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PGA DFS: Horse For The Course - 2018 PGA Championship

Hello golf fans and welcome back to Horse For The Course! After something of a quiet stretch, Justin Thomas reminded the world that he's still pretty good at golf by taking down the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. JT dominated the final two rounds against a field full of elite talent. The win seems especially significant as we head to the year's last major this week, the PGA Championship, an event that Thomas won to close out 2017.

The PGA Championship is always slightly bittersweet, as it signifies an end to the golf season's major championships. That tradition will change next year when the PGA moves to May and becomes the second major of the season, thanks to the revamped 2019 Tour schedule. This week's PGA Championship takes us to Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Missouri. Unfortunately, we won't have any notable course history to draw from, as Bellerive last hosted a PGA Tour event in 2008. I find myself gravitating toward players that might be considered "against the grain" this week. The Pony list is heavy on ballstrikers and is geared toward plays that I like for the popular DraftKings Millionaire Maker tournament. I hope the piece will highlight some options that you might not have considered otherwise.

I would also like to remind readers that although this is the last major of the year, Horse For The Course will continue to bring you coverage for the rest of the PGA Tour season! Thanks for being with me this week, let's find some players that will have success at Bellerive!

Horse For The Course will take a look at players that have traditionally flourished at the course that hosts this week’s PGA TOUR event. This is not a traditional picks column, but rather an attempt to pinpoint players that have outstanding results at a specific course. "The Horse" is a player with an elite course history and that has a great chance to repeat his success in this week's tournament. "The Ponies" are players with very good course history, that might be entering this week's tournament under the radar or have a DFS price that is a great value. Because we have no applicable course history to draw from this week, we will simply identify the best DFS plays available.

For a full review of the DraftKings PGA Slate this weekend, check out Seth Finklestein's column reviewing picks at every price point.

You can also find out who the smart money is on by checking out Spencer Aguiar's PGA DFS: Vegas Report every week.

Editor's Note: Our friends at Fantasy National have built some incredible DFS Golf lineup tools including a Lineup Optimizer, Stat Engine, Ownership Projections and Course Breakdowns. They are by far the best daily fantasy Golf tools in the industry. Seriously. You can read all about them here and see screenshots. 

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The Course: Bellerive Country Club - Par 70 - 7,317 Yards

Bellerive is a course with major championship pedigree. It hosted a U.S. Open way back in 1965 and the 1992 PGA Championship. We can't draw much from those events because there was a Rees Jones redesign in 2005. Unfortunately, it's slightly difficult to get a bead on a course that has been out of circulation for so long. Bellerive did host the BMW Championship in 2008 where Strokes Gained: Approach seems to be a significant stat. One notable feature of the course is huge bentgrass greens. There is some water present and over 75 bunkers are scattered around the course. Reports coming in are describing the rough as quite penal. I'm looking for ballstrikers that can find fairways and greens. Though the course is long, I don't believe distance off the tee will be a huge advantage this week.


The Horse

Tommy Fleetwood (DraftKings - $9,300 & FanDuel - $11,400 )

Before diving into my thoughts on this week's Horse Tommy Fleetwood, let me quickly touch on a few of the players priced above him on DraftKings since this is a major championship.

Both DJ and Rory are excellent plays that have the ability to dominate this week or any other. I can't wrap my head around Jordan Spieth this season and Rickie Fowler just has too many blowup holes for my taste. I was hoping to see more from Tiger at Firestone, a course that he has won on eight times. Justin Rose was forced to withdraw from last week's WGC-Bridgestone with a back injury, which is a scary injury for a golfer. JT tends to win in bunches and is a very interesting play coming off a win. Brooks Koepka is always a threat to win any major.

Of the above mentioned players, I will be squeezing DJ and Rory in some "Stars & Scrubs" lineups this week. I plan on fading Spieth, Tiger, and Fowler for the most part, though I wouldn't be shocked if any or all did well this week. JT and Koepka are plays that I feel good about. I will be monitoring Rose's injury status up until lineup lock and will utilize him as a contrarian option if his ownership is projected to be low.

