This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
QUICKEN LOANS NATIONAL
Winner's Share: $1.278M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Potomac, Md.
Course: TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm
2017 champion: Kyle Stanley
Washington, D.C. has a rich tradition on the PGA Tour, playing host to a tournament every year since 1980, most notably the Kemper Open. There also have been five majors, including four U.S. Opens, including the 2011 edition won by Rory McIlroy at Congressional CC. But after this week, professional golf will go dark in the nation's capital, at least for now. Quicken Loans bowed out as the sponsor of The National, then jumped back in for 2018 at the last minute – just last month, in fact. But in 2019, Quicken and the Tour will take the tournament to Detroit. And Tiger Woods, the founder and host whose foundation is the charitable arm of the event, will shift his operation to Riviera after a dozen years in Washington.
TPC Potomac returned to the PGA Tour last year after an 11-year absence, so we really have only one tournament's worth of course history to look back on, outside of a couple of Web.com Tour events. One thing we knew going into last year and was confirmed is that the course is hard, Kyle Stanley won in a playoff over Charles Howell III at 7-under-par. It was the hardest non-major track last year, and the par-4 470-yard 11th was the very toughest hole, majors included, on the entire PGA Tour. It played more than a half-stroke over-par and yielded a scant 23 birdies all week. So when Hudson Swafford, who played both Web.com events in 2012-13, said before last year's tournament that Avenel was U.S. Open-like, he knew what he was talking about. The two Web.com events posted similar winning scores – David Lingmerth at 7-under in 2012 and Michael Putnam at 7-under in '13.
Even without much course history, gamers are buoyed by the smaller field in this 120-man invitational. Woods is the most notable name in the field, and next is Quicken pitchman Rickie Fowler, but there are only seven other golfers in the top-50 of the OWGR: Marc Leishman, Francesco Molinari, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Stanley, Gary Woodland, Si Woo Kim and Adam Hadwin. Howell and Jimmy Walker are other names you will recognize. As you can see, this is one of the weakest fields of the season, and surely will present Woods with his best chance to win a tournament this year. For that matter, it also gives Fowler, who continues to sit on four career wins, his best chance, too. There are also five rising stars to keep an eye on, led by former top amateur Joaquin Niemann, who has played so well he picked up special temporary membership to carry him through the Wyndham Championship. The others are reigning U.S. Amateur champion Doc Redman, U.S. Amateur runner-up Dough Ghim, Dylan Meyer (20th at Shinnecock Hills) and Kristoffer Ventura (who led Oklahoma State to the NCAA title, to the joy of former Cowboy Fowler). At least some of them are bound to make the cut, as more than 60 percent of the field will reach the weekend.
Even though there are eight par-4s in the 440-490 range, driving distance contributed little to getting on the first page of the leaderboard last year. Avenel is pretty much a second-shot golf course, as long as it doesn't happen from the rough. There are also three very short and perhaps even drivable par-4s: the 365-yard 5th, the 360-yard 13th and the surely reachable 299-yard 14th. Since this is a par-70 track, there are only two par-5s.
Weather-wise, we're looking at the usual steamy summer conditions for the area: temperatures around 90 and high humidity. Right now, there's not much of a chance of rain and the wind is expected to be calm throughout.
Key Stats to Winning at TPC Potomac (in order of importance)
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: tee to green
• Scrambling/strokes gained: around the green
• Bogey avoidance
• Par-4 efficiency 450-500 yards
2017 - Kyle Stanley
2016 - Billy Hurley III
2015 - Troy Merritt
2014 - Justin Rose
2013 - Bill Haas
2012 - Tiger Woods
2011 - Nick Watney
2010 - Justin Rose
2009 - Tiger Woods
2008 - Anthony Kim
We're not looking for any cowboys or thrill seekers. Slow and steady wins this race. There's a lot of water. The rough is penal. The greens are tiny, averaging about 4,300 square feet. Avenel is made for Stanley, who rode his straight-as-an-arrow game to last year's title. He was third in driving accuracy, first in greens in regulation and sixth in proximity to the hole. Runner-up Charles Howell III was far back in driving accuracy, as were other close pursuers, but was T10 in GIR, third in proximity, fourth in scrambling and 12th in strokes gained: putting. Both golfers are not at their best in birdie-fests, but they thrive when the goal is to avoid trouble and take the occasional birdie as the course allows for it. Accordingly, Stanley is ranked T22 on Tour in par-4 efficiency: 450-500 yards and Howell is T34. Tabbing golfers skilled at bogey avoidance may seem tedious, but one crooked number could lead to a lineup-crushing trunk-slam.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Rickie Fowler - $11,700 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 7-1)
For all of Fowler's flash, he is really one of the more conservative golfers out there. Perhaps that's limited his career victory total, but it will help him this week, just like last year when he tied for third. Fowler is ranked fourth on Tour in bogey avoidance, 21st in greens in regulation, seventh in scrambling and 11th in par-4: 450-500.
Marc Leishman - $11,200 (16-1)
Leishman is the No. 2 choice on the DK board and co-third at golfodds.com. There aren't a lot of top golfers in this field, and he is surely one of them. Leishman does not stand out in any one metric. Instead, he ranks around the top 50 or better in all of strokes gained: tee to green, approach and around the green, as well as bogey avoidance. He tied for fifth last year at TPC Potomac.
Francesco Molinari - $10,600 (16-1)
It's interesting that the Italian has chosen this tournament over the European Tour's French Open. Molinari usually limits himself to the bigger PGA Tour events, and yet he has finished top-25 in five of his last eight U.S. starts and T26 in another. He also has a recent win on the European Tour. Known for his accuracy, Molinari is ranked sixth on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: off the tee and 16th in SG: tee-to-green.
