This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
A MILITARY TRIBUTE AT THE GREENBRIER
Winner's Share: $1.35M
FedExCup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: White Sulphur Springs, W.V.
Course: The Old White TPC
2018 champion: Kevin Na
Well, here we are, at the beginning of a new golf season. It is starting earlier than ever before because, well, last season ended earlier than ever before. At this time a year ago, the FedExCup playoffs were only halfway complete. But now we embark on the 2019-20 season with important changes important in both the live-action and DFS realms. For one, there will be more events in the fall season than ever before. There will be 10 (not counting one opposite-field tournament) between now and Thanksgiving leading up to the winter breather. By comparison, the past two years there were only seven events during the fall, and before that only six. Nearly 25 percent of the 2019-20 season will take place in 2019, so we should see more top names competing – there simply are too many FedExCup points (and too much money) to be left on the table.
Unfortunately for the Greenbrier, which has been granted the coveted season-opening spot on the PGA Tour calendar, that prediction does not bear out this week. The 156-man field is not good – for any time of year. For the first event of the season, even though a golf season is not a traditional season like many other sports, it's incredibly weak. There are just six golfers among the Top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking on hand. The sextet is "led" by Bryson DeChambeau, who is still hanging on to a spot in the Top 10, but won't for much longer if he continues his recent play. There's also Marc Leishman, Bubba Watson, Keegan Bradley, Cameron Smith and defending champion Kevin Na, who has been able to keep his title for some 15 months, since the tournament was last played in July 2018. In reality, the biggest name in the field is Viktor Hovland, now with a Tour card in his back pocket, courtesy of the Korn Ferry playoffs. It's disappointing that fellow Class of '19 classmates Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa are not entered. There is another exciting youngster to keep an eye on, though. Scottie Scheffler, a 23-year-old from the University of Texas, was the top golfer on the Korn Ferry Tour last year, and now owns a PGA Tour card as well. There are interesting names, for sure, but in terms of strength of field, well, all 50 of the Korn Ferry graduates are here, as are a dozen guys outside the Top 150 from last season. Heck, Chad Campbell was the first alternate when the field was announced. You know how many golfers they had to go through to get to Campbell? We'll guess about 250.
Anyhow, we're done beating up on the tournament, which has been around only since 2010. It began with a bang that year, as Stuart Appleby shot a 59 on Sunday to win. It also fell victim to massive flooding, which wrecked the course and caused the cancellation of the 2016 event. But the 105-year-old Old White TPC rebounded beautifully, restored, and with new greens. The tournament's official website describes Old White thusly: "This historic course features generous fairways and challenging, undulated greens." The greens are large by Tour standards, which plays a big part in the Key Stats and Champion's Profile section below. One other thing we really don't like about the course: It ends with a par-3, and a short one at that, just 177 yards. The 18th is among the easiest holes on the course, offering little opportunity for high drama, other than the remote chance for a hole-in-one.
Now, getting to one of the big changes that will affect DFS play. Beginning this week, the cut line in PGA Tour events will be drawn at the top 65 and ties, down from the top 70 and ties, and without an MDF anymore. What does that mean? It means that getting 6-for-6 through to the weekend, which was already quite hard, will be even harder. Roughly seven percent fewer golfers will play four roundsm, though that number will vary because "and ties" will always alter it. What to do about this? How does it change strategy? Well, we're not sure there's much you can do differently. The first thought might be to avoid the very bottom guy you've been taking each week to fill out your lineup, and move it up a few hundred dollars. But of course if you do that, that cash will have to come from somewhere, and that might mean off the top. As with most DFS decisions, it will boil down to what the conditions are in that specific week. Until we see how things play out, our best advice is to stay the course and, if your No. 6 guy advances to the weekend, you will have that much better of a chance of winning your game.
Weather-wise, it will be hot all week, at 90 or close to it. There was not much chance of rain leading up to the tournament but there will be every day once things get started. Otherwise, it should be hot and sticky with minimal wind.
