FanDuel PGA Preview: PGA Championship
The second major is finally upon us and FanDuel has not disappointed in terms of the contests that they are offering. Just like they did for the Masters, if Tiger Woods wins, they will refund all the entry fees from the $15 Big Cat Eagle and $3 Big Cat Stinger. This was a really nice bonus and customer-friendly promotion. FD is also offering $10,000 of free prizes in the Dark ‘n Stormy Series presented by Goslings Rum. This is free to enter and has a $500 first-place prize. FanDuel also has a $0.25 contest that is great for getting your feet wet and having fun. The Big Cat Eagle costs $15 but could win you up to $100,000 (plus if Tiger wins, you get your entry fee back.
This is the most stacked field of the year so far and FanDuel has priced 11 of the golfers at $11,000 or above. Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy are the only two that are in the 12k range at $12,200 and $12,100, respectively. Brooks Koepka ($11,800), Tiger Woods ($11,700), and Justin Thomas ($11,600) round out the top five, in terms of salary. FanDuel provides you with $60,000 to select six golfers for an average roster spot of $10,000. Since this is a major, there tends to be a lot of good value at the lower price tiers, as well. You should like your lineups this week. If you don’t, then you need to construct a different lineup.
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.
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. 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.
Bethpage State Park (Black Course) in Farmingdale, NY will play host to this year’s PGA Championship. The course is a Par 70, which measures 7,436 yards.
The greens are made of POA grass and are slightly smaller than tour average. The fairways are also slightly narrower than the tour average.
Bethpage has hosted four PGA events this century (2002 US Open, 2009 US Open, 2012 Barclays, and the 2016 Barclays). The average winning score in the majors has been 3-under par. The average winning score in the non-majors has been 9-under par.
156 players are scheduled to tee it up with the top 70 (and ties) making the cut and playing on the weekend. There is no MDF this week so if your golfer makes it past Friday, they will play the entire weekend (unless, of course, they withdraw). Also, unlike the Masters, where it seemed like everyone (except for Paul Casey and Justin Rose) made the cut, we will not see 75-80% of the golfers making the cut this week. All of the world’s top-100 golfers are playing (editor’s note: Justin Thomas has withdrawn) so competition for making the cut should be fierce and there will be some talented players trunk-slamming on Friday afternoon.
Previous winners of the PGA Championship (different course each year) that are in the field this week include Brooks Koepka (2018), Justin Thomas (2017), Jimmy Walker (2016), Jason Day (2015), Rory McIlroy (2014, 2012), Jason Dufner (2013), Keegan Bradley (2011), Martin Kaymer (2010), Y.E. Yang (2009), Padraig Harrington (2008), Tiger Woods, 2007, 2006, 2000, 1999), Phil Mickelson (2005), Vijay Singh (2004, 1998), Shaun Micheel (2003), Rich Beem (2002), Davis Love III (1997), and John Daly (1991)
The cut line for the previous US Opens was 11-over par in 2002 and 4-over par 2009. The Barclays cut line was 2-over in 2012 and 4-over in 2016.
During the 2009 U.S. Open, 65% of fairways were hit, which is similar to the tour’s average. However, the 61% GIR rate was lower than the tour’s average. Making this statistic even worse is the fact that golfers only got up and down 50% of the time when they did miss the green in regulation. This is about 10 percent lower than the tour average.
Tiger Woods was the only golfer to go under par at the 2002 U.S. Open (-3) when he beat Phil Mickelson by three strokes. Sergio Garcia finished fourth that year. This the only major that Woods and Mickelson have occupied the top two spots.
During the 2009 U.S. Open, only three players finished under par as Lucas Glover’s 4-under par was two better than Ricky Barnes and three better than David Duval and Phil Mickelson. Other notable top-10 finishes that year included Ross Fisher, Tiger Woods, Henrik Stenson, Rory McIlroy, Ryan Moore, and Sergio Garcia.
