It’s astonishing to think that, back in 1983, ABC Sports wanted to return its $1million fee to the PGA of America, in order that it didn’t have to broadcast that year’s Ryder Cup. That’s how much of a damp squib the contest was. Tony Jacklin, Severiano Ballesteros and Europe’s golden age of 1980s golfers changed all of that. Suddenly, the Americans could no longer treat it as a week of hit and giggle, knowing their C game, never mind their B game, would be sufficient to overwhelm the opposition. So it is that what was, just four decades ago, something of a fiasco is now a sporting and sponsorship giant – and this year? This year we get to play fantasy Ryder Cup too.
This year’s host course is one of those modern golfing curiosities: A links-like layout. Because, at first glance, maybe even after a second and third look, this track looks like a craggy outpost on the west coast of Ireland: The fairways are strips of green between rugged rough ground, the greens overhang water, the bunkers are gnarly, dunes stand tall of the playing surfaces, and water is always visible.
But whereas those Irish courses were once under the ocean, this plot of land was once under an airfield, that turf isn’t quite as fast-running, those dunes have been built by diggers, and that water is Lake Michigan, not the Atlantic Ocean. Which is not to say that the test lacks any similarity with links golf – it’s often very windy there and the visuals will please any links lover – but it’s a test that is largely played through the air, not along the ground.
Designed by Pete and Alice Dye – there’s a clue immediately about other dynamics at play in their identity – Whistling Straits is 7,390 yards long and will play to a par of 71. Dye, of course, has the nickname Dye-abolical and the 18th hole at Whistling Straits shares that moniker.
Is the Dye factor a real one? It might be worth recalling the words of Rory McIlroy. “The 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits was when I turned a corner,” he said. “I turned up there and I hated it. I really did not like it. I had to tell myself, ‘Just get your head around liking this place for one week and embrace that it’s visually a little funky and whatever.’ I finished one shot out of a playoff and, going on from there, I’ve won at (Dye-designed) Kiawah Island, Crooked Stick and here (Sawgrass). I’ve started to quite like them. But they’re an acquired taste, like beer when you’re younger. You sort of don’t like it but then you think it’s cool to drink it and then you sort of acquire a taste for it.”
The weather forecast for Sheboygan, Wisconsin needs careful attention. The PGA Tour’s prediction (in the link) suggests partly cloudy, temperatures in the 60s, but crucially nothing more than a breeze of between 4 and 7mph. That would be nothing. And it clashes with other forecasts knocking around (for example here) which hint at gusts of around 20mph which would present an entirely different challenge. Keep an eye on the latest information.
Past Champions at Whistling Straits
There have been three PGA Championships hosted at Whistling Straits, won by Vijay Singh in 2004, Martin Kaymer in 2010 and Jason Day in 2015. If your first thought is that no American golfer has thrived there, perhaps consider that, in the first of those, Justin Leonard and Chris DiMarco lost in a play-off, and, in the second, Bubba Watson did so (and Dustin Johnson would have won or made the extra holes but for an absurd ruling/clumsiness on his part after finding a bunker he thought wasn’t a bunker). That collection of golfers is not lacking a combined decent record on linksland, of course, but you’d not count it as a group of linksland experts.
What about fellows who will actually be playing this week? In 2015 Jordan Spieth was solo second, Brooks Koepka T–5, Johnson and Tony Finau made the top 10, McIlroy and Justin Thomas the top 20. In 2010 McIlroy was T–3, Johnson T–5 and Paul Casey made the top 20.
Of course, this week there is also match play, and specifically Ryder Cup, form to take into account. Some players take to the head-to-head format and the hectic nature of the week. Other simply don’t. Brooks Koepka has already discussed how the busy nature of the seven days is not really his style.
Here’s are some entirely FREE Golf Picks suggestions for you this week with MORE for subscribers (DraftKings Prices)
Rory McIlroy ($13,800) With the captain both expensive and also earning more points than the rest of the roster this week it is essential that you have a guy wearing the armband who will play plenty of golf – and then make the most of his opportunities. McIlroy has played 24 times in five appearances so we know that European captains try to squeeze everything they can from him and word is that Harrington won’t try anything new. McIlroy is also known to like big name partners so chances are that he’ll form good combinations. He’s delivered three points in both his away matches and, as we’ve learned, he also likes Whistling Straits.
Xander Schauffele ($8,600) This week marks his debut in the event (imagine that – a reminder how swiftly he has risen in the game), but he did enjoy a solid Presidents Cup debut. It might be argued he won just three of five matches, but he allied with his good friend Patrick Cantlay and both are now better and more confident golfers. They could easily be Steve Stricker’s key weapon this week.
Viktor Hovland ($8,400) A debut for the Norwegian, but you would think that very few of his team-mates would not want to be paired with him. He hits the ball long enough and straight enough to thrive on this test, and he is also a fine performer in wind. He’s based in Oklahoma (which is what he puts his wind resistance down to) and he has wins in Mexico and Puerto Rico by the sea. It’s not exactly the same as this week, but it’s along similar lines.
