Want to know who to bet at the PGA Championship? Kern has the odds and picks to play with — no, not Tiger
Finally, a golf major to get excited about. Hey, it’s been 13 months.
But first things first. Last week at the WGC-St. Jude Classic we gave out one of the favorites, Justin Thomas, as one of our picks. And he won. He only paid 9-1, but getting paid is getting paid. And I also predicted that Tony Finau, my pick in the yearlong pool that I have to take back in February, was probably going to finish last. And he almost did. Didn’t mean to be so right about that one, but I know my limitations.
So now it’s on to the first major of this strange season, the PGA Championship at Harding Park in San Francisco. It’s the first time this public facility has hosted a major, although it has been the site of a President’s Cup a decade ago. It’s the second straight year the PGA has been held at a public course, following Bethpage Black on Long Island.
This major used to be played in August, until it moved last year to May. The pandemic forced it to move again. There will once again be no fans. As will also be the case for next month’s U.S. Open at Winged Foot in the New York City suburbs. We still don’t know about the Masters in November. And the British Open of course was simply cancelled.
So, here’s your lineup:
Justin Thomas, who won this thing in 2017 for his only major so far, is 8-1. Brooks Koepka, who won it the last two years, is 10-1. Nobody has won it three straight times since it switched from match to medal play in 1958, and nobody has won it three straight in any format since the late 1920s (Walter Hagen).
Bryson Dechambeau is 14-1, along with Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm. McIlroy won that match-play event here. But it was match play. And Rory hasn’t been playing so well since the restart. Xander Schauffele is 16-1. And he’s my pick in my yearlong pool. So, don’t say you weren’t warned, even though he’s played well in majors the last few years.
Patrick Cantlay, who might also be due to win one of these career-defining tournaments, is 22-1. So is Dustin Johnson. Daniel Berger, who’s having a fine season, is 28-1. Webb Simpson, who is likewise having a big year, is 28-1 too.
Tiger Woods, who’s played once since February (and not that well), is 30-1. I wouldn’t touch him, but as I always suggest, putting something small on him just in case is never a bad move. Because sometimes with him you never really know. And who wants to miss out on 30-1, just in case?
Matthew Fitzpatrick and Collin Morikawa, two of the top younger players out there, are 33-1. Jason Day, who’s had three straight top 10s and won this in 2015 (he was second the following year), and Hideki Matsuyama are 40-1. Tommy Fleetwood, who’s yet to win on U.S. soil, is 45-1. As are Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed and Gary Woodland, who lost to Rory in the 2015 WGC final.
Abraham Ancer, my man Tony Finau and Tyrrell Hatton are 50-1. They’re all capable. With my luck Finau will win this week. Or at least get a top 5. Viktor Hovland is 55-1. Billy Horschel is 60-1. Sergio Garcia, Scottie Scheffler, Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth are 66-1. Spieth needs this to complete a career grand slam.
Justin Rose is 70-1, Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson 80-1. And Lefty is coming off a runner up finish. There are other names out there, and I might even throw one or two at you as longshots, but that’s as far down the list as I’m going to go.
I won’t take either Thomas or Koepka, just because. I may regret that, but it’s hard to change my MO at this point. To be honest I’m really not in love with any of the bigger names, at least not at those prices. This course is going to play real tough, from what I’m hearing. So, hitting fairways is going to be important. I’m not sure what that means, just throwing it out there. It might play more like a U.S. Open than a typical PGA.
OK, if you put a gun to my head and told me to recommend one of the faves I’d be tempted to go with McIlroy but would lean more toward Thomas once again. He’s just really playing well and has Phil’s longtime caddie on his bag. Makes for a good storyline. And yes, you have to play more to make more, but don’t go too heavy at 8-1. Not with so many worthy candidates in the field.
In the next tier I will throw out Daniel Berger and Webb Simpson, both at 28-1. And I would put a little something on them to finish in the top 10 at 3-1. Or maybe even a top 5 that would get you 6-1. Sometimes those bets are actually the better way to go, especially if you’re tired of seeing your guys get third or sixth at decent odds with nothing to show for it. Just saying.
I would also put something on Jason Day, at 40-1, and Woodland at 45-1. Not too much, but enough to get you going if they’re in the hunt on Sunday. Day is also plus $900 for a top 5, and half that for a top 10. Woodland has similar numbers. Again, nothing too drastic. These are more or less educated stabs.
Along those lines, and sort of the same logic that goes into putting something on Tiger, Phil at 80-1 coming off a really good effort isn’t the worst thing you could ever do. Even if it’s just for a couple of bucks. Chances are he won’t have another good week back-to-back, but he is Phil. And you can get plus $750 for a top 10 and 16-1 for a top 5. So spread your hunches around. What’s the worst that can happen?
Enjoy watching this weekend. I love the later endings from the opposite coast, although when I was writing them for the Philadelphia Daily News I didn’t appreciate having to put words onto my computer screen on deadline. Now I can just switch channels when it’s over like everyone else.
Fave: Justin Thomas (8-1)
Next Tier: Daniel Berger and Webb Simpson (28-1)
A Little Something On: Jason Day and Gary Woodland (40-1) (not too much)
Spread A Hunch On: Phil Mickelson (80-1)
PGA Championship Facts
Site: San Francisco.
Course: TPC Harding Park. Yardage: 7,251. Par: 70.
Purse: $11 million. Winner's share: $1.98 million.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. EDT (ESPN); Saturday, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (ESPN), 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. (CBS); Sunday, noon to 3 p.m. (ESPN), 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. (CBS).
Defending champion: Brooks Koepka.
FedEx Cup leader: Justin Thomas.