As is tradition for Majors over at thepgatout.com, we’re switching up the format just a tad, so instead of the usual Bombs & Values article, we upgrade to Blood, Sweat & Tiers! Within each tier, I’ve selected my Favorite Bet (based on win equity for this tournament, ignoring DFS ownership), best DFS value (the players I expect to most exceed their DFS price value), Dark Horse (DFS leverage plays I expect to go over-looked and under-owned), and Fades (players I will not have exposure to in DFS). There’s a lot of meat to get into here so let’s get it started!
Tier 1: $10K+
Players: Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Jordan Spieth
Best Bet to Win: Dustin Johnson (+1850)
The local South Carolinian and still World #1 got his wish last week despite his PR team and agents’ wishes when he skipped the AT&T Byron Nelson to shift focus to prepping for the second Major of 2021. I have absolutely no concerns about the “knee injury”, which was cited just days after he was seen backflipping off of a yacht, but if the public’s concern over his health is what’s caused this number to slip down to +1850, behind Xander Schauffele, then I’m ready to jump in those waters too. He is the world #1 for a reason, so a bet on DJ is a bet on the proven best player in the world over the past year to bring his A game to a Major Championship.
In my Tournament Preview, I glossed over DJ’s Paspalam course history, but it’s worth noting that he’s been absolutely dominant on the only Paspalum event he’s really played over the last 3 years, the Euro Tour’s Saudi International, with two wins and a runner up in the only three years it’s been contested.
Best DFS Value: Jordan Spieth ($10,100)
I like Spieth more than I like JT and Bryson this week, who are each priced ahead of him. The driver is a mild concern, but if the conditions get ugly and this is decided with short game, I feel most confident in Spieth at the top of this board. Similar to what we saw with the Masters slate when pricing was locked before his Valero win, we are getting an inherent price discount on Spieth for the PGA Championship, not factoring in his T9 finish at the Byron Nelson last week. Spieth found magic in his game 8 events ago at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and hasn’t looked back with 6 10s ever since. He’s chasing the career Grand Slam this week, and this is starting to feel like perfect timing with so many elements of this track reminiscent of where he won the US Open (Chambers Bay) and Open Championship (Royal Birkdale).
Dark Horse: Rory McIlroy (10% Proj Ownership)
Okay big big big caveat before you roll your eyes at labeling the defending Kiawah champion, Wells Fargo champion, and odds on favorite to win the 2021 PGA Championship as a “Dark Horse.” Rory is my dark horse because despite all these accolades, he projects to be the lowest owned player in the $10K+ range at 10%. In a week with such soft pricing, particularly in the $7K range, it should be no problem to squeeze Rory into your lineups, with the confidence that his ceiling is an 8-stroke blitz of the field like he did in 2012. Rory was “slumping” by Rory standards before the Wells Fargo, but he’s finished T21 or better in 11 of his last 14 starts, so the form was never really as far away as we thought.
Fade: Bryson DeChambeau
This is a recipe for disaster for me. Every time I write up Bryson as a fade, he goes off and wins. Every time I love Bryson, he misses the cut. So that makes me trepidatious to take a firm stance on him, but I’m committing to it. Bryson won the last extremely long Major at Winged Foot, and with this course playing as the longest in Major history, the general public will make that association here once again and take the longest hitter. They shouldn’t. In Bryson’s recent wins on long courses (Bay Hill, Winged Foot), he leaned on his carry distance to cut off aggressive angles and his superhuman ability to hit greens from extremely thick rough when the rest of the field could not. Kiawah Island is a flat and straight links course that’s pretty much either fairway or hazards, so that carry distance and approach from the rough prowess shouldn’t factor in very much at all this week. I’m also putting a heavier emphasis on Driving Accuracy this week, which he ranks 125th in, so if the winds do pick up, he could get into a world of trouble. Bryson always has win equity, but he also has a path for things to go very wrong, so a Missed Cut prop at +300 is not the worst value I’ve seen this week.
Tier 2: $9K
Players: Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepke, Hideki Matsuyama, Viktor Hovland, Webb Simpson, Patrick Reed, Patrick Cantlay
Best Bet to Win: Viktor Hovland (+2000)
What else can I say about the Spotlight Star of the Tournament Preview, Viktor Hovland? He crushes long and difficult courses, windy courses, Paspalum courses, you name it. He has 6 T5s in his last 10 starts, which is absurd for a player in the $9K range, and because of that, there’s a good chance he becomes the highest owned player on Draft Kings this week. He’s currently projected around 20% ownership, but fortunately with betting, ownership means absolutely nothing beyond a tough week for the books. I’m not calling him a lock, there’s really no such thing in golf, especially on a course where weather is so volatile, but there sure is a lot to like about Vik compared to the rest in this tier.
