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The field for the second major championship of the season is set at 155 players. Like all PGA Championships, the event gives out 20 spots to PGA teaching professionals who qualify through 2021 PGA Professional Championship. The rest of the competitors come from the top pros in the world, with the top 70 on the PGA money-list (from last year’s PGA Championship, until two weeks prior) getting spots. Open Championship, US Open and Masters winners from the last five years also get invites.
This year, the only two big names that won’t be in attendance are Tiger Woods and Matthew Wolff (injury/personal), who was a surprise withdraw last week. Brooks Koepka (knee) has only made one start since the Masters and is still recuperating from a knee operation performed in March, but he is playing. Dustin Johnson (knee) withdrew pre-event from the Byron Nelson last week, citing a slight issue with his knee, but is also expected to be in the field.
The defending champion, Collin Morikawa, enters having already grabbed a win this year at the WGC Concession. Rory McIlroy, who won this event when it was held at Kiawah Island in 2012, also enters off a win at the Wells Fargo in his last start. Those two will be joined by the likes of Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Jon Rahm, who have all showed superb form at various parts of the season thus far. One final note: the PGA Championship has its own cut rule. For this week only, the top 70 players and ties will be allowed to play the weekend, with no secondary cut rule intact. This is different from regular PGA events where only the top 65 and ties play the weekend.
Kiawah Island (Ocean Course) — Kiawah Island, SC
Par: 72, 7,851 yards; Greens: Paspalum
Kiawah Island is a natural beauty of a course that is set in some idyllic marshland on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The Island itself is located just South of Charleston and not far from where the first major of 2021 was played at Augusta. The venue was constructed in 1991 by Pete Dye, who had to suffer through Hurricanes wrecking part of his work prior to finishing. The venue was finished just in time for the 1991 Ryder Cup (which it hosted), and this week will be the third big event the course has hosted in its history.
As a fully exposed Par 72, with no real defense to the winds. The aptly-named Ocean Course sets up with lots of links-like characteristics. Unlike traditional links courses, players aren’t left with a ton of room to get creative here. A ton of trouble lurks on pretty much every shot at Kiawah where the ocean, large sand traps with sharp drop-offs (think TPC Stadium) and heaps of marshland and thick vegetation guard the greens and fairways. The greens here also rate out as small, and many are set below or above where the players will be coming in from, in terms of elevation. Drop-offs around the green are prominent, and short games will almost surely be pressured here.
Despite putting a premium on ball-striking and accuracy, the venue isn’t exactly short either. It plays well over 7,500 yards (its championship-listed yardage is much higher than that) and has seven par 4’s that come in over 450 yards in length. These holes all feature intimidating drives over marshland, as well as penalty areas, so accurate driving and long iron play will be essential. Look for lots of players opting to find fairways here over more aggressive lines. Only one par 3 measures in under 200 yards in length, and many feature small greens which will be hard to hold. The only reprieve here will come on the par 3’s, which don’t offer a ton of space for the bombers to attack and may play as “three-shotters” for most of the field.
As for stats, there’s no doubt pure ball-striking is going to take precedence over pure power. SG: Approach metrics should be emphasized the most, but with how tough the driving holes are here, strong SG: Off the Tee metrics should also be looked at — with more of an emphasis on accuracy. Finally, I can’t see the winner here not having an absolute banner week from around the greens. With the insane amount of vegetation and bunkers around the greens, the small landing areas and openness of the course (to wind), expect GIR% to be poor here and for players’ scrambling ability to be put to the max test.
2021 Outlook: This course is wide open and has been subject to criticism in the past for how tough it plays when it’s windy. As of writing, we don’t have a ton of wind in play this week — it looks like ideal weather is in store for the second major championship of 2021. Highs are set to be in the high-70 range for all four days, with no rain, and winds expected to top out around 10-14 mph. The sunny weather should make the greens here exponentially firmer, though. Again, considering the layout of the course, we could see very low GIR%’s this week. Early starters should have an advantage on all four days for Showdown purposes with winds rising into the afternoon on all four days.
Last 5 Winners
2020—Collin Morikawa -13 (over Paul Casey -11)
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)
- Six of the last eight winners of the PGA Championship finished T15 or better in their last start before winning this event (Justin Thomas finished T28 in his last start in 2017 and Collin Morikawa finished T20 in his last start in 2020).
