DraftKings PGA Preview: Wells Fargo Championship
It was too bad that DraftKings couldn’t figure out how to offer DFS contests last week for the Zurich Classic, but it was still fun watching Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer win this unique event. Now, we return to DFS with a vengeance this week with a top-heavy Wells Fargo Championship. Eight of the top 20 players in the world are set to tee it up this week. DraftKings has a variety of decent contests this week ranging from $0.25 GPPs to single entries to their Drive the Green contest with a $100,000 first place prize. There are eight golfers priced at (or above) $9,500 this week. Rory McIlroy is the clear favorite in the field and it’s reflected in his $11,800 price. Jason Day ($11,000) is the only other golfer in the 11k range. Rickie Fowler ($10,600), Justin Rose ($10,300), and Hideki Matsuyama ($10,100) round out the five-digit salary club. DraftKings provides you with $50,000 to select six golfers for an average roster spot of $8,333.
Remember that just like real-life golf, DFS golf can be frustrating and fun all at the same time. DFS Golf is really hard. Work at having a solid process week in and week out as opposed to getting bogged down by recency bias or the ups-and-downs of the weekly golf grind. As an example, Byeong-Hun An, who was leading the PGA Tour in consecutive cuts made, missed the cut at the RBC Heritage and C.T. Pan, who had missed four cuts in a row, won the event.
All of the tips and information that I mention in this article are plays that I will be considering for my own lineups. However, that doesn’t mean that I will end up with all of the guys that I mention. Additional news, research, and roster construction may lead me to different plays. Remember to check the news and social media reports leading up to the first golfer teeing off. Though golf is more difficult to get injury news, you might be able to pick up a nugget or two that helps with roster construction – especially when dealing with possible withdrawals.
Have a solid process and use all the information available to make the best decision possible for your lineup. Good luck and, most importantly, have fun! Whether you win or lose, golf is one of the most entertaining fantasy sports to follow because you get four days of action.
The Wells Fargo Championship is played at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, NC. The course is a Par 71 and measures 7,554 yards. The greens are Bermuda and super fast.
156 players are scheduled to tee it up with the top 70 (and ties) making the cut and playing on the weekend.
Of the 50 hardest holes on tour last year, Quail Hollow features five of them (No. 1, No. 11, No. 16, No. 17, and No. 18). The “Green Mile” is, by far, the most difficult three-hole finish on the PGA Tour. If you play the “Green Mile” in even par, then you are actually gaining a stroke on the field. This makes for a very interesting finish.
Previous winners of the Wells Fargo Championship that are in the field this week include Jason Day (2018), Brian Harman (2017 but tourney not held at Quail Hollow), Rory McIlroy (2015, 2010), J. B. Holmes (2014), Rickie Fowler (2012), and Lucas Glover (2011).
If you want an accurate course history, you’ll want to make sure that you look at the 2017 PGA Championship, as opposed to the 2017 Wells Fargo Championship.
The course was modified in 2017 because the PGA Championship was played here. It went from a Par 72 to a Par 71. The scoring was more difficult as a result. The 73.468 scoring average at Quail Hollow that year was the highest score (relative to par) on any course on the PGA Tour in 2017. The course got even longer and harder than it had been previously.
Only 12 players were under par at the 2017 PGA Championship.
Eagle Point GC was the host of the Wells Fargo Championship in 2017 because Quail Hollow was getting ready to host the PGA Championship.
Three of the four Par 3s play over 200 yards. Hole number six is an incredible 249 yards long.
Nine of the 11 Par 4s play over 450 yards.
The average winning score at Quail Hollow the last nine years has been nearly 13-under par. Rory McIlroy’s win in 2015 at 21-under par was the best. Justin Thomas (2017 PGA Championship) and Derek Ernst (2013) have the worst winning scores at eight-under par.
COURSE FIT (Key Statistics)
Strokes Gained: Off The Tee
Rough was more penal in 2017 when the PGA Championship was contested here. It has gone back to more of the traditional Wells Fargo Championship setup. Bombers will gain a bit of an advantage as they will not be penalized for their mistakes off the tee. You should see some gripping and ripping this week. Five of the top-six finishers last year gained at least 2.4 strokes off the tee. In looking at the last 8, 12, 24, 36, and 50 rounds, the best 15 golfers off the tee (in rank order) are Rory McIlroy, Jhonattan Vegas, Byeong-Hun An, Gary Woodland, Keith Mitchell, Matt Jones, Adam Hadwin, Paul Casey, Luke List, Aaron Wise, Tony Finau, Harold Varner III, Hideki Matsuyama, Kevin Streelman, and Daniel Berger.
