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Posted Wednesday, May 17 at 12:00 PM EST. Odds subject to change.
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The PGA Championship
Often unfairly labeled as the least popular major, the PGA Championship will benefit in 2023 from being played at a sublime venue: the East Course at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York. This is a historic piece of golfing real estate that has hosted majors at professional, amateur and senior level, as well as a Ryder Cup and even cash games back in the days of Sam Snead and company. The pros love it – Rory is a member there – and it’s been reported that Oak Hill Country Club’s East Course has never been in better shape thanks to a series of renovation projects.
Originally designed by Donald Ross a century or so ago, the layout has been tweaked and altered over the years to make sure it’s a fit and proper test of the modern golfer of the day. That flexibility is why Oak Hill is the only venue to have ever hosted the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship, a Ryder Cup, a U.S. Amateur and a handful of senior majors as well. But the reports of recent works at Oak Hill confirm that the track has been restored somewhere closer to Ross’ original vision. That means that trees have been removed – affording the players less respite from the New York breeze but adding the possibility of corner-cutting; green complexes rebuilt to feature more shelves, slopes and run-offs, and the routing re-worked to be more in tune with Ross’ blueprints.
The result is a Par 70 track that will play to around 7,400 yards (there’s scope for tee boxes to be moved forward or back depending on conditions). This is a long layout with particularly tiny Bentgrass greens, and with the rough expected to be left up in a manner befitting a major, the 2023 PGA Championship at Oak Hill could become a grind – it’s just how Donald Ross would have wanted it to be.
The PGA Championship, with its rotational host courses, is always a leap into the unknown when it comes to wagering but as always, value is king.
What We’re Looking For:
The crumbs of comfort are that we have a course architect in Donald Ross who is no stranger; he also designed East Lake, home of the TOUR Championship, Sedgefield (Wyndham Championship) and Detroit GC (Rocket Mortgage Classic). East Lake in particular should prove to be a good guide.
We also have the 2-13 PGA Championship to examine, although in truth little is given away – golf has also changed beyond recognition since then. The top-10 was made-up of outstanding drivers (Rory, DJ, Day, Scott), accurate tee-to-green merchants (Jason Dufner, Jim Furyk, David Toms) and nuggety putters (Jonas Blixt, Zach Johnson). It’s an eclectic band that gives away very little.
There is, surely, an emphasis on controlled length this week. The greens on the East Course are so small, so fast and so contoured that you really want to be approaching them with as short a club – for maximum loft – as possible. That kinda goes against the grain of the 2013 edition of the PGA Championship, but golf has come a long way since then.
We need our guys to be hitting fairways at 300+ yards, but we also need them to be outstanding on approach through the bag too, with distances from 125 yards to 200+ yards required. Greens in regulation will be missed by even the straightest of shooters, so the full tee-to-green and scrambling game is required. Champions are born on the greens. The East Course has slick Bentgrass surfaces, so comfort in those conditions is vital.
As for other correlating courses, you could throw the likes of Torrey Pines, Muirfield Village and TPC Southwind into the mix – long, fairly hard tests with small greens that, in Muirfield’s case at least, are Bentgrass.
To Win Outright:
Tony Finau (22-1)
To win a major, you have to have the all-round package – all departments of your golf game need to fire, and you need to have that X Factor between the ears as well to get the job done. Some have questioned the latter in the case of Tony Finau, but with four wins on the PGA TOUR since the summer, this is a guy that has become a low-key animal in the psychological department. We now can say Tony is a closer. He’ll need that resilience and toughness at Oak Hill but he heads there knowing he has all of the weapons to thrive: long enough off the tee to compete, Finau’s approach play is as good as the elite – improvements in his short game have not gone unnoticed, either, as he has extremely positive putting splits on bentgrass greens, which makes Big Tony a dangerous threat to hoist the Wanamaker Trophy come Sunday. Dude ranks 2nd ON TOUR in SG: Approach, 3rd in SG: Tee-to-Green and 4th in Scoring Average (Risking 0.2 units to win 11 units).
