Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2020 PGA Championship DraftKings picks. The guys give their fantasy golf picks, provide their one and done strategy for the event from TPC Harding Park. Plus, Tim Andercust joins briefly to give out his CURSED selections for the year’s first major.
The DraftKings main slate locks on Thursday morning, August 6, so set your lineups here: $3M Fantasy Golf Millionaire [$1M to 1st + ToC Entry]
2020 PGA Championship Field
Field: 156 Players | Top 70 and Ties Make the Cut after 36 Holes
First Tee: Thursday, August 6 at 9:00 a.m. ET
Defending Champion: Brooks Koepka
The 102nd PGA Championship graces the Bay Area for the first time in its existence, yet the experience won’t change for San Franciscans as no fans will be permitted on the premisses. Hope you have a hard wire so there’s no laggy Wifi on those featured groups.
Across the street from five-time US Open venue Olympic Club, TPC Harding Park welcomes almost the entire collection of the world’s Top 50 ranked players, almost, along with top talent from the world’s other tours, past champions and the top 20 in the 2019 PGA Professional Player of the Year standings to compete for the Wanamaker Trophy. A winner’s memento whose empirical unit of measurement is a half-Rory.
Eddie Pepperell, Lee Westwood, and Thomas Pieters had all previously stated they’d be taking a pass on the 2020 PGA Championship and staying put in Europe, while JB Holmes, Paul Waring, Paddy Harrington, Vijay Singh, Ryan Moore, Charles Howell and Papa Shugo Imahira have all withdrawn from the field in the past week. The craziest one is Francesco Molinari, though. The world’s 33rd ranked player has yet to return to competitive play following the PGA Tour break and has decided to skip the year’s first Major.
Additionally, Brendan Grace pulled out of the Barracuda Championship over the weekend after testing positive for COVID-19. He’s been replaced in the field by Bud Cauley, who joins Harold Varner, Troy Merritt, Talor Gooch, Emiliano Grillo, Russell Henley, Wyndham Clark and Brian Stuard as beneficiaries of the rash of players passing on a trip to San Francisco. Richy Werenski claimed his spot in the field after winning the Barracuda over the weekend.
In a full field of 156 players, the Top 65 low scores (and ties) after 36 holes will move on to the weekend. This has been standard for the PGA Tour since the play resumed out of hiatus, and we’ve seen a historically low rate of DraftKings players squeezing all six of their golfers through the cut line. The expected difficult conditions at TPC Harding Park will undoubtedly leave a few very popular picks outside the ropes before the weekend starts, but the talent gap between the bottom and next tier up is especially pronounced at the 2020 PGA Championship; potentially making this a slightly easier week to have a few six-of-six lineups heading into Sunday.
While one or two of the 20 PGA Professionals may get hot for a round and survive to the weekend, you can just cross off all these players from the outset. Don’t waste time researching them. Then take a red Sharpie to a few former winners, old guys, and random internationals — Rich Beem, The REAL DEAL Shaun Micheel, Ken Tanigawa, along with Chan Kim, Ryo Ishikawa, Joohyung Kim — and all of a sudden the field has been trimmed to 130 without a lick of research.
Oh, as a heads up: If you plan on selecting Zach Johnson, don’t accidentally hit the “+” button next to Zach J. Johnson, PGA Professional.
There will always be an urge to gamble on one of these names at the low end of the pricing list, with so many people harping on making sure your DraftKings teams are “contrarian” enough in terms of ownership percentage. Picks like this aren’t contrarian, they’re bad. Want to make sure your team is unique the DraftKings Millionaire? Use $49,900 instead of $50,000 in your salary cap.
Also, remember to populate your roster with six players you actually think have a chance of winning, even if it’s a long one. Tyler Duncan is fairly unlikely to win, however, he’s 1000x more likely than Marty Jertson, who sounds more like a lubed up graduation ring than a professional golfer.
Finally, Adam Scott is making his return to the PGA Tour. Last seen in the first round at the doomed PLAYERS Championship. Yes, PLAYERS must be ALL CAPS; I don’t need a PGA cease and desist. Despite his inactivity, Scott remains in the world’s Top 10 after winning two of his last four starts. The world’s most accurate source of information, Instagram, proves he’s been taking a few swings in between surf sessions, so don’t be too concerned by the extended absence. Following his win at the Australian PGA Championship to close 2019, Scott took the next eight weeks off, only to return at Riviera and win.
