This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
Winner's Share: $1.89M
FedEx Cup Points: 600 to the Winner
Location: Town and Country, Mo.
Course: Bellerive Country Club
2017 champion: Justin Thomas
They call the PGA Championship "Glory's Last Shot." But this is the last time Jim Nantz will be able to say it. After this, the 100th edition of the year's final major, it will move to May, beginning in 2019. (Too bad for the winner, who won't have much time to celebrate, having to defend in nine months.) Before we get all excited over this being the centennial PGA – and Nantz will do that, too – there really have been two different PGAs. From 1916 through 1957, it was match play. Englishman Jim Barnes won that first one. Since 1958, it's been traditional stroke play. In that one, Dow Finsterwald Sr. captured the Wanamaker Trophy. (If Dow Finsterwald Sr. is not the golfiest name ever, then nothing is.)
This year's tournament will be played at Bellerive, outside St. Louis, for the second time. Nick Price won at 6-under in 1992. Back then the course played as a par-71 at 7,148 yards, so the difference is not all that much, considering the vast technology changes over the past quarter century. Bellerive played host to one other PGA Tour event since then, the 2008 BMW Championship, with Camillo Villegas winning the third event in the FedExCup playoffs at 15-under in very soft conditions. Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson, Adam Scott and Brandt Snedeker were among the handful or so in the field then and now, but Tiger Woods did not play, having undergone knee surgery after his U.S. Open win three months earlier. There was supposed to be another tournament at Bellerive in 2001, the WGC-American Express Championship (now the WGC-Mexico). However, as it scheduled to begin on Sept. 13, it was canceled in the immediate wake of 9/11. The Senior PGA was contested there in 2013, but at sub-7,000 yards there's very little information to be gleaned from that event or any of the prior ones.
We do know a lot about Bellerive, however, and that will help us formulate our value picks and lineups. In the tradition of the PGA, it is long and not tricked out, which is a polite way of not saying "boring," as some have labeled the track. It certainly is a tee-to-green golf course, a ball striker's wheelhouse. And maybe more than usual, because reports from the course say the greens are fried from the intense Midwest summer heat. The PGA of America Rules Committee went so far as to release a statement: "Due to the expected high temperatures and high heat over the next couple of days, greens speeds will remain slower than they are planned for the Championship Rounds." Ruh-roh.
There are six par-4s in excess of 450 yards. There also are four shorter than 410. The fairways are tree-lined, with deep rough and bunkers to penalize wayward drives. Water comes into play on more than half the holes. Like a lot of courses, Bellerive has a pet name for a stretch, with Nos. 14-16 known as "The Ridge," a short par-4, a long par-4 and then an enormous par-3 of 237 yards. But for sheer terror, another par-3, the 213-yard 6th with a large pond guarding the green, might be the place to be. "I hate to say this," Mike Tucker, Bellerive's head pro, told PGA.com, "but if our fans want to see good challenges and potential train wrecks, that would be the hole to see." Duly noted! In another lifetime at the 1965 U.S. Open, No. 6 incredibly played more than a stroke over par. That's just unheard of. The course also features large, slopey greens. But they are wide more than long, giving the golfers very small landing areas. And if they miss, those undulating greens are guarded by deep, diabolical bunkers. All in all, there are about 75 traps on the course. Sand play could very well be a contributing factor in determining the winner.
Now, on to the field. It's the maximum 156, though we can immediately eliminate the 20 club professionals who qualified, not to mention a lot more guys. All but two of the top 111 in the OWGR are on hand – Euros Bernd Wiesberger and Joost Luiten are injured. So might be world No. 3 Justin Rose, who withdrew from last week's WGC-Bridgestone but is teeing it up this week. A lot of guys like to take the week before a major off, but that wasn't an option because of the Bridgestone. And with the Open Championship two weeks prior to that, this will be the at least third event in four weeks for just about all the top guys – except those who also played in that in-between week in Canada or Germany, meaning this will be four straight for them. And for Patrick Reed, who also played the week before the Open, it will be a whopping five in a row. It would be prudent to consider this grueling stretch, and not only for Reed, when considering lineup options. Of course, it's impossible to ignore the top guys, but when filling out the fifth and sixth slots of your lineup, consider some lesser guys who might be fresher. However, don't overlook that some of those lesser guys were also in action last week, at the opposite-field Barracuda Championship, and perhaps the week before in Canada, too.
