The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.
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The PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park takes place this week and even though it often felt like we would never get here at times, the event is set to provide us with some explosive entertainment. Most of the top players in the world will be in attendance, with a full field of 156 golfers set to compete. Like most majors, there are some special exemptions and the PGA recognizes the top-20 low scorers at the PGA Professionals Championship by giving them entry into the event. These are players who likely won’t factor into any action late on Sunday and can be somewhat ignored for DFS purposes.
As for the top players, it has been a roller coaster lately as the “best player in the world” mantle has been rollicking back and forth on a weekly basis of late. Justin Thomas ($11,300) took back the world No. 1 crown last week with his win at the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational, but could easily lose that title this week if world No. 2 Jon Rahm ($10,500) takes home his first major here. Rory McIlroy ($10,700), Webb Simpson ($9,700) and Dustin Johnson ($9,000) all come in hot on their heels too, with Webb and Dustin having already collected wins since the restart.
Two-time defending PGA Champion Brooks Koepka ($11,100) is also in the field and will be looking to make some history this week as he tries to become the first three-peat winner since Walter Hagen did it in the 1920s. While Koepka has shown poor form most of the year, he did come alive last week with a T2 finish. Finally, Tiger Woods ($9,200) will also be in attendance. Woods has only played once since the restart, choosing to tee it up at The Memorial where he finished T40 for the week. He looked really good in spurts at Muirfield Village, but whether his body can hold up for four rounds of major championship golf is a major question heading into this event.
TPC Harding Park—San Francisco, CA
Par: 70, 7,234 yards; Greens: Bentgrass
Located alongside Lake Merced in San Francisco, TPC Harding Park is primarily an inland parkland course that stretches between tall cypress trees. Although it generally plays as a Par 72 for the public, for the 2020 PGA Championship the venue will play as a Par 70, at just over 7,200 yards.
This will be the first major championship the course has hosted, but it has been seen on Tour a couple of times before. In 2005, after extensive renovations in the early 2000s, it hosted the WGC American Express Championship, won by Tiger Woods. Since then its also hosted the 2009 President’s Cup event and the 2015 WGC Match-play event (won by Rory McIlroy).
From a routing perspective, there isn’t anything overly difficult about TPC Harding Park, with many of the holes looking like they’ll play fairly straight forward. Five of the par 4s offer little to no dogleg at all and should allow players to rip driver as far as they dare. The venue does tighten up in areas though and players will have to shape some shots, specifically off the tee, which could constrict some of the bigger hitters at points. The home stretch offers the most interesting stretch of golf, as players will be alongside Lake Merced and have some OB and fall-offs into water to deal with should they get too off-line.
From a setup perspective, there’s little water and fewer bunkers than we normally see on a PGA Tour venue. In fact, Harding Park only has about 47 bunkers on the entire course, which is almost half as many as we saw last week in Memphis. Only two water hazards are in play, with one involving the tee shot on 18 where players will have to carry the lake on an awkward angle to find the fairway.
While some holes are simple in layout, it doesn’t mean every hole will offer players a chance at birdie. There’s only two par 5s, one of which is over 600 yards long and has a tight tee shot and a dogleg the players must navigate. Also, there are seven par 4s that come in at over 450 yards in length. They’ll require perfectly executed tee and iron shots to give players a chance at birdie there. There are a couple short par 3s but both have tricky greens that, if missed, will bring bogey or worse into play.
Assuming we get some major championship rough and a little wind, I’d expect winning scores to stay in the low-teens and also expect a tight leaderboard as the tight but fair setup should allow many players to make a run at different points in the week.
2020 Outlook: The event this week takes place in Northern California and highs for the week look set to remain in the low 60s with morning lows touching the mid 50s. The cold weather and lack of elevation should mean less distance for the players but the big factor this week could be how much the wind blows. While there’s no rain in the forecast, wind looks set to be prominent this week with gusts consistently over 10 mph for most of the four days. The main trouble spot for DFS could be Thursday, where afternoon players look set to deal with some of the worst gusts up to 15-20 mph. With this being a full-field event, DraftKings players will want to keep a close eye on how Thursday and Friday afternoon shake out in case the potential for a big wave split develops.
Last Five winners
2019—Brooks Koepka -8 (over Dustin Johnson -6)
2018—Brooks Koepka -16 (over Tiger Woods -14)
2017—Justin Thomas -8 (over Patrick Reed and Louis Oosthuizen -6)
2016—Jimmy Walker -14 (over Jason Day -13)
2015 – Jason Day -20 (over Jordan Spieth -17)
- Six of the past seven winners of the PGA Championship finished T15 or better in their last start before winning this event (*Justin Thomas finished T24 in his prior start in 2017).
