As we head into the penultimate event of the PGA Playoffs at this week’s BMW Championship, much of the chatter around the PGA DFS space has been about how to project the course at Olympia Fields to play.
I laid out some thoughts in my course preview and I got a sense of validation in those thoughts after hearing some player interviews to start the week. It appears the course will be a real test and I expect we wind find a winner this week somewhere around 10-under par, give or take a couple of strokes.
I’ve gathered the player’s quotes about the course and conditions in a thread on Twitter for reference. I’ll also be watching the charity match today to see things for myself and if there are any adjustments I want to make.
How you expect the course to play will go a long way into your DFS lineup selections this week. It won’t make a ton of difference at the top — the best players are typically the best players regardless of conditions — but it may pivot a play down in pricing from one play that’s more suited for a bomber/scoring course to another that’s a better fit for grinding out pars.
As Dustin mentioned in his article, Bogey Avoidance will be a bigger scoring key this week than in standard weeks where we lean more heavily on Birdie or Better Percentage. We will still need to find some birdies for success in Showdown contest, but I will stick to my overall projections and scoring expectation to build in Rounds 1 and 2. There also won’t be any wave splits, as with just 69 players (Webb Simpson withdrew) everyone will tee off in a two hour window on Thursday and Friday.
Jon Rahm ($10,500)
No one comes into this Thursday round on more of a heater than Dustin Johnson, but even with his storied success off victories, it’s hard for the prior week’s champion to come in with the same motivation the following week, especially on Thursday. I expect a good bit of ownership to go to DJ on that recency bias, and I will drop down to Rahm to start my Showdown lineups.
He played a fantastic Sunday round at The Northern Trust to climb his way into a tie for sixth following his 6-under 65. I love his form coming into the week and the fact that he can compete on any setup. He’s the exact mix of bogey avoidance, scrambling, and birdie making that I think will find success this week at Olympia Fields. The Spaniard ranks fifth in Bogey Avoidance, 21st in Scrambling, and 11th in Birdie or Better Percentage on the season.
We all know that Rahm is a long hitter, with excellent ball striking when he is on, and he is the perfect mix of player to start your lineup on Thursday.
Xander Schaufele ($9,200)
I really struggled here between Xander and young sensation Collin Morikawa at $100 cheaper. I don’t know that there is a right answer between these two and I will definitely be invested in both all weekend. I decided to stick to my guns regarding this being a bit more of a grind, which I believe is slightly better suited to Xander. He can still score, as he’s 17th in Birdie or Better Percentage, but he has the added safety of being third in Bogey Avoidance and fourth in Scrambling.
Schaufele has said he prefers tournaments where par is a good score, than a birdie-fest, and I think he will get that style this week. He, like Rahm, has the ability to score if the conditions are right and his game is on, so I’m more than happy with him as a core play in my Showdown lineups for round one.
Hideki Matsuyama ($8,100)
Hideki is a Showdown play I am stretching a bit on because of his upside. He is more of a fit for the grinding environment than I honestly expected, and he can certainly catch fire in any 18 hole round. This one is admittedly a bit of a gut play as he hasn’t had the best form since the break, but I like game to fit the course at Olympia Fields.
Matsuyama found his irons last week at TPC Boston, gaining 2.8 strokes on approach. He’s also gained more than a stroke on the greens in each of the last two events he’s played. Lastly, his around the green game is a strong suit, which coupled with a hot putter would be a great combination at this course. The concern coming off of last week is his driver, where he lost 1.2 strokes off the tee. However, he did most of that damage in one round on Friday, losing 1.4 strokes in those 18 holes alone, and was better on the weekend.
I’m going to trust my gut on this one and take a shot that we get the good Hideki tomorrow, but if you’re looking for pivots both Kevin Kisner ($8,000) and Paul Casey ($7,900) are in form fits in the same price range.
Matt Kuchar ($7,400)
It was a complete surprise to me in my research to find that Kuchar finished in the Top 20 last week at The Northern Trust. He was just never on my radar, but it was a positive sign of form coming into a week that I think is well suited for his game. The 42 year-old Kuchar doesn’t typically flash at scoring fests like we’ve been accustomed to in recent weeks and honestly he hasn’t even shown at the courses he normally does in 2020. It’s been a rough restart for him as last week was the first time in five events he has gained strokes tee-to-green.
Kuchar is a guy I usually avoid in DFS until we get to an event where making par is of value. As you know by now, I expect that type of event this week and I’ll be rolling Kuch out there in all formats. On Thursday, I’m counting on the three strokes he gained ball striking in Boston to carry over into this second playoff event, which along with the hot putter he often flashes, will be the exact recipe for a solid round one.
Brendan Steele ($6,700)
Brendan Steele has had a resurgence of sorts in 2020. After being a player that would flash on the leaderboard at big time events in 2016 and 2017, he had fallen off the radar over the last two years. This season he has three top 10s, a 22nd at the PGA a few weeks back, and was in contention early on at the Northern Trust before falling back on Sunday.
At this price, I am banking on Steele for his ball striking and scoring upside. He doesn’t fit the same mold, as can be expected in this range, of my other plays as his Bogey Avoidance, Scrambling, and Around the Green Stats are well down the rankings list.
I am playing him on recent form, and the expectation that the three-plus strokes he has gained ball striking in each of his last three tournaments will continue at least into Thursday’s round. It helps that he’s also shown the ability to start hot, ranking 22nd in first round scoring average on the season. I am going to chase that ceiling in Showdown tomorrow, understanding that I probably won’t like his floor if he is off.
Pictured above: Jon Rahm of Spain
Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images