Weather-wise, there was a lot of rain in the days preceding the tournament, meaning it could play very long, with extra thick rough. During the tournament proper, it will be very hot and steamy with some chance of rain but minimal wind.
Key Stats to Winning at Bellerive (in order of importance)
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Ball striking (total driving + greens in regulation)/strokes gained: tee to green
• Putting average/strokes gained: putting
• Sand save percentage
• Par 4 efficiency scoring 450-500 yards
2017 - Justin Thomas
2016 - Jimmy Walker
2015 - Jason Day
2014 - Rory McIlroy
2013 - Jason Dufner
2012 - Rory McIlroy
2011 - Keegan Bradley
2010 - Martin Kaymer
2009 - Y.E. Yang
2008 - Padraig Harrington
It's a common thread to say this, we know, but the best ball strikers, the golfers adept at getting from tee to green, are the way to go this week. It's a good strategy most any week, but especially when a course is unfamiliar – and long – with danger lurking the entire way. We see similarities between Bellerive and Firestone, another long, straightforward track. Bellerive has much bigger greens, so putting takes on a little added importance this week. As we said last week, don't discount the shorter hitters. It may be hard for one of them to win, but some can and will be important lineup components. The season-long leaders in par-4 efficiency 450-500 yards even include a few: 1) Dustin Johnson, 2) Justin Thomas, 3) Rickie Fowler, 4) Rory McIlroy, 5) Ian Poulter, 6) Zach Johnson, 7) Henrik Stenson, 8) Brooks Koepka, 9) Jon Rahm, T10) Bryson DeChambeau and Kyle Stanley.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Dustin Johnson - $11,400 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 9-1)
Even though Johnson still sits on one career major, he's the top player in the world right now. He comes in on form with two wins in his past five starts, plus a T3 at last week's WGC; and he has a decent history at the PGA. Sure, the course is different every year, but they all generally tend to be largely straightforward and long, and that's Bellerive. Johnson has four top-10s in eight PGA starts, plus a T13 last year at Quail Hollow. As mentioned above, Johnson leads the Tour in par-4 450-500, just like he does in strokes gained: off the tee as well as tee to green.
Rory McIlroy - $11,000 (12-1)
A two-time PGA winner, McIlroy has not been back in the top 15 since his 2014 victory. But – and try to get this past Sunday, when he faded opposite Justin Thomas, out of your head – he's playing really well right now. McIlroy hasn't won since Bay Hill in March, but he was T5 at the Masters, co-runner-up at the Open Championship and was in the mix at the Bridgestone almost till the end. McIlroy is ranked fourth in par-4 450-500. He's top-10 in both strokes gained: off-the-tee and tee-to-green.
Justin Thomas - $9,700 (12-1)
Thomas is one of the few guys known to have made a scouting trip to Bellerive. It's hard to believe there are five guys priced higher than him. As we saw last year at Quail Hollow and last week at Firestone, long and straightforward tracks are now in Thomas' wheelhouse. If the trunk-slam at Carnoustie was swaying you, Sunday's easy victory should get you, and Thomas, back on track. Thomas is second on Tour in both strokes gained: tee-to-green and in par-4 450-500.
Brooks Koepka - $9,600 (20-1)
Koepka hasn't done much since winning his second straight U.S. Open almost two months ago, but that's partly to be expected. He has a knack for the PGA, though, with top-15s in each of the past four years, two of them being top-5s. And speaking of top-5s, did you see Koepka's very quiet top-5 on Sunday at Firestone? He is ranked eighth in par-4 450-500. Just like Thomas at sub-$10,000, Koepka is a bargain.
Tier 2 Values
Tommy Fleetwood - $9,300 (25-1)
Fleetwood faded out of the top 10 at Firestone, which, like Bellerive, should be perfect for his normally premier tee-to-green game. He was only 22nd in the field in strokes gained: tee to green at the Bridgestone, and if that happens again Fleetwood likely won't pay off. For the season, he's top-10 in both SG: tee-to-green and off-the-tee. The Englishman has been pretty good in big events this season – T7 at THE PLAYERS, solo second at the U.S. Open, T12 at the Open Championship.
Jason Day - $9,000 (20-1)
Day won the PGA in 2015 for his lone major. He followed that up with a runner-up in 2016 and even a tie for ninth last year, when his game was far from sharp. He was top-20 at the Masters and Open Championship, top-5 at THE PLAYERS. And of course, he has two wins this season, at Torrey Pines and Quail Hollow, two very long tracks. Deep bunkers are one of the primary obstacles at Bellerive, and Day is second on Tour in sand save percentage. He's also second in strokes gained: around the green and first in putting. Day, however, has not been driving the ball, and that's a must this week.
