Daily Fantasy Golf Helper: PGA Championship

The PGA Championship returns to Kiawah Island's Ocean Course after being played there in 2012. Which golfers should fit the course well?

By now, you've probably dabbled in daily fantasy sports, but if not, don't worry. Now is a great time to start, especially with FanDuel's daily fantasy golf offering.

Golf can be one of the most exciting DFS sports to follow, as tournaments span four days and allow ample time to prepare each week. It's a great balance between time to research and time spent tracking your team.

But whether you're brand new to the PGA or daily fantasy sports in general, we have you covered -- and we have daily fantasy golf projections and lineup building tools, too.

Let's take a look at some golfers to target this week.

Key Stats

Key Stats for the PGA Championship
at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island
Strokes Gained: Approach
Driving Distance
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee
Strokes Gained: Putting on Bermuda/Paspalum
Bogey Avoidance

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island hosted the 2012 PGA Championship, which Rory McIlroy won by eight strokes. The lengthy (7,800-plus-yard) par 72 rates as the most difficult course by slope and course rating in the United States.

The course consists of heavy bunkers, undulations, and the rare paspalum greens, which play closer to bermuda greens than other surfaces. I'll use bermuda splits (because we have no Shotlink data from paspalum courses) to a degree this week.

Some other long courses with average green sizes on the PGA Tour rotation (and with paspalum/bermuda greens) include TPC San Antonio's Oaks Course (host of the Valero Texas Open), the Country Club of Jackson (Sanderson Farms Championship), the Concession Golf Club (WGC-Concession), and the Corales Golf Club (Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship).

The key course characteristics lead to an emphasis on driving distance, but accuracy matters, too, so strokes gained: off the tee is a vital stat.

Strokes gained: approach and those who excelled there during the 2012 season fared well overall in that year's PGA Championship.

Short game -- around-the-green and putting strokes gained -- will matter during the tournament, but golfers who stood out in those stats during 2012 didn't necessarily fare well at the PGA Championship.

Daily Fantasy Golfer Picks for the PGA Championship

All stats cited below come from FantasyNational. Strokes gained data includes stats from the past calendar year and is adjusted based on my field strength and recency adjustments. Putting surface splits also come from FantasyNational and include the past 100 rounds when possible, unless noted. All ranks and percentile ranks are among the field.

Best of the Best

Dustin Johnson (FanDuel Salary: $11,700 | FanDuel Sportsbook Win Odds: +1600) - You can't go wrong with anyone at the top from a process standpoint. With Rory McIlroy's win at Quail Hollow and the eight-shot win here in 2012, he's shaping up to be the chalk. So, we can look anywhere else and get some leverage.

Johnson played here in 2012, finishing 48th, and he is from South Carolina, giving him a nice hometown narrative. He grew up 2.5 hours from Kiawah's Ocean Course and has cited this course as one of his favorites in South Carolina. The recent form is a little overstated. His ball-striking is good, and he finished 13th at Harbour Town in South Carolina last month, a course that doesn't really play similar to this one.

Johnson leads the field in strokes gained at Pete Dye courses over the past 50 rounds, via FantasyNational. The only real concern is that he withdrew from the AT&T Byron Nelson with knee discomfort, but we also saw him doing backflips off a boat the week before.

Xander Schauffele ($11,300 | +2000) - I always like Xander at majors because he's really good and has no holes in his game. This may sound crazy, but his form over the past year -- when adjusted for recency and field strength -- implies he's the best golfer in the world, per my data, which is adjusted for field strength and recency. And datagolf's adjusted strokes gained over the past year put Xander tied for first, as well.

Schauffele shows up in majors and has 2 runners-up, 8 top-10s, and 11 top-25s in 15 career major starts. He just plays his best in tough setups and is the field leader in bogey avoidance over the past 100 rounds on Tour.

