Ambush DFS Preview: PGA Championship

Courtesy thegolfnewsnet.com

From one of the worst golf tournaments of recent memory to one of the best fields of recent memory, we should be in for a really good second major of the year that features 99 of the top 100 players in the world. Plus, another shot at a million dollars! Bethpage Black, undoubtedly the hardest course ever because it has a warning sign that says so, is looking to play long and slow because of the relatively cold weather and rain. So, for a third week in a row, we look to the longer hitters that should make the course easier on themselves by being able to hit shorter clubs into greens than the rest of the field. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; fool me three times… quit playing DFS?  There is no exact science in this, but I counted eight or nine holes that will likely have an approach to the green around 200 yards or more for most of the field (including three par 3’s). Not only am I targeting players with good statistics from that range, but also looking for guys that are good around the green. Obviously, with longer approaches to greens, they are going to be missed more, so guys that can get up and down easily and avoid bogey should do well, especially considering that this will likely be a low scoring event. With that being said, here are some thoughts on a few guys this week:

Sure Play: Rory McIlroy (DK 10,900 / FD 12,100)

As good as Rory has been this year, he seems to be overshadowed this week, unsurprisingly, by guys like Tiger and Brooks Koepka. Tiger for obvious reasons, and Brooks for his extremely good play in major tournaments. He’s smashed in between the two of them on DraftKings and is actually the more expensive of the three on FanDuel, so in both scenarios, he may end up being lower owned than he probably should be. Tossing out the Masters (21st), he doesn’t have a finish this year worse than eighth place and won The Players which was almost as loaded of a field like this one. It’s no secret Rory is one of the longest and best with the driver in hand, but the rest of his game should do well for him this week too. He’s 16th on tour in approaches from 200+ yards, and 17th in Bogey Avoidance. He’s ranked 49th in Shots Gained- Around the Green, which I would just call average for his caliber of player, however, with his approach game from longer distances he likely will have to play less off the greens than others in the field. Looking for Rory to continue his hot streak this week on a course that should suit him well.

Hit or Miss: Francesco Molinari (DK 9,700 / FD 11,400)

Molinari is arguably one of the best ball strikers on tour, and on a course where the rough could get you in a lot of trouble and scores are not likely to be low, good ball striking could be a huge advantage this weekend. From the eye test, I’m not sure anyone on tour more consistently plays holes from the fairway to the green, and two putts for par. That could be good enough this weekend if scoring is hard to come by. However, his game does not fit the course particularly well in the statistical categories I’m looking at. He’s not long off the tee (132nd), plus he’s 111th in approaches from 200+ yards, and 77th in Shots Gained – Around the Green. It appears the length of this course may be extra challenging for him. In addition, he played this course in 2012 at The Barclay’s and missed the cut. It’s hard to ever count a guy out that strikes the ball as well as Moli, but this week might prove to be a little too much for him.

Mid-Tier Favorites: Rickie Fowler (DK 9,300 / FD 11,100)  Tony Finau (DK 8,800 / FD 10,700) Patrick Cantlay (DK 8,200 / FD 10,100)

Rickie: For being one of the best golfers in the world, he sure doesn’t get priced like it for majors. Although he struggles to win them, he always seems to hang around the top of the leaderboards. Which is probably a good thing for him so he’s not waiting around on the 18th green all day long waiting to congratulate the winner of the tournament. I think it’s just a matter of time before he gets his though, and this weekend could be the perfect fit for him. Although he’s not really a “bomber”, he’s plenty long off the tee at 30th on tour, right around guys more known for drive distance like Dustin Johnson. What is more important, he’s 4th on tour in approaches from 200 yards, so being able to get himself closer than most from that far away is going to be a huge advantage, especially as one of the best putters on tour. Also worth noting, the last time a big event was played at this course in 2016 (The Barclays), he finished tied for seventh. Even if he doesn’t win, he’s cheap enough in this field to still pair with your favorite higher priced player.

Finau: It should be known by now, Finau is one of the longest hitters on the tour which should be a big advantage on this long and slow golf course as long as he keeps it in the fairway for the most part. He’s 29th in approaches from 200+ yards and 45th in Bogey Avoidance, both of which are not elite by any means, but still pretty good. Although he won’t be grouped with guys like Tiger and Brooks who are known for showing up big time in majors, Finau’s major track record is pretty good too and he’s at a price point where you can pretty easily pair him with other top contenders in the field. He’s also seen some success on this course in the past, finishing 12th place in The Barclays in 2016. As I always mention with him, nobody makes missing a 4-foot putt look easier (except maybe Luke List), so he’ll have to roll in a bunch of those to keep himself in contention. Those short putts are going to be especially important when scoring is already going to be hard.

Cantlay: This is one of my favorite guys to play in strong events. He’s almost always underpriced and he seems to always step his game up when he’s got the best in the world to compete against. He should set up well for the course this weekend, he’s 15th on tour in driving distance, so obviously long enough to keep up with the other long hitters in the event. He’s 67th in approaches from 200+ yards, which is decent, but the rest of his game should make up for the average long-distance approach play. He’s 19th in Shots Gained – Around the Green, 3rd in Scrambling, and 4th in Bogey Avoidance. He’s one of the best in the field in keeping squares off the scorecards which will be huge in this event.

Value Plays: Byeong Hun An (DK 7,100 / FD 8,600) Emiliano Grillo (DK 7,100 / FD 8,600) Matt Wallace (DK 6,700 / FD 8,400)

Benny An: An is sneaky long off the tee, but you never hear his name mentioned alongside all the other long hitters on tour. His game statistically fits most of what should be important for this week. He’s 13th in driving distance, 41st in approaches from 200+ yards, and 1st in Shots Gained – Around the Green. His last two events haven’t gone well, including a withdraw from the Wells Fargo due to a neck injury, but prior to that, he was consistently posting really good finishes, including a couple top 10’s. Assuming he wouldn’t participate in the event if he was injured, I won’t worry about the neck injury this week and can reasonably expect him to get back on track on a course that should suit him well.

Grillo: He should be one of the more popular guys in this range, but his popularity is probably deserved. Many people lean on past course history to help with decision making, and I like to add one guy in this value range each week if I can as a guy whose statistics don’t necessarily make sense, but the course history is there. If you take a look at The Barclays leaderboard from 2016, you’ll see Grillo’s name right underneath Patrick Reed’s name with a tie for second place. As one of the best ball strikers on tour, keeping himself out of the thick rough should save him some strokes compared to others that hit it much farther than him but may find themselves in trouble off the fairway. He doesn’t hit it far and is not great around the greens, but you can never go wrong in big events with guys that keep the ball in the fairway.

Wallace: It appears that DFS sites struggle with how to price Euro Tour guys when they come over for PGA events, and among the handful of likely underpriced Euro Tour guys this week, Wallace might be one of the most underpriced, and his game fits this course. For starters, he’s coming off a second place finish in the British Masters, so his game is obviously in good form. His last two PGA events didn’t go well, but he finished 30th at The Players, and 6th at the Arnold Palmer, both of which had strong fields. He’s 36th in driving distance on tour and 32nd in approaches from 200+ yards. Above average in two statistics that should be important this week. He’s also 11th in Shots Gained – Around the Green. As mentioned earlier, being able to play well off the green is going to be important, given the long approaches are less likely to find themselves on the green. A guy in good form that should statistically fit the course at this low of a price can provide you some really nice salary relief to fit in those more expensive guys at the top of the field.

 

Good Luck, hope you win millions!

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