squeeze one more ounce of glory out of Europe's aging warhorses Sergio Garcia. Lee Westwood and Poulter. Of course, both teams are also filled with the sport's best in-their-prime superstars led by Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas on the American side and McIlroy and world No. 1 Jon Rahm for the Europeans.
It all starts on Friday morning at the behemoth Whistling Straits, with four foursomes (alternate shot) kicking off the 28-match competition. It will be followed by four fourball matches (best ball) in the afternoon, then a repeat of that format on Saturday, all leading to the 12 head-to-head singles matches on Sunday.
The DFS golf world has been salivating for the day DraftKings would have Ryder Cup games, and now they do. We don't know the pairings yet, and won't until all the pomp and circumstance of the opening ceremonies on Thursday evening, but the prices are out. And befitting the Ryder Cup, all lineups must be set up in Captains Mode. While there will be the traditional six-man lineups with a $50,000 salary cap, every gamer must pick a team "captain." It is far from a ceremonial decision; it is critical. Your lineup captain will accrue 1 1/2 times the points he would have under ordinary circumstances, but here's the catch – and you knew there would be – he will cost 1 1/2 times his designated price. For example, Rahm is the top guy at $9,800 but would cost you a whopping $14,700 as your captain, almost 30 percent of your budget.
Since there are only 24 guys in the competition, let's just list them all right here, with the regular price and Captain's Mode price.
It is important to note that this is just for Friday's matches. It should go without saying that you should not lock in a lineup until seeing who will be playing on Friday morning and against whom. Don't forget that there's a chance one or two of the 24 golfers won't even play on Friday; others could play both morning and afternoon.
As you can see, the prices are heavily weighted toward the Americans, which is understandable considering their collective higher world rankings. After Rahm, eight of the remaining nine in the top-OWGR are on the U.S. squad. Which is just crazy, as in 1927 Murderer's Row Yankees crazy. As if that's not enough, super-long Whistling Straits favors the Americans and has been further set up to play to their strengths. That's the advantage of being the home team – each captain can set up the course to the strengths of their players. Le Golf National in Paris was not long, but it was oh-so-tight, and the Europeans won in a romp.
Complicating that is that the captains will try to pair complementary players. For instance, a long hitter with a short-game specialist. This is all unchartered territory for DFS golf. The closest we've come was the WGC-Match Play, which, in all candor, is not very close at all.
We have some indications as to who might be playing with whom. The captains have rolled out groups of four to in their Tuesday practice rounds: DeChambeau/Scheffler/Spieth/Thomas, Cantlay/Johnson/Morikawa/Cantlay and Berger/English/Finau/Koepka for the Americans, with Fleetwood/Hatton/Lowry/Rahm, Casey/Fitzpatrick/Poulter/Wiesberger and Garcia/Hovland/McIlroy/Westwood for the Europeans. That jibes with the two main expected U.S. pairings of Spieth-Thomas and Cantlay-Schauffele. On Wednesday morning, both sides mixed some things up, with Europe aligning the Spaniards Rahm and Garcia, as well as former pairing McIlroy-Poulter.
Scoring will break down like this: +3 points for holes won, +0.75 for holes halved, -0.75 points for holes lost, +1.6 points for holes not played, +5 points for matches won and +2 points for matches halved. Also: +5 points for a streak of three consecutive holes won in a match (maximum one per round) and a +7.5-point bonus for no holes lost in a match.
Two final lineup/scoring notes: In foursomes and fourball, both golfers on the same team will receive the same score, no matter who is making birdies, bogeys, etc. And you ARE allowed to pick both partners among your six guys, which might be a very sound strategy if you think they will do well.
Okay, now on to the course. We have seen Whistling Straits, the 1998 Pete and Alice Dye design, play host to three PGA Championships, most recently in 2015 when Jason Day won by three strokes over Spieth, and also in 2004 and 2010. It is long and open, often described as an American links course. But it's really not; it's just long and wide open. They say it will be set up as it was in 2015, when it was firm and fast, and that includes the greens. Wind coming off Lake Michigan is a prime defense, as are the incalculable number of bunkers/waste areas. Some estimates have pegged the number at more than a thousand. The official Golf Course Superintendents fact sheet simply and humorously says there are "a lot" of bunkers. There's water on just one hole. The bentgrass greens are on the larger side at an average of 7,000 square feet. One more note about the thousand-plus sandy areas: They all will be considered bunkers, which brings to mind the disastrous moment for Johnson when he grounded his club late in the 2010 PGA to cost himself a spot in the playoff.
Fifteen of the 24 guys played in the 2015 tournament: runner-up Spieth, Koepka (T5), Johnson (T7), Finau (T10), McIlroy (17th), Thomas (T18), Hatton (T25), Casey (T30), Westwood (T43) and Garcia (T54), while Berger, Fleetwood, Lowry, Poulter and Wiesberger all missed the cut. If you're really interested, six of the guys were in the 2010 PGA and four were in the 2004 PGA, but you'll have look those up yourself. You could probably guess most of them.