- Five of the past eight winners of this event ranked ninth or better for the year in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee in the year of their win (Dufner was 46th in SG:OTT in 2013; Justin Thomas was 30th in 2017).
- The past five winners of the PGA Championship combined to average over 308 yards in driving distance off the tee for the years of their win.
Winners Stats and Course Highlights
Brooks Koepka (2019)
· The course features three par 3s that measure between 175-200 yards, making efficiency stats for this range somewhat interesting. The final par 3 is a behemoth that may play over 240 yards much of the week.
· As mentioned above, strength off the tee has been an asset in recent PGA Championships. Eight of the past nine winners of this event have ranked 30th or better in SG: Off the Tee stats for the year.
· The venue features pure Bentgrass greens but as it’s on the West Coast, expect some at least some Poa to have grown through. This should make the greens at least somewhat similar to other West Coast venues like Riviera and Torrey Pines.
· Seven par 4s measure in at over 450 yards in length and many of the tee shots require right to left movement, which would seemingly favor drawers of the ball (for righties).
· The venue does seemingly offer players a good chance to hit driver and many players who have done well here in past events — John Daly, Tiger, Rory McIlroy, Gary Woodland —have all been big drivers of the golf ball.
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful of putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their odds of winning this week.
Abraham Ancer +5500 and $7,700
· Tyrrell Hatton +5500 and $8,000
· Adam Scott +7000 and $7,800
· Justin Rose +7500 and $7,800
Tommy Fleetwood +5000 and $7,700
· Gary Woodland +5000 and $7,900
· Jordan Spieth +7000 and $7,700
· Tyrrell Hatton +5500 and $8,000
HORSES FOR COURSES
**The PGA Championship is a rotating group of courses, so we’ll be looking at overall performance in past PGA Championships, plus noting anyone who played well the last time the PGA Tour played at Harding Park in 2015.
1. Brooks Koepka (winner-2019 and 2018): Brooks has won the past two PGA Championships and outright dominated this event the past two years. Going back five years, he has only finished outside the top 5 at this event once (T13 in 2017) as the longer, major championship-style setups clearly favor his game.
2. Justin Thomas (winner-2017, T6-2018): Thomas missed this event in 2019 (injury), but the prior two years he has been an absolute beast at this major. He won it back at the longer Quail Hollow in 2017 and finished T6 the next year.
3. Adam Scott (T8-2019, T3-2018): Scott doesn’t maintain a heavy schedule anymore, but his play in this major championship has been as good as almost anyone not named Koepka the past couple years. He was in contention late in 2018 and put up a solid top-10 finish last year at Bethpage Black.
4. Gary Woodland (T8-2018, T6-2018): The 2019 U.S. Open winner has also played extremely well at this major championship. Woodland was in contention after three days in 2018 before falling off and put in a solid effort last year too for back-to-back top-10 finishes at this major. He finished runner-up at the WGC Match-play event here in 2015.
5. Jordan Spieth (T3-2019, T12-2018): The PGA Championship remains the only major that Spieth has yet to get his hands on, but it’s not for lack of effort. He finished runner-up at Whistling Straits back in 2015 and more recently finished T3 last year. His form has been spotty of late but he has a knack for peaking at majors.
1. Justin Thomas ($11,300, Recent finishes: win-T18-2nd): Thomas comes into this year’s PGA Championship with the perfect lead-in. He’s now racked up a win and a playoff loss in two of his past three starts and leads the Tour in SG: Tee to Green stats. He’s now come in T3 or better (with three wins) in five of his past 15 starts.
2. Daniel Berger ($8,800, Recent finishes: T2-MC-T3-win): Berger has been on an absolute tear since February. The American has landed inside the top 5 now in an incredible five of his past six starts and has moved himself up into 28th in the OWGR. He ranked sixth in SG: APP stats last week.
3. Jason Day ($8,400, Recent finishes: T6-T4-T7): Like Berger, Day has been on a tear of late, starting a few events ago at the Workday where he finished T7. Day is coming off his best statistical performance of the year too as he finished seventh in SG: Tee to Green stats at the WGC FedEx.
4. Xander Schauffele ($10,000, Recent finishes: T6-): Schauffele battled through some swing issues to finish a tidy T6 last week at the WGC FedEx St. Jude. Despite losing -5.5 strokes on his Approaches last week he managed to shoot 66-67 on the weekend and showed an improved short game. He has been up and down since the restart but has looked close to putting things together for a monster week.