Kyle Stanley - $10,200 (20-1)
This will be the biggest price you will ever see for Stanley, and stuff like this always gives us pause, no matter the circumstances. Yet he's the defending champion for a reason. Stanley ranks third in both driving accuracy and greens in regulation, and T22 in par-4: 450-500. Stanley enters on form, finishing runner-up at the Memorial earlier this month and T15 at the Travelers last week. That result in a birdie-fest is a good sign for this week.
Tier 2 Values
Charles Howell III - $8,900 (25-1)
Howell came oh-so-close to qualifying for his beloved Masters here last year, but he lost in a playoff to Stanley. He ranks 10th in bogey avoidance and T34 in par-4: 450-500. Howell is also top-35 on Tour in greens in regulation, strokes gained: tee to green and scrambling. His conservative play virtually ensures made cuts – he has missed only two in 21 starts – but often at the expense of high finishes. Still, he's finished top-25 in four of his last six events, including THE PLAYERS and the U.S. Open.
Kevin Streelman - $8,700 (40-1)
This is a large price to swallow for Streelman, who jumps $1,300 from last year here in a similarly weak field. But he has the numbers to back it up – he's 15th in driving accuracy, which contributes to a ranking of 29th in strokes gained: off the tee. He's also fifth in greens in regulation and 25th in SG tee to green. Best of all, Streelman ranks third in bogey avoidance. He tied for 17th here a year ago.
Byeong Hun An - $8,600 (30-1)
An is really maturing this season, and he came close to his first Tour win with a playoff loss to Bryson DeChambeau a few weeks back at the Memorial. His other top-5 this season came at another stingy track at the Honda. An is ranked 10th in strokes gained: off the tee, 18th in tee to green and 48th in par-4: 450-500. He tied for 29th last year at TPC Potomac.
Chesson Hadley - $8,400 (50-1)
Hadley has missed his last two cuts, but we think his game is far more suited for this track. He's ranked fifth in strokes gained: tee to green, 30th in both SG: tee to green and par-4: 450-500, 40th in greens in regulation and 50th in bogey avoidance. Hadley was runner-up at the Web.com event at TPC Potomac in 2013.
Tier 3 Values
David Lingmerth - $8,200 (Field, 6-1)
It's getting a bit comical, because June appears to be just about the only time all year to consider Lingmerth. He's well outside the top 150 in the FedExCup standings, yet the former Memorial champ tied for 29th there earlier this month. He has an affinity for TPC Potomac, having won the Web.com event in 2012 and tying for fifth in last year's National. As for another positive, he tied for 19th at the Travelers last week. If you're looking for stats, Lingmerth doesn't offer much, but he is ranked 17th in driving accuracy.
Gary Woodland - $8,100 (40-1)
Woodland has started to steer in the right direction after spending much of the spring adrift, with a top-25 at the Memorial and a made cut at the U.S. Open. He might be the straightest long hitter on Tour, which accounts for his ranking of third in strokes gained: off the tee. Woodland is also sixth in greens in regulation. He did not play in this event last year.
Adam Hadwin - $7,300 (60-1)
Hadwin surely has been far from his peak of late, but this price strikes us as inordinately low. He has missed only one cut all season, and that was at the U.S. Open. He's ranked 33rd in greens in regulation and T8 with Jon Rahm in par-4: 450-500 – no easy task for such a short hitter. Hadwin has played TPC Potomac in all three events since 2012, but hasn't recorded a high finish.
Denny McCarthy - $7,200 (125-1)
Even though McCarthy didn't play in any of the three recent events at TPC Potomac, we're thinking that the Maryland native and former Virginia Cavalier is familiar with the track. He made the cut in seven of his past eight events, with four of them being top-25s. One of those was a T18 earlier this month at another tough scoring track, TPC Southland. McCarthy is ranked 42nd on Tour in bogey avoidance.
Johnson Wagner - $7,100 (125-1)
Ranked 143rd in the FedExCup standings, Wagner is running out of time to crack the top 125. This is a good place for him to start. He's ranked a very impressive fifth in bogey avoidance and 28th in par-4: 450-500. That's mostly attributed to his sterling short game – he's ranked second in scrambling and fifth in strokes gained: putting. It's hard to imagine someone with those numbers having such little success, but Wagner did deliver last year at TPC Potomac by tying for fifth.
Sam Ryder - $7,100 (125-1)
Ryder was known for his accuracy on the Web.com Tour last year, and that has carried over to his rookie season on the PGA Tour. He's ranked 31st in driving accuracy and eighth in greens in regulation. That goes a long way to explaining his T32 ranking in bogey avoidance. Ryder has certainly missed more than his share of cuts, but he made it in two of his past three attempts, including last week's T26 at the Travelers.
Peter Malnati - $7,000 (Field, 6-1
Malnati has made four straight cuts, scoring in the 60s in 10 of the 16 rounds over that span. He's one of the shorter hitters around and his numbers off the tee are not pretty, yet he's ranked a decent 80th in par-4: 450-500. Malnati's strength is his short game, as he's ranked 40th in strokes gained: around the green and seventh in putting. He tied for 38th last year at the National.
Michael Thompson - $6,800 (Field, 6-1)
Thompson has been off since tying for 32nd at Fort Worth, which gave him seven cashes in his past eight starts. He was slated to tee it up in U.S. Open sectional qualifying, but he withdrew, citing a neck injury. Thompson is ranked 33rd in greens in regulation and 18th in strokes gained: putting.