Curious about when major leagues and events will return? Check out our DraftKings Sports Calendar for the latest updates.
2020 PGA Championship: Key Stats
Strokes Gained: Approach
Par 4s Gained: 450-500 Yards
Proximity 200+ Yards
Mayo’s Key Stats powered by FantasyNational.com
2020 PGA Championship: Course
TPC Harding Park
Yardage: 7,234 (Around 7400 from the tips)
2020 PGA Championship: Past Winners
2019: Brooks Koepka -8
2018: Brooks Koepka -16
2017: Justin Thomas -8
2016: Jimmy Walker -14
2015: Jason Day -20
AT HARDING PARK
2015 WGC Match Play: Rory McIlroy
2009 Presidents Cup: Team USA (Tiger Woods Leading Scorer)
2005 WGC American Express: Tiger Woods -10
2020 PGA Championship: Strategy
It was a clear black night, a clear white moon and Warren G. is looking down, ready to consume... strokes from the field. This may be the toughest test his namesake course may ever offer. The PGA Tour set up for TPC Harding Park for the 2020 PGA Championship leads you to one conclusion: You gotta be handy with the steel, if you know what I mean, earn your keep. If not, players will have ample time, for not only the eve, but the entire weekend, because their shot at the Wanamaker is going to be over Friday.
A municipal course, TPC Harding Park has been getting periodic visits from the glam squad for over two decades now. Since the course was used as a parking lot during the 1998 US Open for neighboring Olympic Club, they’ve kept the Karamo of landscapers on retainer. From that point, major renovations have rehabilitated the course back into prominence. Turns out, when a course is established in 1925, the “let’s not do anything for upkeep and hope for the best” strategy only leads to costly repairs.
In 2002, and almost $20M later, TPC Harding Park was completely overhauled and lengthened to accommodate the distance of the players. In the immediate aftermath, it hosted a 2005 WGC, the 2009 Presidents Cup and the Champions Tour Charles Schwab Cup Championship in 2010, 2011 and 2013. In 2014, General Manager Tom Smith decided to rip up the Poa Annua greens and replace them with Bentgrass putting surfaces due to a nasty Nematode problem. Who knew parasitic worms were such picky eaters? Apparently they hate Bentgrass. Won’t touch the stuff.
TPC Harding Park last hosted the 2015 WGC Match Play which saw Rory McIlroy top Gary Woodland in the finals. An event best remembered for Rory sneaking into the media center on Saturday evening to watch the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight because Paul Casey forced him into a 21-hole match in the quarterfinals, leaving no time for Rory to hop his helicopter to Vegas to watch it in person. And you thought you knew tragedy.
The course will be markedly different from that 2015 event for the 2020 PGA Championship, however. Then a Par 71, TPC Harding Park will play as a 7,234 Yard, Par 70 for the year’s first Major. And with tee box changes it can extend to around 7,400 yards. Although that distance doesn’t stick out at first glance, for a Par 70, that’s daunting. Especially considering there are three Par 4s measuring less than 400 yards. That leaves a gruesome seven over 450 yards, and with the thicker coastal air in the Bay Area, there’s a chance the field is going to have less distance and they’re accustomed.
While common sense says moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty, the course designers eschewed that groupthink. TPC Harding Park is almost devoid of water hazards outside of the lake hugging the left side of the fairway on the closing hole. Instead, it will protect itself with a series of nastily placed bunkers, rows of Cypress pine trees fortifying most holes, coastal winds, and now, incredibly thick rough. The fairways have been shrunk to 60% their normal size, and the rough has gone the same way as everyone’s hair during the pandemic.
Additionally, since this tournament was originally to be contested in May, and has now been shuffled into August, expect the course to be far more dried out than anticipated. Sitting on the coast could lead to some dewy mornings, but anticipate firm conditions, especially on the greens with the swirling winds. This is starting to sound like course you’d find somewhere on the British Isles, only much, much longer. And not on the British Isles.