Ok, enough about those guys. Let's talk about my man Tommy Fleetwood! There are so many things to love about the Englishman this week. Perhaps my favorite trait of Fleetwood's, besides his awesome beard, is his ability to go just crazy, stupid low. This is a guy that dropped a 63 at Firestone last week, a 65 in the Open Championship at Carnoustie, and almost stole the U.S. Open with a breathtaking final-round 63 on a brutal Shinnecock Hills layout. If we can get four rounds from Fleetwood this week, I like his chances of posting the low round of the tournament.

Fleetwood has plenty of length and can find fairways successfully. He is 12th in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and ninth in Total Strokes Gained. I'm drawn to Fleetwood this week in large part due to his versatility. He doesn't have any glaring weaknesses and there doesn't seem to be a course type that he struggles with, which I really like as we head to a Bellerive track that is a bit of an unknown.

This guy seems to be on a collision course with a major championship. He plays well on the big stage and has been rock-solid in this season's three previous majors. Fleetwood grinded out a T17 at the Masters, had the electric runner-up finish at the U.S. Open, and logged a T12 at the Open Championship.

At the end of the day, we are DFS players that are looking for golfers that can provide us with fantasy points. I will put Fleetwood's fantasy point potential up against anyone in the field. When we take into account his $9,300 DraftKings price tag, we are getting a significant discount for his fantasy point upside when compared to the "elite" class of golfers price above him. At this price, I do expect Fleetwood to be a popular choice this week, but I will be using him heavily, while trying to differentiate lineups in other spots.


The Ponies

Patrick Cantlay (DK - $8,400 & FD - $9,700 )

Let's drop from Tommy Fleetwood all the way down to Patrick Cantlay. The $8,000-$9,200 range on DraftKings has some excellent players that I plan to utilize this week, but I wanted to highlight Cantlay because he is a guy that could easily go overlooked by casual DFS players with all the great choices that are around him.

I feel like I'm going out on a limb with Cantlay a little bit, because up until his recent T12 at the Open Championship he had been a total disaster in the 2018 majors. Cantlay badly missed the cut at the Masters and was never a factor in the U.S. Open. So why feature the 26-year-old in this article? Because Cantlay is a lean, mean, ballstriking machine. If Bellerive trends toward ballstriking as much as I expect, the rising star could very well find himself in the mix over the weekend.

Cantlay currently ranks ninth in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green. That is very rarified statistical air. Just to give you some perspective, that puts Cantlay ahead of players like McIlroy, Rahm, Spieth, and Fowler in the most comprehensive measure of overall skill on the PGA Tour. Cantlay also ranks 25th in Strokes Gained: Approach and 20th in Greens in Regulation. His weakness is the flatstick and he ranks a dismal 152nd in Strokes Gained: Putting. This is obviously a concern, but thanks to Francesco Molinari we have seen what can happen when great ballstrikers get hot with the putter.

I'm recommending Cantlay as a large-field, contrarian GPP selection. His game can be volatile and he does carry a bit more risk than some other players in this price range. Cantlay's ballstriking does seem to be dialed in right now, so we are hoping for just a decent week with the flatstick. I love his upside and think that he has Top-10 potential this week.

Keegan Bradley (DK - $7,500 & FD - $9,200 )

Let's keep the ballstriking train rolling with Keegan Bradley, a player who exploded on to the professional golf scene by winning this event in 2011 as a rookie. There have been a lot of ups and downs for Bradley since that breakthrough victory, but I am very intrigued by some of the form he has flashed recently.

