The year’s final major – and the last PGA Championship in August – is upon us.
Defending champion Justin Thomas, who happens to also be coming off a victory Sunday at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, headlines the field for the 100th PGA Championship.
Bellerive Country Club, a par 70 playing at 7,316 yards, will be the host. The last time the Robert Trent Jones design hosted a major was the 1992 PGA, won by Nick Price. Gary Player won the 1965 U.S. Open at Bellerive, as well.
Bellerive plays long and places a premium on finding the fairway. The rough is thick and the fairway bunkers are quite severe. Note that Zoysia grass is used in the fairways, which will give players some nice lies if they drive it straight. The bentgrass greens are big, averaging 8,200 square feet, which means proximity to the hole and lag putting will be especially key.
Some stats to consider: strokes gained off-the-tee, strokes gained approach-the-green, proximity to the hole and three-putt avoidance.
Without further delay, here are my top 35 fantasy-golf options for the PGA:
1. Dustin Johnson: Far and away the best driver of the golf ball on Tour, ranking first in SGOTT. He is also second in three-putt avoidance, fourth in proximity and eighth in SGATG. Add in the fact that he’s won twice and finished third twice more in his last five starts, and DJ should be the clear favorite this week.
2. Justin Thomas: Coming off a victory at the WGC-Bridgestone, where he showcased some strong iron play. The defending PGA champ is now third in SGATG and T-42 in proximity to go along with being T-28 in SGOTT.
3. Brooks Koepka: Now 14th in SGOTT and we all know he shows up in big events. Won second straight U.S. Open title in June and has three total top-5s in WGCs and majors combined this season. Iron play is heating up, too.
4. Rory McIlroy: T-12 or better in five of last seven worldwide starts, though has struggled closing. Did post a strong Sunday at Carnoustie, though. He is 10th in SGOTT and his putting has been improving each week. Did dip 21 spots to T-60 in SGATG after last week.
5. Henrik Stenson: Has been an enigma for much of this season. Strong statistically – second in SGATG, T-5 in three-putt avoidance, T-9 in proximity and 12th in SGOTT – but hasn’t won this season on either tour. Another positive, though, is he has two top-6s in three major starts this year.
6. Tommy Fleetwood: Englishman ranks eighth in SGOTT and is a better iron player than his No. 49 ranking in SGATG would lead people to believe. Struggled Sunday at Firestone, but still managed to post his third straight finish of T-14 or better.
7. Jon Rahm: Has missed his last two major cuts, but Bellerive might fit the young Spaniard better. He ranks second in SGOTT and his iron play is on the rise as he jumped 35 spots to No. 93 after last week. He’ll need to putt better, but he looked great before final-round struggled at Firestone (T-17).
8. Justin Rose: Is he healthy? That’s the big question as Rose withdrew from the WGC-Bridgestone with a back injury. If he’s good to go, he’ll look to post his sixth straight top-10 finish worldwide. Ranks T-15 in SGOTT and 26th in SGATG.
9. Jordan Spieth: Took a step back at Firestone, finishing T-60 after a T-9 at Carnoustie. The culprit last week, though, wasn’t his putting but rather his ballstriking. He’s now T-23 in proximity, 39th in SGATG and 40th in SGOTT. Still could complete the career grand slam on Sunday.
10. Rickie Fowler: Not great off the tee this season, ranking 68th in SGOTT, but he’s back inside the top 40 in both SGATG and proximity. Also is T-22 in three-putt avoidance. Speaking of avoidance, Fowler needs to avoid the blow-up round that has cost him better finishes recently – 73 in Round 3 at British (T-28), 74 in Round 2 at Bridgestone (T-17), 84 in Round 3 at U.S. Open (T-20).
11. Tony Finau: Has finished in the top 10 in all three majors this season, and is a strong candidate to win among the players still searching for major victory No. 1. Ranks 22nd in SGATG and T-28 in SGOTT, and surprisingly is T-50 in three-putt avoidance.
12. Jason Day: Riding streak of three straight top-20 finishes. Ballstriking has been lacking this season and he dropped nine spots to No. 42 in SGOTT after last week. But his putting and short game will keep him in any tournament. He is first in strokes gained putting and 11th in three-putt avoidance.
13. Ian Poulter: Iron play will keep him in it this week as he ranks 20th in SGATG and T-17 in proximity. A sneaky T-38 in three-putt avoidance, too. Has been T-12 or better in two straight starts as he continues to fight for a Ryder Cup spot.
14. Paul Casey: Iron play has been stellar as he ranks seventh in SGATG and is up 40 spots to T-55 in proximity after last week. Has five top-20s in his last seven worldwide starts.