Patrick Cantlay - $8,400 (40-1)
Cantlay has quietly moved inside the top 25 in the world. He followed up a T12 at Carnoustie with a T6 last week at Firestone. He played a few majors in 2011-12, then didn't get back till last year's PGA. Cantlay has had a string of other good finishes of late: top-10s at the RBC Heritage and the Memorial, and T15 at the Travelers. He's ranked 17th in ball striking and 18th in par-4 450-500.
Tony Finau - $8,100 (30-1)
Finau has top-10s in all three majors this year: He was T10 at the Masters, solo fifth at the U.S. Open and T9 at the Open Championship. Plus, Finau is coming off another top-10 at the Bridgestone. The one thing that gives us pause is that he's grouped with captain Jim Furyk in a de facto Ryder Cup audition, and that's added heat on top of the pressure of playing in a major.
Tier 3 Values
Bryson DeChambeau - $7,900 (60-1)
Very recently, DeChambeau was a mess. After winning the Memorial, he withdrew from the John Deere Classic with a shoulder injury that now seems healed. He then made the cut but little else at Carnoustie. The following week at Hamburg, he was nearing a European Tour win before imploding – golf game and emotionally – to tumble into a tie for 13th. And he was awful on Thursday at Firestone. He could've mailed in the next three days of the no-cut event. Instead, he broke par every day. That tells a lot.
Zach Johnson - $7,500 (80-1)
Johnson comes up large in more than his share in big events. He hasn't had a top-25 at the PGA since a T8 in 2013, but he's had a good year at the majors, including a T12 at the U.S. Open and a T17 at the Open Championship. With a T17 last week at Firestone, he's riding five straight top-20s.
Keegan Bradley - $7,500 (100-1)
Bradley is ranked only 65th in the world, but he was around No. 100 at the time of last year's PGA, so he's been playing some good golf. Bradley's tee-to-green game is so solid – sixth in strokes gained: tee to green, sixth in approach, sixth in ball striking – that he has the potential to do really well this week. He tied for 33rd last year at the PGA and of course was the champ in the anchoring days of 2011.
Ian Poulter - $7,400 (80-1)
There are 39 guys pricier than Poulter. In his last 13 worldwide starts, he has 10 top-25s, five of them top-10s, including his win at Houston. That said, two of the three times he didn't cash top-25 in that stretch were in majors. Despite Sunday's fade, Poulter's game was good for Firestone and that means also for Bellerive. He's 39th on Tour in driving accuracy and 24th in tee to green. And get this: The short-hitting Poulter is fifth in par-4 450-500.
Luke List - $7,100 (100-1)
One of the great mysteries is how List doesn't have a win this season. He's top-5 in both strokes gained: off-the-tee and tee-to-green, plus 15th in around the green. (Okay, maybe poor putting solves the mystery.) List has played only three career majors, two of them this year. He tied for 37th last month at Carnoustie for his first made cut in a major. Last week, List was second in strokes gained: off-the-tee at the Bridgestone and 19th in tee-to-green.
Gary Woodland - $7,000 (100-1)
Bellerive shapes up as good fit for Woodland, who is ranked first on Tour in ball striking. He is finally getting his game to come around. He's made six straight cuts, three of them top-25s, including a T22 at the Canadian Open and last week's T17 at Firestone. Woodland tied for 22nd last year at the PGA, his best showing at a major in three years.
Russell Henley - $6,700 (125-1)
Henley was the hardest hit by Tiger Woods' charge at Carnoustie, as he was bumped outside of the top 50 in the OWGR – and out of the Bridgestone. We think that will motivate him this week. Besides, he's done well against the world's elite this year, tying for 15th at the Masters and for 25th at the U.S, Open. He was T12 at the PGA in 2015 and T22 the year after. Henley is ninth in driving accuracy, 12th in ball striking and 18th in greens in regulation.
Thorbjorn Olesen - $6,700 (80-1)
For the most part, Euro-centric pros don't fare well in the PGA, but Olesen has had some success. He tied for 44th last year and has three other top-40s, peaking at T27 in 2012. The 28-year-old Dane has been on a summer surge, beginning with his win at the Italian Open, then continuing with a runner-up at the BMW International, a T6 at the irish Open, T12 at the Open Championship and now a tie for third at Firestone. Olesen's bargain-basement price will make him very popular.