It's major championship time RotoBallers!
Yes, it's hard to believe that the year's second major is already upon us, but the PGA Tour's new 2019 schedule keeps things coming fast and furious. I say 'Bring It On'...the more PGA DFS the better!
I'm not going to spend any time on Sung Kang's victory at the Byron Nelson last week, but I will mention that our 'Horses' came up huge, with THREE of our highlighted players (Koepka, Sabbatini, and Jones) logging top-five finishes! Let's keep this momentum going!
PGA Championship Overview
The PGA Championship has long been known as 'Glory's Last Shot', but it is now the second major championship on the calendar. This week's PGA will be played at the legendary Bethpage Black course, one of America's toughest tracks and also one of the few truly public courses that you will see hosting a major championship.
Brooks Koepka won last year's PGA Championship at Bellerive and we all know that it will be Tiger Woods' first time teeing it up since his return to glory at Augusta National. This field is packed with golf's superstars and all 100 of the OWGR's top 100 will be in attendance at Bethpage. Evaluating course history will be difficult...Bethpage has hosted two U.S. Opens - but both came over a decade ago - and two FedEx Cup playoff events (The Barclays) in 2012 and 2016.
If the 'HFTC' isn't enough for you this week, check out my 2019 PGA Championship DFS Bible, for an in-depth DFS breakdown of the field!
I try to make HFTC more than just a "picks" column (though you can certainly use it that way if you are in a hurry) by digging deep into each highlighted player. Obviously, our weekly jumping off point is a player's course history, but there isn't a firm set of rules when it comes to who is featured in this article. My goal is to help you succeed as a PGA DFS player. Period. I will touch on different GPP and cash-game strategies throughout the column each week and hopefully have some useful info for both beginners and experienced DFS players. Thanks for joining me here at RotoBaller, let's tee it up!
You can also find out who the smart money is on by checking out Spencer Aguiar's PGA DFS: Vegas Report every week.
The Course: Bethpage Black
Par 70 - 7,432 Yards, Greens: Poa Annua
This AW Tillinghast design is perhaps the best public golf course in the United States. By public, I mean that anyone can go play it and it won't cost you $800. The Black Course is the crown jewel of Bethpage State Park's five courses. It has hosted two U.S. Opens ('02 & '09) and two FedEx Playoff events (Barclays '12 & '16). There isn't anything tricky about the Black Course, it's just long and mean and in your face. Its length forces players to hit driver, but you can't miss the (narrowish) fairways because nasty rough awaits. We've seen the USGA dial Bethpage up to 11 for the U.S. Opens and the PGA Tour scale things back a bit for the Barclays events...we can probably expect a degree of difficulty that falls somewhere in the middle for this week's PGA Championship. One important note, it's rained in New York for about two months straight and will continue to do so for at least part of the tournament, so this beast will be playing even longer with players getting next to no roll out off the tee.
Tiger Woods (DK - $11,300 & FD - $11,700)
Notable Course History: Win ('02 U.S. Open), T6 ('09 U.S. Open), T38 ('12 Barclays)
Recent Form: Win (Masters), T30 (Players), T10 (WGC-Mexico)
You guys knew the 'Horse' was going to be Tiger right? I know it's a little obvious, but the man's record speaks for itself. In a field full of players with little-to-no Bethpage Black experience, I have to highlight the man that conquered the Black course at its toughest (the '02 U.S. Open) and logged a T6 in a rain-soaked (sound familiar?) 2009 U.S. Open.
In addition to his experience and history of success at Bethpage, we also have to love where Tiger's game is right now. You might have heard that he WON THE FREAKIN' MASTERS about a month ago! We know the 'Big Cat' can go on major-winning binges and his lack of play after his win at Augusta National gives us the sense that he's laser focused on winning another one.
