It’s been a great three days of golf at TPC Harding Park for the first major of 2020. The field came out hot with a bunch of birdies early on Thursday and Friday, but the course has proven to be a tough test, especially when the wind blows.
Dustin Johnson is at the top of a great leaderboard following his 65 on Saturday, which featured eight birdies. Scottie Scheffler will be in the final pairing with DJ, as he and Cameron Champ are one shot back at 8-under. Brooks Koepka is two back, and seeking to win his third straight Wannamaker Trophy. He is joined at 7-under par by Paul Casey and Collin Morikawa. Major champions Justin Rose and Jason Day lead the next group of players, which also includes Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, and Daniel Berger just 3 shots back. It’s a star-studded leaderboard, and sure to be a fantastic Sunday.
As you can see in the names above, TPC Harding Park has proven to be a bombers paradise. Driving Distance has reigned supreme off the tee, as only six of the current top 20 are outside of 40th in the field in that category this week. In that same group of 20, there are 11 players hitting 50% or less of their fairways, yet still scoring enough to be toward the top of the leaderboard. Hitting greens in regulation has been the key, whether from the fairway or the rough, as Hideki Matsuyama is the only player hitting fewer than 60% of greens from that same group.
Needless to say, the biggest Strokes Gained stat has been Ball Striking, which is a combination of Strokes Gained Off-the-Tee and Approach. I will be looking at all of these stats as I work to identify my favorite plays for DraftKings big $20, $600,000 prize pool Sunday Showdown tournament.
My strategy has always been to take a stand in showdown slates, and that stand this Sunday is to fade Dustin Johnson. He is cheap enough at $9,300 that everyone will easily pair him with Brooks or really any other player of choice, pushing his ownership to 50% or more. I will fade his 6.72 stroked gained putting and bank on the fact he has more collapses in these events than he does wins.
Here’s who I will be playing.
Brooks Koepka $10,800
Honestly, how can you not? Brooks lives for these events and these moments. He went through a stretch of three straight bogeys on the back 9 on Saturday, only to immediately birdie two of his final three holes to climb back within two shots of the lead. Koepka is seeking his third straight PGA Championship, and has been on top of his game this week.
He is hitting in all of the categories I touched on above, ranking 27th in Driving Distance, hitting 68.5% of the greens in regulation, and ranking seventh in Strokes Gained Ball Striking.
His ball-striking is buoyed by gaining 6.59 shots on the field with his irons.
Brooks is the man to beat until someone actually does it.
Collin Morikawa $9,000
Morikawa might be the most consistent ball-striker on TOUR currently. The 23 year-old shot up the leaderboard with a 65 on Saturday and is in the group at 7-under, just two shots off the lead. He ranks 15th in ball striking this week, gaining 4.16 shots on approach, and has gained strokes putting each day.
Typically, I wouldn’t chase a round like what Morikawa put up on Saturday. Normally an average putter gained, Morikawa gained 4.57 strokes with the flat stick. But his experience at Harding Park has me believing he knows the greens. Ironically, we have seen a number of less-than-good putters roll it well this week, while some normally great putters (Day, Jason) have struggled. I like him as a pivot off of DJ, with the luxury of chasing on a course he knows well.
Matthew Wolff $8,000
Wolff has been the best ball striker in the field this week. He’s gained 5.18 strokes off the tee and 4.38 strokes on approach, leading him to his current 13th place standing. He would be in even better position if he could get his putter to cooperate. Wolff has lost 1.96 strokes on the greens this week, which has undoubtedly held him back.
If he can keep his ball-striking and just make a few more putts, he has everything we are looking for in a good Sunday Showdown play. I’ll take a shot on the bomber to get hot on the greens in the final round at Harding Park.
Patrick Reed $7,900
Reed is a guy who will never standout much statistically and this week is no different despite his current T-21 position. He can be very hot and cold with his ball striking, but is one of the best in the game around the greens.
I like what I saw from Reed down the stretch on Saturday as he birdied two of his final three holes and really started to strike it better. Several of these holes fit his game, with both par 5s and the two short par 4s each catering to players who can get up-and-down for birdie. He can also grind his way through tougher holes and has shown a propensity to score well in the final round, ranking 12th on TOUR in that category this season. He can fire a 65 tomorrow and climb firmly into the top 10.
I’ll take Reed in a spot to be a little different with the two guys currently tied for second right below him in price, sure to come in at inflated ownership.
Keith Mitchell $6,100
For my last pick, I’m going to go dumpster diving. That is in no way a shot a Keith Mitchell, but he’s priced at just $100 above the minimum. That’s way too low for a guy in 30th place who’s hitting the second-most greens and ranks sixth in ball-striking.
Locking in Mitchell at this price frees you up to pay up for some other studs. Sign me up.
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Brooks Koepka poses with the Wanamaker Trophy