Today's Free Picks for
Posted Wednesday, May 15 at 1:00 PM EST.
Cutoff time for this event is May 16 at 6:45 AM EST.
2019 PGA Championship - Event Preview
Finally, we’ve got good reason to get excited about the PGA Championship again. The fourth major was swept away in a sea of apathy for so long in its September timeslot, with the FedExCup, the Ryder Cup and the Olympic Games all taking priority in the hearts and minds of the players and fans of the sport alike but the new scheduling makes sense: THE PLAYERS Championship gets a nice early slot in the diary, and the PGA Championship now feels like a major again, as it falls almost right in the middle between The Masters and the US Open.
Events like the PGA Championship live or die by the choice of host venue. Some editions pass by without a flicker when played at uninteresting layouts or those which offer supremely low scoring, and so the hope is that the selection of Bethpage Black as host this time around will give the tournament its intrigue back. We’re not anticipating the kind of challenge that this stretch provided the entrants to the US Opens of 2002 and 2009 where breaking par was a challenge in itself, but nor are we expecting anything too drastic as far as scoring is concerned either. It’s worth getting familiar with the recent weather patterns in Farmingdale, Long Island too: there has been days and days of rain during the spring and in recent weeks too, and for all the sterling work of the ground staff, we would still expect the course to play soft this time around. That’s less than ideal for the short hitters, who already have a 7,468 yard Par 70 behemoth to try and conquer. Yes, it’s one of those weeks where the longer hitters have an immense advantage.
As if the sheer sale of the track wasn’t enough, the A.W. Tillinghast design is also heavily bunkered with thick tree lines contouring many of the fairways. The rough isn’t said to be as dramatic as it could be, but staying out of the second cut and the thicker stuff – particularly if wet – is still a good idea. Another slice of good news for the players is the benign weather forecast. It will be cool, it has to be said, but rain should be at a minimum and wind speeds of 9-11 mph aren’t enough to frighten the best players in the world.
Bethpage Black, occasional US Open host and venue for the Northern Trust, will surely show its teeth this week in a layout more accustomed to a major than birdie-making. It’s an almost painfully long Par 70 at 7,459 yards, and with New York blasted by rain and cold temperatures in recent weeks – in April there were 16 consecutive days of rain – it could play even longer still this week. The A.W. Tillinghast design features the unique title of having at least two bunkers per hole – many more in some cases – and with dense tree lines there really is no escape for the players. The Poa Annua greens typically play fast too, although any rain in the area may just slow them down below the normal 12 on the stimp.
Rumor has it that the big cheeses at the PGA of America like the PGA Championship to be a scoreable major, and so that’s why the rough has been kept to just a couple of inches. In the words of Kerry Haigh, chief championships officer, ‘if we have soft greens and no wind, I would expect and hope that everyone scores well’. The greens are smaller than average, elevated and well protected, but as Haigh says without the presence of any strong winds, Bethpage could be at its easiest in May following weeks of precipitation.
The Northern Trust (or the Barclays as it was known) of 2016 saw five of the first six players home average more than 300 yards off the tee, and that appears to be the key once again in an assignment that could be a test of physical strength and stamina as much as anything else.
Weather Forecast for Farmingdale, NY
Previous events at Bethpage in the summer have been blighted by red hot temperatures and lightning fast greens….neither looks likely this week. Indeed, the forecast this time around in Farmingdale is a distinctly chilly 64°F, and a lack of humidity will not aid the shorter hitters in the field. The relief that all four days should pass by in relatively dry fashion, indeed the predicted precipitation levels do not get above 20% for any of the days of action. And as for the notorious winds in these parts….forecasts of 9-11 mph won’t be keeping the players up at night, although we would expect the breeze to be stronger at local level.
What We’re Looking For This Week
When analyzing Bethpage Black, we have a varied array of notes to delve into but are we expecting a US Open style layout, where the winning scores barely got above level par, or a more Barclays (Northern Trust) style track where scoring was much easier? We’re going to go with a blend of the two, given that Bethpage will play as a mightily long Par 70 this week.
The PGA of America are said to have requested a scoreable course, though, so expect an agreeable first cut of rough barely more than a couple of inches long….that will add some width to otherwise fairly narrow fairways and with cold temperatures and a wet spring, it seems unlikely that the greens will play particularly quickly.
How else can handicappers and gamers separate the field this week? Well, the Poa Annua angle is an interesting one, given that so few PGA tournaments are played on the surface at this time of year. We’ve been taking a deep dive into form at other Tillinghast tracks: Ridgewood (occasional home of the Northern Trust), Baltusrol (PGA Championship 2016) and Winged Foot, host of the 2006 US Open and back on the rotation in 2020. We’ve used all of this information to inform our shortlist of sleeper plays for the PGA Championship, and here are some we are hoping can contend at Bethpage Black this week.