Viktor Hovland ($11,000 | +1800) - Hovland checks boxes. He has finished top-25 in four straight events, including consecutive top-three results, and he has the driver to get off to a great start. The chipping doesn't suck so much as it used to (his words), and he's in the 59th percentile around the green. He's a baseline putter on bermuda greens and actually has his two career wins on paspalum greens: the 2021 Mayakoba at El Camaleon and the 2020 Puerto Rico Open at Coco Beach. Only he and Dustin Johnson are in the 95th percentile or better in adjusted strokes gained: off the tee and approach.

Webb Simpson ($10,500 | +3300) - While Simpson lacks elite distance (17th percentile), he still gains strokes off the tee (76th) and is an elite bermuda putter (93rd). Simpson has great history at Carolina courses, trailing only Rory McIlroy in strokes gained over the past 50 rounds played at such courses. He ranks seventh on Pete Dye courses over the past 50 rounds.

We can worry about the distance angle, but back in the 2012 iteration, we saw five golfers ranked top-10 in accuracy over the full season play at Kiawah: three of them tied for 11th (Tim Clark, Graeme McDowell, and Ben Curtis), and the other two (Jim Furyk and David Toms) made the cut (tying for 42nd). If Webb brings his game, he can contend here.

Tony Finau ($10,400 | +3700) - Finau is just field average in putting on bermuda but ranks in the 95th percentile in distance gained and in the 90th percentile in adjusted strokes gained: tee to green. He ranks fifth in the field in strokes gained over the past 50 rounds on courses that play difficult relative to par, via FantasyNational.

That translates to majors, where Finau shows up: he has 16 made cuts in 19 tries with 11 top-25s, 9 top-10s, and 4 top-5s. I just don't see a reason to be worried about Finau even with some recent missed cuts (without any terrible outings).

Daniel Berger ($10,300 | +4100) - Berger is the best stats- and form-based value in the $10,000 range, per my model. There are just no holes in his game, and it's going to be hard not to roster him heavily at the salary for me. Berger is in the 69th percentile in both distance gained and bermuda putting and in the 92nd percentile in adjusted strokes gained: tee to green. He's top-30 in strokes gained average on Pete Dye courses, difficult courses, Carolina courses, and long bermuda courses.

Mid-Range Picks

Cameron Smith ($9,900 | +3300) - Smith's got an elite short game (90th-percentile adjusted strokes gained: around the green and 79th-percentile adjusted strokes gained: putting). He's not particularly long off the tee (29th percentile) but he has been getting longer in his career, going from an average of 283.6 yards per drive in 2015 to 297.1 this year. Smith's game has translated well to majors: he has 6 top-25 finishes and 15 made cuts in 18 starts.

Matthew Fitzpatrick ($9,900 | +5500) - Fitzpatrick ranks 16th in strokes gained average on difficult PGA Tour courses over the past 50 rounds, 27th at Pete Dye courses, and 26th at Carolina courses. His main blemish is a lack of distance (12th-percentile), but he's so accurate that he gains strokes off the tee regardless (84th percentile). The Webb Simpson writeup applies here, too.

Fitzpatrick is elite with the putter on bermuda (99th percentile) and is fairly comfortably the best long-term player with a salary below $10,000.

Joaquin Niemann ($9,600 | +6000) - Niemann is quietly one of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour, currently ranking 8th in driving distance this season, which puts him in the 97th percentile in this loaded field. The ball-striking overall is there, too: he ranks 90th-percentile or better in both strokes gained: off the tee and approach when adjusted for field and recency over the past year.

Only four golfers in the field can say that: Dustin Johnson ($11,700), Viktor Hovland ($11,000, Niemann, and Corey Conners ($9,300). Niemann gains an average of 1.3 strokes on the field on long bermuda track and 1.2 at Carolina courses over the past 50 rounds.

