This article is part of our DraftKings PGA DFS Picks series.
Winner's Share: $2.7M
FedEx Cup Points: 600 to the Winner
Location: Pittsford, N.Y.
Course: Oak Hill Country Club (East Course)
2022 champion: Justin Thomas (Southern Hills)
Time after time, year after year, golf returns to the Northeast to play major championships. Winged Foot, Shinnecock Hills, Bethpage Black -- all in New York -- plus The Country Club, Oakmont, Baltustrol and Aronimink. There is no greater region for championship golf in the United States. It's really a Sophie's Choice when trying to pick the best course, but venerable Oak Hill might be the most majestic of them all.
The 1925 Donald Ross design will play host to its sixth major and fourth PGA Championship this week -- and it's New York State's record 14th PGA. Since we last saw Oak Hill for the 2013 PGA, it has been restored to the original vision of Ross, the architect of so many storied courses, including Aronimink, which will play host to the PGA in 2026.
Just like the USGA with U.S. Opens, the PGA of America wants to identify the greatest golfers, ones who must use every club in their bag and master most of them.
That is what Oak Hill requires -- no, it demands. It is a par-70 stretching nearly 7,400 yards. Besides long, it is narrow, with strategically placed fairway bunkers that require more than just length to avoid -- they require carry length. The rough will naturally be tall and penal. There is water running through the course in the name of Allens Creek, which will come into play on six holes. To top it all off, the bentgrass greens are among the smallest the golfers will see all year, averaging 4,500 square feet. In true Ross fashion, the majority of them slant back to front, which will bring a strong emphasis on scrambling.
Architect Andrew Green undertook a massive renovation in 2019 to restore Ross' vision. The most noticeable change since the 2013 PGA was contested is that thousands of trees were removed. But don't think for a minute that that will make driving any easier. Also, bunkers have moved and every green has been redone, and now they are exclusively bentgrass, just like at Augusta National. Some of the putting surfaces are rectangular in shape, something not often seen.
We'll circle back to the course and the optimum golfer skillset momentarily, but let's get to the field and all its storylines.
Ninety-nine of the top-100 golfers in the world rankings -- and that's a charged term these days right there -- are among the 156 entered. Only injured Will Zalatoris is missing. World No. 1 Jon Rahm looks to add a third career major and second this year after capturing the Masters last month. No. 2 Scottie Scheffler eyes a second major and a return to No. 1 in the world. No. 3 Rory McIlroy is coming off missed cuts at THE PLAYERS Championship and Masters, not to mention a brief controversial mental-health absence or sorts. Brooks Koepka shepherds the 18-man LIV Golf contingent -- the same number of LIV golfers that played at Augusta. Koepka gave the breakaway league and its backers some serious hope at the Masters, only to come up a bit short, as did Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed. Koepka, of course, is a two-time winner of the PGA, along with a pair of U.S. Opens, and those two majors tend to be played on similar types of golf courses. Lastly, there's Jordan Spieth, once again going for the career grand slam but who arrives on the heels of a WD from last week's Byron Nelson because of a wrist injury. To learn about every golfer in the field, check out the RotoWire Value Meter, in which every player in the field is ranked.
Oak Hill features only two par-5s, both 615+ yards. There are three par-4s within a few yards of 500, plus four more that exceed 450. The four par-3s feature a 230-yarder and then an even longer one -- a massive 245-yarder. There are only 78 bunkers in total, but they will play a prominent role. Most of them are deep and diabolical, placed either at just the right spot -- or the wrong spot, depending on your perspective -- in the fairways or surrounding the greens. Allens Creek touches nine holes but comes into play on only six, and will force golfers to choose between a layup and a dangerous aggressive play.
In 2013, Jason Dufner won at 10-under on a par-70, 7,134-yard track, and he still holds the course record of 63 shot in the second round. That's often the sweet spot, between 8- and 12-under, for PGAs and U.S. Opens. The cutline then was 3-over. As you already know, there aren't many birdie opportunities at Oak Hill. No. 8 is only 429 yards with a wide fairway, but the green is heavily bunkered. No. 14 is 320 yards so it's driveable, but there are three bunkers far down the fairway, then three more greenside -- laying up is problematic and so is going for it. As with most holes on the course, you don't want to go long. Of all the worst things a golfer can do at Oak Hill, going long is just about the worst. Being below the hole is generally better.