To Win Outright:
Adam Scott – 55/1
Maybe it’s because he doesn’t play all that much these days, but Adam Scott remains one of the most reliable and consistent performers in majors around. Stacks of top-10s in the big tournaments were added to with solo third at the PGA Championship in September, and lest we forget he was the co-leader at the halfway stage of the Masters before falling away to T18. Fourth at Bethpage at the 2016 Barclays, Scott still plays consistently good golf when he turns up, and nobody would be overly surprised if he added another major to his collection in Long Island (Risking 0.2 units to win 11 units).
Aaron Wise 125-1
One of the best drivers around, there is just something about the way Aaron Wise carries himself on the golf course which suggests he’s a major winner in waiting. There’s a long way to go before he reaches elite levels, of course, but his form is improving and at a course that should suit him, we – and he – can be positive about his chances. Wise found some form just in time for his Augusta date, where he finished a more-than-credible T17 after opening with a round of 75. A decent outing at Quail Hollow (T18) followed, as did a fair enough defense of his maiden PGA TOUR title last week at Trinity Forest, where he opened 69-69-66. Wise ranks 16th ON TOUR in SG: Off-the-Tee, 23rd in Greens in Regulation and 49th in Bogey Avoidance (Risking 0.2 units to win 25 units).
Jhonattan Vegas 125-1
Another bargain who appears to have a lot going for him this week is Jhonattan Vegas. The Venezuelan has been trending very nicely of late, with a T8 last time out at Quail Hollow following a T3 at the PLAYERS, T16 at the Honda Classic and T23 at the Arnold Palmer. Vegas has worked hard at his game and is much tidier from tee-to-green these days, and that – backed by an excellent short game and comfort in the wind – plus a high ball flight ensures he ticks plenty of boxes on Long Island. Vegas is definitely being undersold here, as he ranks 8th ON TOUR in SG: Off-the-Tee, 19th in Bogey Avoidance and 35th in Greens in Regulation (Risking 0.2 units to win 25 units).
Jason Kokrak 100-1
With four top 10s in his last seven starts, and some Bethpage Black form to boot, it’s hard to see why Jason Kokrak is this big a price. The books’ lethargy here might provide an opportunity for us by backing a player who hasn’t missed a cut all season. Tied 9th at the Honda, tied 10th at the Arnold Palmer, tied for 2nd at the Valspar and in the top 10 at the Texas Open, those aren’t the results of a no-hoper. Strong from tee to green, it’s only on the putting surface that Kokrak has proved in any way mediocre on the stats so it’s probably a good job that Bethpage’s greens aren’t the most contoured – as long as you can find them. He was 7th on this course in 2016 and has PGA Championship form that’s continued to improve in each of the last three years. He was also tied for 19th at Bellerive last August and we’re hopeful a decent return might be in the cards. Jason Kokrak is on the verge of winning (Risking 0.2 units to win 20 units).
Jorge Campillo 225-1
We’re going to take a shot here on a pro that may just sneak onto the leaderboard over the weekend and should that come to pass, anything can happen from there. While the betting and DFS world focuses on one Spaniard, Sergio Garcia at 40-1, we like this Spaniard more at 225-1. It’s only the Campillo’s third major appearance and he has yet to make a cut but form builds confidence and there can’t be too many players with a bigger strut than Jorge Campillo at the moment. He’s been on quite a run, which continued with a podium performance at the Volvo China Open. That 3rd place in Shenzhen followed hot on the heels of his victory in Morocco at the Trophee Hassan II. Third at the Indian Open, and tied 2nd in both Qatar and Oman, his worst finish on the European Tour in his last six starts has been a very creditable tied 20th at the Maybank Championship. Now he’s going toe-to-toe with the best in the world on an exceptionally difficult golf course and he’s worth a small wager at this price and he’s also worth adding to your DFS roster (Risking 0.2 units to win 45 units).
Head-to-head Matchups for the PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
HEAD-TO-HEAD MATCHUP below is for 72 holes:
Patrick Cantlay -110 over Sergio Garcia (BET365)
It’s not easy finding the right H2H matchups but we trust we found one here at BET365. We always check out the H2H’s at other books and we see that Pinnacle has Cantlay as a -172 favorite to beat Jordan Spieth and they also have Cantaly listed as a -140 favorite to beat Matt Kuchar. Meanwhile, Pinnacle also features Sergio in two H2H matchups and he’s a dog on both, to Adam Scott and Paul Casey. Cantlay meanwhile, is a shorter price (40-1) to win this event outright than both Adam Scott and Paul Casey. Reading between the lines, Pinnacle loves Cantlay to have a great event and we’re on board with that.
Patrick Cantlay is such a great talent with stacks of good form this season. Cantlay has also delivered seven top-10 finishes in his last 11 appearances, including hugely impressive T3 and T9 turns in his last pair of starts at Harbour Town and Augusta. In among the positivity has been some fine showings on Poa Annua, while the youngster has also shown up nicely on the East Coast in the past couple of years. Cantlay played very nicely for his T8 the last time that the PGA TOUR took in a Tillinghast layout at Ridgewood at the tail-end of last season, and there’s no reason why he can’t come up with the goods and slay the beatable Sergio Garcia at another of the designer’s tracks this week (Risking 2.2 units to win 2).
