The PGA Championship DFS Outlook and Insights
Yardage: 7,329 – Par 70
Purse : $10.5 M
Field: 156 Players
*recent PGA Champions
Justin Thomas held the number one spot in the world for a total of four weeks before Dustin Johnson snatched it back after gaining two wins over a seven-week span. With an impressive four-shot win on Sunday at the Bridgestone Invitational, Thomas now holds the latest bragging rights in the two-man rivalry, but Johnson still owns the number one spot in the rankings. Thomas was certainly the best player in the world this week. After opening the tournament with a five-under 65, Thomas led the field for the final 54 holes and coasted in on Sunday, never leading by less than two shots. As we head into the fourth and final major of the year, one of the many subplots this coming week will be the battle between the Johnson and Thomas for that coveted Number One ranking in the world.
It’s hard to believe it, but we’re already at the final major of the year. Fair weather golf fans may all be dismissed after this week. Although I implore all of you to stay tuned for the FedEx Cup Playoffs, and even with no DFS, I better see most of you taking a look at the Ryder Cup in October to see some of the greatest players in the world going head-to-head while representing their country or….Europe.
Before the FedEx Cup Playoffs begin though, we still have the final major of the year. The PGA Championship is the fourth and final major of 2018. In line with the last three majors, the PGA is on an ever-rotating schedule of venues. This year the PGA will be held at Bellerive Country Club in the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri. Just like last week, the 50 best in the world will be in attendance this week along with 96 more players who punched their ticket in various other ways. The Top 70 in the FedEx Cup standings, 2016 Ryder Cup team members, the Top 15 from last year’s PGA Championship, last year’s senior PGA Champion, former PGA Champions, and the 20 best finishers from the PGA Professional Championship (that’s club professionals), will round out the field that will be battling for the Wanamaker Trophy. Justin Thomas comes in as defending champion, as well as the most recent winner on Tour with his victory on Sunday. Jordan Spieth will have his one and only annual chance at clinching the career Grand Slam. Tiger Woods will be chasing number 15 again, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, and Hideki Matsuyama continue to chase their first major victory. Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, and Francesco Molinari will attempt to win their second major of the year and be the first to do so since Spieth in 2015. Tommy Fleetwood and Jon Rahm will look to do more than just contend this week and break through for their first major victory, as well as clinch spots on the European Ryder Cup team. If nothing else, many players will be battling it out for the final spots on the U.S. and European Ryder Cup squads with this being the final week for automatic qualifying. After that, it’s up to the Ryder Cup captains to choose the final members.
Bellerive Country Club is back on the major schedule for the first time since the 1992 PGA Championship. The only time that Bellerive has been on the Tour schedule recently was for the 2008 BMW Championship (part of the FedEx Cup playoffs), so you can find a few players this week who played there 10 years ago, if you’re interested. What we know about this course is that it’s an average length (relatively speaking) Par 70 course, that will play between 7,200 and 7,400 yards each day. The greens are some of the biggest we’ve seen this year and are made up of bentgrass. Most of the holes are hard dog-legs moving from right to left (a draw/hook for righties, cut/fade for lefties). There are 76 bunkers 16 water hazards on the course, which is a good amount (roughly four bunkers and one water hazard per hole).
With interestingly shaped fairways, strokes gained: off-the-tee will be an important factor for success. Players will need to shape their ball flight off the tee to avoid bunkers, thick rough, and water hazards. I mentioned that the course has some of the largest greens on Tour, so hitting the green in regulation won’t be so much of an issue, but strokes gained: approach and approach proximity 150-175 yards will be the advantage players need in order to gain an edge on the field. If the ball misses the green, there’s a good chance that it will hit a greenside bunker. Sand save percentage will go a long way to saving crucial shots in the fourth and final major, so I’d advise at least getting someone who’s not foreign to good bunker play. Unlike the British Open, making a string of pars isn’t going to get it done this week. Pick someone who ranks high in birdie or better percentage. Bellerive yielded a 15-under winner (Camillo Villegas) in 2008, I anticipate a similar score to win it this week, so find someone who makes a lot of birdies, and more specifically, someone who’s been making a lot of birdies over the last few weeks.