Par 5 Scoring
The three Par 5s play well below par at Quail Hollow giving the golfers a great chance to pick up some extra strokes. In the last 24 rounds, the golfers that have played the best on Par 5s (in order) are Paul Casey, Roger Sloan, Rory McIlroy, Adam Hadwin, Tony Finau, Ollie Schniederjans, Luke List, Nate Lashley, Keith Mitchell, and Jhonattan Vegas.
Par 4 Scoring (450-500 yards)
With five of the Par 4s measuring between 450-500 yards, golfers that are able to perform well at this length can gain an advantage on the field. The 10 golfers that have been the best at this distance over the last 24 rounds (in order) are Rory McIlroy, Charles Howell III, Wyndham Clark, Byeong-Hun An, D.J. Trahan, Max Homa, Jim Knous, Sungjae Im, K.H. Lee, and Jonathan Byrd.
Strokes Gained: Approach
Always a key stat for most courses and Quail Hollow is no exception. When looking at statistics from the last 8, 12, 24, 36, and 50 rounds, the 10 golfers that have shown the best approach game (in order) are Hideki Matsuyama, Keegan Bradley, Henrik Stenson, Jason Kokrak, Byeong-Hun An, Lucas Glover, Rory McIlroy, Sungjae Im, Adam Schenk, and Scott Stallings.
Rory McIlroy ($11,800)
McIlroy finished T22 at the 2017 PGA Championship, which is his worst finish at this course in his last five tries. He won the Wells Fargo Championship in 2015 and then followed that up with a T4 the next year. He ranks first in my course history mixed model.
Jason Day ($11,000)
He has finished in the top 10 in each of the last three times that he has played at Quail Hollow, though one of those times was way back in 2012. His very recent course history is extremely promising as he finished T9 at the 2017 PGA Championship and is the defending champion at this tournament.
Phil Mickelson ($9,100)
He missed the cut at the 2017 PGA Championship, but he has been money at the Wells Fargo Championship when hosting at Quail Hollow. Three straight top-five finishes with a T11 before that in 2014. He is second in my course history mixed model behind only Rory McIlroy.
Patrick Reed ($8,800)
He finished eighth here last year after a runner-up performance at the 2017 PGA Championship. He has made the cut all five times he has played in the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow.
Rory McIlroy ($11,800)
It’s not bad when the worst you can say about a guy is that they finished T21 at the Masters. Before he “disappointed” as the favorite at Augusta, he had six top-six finishes in a row. He just couldn’t get anything going at Augusta but still managed to shoot 68 on Sunday. He’s ranked first in my recent form custom model. In the last 24 rounds, nobody has gained more strokes on the field. He is also second in fantasy scoring behind Justin Rose in the last 24 rounds.
Rickie Fowler ($10,600)
Only Jason Kokrak has made more consecutive cuts in this field than Fowler’s 19. He hasn’t been great this year but has been solid. He has a win and a runner-up performance in the calendar year. He secured a top-10 finish at the Masters. He is a pretty good bet to make the cut and has shown that he can put himself on the Sunday leader board. In the last 24 rounds, he is sixth in fantasy scoring. He is fourth in my recent form custom model.
Jason Kokrak ($8,700)
This has been a career year for Kokrak, but he has yet to get a win. Considering it is difficult to win on the PGA Tour, this isn’t a huge knock against him. Kokrak leads the PGA Tour with 20 consecutive cuts made. The industry was a little down on him at the last tournament since he didn’t seem to be a fit. But Kokrak still managed a T16 when a couple of other favorites fell by the way side. He has nine top-20 finishes in his last 11 events. This includes four top-10 finishes in his last seven events. He ranks third in my recent form model.