Oak Hill's No. 1 is a 460-yard par-4 that Ben Hogan once called the toughest opening hole in championship golf, with three bunkers on the left and OB on the right. Allens Creek introduces itself immediately at the 360-yard mark. No. 18 is a 497-yard par-4, with three fairway bunkers on the left and trees on both sides, then four more bunkers guarding the greens. The fairway is a mere 20 yards wide at the 300-yard mark.
As for the weather, this is upstate New York in springtime. When Oak Hill was awarded this PGA, they still played the tournament in August. But Mother Nature will comply. High temperatures will mostly be in the 60s. There are showers forecast, primarily on Friday and Saturday. There could be some chilly morning tee times with temperatures around 50 or maybe in the high 40s. The wind should be in the low double-digits all week. Right now, there does not appear to be an advantage for either the early/late or late/early tee times, but check back closer to the lock.
Oak Hill historical facts: The East Course is the only course that has played host to all six "rotating" men's championships: The PGA and U.S. Open, the Senior PGA and U.S. Open, the U.S. Amateur and the Ryder Cup. Jack Nicklaus won the penultimate of his 18 majors at the 1980 PGA. Oak Hill is where unheralded Shaun Micheel hit his famous 174-yard 7-iron to 2 inches to win the 2003 PGA. Lee Trevino won the U.S. Open is 1969 and Curtis Strange did likewise in 1989 to go back to back. Europe won the 1995 Ryder Cup at Oak Hill, the first of the Europeans' eight wins in a dominating 10-Cup span during its glory years of The Famous Five: Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam.
Key Stats to Winning at Oak Hill
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, especially 175-200 yards
• Strokes Gained: Around-the-Greens/Scrambling
• Strokes Gained: Putting
• Par-4 Efficiency 450-500 yards
• Bogey Avoidance
• Major History
2022 - Justin Thomas (Southern Hills)
2021 - Phil Mickelson (The Ocean Course)
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)
In a word, long. Not only long off the tee and long iron shots, but carry long to clear the fairway bunkers. Rahm is carry long, so are McIlroy and Koepka and a few others. Unlike at long Southern Hills for last year's PGA, Oak Hill will not have as much run in its fairways. Besides, temperatures will be colder than in Oklahoma. Not only will long-hitting golfers have an advantage, but long and accurate will be even better to avoid the penal high rough. There will be long iron shots in the neighborhood of 175-200 yards. The greens run back to front, so balls will slide off, bringing scrambling into play. The bentgrass greens should be in perfect shape, and one of the key moves in the 2019 renovation was installing a new drainage system. Long hitters and long, accurate iron players are the perfect starting point to define a champion, but if they can't scramble or putt well, it won't be enough. Conversely, shorter hitters who are great scramblers and putters have a chance, they just need to be near perfect. As we always say, there's always more than one way to win a golf tournament. Some are just harder than others.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Jon Rahm - $11,400 (Winning odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook: +750)
It's seems almost silly to have to offer an explanation why Rahm is a pick. Because he's the best golfer? It all start with the driver, and he's among the longest on Tour. But every other part of his game is also elite or close to it. And he clearly knows how to play in majors now.
Brooks Koepka - $10,100 (+2200)
Koepka looked great the Masters -- healthy and focused, the latter of which we weren't so sure about after seeing his Netflix "Full Swing" episode. He's come close multiple times at the Masters, but it's the PGA and U.S. Open, with their similar type tracks, where he's won four times.
Xander Schauffele - $9,900 (+2200)
Schauffele isn't the longest of the long drivers. But he's long enough, as he showed at uber-long Quail Hollow a couple of weeks back. Every other part of his game aligns nicely to Oak Hill's required skill set. He's ranked fifth on Tour in Strokes Gained: Approach. In his past three stroke-play starts he's been second, fourth and 10th at the Masters.
Patrick Cantlay - $9,700 (+2200)
Cantlay plays his first major with his new caddie, the great Joe LaCava. He was ranked fourth in the world without him, which is a pretty good starting point for their partnership. Cantlay finished a disappointing T14 at the Masters after a Sunday fade to 75, and you wonder whether that would've happened with LaCava by his side. Even with that, Cantlay is ranked ninth on tour in bogey avoidance. He is also ranked top-20 on Tour in both driving distance and accuracy, and he's the only one, plus top-20 in SG: Putting and top-10 in greens in regulation.
Tier 2 Values
Justin Thomas - $9,400 (+2200)
Thomas' partnership with Bones Mackay has not yielded the expected results -- in fact, Thomas has dropped out of the top 10 in the world rankings. But they won last year's PGA together, and both of them are major-tested. Thomas looked good enough at the Wells Fargo to view this as a favorable price. Yes, his putting is a concern, but he's elite with the other 13 clubs in that bag Mackay is carrying.
