The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island hosts this week’s PGA Championship. It’s the first time the PGA Tour is returning to Kiawah Island since Rory McIlroy‘s 2012 PGA Championship victory. Below, we’ll preview the course and the key stats you need to know before making our 2021 PGA Championship DFS picks for DraftKings.
McIlroy returned to the winner’s circle and moved back inside the top 10 of the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) with his recent victory at the Wells Fargo Championship. He became this week’s betting favorite with that victory and will look to hold off a strong stable of challengers, including 2020 PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa, and fellow 2020 major winners Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson. Hideki Matsuyama, the 2021 Masters champ, returned to play at last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson with a T39 finish. The resurgent Jordan Spieth tied for ninth last week as he tries once again to complete the career grand slam.
The course: The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island
Designed by Pete and Alice Dye, the Ocean Course is elevated to give players a view of the Atlantic coastline from every hole. As such, players are also exposed to the often harsh and almost always swirling winds. These winds came into play in 2012 and particularly in the second round when only one player, Vijay Singh, broke 70. McIlroy was the only player to finish double digits under par at minus-13 in his eight-stroke victory. It’s very comparable to links-style courses of the U.K. and Ireland due to these conditions.
Despite the name, water is truly in play on only three holes, with each of those on the back nine. The main challenges to scorecards – outside of the winds – are posed by the sand bunkers and dunes that guard the long, narrow and undulating Paspalum greens. The wide fairways allow players to swing a full driver on nearly every par 4 and 5, but the narrow greens and surrounding trouble can force lay-ups on approach.
The Ocean Course is a par 72 that has been lengthened slightly from 2012 to 7,876 yards and will now play as the longest major championship venue in Tour history. Only four holes played below par in 2012 with only one of those coming after the third hole. Six holes now exceed 500 yards. Three of the four par 3s top 200 yards.
Key stats to consider for your 2021 PGA Championship DFS picks
Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee is the obvious starting point for this week based on the sheer length of the Ocean Course. Distance is more important than accuracy with the comfortably wide fairways. SG: Approach and SG: Around-the-Green are, however, the more important stats. With all the trouble surrounding the exceptionally firm putting surfaces, approach shots need to be hit into the proper parts of the greens and it’s very difficult to get up and down on most holes.
The majority of par 4s exceed 450 yards, so look to Par 4 Efficiency: 450-500 Yards. Sand Save Percentage and Bogey Avoidance also need to be considered to help avoid detrimental scores when choosing your 2021 PGA Championship DFS picks.
PGA Championship lineup-building strategies
There are 177,708 entries in the DraftKings $3M Fantasy Golf Millionaire competing for the $1 million first-place prize. Six golfers need to be selected while staying under the $50,000 salary cap. As in all majors and large guaranteed prize pool DFS tournaments, ownership percentage is highly important. While finishing position and fantasy point scoring are the main priority, it’s essential to choose the less popular of two comparable options whenever possible. A key to this is to stay comfortably below the salary cap to help ensure a unique roster while avoiding the most popular price points.
This is less of an issue at the top of the board, where ownership for the tournament’s betting favorites will typically be dispersed more evenly among the public’s favorite golfers. The struggles come in the middle and value tiers. Prices were released last week and don’t reflect the most recent results. As such, I’ll be fading Sam Burns ($7,500) this week as an expected popular play following his victory at the Valspar Championship and runner-up finish at the AT&T Byron Nelson. The tournament betting odds at DraftKings Sportsbook are a more accurate gauge of a golfer’s likelihood of winning. Looking at the group and matchup odds upon their release is better differentiates comparable golfers.
Scoring conditions for the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island are also expected to be extremely tough. This will put more of an emphasis on the finishing position bonuses. Not only is it essential for all six golfers in your lineup to make the cut, but they also need to finish in the top 10 or at least the top 20.
2021 PGA Championship DFS picks
Top Tier: $11.5K – $8.5K
Rory McIlroy $11,500
McIlroy is almost sure to be the highest-owned golfer this week despite being the most expensive option in the player pool. His commanding eight-stroke victory in 2012 had him among the betting favorites by the PGA Championship futures odds since the conclusion of the 2020 tournament. His victory at the Wells Fargo Championship thrust him into the top spot despite three missed cuts through his first seven non-WGC events of the year.
Still, rostering McIlroy seems essential. His +1100 odds to win represent an implied win probability of 8.33 percent to lead the field. He’s second on Tour this season in driving distance and fifth in SG: Off-the-Tee. He’s also 23rd in sand save percentage and is one of the best on Tour in windy and potentially wet and soft conditions.
