It’s become pure feast or famine for fans of golf’s major championships over the last couple of years. When this event was moved to May in 2019, creating a four month window for the Grand Slam tournaments, there was plenty of chatter about the short and long-term effects on the players. What no-one then could have predicted was that we’d go an entire year without even one major being contested and would then enjoy seven of them in the following 12 months. For the fifth of them the field returns to Kiawah Island in South Carolina, most famous for the 1991 Ryder Cup (the War on the Shore), but also scene of Rory McIlroy’s destruction of the opposition in the 2012 version of this week’s PGA Championship. He left them trailing eight blows in his wake and a repeat of that scenario seemed an absurd notion at the start of this month. The Northern Irishman’s form was dire and his spirits low, but, like the resurgent Jordan Spieth, he bounced back and, following victory at Quail Hollow, McIlroy starts the week as the bookmaker’s favourite.
Kiawah Island Golf Resort
When Pete Dye got the opportunity to create the Ocean Course at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort he could barely stop himself salivating. He just knew the property had the potential to be something special and when it was revealed to the world he said: “I want to punish these pros if they don’t hit proper shots.”
In one sense, he didn’t need to do much. The prevailing winds that hurtle in from the Atlantic Ocean was always going to mess with the swing and the head of any golfer (and so it proved in round two of the 2012 PGA Championship, when the gusts soared and scores went in the same direction). But Dye doesn’t do minimalism so he added his own idiosyncracies. Ahead of the Ryder Cup Paul Azinger says the US team hated the course, after it the European tended to agree.
In time, folk have come to think better of the layout (and Dye designs pretty much everywhere). His funkiness is now a known, rather than an unknown.
The Ocean Course calls for shots played through cross winds, to fairways at odd angles, the greens are raised, and there is sand in all directions. Some will talk of the course being “links-like” but be a little wary of such suggestions. Links grass encourages the ball to be played along the ground with approaches and recoveries; the Bermuda and Paspalum at Kiawah doesn’t so the players can’t hide from the wind in that sense.
Appreciate, too, that this week the course will play long. At 7,876 yards it is the longest course in major championship history, but also note that McIlroy topped the Scrambling stats nine years ago. Being clumsy around these greens will hurt.
The forecast for the week at Kiawah Island, South Carolina is good. Expect sunshine for the first two days followed by a little cloud cover at the weekend. Temperatures, as they should do at a major, will climb all week to a high of 84 on Sunday. There is little chance of rain and strong wind is not expected (between 10 and 15 mphs is the guess). However, oceanside locations are notorously fickle to predict in terms of breezes and also note that the wind direction will change from E/ENE to SW on Sunday. Some will be baffled by that change.
Past Champions in the PGA Championship and at Kiawah Island
As with the U.S. Open it is notoriously difficult to know just how much to lean on past history because, obviously, we are talking of a variety of venues. However, at the U.S. Open the U.S.G.A have a tight control of conditions, creating a certain uniformity, and something similar occurs with the PGA of America stewardship of this event. That said, there has been a change of sorts. In the 90s and early years of the 2000s this event was known to suit Greens in Regulation types (and also rank outsiders). More recently, youngster have tended to win it, often utilising power.
Let’s keep our focus to the last ten years which means Keegan Bradley crops up first and his victory over Jason Dufner in 2011 was something of an echo of the past. Ditto, when Dufner claimed success himself in 2013 and Jimmy Walker in 2016. But otherwise a pattern emerges: McIlroy won in 2012 and 2014, Jason Day in 2015, Justin Thomas in 2017, Brooks Koepka in 2018 and 2019, Collin Morikawa last year. All of them in their 20s, all of them top 15 in the world, all of them had won that season already, and only Morikawa doesn’t regularly shift the ball 300 yards from the tee box.
All that said, if we peer at the top 10 from the 2012 visit here, other than the winner McIlroy, a different picture emerges. Only three Americans made that group: Bradley (T–3), Blake Adams and Steve Stricker (both T–7). The rest were Europeans with very good records at coastal tracks, both in Great Britain and Ireland, but also Spain and Portugal. Don’t, therefore, overlook the shorter hitters who can negotiate wind.
Here’s an entirely FREE lineup for you this week with MORE for subscribers (DraftKings Prices)
|Player #1||R. McIlroy||$11,500|
|Player #2||W. Simpson||$9,200|
|Player #3||V. Hovland||$9,300|
|Player #4||B. Grace||$6,800|
|Player #5||M. Hughes||$6,500|
|Player #6||G. Coetzee||$6,400|
Remaining cash $300
Rory McIlroy ($11,500) Top salary but I’m willing to take that hit to the purse. We’re talking about a man who won by eight shots here last time it was played on the course, who’s fresh off a burden-freeing victory at Quail Hollow, and a guy who is energized by new swing coach Pete Cowen, plus re-engaged with Dr Bob Rotella and putting expect Brad Faxon. He explains that he initially hates Dye designs, but now has three wins on them. No major championship win since 2014, but he has landed two top 10s a year since then – which suggests he’s due a couple in the next three.
Webb Simpson ($9,200) The North Carolina man has slipped below the border to a track he insists he loves despite a missed cut in 2012. One thing we do know is that his A-game is a great fit with Dye designs: he’s won at both TPC Sawgrass and Harbour Town, and made a playoff at TPC Louisiana. He’s also gun at Harbour Town year in, year out – never outside the top 20 in the last five years, in fact. He’s also notched 14 top 20 finishes in his last 20 starts.