A fun Greenbrier fact: The tournament's official website says the great Sam Snead, so closely associated with the course, shot his final ace there back in 1995. It was not in a PGA Tour event and probably not in any event at all, as Snead was 83 at the time. You try getting an ace at 83. Or 33.
Key Stats to Winning at The Old White TPC (in order of importance)
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Putting average/strokes gained: putting
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: approach
• Driving distance/strokes gained: off the tee
• Scrambling/strokes gained: around the green
Na finished second in the field in both scrambling and strokes gained: putting. He was only 34th in the greens in regulation, but when your short game is that good, you can overcome that inaccuracy with your irons. Most of the other high finishers last year were top-10 in GIR, and all were top-25. When the greens are big, there's no excuse for missing them. Other past champions were among the putting leaders: Schauffele was sixth, Lee was seventh, Cabrera was fifth and Blixt was second. You may not have to putt that well to get on the first page of the leaderboard, but larger greens make putting harder and tend to separate the better putters. You won't win this tournament without excellent putting. The fairways are wide – they exceed an average width of 35 yards at the main check points (275 yards, 300, 325) – so everyone can let fly off the tee. And, with the course situated some 2,000 feet above sea level, they will fly far. You could infer from all that that the tournament will be a birdie-fest. It normally ranks somewhere in the middle of the pack on the annual toughest courses list. The winning score had fallen between 13- and 16-under for five straight tournaments before Na's 19-under last year. But he was five clear of the runner-up.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Bryson DeChambeau - $11,100 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 12-1)
DeChambeau leaves a lot to be desired in a tournament favorite, what with his poor-for-him play for much of last season. But in this field, he's hard to ignore. Besides, DeChambeau did finish seventh at the Tour Championship, which actually was his third top-10 in his final seven starts of the season. And he did rank 24th in strokes gained: off the tee and 28th in SG: putting. DeChambeau finished 14th in his lone Greenbrier visit in 2017.
Viktor Hovland - $10,900 (14-1)
Hovland has made only five starts on the PGA Tour as a professional – far too few to qualify for the statistic leaderboards – but his numbers were off-the-charts great. He would've ranked first in greens in regulation, second in strokes gained: off the tee and third in SG: tee-to-green. He finished with a top-5 at the Wyndham Championship before moving on to the Korn Ferry playoffs, in which he notched a T11 and a runner-up to secure his card. However, Hovland was not great with the putter, and this tournament tends to evolve into a putting contest.
Sungjae Im - $9,800 (25-1)
It's now common knowledge how frequently Im played last season. We often railed that if he'd only taken a week off here or there, he might've been rested enough to win instead of merely collect high finishes. Well now, thanks only to the schedule – there were no tournaments! – Im has taken a few weeks off. He was ranked top-40 in strokes gained: off the tee, tee to green and putting, which collectively could give him a real shot to win this week.
Joaquin Niemann - $9,700 (25-1)
Niemann really came on in the latter part of last season. In his last 11 events, he made 10 cuts and finished no worse than T31 in any of them. His putting was poor last season, so that could prevent a victory. But he has played the Greenbrier twice already, and tied for fifth last year.
Tier 2 Values
Scottie Scheffler - $9,300 (40-1)
Scheffler could be this season's Sungjae Im, far and away the best player arriving from the Korn Ferry Tour (let's not include Hovland in that equation). He had two wins – one in the playoffs – two runners-up and a whopping 10 top-10s. With numbers like that, Scheffler's stats had to be good, but we'll note that he ranked 15th on the KF Tour in putting average. He even made four PGA Tour starts with a best of T20 at the Valero. The oddsmakers know his stock, tabbing him as one of the favorites at 40-1.
