Bet Golf's 2nd Major: Mike Kern picks the PGA Championship, likes Brooks Koepka, Abraham Ancer, Patrick Reed
It’s the second major of the season, the PGA Championship from Kiawah Island in South Carolina, where Rory McIlroy won the second of his four majors in 2012.
He’s the favorite, at 11-1, after winning two weeks ago, his first victory since 2019. He’d had two missed cuts just before that. Jon Rahm is next, at 14-1. He hasn’t won a major yet, but he’s finished in the top 10 in five of his last 12 majors. Jordan Spieth is also 14-1. He won a month ago, after not winning since 2017. This is the major he needs to complete his career grand slam.
A lot of folks are picking Rory or Spieth this week, understandably. I will not be among them, though I do think that either of them or both could be factors. But we’re trying to look for more value. And I believe there’s a lot of that out there. It’s just a matter of trying to come up with the right ones. Yo.
Justin Thomas is 14-1 as well. He won this in 2017. It’s still his lone major. But he did win the Players Championship in March. And hasn’t finished higher than 13th in his four starts since then. And I have him in my yearlong pool, which often can be a big obstacle, although last week I had Daniel Berger and he got me a tie for third. Go figure.
Bryson DeChambeau is 16-1, along with Xander Schauffele. Bryson has had two top 10s in his last 18 majors, though one of them was a win at last year’s U.S. Open. Xander has eight top 10s in his 15 majors, including a close call at the Masters in April. Much of that damage has come in the U.S. Open, the tourney that I took him in my pool. We’ll see. He just doesn’t seem to win as much as he should, given his form. And it’s been awhile since he won anything.
Viktor Hovland and Dustin Johnson are 18-1. Hovland has back-to-back top three finishes going for him. Johnson was second in this event in 2018 and ’19, but hasn’t been playing well lately.
Berger is 28-1. He closed strong last week to get a third place. Colin Morikawa, the defending champ, is 28-1 too. Tony Finau, who often contends but never wins, is 33-1. Ditto Hideki Matsuyama, who just won the Masters. Also checking in at 33-1 are Patrick Reed and Scottie Scheffler. Reed has finished no worse than 13th in his last four major starts.
Patrick Cantlay and Webb Simpson are 40-1. Brooks Koepka and Cameron Smith are 45-1. Koepka has won this twice, and has two other top fives. But he’s been battling a knee issue. Abraham Ancer, Paul Casey, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tyrrell Hatton and Louis Oosthuizen are each 50-1. In 2012, three of the top six finishers were from England, and of course McIlroy is from Northern Ireland. Ancer hasn’t finished out of the top 30 in his last eight starts. He’s been second and fifth in his last two. But he hasn’t won yet on the PGA Tour.
Sam Burns and Marc Leishman are 55-1. Leishman won the team event in New Orleans recently with fellow Aussie Cam Smith. Burns has a win, a tie for fourth and was the 54-hole leader in his last three appearances. In his last 11 rounds his highest score was a 70.
That’s as far as I’m going to go here, but feel free. There’s more than a few guys at even higher odds who might be able to make some noise. Like, for instance, Charl Schwartzel, who lost in a playoff in that team format in Nola and has been showing that he might be capable of something more. Just noting.
I’m not going to take Spieth or McIlroy, but I couldn’t blame you if you did. I just think too many people like them, and more often than not that’s not a good sign. Or maybe it’s just me.
Since I already have Thomas in a pool, I’ll let that be enough. I think Rahm will win one of these at some point, but I’m not sure this is that point. Oops, I almost forgot. I have McIlroy in the British Open in July. Hey, never hurts to plan ahead.
Instead, I’m looking at a few blokes in that middle tier just behind the bigger names.
First, I would put a couple of bucks on Brooks Koepka, just because. I’m not sure he can win given his current physical state, but if he’s even close to full strength he might have a chance. And at 45-1 that’s hard to overlook. And he’s 8-1 for a top five. Again, nothing too big. Just enough to keep you interested. Hell, you can even get 4-1 for a top ten, though that might be pushing it.
I’m going to stick with the guys who seem to be playing the best right now, at least after McIlroy and Spieth. I wouldn’t touch Dustin Johnson, but he’s a little like Koepka. I’d still stay away. Don’t trust his recent form. And you can almost never go wrong with Xander, except he doesn’t win.
This week, it might just be best to bet guys to get you a top 10. You won’t win as much, but you might get two or three that pay off.
Anyway, for the win I have to try Sam Burns, whose recent showing suggests he shouldn’t be 55-1. That doesn’t mean he’s going to contend, it just means that he’s probably worth a shot given that number. And he’s 10-1 for a top five, half that for a top 10. I always suggest backing it up with some kind of insurance.
I think I would also take a look at Abraham Ancer, at 50-1, for many of the same reasons. Only difference is he hasn’t won yet. And again, back him up with a top 10 and top five at 9 and 4.5, respectively.
Let’s throw one more non-favorite out there. Hey, it could backfire, and some combo of McIlroy, Spieth and maybe a Rahm or Johnson could be battling it out on Sunday. I know CBS would love that. But I’m looking for a minor upset. I could make a case for a bunch of players, but I’ll try Patrick Reed at 33-1. He usually finds a way to get onto the leaderboard at these things, and he has won a major. And there’s a lot of guys, even Hall of Famers, who never win more than one. And he’s +550 for a top five. Go for it.
Hope whoever you wind up taking gives you a good run for your money. We’ll catch up next week, perhaps with more cash in our bank accounts. It’s what keeps us coming back.