Sungjae Im - $9,000 (+3500)
Im continues to quietly go about his business under the radar. He was T8 a the Wells Fargo, T7 at the RBC Heritage -- one course very long, the other very short -- T16 at the Masters and T6 at THE PLAYERS. Curiously, he played last week on the Korean Tour -- and he won. Im is not the longest hitter, but he is among the most accurate. And the rest of his game stacks up nicely. Im is ranked 12th in bogey avoidance.
Matt Fitzpatrick - $8,400 (+3500)
Fitzpatrick checked in at No. 8 in the RotoWire PGA Championship Value Meter. This price is a bargain. The recent RBC Heritage winner showed he can handle a long track by winning the U.S. Open at The Country Club last year. He's ranked top-25 in SG: Putting and is 15th on Tour in bogey avoidance.
Sahith Theegala - $8,100 (+3500)
Theegala tied for ninth at the Masters, so lack of major experience goes out the window. He was T6 at Riviera and T4 at Torrey Pines, so long courses aren't a deterrent. Theegala surely will have to reign in his wayward driver and keep it in the fairway. Otherwise, his game is sound. He's ranked 43rd in bogey avoidance, but even better over his past 24 rounds.
Tier 3 Values
Joaquin Niemann - $7,900 (+7500)
Niemann didn't get the LIV-related headlines a the Masters that Koepka, Mickelson and Reed did. But he quietly tied for 16th. His game is more well-rounded than that of either Mickelson or Reed, including hitting the ball very far. Niemann has made 10 straight cuts in majors, notably a top-25 at last year's PGA. Niemann ranks 15th in our model.
Justin Rose - $7,700 (+1100)
Rose followed up his win at Pebble Beach with a tie for sixth at THE PLAYERS and a tie for 16th at the Masters. He then tied for 25th at the RBC Heritage and has given himself a nice break since then. Rose finished 13th in last year's PGA, and top-10 the two years before that. Rose is not long off the tee, but he is very accurate, ranked 17th in fairways hit. Our model pegs Rose at No. 20 in the field.
Harris English - $7,200 (+25000)
English has solidly played his way back to 36th in the world rankings after missing almost half of 2022 thanks to hip surgery. He's far back in driving distance on Tour, yet he's coming off a tie for third at Quail Hollow. English's short game and putting -- both ranked in the top-30 this season -- will define his week.
Gary Woodland - $7,100 (+13000)
Woodland has a couple of recent T14s at the Masters and the Wells Fargo. He remains one of the best drivers on Tour, ranked eighth in SG: Off-the-Tee and 10th in Total Driving. Woodland's short game, problematic for much of the season, has been far better over his past 24 rounds. Even though he is one of the poorer putters in the field, he checks in at 18th in our model.
Matt Kuchar - $6,900 (+15000)
The 44-year-old Kuchar surely is not a long hitter, but he's good at keeping the ball in the fairway and is sound in every other facet of his game. He's showing no sign of any yips, ranking second on Tour in SG: Around-the-Green. That's helped Kuchar ranked fourth in bogey avoidance. He had a top-25 at the 2013 PGA at Oak Hill and was 34th last year at Southern Hills. Kuchar is ranked 32nd in our model.
K.H. Lee - $6,700 (+20000)
Lee didn't three-peat at the Byron Nelson. And yet he is a far better golfer than when he won his second straight Byron Nelson a year ago. He made the cut at both the PGA and U.S. Open last year, and recently turned in a top-25 a the Masters before a top-10 at Quail Hollow. Lee is ranked above average in every strokes-gained metric, is 33rd in total driving and 36th in bogey avoidance.
Hayden Buckley - $6,600 (+25000)
Buckley has been making his way up the world rankings -- he's currently 76th -- and is 37th in the FedExCup point standings. His driver is what lands him here. He's pretty long and very accurate, combining to rank fourth in SG: Off-the-Tee and seventh in Total Driving. He's also ranked ninth in greens in regulation and he's an average putter. There's a lot to like here, at least enough to get to Saturday, which is why Buckley lands at an impressive 26th in our model.
Ryan Fox - $6,500 (+25000)
Fox is not a Tour member, so he doesn't play regularly. But now in the top-50 in the world thanks to an outstanding 2022 internationally, the New Zealander just missed top-25s at both THE PLAYERS and Masters. He averages more than 300 off the tee and would rank in the top-30 on Tour in Putting if he had enough rounds to qualify. Fox is 66th in our model, which would be just inside the cutline.
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