While the set up can always be modified the closer we get to the first tee on Thursday — maybe the barbershops will finally open up and they’ll be able to trim that rough — plan on these greens being tough to hold from the long grass, more so on those seven lengthy Par 4s. You’re going to want the players who hit it longest and straightest. Unfortunately, your create-a-player from Tiger Woods 2005 is frozen in PS2 carbonate, and is not in this 2020 PGA Championship field. There actually are a few players who fit that exact skill profile, they just all happen to the names at the very top of the betting board and the DraftKings pricing.
That means you have to make a choice, and it rests on how you believe the course is going play. The longer a player drives the ball, the less distance they’ll have to the hole (science, yo!); leaving them with a loftier club on approach, and ability to hit the ball higher in the air, making for a softer landing on the hard greens. Problem is: Most of the deep drivers aren’t going to be super accurate into these thin fairways, so can they actually hold the putting surfaces without spin? If you’re going to target the bombers, make sure they aren’t a complete disaster around the greens.
Conversely, if you shift down to the short/medium distance, super accuracy route; will those players be able to consistently smack long irons all four rounds to climb the leaderboard? You’ve heard about team and player stacks in other sports on DraftKings, and, in golf, most of the stacking is building lineups with players from similar tee times to isolate the weather, but maybe try out the skill-set stack. That way you can give yourself a hedge on which profile will perform the best at TPC Harding Park.
As mentioned, the US Open has been contested across the street at Olympic Club five times, most recently in 2012. Webb Simpson won the national championship that year when the course played at a very similar 7,170/Par 70. Scanning the leaderboard, you’ll notice the shorter, accuracy mavens had more success than the bombers. It is worth noting Olympic Club is a completely different course, but it appears the PGA Championship is gearing up for more of a US Open setup than the WGC setup we’ve previously seen at Harding Park.
The biggest difference between bombers and short-smackers may come down to two short Par 4s: No. 7 (340 Yards) and No. 16 (334 Yards). The tee boxes will be moved back and forth throughout the week, but expect the advanced tees to make a cameo at least once to make each gettable for the entire field off the tee. However, when the tees are moved back, will the longer hitters still be able to get there off the tee? And if they go for it, will the punishment be enough to truly dissuade the bombers, instead of turning the choice into a reward/better reward situation.
If there’s one thing to track during practice rounds throughout the week, it’s the rough length; if there’s two, it’s how these holes are going play. If there’s a third, its whether Bryson is going to try and take on the 393 Yard first hole. Maybe he’ll take a crack at it if the wind’s at his back.
2020 PGA Championship Picks — Early Targets
After almost going for an 80 turkey following his victory in the Hartford suburbs, DJ very quietly put together a quality week in Memphis. Turns out the back wasn’t actually an issue, he just wanted to bolt from Minneapolis. Finishing in a tie for 12th at the WGC, DJ gained at least 2.2 strokes in each of the T2G categories while losing strokes on the greens. Bound to be one of the least popular elite players, Dustin tends to do his best work on lengthy Par 70 courses. He’s essentially 85% Brooks Koepka at 40% the DraftKings ownership. Plus, DJ has Top 10 finishes in the PGA Championship three of the past six years, including a runner-up a year ago.
Local kid makes good. That’d be the newspaper headline Monday morning in the San Francisco Chronicle if this was 1957, and Morikawa wins. I’ve talked about the different kinds of skill sets, and Morikawa is hybrid. High-end accuracy, above-average distance, and elite long irons. His short game just happens to be a travesty. That’s concerning, certainly, but extra reps versus the field after attending Cal may give him some local knowable of the green complexes. It takes a truly special young player to storm the field and win a Major before turning 24, but Morikawa profiles like a young Rory McIlory, so I’m not too concerned about his upside. Per Fantasy National, he enters the week first in the field in approach over the past 50 rounds, and is the only player who ranks inside the Top 10 in proximity from both 175-200 yards and 200+ Yards.
Other notable names appearing near the top of stat models and the win simulator at FantasyNational.com: TBD Wednesday
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Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Daily Fantasy and Traditions Season Long). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at ThePatMayoExperience@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is ThePME) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
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