Scottie Scheffler ($9,500 | +4100) - Scheffler stands out from an odds perspective relative to his salary, but he really should fit Kiawah quite well, given that his around-the-green play has improved and then leveled out (he's 73rd percentile now over the past year). Where he really flashes is with the distance (90th-percentile) and overall off-the-tee play (90th as well). Scheffler has played tough fields well: he has made four straight cuts at majors (including a 4th at the 2020 PGA Championship) and consecutive top-5s in WGC events.

Sam Burns ($9,400 | +4100) - Burns is on a tear, having won the Valspar Championship in early May and then showing up again in his next event, the AT&T Byron Nelson, with a 54-hole lead. It's really not a fluke. Sure, there were blemishes with three straight missed cuts at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, THE PLAYERS, and the Valero Texas Open, but Burns is in the 95th percentile in distance gained and in the 98th percentile in bermuda putting.

That plus the form makes him a super chalky mid-range play. Just note that he's 15th-percentile around the green and has only three starts in majors (though two made cuts).

Corey Conners ($9,300 | +5000) - I mentioned Conners' name in that elite list of ball-strikers, and so it's no wonder that I'm recommending him for the PGA Championship. He does, though, have more red flags than some others in the $9,000 range. His around-the-green play puts him in the 24th percentile over the past year, and his bermuda putting is 14th-percentile.

That's enough to make us wary of him, but the path to upside is obvious for Conners. While he has made just four of nine cuts in majors, he's in much better form now than ever before.

Low-Salaried Picks

Bubba Watson ($9,000 | +8000) - Watson played here in 2012, finishing 11th with great ball-striking metrics, including gaining distance and greens in regulation on the field, via FantasyNational. Watson currently is in the 96th percentile in adjusted strokes gained: off the tee and the 71st percentile in adjusted strokes gained: approach.

He's still long off the tee (93rd) but just struggles with the short game. He's 30th in strokes gained on Pete Dye tracks and 18th on long bermuda/paspalum courses.

Gary Woodland ($8,800 | +8000) - Why not another former major winner at a value salary? Woodland really struggled after his U.S. Open win but is finding his form again with the ball-striking. He has gained strokes off the tee -- when adjusted for field strength -- in five of his past six measured events and from approach in seven of the past nine. He has lost more than -0.60 adjusted approach shots in just one of those past nine.

He did play here in 2012, finishing 42nd. He ranks 22nd in strokes gained at Carolina courses, 11th at long bermuda/paspalum courses, and 15th at difficult courses.

Cameron Tringale ($8,600 | +12000) - Kiawah could set up well for Cam Tringale, who did play it back in 2012 when he made the cut but finished 72nd. Currently, he is in the 73rd percentile in adjusted strokes gained: tee to green over the past year, he avoids bogeys (95th percentile), he's long enough off the tee (72nd percentile), and he's a good bermuda putter (71st percentile). He hasn't lost strokes tee to green in 13 straight events.

Emiliano Grillo ($8,600 | +12000) - Grillo actually has a few angles going for him. Via FantasyNational, Grillo ranks 32nd in strokes gained per round on Carolina courses, 16th on long bermuda/paspalum tracks, and 18th on Pete Dye courses over the past 50 rounds. This is despite some poor bermuda splits for him (-0.35 strokes per round with the putter, ranking him in the 35th percentile).

Grillo, though, is one of 15 golfers to rank in the 80th percentile or better in adjusted strokes gained: off the tee and adjusted strokes gained: approach, joining 9 golfers with salaries above $10,000. He is the only golfer who can make that claim with a salary below $9,200.

Lanto Griffin ($7,500 | +27000) - Griffin's 75th-percentile distance and bermuda putting give him a good start, and he combines that with 81st-percentile adjusted strokes gained: approach. I talk about Griffin often because of a generally balanced stats profile. Griffin has a short major history (three missed cuts in five tries) but did finish 19th at the 2020 PGA Championship. He ranks a solid 43rd in strokes gained average on difficult courses over the past 50 rounds.