The second major of the season is set to take place this week in Farmingdale, New York.
There is plenty of hype for the event as Tiger Woods arrives in search of his second major of the season and second major at Bethpage Black. Even though the weather remains a small concern, I think the PGA Championship's move to May is a big win for the TOUR right now. In previous years, Tiger's momentum would have to be wasted on THE PLAYERS. A great event, but one that is played on a course that yields a lot of variance with all the hazards in play.
The field is full at 156 golfers while the Top 70 and Ties will make it through the 36-hole cut. Given the huge field, that makes it a bit tougher to get 6-of-6 through in DFS lineups. However, there is a lot of fluff toward the back-end of the field which brings improves our odds a bit. Unless you start drafting some of the PGA professionals. That's not generally a winning strategy.
Let's have a look at the weather on Long Island which has been soaked with rain in the lead-up and then look for some value across the DFS sites.
Thursday (R1): A 20% chance of showers in the AM with a high near 65 degrees. Winds at 6 to 10 MPH. Gusts of 15 MPH throughout the day.
Friday (R2): A 30% chance of showers in the early afternoon with a high near 65 degrees. Winds at 9 to 14 MPH. Gusts of 20 to 25 MPH.
A lot of what-ifs in play here in terms of where the best weather draw will land. Currently, no wave looks to have a clear-cut advantage but that could change if the precipitation and/or wind forecasts shift slightly. Right now the Thursday AM starters would get greeted with a soft (but cold) conditions on Thursday morning then get the lighter of the winds gusts on Friday. That would be my early lean, the THURS AM - FRI PM wave but I will be keeping an eye on the forecast over the next few days.
The best part about season-long leagues is the draft. You don't get that same rush with normal DFS contests but there is hope still. DRAFT has come along to fill that void and I'm having a lot of fun playing in their weekly golf drafts.
The first place to start is to build your pre-draft rankings for the week. I will point out a few golfers I think are overvalued in the raw rankings and a few that are undervalued in the raw rankings.
Marc Leishman (71.42 Projected Pts): The big Aussie withdrew in the 11th hour last week at the Byron Nelson. He cited a back injury which is not ideal just one week ahead of this big event. It's true that it could have been precautionary but there is no real need to risk it when you have names like Casey, Schauffele, and Woodland right below him. Let others take the risk this week.
Emiliano Grillo (68.66 Projected Pts): The Argentine finished 2nd in his only appearance at Bethpage Black (2016 Barclays). That might draw a little interest this week but his current form makes him much less appealing. Grillo has lost strokes to the field in three of his last five starts and they were implosion type of weeks (-7.7 SGT in Mexico, -4.8 SGT at the Honda, and -8.9 SGT at the Masters). Back when he finished 2nd here at Bethpage, he entered with six straight events of positive strokes gained over the field. Don't fall for the one-year sample of history here.
Sergio Garcia (54.71 Projected Pts): The Spaniard looks out of place in the pre-draft rankings again. He's finished top 10 in all three visits to Bethpage and he enters with a +9.1 SG Tee-to-Green in his latest prep start. There will surely be some owners that don't even look far enough down the board to see Garcia so make sure you give him a little nudge up the rankings.
Rory McIlroy (78.28 Projected Pts): The underrated portion generally features golfers that are way down the board, but McIlroy makes the list at 8th in the pre-draft rankings. Given his season-long form, I find it hard to rank him anywhere outside the top 3 this week. The big hitter has gained 4 or more strokes over the field in eight straight stroke-play starts, compiling top 10s in seven of those.
Bethpage Black features greens with poa annua grasses. There is also a bit of bentgrass mixed in there. In past editions, golfers have raved about the trueness of the greens at Bethpage.
After plenty of bermudagrass in the spring, let's see what golfers will be glad to get some bentgrass/poa back in their lives.
Looking at sample-adjusted performance on poa/bent greens since the start of 2014, the top 15 performers on a per-round basis looks like this:
Other than raw performance, we can also look at who shows the biggest improvement on Poa/Bent Greens (versus their baseline). Using that as the criteria, the following names pop:
Hao Tong Li
Finau and Lefty grew up in the West so it makes sense that poa annua would be comfortable for them. As for Koepka, it's a bit surprising that he doesn't thrive more on bermuda but we have quite a few years of sample now and he continues to elevate his game on bent/poa.
Julian Suri: The Duke alum spends his time on the Euro Tour as he attempts to play his way back to the States fulltime. He certainly has the tools to play on the PGA TOUR. He finished 1st in GIR percentage last year a Bellerive. Across the pond, he recently returned from injury and has rattled off four straight top 20s since his return. He ranks 5th on the Euro Tour in SG Off-the-Tee which will come in handy on a lengthy, rain-soaked Bethpage Black. Has top 30s in each of his last two starts in majors and I like his chances to add another to his resume this week on the East Coast.
Best of luck in all your contests this week!