#7097 Louis Oosthuizen +100 over Bubba Watson
Bubba Watson has pedigree so you may be reading or hearing a lot of “experts” including him in their list of contenders this week. After all, Bubba Watson has thrived at Bethpage with a formline of 13-10-18 from his last three visits to the venue. However, Bubba Watson is also 40-years old. Bubba’s recent form under the brightest lights leaves plenty to be desired too, as his PGA Championship and major record with seven missed cuts since the start of 2017 will attest to. His only real success has come at Augusta National where he has recorded top 15’s in his last two starts. Watson’s inability to hit fairways does not bode well at this course and is starting to take a toll on him also. Watson ranks 158th in Driving Accuracy after hitting just 280 fairways in 476 attempts. He also ranks 164th in SG: Putting and those two key stats for this event make him great fade material.
Louis Oosthuizen is carefully choosing his events this year and seems to be uber focused when he does play. Louis has finished T2, T5 and T29th in three of his last four events played, which included the Masters. He’s taken two weeks off to prepare for this event so figure him to be fresh and ready to go. He ranks 28th or 130 positions higher than Bubba in Driving Accuracy and at this course, accuracy is a real key. He also ranks third on tour in SG: Around the Green. His T2 at the Valspar in late March was followed up by two more great events and while his best work has come overseas, he’s still a threat to win at any time. That said, the wager here is more about fading a pro -- Bubba Watson -- that is trending the wrong way in a big way (Risking 2 units to win 2 units).
Others to consider for DFS or to win outright:
We wanted to bet Rickie in H2H matchups but he’s a big favorite in most of his matchups except against Jon Rahm and Rambo is not a guy we want to fade so unfortunately we’re left holding nothing on Rickie. One could bet Fowler (-116) to beat Day or Fowler (-128) to beat Fleetwood or even -148 to beat Schauffele but those prices are too steep for our blood so we’ll pass. Every book offers different matchups so perhaps you can find something suitable for Fowler. One of these days Rickie is going to get over the major hump and maybe this is the year. Seventh at Bethpage in 2016 and 24th at the Barclays four years earlier, the course clearly suits the 30-year-old. We all know how he can squirm when leading a PGA Tour event so the last thing you want is him sleeping again on an overnight lead for his maiden major but he comes here in form that is as good as any of the leading contenders, having finished tied 9th at Augusta and tied 4th at the Wells Fargo.
A winner in Phoenix, although not without some mishaps, the best putter on the PGA Tour could get some traction on Bethpage’s relatively straightforward greens. He’s our “Horse” this week.
Given that there’s a couple of bargain basement picks that really catch the eye this week, that means we can invest a decent slice of our salary cap into another expensive selection but we’re confident that Tony Finau can live up to the billing. As one of the longest hitters around, he should be in his element here, and he has also delivered plenty of good results on Poa Annua in the past too. Normally consistently good, Finau’s game has been a little off in recent months and yet he has still turned up where it really matters: T5 at the Masters and T22 at THE PLAYERS Championship is not the form of a man ready for the scrapheap. A runner-up at the Tillinghast-designed Ridgewood last season, big things can be expected from Finau this week.
Here’s an almost giveaway price on a player who didn’t make a single bogey at Trinity Forest last week! Okay, so that layout is much easier than Bethpage Black, but even so, it takes some effort to avoid any mistakes and close out 63-64 to take a share of second place. Piercy has had a good few looks at Bethpage in the past, with a best of T22, and a confirmed ability of playing in the wind bodes very nicely should Long Island show its teeth. Admittedly, Piercy isn’t the longest hitter in the world, but he is sublime from tee-to-green, and with his putting improving steadily there’s absolutely no reason why he should be this price. Take advantage, as dude ranks 8th ON TOUR in Greens in Regulation, 8th in Bogey Avoidance and 26th in Scoring Average.
Poulter is arguably playing some of the best golf of his career and has been a great option for fantasy teams this season as he has generally been priced pretty low considering his form. The Englishman missed five majors between 2017 and 2018 but hasn’t looked back since making his return to the 2017 Open Championship with four top 25s since then, most recently having one of his best weeks at Augusta National. He continued his good form at the RBC Heritage where he recorded a top 10 finish.
Grillo is an enigma because he’s so good when he’s on. The problem is that he’s off too often but he does have a tendency to pop up with good finishes on the PGA Tour. His record in majors isn’t fantastic but he has the occasional good finish with his best PGA finish being a T13 in his PGA Tour rookie season in 2016. He does however know how to get it around Bethpage and finished runner up to Patrick Reed at The Barclays in 2016.
Mix and match any or all of the above with your own to create a DFS roster to look something like the samples below:
5 golfers to win outright at 0.2 units each = -1 unit
Cantlay -110 over Garcia = + 2 units
Oosthuizen +100 Bubba Watson = + 2 units
Therefore 4 units in wins - 1 unit in losses = a net profit of 3 units.
Open an account today at Pinnacle Sports and take advantage of their -104 style pricing on sides and totals, which is 60% better than other sportsbooks.
PGA Championship (Risking 5.2 units - To Win: 0.00)