This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
PALMETTO CHAMPIONSHIP AT CONGAREE
Winner's Share: $1.314M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the winner
Location: Ridgeland, S.C.
Course: Congaree Golf Club
2020 champion: None
What if they threw a golf tournament and nobody came?
It's not quite that bad, but almost. One week before the U.S. Open, only eight top-50 golfers in the world rankings are on hand for the one and only Palmetto Championship at Congaree. "The one and only" sounds impressive, as in "The one and only Lady Gaga!" But it's not that type of "one and only." It's literally one and only – a one-time replacement for the now two-time canceled Canadian Open, which should be back on the schedule next year.
The star this week, besides Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka – who give the tournament field at least a hint of cachet – will be the course. Congaree Golf Club is a 2017 Tom Fazio design situated in the South Carolina Lowcountry that already has soared to No. 39 among Golf Digest's top 100 courses in the U.S. For the TV viewer, it will have similarities to The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island – minus the ocean.
It is extremely long and very flat with little rough, wide fairways and sandy waste areas almost everywhere. Thinking links? Yeah, kinda, though there are some trees, water on 10 holes and forced carries over wetlands and native lands. The golfers' beloved Bermudagrass greens are large with run-offs, so putter could be the club of choice around the greens.
How long is long? Get this: There's a 230-yard par-3, a 540-yard par-4 and a 645-yard par-5. All three par-5s are at least 580 yards. The 540-yard eighth is the signature hole with an S-shaped fairway. When you go 540 yards, there's plenty of time for some twists and turns.
The official golf course superintendents' sheet said, "Course is built to play firm and fast similar to sandbelt courses in Australia." We'll see how fast and firm it plays with rain in the forecast much of this week. The sheet also noted that the staff had less than three months to prepare the course after it was named to replace the Canadian Open.
Okay, on to the field. As mentioned, DJ – a South Carolina native – and Koepka are here, which is great. Especially if they could be paired together come Sunday. They are the only two participants who reside in the top 10 of the OWGR. Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Fitzpatrick and Sungjae Im (natch) make up the top-25 list. Throw in Harris English, Tommy Fleetwood and South Carolina's Kevin Kisner, and that's it for the top 50. South Carolina native Lucas Glover is the "Congaree Ambassador" and therefore presumably knows the course better than anyone. The Korn Ferry Tour is well-represented in the maxed-out 156-man field, which is also dotted with 10 guys in the dreaded Reorder Category 34-38. Not to embarrass anybody, but we're talking George McNeill, David Lingmerth, Charlie Beljan, Richard S. Johnson ... you get the picture. There is also Harrison Frazar – the\= Frazar who is 49 years old, has been on a major medical extension forever and who hasn't played since 2015. Why is he here? Well, he turns 50 in less than two months.
There are a handful of young guys worth watching: Garrick Higgo, the 54th-ranked South African who has won three times on the European Tour; Wilco Nienaber, the 143rd-ranked South African who will be in the U.S. Open as the Order of Merit leader on the Sunshine Tour; Bryson Nimmer, a young pro with a recent Korn Ferry top-25 and native of Ridgeland; John Pak, the winner of the Ben Hogan and Fred Haskin Awards at Florida State who made the cut at the U.S. Open last year and is making his pro debut; Davis Thompson, the former Georgia Bulldog who had a top-25 at the 2019 RSM Classic and also will make his PGA Tour pro debut; and Texas Longhorn amateur Cole Hammer, who has played a handful of PGA Tour events. All but Nienaber and Hammer have pre-tournament interviews scheduled with reporters.
Weather-wise, it's going to be hot and rainy. Thunderstorms are in the forecast for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Pro tip: If you're going to the tournament, go Friday. Temperatures will be in the 90s most of the week. The wind will be light.
Fun Palmetto State factoid: This will be the third Tour event in South Carolina this year – in fact, in the past two months. There was the annual RBC Heritage on Hilton Head Island in April and last month's PGA Championship on The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.
Key Stats to Winning at Congaree
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee/Driving Distance
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green/Scrambling
• Strokes Gained: Putting
We are flying a bit blind this week with a new course. But it's safe to say that length off the tee – and everywhere – will be an asset. With run-offs around the greens, getting on the green in regulation is Job No. 1. But, if not, Job No. 2 is scrambling. And that could be with any variety of clubs, including putter. The Bermudagrass greens are on the large side, which tends to favor the better putters. Despite the sheer length of the course, expect a bit of a shootout. The over/under on the winning score as set by golfodds.com is 267.5, 16.5 under par.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Brooks Koepka - $11,100 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 8-1)
The way Dustin Johnson has been playing, he's not worth the top price of $11,400. If Koepka isn't prematurely looking ahead to next week's U.S. Open, there's a good chance he's worth his price. He has a win and two runners-up in his past six starts. Based on his showing at the PGA, both his knees are healthy.