The 2012 Barclays was much kinder and gentler than the previous U.S. Opens had been. Nick Watney defeated Brandt Snedeker by three strokes when he carded a 10-under par winning score. Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia tied for third place.
The 2016 Barclays played similar to the 2012 event with Patrick Reed emerging victorious at 9-under par. Other notable top-10 finishers included Emiliano Grillo, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Gary Woodland, Ryan Moore, Rickie Fowler, Jason Kokrak, and Jordan Spieth.
The course will most likely not play as tough this time around since the PGA is setting it up rather than the USGA. The USGA likes to make the course the star. The PGA likes to let the players take center stage. The rough shouldn’t be as penal as past U.S. Opens but it will still be thick.
Generally speaking, PGA Championships produce much better scores than U.S. Opens. Six of the past seven winning scores at the PGA Championship have been in double-digits. Since 2002, the winning PGA Championship score has been 10-under par. The average winning U.S. Open score during that same time period has been 3-under par.
Brooks Koepka is the defending PGA Champion and a win this year would make him the first golfer since Tiger Woods to win the Wanamaker Trophy in back-to-back years.
Tiger Woods won the first major of the year when he prevailed at Augusta National last month. This is the first time he is playing since his 15th major victory. It is also his first opportunity to get his 82nd career PGA Tour victory, which would tie Sam Snead.
Sergio Garcia is the only player to finish in the top 10 at Bethpage Black three different times. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Ryan Moore all have two top-10 finishes at this course.
COURSE FIT (Key Statistics)
Shots Gained: Off The Tee
A 7,400-yard Par 70 course is really long, even by PGA standards. Golfers need to have some distance to their games. But the fairways are less than 30 feet wide, so they also need accuracy. In measuring a player’s ability to off the tee, we looked at both short- and long-term form. The 10 golfers that are most consistent at gaining strokes off the tee are Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Jhonnatan Vegas, Bryson DeChambeau, Tommy Fleetwood, Gary Woodland, Keith Mitchell, and Aaron Wise.
Shots Gained: Approach
In looking at approach statistics from the last 8, 12, 24, 36, 50 75, and 100 rounds, the 10 golfers with the most consistent second shot game are Keegan Bradley, Henrik Stenson, Hideki Matsuyama, Matt Kuchar, Corey Conners, Rory McIlroy, Jason Kokrak, Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, and Paul Casey
Long and Difficult Courses
In the last three years, the top-10 golfer that have gained the most total strokes on the field and scored the best from a fantasy perspective on courses that are 7,400 yards or longer and provide challenging scoring results are Tony Finau, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Francesco Molinari, Ryan Palmer, Rickie Fowler, Marc Leishman, Charley Hoffman, Lucas Glover, and Paul Casey.
Brooks Koepka ($11,800)
He shouldn’t really be listed here because it is “course history”, not “tournament history” but Brooks has five straight top-15 finishes at PGA Championships. He has three top-five finishes in the last five years, including a win last year. Bethpage Black is closer to a U.S. Open course than a normal PGA Championship course, so those results are not apples-to-apples. However, remember that he has won the last two U.S. Opens so his game is suited well to that kind of setup.
Tiger Woods ($11,700)
Woods won the 2002 U.S. Open and then followed it up with a top-10 finish the next time Bethpage Black played host to a PGA event at the 2009 U.S. Open. He also finished T38 at the 2012 Barclays.
Phil Mickelson ($10,300)
Back-to-back runner-up finishes (to Tiger Woods and Lucas Glover) when the U.S. Open was held here in 2002 and 2009. He finished T38 at the 2012 Barclays, which was ironically, the same as Tiger Woods. He nearly joined Sergio Garcia as the only player to have three top-10 finishes at Bethpage Black when he finished T13 at the 2016 Barclays.
Ryan Moore ($8,700)
Ryan Moore is the only golfer that is ranked in the top five for total strokes gained for when Bethpage Black played host for both the U.S. Opens and the Barclays. He is one of only four golfers to have multiple top-10 finishes at Bethpage Black. Sergio Garcia, Tiger Woods, and Phil Mickelson are the others.