15. Thorbjorn Olesen: One of hottest golfers in the game with five finishes of T-12 or better, including a win and three other top-6s, in his last seven worldwide starts.
16. Patrick Cantlay: Another possible first-time major champion come Sunday. T-15 or better in four of last five starts, including T-6 at Firestone. Ranks 11th in SGOTT and T-31 in SGATG.
17. Zach Johnson: He might be 116th in SGOTT and short with the driver, but never count ZJ out in majors. He has finished T-19 or better in five straight starts, including two majors. He ranks T-6 in proximity, T-16 in three-putt avoidance and 28th in SGATG.
18. Bryson DeChambeau: Has had a week to decompress on the course after some distractions and should be ready to go as he battles for an automatic Ryder Cup berth. Ranks 17th in SGOTT and 18th in SGATG, but is also T-187 in three-putt avoidance despite some big improvements with the putter this season. Nothing better than T-25 in majors this season.
19. Alex Noren: Aside from win in France, he’s been good but not great since May. He dropped from 15th to 40th in SGATG after last week and is now outside the top 50 in SGOTT. But he’s still a solid option and should like the Zoysia fairways (Oklahoma State’s home course, Karsten Creek, has the same fairway grass).
20. Keegan Bradley: Fourth in Canada in his last start, though nothing much in two major starts this season. Still, he’s a past PGA champ and has a game for this course. He ranks 48th in SGOTT, but is first in SGATG and fifth in proximity.
21. Kevin Chappell: Playing much better since switch to Sean Foley. Ranks 13th in SGOTT and 27th in SGATG, an improvement of 13 spots from last week. Should draw on T-6 at Carnoustie.
22. Gary Woodland: T-17 finish at Firestone was his best showing since February’s win in Phoenix. Strong off the tee, ranking fifth in SGOTT, and is around the top 50 in SGATG and proximity.
23. Tiger Woods: Ended his top-6 streak at two with T-31 at Firestone. Looked a bit fatigue by Sunday. Ranks sixth in SGATG and T-26 in proximity, but he’ll need to find more fairways this week to be in contention.
24. Bubba Watson: Has two MCs and a T-31 since the Greenbrier, so there is some risk here. However, Bubba is fourth in strokes gained off-the-tee and should love the tree lines at Bellerive.
25. Rafa Cabrera Bello: T-17 at Firestone was by far his best finish since before the U.S. Open. He had a great ballstriking week, rising to 54th in SGOTT, T-23 in proximity and staying at ninth in SGATG.
26. Webb Simpson: Ranks T-5 in three-putt avoidance and 19th in SGATG, but is also 144th in SGOTT. Still, he’s showed up in big events this season, winning the Players and finishing in the top 20 in all three majors so far.
27. Louis Oosthuizen: Has been solid in majors since last year’s T-2 at the PGA – T-12 at Masters, T-16 at U.S. Open and T-28 at British Open. Starting to gain momentum with five straight top-30 finishes. Ranks T-2 in proximity and 31st in SGOTT.
28. Ryan Moore: T-12 at Carnoustie in his last start and is solid in the ballstriking categories – 24th in SGATG and 34th in SGOTT.
29. Patrick Reed: Has had a nice year in the majors, winning the Masters and placing solo fourth at Shinnecock Hills. Bellerive doesn’t quite suit his game as well, but his iron play (38th in SGATG) and short game is good enough to give him a chance.
30. Francesco Molinari: Looked a bit rusty at Firestone, where he finished T-39. Winning the Claret Jug might do that to a player. Molinari isn’t a bomber, which Bellerive should favor, but he is seventh in SGOTT and 16th in SGATG, so he’ll give himself plenty of looks.
31. Ben An: Sleeper play here as An has been runner-up twice since the Memorial. He is T-15 in SGOTT and T-31 in SGATG.
32. Xander Schauffele: T-6 and T-2 in his last two major starts, and driving is a strength of his game. He ranks 50th in SGOTT, though had a rough ballstriking week at Firestone.
33. Adam Scott: Worth a pick for his iron play and not his putter. He is 13th in SGATG, but 204th in three-putt avoidance. Also is 36th in SGOTT. Has just one top-10 since June 2017.
34. Thomas Pieters: Starting to show some life as he was T-6 in Scotland and T-28 at British. Plenty long enough, but needs to be straighter to contend.
T-35. Kyle Stanley: Ranks 19th in SGOTT, but has been struggling with his putting, especially on short putts. Still, he’ll have lots of confidence from last week’s runner-up at Firestone.
T-35. Luke List: Yet to show up in biggest events, but he is third in SGOTT. Also posted T-24 at Firestone despite 71-73 weekend.