Tiger is perhaps the greatest iron player that's ever lived, and he leads this field in GIRs Gained over his last 24 rounds, so we have to feel comfortable with that area of his game. The bigger area of interest for me is how he's hitting his driver. We know that it's been a continuing issue for Tiger over the years, but he drove the ball impeccably at Augusta National and it was a key component in his Masters victory. He grades out 47th in this field in SG: OTT over his last 24 rounds, but stands a rock-solid fourth in Fantasy National's Good Drives Gained metric over the same time period. I think those numbers speak to Tiger's willingness to sacrifice a bit of distance in order to have control of shot shape and accuracy off the tee. He's 'long enough' that if he's finding fairways with regularity at Bethpage, he will have a serious chance to win his second major of the season.
DraftKings isn't pulling any punches with Tiger this week, as he's the highest-priced player on their board at $11,300. Most regular DFS players are aware of Tiger's popularity with casual fans - the type of fans who will be entering the Milly Maker - so there probably is a game-theory argument that can be made for fading him in that tournament. However, if you are going to roster a player over the $10k threshold, Tiger offers the best combination of floor and ceiling of the bunch.
Rickie Fowler (DK - $9,300 & FD - $11,100)
Notable Course History: M/C ('09 U.S. Open), T24 ('12 Barclays), T7 ('16 Barclays)
Recent Form: T4 (Wells Fargo), T9 (Masters), T17 (Valero)
Let's drop down into the low $9k range to talk about our first 'Pony' of the week, Rickie Fowler. Fowler's course history doesn't bash you over the head as dominant, but I really like his trend of improvement over three starts at Bethpage. He missed the cut at the '09 U.S. Open (as a 20-year-old), but produced a top-25 and a T7 in two Barclays starts.
In addition to the course history, there's a lot to like about Rickie's form. He's made the cut in all 12 of his starts this season with a win, two top-fives, and a top-10 at the Masters. Fowler might not have captured that elusive first major win yet, but he's been straight-up money in the biggest tournaments. He hasn't missed the cut in a major championship in over two years ('16 U.S. Open) and over the last five years he's recorded seven top-fives finishes in majors.
Fowler doesn't blow you away statistically in one specific area, rather he's the type of player that seemingly does everything really well. His standing of seventh in Strokes Gained: Total in this elite field reflects that overall ability.
He feels really affordable at $9.3k on DK, so rostering Rickie will probably involve swallowing a big ol' chunk of chalk. I understand that we want to be contrarian in a huge tournament like the Milly Maker, but we also need core building blocks in our lineup. Those of you multi-entering might want to consider penciling Rickie in as a core piece while mixing and matching some contrarian-type players around him.
Jason Day (DK - $9,000 & FD - $11,300)
Notable Course History: T24 ('12 Barclays), T4 ('16 Barclays)
Recent Form: T24 (Wells Fargo), T5 (Masters), M/C (Valspar), T8 (Players)
I got a little queasy as I typed Jason Day's name into the header. The Aussie is a player that I don't have the stomach for anymore, but here at 'HFTC' I'm willing to set my personal biases aside for the good of the reader. *PATS SELF ON BACK* Ok, back to the warrior Jason Day...like I said, the guy's not my personal cup of tea, but there's no doubt that he can play.
He's performed well at Bethpage Black in his previous starts at the tough Long Island track, and really, at all difficult courses in general. If we use Fantasy National's amazing tools to narrow our stat search, we find that on courses considered 'Difficult' and over 7,400 yards, Jason Day ranks second in this field in both SG: T2G and SG: Total over the last 50 rounds. So while Day might not want to grit it out in an event like the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he's been tough as nails when it counts. If we look at major championship results from the last five years, Day has a win, four top-fives, and four top-10s.
The Aussie is strong with the driver and ranks 11th in this field in SG: OTT over his last 24 rounds. He has perhaps the best short game in the world and stands fifth in the field in SG: Putting. The concern with Day is his often-loose iron play. He's just 88th in the field in SG: Approach and lost strokes with his irons in his most recent outing at the Wells Fargo.
Day's ownership won't be super-low, but he definitely won't be chalky...probably somewhere in the 10-15% range. Lots of DFS regulars (like me!) normally avoid Day due to his WD potential, but there are some things to like about the Aussie in this spot. He packs a lot of punch at his $9k DK price and fits nicely into balanced lineup builds.