Ian Poulter ($6,400) Let’s keep it simple. He’s played six Ryder Cups and won five of them. He’s teed it up in 22 matches, won 14 and halved two. He’s superb in foursomes (5-2-0) and gun in the singles (5-0-1). Harrington will be wary of the lack of European noise in the galleries and seems sure to want experience to counter that in the first session. That suggests Poulter and if he wins a point he can ride a wave; no-one does that better in the Ryder Cup. Harrington has even been praising the quality of Poulter’s recent ball-striking (when emphasising how key that part of the game will be this week).
Scottie Scheffler ($5,800) Another argument to keep simple. Most of us will need to go fishing low down the salaries this week and we need a strong argument when we do so. Scheffler has two factors in his favour: 1) he has continually thrived at the highest level (10-for-10 at hitting top 20s in the Majors and WGC since the return from lockdown); and 2) he was runner-up in this year’s WGC Dell Technologies Match Play.
Bryson DeChambeau ($8,000) The contrarian in me rather hopes that DeChambeau confounds his critics this week, that he plays in the foursomes and wins points, that he becomes a valued team-mate, that he rubbishes his poor reputation. But there has to be a chance that he is not called upon for the foursomes and that immediately limits his scoring options. Leaving him out is an easy play (including him and going against the crowd might have enormous upsides if you feel he can pull it off, however).
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Here’s Another Alternate of Core Picks For The Ryder Cup
Justin Thomas ($14,100) I simply cannot overlook his history in team events. He went 3-1-1 on debut in the Presidents Cup, 3-1-1 in his second start, and 4-1-0 in Paris when making his Ryder Cup bow. There’s also every chance he is reunited with his close friend Jordan Spieth, a union that has earned plenty of points. He also finished a solid T–18 on the course in 2015 and won at Pete Dye’s Sawgrass in March.
Patrick Cantlay ($9,000) We’ve already discussed the great scoring potential he represents in partnership with Schauffele, but there is another huge plus in his favor: confidence. He is absolutely flying at the moment and has a touch of Francesco Molinari in 2018 about him. Also recall how he hung in with DeChambeau during the FedExCup Playoffs: that icy cool, that quiet determination, world class skills executed under supreme pressure. Perfect for this week.
Tony Finau ($7,200) Listen to what Finau had to say after finishing top 10 at the course in 2015: “It sets up good for somebody like me that can put the ball in the air 300 yards. I think my game suits some bigger golf courses, some firmer golf courses, with my high ball flight. I knew it was a good setup for me.” Take the hint and recall he went 2-1-0 in Paris. Lots of players will want to play with chilled out Tony.
Paul Casey ($6,800) Harrington’s fondness for good ball-strikers on this track suggests to me that he’ll lean on his best early on. So with Casey we’re getting a fellow who should get a good crack at earning points. He ranked second for Strokes Gained: Approach last season, he was T–30 on the course in 2015, and T–12 in 2010. He’s also in a great spot mentally since the return from lockdown and it’s helped him reap five top 20s in the Majors in that period.
Shane Lowry ($6,000) Will he play with McIlroy? Lots expect him to (Paul McGinley for one), but Harrington has urged caution. Whatever, he has seemed keen to have Lowry on-board because he believes his fellow Irishman fits the course well, that those Irish linksland visuals will prompt his best golf. Another low salary who should, at least, be given a great opportunity (rather than one, like maybe Bernd Wiesberger, who might be hidden until the singles).
Tyrrell Hatton ($6,200) His form has been poor all summer and, what’s worse, the ball-striking numbers are a bit horrible. He’s missed four of his last six cuts, never impressed with his driving accuracy or ability to hit lots of greens, and his SG: Approach numbers are poor too.
Ryder Cup and/or match play quality will be factored in. I’m wary of exceptionally poor Whistling Straits form (see Sergio Garcia below), but the format, the occassion and the week will allow some to overhaul an ordinary course record. Dye form is a plus. I like comments by Padraig Harrington that this is a ball-striker’s course. He argues that greens need to be hit and then, if they’re not, a curious result emerges: the recoveries are either very simple or ludicrously difficult. He suggests that hurts anyone with a good short game who would ordnarily shine in that mid-range. (Note: The strategy of going with good Californian poa annua form worked exceptionally well last week as we tipped the 1-2 of Homa and McNealy.)
Other Player Options For The Ryder Cup
• Sergio Garcia is a wonderful Ryder Cup performer, in fact the leading points scorer in the history of the match and magnificent in foursomes, but his course form? Three starts, two missed cuts, no top 50 and he said: “This is definitely the toughest course I have played in my life.”
• Jordan Spieth has a spectacular fourball record of 5-1-0, is a solid 2-1-2 in foursomes, but is 0-3-0 in singles.
• Matthew Fitzpatrick debuted in 2016 and lost both his matches. A fine putter, but his ball-striking problems are highlighted by just one top 10 finish in the Majors.
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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