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PGA DFS Picks: The PGA Championship

The second major of the year in PGA DFS provides an opportunity for you to dominate with our winning picks and analysis at the PGA Championship.

PGA DFS Course Notes:

  • Major championship field of 155 golfers
  • 36-hole Cut: Top 70 and ties play the weekend, no secondary cut
  • Third big event at this host course (second PGA Championship and one Ryder Cup)
  • The course: Kiawah Island Ocean Course (Kiawah Island, SC – Pete Dye design)
    • Par 72: 7,800+ yards – a very long course without too many birdie holes and trouble everywhere in the forms of ocean, cliffs, thick marshland vegetation and huge traps
    • Seven par 4s over 450 yards
    • All Paspalum surfaces and small greens – Paspalum grows with no grain, so less roll out and lots of spin
    • Fully exposed links-style layout, but fairways not wide open and wind will be a factor
    • Hard to find comps, but El Camaleon and Puntacana both have Paspalum and the toughest Pete Dye courses (Whistling Straits, Harbour Town, TPC Sawgrass & TPC Stadium) provide some comparisons
  • Weather: Slight chance of some rain but mostly sunny skies Thursday and Sunday with best scoring day looking like Saturday (winds at just 10 mph)
  • Focus Stat Categories: Strokes Gained: Approach, SG: Off the Tee, SG: Short Game/Around the Green, Bogey and Three-Putt Avoidance, SG: Putting, Par 4: (450-500)

The Picks:

Elite PGA DFS (DK $9,500 and up):

Rory McIlroy (DK $11,500) – Fresh off a one-stroke win at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, McIlroy is the betting favorite this week and the top-priced golfer on the board. While there’s no way I’m fading him completely this week, he’s bound to be popular, so I’m okay coming a little underweight on the field. The course – where he won the 2012 PGA Championship by a decisive eight shots – fits his game well. The eventual Hall of Famer from Northern Ireland is averaging 318 yards per drive this year, good for second on the PGA Tour, but his driving accuracy ranks just 175th – a stat that still scares me a little bit. He missed the cut at both the Players and the Masters, so he’ll be out to prove he’s truly back this week – right along with the cadre of fans he draws so much energy from.

Justin Thomas (DK $11,300) – JT’s win at the Players’ Championship on the Pete Dye design at TPC Sawgrass convinced me his game is in fine enough shape to contend at the coastal test of Kiawah Island – which earned the moniker “Looney Dunes” when it was played at the 1991 Ryder Cup. Thomas already has one PGA Championship under his belt (2017) on a course that provided a tough test for its competitors, and I like his ability to bounce back from bad bounces, bad holes and bad stretches a lot more than the sometimes erratic Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm, who may currently lack the killer instinct and unflappable mindset to perform at his best this week. JT’s game is a complete one – and if he can continue to gain strokes around the green and get hot with the putter, the sky’s the limit.

Jordan Spieth (DK $10,100) – Spieth has played excellent golf in 2021, and his ball-striking is finally coming around the match his epic short game. We did see Spieth chunk a few chips and pitches last week, but I’ll chalk that up to anecdotal errors and assume the empirical brilliance he’s demonstrated under pressure around the greens throughout his career will take precedence over a few minor flubs. Golf Digest ranked the Ocean Course the toughest in the country, and Tiger Woods has compared the Ocean Course’s long, links-like layout to Whistling Straits, where Spieth contended against eventual winner Jason Day in 2015. He’s a fine play in all formats, and since he’s healthy now, I like him a little better than the more expensive Dustin Johnson, who WD last week due to a knee injury.

Xander Schauffele (DK $9,600) – Xander’s my favorite play in the lower half of the elite tier, although he’s still waiting to hoist his first major trophy after several close calls. Schauffele’s performance in majors during his brief career has been quite impressive – with top 25s in 11 of his 15 major events to date, including eight top 10s, six top 5s and a T3 just two starts ago at the Masters in April. Since then, he’s finished T11 at the Zurich alongside teammate Patrick Cantlay and T14 at the Wells Fargo. His time is coming, and this week might very well be it.

Also consider: Dustin Johnson (GPP), Collin Morikawa

Mid-Range PGA DFS (DK $7,600 to $9,400):

Viktor Hovland (DK $9,300) – Hovland’s consistent play in 2021 includes just one MC and an incredible six finishes inside the Top 6 in his last 10 starts. He’s been a free square in cash games and provides ample GPP value despite his popularity in PGA DFS. He’s probably the least contrarian you can go if your goal is to build a safe lineup with some upside, and while he’s yet to win a major (or even crack a Top 10) in his young career, he’s not very far from greatness. His demeanor, his ball-striking and his positive attitude should go a long way this week in all formats.

