Defending Champ: Jason Dufner
No need for nuffin’ besides the facts for filling out your lineup at the 96th PGA Championship:
Take the favorites
Golf was more fun when DJ was having back problems and Tiger was sleeping with people's wives.
— Patrick Mayo (@ThePME) August 3, 2014
Look, I like to play contrarian rosters more than anyone, it’s kinda my thing, but in attempting to outsmart the competition this week, you may be committing self-bamboozlement. And Lord knows that’s never enjoyable. If Valhalla was sodded with US Open rough or possessed the variable of Open Championship weather shifts, it’d wise to venture away from the favorites. However, that’s not the reality of the situation. Valhalla, and PGA Championship courses for the most part, is a scoring course. When this layout last hosted the fourth Major in 2000, the three podium finishers – Tiger Woods, Bob May and Thomas Bjorn – all finished inside the Top 5 in ball striking. Yes, the Jack Nicklaus design has been altered since Y2K, but it remains a birdie sanctuary – especially for those that drive the ball with considerable ease.
Recent form and high pressure results carry considerable weight in the picks, as do ball striking, total driving, > 25’ putting, 3-Putt avoidance, < 30’ sand save percentage and birdie percentage. Plus, there are four Par 3s on the scorecard, three of which measure between 200-225 yards in length, so proximity with long irons and Par 3 efficiency leaders from that distance have to be factored in as well. Problem is, all statistical alchemy does to the situation is point to the favorites. Sure, it produces a scrap of sleepers like Chad Campbell, Russell Henley, Billy Horschel, Harris English, Patrick Reed, Brooks Was Here Koepka, John Senden and J.B. Holmes, but it merely enhances the case for those with the shortest betting odds, especially in the majority of Fantasy Golf setups. Leave the sleepers for long shot bets, DFS tournaments and office pools that require you to choose from “blocks” of golfers that, by the final few squares, feature names barely recognizable by Google.
Oh, and those stats love Justin Hicks, who came in third two weeks ago at Royal Montreal and earned a silver medal in Reno on Sunday, too. Alas, Hicks didn’t qualify.
Well, better luck next year.
Adam Scott & Gary Woodland – Adam Scott, pretty certain you know about him. Woodland? I guess I just can’t help myself. Most will lean on Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler or Phil Mickelson as a mate for the man formerly known as the world’s No. 1 player – and it’d be hard to fault them – but this is a good spot to snag Woodland; a player not likely to be heavily rostered, possessing the ability to create a sizable points gap in the standings if he hits. The bomber checks out in most pertinent stats and provides an overlooked degree of safety: Woodland has made 18 consecutive cuts and played the weekend in six straight Major championships.
Rory McIlroy – He gets the Tiger treatment because of the giant wins in his past two starts. You have to use him… and start him too. Don’t be cute. Not taking him is what I talked about when I recommended watching Bamboozled. No… that’s not right. Well, whatever it was I said, take Rory, and watch Bamboozled anyway.
Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose & Graham DeLaet – Rose covers the “safety” and “favorite” quotient while an international dash of Japanese and Canadian seasoning affords the opportunity to make a standings separating selection. Delaet is the best ball striker on the planet and will be undervalued after withdrawing Sunday at Firestone because of the flu. Despite the WD, he was playing well among the game’s elite, following up his return to early season form on the heels of a T7 at the Canadian Open. Most Major championship layouts don’t suit DeLaet’s bomb it first, worry about the rest later style – Valhalla does. There’s some fescue waiting to devour inaccurate tee shots, but wayward drives won’t cause the same peril as missing the fairway at the US Open and Open Championship. Just check back to make sure he still doesn’t have the flu Wednesday night. The books are rightfully high on Matsuyama; the general public, they haven’t quite clued in yet. That’s our gain. The world’s 16th ranked player has remained steady following his breakthrough win at Congressional in May, picking up a pair of Top 40s in the Majors and carding a weekend 65/68 in Akron, good for a T12 finish. Matsuyama took over a month of rest following the US Open, but the PGA Championship will be the third event in a row he’s laced up the soft spikes, and he’s already trending upwards. Couple that with his Top 15 ranking in birdie average, scrambling > 30 yards, birdie or better conversion rate, proximity, driving efficiency, while being the most accurate iron player from 50-175 yards and the third in distance to the hole from 200-225 yards, and you have yourself a legitimate contender in the guise of dark horse.
Charl Schwartzel & Sergio Garcia – A Sunday 71 made it three runner up paydays in Sergio’s last four events at Firestone. Now, I wouldn’t bet him to win (It’s Sergio. Don’t bet on the bridesmaid to win, DUH), but for our purposes, he’s Fantasy Ovaltine at the moment. And Schwartzel has been covertly engaging in some leaderboard lurking lately. The 2011 Masters champ has quietly squeezed out Top 10 finishes in three of five events, including the Bridgestone and the Open Championship. Despite not being an elite driver, he does score high marks in birdie or better conversion rate (2nd), birdie average (9th), proximity > 200 yards (10th), putting 15-25’ (7th) and the NEVER, EVVVVVVVVVVVVER to be overlooked final round scoring (4th), which ultimately decides almost all Major Championships. Plus, Schwartzel is fourth in sand play from 20-30 yards. With the volume of deep, green side bunkers at Valhalla, it’s an area where strokes need to be saved.