5. Billy Horschel ($7,400, Recent finishes: T25-T13-T7): Horschel’s been on a nice run over his past few events, posting a top 10 at the Workday, his first since WGC Mexico. Like Schauffele, he struggled a bit with his approaches last week, losing -3 strokes to the field in that area. He was bailed out with a solid short game and has been consistent as of late for fantasy purposes.
Cash Games: The pricing this week reflects the major caliber nature of this field, which means we’ll have some serious talent available for less than normal. While the past couple of weeks have seen top play from some of the most elite players in the world, I like a more balanced approach here that starts off with Xander Schauffele ($10,000) and Dustin Johnson ($9,000-see below). Schauffele’s consistency at the majors has been surreal to this point in his career, and he’s now finished inside the top 6 in four of his past eight major starts. After these two we have loads of value to choose from. Tommy Fleetwood ($7,700) picked things up last week ending with a 65, as did Shane Lowry ($7,500) who finished T6 last week and has been playing well of late. Other potential targets for this format include Harris English ($7,200) and Tom Lewis ($7,100).
Tournaments: Patrick Cantlay ($9,400) started out poorly last week, opening with a five-over-par round, but proceeded to play the weekend in 67-65. Considering where he sits in pricing, between Tiger and Xander, he could go under-owned here. Lower down, Louis Oosthuizen ($7,600) is a player who is live at almost every major and is coming off his best finish since the restart. He’s surrounded by talent like Fleetwood and Lowry and likely won’t get too highly owned either. I’d also like to give a big shout out to Christiaan Bezuidenhout ($7,000-see below) and Emiliano Grillo ($6,800). Grillo was added to the field late Sunday and has now posted T3 and T9 finishes over his past two starts. He’s started to putt better of late and tee to green matches up with the best in the world.
MY PICK: Dustin Johnson ($9,000)
Dustin has taken DFS players for a wild ride over the past few events. The 2016-U.S. Open winner won in dominant fashion at the Travelers before shooting rounds of 80-80-78 in his next two starts, a stretch which included a withdraw for a “tight back” at the 3M Open. To his credit, Johnson did play down the injury a bit last week, citing tightness that stemmed from playing poorly. The seriousness of the injury was further downplayed by his play at the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational, where he promptly shot four rounds of 69 or better and finished T12 for the week. Johnson’s stats from last week may not jump off the page, but he ranked ninth in SG: Tee to Green stats and gained +2 strokes everywhere but on the greens.
Luckily for Johnson, the venue this week sees a flip to the West Coast and Bentgrass/Poa greens where he has typically been at his best with the putter. DJ has gained +50 strokes putting over his career on this style of surface, sitting at 21st in the field in that stat. It was also only a few events ago that Dustin had a dominant week with the flat-stick at the Travelers, gaining +5.9 strokes on the mainly Poa greens there. Having now finished runner-up in two of his past four major championship starts, the time for Dustin to break through seems near and the fact he’ll be heading to the West Coast and a course that seems to share multiple similarities with some of his favorite venues (Riviera, Pebble Beach) makes this a dream scenario for him to pounce and finally pick up his second major. He’s my pick here among the favorites and sets up as a stout DraftKings play at just $9K this week.
MY SLEEPER: Christiaan Bezuidenhout ($7,000)
If the conditions are indeed a little tougher this week then we should expect a player like Bezuidenhout to potentially flourish. The talented South African has taken little time to adjust to the PGA Tour, making four of six cuts in full-field events so far this year. The more impressive feat from Bezuidenhout (be-zay-den-hote) has been what he’s done with those made cuts when he’s got them. He was in contention in very tough conditions at the Arnold Palmer Invitational earlier in the year, ultimately posting a T18 there. Since the restart he’s also looked solid, finishing inside the top 30 in three of his past four starts, including a T20 effort last week where he flashed with a third-round 64.
Bezuidenhout ranked 17th in SG: Approach and 10th in SG: Putting last week and has tended to showcase a game that holds up extremely well in tougher conditions. He won the Andalucía Masters last year by six shots at one of the hardest venues in the world in Valderrama and hasn’t shied away in bigger field events, finishing T3 last year at the BMW PGA Championship and second at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, an event filled top players. With the rough up this week and wind expected, the name of the game at TPC Harding Park could be survival and Bezuidenhout has proven more than apt at that, with a putter that could also heat up at any time and grab you some unexpected DK bonus points. He sets up as a great value play here for me at just $7K in price.
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