Pro Golf Weekly

Best Bets: PGA Championship

This week’s gathering of the world’s best golfers at Bellerive Country Club for the 100th edition of the PGA Championship has the looks of a goldmine, with a wide-open field and a plethora of high-end athletes sporting shockingly long gambling odds.

Capturing the Wanamaker Trophy will be a life-changing event for this week’s survivor, with a $1.98 million check in the balance, but with careful study, fans could greatly profit as well.

The following is a comprehensive list of our favorite bets, high-reward longshots, and the players who should be avoided:


THE FAVORITES


Rory McIlroy

Odds: 12-1

The man with the second best odds in the PGA Championship field is the same that won the event in 2012 (by 8 strokes) and in 2014.

Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy
Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy shake hands at the conclusion of the final round of the 2018 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone CC in Akron, Ohio. Credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It does not exactly help our confidence in Rory that he played so terrible in the final pairing of last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, especially after he played such uninspired golf from the final Sunday pairing at The Masters, an event that would have completed the career Grand Slam, but we like the progress he has shown in recent months coming back from his injury-plagued 2017 season, and he seems to be flashing his elite form more and more by the week.

He shared co-runner-up honors at The Open Championship just a few weeks ago, and we love the consistency he showed at Carnoustie, with two rounds of 69 and two of 70. A similar performance at Bellerive, a course that fits his strengths beautifully, and we think he leaves St. Louis with his third Wanamaker Trophy.


Jason Day

Odds: 20-1

Day has become a PGA Championship specialist, finishing inside the top 15 of the previous four, including a victory in 2015 and a runner-up in 2016.

Jason Day during the second round of the 2018 Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, CT. Credit: Getty Images/Stan Badz

Even last year, in what was recognized as a huge down year for the Aussie, he contended at the PGA, finishing T9 and staying right in the leader mix until one very, very bad hole late on Saturday that involved some bad luck and is unlikely to be repeated.

His bounceback 2018 season has included two victories, and he has retaken his throne as the short game King, currently leading the PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting and holding second in strokes gained: around-the-green. Combined with his length and tournament history, and his 12 career Tour victories, 20-1 odds look like a fantastic bet.


Henrik Stenson

Odds: 50-1

Looking at the statistics, it feels insulting to the intelligence of the gambling community that Stenson has such absurdly long odds.

Henrik Stenson Open Championship Power Rankings
Henrik Stenson talks with his caddie on the 11th tee during day three of the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York. Credit: Warren Little/Getty Images

We will take it every day, but it almost feels like stealing. His bevy of astounding stats that are conducive to Bellerive success include leading the Tour in greens in regulation and scrambling from 10-20 yards, in addition to his position of second in strokes gained: approach-the-green, second in driving accuracy, third is scoring average, third in par-4 scoring average, third in bogey avoidance, and fifth in three-putt avoidance.

It is not just the stat sheet where Stenson shines either. He has played will in the 2018 major season, with a T5 at The Masters and a T6 at the U.S. Open, and his PGA Championship resume is stellar, highlighted by top-7 finishes in his five of his last eight attempts.

There is some risk associated with the 2016 Champion Golfer of the Year. A minor elbow injury limited him to some extent coming into The Open Championship, where he was nothing special, but given that he played the full four rounds at Carnoustie, and then four more last week in Akron, we are inclined to believe that his elbow is not a liability.


BEST LONGSHOT VALUES


Xander Schauffele

Odds: 60-1

OK, I do not have a good explanation of what happened to Xander last week at the WGC-Bridgestone, but it did nothing to tarnish his reputation as a bonafide big game hunter.

Xander Schauffele 2018 British Open, Round 3
Xander Schauffele celebrates after a birdie on the 18th green at Carnoustie Golf Club on day three of the 2018 Open Championship in Carnoustie, Scotland. Credit: Warren Little/R&A via Getty Images

This is still the man who played in the final group at Carnoustie on Sunday, rebounding brilliantly after a brief poor stretch on the front nine to finish T2. He was also T2 at THE PLAYERS, T6 at the U.S. Open, and do not forget about his victory at last year’s Tour Championship. He is simply too good on the big stage to ignore at 60-1.


Bryson DeChambeau

Odds: 80-1

The Bryson hype train came off the rails a bit when the 24-year-old suffered a humiliating collapse over the final holes at the Porsche European Open two weeks ago, and that loss may have still stung when he was dead last after the first round of last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Bryson DeChambeau
Bryson DeChambeau tees off on the 5th hole at Green Eagle GC during day three of the 2018 Porsche European Open in Hamburg, Germany. Credit: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

However, he gathered himself and rebounded remarkably after that abysmal Thursday, improving his score each day after with rounds of 69, 68, and 67 respectively to finish T30. Dechambeau is still the young gun who ranks 6th in the FedExCup Standings, and has seven top-10s on the year, including a victory at The Memorial Tournament.