Kevin Na - $9,200 (40-1)
Na had a strange season. Most importantly, he won at Colonial, giving him wins in consecutive years. Then he was injured. He returned, only to withdraw from the BMW Championship in advance of his wife giving birth to their second child. That ended his season short of the Tour Championship. But he is one of the highest-ranked golfers in the field, No. 34 OWGR. As he proved last time at the Greenbrier, when his short game is on, he can contend and even win.
Keegan Bradley - $9,100 (40-1)
Bradley was able to tie for 13th last year at the Greenbrier even with his terrible putting – that's how good the rest of his game is. He also tied for fourth back in 2014, though that was before the anchored-putter ban.
Cameron Smith - $9,000 (40-1)
Smith had a brutal season, albeit one that started to turn around late. He tied for 20th at the Open Championship and for 12th at the WGC event in Memphis. But it wasn't enough to get him past the first playoff event. He was a decent putter; he had great difficulty with his iron play, something that could be masked this week with such large greens. This will be Smith's Greenbrier debut.
Tier 3 Values
Tom Lewis - $7,900 (60-1)
The 28-year-old Englishman wrote quite a story for himself to get here. He tied for 11th at the Open Championship, which gave him enough non-member points to qualify for the Korn Ferry playoffs. He waited until the final tournament to take advantage, and take advantage he did, winning the KF Tour Championship to get his PGA Tour card. He is ranked 61st in the world, one of the top guys in the field – and at a very affordable sub-$8,000 price.
Brandon Hagy - $7,400 (100-1)
The big-hitting Hagy was injured for long stretches in 2018 and 2019, which limited him to only 20 total starts. That includes the recent Korn Ferry playoffs, in which he finished top-5 in two events to regain his card. He's obviously healthy, but he also has 11 starts left on a major medical extension. Hagy finished in a tie for 18th in his lone Greenbrier visit two years ago.
Beau Hossler - $7,300 (80-1)
Hossler was a stunningly bad last season, missing the top 125. He went to the Korn Ferry playoffs and promptly got his card back with a runner-up finish in the first playoff event. Through all his poor play, Hossler was an elite putter, ranking 10th on the PGA Tour last season. That should serve him well in his Greenbrier debut.
Harry Higgs - $7,200 (125-1)
The 27-year-old New Jersey native had a win, a second and a third en route to finishing fifth in the Korn Ferry regular season. It's odd that someone so accomplished, even on a secondary tour, and someone ranked so high – 148th in the OWGR – has never played a PGA Tour event before. That's right: this will be Higgs' PGA Tour debut. He ranked third on the KF Tour in putting average last season.
Doc Redman - $7,000 (100-1)
Redman was an amateur star in his own right before Hovland and Co. came on the scene. He started to make a a dent in the pro ranks last season, with three top-25s in six PGA Tour starts, including a runner-up at Detroit and a T20 at the Open Championship. If he had had enough rounds to qualify, Redman would've ranked second on Tour in greens in regulation and 50th in strokes gained: putting. He has been idle since the Wyndham tournament, so he's either rested or rusty, or both.
Grayson Murray - $6,800 (125-1)
Murray's PGA Tour season ended in May with a back injury. He returned on the Korn Ferry Tour, then finished top-25 in all three playoff events. Since this is a glorified Korn Ferry field, we like him this week. Murray also has 12 starts on a major medical extension.
Roger Sloan - $6,500 (125-1)
Sloan had a bunch of a quality finishes last season, mostly in lesser fields, but not entirely – he notched one of his seven top-25s at Bay Hill. Sloan finished 91st in the FedExCup regular season to easily keep his card. He's played the Greenbrier once before, four years ago, when he missed the cut.
Kristoffer Ventura - $6,300 (125-1)
Like Hovland, Ventura is a Norwegian who played at Oklahoma State (though he was born in Mexico). The 24-year-old went gangbusters toward the end of the Korn Ferry regular season, winning twice with two other top-5s. Ventura began the year outside the top 1,000 in the OWGR but now sits 156th. He tied for 10th on the KF Tour in putting average.