Cameron Smith (DK $8,900) – Smith is my favorite pick in the $8-9K range and I’ll be pinning a lot of my GPP hopes on him posting a Top 10 finish. He’s lodged somewhere in the top 15 or 20 power rankings for a lot of sharps this week, and his dominance on par 3s and par 5s over the past few months points to an ability to capitalize on scoring opportunities. That, combined with his ability to avoid three-putts (third overall heading into this week) usually helps him get it done regardless of the venue.

Will Zalatoris (DK $8,800) – Zalatoris seems to save his best golf for the biggest moments and the toughest golf courses, so he’s definitely one to watch this week at the Ocean Course. His seemingly effortless combination of power off the tee and precision on his approaches took a week off at the Wells Fargo, but he’s a very good bet for a Top 25 at Kiawah Island amid a strong field and a slew of big names who’ve already sealed the deal with multiple major wins. I’m not quite ready to go all-in just yet, but I’ll gladly get ahead of the field in my GPP ownership this week and see where it all shakes out.

Tony Finau (DK $8,600) – I’ve said “never again” too many times to count with Finau, but he’s talking confidently about his ability to win a major (despite just one career PGA Tour win to his credit) and he’s so damn good off the tee. I’ve thrown out a lot of the usual models I’ve been relying on for “lesser” tournaments since attitude and form go a long way in determining performance at a major championship venue this challenging, but Finau is one of the golfers who usually fares well on paper and just seems to lack the fortitude to finish tournaments. He’s flying under the radar this week and the team is off him, but for me there’s some leverage as a GPP pivot in the Will Z/Cam Smith range.

Matthew Fitzpatrick (DK $8,400) – Fitzpatrick killed a lot of PGA DFS lineups this past week but scoring fests like the Byron Nelson are not where the wispy Englishman plays his best golf. His overall short game and precise ball-striking are his biggest strengths, and while he’s not insanely long (No. 168 on tour in Driving Distance), he ranks 16th on tour in SG:OTT – a huge stat this week since missing the fairway won’t be an easy fix on most of these holes. Fitzpatrick is having his best season on the PGA tour in 2020-21, and I can’t advocate leaving him out of your player pool.

Tyrrell Hatton (DK $8,000) – Hatton ranks ninth on the PGA Tour in SG:APP and is in the top 20 for SG:OTT – the top two stats this week. While his performance around the greens remains his biggest bugaboo, he seems to step up and avoid three putts just enough on tough golf courses. He also should be recovered from the positive COVID test that forced him to withdraw from the Valspar in late April. The price is tempting, but I’ll be limiting my ownership levels to around 10% in GPPs since he’s yet to post a Top 15 finish on the PGA Tour in 2021.

Abraham Ancer (DK $7,900) – Ancer is a cut-making and ball-striking machine who’s yet to post a Top 10 major championship finish, but he’s coming in extremely hot: solo fifth at the Valspar, solo second at the Wells Fargo – performances which came on the heels of five straight finishes in the Top 26. He’s always among the leaders in SG:APP and Bogey Avoidance, and the only thing that could keep him from posting another Top 25 this week is his short game. Still – he’ll be a GPP staple and is a fine play in just about any format.

Paul Casey (DK $7,700) – Playing a chalky Casey could end up burning me, but I don’t care. The pedigree and price are just too good to pass up this week. The missed cut at the RBC Heritage is just about the only blemish on his 2021 record, and he’s notched five top 10 finishes this year, including a win at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, which took place at a course grassed with – you guessed it – Paspalum. There are a lot of Euro Tour regulars I like this week, and Casey has proven to have winning upside on the International stage, even if he’s yet to notch a major win.

Marc Leishman (DK $7,600) – Please don’t forget about Leishman this week. He finished T5 at the Masters, and he’s had a slew of good performances in wind, something that he and fellow Aussie Cameron Smith know a lot about from the gusty tracks “down under.” He’s coming off a breezy T21 at TPC Craig Ranch and he finished T27 at Kiawah island in the 2012 PGA Championship. If he’s not mega-popular, I’ll be on board in GPPs and will consider him for a balanced single-entry build.

