2017 PGA Championship – Thursday, August 10th through Sunday, August 13th
Oof, Sunday strikes again. Listen, the swings were going to be even crazier with every lineup alive with 6/6 due to the no cut, but man. A brief (note: that was my intention but then I started writing it, the tilt is real) bad beat story, because no one likes to hear them, but this one was pretty impressive.
One of my two main higher stakes lineups was in serious contention all week, with the ugly mark on it as of Friday night being one Louis Oosthuizen. He showed up and fired a BOFR 67 on Saturday morning, putting me in first place in the $444 tournament before the rest of my players even started. Jimmy Walker recovered reasonably well after threatening to remove himself from competition on his front nine, and Pieters, Rory, Day, and Chappell all had good to great afternoons, putting me in 9th at the end of the day. Going into the final round I had the leader, a solo 5th, three T10s, and Louis. I needed some additional help from at least a couple of ‘Deki, Zach Johnson, Hoffman, and Casey, and was a little worried about chalk Rickie lurking as a number of my opponents up top (including Jazzraz and our dude Max) had him in their lineups. Not a nut spot but a nice place for contention, was excited for the sweat and felt reasonably safe for a decent payday with plenty of upside for more.
Let’s call each outcome a binary, 50/50 coin flip for simplicity’s sake. I have got six dudes who I would like to do “well” and five dudes I’d like to “fall into a vat of Bridgestone tire mix like the Joker in his origin story.”
While clearly I am not envisioning a realistic outcome where I can expect to win all 11, if I did I would have won the Dogleg and the Best Ball too, probably by dozens of points each. The probability of winning 11 coin flips is 1/2048. If I win six or seven of those flips (~39% chance) I likely stay where I am or improve slightly. If I win 8 or more (~11% chance) life is lit, I’m a legit favorite and we’re starting to talk realistically about winning some of the giant field smaller buy in tournaments. Worst case likely scenario is probably losing eight or nine (~10.5% chance) and min cashing.
Well, all six of the dudes in my lineup went backwards, while everyone I was worried about but ZJ (who still held 2nd) shot 67 or better. Add to that Hideki’s ridiculous finish (birdied 18 for BIR3+, BOFR, A4U70 bonuses) and I somehow lost all 11, ending up with a 70-75th percentile lineup that was out of the money in most tournaments. Losing 11 coin flips is that same 1/2048 outcome that winning is. Sundays have not been kind this year.
PGA CHAMPIONSHIP TALK STARTS HERE
Moving on, we get the final major this week, the PGA Championship. This, like all the non-Masters majors, switches courses year to year, and this year they’ll play at the Quail Hollow Club, the usual home for the Wells Fargo Championship. While there have been renovations done to make it harder and live up to major status, we have a lot of data on the course and the type of games that worked before should in theory still be what we want.
A nice piece on the details of the changes, as well as some quotes from last year’s (PGA, not Wells Fargo) winner Jimmy Walker, can be found here.
The short version is that they made it harder, converting a par 5 to a par 4 while retaining the overall length of the course. It is now nearly 7,600 yards and par 71, which is insanely long.
Be careful how you look for fit this week. At Baltusrol, last year’s PGA Championship venue, there was a premium on hitting fairways, which is why it’s still shocking that Jimmy Walker and Jason Day finished 1-2. Anyway, traditionally at Quail Hollow accuracy is irrelevant. Last year the Wells Fargo had the weakest correlation between DA% and DK points/round of any tournament, and the highest correlation to Driving Distance. Strokes gained off the tee was nice (top 10), but it really has come down to getting it far down the fairways and giving yourself a chance on the second shot.
HOWEVER: there are some reports of the rough being a much nastier problem this year with the new looks. The #FamVice homey CarlMarks showed me a video of some old people who watched other, much less rich people renovate the course talking about how much more difficult it should be.
There is something about the way the ball spins out of the rough being different but the bottom line is IF they are correct, this course could completely neutralize some of the wild bombers that have had success here in the past. Add to that a fair amount of water trouble to get in (0.8 water balls per player per round last year, a top 10 average) and I’m probably going to go with a little more safety than I normally would at this course.
So, while I’d love a ton of length, I don’t think I’m going to be willing to go after as many complete wild cards as I initially thought. SG:OTT (shots gained off the tee) and very long approaches will be my priority. I am not as worried about around the green game, as it is one of the only things here that should be easier than tour average.
It is certainly a different place, and it no shit looks like it could be a U.S. Open level challenge.
On to the golfers:
Pricing seems a little bit sharper again this week. Not sure if it is an intentional trend yet or a byproduct of all the club pros in this event pushing up the very bottom tier, but I’ll take it. Should spread out ownership a bit.
Pricey (9.0K+ DK):
Rory McIlroy-11.9/19.3: I’m not going out on a limb here saying Rory is an amazing play this week, and in a vacuum probably the only golfer that fits every single thing you want here. Last week through round three, he hit 38 of 42 possible drives over 300 yards, averaging 328, largely in the middle of the damn fairway. It was ridiculous. He struggled with his approach distances, but my money is not on that continuing. Has absolutely destroyed Quail Hollow in the past, and if the changes are largely adding length and making the rough worse those are even bigger advantages for him.
Sergio Garcia-9.4/16.2: A bit of a price play, but Sergio also has the overall game you need here. Crushes OTT, very good with long irons. Some just okay finishes lately that one could chalk up to: a little bit of cruise control after winning the Masters and perhaps being preoccupied with his wedding. I think this is a good week to jump back on.
Brooks Koepka-9.2/16.4: Summary of my Brooks analysis from last week:
74 events since 2014: 1.37 strokes better than the field/round
42 not hard course events: 1.04 strokes better than the field/round
32 hard course events: 1.80 strokes better than the field/round
That’s three strokes per tournament better at hard course, and this is almost definitely going to be a tough one. Hasn’t played QH before, which is depressing the tag, but he is obviously playing great and his distance and long irons game should set up perfectly.
Mid-range (7.4-8.9 DK):
Paul Casey-7.8/14.7: I have extolled this man’s virtues plenty of times in this space, but this week it’s a free square in cash, just plug him in and move on.
Louis Oosthuizen-7.5/14.4: This has really burned me the last couple of weeks, but I can’t find a great reason why Louis is struggling other than perhaps mailing it in. He is still having a nice year, and his upside is massive at this price point. I’ll be jumping back on for tournaments again.
Daniel Berger-7.7/14.4: A touch underpriced for his skill set. Hits longer than average, can keep it relatively straight, better with the irons from long range, especially on long par 4s.
Cheapies (below 7.4 DK):
Tony Finau-7.0/13.1: This is the one wild man I’d like to be overweight on, just because he should clearly be an 8k player by now. The MC risk is real, but if he gets through he should vastly outscore his finishing position and just obliterate that tag. Has gained a ton of strokes from the rough, probably because he is in it so much.
Francesco Molinari-6.8/13.1: Another cash staple for me. I’m a little worried his lack of length could hurt but he keeps it in the fairway and excels with 200+ yard approaches. You will want the savings.
Lucas Glover-7.0/12.1: We have not heard much from this man lately, potentially due to a long stretch of courses on his least favorite grass. There are reasons to get on board, however. Glover has the skills we are looking for in long/straight OTT with nice long irons. He has also done very well at Quail Hollow in the past. AND these changes should benefit his game more than most of the course horses.
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Go and get it everybody.
Find me on Twitter @andrewmbarron or in the FanVice Premium Slack @hotmajik if you wanna talk strat/make jokes/argue