Following last week’s event in Muirfield Ohio, the PGA Tour rolls onto South Carolina, where the Palmetto Championship will take place at Congaree Golf Club in Gillisonville. A new addition to the tour, the Palmetto will take place in 2021 and 2021 only and will act as a temporary replacement for the RC Canadian Open, which isn’t going ahead this season for Covid logistical reasons. Search “Canada” and “Covid rules” if you want the details.
Before we get into the Palmetto, let’s quickly recap the last event covered for BeerLife Sports, which was the Charles Schwaab. Heading the line-up going in was Jordan Spieth, who didn’t disappoint by setting a fearsome pace on day one, carding seven birdies and zero bogeys, rewarding those fantasy players that took the plunge. Unfortunately, the world’s number 23 couldn’t get over the line, eventually finishing runner up behind Jason Kokrak. Elsewhere it was tough, what with previous winner Kevin Na, who shot an impressive 65 on day two, eventually finishing a tie for 23rd, finishing with a blemish-free round of 69.
The Field for the Palmetto
We’re just over a week away from the third major of the year, but our attentions turn to the brand-new event in Gillisonville first. Many of the usual suspects will line up at Congaree, including South Carolina native Dustin Johnson. The number one ranked player in the world will be looking to build some momentum before attempting to win a third major of his career next week.
Another player with multiple majors in their trophy cabinet in the field is Brooks Koepka, who has had a depleted schedule in and out over the last year or so, mainly thanks to injury. The man who not that long ago started to win big tournaments like they were going out of style tends to feature the week before a major (The U.S. Open is the following week), so expect some fine-tuning from Brooks this week.
Other notable players in the field this week are Sungjae Im, Tommy Fleetwood, while European Tour regular Tyrell Hatton will feature too, alongside countrymen Mathew Fitzpatrick and Ian Poulter. There are plenty of big-name players who won’t be out there this week, including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Rory Mcilroy, and Ricky Fowler, so perhaps the stage is set for a less frequent winner to shine.
The Course, Congaree Golf Club
Par 71, 7,685 Yards
The course at Congaree Golf Club, unlike many on the circuit, is new, having been built by famed architect Tom Fazio in 2018. Such is the prestigious nature of the venue that it was named as the best new private course by Golf Digest in the year that it opened. Congaree also featured at 39th in the recently published list of America’s 100 greatest golf courses.
Different from pretty much any other course that will feature on the PGA Tour this season, the Fazio-designed course, which is set in the lowlands of South Carolina, contains little rough. Instead, players will have to contend with sandy waste areas that run adjacent to the fairways, meaning that those who’re not accurate off the tee could find themselves in lots of trouble. 10 of the 18 holes also contain somewhat tricky water hazards, so again, accuracy will be paramount.
Key Stats for Congaree
With this being a first-time event, there are no recent winners, no trends, and generally, no historical tournament data for us to tap into. However, there are some key areas to look at, rather, key stats. These stats, alongside the top 10 players in the field across the last eight events, are as follows:
With rough largely replaced by harsh, sandy areas, driving accuracy will be important this week. Those players who can regularly hit the fairway will save themselves lots of trouble, not to mention strokes, while those that are wild with the driver will be faced with difficult recovery shots from some truly wild lies.
Top 10: David Hearn, Ryan Blaum, Roberto Castro, Chez Reavie, Brian Stuard, Kramer Hickok, Ryan Armour, Brice Garnett, Mark Anderson, Satoshi Kodaira.
Strokes Gained: Off-the-tee
As mentioned above, missing the fairways is going to cost this week. When designing this course, Fazio didn’t skimp on fairway width, but he certainly made up for that ensuring that those players who miss the fairways are in deep doo-doo. Therefore, much like driving accuracy, strokes gained: off-the-tee will be a big factor.
Top 10: Jhonattan Vegas, Dustin Johnson, Mark Anderson, Brooks Koepka, Bronson Burgon, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tom Lewis, Hunter Mahan, Padraig Harrington, Keith Mitchell.
Strokes gained: Approach
Like the fairways, the greens at Congaree are surrounded by virtually no rough, but many are cunningly angled towards hazards, so approach play will be key, and thus strokes gained: the approach is certainly our friend this week.
Top 10: Tyrell Hatton, J.J. Spaun, Seamus Power, Kevin Chappell, Russell Knox, Matthew NeSmith, Wes Roach, Jason Dufner, Hank Lebioda, Ricky Barnes.