Best DFS Value: Patrick Reed ($9,100)
Just rinse and repeat everything I said about Patrick Reed when I talked him up at Quail Hollow before his T6 finish. He’s unflappable on long, difficult courses, he always comes to compete at Majors, and if the winds pick up and this becomes a par fest, Reed has proven time and time again he can win a tournament with just his Short Game alone. And he’s Patrick Reed, so regardless of how well he fits the course, the masses are not going to jump to put him in their lineups, as the ownership projections currently show him at 10.5%.
For me this comes down to the weather. If the forecast gets ugly, I think you have to play Patrick Reed at this price, and if the conditions are perfectly fine and wind doesn’t come into play at all (I really don’t think that’s going to be the case), then maybe you start to reconsider.
Dark Horse: Hideki Matsuyama (6% Proj Ownership)
He won’t make his way onto my betting card at this price, but I mulled over Hideki Matsuyama for a long time, given the emphasis I’m putting on recent T2G form + Paspalum history. He’s obviously coming off of a Major victory two starts ago at the Masters and despite the expected rust, he actually looked pretty solid at the Byron Nelson last week with a T39, losing all of his strokes around the green.
I’m preaching #TeamNoPutt on Paspalum courses for Emiliano Grillo and Keegan Bradley this week, so I’d be a hypocrite not to highlight that Matsuyama is #1 in the field SG: TOT on Paspalum courses. While I’m optimistic Hideki can have a decent showing with his putter on these greens, I’m focusing more on the T2G game with him, which ranks 35th over the last 36 rounds, not including any metrics from his dominance at Augusta. Despite all this positive momentum, Hideki shockingly projects to be just 6% owned, so he presents a great leverage opportunity at the top of the board.
Fade: Patrick Cantlay
I’ll begin by saying that I’m also fading Brooks. He can’t walk or bend, I’m not playing him with so many other peak-conditioned athletes around him. And I’ll say one more thing: If there was video of Brooks backflipping off of a yacht, I would in fact be back in at his 50/1 number. In any case though, Brooks has this ability to magically perform well at Majors even when not 100%, so while I do not like that play at all, I still could understand the upside in it better than Patrick Cantlay.
Patrick Cantlay is unplayable for me this week. If his ownership was 2% on Draft Kings, I wouldn’t touch it. If his odds fell to 60/1, I wouldn’t touch it. He has missed 4 consecutive cuts, and before this stretch, had never missed three consecutive cuts at any point ever in his career, so he is statistically playing the worst golf of his career right now. Kiawah Island is the opposite of a get right spot, so throw in the added pressure of a Major Championship, and I want absolutely no part of it. I’m already firmly planted against playing Cantlay on the East Coast, so I’ll continue to root for his demise until his odds are more palatable at Torey Pines for the US Open.
Tier 3: $8K
Players: Cam Smith, Will Zalatoris, Daniel Berger, Tony Finau, Scottie Scheffler, Matt Fitzpatrick, Sungjae Im, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Tyrrell Hatton, Louis Oosthuizen
Best Bet to Win: Daniel Berger (+3000)
Daniel Berger will not finish his career without winning a Major Championship. He has the complete all around game, distance, and competitive fortitude for it, and he’s already had some close calls in his early career. If the weather gets really ugly, we could see a tournament play out reminiscent of the 2018 US Open at Shinnecock Hills, where Berger finished T6, his best career Major finish yet. Beyond that though, he also has 3 other T15 Major finishes between the PGA and Masters, so he’s started to knock on the door in big moments.
I fortunately benefited from a weekend Berger heater at the AT&T Byron Nelson, as I jumped on him at 41/1 prior to that blazing T3 finish. There’s no question about his recent form coming in, with a win and three other T15s over his last six starts. Berger is a great putter (#30), but doesn’t need to rely on the flat stick to bail him out because the ball striking (#8) is even stronger. And perhaps even more encouraging is combination of Distance (#35) and Accuracy (#41) off the tee.
