PGA Championship – Charlotte, NC
Quail Hollow (7,600 yards, par 71)
$1,800,000 and 600 FedEx Cup points to the winner
Well-known Quail Hollow, forgoing its annual hosting at the Wells Fargo Championship this season, is the heralded host of this year’s PGA Championship. The PGA Tour played Quail Hollow in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, but made an official return in 2003 after a Tom Fazio redesign lengthened the course and updated the greens. In his latest upgrade, Fazio created three new holes from the previous par-72 layout, changing the par to 71 and rightfully earning this year’s PGA and the upcoming 2021 President’s Cup. Featured are the untouched final three holes, appropriately named “The Green Mile”, comprised of the 508-yard par-4 16th, the 221-yard par-3 17th, and the 493-yard par-4 18th. This closing stretch is among the PGA Tour’s toughest, averaging more than one stroke over par in tournament play. Storylines for the loaded 156-player field include Jordan Spieth seeking to be the youngest ever to complete the career grand slam, while Rory McIlroy returns to the site he has won twice since 2010, this time with a new caddy after firing J.P. Fitzgerald. There are also the customary 20 club professionals who will tee it up as a nod to PGA teaching professionals. If weather isn’t a major factor, expect the winner to hover around 10 to 13 under par for the week given the difficulty and changes to the course.
Prior Decade Champions
2016 – Jimmy Walker
2015 – Jason Day
2014 – Rory McIlroy
2013 – Jason Dufner
2012 – Rory McIlroy
2011 – Keegan Bradley
2010 – Martin Kaymer
2009 – Y.E. Yang
2008 – Padraig Harrington
2007 – Tiger Woods
Key Stats to Winning at Quail Hollow
• Driving Distance
• Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
• Par-5 Scoring Average
With exception to Brian Harman this year, all former champions at Quail Hollow have one major trait: length. Pros have hit just 49% of their fairways here since 2011, the worst on the PGA Tour. However, this has not affected the scoring much, meaning bombers have a distinct advantage especially on the par-5s. Beyond driving distance, the greens have no shortage of undulation and require a good short game if players are missing greens in regulation. Even with one less par-5 than past events here, it’s shaping up to favor long-hitting ball strikers. Sure, short game is critical on these tough greens, but hitting it long enough to have short approaches and hit plenty of greens is the real advantage.
FanDuel Value Picks
Rory McIlroy, $10300 – Rory’s recent caddy change hasn’t shown any effect on his game as he carried on at Firestone to post a second-straight top five. McIlroy’s unparalleled driving ability has proven a huge advantage at Quail Hollow in his two wins and other top finishes there, making him the top gun in this week’s field.
Jordan Spieth, $10200 – Spieth this week sizes up his last chance to become the youngest to ever complete the career grand slam, and his form couldn’t be better with two wins and a T13 his last three outings.
Dustin Johnson, $10000 – Though it’s hard to say he’s been off lately, DJ just hasn’t rekindled the scorching form he had in early 2017. At Quail Hollow he’ll have a big distance advantage but he hasn’t pulled together all aspects of his game since March. Perhaps he’ll find it this week as a somewhat shadowed favorite behind McIlroy and Spieth.
Hideki Matsuyama, $8800 – A Sunday 61 to win by five in a world-class field was a telltale signal Matsuyama can beat almost anyone when he’s on. The Japanese star will look to become the first from his country to win a major this week, and all signs point to a good finish.
Longer Shots Worth a Risk
Justin Thomas, $7400 – Thomas is top-15 on TOUR in Driving Distance and Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, making him a great pick on paper. Not only that, Thomas was the 54-hole leader at the U.S. Open so after a trying Sunday that time around he’ll have his shot at redemption on a course suited to his game.
Thomas Pieters, $6800 – Pieters played in the final group at last week’s WGC, finishing fourth as he displayed some amazing distance off the tee, a huge factor this week. He also showed some grit at this year’s Masters with a fourth there as well. Though it would be a huge leap for him to claim a major, it’s clear he’s playing well and capable of posting a strong finish in a strong field.
Charley Hoffman, $6500 – Hoffman is hitting on all cylinders this year with nearly $3.8 million in earnings without a victory. After posting three top-3 finishes his last six starts, Hoffman appears qualified to breakthrough for not just a win, but a major.
Kevin Chappell, $6000 – Chappell turned it around last week after an opening 72 by posted three straight rounds in the 60s on a tough Firestone track. The California native is top-25 in Driving Distance and Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, so he’s good enough as a ballstriker to play well at Quail Hollow.
Strategy Tips for this week (based on 60k standard salary cap)
The season’s final major is among the strongest fields of the year with 113 of the top 115 in the world rankings making an appearance. Take some favorites, take some risks, but don’t take any of the 20 club professionals in the field this week. Long hitters and ball strikers thrive on this course, but the eventual winner will need enough ability around the greens to handle the tricky contours at Quail Hollow.