This article is part of our Betting on Golf series.
PGA Championship Betting Strategy
It's been over a year since the last major championship, but the wait is finally over as the PGA Tour heads to San Francisco for the PGA Championship – the first of three majors to be played in 2020. TPC Harding Park hosts its first PGA Tour event since 2015, when Rory McIlroy defeated Gary Woodland in the WGC-Match Play finals. Last year, Brooks Koepka was victorious at Bethpage Black, topping Dustin Johnson by two strokes to claim his second-straight PGA Championship and fourth major victory.
With major championship golf returning, wagering figures to pick up this week. Let's discuss which golfers are the best bets to cash your tickets. All odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.
Drive For Show
With the PGA Championship cycling through host courses, we don't have the luxury of relying on previous course history like a standard Tour event. However, we can see from past years that the PGA Championship typically rewards elite ball-strikers, with less of an importance on short-game ability. Last year, Koepka ranked second in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and first in SG: Approach and ranked in the top-10 in both categories en route to his 2018 win. TPC Harding Park will play as a par-70 at 7,234 yards and the fairways have been narrowed to about 60% of their normal width. Seven of the par-4s will play lengthy at over 460 yards and with two drive-able par-4s, driving distance will be a key factor this week. We'll certainly want to focus on players that excel at the long game.
Most Strokes Gained – Tee & Approach
PGA Championship Since 2016
Brooks Koepka 2.60
Justin Thomas 1.65
Patrick Cantlay 1.53
Louis Oosthuizen 1.52
Dustin Johnson 1.43
*Minimum 10 rounds played
Over the last four PGA Championships, Koepka gained 2.6 shots per round in SG: Long Game (Off-the-Tee and Approach combined), nearly a full stroke more than any other player with a minimum of 10 rounds played. Although Louis Oosthuizen is the lowest ranked player in the Official World Golf Ranking on this list, he's coming off his best result since the Tour's re-start with a T6 finish at the WGC event in Memphis and went 4-1 in the WGC-Match Play event at Harding Park in 2015. Don't be surprised if he carries the momentum into a run at the PGA Championship, making him a fine long-shot play at 66-1 odds.
Most Strokes Gained Per Round Since PGA Tour Restart
Daniel Berger 2.27
Justin Thomas 2.20
Bryson DeChambeau 2.06
Matthew Fitzpatrick 1.70
Xander Schauffele 1.60
*Minimum 12 rounds played
Although it will probably come as a surprise to most, Daniel Berger tops the list as he's picked up a win, a runner-up and a T3 finish since the resumption of play. He was hot before the hiatus as well, with three consecutive top-10 results before play came to a halt. Berger has been in the mix down-the-stretch at a major before as well, entering the final-round of the U.S. Open in 2018 tied for the lead before faltering to a share of sixth place. I like his value at 45-1. Xander Schauffele also makes the list, and although he hasn't been in contention to win since the first event back at Colonial, he's made the cut in all six of his starts and comes in under the radar at 20-1 odds.
The Clear Favorites
Justin Thomas enters the PGA Championship with 8-1 odds, ahead of Brooks Koepka, who's the second betting choice at 10-1. Thomas and Koepka have put on ball-striking clinics at the event and Thomas has seven top-10s in 11 events in 2020. Meanwhile, Koepka played the majors a whopping 21 strokes better than anyone else last year. After a rough three-week-stretch, Koepka is coming back into form after a T2 finish in Memphis.
The Time Could Be Now
A fitting trend over the last five years has been the emergence of first-time major winners, as we've seen multiple maiden winners in each of the last five years - including 2016 when all four winners hoisted their first major championship trophy. Last year was a fortunate one for me in betting this angle in majors as I took Gary Woodland at 150-1 in December 2018 to win the U.S. Open and was able to follow it up with Shane Lowry in his home country to take down The Open Championship at 85-1. Let's look at some players that have a chance to get that breakthrough victory this weekend.
Bryson DeChambeau (11-1): My pick back in January to win this event. Fortunately I was able to lock in DeChambeau at generous odds of 33-1. Although I couldn't have predicted his increased distance in 2020, DeChambeau was playing well before the hiatus with three consecutive top-5 finishes in February and March. He'll have a big advantage on the field with length taking on added importance.
Jon Rahm (12-1): Rahm's combined score of 15-under-par in the four majors last year was second to only Koepka at a whopping 36-under. While this isn't an outside-the-box pick, as Rahm won two starts ago and briefly took over the No. 1 ranking in the OWGR, he has to be one of the first names that come to mind to win this week. He's been statistically well-rounded this year, ranking in the top-50 in every strokes-gained category and is 11th in Driving Distance (all drives).
Patrick Cantlay (20-1): Cantlay is a model of consistency, as he hasn't missed a cut since March 2019, a streak that includes two top-10 finishes in majors last year. He's gaining over 1.25 strokes per round this year on tee and approach combined and he's played his best major championship golf at the PGA.
Collin Morikawa (28-1): This will be only be Morikawa's second major appearance, but the 23-year-old should not be overlooked. He's leading the Tour in SG: Approach this season and has a win and a runner-up finish since the restart. Morikawa will also have the benefit of feeling at home this week, as the UC-Berkeley grad went to school less than an hour away and had multiple top-5 collegiate finishes at TPC Harding Park.
Built for the PGA
Rory McIlroy, with the third-best odds at 11-1, has played some of his best golf at the PGA Championship, with two wins and six top-10s in eight starts. McIlroy was hot before play came to a halt in March, with a top-5 finish in all four of his 2020 starts. Things haven't been the same since play resumed, however, as he hasn't recorded a top-10 finish in five events. If there's a week for him to turn it around this should be it, but he will need better iron play than he has shown lately.
Scottie Scheffler (100-1): It would be a big ask for the Tour rookie to win this week, but he's a good value option for daily fantasy sports lineups and top-5 bets. Scheffler is a long hitter who should benefit from the PGA Championship setup. He's coming into form, gaining 1.49 shots per round on the field in SG: Off-the-Tee and Approach combined the last two weeks.
Erik van Rooyen (150-1): Van Rooyen played well at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, shooting seven-under-par over the weekend and ranking fifth for the week in SG: Off-the-Tee. His lone top-10 result in a major came at last year's PGA Championship, and this is the type of venue that should fit his game well.