Rory McIlroy ($12,100)
He has “disappointed” some people the last two weeks at the Wells Fargo and the Masters because he was such a heavy favorite. However, most golfers would love to have his T8 and T21 finishes. Prior to those results, he had six straight top-six finishes. That is astounding. Nobody has gained more total strokes than Rory in the last 24 rounds. He also has made the cut in 17 straight PGA tour events.
Jason Kokrak ($8,900)
Kokrak leads the PGA Tour with 21 straight cuts made as he hasn’t missed a cut since the Open Championship last July. However, he did have his worst performance in the last year when he finished 69th at the Wells Fargo. Prior to that, he had been one of the most consistent players on tour. Nine of his last 11 starts had resulted in a top-25 finish. Overall, during his consecutive cut streak, he has 13 top-25 finishes, including four top-10 finishes. Just as importantly, he has consistently scored better than his finishing position when it comes to fantasy points.
Scott Piercy ($8,100)
Piercy continues to play well this season as he has played the weekend in 14 of his last 15 events. He is coming off a runner-up performance to Sung Kang at the Byron Nelson last week. Before that, he had a T13 at the Zurich Classic and a T3 at the RBC Heritage. He has six top-10 finishes in his last 15 starts.
FAVORITE $11,000 PLAYS
Jon Rahm ($11,200)
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, or Dustin Johnson win this week but for the salary savings, I like the guys in the lower 11k range better. I believe they still have really good win equity and they give you more flexibility to build a stronger lineup from top to bottom. As for Rahm, in the last 36 rounds played, only Rory and DJ have gained more total strokes on the field than Rahm. He is also second in SG: OTT during that same time period, which is a key stat for me this week. The last time we saw him, he and Ryan Palmer were winning the Zurich Classic to give him his ninth top-10 finish in his last 11 PGA events. He finished T4 at last year’s PGA Championship and ninth at this year’s Masters. He currently has a streak of 15 made PGA Tour cuts.
Rickie Fowler ($11,100)
Fowler may just be the best player without a major title. He is one of the most popular players on tour and maybe this is the week that instead of staying around and congratulating the winner after the 18th hole, that he receives all of the congratulations and well-wishes. He is currently amidst a streak of 20 made cuts in a row on the PGA Tour. During that time he has nine top-10 finishes, including a win at the Waste Management Phoenix Open back in January. He finished T12 at last year’s PGA Championship. His recent form is good as he has finished T4 (Wells Fargo) and T9 at the Masters in his last two events. In the last 24 rounds, he is seventh in total strokes gained and ninth in fantasy scoring. In his two appearances here at Bethpage Black, he finished T24 at the 2012 Barclays and then T7 at the 2016 Barclays.
FAVORITE $10,000+ PLAYS
Xander Schauffele ($10,900)
Xander seems to play best on the biggest stage. He has made the cut in seven of the eight majors that he has competed in. He has also won the 2017 Tour Championship, a WGC event back in October, and the 2019 Tournament of Champions. He recently finished runner-up to Tiger Woods at the Masters. This gave him his third top-six finish at a major in his last four starts. The only blemish on his 2018-19 season was a missed cut at The PLAYERS but he missed on the number. He actually played well except his short game deserted him. He had finished runner-up at The PLAYERS the year before.
Tommy Fleetwood ($10,800)
In the last two months, Fleetwood has three top-five finishes in his last seven events. He finished T3 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, T5 at the Masters, and runner-up at the Zurich Classic. He also just finished T8 at the British Masters on the European Tour last week. Overall, he has made the cut in 20 consecutive PGA events. He has struggled to put four rounds together in 2018-19 but is still consistently making cuts and finding his way on Sunday leader boards. The main concern I have with Fleetwood is that he is a DFS darling. He has approached 30% ownership in three of his last five starts. He will probably be a cash game lock for me and will look elsewhere in GPPs.
