Who's going to survive Oak Hill for major glory? Oddschecker's Tom Jacobs has made his picks to win the PGA Championship
The PGA Tour stars head to Oak Hill Country Club for the PGA Championship this week. Scroll down for my PGA Championship betting tips, but first…
PGA Championship preview
Venue: Oak Hill Country Club, Rochester, New York
Date: May 18-21, 2023
Course stats: Par 70; 7,394 yards
Course summary: This is an iconic design by Donald Ross which last hosted the PGA Championship in 2013. A restoration in 2020 helped to restore the shapes and contours of greens and saw extensive removal of trees and bunkers. The course is set to play 250 yards longer than 10 years ago, with three holes looking completely different from when Jason Dufner lifted the Wanamaker Trophy.
Purse: $15 million
Defending champion: Justin Thomas (playoff)
Thursday: Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event from 1pm
Friday: Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event from 1pm
Saturday: Sky Sports Golf from 2pm and Sky Sports Main Event from 8pm
Sunday: Sky Sports Golf from 2pm and Sky Sports Main Event from 7pm
- Also: PGA Championship field
2023 PGA Championship betting tips
The Banker: Patrick Cantlay @ 18/1
Patrick Cantlay has to be my banker this week. I can absolutely see the case for Xander Schauffele and Tony Finau in this spot, and I wrestled with picking Justin Thomas, but in the end Patrick Cantlay shone through.
It’s true, Cantlay hasn’t won a major, and that is the next natural step in his career, but he’s played some of the best golf on the PGA Tour this season without the reward of a win, and I am willing to chance it comes at the PGA Championship.
Cantlay has not ranked outside the top 12 in SG Off the Tee over his past six starts and on four of those occasions he has ranked inside the top three, which is remarkable consistency. Add to that a wicked approach game and an adequate short game, and you have the perfect candidate for success here.
Cantlay is one of the best Bentgrass putters on Tour, with each of his six individual wins coming on this putting surface, and he’s also won the BMW Championship twice, both of which were hosted in Delaware and Maryland, two states bordering on the Northeastern region. These two wins in particular and his 3rd place finish at Bethpage Black in the 2019 PGA Championship make him a play at a PGA Championship in New York.
It is fair to say Cantlay has not yet looked truly in control at a major championship, but it is easy to forget in all the commotion of Tiger Woods’ win that Patrick Cantlay was in the lead at -12 thru 15 holes of his round on Sunday, before falling away over the final three holes.
Since that 9th at the Masters it was his distant 3rd at this event in 2019 and the 8th place finish at last year’s Open Championship that stand out, but he’s been solid all the way along.
Cantlay is in the mix as the “best player without a major” title, and probably leads the way, so let’s hope he puts that right this week.
The Each-Way Play: Viktor Hovland @ 28/1
The constant knock on Viktor Hovland is that he doesn’t win in mainland America, even as a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, and even if he had won the 2022 Open Championship as he so well could have done, that still could have been technically levelled at him.
The fact of the matter is though, Viktor Hovland is one of the best drivers in the world, along with the likes of Cantlay, and he possesses almost all areas of the game you want from a major champion. Long and accurate enough on the tee, an excellent iron player who can get hot with the putter, Hovland almost has it all. The one thing that will always come up in conversation is his ability around the greens, but I ultimately think that is improving, albeit slowly.
I think many players will struggle around the greens this week, such is the difficulty of this course, so his weakness may well be mitigated slightly by default.
If anyone is telegraphing a major breakthrough, Hovland has to be at the top of the list, having been in the final group at St. Andrews and in the penultimate group at Augusta, in his past two major starts.