Key Stats to Winning at Whistling Straits
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Driving Distance/Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green/Scrambling
• Strokes Gained: Putting
2018 - Europe, 17 1/2-10 1/2 (Le Golf National, France)
2016 - United States, 17-11 (Hazeltine, Minnesota)
2014 - Europe, 16 1/2-11 1/2 (Gleneagles, Scotland)
2012 - Europe 14 1/2-13 1/2 (Medinah, Illinois)
2010 - Europe, 14 1/2-13 1/2 (Celtic Manor, Wales)
2008 - United States, 16 1/2-11 1/2 (Valhalla, Kentucky)
2006 - Europe, 18 1/2-9 1/2 (K Club, Ireland)
2004 - Europe, 18 1/2-9 1/2 (Oakland Hills, Michigan)
2002 - Europe, 15 1/2-12 1/2 (The Belfry, England)
1999 - United States, 14 1/2-13 1/2 (The Country Club, Massachusetts)
Let's start out by saying the obvious: This isn't a normal week, so many other things matter. Like pressure. That said, Jason Day ranked fifth in driving distance and fifth in fairways hit when he won the PGA by three strokes at Whistling Straits in 2015. But runner-up Jordan Spieth was 45th and 31st. Day and Spieth ranked second and third in greens in regulation, respectively, and first and second in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. Their putting was good but not great, Day ranking 12th in the field and Spieth 22nd. But even the pressure putts in a major championship will not be the same as putting in a Ryder Cup. Dustin Johnson finished top-10 at the 2010 and 2015 PGAs. Rory McIlroy finished top-5 in 2010. Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau were top-10 in 2015.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Jon Rahm - $9,800/$14,700 (Odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook to win the most Ryder Cup matches: +800)
This is probably still Rory McIlroy's team, along with Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia, but Rahm of course will have a big role and be the future leader, perhaps as soon as 2023. This is just his second Cup. He played only three matches in 2018, losing twice in fourball before famously beating Tiger Woods in singles.
Justin Thomas - $9,400/$14,100 (+800)
This will be only Thomas' second Cup. He played all five matches as a rookie in 2018 and was one of the few Americans to deliver. He went 4-1 overall, including a huge 1-up win over Rory McIlroy. It would not be a surprise to see a repeat of that match come Sunday morning.
Rory McIlroy - $9,200/$13,800 (+1000)
McIlroy's Ryder Cup record is mixed. This will be his sixth Cup, and he's only 11-9-4 overall. He's been called on to play big singles matches, but has lost his past two, to Patrick Reed in 2016 and to Justin Thomas in 2018. Overall, McIlroy is 2-2-1 in singles.
Patrick Cantlay - $9000/$13,500 (+1000)
Cantlay is the No. 4 golfer in the world and one of the hottest players on the planet. And seemingly one of the most ruthless. It should not matter that this is his first Ryder Cup. Cantlay did play in the 2019 Presidents Cup, so he got a taste. He was paired with good friend Xander Schauffele, and that likely will be the case again. In 2019, they were 2-0 in foursomes but 0-2 in fourball, so that's something to keep in mind. In singles he blitzed Joaquin Niemann, though that wasn't a very heavy lift at the time.
Jordan Spieth - $8,800/$13,200 (+9000)
You don't have to look too far down the U.S. roster to see that this is now Spieth's team, and not Patrick Reed's. This will be Spieth's fourth Cup. He's 7-5-2 overall, meaning he sat out only one match in three years. But he is stunningly 0-3 in singles, losing to Graeme McDowell in 2014, Henrik Stenson in 2016 and – gasp – Thorbjorn Olesen, of all people, in 2018.
Viktor Hovland - $8,400/$12,600 (+1200)
Hovland is one of three European Ryder Cup rookies, but likely to be called upon to play a central role for his side. And with some spotty teammates, he will have to deliver for Europe to have any chance at winning. Barring something unforeseen, Hovland should play four matches, maybe even five.
Tony Finau - $7,200/$10,800 (+1600)
This will be Finau's second Cup, and he was a rare U.S. bright spot in Paris in 2018, going 2-1 overall and 1-0 in singles, where he drubbed Tommy Fleetwood 6-and-4. He is well liked and can pair with anyone, with could make him the U.S. unicorn (we're joking, probably).
Paul Casey - $6,800/$10,200 (+1400)
This is the 44-year-old Englishman's fifth Cup, though he is not thought of in the same vein as Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia. But he will have to play an important role for Europe to retain the Cup. He is 4-3-5 all-time, including 1-1-2 in singles. In a way, it's kind of fitting for the vanilla Casey to have so many halves. But hey, they aren't losses. He halved with Brooks Koepka in 2018.
Ian Poulter - $6,400/$9,600 (+3000)
Poulter is now 45 years old, this will likely be his final Cup, and he's already in the pantheon of all-time great Ryder Cuppers – Europe or American. He's played in eight Cups, is 14-6-2 overall and has NEVER lost a singles match, going 5-0-1. Not that Poulter knows of his meager DK price, but it would be just one more motivating factor for him. A case could be made to captain Poulter at a very favorable price, especially if paired with Rory McIlroy, as has happened in the past.
Scottie Scheffler - $5,800/$8,700 (+3000)
In the same media grouping as Bryson DeChambeau listed above, Scheffler could be called upon to take a bullet for the team and pair with the most controversial guy at the Cup. But Scheffler really could be an asset regardless, even as a rookie, as he has played remarkably on Tour well in big event after big event. He also could be paired with fellow Texan Jordan Spieth, which would be a green-light special for Scheffler at this price.
Harris English - $5,400/$8,100 (+3500)
English is one of the six U.S. Ryder Cup rookies, but as the oldest at age 32 with the most experience, he might be able to handle it best. He could find himself paired with Tony Finau or maybe Daniel Berger in non-marquee matches against some of Europe's weaker players.
Lee Westwood - $5,200/$7,800 (+5000)
This will be the 48-year-old Englishman's record-tying 11th Cup (Nick Faldo), and probably his last. He has a dismal singles record at 3-7, but he is over .500 lifetime in both fourball (8-6-2) and especially foursomes (9-5-4). Since these DK prices aren't for singles, Westwood could be a pretty good bargain, especially if he were paired with a young gun. Did somebody say Viktor Hovland?