- Each of the last five winners of the PGA Championship played in the PGA event the week prior to their win.
Winners Stats and Course Overview
Rory McIlroy (13-under par—2012 *played at Kiawah Island)
Hole Breakdown (Kiawah Island):
Hardest Holes (2012): Hole 13 (Par 4-497 yards); Hole 18 (Par 4-501 yards); Hole 10 (par 4- 447 yards)
Easiest Holes (2012): Hole 16 (par 5-581 yards); Hole 2 (par 5-557 yards); Hole 1 (par 4-396 yards)
- Kiawah saw just four holes play to an under-par score in 2012, with two of those holes being par 5’s. There are a couple of easier par 4’s on the front side, but other than those two (which players will need to take advantage) the rest played extremely tough. How players handle the huge number of long par 4’s here will determine their success for the most part.
- Kiawah played to a 74.6 scoring average the last time it was seen on Tour in 2012, with only 20 players shooting under par for the week. McIlroy was the only person to shoot better than 5-under.
- The venue is a Dye-designed course, of which there are many on Tour, the most prominent being Harbor Town Golf Links (RBC Heritage) and TPC Stadium (American Express).
- Another unique feature of this course is the paspalum greens, which are used only on a select number of courses that include El Camaleon Golf Club (Mayakoba Classic) and Puntacana Resort (Corales Punta Cana). The old CIMB Classic also featured these styles of greens.
- The event in 2012 was won by McIlroy when it was held at Kiawah, and he ranked second in both SG: OTT and Approach stats for that season. Though, the top 10 that year featured a mix of long and short hitters, with the likes of Steve Stricker, Ian Poulter and Peter Hanson — who all averaged well under 290 yards in driving distance — all finishing inside the top 10 at the PGA that season.
Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value compared to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
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 played at Kiawah Island.
1. Brooks Koepka ($9,500; winner-2019 and 2018): Koepka has won the PGA Championship in two of the last three seasons and went off in one of the final groups last year before fading to T29 on Sunday. Going back six years, he’s only finished outside the top 5 at this event twice (T13 in 2017 and T29 last year). Clearly, the longer major championship setups favor his game.
2. Justin Thomas ($11,300; winner-2017, T6-2018): Thomas missed this event in 2019 (injury), but he’s been a beast at this major at prior stops. He won it back at the longer Quail Hollow in 2017 and finished T6 the next year. Like Koepka, Thomas’ strong tee to green game means this major should offer him a great shot at a major win for years to come.
3. Jason Day ($7,700; winner-2015, T4-2020): Day won his first major at Whistling Straights back in 2015 and also finished second at this event in 2016. He hasn’t finished worse than T23 at this major the last six years now and was in the hunt in 2020, where he finished T4 at TPC Harding Park.
4. Adam Scott ($7,900; T8-2019, T3-2018): Scott doesn’t maintain a heavy schedule, but his play in this major championship has been very consistent over the past five years or so. He was in contention late in 2018 (T3), put up a T8 in 2019 and finished T22 last year, despite having almost no warm-up play coming in. He notably finished T11 at Kiawah in 2012.
5. Hideki Matsuyama ($9,400;T4-2016, T5-2017): Matsuyama may have grabbed his first major at the Masters last month, but he’s also been very consistent at this major. In eight career appearances, he’s never missed the cut at the PGA Championship and ranks third in strokes gained total at this event the last five years.
1. Viktor Hovland ($9,300; T3-T3): Hovland comes into this week off the back of two straight T3 finishes. He has been locked in since finishing T21 at the Masters in March and ranks third in SG: Ball-striking stats over the last 50 rounds. He looks set for a big week.
2. Sam Burns ($7,500; second-win): Burns has been on fire (pardon the pun) since the Masters, grabbing a win at the Valspar and a solo second-place finish at the Byron Nelson last week. He’ll have a good shot at improving on a T29 finish from last year’s PGA here.
3. Cameron Smith ($8,900; T9-T10): Smith is another confident young player who has been racking up the big finishes of late. He’s finished T17 or better in five straight starts now and ranks fifth in Strokes Gained: Around the Green stats over the last 50 rounds.
4. Matt Wallace ($7,400; T6-T18): Wallace has looked like a new player in 2020, finding a lot of success playing in America after being Europe-based for a long time. He’s got four top-20 finishes over his last six starts and finished T6 in his lead-up event at the Wells Fargo, where he gained +7.2 strokes Tee to Green.