Best DFS Value: Tony Finau ($8,600)
Tony Finau is a bit of a forgotten Paspalam Specialist. He still has his one win at the Puerto Rico Open, and also snuck in a T2 at the Saudi International on Paspalum greens earlier this year at his first ever appearance in that event. The recent putting has been about field average over the last 36 rounds, so I like the upside he has on Paspalum to improve. We know Tony’s form has been sharp all around coming in otherwise, ranking 9th SG: TOT and 21st SG: T2G. Despite the 3 MCs in his last 4 starts, Tony still has 6 T10 finishes over the last 6 months if you’re willing to zoom out to his longer term form, which is the same as Viktor Hovland.
I tested the waters of a Tony Finau outright experience in a Major last month, and it went exactly as I thought it would, so I’m not jumping to bet him again this time around. But even still, Tony’s T10 went a long way for me in DFS at Augusta, so I don’t mind going right back to him for that Draft Kings Scoring once again at Kiawah Island, even if I don’t think he has the win equity.
Dark Horse: Louis Oosthuizen (8.5% Proj Ownership)
This will be the first time he’s surfaced since blowing the Zurich Classic by driving the first shot of the playoff into the water. That probably leaves a sour taste in the mouths of most DFS players if their mouths weren’t already soured from his prolific late WD history. But one man’s trash is another man’s DFS leverage treasure, and Louis gives us some salary relief at under 9% projected ownership.
Louis always seems to show up in Majors, and although he’s never won one, he’s knocked on the door plenty of times. He actually has a Runner Up finish in all four Majors, which is encouraging for Louis (at least as a non-outright play) given that Kiawah Island has a little bit of everything in it that we’ve typically seen from courses hosting the PGA, US Open, Open Championship, and Masters. Despite not being the longest player on Tour, he still gutted out an impressive T3 finish at the 2020 US Open at Winged Foot, so the course distance this week should not be too much of an impediment for him.
Fade: Sungjae Im
I want nothing to do with Sungjae Im this week. He wins by gaining a substantial amount of strokes on the greens, and that is just not going to happen on Paspalum greens that should in theory level the playing field for historically weaker putters to gain as well. Instead, he’ll need to rely on his Ball Striking (43rd) and T2G game (60th), which is not exactly elite. He has the pedigree to still command attention from bettors and DFS players at this price, but I’m going to be actively targeting against Sungjae this week wherever I can, just due to the poor course fit and lackluster recent form.
Tier 4: $7K
Players: Adam Scott, Abraham Ancer, Joaquin Niemann, Shane Lowry, Paul Casey, Jason Day, Corey Conners, Marc Leishman, Sergio Garcia, Sam Burns, Bubba Watson, Gary Woodland, Matt Wallace, Brian Harman, Lee Westwood, Keegan Bradley, Charley Hoffman, Max Homa, Si Woo Kim, Harris English, Russell Henley, Aaron Wise, Billy Horschel, Jason Kokrak, Cameron Tringale, Matt Jones, Ian Poulter, Cameron Champ, Emiliano Grillo, Chris Kirk, Matt Kuchar, Robert McIntyre, Rickie Fowler, Kevin Kisner, Martin Kaymer
Best Bet to Win: Keegan Bradley (80/1)
Go ahead, point and laugh at me for backing Keegan Bradley, but I am one of very few people who can say they’ve profited off of betting on him after cashing his FRL at the Valspar, so I am reinvesting into $KEEGS with an outright bet this week at 100/1. I am not blindly following the model I made which spit out Keegan Bradley as the #1 player this week, but I have been coerced by it.
Give me a combination of elite recent form T2G coming in, proven history on this course, and proven success in a Major, and you can take all my money. Keegan has it all in spades. He’s #4 SG: T2G over the last 36 rounds, he finished T3 at the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, and he won the PGA Championship the year prior on 2011. You can poke fun at his putting woes, but while they don’t pass the eye test, he has actually gained strokes on the greens in 5 of his last 6 starts. Add on the fact that he’s been spectacular on Paspalum (#5 SG: TOT) and we actually have reason for optimism with the putter this week. Everything else T2G has already been there for a long time.
Best DFS Value: Emiliano Grillo ($7,000)
I wrote a lot about Grillo in the Tournament Preview, but he’s a player that checks all the boxes for this week’s conditions. He’s #2 SG: BS in high winds, #4 SG: TOT on Paspalum, and over the last 36 rounds, he’s 13th in the field SG: BS. Like Berger, I especially love his combination of Driving Distance (36th) and Accuracy (19th), as this should set up his approaches well, where he ranks 5th in GIRs.
I feel confident enough in Grillo at $7,000 that I may not feel the need to dip any lower into he $6Ks when constructing my DFS lineups this week.