All in all, Hovland has already posted top 12’s (4th and 12th) in two starts in the Open Championship, he has made 4/4 cuts at Augusta where he has been Low Amateur (T32) and finished 7th (2023) and in this event he is 4/4 for made cuts, without ever really threatening to win. He made a strong enough start in the 2021 PGA Championship sitting two back after round one, but it never got better for the Norwegian superstar that week. It has been the US Open that has been his hit or miss major, but even then, alongside two missed weekends he has finished T12 and T13 among his four starts in that as well. 13 major starts have yielded two top 10’s, both of which presented chances to win, and three more top 13 finishes, so he really is a major player at this point. Hovland consistently delivers with his driver and irons, and if he can keep it neutral with his short game, he’ll be in with a shot this week, on a demanding layout.
The Long Shot: Gary Woodland @ 80/1
Gary Woodland is a ball-striking machine and whilst his results this season do not suggest he’s playing that well (although these have picked up) his tee-to-green numbers are really quite sensational.
Woodland ranks 10th in SG Approach, 10th in SG Off the Tee and 22nd in SG Tee to Green, with the latter only impacted by his poor around the green numbers. Add in 8th in Driving Distance and 12th in Total Driving, and you have the perfect player off the tee. What about the rest of it?
Well, in terms of Woodland’s approaches, he typically gets better the further away from the hole he is, which is perfect for a test which will require plenty of mid-to-long irons this week. Woodland ranks 3rd in Approaches >200 Yards, 5th in Approaches 200-225 Yards, and 7th in Approaches 250-275 Yards. The 2019 US Open champion also ranks 11th from 150-175 so his mid-irons are strong as well.
So it’s very obvious what his downfall is reading these numbers, it’s the putter. If he can get that club working this week, as he did to an extent at both The Masters (T14) and the RBC Heritage (T31) then there’s every chance he will contend for major number two. The small greens may well hide some of his weakness with the putter, and we know he can raise his game on small greens, having won his US Open title at Pebble Beach.
Outside of his US Open win, Woodland’s best major finishes have come in this event (T6 and T8) and his top 10 at Brookline last year in the US Open is further indication that he likes it the tougher it gets. He finished in the top 10 at Bethpage Black in the 2019 PGA Championship (T8), which I love, as that was in New York, and he shot the best round of the day on Sunday, with a 68.
Simply put, Woodland is doing all these things well that you want from him going into an event like this, and as ever, we are relying on a good week on the greens for his challenge to come to fruition.
The Other Long Shot: Justin Rose @ 125/1
Last, but by certainly no means least, Justin Rose may well be my bet of the week, as he comes in at double the price he was for Augusta a little over a month ago.
Odds of 66-1 for The Masters made perfect sense given his track record there, but I think his recent form since his win at Pebble Beach this year, and his history on Donald Ross courses may well have been overlooked, at triple-digit odds.
Rose won at Pebble in February, then finished 6th at The Players Championship, and finishing fairly averagely at the Valspar Championship. Returning to Augusta though, Rose was 9th going into Sunday and had every chance of threatening the top five, but instead fell away to a tie for 16th.
Since then, Rose has only played the RBC Heritage, but he was 2nd there going into the weekend, before a poor weekend saw him finish T25, and whilst his final rounds are clearly a cause of concern of late, I am happy to overlook them at these odds.
Rose has finished 3rd, 4th, 8th, and 9th in this major and you have to go back to 2017 for the last time he finished outside the top 29 in this event. Add to that his form in the Northeast and on Donald Ross designs, and I think we have the best longshot of the week.
The Englishman won his first and only major, the 2013 US Open, at Merion which is the Northeast in Pennsylvania, and this is also the state in which he won and finished 2nd at Aronimink Golf Club, in the AT&T National and BMW Championship respectively. Add in two runner-up finishes at East Lake, another Donald Ross course, and his 6th and 16th place finishes at Plainfield, a New Jersey-based Donald Ross design, and it is clear Rose has been at his best in tough events, in this very part of the United States.
Rose has now gained strokes on Approach in eight-straight events, and also gained with the putter on seven of those starts, so if he can improve his numbers off the tee this week, he will be right there with the best of them over the weekend.
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