Hideki Matsuyama ($10,500)
He rates out well in every statistical model except for putting. There are few players better off the tee, ball-striking, or with their approach game than Matsuyama. He just can’t get the flat stick to work for him. Despite all of that, he has made the cut in 20 straight PGA events. Imagine if he could get his putter to work. He grades out as the ninth best golfer in my custom model. He is one of the few golfers that consistently outscores his finishing position. He only has three top-10 finishes in this calendar year but is still ranked eighth in fantasy scoring for the last 36 rounds played.
Adam Scott ($10,200)
Adam Scott has not played since having a terrible weekend at the Masters and winding up T12. In the last 24 rounds played, he is 10th in total shots gained, but more importantly for us, he is second in fantasy scoring. Six of his nine PGA events in 2018-19 have ended with a top-20 finish, including his last two at the Masters and the PLAYERS. He finished T3 last year at the PGA Championship. He has also made the cut the last three times Bethpage Black has hosted an event, including a T4 at the 2016 Barclays. He should come in at low ownership but is a guy that could surprise a lot of people this week. He is probably a better GPP play than a cash game, though.
Patrick Cantlay ($10,100)
In his 11 starts during the 2018-19 season, he has made the cut nine times. In those nine events, his worst finish has been a T17 at the Safeway to start the season. He has seven top-10 finishes. He has led at some point on the back-nine in each of his last two events, including the Masters. He has three top-10 finishes in his last four events. In the last 36 rounds, he is fourth in total strokes gained. He is good off the tee and ball-striking but his short game struggles. If he can hit greens in regulation and not implode with the flat stick, he has a chance to be in contention on Sunday.
Matt Kuchar ($10,100)
He continues to have a career year and shows no signs of slowing down. When we last saw him, he was runner-up at the RBC Heritage. This was on the heels of a T12 at the Masters, a T7 at the Valero Texas Open, and another runner-up performance at the WGC Match Play event. He has also made 15 straight cuts on the PGA Tour. Overall, he has six top-10 finishes in his last 12 starts, including two wins. In the last 36 rounds, he is seventh in total strokes gained. He hasn’t torn up Bethpage Black but has made the cut the last two times they hosted events (2012 and 2016). He is priced higher than we are used to seeing him in majors so it will be interesting what his ownership will come in at. He should be a good cash game option, regardless.
FAVORITE $9,000 PLAYS
Webb Simpson ($9,900)
He is not long off the tee and that could be a concern with the length of this course. However, he is ranked in the top 20 for driving accuracy. In the last 24 rounds, he ranks fourth in fairways gained. In the last five events, he has four top-20 finishes, including a T5 at the Masters. He has finished in the top 20 in each of the last four majors. That is an impressive streak. He has an improved putter and is solid enough off the tee to find ways to put together nice finishes on the biggest stage. He is also a top-10 golfer when it comes to bogey avoidance, which will be very important if this course plays more like past U.S. Opens. He has made the cut in 11 of 12 PGA events during the 2018-19 season. He has only missed one cut in his last 21 events. I don’t expect him to win, but I do see him hanging around and playing solid golf. At this price point, he should be able to return value.
Gary Woodland ($9,900)
In the last 24 rounds, Woodland is fifth in fantasy scoring. He is sixth in SG: OTT and ninth in SG: Tee to Green. Unfortunately, his a dreadful 123rd in putting. If he can have just a mediocre week putting, he can contend. His game is a bit of a poor man’s version of Brooks Koepka. He is built similar and has similar strengths on the course. Obviously, Koepka is better but getting Woodland at nearly $3,000 less is fine with me. Woodland has played the weekend in 24 of his last 26 events. He has seven top-10 finishes during that span. He has struggled a little bit lately with a withdraw at the Wells Fargo and then his first missed cut in 22 events at the Valspar back in March, but he still is fifth in fantasy scoring in his last 24 rounds. His game seems to be suited for this course. The small (and easier) greens should minimize his terrible putting. This is confirmed by the fact that he finished T4 here at the 2016 Barclays.