Matt Fitzpatrick - $10,400 (16-1) }
Fitzpatrick has played 10 times on Tour in 2021 and has four top-10s and seven top-25s, all in fields far stronger than this one. He's taken to South Carolina, with a tie for fourth at Harbour Town and for 23rd at the PGA. He gets it done largely with his short game, as he's ranked 39th in Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green and 19th in SG: Putting.
Tyrrell Hatton - $10,200 (14-1)
Hatton won at the beginning of the year in Abu Dhabi and has five subsequent top-25s, including at Bay Hill and the Masters. He's ranked 11th on Tour in SG: Approach.
Tommy Fleetwood - $9,500 (25-1)
This has not been a great year for Fleetwood, but his game should align with this course. His traditionally-strong iron game has not been what it usually is, but he's also fourth on Tour in SG: Around-the-Green. Fleetwood was 10th at Bay Hill and 14th at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Tier 2 Values
Ian Poulter - $9,200 (40-1)
If Poulter gets it done this week – and he's here, so we think he will – it will be thanks to his elite short game. He's ranked 21st on Tour in SG: Around-the-Green and seventh in Putting. He's coming off a tie for third at the Charles Schwab Challenge and also notched top-30s at both the PGA and Masters.
Garrick Higgo - $9,000 (50-1)
The just-turned-22-year-old South African made his debut on U.S. soil at the PGA and impressively made the cut. He already has six professional wins, including three on the European Tour since September. That's vaulted him way up the world rankings.
Lucas Glover - $8,600 (35-1)
It might be a no-brainer to go for Glover, the South Carolina native who is the "Congaree Ambassador." But not if he wasn't playing well. He has made 11 of 14 cuts this year with a pair of top-10s, both of them in Texas at the Valero Texas Open and Charles Schwab Challenge.
Brandt Snedeker - $8,400 (50-1)
After struggling throughout 2020 and into 2021, he's been showing signs lately. Snedeker has made five straight cuts, with three of them top-20s, including a tie for sixth at the Valero event and for 11th at the Valspar Championship. He still has an above-average short game, sitting 51st in SG: Around-the-Green and 39th in Putting.
Tier 3 Values
Rafa Cabrera Bello - $7,800 (80-1)
Once the No. 16 player in the world but now 133rd, the Spaniard has started to turn it around after a disastrous missed cut at the alternate-field event in the Dominican Republic. Cabrera Bello has made five of seven worldwide cuts since then, including his last three, with a top-25 at the AT&T Byron Nelson.
Pat Perez - $7,700 (80-1)
Perez has made four straight cuts and seven of his past eight. He's ranked top-100 in five of the six major SG categories, all but Off-the-Tee. And he's ranked 24th in scrambling.
Vincent Whaley - $7,700 (80-1)
The 26-year-old who was still playing Korn Ferry events at this time a year ago has made nine straight cuts. He has run off four straight top-30s, with a tie for 20th at Colonial last time out the best of the bunch.
Ben Martin - $7,600 (60-1)
Martin has made six of his past seven cuts, highlighted by a tie for 11th at Quail Hollow. The South Carolina native and Clemson alum is ranked 13th in scrambling and 37th in SG: Putting.
Kramer Hickok - $7,000 (150-1)
Hickok is coming off a tie for 14th at Colonial, his third top-25 this year. He is ranked 54th on Tour in greens in regulation and 44th in SG: Around-the-Green.
Brice Garnett - $7,000 (150-1)
Garnett has two top-10s this season – albeit both in alternate events – but he also has a top-25 at The Honda Classic and has made three of his past four cuts overall. He's ranked 31st in greens in regulation and 25th in SG: Putting. With those numbers, why is he priced so low?
Hank Lebioda - $6,900 (150-1)
The left-hander's strong suit has been his iron play, as he ranks 30th in SG: Approach and 29th in greens in regulation. Lebioda has made three straight cuts, including a pair of top-20s at the Valspar event and the AT&T Byron Nelson.
Mark Anderson - $6,600 (200-1)
This seems like an odd price for a golfer ranked in the 600s of the OWGR, but Anderson arrives with three straight made cuts, including at the Byron Nelson event, after missing six straight to start the season. He is ranked 16th on Tour in greens in regulation.