Jeff’s Hardcore Core- PGA Championship

Jeff Bergerson
By Jeff Bergerson May 16, 2022 12:49

Jeff’s Hardcore Core- PGA Championship

We have reached our second  major of the year with the PGA Championship, which is being held this year at Southern Hills Country Club.  This is a nice stretch of golf here with what turned out to be a great field last week at the AT&T Byron Nelson, then Colonial, The Memorial, and the U.S Open coming over the next four weeks.  I am interested to see how Southern Hills plays this week, because I have read mixed opinions and reports from the course.  I will talk about what type of players I will be targeting most this week in my article as well as strategies I employ for majors.  A ton of huge contests available on Draftkings, so let’s see if some Team FGI folks can bring home some big $$$ this week!

Jeff’s Strategy and Player Core- PGA Championship-

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There is not much for course history for Southern Hills that we can reference this week with the last time we have relevant results is from the 2017 PGA Championship in which Tiger won with Adam Scott and Justin Rose both finishing T12.  The 2009 US Amateur Championship was also played here. Ben An won that event and Ben Martin finished runner-up. Feel free to look back at both of those events to see if any other names stand out and interest you.

Southern Hills was originally designed by Perry Maxwell, but a redesign was done in 2019 by Gil Hanse.  A couple other courses that he has either designed or redesigned include Aronimink Golf Club and The Olympic Golf Course in Rio (2018 BMW and AT&T National 2010 and 2011).

Southern Hills Country Club will play as a Par 70 this week and is 7,550 yards.  This is a lot of length for a Par 70, so right away guys who have length off the tee are going to have an immediate advantage.  The fairways are zoysia again this week with the rough being bermuda.  Reports are that the rough is difficult, but not insurmountably long.  The greens are bentgrass greens and should be on the speedy side.  They are also very small and difficult to hit.  Thus, those who have great precision in the approach game will benefit.

As I usually do, I like to look at who plays well at previous PGA Championships (our tournament history page is set up with these results).  I believe it is important to know who plays well on difficult set up courses and also look at other major results as well.  Certain guys thrive on more difficult courses in tough fields, while others just struggle outside of easier courses that they typically see from week to week on tour.

The most important thing I am looking at though is current form coming into this week. Not necessarily who has played well in just their last couple of events (although that would be a bonus), but who has won or been in contention multiple times this year.  If they have been in contention at more difficult courses, then that is even better.

Courses I will use in our Course Comparions Tool this week include:

  1. Liberty National (Northern Trust)
  2. Muirfield Village (Memorial)
  3. TPC Boston (Northern Trust)
  4. Firestone CC (WGC Bridgestone)
  5. Augusta National

My FGI Model will look like this- 45% Current Form, 35% Key Stats, 10% Vegas, and 10% Course History. Current Form- 10% Last 52 weeks, 50% Last 13 weeks, 25% Last 2 weeks, and 15% Last 1 week.  For Stats- 20% SG:T2G, 13% SG:APP, 20% SG:P, 10%SG:ATG 10% PROX, 10% BOB%, 10% BOW, and 7% SCRAM.

I am placing a premium on stokes gained approach and short game (including putting).  From reports from the course the majority opinion is this course should play difficult and par should be a good score.  Only two par fives this week and they are both going to play massively long, so not even scoring is going to be plentiful there.  Those guys who can consistently hit greens and/or scramble out of trouble around them are going to be the guys who will be in contention.  BOW % is another stat I generally use at majors as well and have included it in my model.  Avoiding the blow-up hole is the name of the game in majors.

Player Pool-

Scottie Scheffler has been so good lately that last week it felt like he played absolutely awful, but he still finished  T15.   In reality it was a scorefest and he just did not mount enough birdies and eagles. This week is different and his elite level of game will win out. We all know how dominant he has been this year with his 4 wins, including in some of the most elite fields (WGC Match play, Masters, Bay Hill, and Phoenix).  The stats are strong across the board and his confidence level is off the charts. His results at his two PGA Championships are T8 and T4.    I do not mind paying up, because there are so many good options in the $7k range.

Through one round and a handful of holes on day two last week I was about to write of Xander Schauffele forever.  Having watched every one of his shots up through that point, I found myself angry that a player with as much raw skill/talent could play so poorly as often as he does.  From that point on, he turned it around and showed just how dominant he can be, and I guess that is what frustrates me so much about the guy.  In his final three rounds he went 67-65-61.  I refuse to believe he won’t win majors in his career, so I need to just stay onboard.  He is again in the low $9k range where he pretty much hovers most majors.  The discount from the upper top tier helps tremendously with lineup builds.  He will likely be much more popular than he would have been without his blistering 61 on Sunday.  I am going to own 40-45% to make sure I am 2X.

Patrick Cantlay certainly stands out in short game and with the putter ranking 6th in SG:ATG and 20th in SG:P over his last 16 rounds.  He is also a better putter on bentgrass (+.318).  He won at Zurich with Xander and also finished runner-up at Harbourtown after being in a bit of a slump following his playoff loss at Phoenix.  He has been good, but not great at PGA Championships with his best finish being a T3 in 2019.  If the course plays how it sounds like it will, then I think Cantlay is a good fit this week and the price is certainly supplying us some value. 30-35%

The only thing that has been keeping me away from Hideki Matsuyama this year is his back issues.  His last two tournaments he has looked fine and played well with a T14 at Augusta and T3 last week at the Byron Nelson.  It is weird how you forget that he has won twice already this PGA Tour season (ZOZO and Sony).  He has not missed any cuts, only a wd with his back at Valero.  We know how dominant he is with his irons and continues to kill it in the approach game (6th in SG:APP over his last 16 rounds).  Hideki has been so good in majors, including the PGA Championship where he has never missed a cut, and has finished outside of the Top 35 just one time (37th) in his 9 appearances.  This is a great price and allows us to stack two or three high level guys in the $9k range.