Ian Poulter ($9,800)
The last time he missed a cut was surprisingly at the Open Championship. He has seven top-10 finishes in his 18 events worldwide since the Open Championship. He is trending up in his last four events, finishing T17 > T12 > T10 > T9. Statistically, he does nothing great but is solid in most areas. I am not sure he has winning upside, but he will be a cash game staple for me. If it looks like his ownership will be lower, I will use him quite a bit in GPPs, as well. With his cut expectation and potential for a top-10, he should return value at this price. He has performed well at Bethpage Black finishing T18 at the 2009 U.S. Open and T36 at the 2012 Barclays.
Sergio Garcia ($9,700)
I rarely play Sergio, but I did go heavy on him in each of the last two Masters and at last year’s Open Championship. This resulted in a significant decrease in my bankroll. In fact, he has missed the cut in six straight majors. I rarely play him, he has let me down when I have played him, and his recent major form is atrocious. So why would I consider him? Because his form is coming into place, his game fits the course, and he has strong course history here at Bethpage Black. He has five top-10 finishes in his last eight events. In fact, he has three top-five finishes in his last four events. If you go back a little further, he is actually on fire with 11 top-10 finishes in his last 16 events. He had six straight top-10 finishes going until he was disqualified for his temper tantrum in February at the Saudi Open. In the last 24 rounds played, he is second in SG: Approach and fourth in SG: Ball-Striking. He is 15th in total shots gained. As for Bethpage Black, he is the only player to finish in the top-10 three times. Good form, good game, and good history makes me consider going back to Sergio.
FAVORITE $7,000-$8,000 PLAYS
Eddie Pepperell ($8,400)
Not only is he a good follow on social media, but he is ranked 33rd in the Official World Golf Rankings. When you consider that there are 60+ golfers with a higher price tag, then he is one of the more mispriced players (at least according to world rank). So far this year, he has made the cut at the Masters and API, finished T16 at the RBC Heritage, and had a strong T3 at the PLAYERS. This demonstrates that he isn’t just some talented Euro Tour player beating up on weak fields. He even finished T6 at The Open Championship last year. He also just finished T2 at the British Masters last week.
Matt Wallace ($8,400)
He is ranked number 32 in the Official World Golf Rankings and yet is priced way down here. There was some buzz around Wallace after finishing T6 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and T30 at The PLAYERS. However, missing the cut at his most recent PGA stops (Masters and the RBC Heritage) should keep his ownership at a lower level. He did crack the top 20 last year at the PGA Championship. Unlike some of the other talented Euro tour players that are unknown or haven’t played very much on the PGA tour, Wallace has had some success playing in North America. He (along with Eddie Pepperell) was runner-up at the British Masters last week, which was his third such finish since the fall. None of his stats are going to pop but he is solid in every area, which should come in handy this week on a tough course.
Julian Suri ($8,100)
He has made 15 straight cuts worldwide and has finished T2 and T4 in his last three events. Overall, he has four straight top-20 finishes. He is fifth on the European Tour in SG: OTT and seventh in bogey avoidance. Both of these stats should come in handy this week on a long, tough course, with narrow fairways. The former Duke standout isn’t just somebody padding stats against weak fields or beating up on lesser players. Last year he demonstrated his ability to step up when the stage is big as he finished T19 at the PGA Championship and T28 at The Open Championship.
Jorge Campillo ($7,100)
From a results standpoint, nobody in the world is in better form than Campillo. Obviously, playing on the Euro Tour is not the same as the PGA Tour, but they are still not playing on municipal courses against amateurs or has-beens. Campillo has an amazing five top-three finishes in his last five events. He has missed only one cut in his last 16 events. He doesn’t stand out in any one area statistically but is a solid all-around player. The slight concern with the former 2008 Big Ten Golfer of the Year is that he has played very little on the PGA Tour and when he has, the results have not been encouraging. He is essentially priced at the minimum, which makes him an intriguing play this week.
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.