Patrick Cantlay $9,000
Cantlay is my pick to win this week. He has slipped from No. 9 in the OWGR at the end of 2020 to No. 12 entering this week with four straight missed cuts at The Players Championship, the Masters, RBC Heritage and Wells Fargo. He’s 13th by DK salary and 15th by the betting odds at +4000.
The three-time PGA Tour champ is the only player on Tour averaging at least 0.50 SG: Around-the-Green (0.51) and Off-the-Tee (0.58) this season. He’s 28th in sand save percentage and seventh in bogey avoidance. He has two career top-10 finishes in majors, including a T3 at the 2019 PGA Championship when only two players shot better than 2-under par.
Daniel Berger $8,700
A two-time winner since the mid-June restart last year, Berger missed the cut at the Masters in his first appearance since 2018 but returned to form with a T3 finish at last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson. He was fourth in the field in SG: Tee-to-Green and SG: Off-the-Tee. He’s eighth on Tour in total strokes gained per round for the season (1.90) and No. 16 in the OWGR, but he’s ninth by the odds to win at +2800. There’s value in his 17th-ranked DFS salary. He’s sixth in bogey avoidance and 35th in par 4 efficiency from our key distance.
Scottie Scheffler $8,500
Scheffler is averaging 0.68 SG: Off-the-Tee per round, is tied for 33rd in driving distance and tied for 11th in par 4 efficiency. He tied for 47th at the scoring fest that was the AT&T Byron Nelson but was seventh among those to make the cut in SG: OTT. He has better odds to win than Cantlay at +3300 but is $500 cheaper by DFS salary.
Mid Tier: $8.4K – $7K
Matthew Fitzpatrick $8,400
Fitzpatrick missed the cut last week in his first event since a T4 at the RBC Heritage. He has four top-10 finishes through eight PGA Tour events this year after finishing his 2020 schedule with a victory at the European Tour’s DP World Tour Championship. He has never won on the PGA Tour but has six victories in marquee events on the Euro circuit. The Englishman is tied for just 168th in driving distance, but he’s eighth in par 4 efficiency and averages 0.58 SG: Off-the-Tee with another 0.87 SG: Tee-to-Green.
Tyrrell Hatton $8,000
Hatton shares +5000 odds to win with Fitzpatrick but comes at a discounted DFS salary despite ranking ninth in the OWGR to Fitzpatrick’s 17. He hasn’t played since the RBC Heritage after withdrawing from the Valspar Championship due to a positive COVID-19 test. His 2021 schedule began with victory at the Euro Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship; it was his fourth international victory since November 2019. Hatton can struggle around the greens, but he’s fourth on Tour in SG: Approach and 10th in sand save percentage.
Shane Lowry $7,800
The Irishman hasn’t missed the cut in four majors since winning the 2019 Open Championship. He tied for 21st at April’s Masters and is supposed to defend his first major win in mid-July, but the Ocean Course will serve as good preparation. He has slipped to No. 48 in the OWGR but has been playing much more regularly on the PGA Tour and has a top finish this year of eighth at The Players. He has struggled with the putter but is gaining strokes around the green, on approach and off the tee.
Bubba Watson $7,500
Watson enters the week at No. 55 in the OWGR after stringing together quality showings at the Masters (T26), Valspar Championship (T13) and Wells Fargo (T18). The two-time Masters winner doesn’t have great results in the PGA Championship, but he tied for 11th at the Ocean Course in 2012 and will benefit from the wide landing spots in the fairways. He’s a quality pivot from the likes of Burns, Corey Conners, Gary Woodland and Brian Harman.
Value Tier: $6.9K – $6K
Kevin Na $6,900
Na has no top-10 finishes in 10 events since winning the Sony Open in Hawaii in the second event of the year; however, he tied for 12th at the Masters and finished T11 against an elite field at the WGC-Workday Championship. He’s best on Tour among qualified golfers in SG: Around-the-Green per round.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout $6,800
Bezuidenhout is second to Na with 0.58 SG: ARG per round and is a very strong putter. He hasn’t won on the PGA Tour but has three Euro Tour victories since June 2019, and he made the cut in three of his last four majors. He’s seventh in sand save percentage and can handle the trouble posed by the Ocean Course.
Brendan Steele $6,500
Steele has two top-10 finishes and no missed cuts through 10 events this year. Ranked No. 82 in the OWGR entering this week, he has played just one major since 2018 but finished T22 at last summer’s PGA Championship. He gains strokes around the green, on approach and off the tee.
Daniel van Tonder $6,100
Van Tonder, 30, won the Euro Tour’s Kenya Savannah Classic earlier this year. It adds to his seven wins on the Sunshine Tour, including four in 2020. He finished dead last in a rare PGA Tour appearance at the WGC-Workday Championship in February but he has beaten several of the top names in this field before and has too many professional victories to be $100 more than the minimum salary.