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Horse For The Course: PGA DFS Course History - 2021 PGA Championship

Hello PGA DFS family! A quick congrats to K.H. Lee on his first career PGA Tour victory at last week's AT&T Byron Nelson. Despite the change of venue to TPC Craig Ranch, the tournament continues to leave a rather "blah" impression overall...a bummer for such a long-standing PGA Tour event.

We'll quickly put the Nelson in the rearview, as we have bigger fish to fry this week. We head to the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island for the year's second major, the PGA Championship. If this were a normal week there probably wouldn't be an HFTC, with the history of this layout being limited to just the 2012 PGA Championship. However, since this is a huge event, I wanted to give you guys a nice head start on the week, so we'll be bending some of this article's normal rules in this situation. Let's dive in!

Horse For The Course is an article that highlights players in this week's field with elite course history and is part of our free PGA DFS content here at RotoBaller. For my favorite DFS plays of the week check out my Core Four article here at RotoBaller every Wednesday. It's part of our amazing PGA Premium package that includes an all-new PGA Research Station, Lineup Builder & Optimizer, and some of the best articles in the PGA DFS industry! You can sign up now using Promo Code: NICE for an extra discount at checkout!

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2021 PGA Championship Overview

The golf season is rolling right along and this week we're set for the year's second major, the PGA Championship. With the talent level on the PGA Tour at an all-time high, the majors have grown increasingly harder to win. In addition to a field that includes the world's best golfers, this week's entrants will be faced with a gargantuan task...the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.

Using the word gargantuan to describe the Ocean Course isn't just hyperbole. The Pete Dye-designed masterpiece will card out at 7,876 yards...making it the longest course in major-championship history. In addition to the length, players will be faced with constant, swirling ocean winds and an unpredictable links-style layout that more closely resembles an Open Championship golf course than the usual PGA Championship venues.

As I mentioned in the intro, there's no true course history at Kiawah Island other than the 2012 PGA Championship, a tournament that Rory McIlroy dominated. However, there are some interesting clues that we can take from that event's leaderboard. The first thing that jumps out is that it had an overwhelming European flavor...of the 10 players that finished T7 or better in 2012, only three were Americans. It's also fairly obvious that, despite Kiawah's massive length, there were very few "bombers" in contention in 2012. We're always guessing to a certain extent in majors with rotating venues - especially one that we haven't seen in nine years - but this week's HFTC will profile some DFS options that should be a good fit on the Ocean Course.

You can also find out who the smart money is on by checking out Spencer Aguiar's PGA DFS: Vegas Report every week. And be sure to read all of our other top-notch weekly PGA DFS articles to help you win big!


The Course: The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island

Par 72 - 7,872 Yards, Greens: Paspalum, Designed By: Pete & Alice Dye

Created by Pete & Alice Dye to host the 1991 Ryder Cup, the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island is something of an anomaly in the PGA Championship rotation, as the links-style layout that features the most seaside holes in North America more closely resembles an Open Championship venue that anything we normally see in the regular PGA rotation.

The intricacies of this layout are almost too many to list, with constant, swirling winds from the ocean being chief among them. There's also the Paspalum greens that we rarely see on the PGA Tour schedule. Perhaps the most obvious obstacle this week is the massive length of this golf course; a major-championship record 7,872 yards on the scorecard.

Like most Dye tracks, the Ocean Course demands precision off the tee with an emphasis on accurate approach shots, but unlike the majority of the other Dye tracks we see on the PGA Tour schedule (TPC Sawgrass, Harbour Town, Austin Country Club, TPC River Highlands), players won't have the luxury of clubbing down off the tee due to the length of the Ocean Course.

As a result of all these factors, I'll be targeting players that are both long and accurate off the tee, strong on approach, and capable scramblers.

For an in-depth breakdown of this week's course, check out RotoBaller's PGA Premium Course Breakdown by Josh Bennett!


Recent PGA Champions

  • 2020: Collin Morikawa (-13)
  • 2019: Brooks Koepka (-8)
  • 2018: Brooks Koepka (-16)
  • 2017: Justin Thomas (-8)
  • 2016: Jimmy Walker (-14)


The Horse

Xander Schauffele

Notable Course History: 
DraftKings Price: $9,600 FanDuel Price: $11,300

As we start to go through the traits that will be needed this week on the Ocean Course - long and accurate off the tee, great iron player, good around the greens, clutch putter, the ability to handle wind & weather - it feels as though we need "the perfect golfer". Very few in the field are capable of checking all - or even most - of our boxes this week, but Xander Schauffele perhaps comes closer than anyone.

Winning - or not winning - can really shape the narrative of a player. That's especially true of Xander this year, as the "temperature" of the golf/PGA DFS community concerning him is "he can't close". This narrative revolves around Schauffele's multiple close calls of the past 12 months: last year's Schwab & CJ Cup, this year's WMPO & Farmers, and most recently (and publicly) the Masters. It feels like a single win in any of those events changes the narrative surrounding the X-Man.

If we move from #NarrativeStreet into the actual on-course stuff, Schauffele ranks atop my "can do everything well on long, hard golf courses with uncertain weather conditions in a major- championship environment" model. Ok...I don't have an actual model for that, but if I did, Xander would be at the top of it. He's demonstrated the ability to handle any and all major-championship conditions. Schauffele has never finished worse than T6 in four career U.S. Open starts - including a T3 at Pebble Beach in 2019, a course which I would consider a North American cousin to the Ocean Course - and he's posted runner-up finishes in both the 2018 Open Championship (links & wind) and THE PLAYERS (Pete Dye design). His overall record in major championships is a tidy 14 of 15 cuts made with eight top-10 finishes.


