The PGA TOUR heads to South Carolina this week as Congaree Golf Club hosts the Palmetto Championship. This is the first time a PGA TOUR event has ever been held here, so we have no course history. What we do know is that it is one of the longest courses on TOUR measuring 7,600 yards with Bermuda greens. It will play as a par-71.
I’ll be highlighting the best cash game/single-entry plays on the DraftKings main slate, but these players are often great options in any contest.
My analysis will frequently reference Strokes Gained, a set of proprietary metrics generated by the PGA TOUR using millions of data points to calculate how many shots on average it takes a player to get the ball in the hole from every distance and situation. Strokes Gained is now available in the FantasyLabs PGA Models.
There are a variety of Strokes Gained-related metrics, but the six main categories you need to know include:
- Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (SG: Off-the-Tee)
- Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: Approach)
- Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green (SG: Around-the-Green)
- Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: Putting)
- Strokes Gained: Ball-Striking (SG: Ball-Striking), which is SG: Off-the-Tee + SG: Approach
- Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (SG: Tee-to-Green), which is SG: Ball-Striking + SG: Around-the-Green
For more information on Strokes Gained data and how to use it, check out this article from Bryan Mears on The Action Network, which unpacks each of the above metrics in detail. I also recommend Chris Murphy’s Strokes Gained column after each round of that week’s PGA TOUR event, which highlights golfers to buy and fade, along with Matthew Vincenzi’s weekly “Stats That Matter” column, which highlights which Strokes Gained sub-metrics matter the most for a given course. The following players listed are based on DraftKings scoring and pricing.
Being that this is a week before the U.S Open and especially with this weak of a field, it’s my recommendation to maybe play a little lighter than normal, especially in cash games.
Dustin Johnson ($11,400 DraftKings)
DJ has not been himself of late, having not posted a top-10 finish since mid-February at the Genesis. It’s always tough to decide whether or not to play the highest-priced guys in the field a week before a major because we simply do not know their motivation level. However, being that DJ committed to this event in early May and that we’ve seen him dust fields in weeks leading up to a major in the past, I think it’s a no brainer to start with him this week. It also helps that this event will be played in his home state of South Carolina.
As far as statistics go, you really don’t need me to tell you how good Johnson is. He ranks No. 1 in this field in SG: Tee-to-Green, Approach, Ball-Striking and total strokes gained over his past 48 rounds. As a matter of fact, in that 48 round stretch, he’s averaging 1.8 strokes gained per round on the field; the next closest guy — Brooks Koepka — is averaging 1.4 strokes gained per round. That’s almost a one-half (!) stroke difference, which is insane.
DJ is far and away the best player in this field. He could show up here with one eye and top-10 this week, so no matter what anyone tells you about his motivation, he’s an extremely tough fade.
Matthew Fitzpatrick ($10,400 DraftKings)
I am trying not to overthink things this week, so we’ll be paying up for the studs and working our way down. Fitzpatrick is in a good spot despite missing the cut last week at the Memorial. Congaree is a Tom Fazio design, as is Shadow Creek, where the CJ Cup was played this past October.Fitzpatrick finished in a tie for 12th back then in what was a much more loaded field, so I have no question about him playing well this week.
Fitzpatrick will definitely want to shake some rust off before heading to Torrey Pines, so I doubt he doesn’t show up for this event. Looking at his long term form, he ranks No. 4 in this field in total strokes gained over his past 48 rounds. We’re back on Bermuda grass greens this week, which is alsoFitzpatrick’s preferred surface. Fire him up with confidence in all formats.
Tyrrell Hatton ($10,200 DraftKings)
You pretty much get the gist here. Hatton is an elite talent, playing on a course that has a very links-type feel to it and is probably a touch underpriced. Euro guys normally play well on links style tracks and much like Fitz, Hatton showed out at the CJ Cup back in October, finishing T-3.
Hatton is one of the best long iron players on the planet, so a 7,600-yard bear should be right up his alley. Both his long and short-term rolling numbers look good, and he should be a cash game staple. On DraftKings he can be paired with either DJ or Fitz, and on FanDuel you can actually fit all three quite easily.
Luke List ($7,900 DraftKings)
List seems to always thrive in these alternate type events where the fields are weak. This week should be no different, and we actually have a nice wrinkle that was brought to my attention from the fine folks at Golf Digest. List holds the current course record at Congaree.
On weeks like this with no course history and very little understanding of how the event will play out, having knowledge like this can definitely help. Obviously it’s not the end all, but it’s nice to know List has had success here. Regardless, he’s extremely long off-the-tee, and with rumored wide open fairways at Congaree, he should thrive this week. He’s also been locked in of late, ranking No. 2 in this field in SG: Tee-to-Green and No. 3 in SG: Ball-Striking, both over his past 24 rounds. He’s definitely underpriced for his talent level in a field like this, so we can take advantage of that in all contest types this week.
Vincent Whaley ($7,700 DraftKings)
Whaley has been a cut making machine of late, making the weekend in each of past nine starts dating back to the Pebble Beach Pro-Am back in February. In that time frame, which extends about 36 rounds, Whaley ranks ninth in this field in SG: Tee-to-Green, fifth in SG: Ball-Striking and 25th in total strokes gained. All pretty good for a guy that costs just $7,700. He’s been a DFS darling of late and could be popular this week, but I’m willing to eat the chalk here, as he’s simply been too consistent to consider fading.
Roger Sloan ($7,000 DraftKings)
Sloan is having a sneaky good season, making 10 of his 17 cuts with multiple top-25 finishes on the year. Another thing working in his favor was that he finished T-22 a couple months at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, which was another Tom Fazio designed course.
Sloan has some really strong rolling numbers as well, ranking 12th in SG: Tee-to-Green, 10th in Ball-Striking and 13th in total strokes gained over his past 36 rounds in this field. He is a good bet to make the cut this week and boasts a nice amount of upside for just $7,000.
Harold Varner III ($8,500 DraftKings)
It feels weird paying $8,500 for HV3, but he is one of the stronger talents teeing it up this week and boasts some of the best rolling numbers in this field, both short and long term. He ranks fourth in SG: Tee-to-Green and sixth in total strokes gained over his past 48 rounds. We know he’s long off the tee and should take advantage of the wide open fairways. If going with a more balanced approach HV3 makes for a pretty safe option this week.
Pictured: Dustin Johnson
Credit: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images