2017 PGA Championship Preview: Quail Hollow Best Bets - Duds (8/9/17)
The last major of the year, the PGA Championship, heads to Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina this week. PGA Tour players will not be strangers to Quail Hollow and its demands as they play an annual event there, the Wells Fargo Championship.
Quail Hollow is long, tight, and will require a great week of driving the golf ball. There are a number of longer par 4s that play over 450 yards, including a few that could be set up to play over 500 yards. Thus, approach shots, especially with longer irons, will be an important factor this week. You'll want the bombers off the tee who can knock it in tight. One would not expect the greens to play particularly difficult considering the length of the course and the flatter putting surfaces.
I'll be doing a three-part series, instead of one longer article, on who to play and avoid this week at Quail Hollow. There will be a simple approach to finding the best options: the demand of the course, the correlating aspect to each player's game, and recent success, or lack thereof. Today, we'll focus on long shots that match up with the course who have a chance to win.
Duds, for the sake of this study, will be those who have current odds below 100 to 1 that I don't expect to perform well this week. Odds will be courtesy of Bovada.
For many of the reasons we chose our favorites and long shots, will be the same logic to choosing the duds this week. Kuchar fits in with the duds. Though he's played well as of late, Kuchar is a soft-fade driver of the golf ball that doesn't fly particularly far. His average driver travels just 286 yards. Quail Hollow's fairway and rough has been saturated thus far, meaning there will be little roll out on tee shots. Given that and the combination of speedy greens, despite the rest of the course being wet, it will be difficult for Kuchar to stick tee shots in close when hitting two clubs more on approach shots than the longer hitters. On top of that, Kuchar is an average approach shot player at 34'7” on shots 175 to 200 yards. His odds still aren't great for how well he's played lately at 55 to 1, but he's still not going to be worth the price in my opinion.
Stenson is at a unique disadvantage at Quail Hollow. As most golf fans know, Stenson's trusty three wood is his defacto driver. He's quite accurate and successful with his three wood, but the distance disparity can hurt him. His average drive of 293 yards will sit him back quite a bit compared to other players, not to mention if he's hitting three wood off the tee. Though he is a plus long iron player, Stenson will almost certainly miss a few more greens than the other top players this week, and his 54.4% up and down rate is going to set him back. Could his putting save him or keep him competitive? Sure. I just don't believe plus putting will play a huge factor this week relative to the average golfer. The strokes are going to be made up off the tee box and on approach shots. Stenson has missed the cut in five of his last eight events. In those events he didn't miss the cut, he finished T11, T16, and T17. There haven't been many folks jumping on Stenson this week, and I won't either.
Zach Johnson does happen to be a name I've seen thrown around this week due to his short game, recent results, and hot putter. Johnson has missed one cut in his last five events and finished inside the top-30 in the other four events including a solo second and T5. Like the others above, Johnson is merely an average driver of the golf ball despite hitting nearly 68% of fairways this season. The obvious issue is Johnson's 137th ranked distance off the tee. He's going to have a number of longer shots from 175 to 200 yards where he ranks 112th with a proximity to the hole of 33'10”. Zach Johnson isn't getting much respect in the betting market, either, but don't reach out to play him on the board. He's a solid fade for DFS, as well.
I'm lumping in Jordan Spieth with duds not because I particularly expect him to struggle, I just don't think he's worth his price on the board or in DFS for similar reasons as above. Sure, Spieth's game fits almost anywhere with his long iron abilities and current putting stroke. However, this is a bomber's course and Spieth isn't quite there with Rory, DJ, Rahm, or even his good friend, Justin Thomas. For example, the practice round featured a long-drive hole. The longer hitters, with no fairway rollout, were hitting their driver between 305 and 315 yards. Spieth's high draw only traveled about 290; that's a two-club difference, at least, on a par-4. Where Spieth can make up the gap is his long iron play. He ranks first on tour in shots gained on approach shots and 8th overall in approach shots from 175 to 200 yards. His proximity to the hole at that distance is similar to other's at 150 to 175 yards. Thus, he can compete at their level; however, the soft fairways combined with the lightning-fast greens will come back to hurt him when hitting five and six irons into tight pins on par-4s. Whereas, players like Rory, DJ, Rahm, and Thomas can flight higher seven and eight irons into those pins without having them continue through the greens. I do think Spieth will be around, but with his price tag in the market and in DFS, you want him to be front-running all week. If Spieth does happen to pull this out, it'll be his most impressive major victory, potentially his most impressive victory of his career.