Patrick Reed 90-1
One of the difficulties facing golf bettors ahead of the majors is trying to establish where the LIV Golf players are at with their game. There’s very few meaningful stats coming out of that tour, so all we have to go on is finishing positions – as crazy as it sounds, those don’t always tell the full story in golf, but in recent weeks we’ve had the advantage of watching The Masters, and it was there that Patrick Reed – as well as Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson – proved that they’re well and truly still have it. When playing on the PGA TOUR, Reed had a fantastic record on the East Coast – twice winning the St. Jude Championship, for example, and he’s another whose short game will stand up to scrutiny at Oak Hill. T4 at The Masters and highly motivated, the price on Reed makes him worthy of a wager (Risking 0.2 units to win 18).
We can’t ignore how well LIV golfers performed at the Masters and have to wonder if it is coincidence or if there is some common denominator among them. Perhaps they are more relaxed, more motivated than ever or are under less pressure. Whatever the case, we’ll get another look at a bunch of them this week. Furthermore, because they are no longer getting the coverage they got on the PGA TOUR, almost all of them are underpriced.
LIV tour golfer Abraham Ancer has shown that he relishes a good major championship test. Ancer has an excellent all-round game and he really excels vs. the field in driving accuracy, mid iron proximity and overall scrambling. All these will be very important this week. His past successes at tournaments played along the East Coast at courses like Quail Hollow and TPC River Highlands has us liking his chance to contend on Sunday and at this price, he has to be worth something. We’re playing him to win and “Each Way” (E/W) for 0.08 units on both = 0.16 units to win 19.36 units)
Beau Hossler 225-1
The Beau Show is coming to Rochester. This 28 year old Californian has played very consistent golf in the 2022-23 season. Ranking in top 70 of the Fed/Ex Cup Standings. His results have come with improved iron approach play that was seemingly lost for a bunch of seasons.Beau was a highly decorated All-American at the University of Texas and has seen fellow Longhorns Jordan Speith and Scottie Scheffler hoist major championships and win tournaments. At home on Bentgrass greens, as you would expect from a West Coast native, Hossler is delivering consistency in abundance at the minute with five straight cuts made and finishing 3rd and 10th respectively in two of them. This PGA Championships could just be the type of test to stamp his ticket to major glory but what really sticks out to us is the price, which prompts us to wager something. We’re playing him to win and “Each Way” (E/W) for 0.03 units on both = 0.06 units to win 9 units).
Wyndham Clark 66-1
When a guy is on a heater, it’s not that uncommon that they roll with it through a major. The improvement in Wyndham Clark’s game in recent months has been almost stratospheric. He’s always been long, which helps, but the quality of his ball-striking means that he was flagged on our tracker ahead of his maiden PGA TOUR title at the Wells Fargo Championship. The next piece of the puzzle will be to perform well at a major, but he certainly has the all-round game to thrive at Oak Hill – confidence in the Clark camp could not be any higher than right now. Dude ranks 9th ON TOUR in Driving Distance, 10th in Scoring Average and 20th SG: Tee-to-Green – 20th (Risking 0.2 units to win 13.2 units).
Adrian Meronk 200-1
There’s a lot to like about Adrian Meronk’s game, and while he’s still learning his craft he certainly has the length and the ball-striking ability to outperform his price here. The Pole has won three times on the DP World Tour since last summer – including the Italian Open last time out, and he produced a good performance in the WGC Match Play when he nearly made it through a group containing Finau and Arnold Palmer Invitational winner Kurt Kitayama. The next tick on the box will be making the cut at a major, and the adverse conditions at Oak Hill will not faze a man that has won in the strong winds of Ireland and Australia.
We’re playing him to win and “Each Way” (E/W) for 0.06 units on both = 0.12 units to win 14 units).
PGA Championship (Risking 1.12 units - To Win: 0.00)