A ton of value for $8,700 for Shane Lowry who has been on fire this year.  Lowry has a whopping eight Top 15 finishes in his last 10 events played, with a runner-up at Honda and back to back T3s at The Masters and RBC Heritage.  He finished T4 last year at Kiawah and he also has a T8 and T12 at the PGA Championship in the last four years. Lowry has some of the largest putting splits on bentgrass of anybody in the field.   I love this play in majors, because you get a top player in the world and one very capable of winning for about $3k less than the top tier. 30-35%

Joaquin Niemann was cruising over his first three rounds last week at the AT&T Byron Nelson posting 67-65 and 65.  Sunday he was not sharp and fell back to finish T25.  That made his sixth Top 25 this year with a win at Riviera.  His recent stats are really good ranking 11th in SG:T2G, 21st in SG:OTT, 42nd in SG:APP, 7th in SG:ATG, and 26th in SG:P.  Now up to #17 in the world he should  start recording Top 10s in majors and we still get him in the $8k range still.

Another really nice season for Corey Conners as he continues to be one of the absolute best players on tour from tee to green.  Over his last 16 rounds he ranks 25th in SG:T2G, 6th in SG:OTT, and 39th in SG:APP.  Even his weakness, which is his putter has been reasonable this year, ranking 42nd in SG:P over his last 16 rounds.  Conners has six Top 25s in 2022, having made a run at the WGC Match Play finishing 3rd and then a T6 at Augusta.  He finished T17 last year at Kiawah and with his elite ball striking should be right there again this year, which would be outstanding for his $8k price.  30-34%

Tony Finau teased us a little bit in Mexico with a runner-up finish, but then reverted to his crap play this year at the Wells Fargo.  No doubt his form has been awful this year, but I am reverting to him playing well in majors, on long and difficult courses over his career.  He is a much better putter on bentgrass (+.229).  He has been able to grind out a lot of great finishes at US Opens and PGA Championships including a T4 and T8 in the last two editions of this tournament.  The price is so low that he doesn’t not need to win, or even Top 5 necessarily.  I just think his game sets up so perfect.  30-34%

Keegan Bradley typically plays pretty well in PGA Championships having missed only two cuts in his last ten.  Last year he finished T17 at Kiawah Island.  This year has been a terrific one for Bradley who has moved from #87 in the world at the start of the year to #44 this week.   Bradley has three Top 10 finishes in his last five events played including a T8 at Valero and T2 at Wells Fargo in his last two.  His form is strong right now and he is the type of great iron player that we want this week. 25-28%

In what might be one of the best values on the board this week, #14 in the world Billy Horschel is priced at $7,400.  Billy has not missed a cut in almost a year (2021 US Open).  He is having a tremendous 2022 with a T11 at Farmers, T6 at Phoenix, T2 at Bay Hill, T16 at Honda, and T21 at Harbourtown.   His recent stats are really good across the board, with his biggest improvement coming in his tee to green game, where he ranks 11th over his last 16 rounds.  Horschel is a better putter on bermuda, but he still gains .129 strokes on the field on bentgrass.  He has made his last eight cuts in PGA Championships and has two Top 25s the last two years.  This price stood out to me, but I am not sure he will even garner a ton of ownership even at this price.

Jason Kokrak’s form has improved over his last few events after having a stretch where he struggled.  He finished T14 at The Masters, T35 at Harbourtown, and T17 at the AT&T Byron Nelson over his last three.  His track record at PGA Championships has been solid as well having only missed one cut over his last six events played, with a couple of Top 25s.  His short game is not usually the strong point to his game, but his approach game is solid and his putter is really good.  I like guys who have experience in majors and generally make cuts in this low $7k range, because it will be a struggle to get guys through the cut down in that range.

Another solid finish for Alex Noren last week at the Byron Nelson with a T12.  That makes five Top 20s for Noren in 2022 already.  He has also flashed some real upside with a T6 at Phoenix and T5 at Honda.  Noren’s putter has obviously been his strength, but it has been his tee to green game this year that has been improved (35th in SG:T2G and 23rd in SG:APP over his last 24 rounds).

Matt Kuchar has found something in his game and has turned things around since Valspar.  Since then he has four Top 20s in five events with a runner-up at Valero and T3 at RBC Heritage.  So good in the short game and the putter where he ranks 4th in both over his last 16 rounds.  If this turns out to be a grind em out event, where par becomes a good score, it makes Kuchar even more desirable.  He is worth 12-15%

A couple European Tour guys who are killing it lately and most casual fans would have no idea, include Sam Horsfield and Ryan Fox.  Horsfield won his last time out at the Soudai Open and has finished in the Top 25 in five of his last six events played, with three Top 10s.  He ranks 49th in DA, 56th in GIR, and 8th in putting on the DP Tour.  Fox has been equally as good having finished in the Top 15 in each of his last four events played with a win.  Fox is a bomber , but he is also been great in the approach game this year ranking 24th in GIR.  He has also been putting well (48th).  Both guys give us a ton of cap relief and hopefully their form can translate to a major championship.

 

Scheffler $11,400

Schauffele $9,300

Matsuyama $9,200

Cantlay $9,100

Lowry $8,700

Niemann $8,500

Conners $8,000

Finau $7,900

Bradley $7,500

Horschel $7,400

Kokrak $7,300

Noren $7,000

Kuchar $6,800

Horsfield $6,700

Fox $6,300

 

A few low dollar/low owned options I will own at 10% or less:

Munoz $6,800

Griffin $6,300

Hadwin $6,300

Jeff Bergerson
By Jeff Bergerson May 16, 2022 12:49

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