The TOUR heads back to the Carolinas for the Palmetto Championship at Congaree Golf Club. The course will play as a par 71, measuring 7,655 yards. Congaree is located in Ridgeland, S.C., and will feature Bermuda greens. The move to Congaree is a one-year replacement for the RBC Canadian Open due to COVID-19 concerns in Canada.
The pseudo-Carolina swing now has its third tournament in the state, following the RBC Heritage and PGA Championship earlier this season. The field is set at 156, and the top 65 and ties will make the weekend.
South Carolina’s Dustin Johnson (+800, $11,400) and Brooks Koepka (+900, $11,100) headline the field this week, and both are looking to make any last-minute corrections to their games before the U.S. Open next week at Torrey Pines (South). A swath of young talent fresh off the NCAA’s will be competing like John Pak (+20000, $6,900), who’s won multiple times in his college career, and the University of Texas’ Cole Hammer (+25000, $6,800), both looking to play well early in their professional careers.
Congaree was designed in 2017 by Tom Fazio with tree-lined fairways and a lot of sand instead of rough, similar to courses we see in Australia and other desert settings. One of the first things you notice is the length, especially on the par 4s; three on the front-nine measure over 500 yards and two on the back measuring between 465 to 500 yards. The par 5s are no walk in the park either, each measuring over 580 yards. The par 5, fourth hole is 645 yards with sand on both sides and a water hazard that guards the right side of the green. The length and advantage of hitting it out of the fairway should translate to both Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and long-iron proximity, especially for shorter hitters, being an important stat to consider when building rosters. The course should play hard and fast if the weather remains dry, making Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green a factor as well. The course conditions could also mean it plays shorter than the entire 7,600-plus yards. Lucas Glover (+4500, $8,600), who has a connection to Congaree, mentions that we’ll see many styles of golf if the conditions remain firm and fast, giving way to multiple styles of golf potentially playing well this week.
The increase in field size back up to 156 golfers after a couple of weeks of 120 golfers means a smaller percentage of lineups getting six of six golfers through the cut. With no course history, an obvious place to start when building lineups is rostering golfers who play well on similar course styles. Tracks in Australia, Texas and some European Tour events in the Middle East like The Saudi International and tournaments in Dubai are a few that come to mind.
Tommy Fleetwood (+2500 to Win, $9,500 on DraftKings)
The Euros seem to have a slight edge coming into this week with how the course sets up, and Fleetwood, who’s playing well on the European Tour, could be in for a solid week. He’s been inconsistent with three missed cuts in his previous five events on TOUR, but with most of the top golfers taking the week off pre-U.S. Open, the 32nd-ranked golfer in the world becomes an enticing option. Looking at courses that play over 7,400 yards, Fleetwood ranks 30th in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, 11th in approach and second in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green over the past 24 rounds. His game becomes even more impressive on fast Bermuda greens, ranking just inside the top 20 in Strokes Gained: Putting, 11th around the greens and first in Strokes Gained: Total over the same timeframe. With two top 10s and a top 20 on desert courses in the Middle East this season, Fleetwood could have that elusive win he’s been searching for on the PGA TOUR heading into the U.S. Open.
Ian Poulter (+3200 to Win, $9,200 on DraftKings)
His outright number may seem like a stretch, but Poulter should like what he sees this week at Congaree GC, especially on the greens. On fast, Bermuda surfaces, Poulter ranks 16th in Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green and 11th in putting over the previous 24 rounds. His short game isn’t the concern, especially when he’s gaining 4.5 strokes on the Bermuda greens like he did at the PGA Championship; it’s his ball-striking. He’s been accurate Off-the-Tee but isn’t gaining much distance on the field. His approach game is in form, ranking 29th over the last dozen rounds, and he was stellar with his irons at the Charles Schwab Challenge when he gained 3.9 strokes at Colonial CC. Even if he’s not hitting it 300-plus yards on these long holes, we should feel somewhat confident in his accuracy with his long irons on courses over 7,400 yards, ranking 18th in proximity from 175 to 200 yards and 32nd in 200-plus yards away over the past 24 rounds. Poulter has a ton of experience playing overseas in the Middle East and has some of his best career finishes on longer courses finishing third at the WGC-Mexico at Golf Club de Chapultepec in 2019 and winning the 2018 Shell Houston Open at GC of Houston.
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