We also like that he has a little extra motivation this week, as he sits just barely out of the top 8 in the Ryder Cup Standings, with the top 8 qualifying automatically after this week. His inexperience in team events could make him a tough sell to American Captain Jim Furyk, so he should make a top 8 spot a priority.


Keegan Bradley

Odds: 100-1

Don’t look now, but the former PGA Champion is actually sort of putting OK lately. Bradley is coming off two consecutive tournaments with positive strokes gained: putting, and if his putting is anything short of a liability, he stands a great chance of getting into contention at Bellerive.

Keegan Bradley 2018 RBC Canadian Open
Keegan Bradley hits a shot from the 16th tee during the final round of the 2018 RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Canada. Credit: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Considering that he leads the Tour in strokes gained: approach-the-green and is fourth in proximity, he may not have to rely on his putter a ton anyway. In addition, he leads the Tour in total driving, giving us confidence that he will be able to avoid Bellerive’s punishing rough. Triple digit odds on a man with those attributes, who has a major to his name, seems like ridiculous value.


Thomas Pieters

Odds: 150-1

There is no arguing that Pieters has been an enormous disappointment in 2018. Big things were expected when the Belgian bomber starred for the Europeans in his 2016 Ryder Cup debut. Pieters also has three top-5 finishes in WGC events, and took fourth place at The Masters in 2017.

Thomas Pieters
Thomas Pieters tees off during the 2018 BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Golf Club. Credit: Getty Images/Ross Kinnaird

Much better things were expected from him this year, but there is reason to believe he is turning it back around. He has three top-20 finishes in his last six starts, and the week before The Open, he finished T6 at the Scottish Open after a 64-66 weekend.

Pieters proceeded to shoot three rounds of par or better in a respectable T28 at Carnoustie. He has avoided the big numbers in recent months, there is little doubt that he can handle the length at Bellerive, and his putting has been better than average. Given his penchant for the big stage, Pieters becomes an intriguing bet at such long odds.


Eddie Pepperell

Odds: 200-1

The newest Twitter sensation is playing Bellerive off two consecutive quality starts, a runner-up at the Scottish Open that required an all-time great final round – it was inches from the first 59 in European Tour history – from little-known Brandon Stone to beat.

Eddie Pepperell 2018 British Open, Round 4
Eddie Pepperell walks to the 18th green at Carnoustie Golf Club with caddie Mick Doran during the final round of the 2018 Open Championship in Carnoustie, Scotland. Credit: David Cannon/Getty Images

He chased that success with a top-10 at The Open Championship, where he posted an early number on Sunday that for a considerable amount of time, looked like it could legitimately stick.

Pepperell has shown the ability to get hot before, particularly late in 2017 when the Brit posted six top 10s in a seven-event stretch. He is not the longest hitter, but he can keep it in the fairway, and those kind of players are in no way incapable of challenging at Bellerive.


OVERVALUED PLAYERS


Jon Rahm

Odds: 25-1

The 23-year-old is not being exceptionally hyped this week, but we still would need his odds to be much higher to consider him.

Spain’s Jon Rahm celebrates an eagle on the 14th hole with his caddie during the final round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Credit: Getty Images/Warren Little

Despite all his talent, he has still not contended seriously at a major yet (we would argue that he never really threatened the leaders as The Masters earlier this year), and he missed the cut badly his last two times out on the major championship stage.

We are also concerned with his recent proclivity for poor Sunday rounds, and question his ability to keep his composure on a Bellerive-style course.


Paul Casey

Odds: 55-1

Some would argue that Casey is actually undervalued, citing a major history that, despite no wins, features nine top 10s.

Paul Casey during the final round of the 2018 Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, CT. Credit: Getty Images/Matt Sullivan

It helps that he finally won a PGA event earlier this year, but watching Casey, I see a man who is broken since that inexplicable fourth round lead he squandered at the Travelers Championship. He looked awful at both the Open Championship and the WGC-Bridgestone, and a T7 at the Porsche European Open does not do much for me, given the weak field and the fact that he did nothing on Sunday (+1, just two birdies) when he was only three strokes out of the lead to begin the round.

We do not trust that he is strong enough mentally to compete for four days in a major right now.


Joaquin Niemann

Odds: 66-1

Niemann is very good. He is clearly a prodigy well beyond his years. He will probably win multiple majors and be a thorn in America’s side in every President’s Cup in the near future. That being said, people are starting to get carried away with him.

Chilean Joaquin Niemann prepares to hit off the 16th tee during the second round of the Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac (Maryland). Credit: Getty Images/Sam Greenwood

Amazing start to his professional career with the early top-10s, but the putter has gotten away from him in his last two starts, which were just so-so results in tournaments with weak fields (John Deere Classic: T23, RBC Canadian Open: T37).

A 19-year-old playing in his first PGA Championship, we think it borders on insane that his odds are lower than Bryson DeChambeau, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, and Zach Johnson, among others.

Joel Cook

Joel Cook is Pro Golf Weekly's Lead Writer. He is a member of the Golf Writer's Association of America.

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