Bradley is basically Patrick Cantlay on steroids. He is an elite ballstriker, but a garbage putter. Bradley ranks second in Strokes Gained: Approach, 11th in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, and a standout third in Proximity to the Hole. He is one of the players that was really hurt by the long putter rule change a few years ago and sits at a horrid 193rd in Strokes Gained: Putting. We have seen what Bradley is still capable of when he has just an average week on the greens, he recently logged a fourth at the RBC Canadian Open and a surprising T7 at The Players Championship against an elite field.

A lot of DFS regulars avoid Keegan like the plague. I get it. He is an extremely volatile option. His erratic putting and emotional swings can lead to him shooting 65 in one round and 75 in the next. I'm willing to accept his shortcomings this week in an attempt to capitalize on the elite side of his game. If we hope to win a large tournament like the DraftKings Millionaire Maker that has over 160,000 entrants, we will have to take some calculated risks. Bradley is not for the faint of heart and isn't someone you can rely on if you are only firing a single bullet this week, but I love him as a contrarian play in the Milly Maker.

Kyle Stanley (DK - $7,100 & FD - $8,500)

If we are targeting ballstrikers this week, let's talk about a player that is quietly one of the best in the business. Kyle Stanley doesn't get much media attention, but the 30-year-old is one of the most accurate golfers on the PGA Tour.

Stanley ranks fourth in Greens in Regulation Percentage and fifth in Driving Accuracy Percentage. He is coming off a strong performance in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he finished runner-up to Justin Thomas, while ranking third in the field in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, but only 37th in Strokes Gained: Putting. This is a recurring theme for Stanley, who ranks 55th in Strokes Gained: Putting on the PGA Tour.

The knock on Stanley is his tendency to disappear on the big stage. His career record in majors isn't pretty. He is 0-for-3 in the PGA Championship and struggled at both the Masters and U.S. Open earlier this year. It is scary to hope Stanley can break this trend, but I'm willing to gamble on his talent leading him to a major championship breakthrough at some point. He has flirted with victories on tough courses this season...Firestone last week and a playoff loss at The Memorial. The PGA isn't quite as pressure packed as the Masters and U.S. Open, so it might be the right setting for Stanley to finally find some major success.

Stanley offers great value on both sites. His $7,100 DK price gives us tremendous flexibility when constructing lineups. His finish at the Bridgestone will probably garner Stanley some ownership this week and I expect him to be a popular value play. Those that favor the "Stars & Scrubs" approach should give Stanley a long look. He allows players to easily fit DJ or Rory in GPP lineups.

Thorbjorn Olesen (DK - $6,700 & FD - $8,600)

Those that read this column regularly know that I am not too proud to feature the same player multiple times. I'm going right back to the well with one of our selections from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Thorbjorn Olesen made me look really smart at Firestone last week when he was able to fire a final-round 64 and secure a T3 finish. As a reward for his excellent play, Olesen's DraftKings price has dropped from $7,500 last week to $6,700 for the PGA Championship! This is obviously a product of DraftKings offering early pricing for major championships, but it is an edge that I plan on taking full advantage of.

The young man from Denmark is a streaky player that is in the midst of some hot play. Over his last seven worldwide starts, Olesen has four top-six finishes with a win and a T12 at the Open Championship. The downside to Olesen is his volatility, as evidenced by two missed cuts mixed in with the previously mentioned results over his last seven starts. However, at the moment, Olesen seems to have all facets of his game working. He ranked inside the top-10 in multiple categories at last week's WGC-Bridgestone including: Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, Approach, and Putting. He was also able to find 51 of 72 greens at the tough Firestone layout, a skill that should come in handy at Bellerive.

I usually give a "Handle With Care" disclaimer with my value plays. This week is no different. Olesen is the perfect discount player, but does bring volatility to the table. We must weigh his realistic top-10 upside versus a possible missed cut. In a week that lots of DFS players will be going with solid lineup builds, I'm willing to take a calculated risk with Olesen in large-field GPPs. For those of you looking for cheap plays, I would also recommend checking out Russell Henley and Stewart Cink, but Olesen will be my "go to" salary saver this week.


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