The Ponies

Rory McIlroy

Notable Course History: Win (2012 PGA Championship)
DraftKings Price: $11,500 FanDuel Price: $12,100

Since this is a course history article, I suppose we should discuss one of the few players in this field that actually has some experience at the Ocean Course. Let me elaborate on that, since saying Rory McIlroy has "some experience" at the Ocean Course is a bit like saying Rafa Nadal has some experience at Roland Garros. Rors was absolutely dominant at Kiawah Island in 2012, romping to an eight-shot victory. 

This week, McIlroy heads back to the site of that phenomenal display in the midst of a six-year-plus dry spell in major championships. However, we have to feel he'll arrive in South Carolina with some bounce in his step, as he's just two weeks removed from a victory at Quail Hollow in the Wells Fargo Championship. The win was a much-needed one for McIlroy as he struggled throughout the latter portion of 2020 and the initial months of this year.

The scary thing is, good play almost always begets good play with McIlroy. Amazingly, there are four instances in his career in which he's won multiple times in just a one-month window and five instances of multiple wins within in a three-month window. Toss in the track record at Kiawah - and the fact that this will card out as the longest course in major championship history - and there are lots of factors leaning Rory's way.

Jordan Spieth

Notable Course History: None
DraftKings Price: $10,100 FanDuel Price: $11,400

The initial concern with Jordan Spieth this week is his well-documented struggles off the tee. Spieth is neither super long (79th in this PGA field in Driving Distance over the last 24 rounds), nor super accurate (62nds in Fairways Gained last 24 rds). However, the Texan grades out 18th in this field in the cumulative Good Drives Gained metric, which does ease off the tee concerns a bit. Outside of the driver worries, Spieth pops off the page as a great fit for the Ocean Course in nearly every way imaginable.

His record in major championships speaks for itself, as does his ability to handle any amount of wind or weather that should come his way this week. For the first time in years, Spieth's recent form matches his past accomplishments. He comes to Kiawah Island ranked first in this field in Strokes Gained: Total, while his ability to both score in good conditions (fourth in Birdies or Better Gained) and grind in difficult conditions (fourth in Bogeys Avoided) sticks out this week, as light wind would actually allow these guys to score a bit, while heavy wind will turn this layout into a grind-it-out slugfest. While there are several players in this field that we'd feel comfortable with in one scenario or the other, Spieth is one of the few that has the ability to win this event in both light or heavy winds.


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Viktor Hovland

Notable Course History: None
DraftKings Price: $9,300 FanDuel Price: $11,000

This might not be the first time you've read about Viktor Hovland this week and I guarantee it won't be the last. V-Hova heads to the PGA Championship garnering tons of positive buzz around the PGA DFS community. It's with good reason, as the 23-year-old has performed at an elite level throughout 2021. Hovland heads to the Ocean Course off a T3 at the Wells Fargo, his second T3 in a row (Valspar Championship) and fifth top-five finish of the year.

The youngster possesses all the requisite tools to succeed on this layout. He's both long and accurate with the driver (third in PGA field SG: OTT) and excellent with his irons both overall (11th SG: Approach) and from distance (ninth in Proximity from 175-200 yards & 28th from 200+ yards). While we can feel confident in his tee-to-green ability, his short game - though evolving - has yet to reach the same elite level as his ball striking. However, even those fears are slightly dampened this week at the Ocean Course, a course with Paspalum greens. Paspalum is rarely seen in the U.S. and is widely considered to be a boost to "bad putters". Perhaps it's not a coincidence that both of Hovland's PGA Tour wins have been on courses - PR Open & Mayakoba - with Paspalum putting surfaces.

Louis Oosthuizen

Notable Course History: T21 (2012 PGA Championship)
DraftKings Price: $8,000 FanDuel Price: $9,600

The players that teed it up in the 2012 PGA Championship are few and far between in the 2021 entrant list. One golfer that did pop up was Louis Oosthuizen, a guy that seemingly plays well in every major championship. Of course, that was the case for Oosty in the 2012 PGA, as he logged a rock-solid T21 on the Ocean Course.

That experience should be a huge asset this week, but in addition to his pristine track record in majors, Louis also brings some rather sharp form to Kiawah. The South African logged a runner-up finish with Charl Schwartzel in the Zurich team event last month, as well as a T8 at the Valspar Championship. He gained an impressive five strokes on Approach at the Copperhead Course and it marked his fourth consecutive start with positive Approach splits. His overall major-championship experience - and to a lesser extent, his previous Ocean Course visit - as well as his world-class short game, makes Oosthuizen an interesting pivot away from a chalky Abe Ancer at this price point.

Matt Wallace

Notable Course History: None
DraftKings Price: $7,400 FanDuel Price: $8,900

Of the six players tied for third or better in the 2012 PGA Championship, half were Englishmen. That nugget, in and of itself, isn't enough to steer me to (Englishman) Matt Wallace, but when coupled with his recent results, I've very intrigued with Wallace as a salary-saving option this week.

A long-time Euro Tour stud, he's finally found a level of consistency in the U.S. this year and comes into the PGA Championship on the heels of four-straight made cuts with a T3 at Valero and a T6 at Wells Fargo among those outings. While he has no history at Kiawah Island, Wallace has produced some nice results in previous editions of the PGA Championship, logging a T19 in 2018 and a T3 in '19, not to mention a notable T19 outing in the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

He heads to the Ocean Course accompanied by an always-dependable short game (23rd in field SG: Around The Green) and hot ball striking (10th SG: T2G).


Win Big With RotoBaller

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