Dark Horse: Adam Scott (4.8% Proj Ownership)
I think people will naturally gravitate to Tyrell Hatton, Abraham Ancer, Joaquin Niemann, or Paul Casey when considering this range, but Adam Scott is the player I first thought of when considering this course’s profile. Australian’s tend to fare best in high winds, and his rank of 3rd SG: T2G in high winds would seem to justify that stereotype. Scott also managed to rank in the Top 10 Scoring on Pete Dye Courses, Long & Difficult conditions, Paspalum, and Kiawah Comp Courses, which is highly encouraging.
Scott is a long ball striker who tends to lose strokes with the putter, something I’m not so concerned with here. If the ownership stays this low, it’s going to be hard to resist playing Scott in DFS this week. If he can keep the ball in the fairway, which may be a pretty big if, the rest of the game from fairway to green is ready to go.
Fade: Sam Burns
If it’s a Sam Burns chalk week, guess where you won’t find me! $7K chalk is a scary place to be, as Doug Ghim proved last week, and despite Burns’ world-beating Win & T2 stretch over his last two starts, he is a volatile player who relies on a hot putter to win.
He’s relatively unproven in coastal windy tracks and Majors and leans more heavily on Distance OTT than accuracy, which is the inverse of what I want this week. I’m seeing Sam Burns around 10% owned currently and expect that to continue to increase over the course of the week. The upside is plenty high, but like Bryson, if we can gain leverage on his equally as low floor, I’ll take my chances on the latter.
Tier 5: $6K
Players: Everyone else
Best Bet to Win: Charl Schwartzel (+11000)
Schwartzel continues to trend week over week, and it’s encouraging to see this renaissance on windy courses (T20 at Quail Hollow), Pete Dye Tracks (T2 at TPC Louisiana), and courses that play a bit longer (T3 at TPC Craig Ranch). The former Major Champion dwindles into the $6K range because his price is not reflecting the AT&T Byron Nelson strong showing, but some books inexplicably continue to hang 200/1 on him.
A steady T2G player with above average distance and accuracy off the tee, Schwartzel was #1 in the field SG: APP through the first three rounds last week before playing a majority of Sunday in the rain. If he can just convert a few more putts, he could be dangerous at Kiawah Island.
Best DFS Value: Joel Dahmen ($6,400)
I can’t go any lower than Dahmen in DFS this week; it gets real ugly sub-$6.4K. But Dahmen is coming fresh off a win in mega-windy Paspalum conditions a month ago at Corales, and you’d be hard pressed to find another recent winner in this range. Obviously the strength of field and difficulty of the course don’t hold a candle to Kiawah Island, but following that up with a T18 last we saw him at another difficult, windy track in Quail Hollow was certainly encouraging. This could go horribly wrong, but there’s a path for Dahmen to continue on this hot trend for a T30 finish this week.
Dark Horse: Harold Varner III (4.5% Proj Ownership)
Speaking of “this could go horribly wrong”, how about some nice words to say about HVIII. After a strong endorsement by yours truly for the Carolina native at the Wells Fargo, Varner missed the cut, and looked pretty terrible throughout. But at the steep discount, Varner certainly has the T2G game to hang in there through the cut this week, especially if we’re willing to overlook putting.
Varner fits my profile this week as a solid T2G player (42nd) who is Top 50 in both Driving Distance and Driving Accuracy. I remember following HVIII around at the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage. He was spectacular for 3 days, absolutely up to the challenge of a Major championship as he headed into Sunday T2. He did go on to torpedo himself down to T36 after a Sunday 81, but the point is his game was almost all there in long, difficult conditions. He’s a risk, and I won’t be betting him outright, but for DFS purposes, there is plenty of upside in the Carolina local.
Fade: Henrik Stenson
I didn’t have to flame Henrik Stenson. I could have easily just put “everyone else”, because truthfully the above three players are likely the exhaustive list of guys in the $6K range I’ll have exposure to in DFS or bets. There are more certain options in the low $7Ks, so I just don’t see myself building lineups too far down here. In any case though, I really don’t like Henrik Stenson because he WD’d in the second round of the Bermuda Championship earlier this season when I used my OAD pick on him, so naturally I’ve kept the grudge. He’s still a long ways away from returning to form, and given he doesn’t even carry a Driver in his bag, I think he’ll get eaten alive by this course. Others may be sucked into some solid history on Euro Links courses, windy conditions, and past Majors, but he just isn’t that same guy right now.