Rory McIlroy ($11,800)
He is the clear favorite this week. He is in good form, his game fits the course, and he’s dominated at Quail Hollow in the past. The only problem is that this is a strong field and he is really expensive. I would not be surprised if he won. However, you are going to need to think hard about clicking his name when he is $1,500 more than the second ranked player in the world (Justin Rose) or at least $2,000 more than guys like Webb Simpson, Phil Mickelson, and Patrick Reed who all have very good course history. In a vacuum, McIlroy is the best play but when you consider his salary, you’ll need to weigh whether you can find enough value in the lower tiers to make it work. In large field GPPs, I will be playing McIlroy because I need the winner and he has a good shot at winning and I will then take my chances on some low dollar punts. For my single entries or 3-max lineups, I probably will not be playing him. He rates out far and away the best golfer in the field in all of my statistical models, recent form models, and course history models. However, as strong as this field is up top, it is ugly in the mid and lower tiers. I am not sure I can find enough value that has a strong likelihood of making the cut if I play him so I will construct my Rory lineups for larger GPPs.
FAVORITE $8,000+ PLAYS
Gary Woodland ($9,000)
I wouldn’t be surprised if Woodland won this thing this week. He certainly has the length off the tee and the overall game to contend. He has been playing good golf for almost a full year now. He missed the cut last year but that was during a streak of four straight MCs. Prior to last year, he had four straight top-25 finishes here, including a T22 at the 2017 PGA Championship. He also finished T4 in 2015. He has made 13 of 14 cuts in 2018-19, including a stretch of four top-10 finishes in five events. He has cooled off slightly but did finish T32 at the Masters where he had been terrible for years. In the last 24 rounds, he is fourth in fantasy scoring and second in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee.
Jason Kokrak ($8,700)
I am conflicted on Kokrak this week. He has missed four cuts in a row at this event but is playing the best golf of his career. I am focusing on cut makers this week and love looking at consecutive cuts made, as well as cut percentage. Kokrak is that guy. He has made 14 of 14 cuts during the 2018-19 season and leads the tour with 20 straight made cuts. I also like his game for this course but for whatever reason, he just has not played well. This is a great course history versus recent form test case this week. Since the calendar year started, his worst finish is T47, which was at The PLAYERS. He has four top-10 finishes and eight top-20 finishes in his ten starts this calendar year. In the last 24 rounds, he is first in the field in avoiding bogeys, which is probably why he has been so good at making cuts. His main flaw is that he is terrible around the greens. However, he is second in approach and third at hitting greens in regulation. He also ranks in the top-25 with the flat stick and off the tee. In other words, if he is dialed in as usual, then his around the green game won’t matter. If he struggles hitting the ball, then his scrambling ability around the green won’t be able to bail him out. His price is too low to get me off of him. All streaks come to an end as we saw Byeong-Hun An’s PGA Tour-leading cut streak come to an end two weeks ago at the Heritage, but I am going to ride the Kokrak momentum at least for another week and hope that recent form wins the battle against course history. Oh yeah, he also had missed the cut at Harbour Town each of the last two years but still finished T16 two weeks ago at the RBC Heritage.
Charles Howell III ($8,400)
Unfortunately, he missed the cut at the RBC Heritage (much to my wallet’s chagrin). He had played the weekend in his previous 10 events. Up until that MC at the Heritage, the worst he had finished in his previous 10 starts was a T35 at The PLAYERS. Overall, he has made the cut at Quail Hollow in four of his last five starts, including a T21 last year and a T18 in 2014. Statistically, he seems to be a good fit for this course overall as he does well on the Par 5s and is strong off the tee.
Byeong-Hun An ($8,300)
He came into the RBC Heritage with the longest active cut streak on the PGA Tour and proceeded to let down more than 25% of the DFS community with a MC. He just didn’t hit the ball well the first two days. He is not a good putter, but he is normally one of the best at swinging a club on tour. It was just a bad couple of days, and I am going to go right back to him with confidence. The only thing that would keep me off of him at this price would be if his ownership is too high. But you have to play someone and going with a guy that has made 10 out of 11 cuts this season and has all the statistical measurables needed to be elite except for putting, then I say fire him up. Not only do I think he will bounce back but I also think this could be the week that he breaks through for win.