Also consider: Hideki Matsuyama, Webb Simpson, Patrick Reed (GPP), Daniel Berger, Scottie Scheffler (GPP), Louis Oosthuizen, Corey Conners (Cash)

Value PGA DFS (DK $6,600 to 7,500):

Sam Burns (DK $7,500) – The price is way too low for his current form and ability with the driver and flat stick; his putting numbers have shown marked improvement in 2021 and are the main reason he’s been so good lately. His irons haven’t been awful either, and Burns will be a tough fade if you’re looking for balanced builds. The timing for him playing the best golf of his young career couldn’t be better, and he’s really easy to root for.

Keegan Bradley (DK $7,300) – The 34-year-old has loads of experience on Paspalum, and the way he’s been driving the ball and striking it, he’s going to be a core play of mine in single-entry, GPP and cash. I’ll be approaching 40 percent overall ownership and taking the big plunge. Bradley already has a PGA Championship under his belt – his lone major victory – and he’s playing the best golf of his career since that zenith, which came when he was just a young man of 25.

Charley Hoffman (DK $7,300) – I don’t go overweight on Hoffman, but he plays his best golf in tough competition on long and challenging golf courses. He’s made eight straight cuts and finished outside the top 35 only once (a T52 at the Genesis Invitational) during that stretch – which includes a solo second at the Valero Texas open and consecutive T18s in his last two events.

Jason Kokrak (DK $7,100) – He’s just about the best value on the board, along with veterans Stewart Cink and Charl Schwartzel, and he’s yet to miss a cut in 2021 – a season that’s seen the tour veteran post a T9 at the Players and three more Top 15 finishes. It’s debatable whether or not his breakthrough win in 2020 has given him the confidence to finally contend at a major – where his performance over the past few years has been spotty at best – but this golf course seems to play to his strengths.

Stewart Cink (DK $6,900) – One of the most surprising stats about the 47-year-old PGA Tour stalwart’s recent resurgence is his Driving Distance (No. 23 on tour). That length should help him tackle these long par 4s and his No. 9 rank in Bogey Avoidance will hopefully get him another solid finish in the PGA Championship – a major he hasn’t played since 2018 when he finished T4 at Bellerive Country Club.

Charl Schwartzel (DK $6,800) – The Win Daily team has given you Schwartzel’s name week after week, and I’ve had him covered even before his T26 at the Masters and subsequent T21-T14-T3, a progression that’s been impressive considering the dynamic differences among the courses during that stretch. He’s one of a handful of golfers under $7K who I’ll be rostering in more than 15% of my GPP lineups, and he’s brimming with confidence heading into a major where he’s made the cut six straight times since a missed cut in 2013. Over the course of his career, Schwartzel has 18 Top 25s in the 52 major championships he’s played in a professional career that started when he was just 18 years old in 2002.

Christian Bezuidenhout (DK $6,800) – CBZ, as I like to call him for brevity’s sake, is my off-the-wall value play. He’s piqued my interest for his dominance around the greens, where he ranks second on the PGA tour in SG:ARG behind just Fabian Gomez. His ball-striking is a concern, but on a course that plays this difficult for everybody, I’m willing to take a chance and include him in a few of my 20-max GPPs.

Thomas Pieters (DK $6,800) – On the other end of the spectrum, we have a Belgian EURO golfer who strikes the ball well and is long enough off the tee to contend on this course. There’s not a lot of PGA Tour data, but his ranks put him among the Top 65 in plenty of key categories, and his form is decent. Before his missed cut at the Byron Nelson, he posted four straight Top 15s in tournaments here and abroad.

More value golfers to consider: Gary Woodland (GPP), Lee Westwood, Matt Wallace, Brian Harman, Garrick Higgo, Max Homa (GPP), Matt Jones, Cameron Tringale, Rickie Fowler (GPP), Chris Kirk, Talor Gooch (GPP), Thomas Detry

Longshot Punts PGA DFS (DK $6,500 and under):

Dean Burmester (DK $6,300) –I love the form (Win-T4-T6 in his last three EURO events), and while he’s a huge risk playing inside the United States, where he’s only played two majors – both U.S. Opens (T56-MC). I won’t go into too much detail about the South African because I don’t have a lot – but in this price range I’m willing to use him a bit and hope he sneaks into the weekend and gets on a decent run.

J.T. Poston (DK $6,100) – There’s not a lot of golfers to seriously consider in this price range, but Poston’s putter (fourth on tour in SG:P) and distance off the tee (300+) gets him into the conversation. He doesn’t three-putt too much and while his ball-striking is a concern, once in a while he shines. For this price in GPPs, he can’t hurt you too much if you keep him under 10%.

Additional GPP punts: Brendan Steele (GPP), Tom Lewis, Lanto Griffin, Erik van Rooyen, Harry Higgs, Andy Sullivan

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