Bubba Watson (DK - $8,000 & FD - $9,700)
Notable Course History: T18 ('09 U.S. Open), T10 ('12 Barclays), T13 ('16 Barclays)
Recent Form: T12 (Masters) T4 (Valspar), T56 (Players), T17 (API)
Perhaps more than any other player on the PGA Tour, I always evaluate Bubba Watson in a 'course-specific bubble'. Bubba has his happy places - Riviera, Augusta National, and TPC River Highlands to name a few - and he repeatedly performs well on them. With his past history at Bethpage, it's safe to consider the Black Course another 'safe zone' for Bubba.
Watson is one of the most mercurial personalities on the PGA Tour and it sometimes seems like keeping him engaged and interested is half the battle. He should be fully invested this week at a track where all three of his previous starts have resulted in finishes inside the top 18.
His prodigious ability with his driver should serve him well at a soggy Bethpage. Bubba stands second in the field in SG: OTT over his last 24 rounds. While his driving prowess is a given, Watson has been impressive from tee to green this season, as he's 12th in the field in SG: T2G. Watson's putting has been a work in progress, but while he stands just 60th in the field in SG: Putting overall...if we use Fantasy National to narrow the search down to SG: Putting on Poa greens, Bubba comes in at a surprisingly high 15th in the field.
There's usually an uneasy feeling that comes with rostering Bubba because we've seen him hit the eject button so many times in the past, but the combination of his current form and fondness for Bethpage Black should have him fully engaged this week. He offers nice salary relief on both DK and FD.
Sergio Garcia (DK - $7,900 & FD - $9,700)
Notable Course History: 4th ('02 U.S. Open), T10 ('09 U.S. Open), T3 ('12 Barclays)
Recent Form: T4 (Wells Fargo), M/C (Masters), T54 (Valspar), T22 (Players)
The course history is strong with this one. In a field full of youngsters that have never even played a tournament round at Bethpage, Sergio might be the king of track records this week, as he's logged two top-fives and a top-10 in his three appearances on the Long Island layout.
I've been a Sergio defender for a long time, but even I've grown sick of his antics recently. While Garcia's mental lapses are certainly noteworthy (and slightly worrisome), his golf game fits this course perfectly. He's long and straight off the tee (34th SG: OTT) and is currently blistering his irons (2nd SG: Approach).
As I started preparing for this tournament a week or so ago, I thought Garcia might be a sneaky play, especially due to his Masters missed cut...but as we barrel closer to this tournament's start, that certainly does not appear to be the case, as Sergio seems to be a trendy play around the DFS industry. I'm going to keep an eye on ownership and won't hesitate to change course and fade Garcia if he's looking uber-chalky, but things do line up for him really well at Bethpage.
Jhonattan Vegas (DK - $7,100 & FD - $8,400)
Notable Course History: T22 ('16 Barclays)
Recent Form: T8 (Wells Fargo), T30 (Valero), T26 (Corales), T3 (Players)
In a field full of superstars, it's tempting to go with what you feel are "sure things". However, we know that constructing a super-conservative lineup probably won't win us a million dollars anytime soon.
Those of you that are willing to move outside of your comfort zone might want to take a look at Jhonattan Vegas when building Milly Maker lineups. Vegas has three-career victories on the PGA Tour, with the last one coming in 2017. He's put together a strong 2019 by making 11 of 15 cuts and recording four top-10s.
Vegas is MASHING the driver and ranks fourth in this elite field in SG: OTT over his last 24 rounds. He's not a one-trick pony...and grades out 18th in SG: T2G and 13th in SG: Short Game. All the tools are there for Vegas to make some noise this week. He notched a top-25 in the lone Bethpage start of his career, but has traditionally struggled in major championships.
The 34-year-old from Venezuela offers us some flexibility when constructing lineups. With the salary relief that Vegas brings to the table, we can comfortably fit one of the top players on the board or stack multiple players from the juicy $9k range. He's no "sure thing", but I really like how the pieces fit between Vegas and the Black Course.
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