Viktor Hovland ($9,300) A key feature of the Ocean Course not yet discussed is the Paspalum grass on the greens. It’s a kind of Bermuda that can be watered straight from the sea. It’s very like Bermuda in performance and some hate it, others have no problem at all. The Norwegian is in the latter camp. He won on the grass in the Puerto Rico Open and then again in the Mayakoba Classic. He also made the top six on it in Saudi Arabia this year. All three of those courses are also gusty and by the sea. Bonus: he’s been third in his last two outings.
Branden Grace ($6,800) We need men who can hit it low in the wind. Step forward Branden Grace. He’s a double winner of the Qatar Masters at Doha, a well-known wind tunnel. He’s also won the Dunhill Links Championship (hosted by Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and St Andrews) and shot 62 at Royal Birkdale. His first win in America? At Dye’s Harbour Town. His latest win? This year in Puerto Rico. His best finish at a major? Third at Dye’s blustery Whistling Straits.
Mackenzie Hughes ($6,500) The Cannuck is a tough cookie. His first PGA Tour win came at breezy Sea Island, down the coast in Georgia. He’s got a coastal top 10 at Pebble Beach, he’s thrived in the Dominican Republic, finished second at the very windy PGA National, and challenged at Dye’s River Highlands. Good potential for the salary.
George Coetzee ($6,400) Another South African and a similar profile to Grace’s. Coetzee is 7-for-8 at the windy Doha, with six top 20s. He’s shown some decent form on the links, but not in Grace’s league. However, of more interest, is his superb record in Portugal and at Dom Pedro, home of the Portugal Masters. He’s never finished worse than T31st there in eight starts, won last year, and many of the Europeans packing the top 10 in 2012 (and others who played well that week) liked Dom Pedro too.
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- A couple of good alternative picks to help you build out GPP options based around not one but two CORE lineups.
Here’s Another Alternate Lineup For The PGA Championship
|Player #1||J. Rahm||$10,500|
|Player #2||P. Reed||$9,100|
|Player #3||T. Hatton||$8,000|
|Player #4||S. Lowry||$7,800|
|Player #5||S. Kim||$7,200|
|Player #6||B. Horschel||$7,200|
$200 leftover salary
Jon Rahm ($10,500) A slightly paradoxical take here, initially at least, because he’s finished outside the top 30 in his last two starts and he hasn’t done that since June last year. He’ll know it, though, he’ll want to improve on it, he’ll be working hard. And this is a man who clocked eight top 10s in 10 starts before the last couple. Moreover he’s on an 8-for-9 run at making the cut in the majors, ticking off five top 10s in that spell, and he has a fine record in high wind by the sea in Ireland: two Irish Open wins and T11th in the British Open.
Patrick Reed ($9,100) A slightly average record at Pete Dye venues, but recall that earlier mention of short game skills? Well, Reed’s your man. Soft hands like a Spaniard, in fact. He’s also a winner this year (by the coast, albeit the Pacific over at Torrey Pines) and he’s on a really nice run in the majors: five consecutive top 15 finishes, often contending.
Tyrrell Hatton ($8,000) He fits the profile of a man who might do well this week. From the perspective of the championship, he’s a winner this year (in Abu Dhabi), he’s also a twentysomething who hits the ball a decent enough distance, and he’s seeking a first major win. He also logged a personal best (T–18) at Augusta National and has been third at Harbour Town. Furthermore, he’s gun by the coast in Great Britain and Ireland, twice winning the Dunhill Links Championship and landing two British Open top sixes.
Shane Lowry ($7,800) You want a player who can negotiate the wind? Step forward the reigning British Open champion. A great short game? The stats never quite reveal how much his peers think of Lowry’s expertise around the greens. Form on Dye designed layouts? Top 10 at Sawgrass and Harbour Town this year. Major form? Another who logged a career-best at Augusta (T–21).
Si Woo Kim ($7,200) We had a Japanese winner of the Masters, can a Korean emulate both Hideki Matsuayama and his compatriot YE Yang who won this event back over a decade ago? Well, he has the Dye credentials, winning at TPC Sawgrass and also PGA West earlier this year (when Dye’s Stadium Course was used three times). He has a second place at Harbour Town, too. Fine potential with the salary. T–9 at Sawgrass this year and then T–12 at the Masters.
Billy Horschel ($7,200) Recent first-time often drop a hint by excelling in elite company, sometimes the majors that preceded their breakthrough, other times in the World Golf Championship. Could Horschel be the latest? He was second behind this week’s defending champion Collin Morikawa in the WGC Workday Championshp and then triumphed in the WGC Dell Match Play. That took place at Dye’s Austin CC and guess what? Horschel also won at Dye’s TPC Louisiana in 2013.
Other Player Options For The PGA Championship
• We mentioned Keegan Bradley earlier. The 2011 winner of this event was T–3 on defense here at Kiawah and has run into nice form. He’s made his last eight cuts, with a best of second at Innisbrook.
• A look at Jason Day’s tournament record might tempt – he’s made nine top 25 finishes from just 11 starts, but be warned: his form is regressing horrible. It started 7-18-31-35-42 but has got worse: he’s missed his last three cuts.
• Remember how Sergio Garcia thrilled the galleries and watching millions when he challenged Tiger Woods in his 1999 PGA Championship debut? Incredibly, he’s made just once top 30 in this event since 2008. Worse yet, he’s made just two cuts in his last 12 major championship starts with a best of T–52.
COVID-19 and Injury Warning:
Pro DFS players know it makes sense to stay up-to-date on Twitter, DraftKings, FanDuel and-or subscribe to any number of email feeds and whatever to remain up to speed with injuries or COVID-19 withdraws. Players that don’t make the cut are tough enough. Players that don’t play all four rounds (even when pulling out at the last minute) make for a pretty weak lineup.
Go win your lineups and then tell us how you did. Twitter (@FantasyDFSX) is a good place for that.
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