2018 PGA Championship Course Preview

PGA Championship 2018 Preview

Course: Bellerive Country Club, St. Louis, Missouri

-Par 70, 7316 yards

-Prior Tournaments Played Here:

-2008 BMW Championship (FedEx Cup Event; smaller field with no cut); won by Camilo Villegas at -15 (very soft conditions)

-2004 U.S. Senior Open

-1992 PGA Championship

-Fairways: Zoysiagrass (from the redesign many years ago)

-Average Width: Around 25-30 yards

-Rough: Various Tall Fescues (“Winning Colors” fescue)

-Greens: Bentgrass with average stimp around 11-11.5

-Avg. Green Size is around 7,500 sq. ft. which is slightly larger than usual

-Field: 156 players; Cut is Top 70 and ties with NO MDF

– Not part of the normal PGA Champ rotation

Bellerive Country Club

It’s always a little bit more difficult to write a riveting course preview and examine every possible angle with a “new” course (not technically new, but it’s not in the rotation) where we can’t lean on course history and narratives like normal. This year’s “Glory’s Last Shot,” at least at first glance, seems like it has the potential to be a tougher test than usual as the PGA Championship is normally thought of as the easiest setup, a birdie fest, and a low winning score. The final major of the season, as well as the final time this tournament takes place in August (as it moves to May in the 2018-2019 season), goes to St. Louis this week to take on Bellerive Country Club for the first PGA Championship here since 1992. That championship saw Nick Price win the first of his 3 majors as he edged out the likes of Nick Faldo, Gene Sauers, John Cook, and Jim Gallagher Jr. and won at 6 under par (-6). The course has gone under numerous renovations since then with the most significant being a year-long process in 2005-2006 in which Robert Trent Jones’, the original architect of the course, son Rees Jones added a lake onto the course, redid the grass types, and added/shaped up bunkers. The course now consists of about 75 sand bunkers, 7 water hazards, fairways that average around 26 yards in width, and greens that are about 7,500 sq. ft. on average. Normally on TOUR we see Bent or Bermuda grass fairways but the Zoysiagrass in the fairways and around the greens makes the ball roll faster and easier into the surrounding bunkers. Speaking of bunkers, this will really test the best players in the world on how well they can make sand saves. The average greenside bunker shot, via one of the PGA officials is around 25 yards. Furthermore, we could easily see numerous bunker shots that are 100-150 feet. I don’t care how good you are or how talented you are out of the bunker, that is the hardest shot in the game in my opinion and I could see definite strokes lost on many of these shots. When trying to figure out what type of game is necessary here we can try to look at some course comps as provided by quotes from futureoffantasy.com (follow Josh Culp @futureoffantasy on Twitter) in which some players pointed to Baltusrol and Winged Foot. Further, we can look at some Rees Jones redesigns such as East Lake, the host of the TOUR championship, Bethpage Black, host of previous U.S. Opens and the Barclays in 2016, as well as Medinah, Atlanta Athletic Club, and others. I think it’s important to point out that Baltusrol was the site of the PGA Championship just 2 years ago as it was won by Jimmy Walker who edged out Jason Day. Let’s look at the Bellerive official scorecard:

Bellerive Course 1

Bell 3

Above I provided 2 tables this week as I wanted to put the normal par per hole and length, but I wanted to give some notes on each hole, especially the significant ones, and also provide 3 significant tournaments played here and how they played each time. You’ll notice that the long Par 4 4th, playing at around 520 yards, will be an extremely tough test as over the 3 tournaments it’s averaged about .6 strokes over par. This hole as well as the 10th, as noted, are very difficult to make par if you miss the fairway so accuracy will be paramount. The 18th should provide a great finishing hole as well as a shot out of the rough will be a scrambling par. As is consistent with most courses on TOUR, scoring on the Par 5s, with there only being two, is so important. More than that, with six Par 4s over 450+ yards, I’m giving a slight advantage to the bombers this week. We’ll get into that below and on the DK preview as well.

Trends and Key Stats

It’s always fun to look at the past winners and key stats so let’s take a walk down narrative street to try and compile a list of people that could win. Trends that I see as actually meaningful:

  1. Last 8 winners ranked Top 60 in Scoring Average over the course of the season
  2. Last 8 winners ranked Top 60 in “All-Around Ranking” over the course of the season
  3. Last 8 winners ranked Top 60 in Birdie Average over the course of the season
  4. Last 8 winners had a Top 25 or better in their previous start
  5. Every winner since 2006 played in the WGC – Bridgestone the week before and finished no worse than 28th (before last year, it was no worse than 22nd)

Other somewhat important trends and one ridiculous one:

  1. Previous Top 10 in a PGA Championship
  2. OWGR Ranking of Top 25 or better
  3. Have a victory in the 2018 season
  4. Finished Top 10 or better in 1 of the last 2 starts
  5. Age 23 to 37 (inclusive)

So, what’s it going to take to compete? No players on TOUR really have trouble with distance but I definitely think there is an edge to the bombers. More than ever, similar the WGC – Bridgestone, SG: T2G will be supreme. If you want some more narrative, the last 15 winners or so all averaged 290+ off the tee (who doesn’t average that these days?). Hitting these greens and being able to scramble when you don’t hit a GIR will also be key as bogeys are normally a killer at a PGA Championship. It’s hard to predict how low the winning score will get this week as we all know if there’s soft conditions, guys will tear it up and maybe they get to that BMW Championship 2008 winning score of -15. However, I’m hoping, and expecting, the winning score should be around -8 to -10.

Stats I think I’ll be targeting include SG: Ball Striking (Player’s rank in both total driving AND GIR), SG: APP (with emphasis on 125-150 and 200+), Par 4 Scoring on 450+, GIRs Gained, Scrambling, BoB Gained, Driving Distance Gained, Fairways Gained, and Putts per GIR. Please note that there should always be some emphasis on SG: T2G but since that is used each and every week I don’t include it in stats that I’m “targeting.” I will go into more depth on my finalized stats, players who’s form I like, course history, and more in my DFS article in the next day or two.

Long Shot Bets I Like (**I have not bet these but think they’re great value**)

Kevin Na 150/1

Ryan Moore 125/1

J.B. Holmes 150/1

Ian Poulter 100/1

 

That’s all for the course preview! Follow me on Twitter @sscherman and follow @AmateurHour_Pod too for picks, podcasts with FIRE guests, and weekly picks to win.

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