Daily Fantasy Golf Course Primer: PGA Championship

The PGA Championship is on tap this weekend, and the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort in South Carolina takes center stage. We last saw Kiawah in the 2012 edition of the PGA, with Rory McIlroy winning by eight strokes in one of the most dominant major championship performances in history. With a win his last time out, McIlroy arrives at Kiawah as the betting favorite.

A dominant performance from one of the game’s greatest drivers actually had more to do with his performance on the greens. Rory needed just 24 putts in his bogey-free closing round, nailing an 18-footer to put the exclamation point on a Sunday 66. He showed two weeks ago at Quail Hollow that he’s still capable of catching fire with the flat stick.

Driving will still be plenty important, as Kiawah Island stretches to 7,876 yards, quite a bit longer than when originally designed by Pete and Alice Dye to host the 1991 Ryder Cup. Length is a given and accurate drives are crucial for success in major championships, but unlike most major venues with thick rough, Kiawah features dunes and unplayable areas that will swallow up any truly wayward shots. There are no bunkers, per se, but several holes are bordered with sand.

Conditions look mostly sunny this week, but wind is the big story at Kiawah. The second round in 2012 shows just how seriously we need to consider the brisk Atlantic breezes. With gusts exceeding 30 mph, the average score was an unbelievable 78. We’ll know more about this week’s forecast as we get closer to tee times, but every golfer in the field will be affected by the wind and it absolutely must be factored in as part of our process this week.

Let’s dig into the course and see what stats we can use to build our daily fantasy lineups this week.

Course and Tournament Info

Course: The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort
Par: 72
Distance: 7,876 yards
Fairways/Rough: Paspalum fairways, bermudagrass overseeded wit ryegrass in the rough
Greens: Paspalum

A fast start is essential at Kiawah, as the course opens with a 396-yard par 4, a 557-yard par 5, and a 390-yard par 4. It only gets harder from there, and failing to take advantage of the opening holes could be a death knell. Likewise, the closing is especially brutal, with a 223-yard par 3 and a 514-yard par 4 coming home that will ensure drama as long as no one is as far ahead as McIlroy was in 2012.

Kiawah is a different animal altogether from what we typically see on Tour, a paspalum putting surfaces are seen only in a few alternate events that very few of the top players participate in. We can hardly look to birdie fests at Coco Beach Golf and Country Club (Puerto Rico Open), Corales Golf Club (Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship), or El Camaleon (Mayakoba Golf Classic).

It’s been a year and a half since we saw Nine Bridges on Jeju Island, South Korea, but the CJ CUP has produced quality champions (and former PGA Championship winners) each time it was held there. Closer to home, Dye will make TPC Sawgrass come to mind immediately, and while the layouts are quite different there is at least the high variance connection. THE PLAYERS often produces some big numbers, and Kiawah promises the same as danger lurks everywhere. And finally, Augusta National uses pinestraw in lieu of the thick rough seen at most courses on Tour, and constant elevation changes and undulating greens cement the connection.

Key Stats

These stats have proven vital to success in the PGA Championship at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort.

Key Stats for the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island
Total Strokes Gained
Strokes Gained: Off The Tee
Strokes Gained: Approach
Birdies or Better Gained
Performance in Windy Conditions

We’ll start with a pretty simple one. Total strokes gained — whether eying the season stats or a 50-round sample — is an easy way to get a feel for who the best players have been this year. Over the past decade, all but two PGA Championship winners had a win earlier in their winning season. Jimmy Walker (2016) and Jason Dufner (2013) are the lone examples, and the runner-up to Walker was Jason Day who had won THE PLAYERS and the Arnold Palmer Invitational earlier that season.

The best golfers are usually the best ballstrikers, so we’ll eye both off the tee and approach games this week. We need both distance and accuracy with the driver this week, but as the best players tend to be more in line with the former we’d expect the winner to be a golfer with a reputation of a bomber rather than a fairway finder, and this is the week he finds the short grass more often than his averages.

Approach shots lead to birdie putts, and we’ll need birdies this week as there will be plenty of bogeys out there. Bouncing back or staying aggressive is a must, or else you’ll fall too far behind to catch up. This brings us to performance in the wind. We’ll combine all rounds designated by FantasyNational as either “Moderate” or “Windy AF” to get a more consistent sample, and when the variance ticks up as it does here we have to find some way to keep our feet on the ground. Golfers who keep their cool when it gets howling are more likely to hold on at Kiawah Island.

Course History Studs

There was no competition with McIlroy’s 13-under par, but were it not for Rory it would have been quite a finish! A few familiar names were in the race for runner-up, including Keegan Bradley, Ian Poulter, and Justin Rose who were among those tied for third.

Steve Stricker, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, and Padraig Harrington (a very-2012 list!) all finished inside the top 20.

As for recent PGA Championships, Brooks Koepka has the best recent record with two wins and two other top-fives. Dustin Johnson has runner-ups in each of the past two editions, though like Koepka he has some form and injury concerns this week.

Jason Day hasn’t finished outside the top 25 at the PGA Championship since 2012, with five top 10s in that span including his major championship victory in 2015. He was fourth in 2020.

Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama would have a tall task to win consecutive majors, but he’s always been reliable at the PGA Championship. He’s never finished worse than 37th and has two top fives, in 2016 and 2017.


Mike Rodden is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Mike Rodden also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mike_rodden. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.