Strokes Gained: Around-the-green
Hitting greens from far out may not be the easiest thing to do this week, so those who can put themselves in strong putting positions from just off and around the greens should do well. Keeping strokes gained: around-the-green in our thinking in terms of fantasy picks is a must.
Top 10: Fabian Gomez, Seamus Power, Michael Gellerman, Chris Baker, Tommy Fleetwood, Alex Noren, Kramer Hickok, Brandt Snedeker, Danny Willett, Camillo Villegas.
Fantasy Draft Picks for The Palmetto
|Odds to win +1400|
|Draft Kings $10,200|
|When it comes to the expensive picks, you want the best players in the field on side, and the dominative and fiery Tyrrell Hatton, who currently ranks as the world number 11, is one of the absolute best in this line-up. His all-around game looks suited to a course that in places is very links-like, while his razor-sharp approach play is ideal for these greens.|
As we can see above, of those in the field, Hatton is the number one player in terms of strokes gained: approach from the last eight events, and that is a stat to be taken very seriously. Additional rankings of 15th for strokes gained: around the green, 2nd for strokes gained: tee-to-green, and 13th for strokes gained: total, make the man who has won twice in the last nine months a big player to keep onside.
|Odds to win +1800|
|Draft Kings $10,400|
|Another Englishman completes the must-have duo this week. In truth, it’s difficult to look beyond Matthew Fitzpatrick, who ticks lots of boxes. He’s yet to register a victory on the PGA Tour but has churned out some very respectable finishes this season, notching up four top-10s.|
In this field, the 26-year-old, who is currently the 18th best player on tour in terms of strokes gained: total, is very much one of the big dogs, ranking easily inside the top 25 for strokes gained: around-the-green, strokes gained: tee-to-green and strokes gained: putting. He goes into this event as the second-best player in the field when it comes to strokes gained: total.
Frankly, with lots of big names not featuring, this is a big opportunity for players like Hatton and Fitzpatrick to get right amongst the thick of it at the top of the leaderboard. As the saying goes, while the cats away, the mice can play. And this week’s must-haves are two mice that can certainly play.
|Odds to win +4500|
|Draft Kings $9,000|
|Onto the value plays and first up is Garrick Higgo, who is rapidly making headway in the world of top-tier golf. The big draw with Higgo is that he’s the best player in the field in terms of strokes gained: total over the last eight events, while his form in the last few months has simply been outstanding. Two wins in three events on the European tour between April and May earned the 22-year-old a place in the PGA Championship, his first event on the PGA Tour, where he gained valuable experience in making the cut.|
The 22-year-old, who could be destined for big things, has regularly played like a player destined for the top in recent times, which is why he comes into this event as the best player in terms of strokes gained: total (last eight events). The South African also sits comfortably in the top 25 for strokes gained: off-the-tee, strokes gained: approach, strokes gained: approach and strokes gained: tee-to-green. If you’re looking for someone just under that big price bracket to bolster your draft team this week, then look no further than Higgo.
|Odds to win +4000|
|Draft Kings $8,600|
|Further value can be found with Lucas Glover. Without a win on the PGA Tour since 2011, Lucas Glover probably won’t be a name on the end of every fantasy player’s tongue this week, but there are a few reasons why the 42-year-old could do well at Conagree. He comes in having performed well in terms of both strokes gained: off-the-tee (25th) and strokes gained: tee-to-green (9th), both of which are likely to be important here.|
He’s also turned in a couple of really pleasing efforts this term, most recently finishing tied for 8th at the Charles Schwab a fortnight ago, carding three rounds of -3 or better. Add in that he ranks 8th for strokes gained: total in this field and he looks a worthy addition at a relatively cheap price.
|Odds to win +5000|
|Draft Kings $8,400|
|In terms of both DraftKings price and sportsbook odds, Snedeker probably belongs in the value plays section, but the fact that he hasn’t won for so long, coupled with the fact that he’s quietly ticked along in recent times, shaping as though he may just be nearing a big performance, means he simply must go in as a sleeper.|
Two top 10’s since April, Snedeker ranks well in plenty of key areas this week, ranking 8th for strokes gained: around the green, 19th for strokes gained: tee-to-green, 8th for strokes gained: putting, and wait for it, 6th for strokes gained: total. Such figures belong to players worth slightly more than $8,400, and so for me, Sneds the sleeper is one to include.
What do you think of my forecast and picks? If you disagree, how do you come to your draft picks? I’m always curious to hear from fellow enthusiasts and golf bettors.