After K.H Lee dazzled for the second year in a row at the AT&T Byron Nelson, the PGA Tour reaches its first major of the year – the PGA Championship. The field is stacked, the course promises to be punishing, and that means that bettors will be salivating over where to place their chips. Here’s your ultimate betting preview.
The lay of the land
Southern Hills Country Club makes its first PGA Tour appearance since 2007. It’s been renovated since then and comes in with lower-than-average green sizes, only two par fives that are both daunting in length, and greens tucked safely behind creeks and bunkers. This course is going to be a very different beast to what we’ve seen in recent weeks and will demand golfers to be clinical on approach and composed when getting out of trouble. Smartly avoiding that trouble could well be the key to success here, rather than actively trying to be aggressive and go over it.
Scottie Scheffler is unsurprisingly the odds-on favorite here and it’s honestly hard not to back him. The world #1 and reigning Masters Champion not only has a fantastic recent run of form, but has historically performed well at courses that demand an extra care to detail around the greens.
In my weighted model, he ranks second around the green in those correlated courses dating back to 2016 and be it in recent form or in the correlated stats, he hasn’t lost strokes in any counted category.
If this sounds confusing, don’t worry. The long and short of it is that I was up all night making a spreadsheet that not even I understand properly, but Scheffler deserves to be the head of the table.
He’s tied with John Rahm for odds at +1200, but I would fade Rahmbo here. His win recently came against a depleted field and I have him as my 9th best golfer in terms of a fit for this event. That’s not to say he’s not better than that, because he is, but if you weigh his recent form and his production at similar courses, he isn’t strong around the green in either, and that’s worrying as a favorite.
Justin Thomas comes in behind this trio and he may be the most appealing option. He’s yet to win on tour this season but has been punching in close calls like there’s no tomorrow, and has been one of the best approach players of anyone. Of the three top dogs, JT gives the best blend of value and prodcution.
The next tier
It’s hard not to love Jordan Spieth at +1600 this week. A win and a second-place do all the talking, but he’s achieved those results while still leaving a lot of meat on the bone with the putter. There may be no better short-game specialist on tour right now and if he can just find some ground on smaller greens, then he will absolutely be in the running come Sunday.
Hideki Matsuyama is an appealing name. He’s currently +2800 and he’s endured a season of injury-related setbacks, but has been heating up recently with a 3rd and a 14th place finish. He’s still one of the best ball-strikers out there and has a strong history around courses with similar challenges. I have him ranked second only to Spieth in shots-gained on approach around these courses.
Rory McIlroy is bound to get some love this weekend and he should. He’s been playing some of his best golf and has been gaining on approach with ease, ranking second only to Scottie in my model over the last 24 rounds. However, +1800 might be a little too pricey considering Hideki grades out a little better and his odds are higher.
The Elephant in the room
Tiger Woods is obviously the name to watch here. After his return at the Masters, Tiger is likely to be competing this weekend and Vegas wasted no time in drumming up his odds for bettors to hammer down. He’s +6500 which is pretty good, but he’s in the same sort of range as Max Homa, who won two weeks ago, Tyrrell Hatton who has been red-hot, and players like Russell Henley.
As much as we’d all love to see Tiger thrive, the reality of the situation is that this field isn’t as weak as The Masters in terms of a struggle to make the cut. There aren’t 20 names at the bottom who don’t play on Tour and are likely to miss it. It’s going to be stiffer for Tiger to squeak through, and taking those odds (-115 to miss the cut) could be profitable.
There are two names I really like here. Alex Noren has jumped off the screen in two consecutive weeks. A 12th place finish at the AT&T reinforced that decision to play him, doubling down after a missed cut previously. At a price of +13000, the fact he grades out as my fifth best-fitted golfer is almost too good to pass up. He’s a great undervalued longshot play.
I also really like Shane Lowry. He’s not a sleeper as such at +2500, but he’s going to get overlooked due to the strength of this field. His putting has been brilliant this year and he’s been extremely impressive around the greens. There’s some definite value to be had here.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Emil Lippe