Keegan Bradley ($8,000)
I don’t know how this guy has made 13 out of his 14 cuts in 2018-19. He is a terrible putter and has a tendency to have some blow-up holes, but its hard to argue with the results. He is not at all likely to show up on the leader board on Sunday but is very likely to show up on the leader board at some point during the week or have the low score of the week for one of his rounds. That means that he will also probably be scoring his fair share of fantasy points. I never consider Bradley a safe play, but he has been a cut maker. When you consider the other options in this price range, he doesn’t appear to be that bad. Heaven help us.
FAVORITE $7,000 PLAYS
Rory Sabbatini ($7,700)
He has always been a streaky golfer and he is on a heater (at least for him). He has quietly made six straight cuts, including a T10 at the Heritage two weeks ago. This past week, he and Brian Gay finished third at the Zurich Classic. He finished 27th last year at Quail Hollow. This is not a price I want to pay for Sabbatini but considering the alternatives, it’s as good as any. Ride the hot hand. In his last 24 rounds played, he is 16th in fantasy scoring and 19th in total shots gained. His approach game has been a little off, but he is doing everything else well.
Kevin Streelman ($7,700)
This might surprise you because it did me, but Streelman is the only golfer in the field that has top-10 finishes in his last two events played. He finished T6 at RBC Heritage and at the Valero Texas Open. He is not necessarily a safe play since he missed the cut in the two events immediately preceding those top-10 finishes. Overall, he has missed four cuts in his last 10 events. He has also missed his last two cuts here but did finish T9 in 2015 and T14 in 2014.
Wyndham Clark ($7,400)
In the last 36 rounds played, he is ninth in the field for fantasy scoring and 13th in total strokes gained on the field. That is not bad for his price tag. He has quietly been playing solid golf lately with eight straight made cuts. He has only two top-10 finishes during this stretch, but he does score well from a fantasy perspective. He’s a relatively safe bet to make the cut with a good shot at a top-20 finish as he has done four times in his last eight events.
Michael Thompson ($7,400)
After seeing 20% ownership with six straight made cuts and five top-20 finishes, he has cooled off lately. He has missed the cut in two of his last four events, but his most recent start saw him regain the magic on his way to a top-10 finish at the Heritage. He was also only 3% owned. It will be interesting to see if anyone jumps back on him this week. In the last 36 rounds played, he is eighth in fantasy scoring and ninth in total strokes gained. He has a solid overall game with no real weaknesses but also nothing that jumps out as a major strength (though his short game and putting has been good this year). Last year, he finished T42 here.
FAVORITE $6,000 PLAYS
Hank Lebioda ($6,800)
He is a major outlier in that he significantly outscores his finishing position. His best finish has only been 17th this year but he is ranked 12th in fantasy scoring in the last 36 rounds he has played. He has made five straight PGA cuts, which is nice when looking at punt plays. Lebioda did just finish T5, along with his partner Curtis Luck at the Zurich Classic. That wasn’t taken into account with his fantasy scoring since there wasn’t any DFS last week. He is probably my favorite 6k play this week.
Adam Schenk ($6,700)
In the last 24 rounds he has played, he is 13th in the field in total strokes gained. He is a good ball-striker, has a strong approach game, is solid off the tee, and is a decent putter. He is not going to light the world on fire from a statistical approach, but he definitely has a solid overall game. He is top 30 in terms of fantasy scoring in the last 24 rounds. Not great, but for a guy in the 6k range, that is really good. Unfortunately, he is coming off a missed cut at the Heritage but did finish T7 at Valero before that.
Peter Malnati ($6,700)
Has made five straight cuts plus a respectable T9 at the Zurich with Billy Hurley as his partner. That finish last week gave him three straight top-25 finishes. Malnati struggles a little off the tee and on approach. The best part of his game is around the greens and with the flat stick. He is pretty consistent in that area, but I would definitely like to see his ball-striking be more reliable. Finished T34 here last year.
Jamy Bechler is a regular contributor to FantasyPros for NBA, NFL, and PGA. You can follow him on his DFS twitter @WinningDFS101. When he is not playing DFS, Jamy is an author, host of the “Success is a Choice” podcast, and is a leadership trainer, working with businesses and teams across the country (including the NBA). Even though he offers his advice on players and contests, after additional information and consideration, he may end up using different players and strategies than what he recommends.