One of the bright spots about the new PGA Tour schedule is the wait for the return of major championship golf after the Masters has been cut from two months to one. The move to May should help remove some of the anticlimactic feeling from the PGA Championship that some felt with the tournament previous occurring at the end of summer as the season wound down and what better place to help generate some additional excitement then by holding the event in the New York City area at one of the nation’s top public courses in Bethpage Black. The course is no stranger to hosting major championships as the US Open was held here in 2002 and 2009 with the first edition providing plenty of memorable moments as Tiger Woods was able to hold off Phil Mickelson in a year where the difficulty of the course and the local fans, as Sergio Garcia and Colin Montgomerie could attest to, were much of the story. The conditions should be a bit more benign this year, but with Tiger back in action in his first appearance since winning the Masters, and this being the biggest sporting event the New York area may see all year, baring a Yankee run to the World Series, we are sure to be in for an exciting week.
Bethpage State Park (Black): Par 70, 7,456 yards. This storied, classic, A.W. Tillinghast design features narrow fairways that closely lined by trees and fescue and also requires players navigate deep bunkers off the tee. In the two US Opens held here, the rough has also been a hazard for wayward drives, however the PGA of America has historically not been nearly as penal with its prescribed rough length as the USGA. A report last week had its length at about two inches meaning by the time the event rolls around we can will likely see it fall somewhere in the three to four inch range. This is something to monitor as we get more reports out of Bethpage as the week goes on. Anything on the shorter end of this range will provide a nice bump to the bombers in the field but if we get reports it is on the longer side then a greater premium will be placed on accuracy. During the PGA Tour playoff events we’ve seen driving accuracy only slightly below average with average driving distance about six yards longer than the average PGA Tour event. We can expect approach play to take on added importance this week as the greens at Bethpage can be hard to hit and getting up and down from the around the green areas will be a test. One of the course’s most striking design elements is its vast and deep bunkering that is reminiscent of Pine Valley so players will want to avoid finding them off the tee, as laying up short of the green may be the only option in many cases. The around the green bunkers are also plentiful and require a solid sand game to leave players with a reasonable look at par. There are not a lot of scoring opportunities at Bethpage as the two par fives are the only holes on the course that see birdies made at a rate of 20% or higher. Bogey avoidance will be key this week as bogey rates of 20% or higher for the field will likely be seen on 12 or more holes. With this course being extremely long for a par 70, a majority of approach spots will be coming from outside the 175 yard mark.
With the shift to May, there are a couple of weather/conditioning items worth mentioning as the Shotlink data we have to look at for Bethpage comes from the Barclays which is held in late August. First is the NYC area has received significant rainfall this spring meaning the course will play longer due to decreased rollout. Also, lower air temperatures will result in decreased carry distances.
In terms of stats, we will want to target players who are long and straight off the tee with strong long iron games. Also, course management and scrambling will be a factor this week so if we want to find players who will limit drop shots looking at bogey avoidance will take on added importance.
Here are our top stats to consider this week:
- Strokes Gained Approach
- Good Drives Gained
- Bogey Avoidance
- Strokes Gained Off the Tee
- Opportunities Gained
- Proximity from Outside 175 yards
The PGA Championship generally puts together the strongest field of the four majors as all top 100 in the OWGR invited. One notable early week W/D is Justin Thomas who is out with a wrist injury. This is first time we will see Tiger Woods back in action after his Masters win. He will be grouped with defending champ Brooks Koepka along with Open Championship winner Francesco Molinari. The opposite wave will be anchored by the featured pairing of Jason Day, Phil Mickelson, and Rory McIlroy. The PGA Championship is also noteworthy in that it reserves 20 spots for club professionals who earn their way in via regional qualifying. We have some nice prize pools available this week so let’s dig in to the picks. Here are three targets for your cash game / single entry tournament (GPP) lineups on DraftKings:
Upper Mid-Range – Tommy Fleetwood – $9,200
Coming off a busy week as the host of the British Masters, Fleetwood may not get as much as an opportunity as other in the field to get comfortable with the course, however, Bethpage Black profiles out as a good course fit as he is long and straight off the tee with a solid iron game and good around the greens. He is beginning to round into form with a top ten last week and he did most of the heavy lifting when he teamed up with Sergio Garcia to finish in second place at the Zurich. He has gained an average of 4.12 strokes of the tee over his past five events and while the iron game is a bit behind his typical form, he does have the ability to flash elite upside as evidenced but some of the low rounds he has fired in major championship.
Mid-Range – Hideki Matsuyama – $8,500
Hideki has seen his white hot ball striking continue as he has gained an average of 7.6 strokes per event over his last eight Shotlink starts. His putter has been up and down over the course of the year but Poa has historically been his best putting surface. He also has some room for improvement in the scoring department as he is 11th in the field in birdie or better opportunities gained while ranking only 28th in birdies or better gained. One thing to note for safety in this play is Hideki has also been solid around the greens so if there is a small drop off in his iron play this week his ability to get up and down could help see him on the right side of the cutline.
Mid-Range – Patrick Cantlay – $8,200
Another ballstriker who can scramble, Patrick Cantlay is among PGA Tour leaders in par four scoring. He comes in with great current form as he held the lead briefly on Sunday at Augusta and followed that up by navigating the tight fairways of Harbour Town for a third-place finish at the RBC Heritage. A made cut with top 20 upside would more than justify to modest DFS price tag.
How we did last week:
Cash/Single Entry Article Plays:
Sungjae Im – MDF
Keith Mitchell – T59
Trey Mullinax – MC
Optimal Sports Subscribers Core Plays:
Sungjae Im – MDF
Keith Mitchell – T59
Matt Jones – T5
Ryan Palmer – T43
Aaron Wise – T43
Nate Lashley – T29
Last Week’s DraftKings Double Up Contest Result: Win
2018-2019 Season Double Up Record: 16-10
Record in Double Ups Since 1/1/18: 41-20
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