5. Jordan Spieth ($10,100; T9-T3): Spieth has only made one start since he finished T3 at the Masters in March, but it was a good one — he landed a T9 at the Byron Nelson last week. He ranks third in SG: Approach stats over the last 50 rounds and will be looking to complete the career grand slam this week at Kiawah Island.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: Hovland and Spieth coming in hot
Looking at recent form and recent major records, you have to love the prices you’re getting here on both Jordan Spieth ($10,100) and Viktor Hovland ($9,300). Both men performed well at the Masters in April, and Hovland’s game has only taken a drastic step upward since then, landing multiple top-5 finishes. Spieth’s price also looks very affordable here when compared to the other big names, making this a good duo to start with in any core lineups. Mid-range plays like Daniel Berger ($8,700) and Louis Oosthuizen ($8,000) can also get solid looks here since both men have great current form, and it’s worth noting Oosthuizen has never missed the cut at the PGA Championship in seven career starts. Other players to consider for this format include Harris English ($7,200), Sam Burns ($7,500) and Charl Schwartzel ($6,800 – see below).
Tournaments: Reed a good pivot play at a tough venue
With Patrick Reed ($9,100) sandwiched in between some other solid plays this week, his chance to be lower-owned seems quite good. He can be a streaky ball-striker, but his ability on the greens means he can spike any week, and he has finished T13 or better in three of the last five PGA Championships. Adam Scott ($7,900) is another sneaky veteran I like here who hasn’t played once on the PGA since the Masters, but has a sterling record at this event. He was close to having a big week prior to Augusta and has won off long rest before. Other potential targets for this week in big GPPs on DraftKings include the likes of Bubba Watson ($7,500), Martin Kaymer ($7,000), Emiliano Grillo ($7,000) and Thomas Pieters ($6,800).
MY PICK: Daniel Berger ($8,700)
I love Berger’s chances to grab his first major championship win this week and think this price is very worth taking advantage for DFS purposes. Since coming back from the COVID-19 stoppage last June, he has made 21 starts on TOUR (including his T3 finish last week) and has recorded eight top-10 finishes and two wins. While he doesn’t have the power of a Dustin Johnson ($10,900) or Bryson DeChambeau ($10,200), Berger still rates out as one of the most consistent drivers of the ball in the game and has now gained a stroke or more off the tee in seven straight starts. In short, while he won’t be driving every green here, he also won’t be intimidated by the tough lines off the tee on this Pete Dye design. To that point, Berger has also proven to like these tricky Dye designs in the past and has now racked up three top 10 finishes in his last four starts on Dye courses.
Given the seaside venue, smaller greens and the multitude of marshes/waste bunkers/vegetation in play on every hole here, the advantage should go to players who bring both consistent ball-striking and have the ability to keep their nerve around the tough green complexes. Having grown up in Florida and playing tough courses like PGA National, Berger has proven to possess an underrated short game which typically shows up best on these tighter setups. To me, this is the perfect spot for a player of his ilk to potentially grab a major, and I like targeting him for DFS here where he seems like a great value at under $9K.
MY SLEEPER: Charl Schwartzel ($6,800)
The rise of Schwartzel back to DFS relevance over the last month has been one of the bigger surprises of the season. The 2011 Masters winner has always had the talent to hang with the top 20 players in the world but injury issues have led to him having trouble getting in enough competitive practice to be… competitive. Though, the injury stuff seems to be behind Schwartzel now, entering this week off of seven made cuts in a row, the latest of which came last week when he grinded his way to a T3 finish at the Byron Nelson. Schwartzel’s rise has been off the back of heady ball-striking, and he ranked fifth in both SG: Approach and Tee to Green stats last week, displaying the kind of long game that will be crucial to perform well at a demanding course like Kiawah Island.
On top of this ball-striking surge, Schwartzel’s sometimes finicky around-the-green game has also returned to life, gaining +1.0 or more strokes in that area in seven of his last 10 starts on TOUR. Schwartzel grinded his way to a T59 finish at this event/venue in 2012 but has found some success on Pete Dye venues in the past, recording a T2 finish at THE PLAYERS in 2018. Considering the recent form he’s shown and how important tee to green play is going to be this week, Schwartzel at under $7K here looks like one of the bargains of the week in DFS. He isn’t a player that should be ignored in the betting odds as a potential dark horse victor either.
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