Today's Free Picks for
Posted Wednesday, May 19
Cutoff time for this event is May 20 at 7:00 AM EST.
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PGA Championship Preview
History will be made this week – the Ocean Course will officially be the longest venue in the annals of major golf. What’s more, it’s a design that has been described by Golf Digest as the hardest course in America.
The Ocean Course, found on Kiawah Island, is one for the ages. Measuring 7,876 yards if played to its maximum, the Par 72 layout can also be battered by an Atlantic breeze that is either a head or tailwind. One might think that adds enough complexity for a major, but then factor in the devilish design features implemented by the design team of Pete Dye and his wife Alice. There are forced carries over watery graves, shaved edges on the green complexes, lots of bunkers – not traditional, but collections of sand that can be light and fluffy or compact and clay-like not to mention more demons from the Dye playbook And even if you get to the green in good order, you’ll then have to navigate the Paspalum surfaces – typically slower and grainier than traditional American variants, a whole new putting challenge will be afforded to the players.
Just writing about the Ocean Course is exhausting, so imagine playing it – aside from Rory’s magnificence nine years ago, second place was secured with a score of -5 and the cutline fell at +6. These tough conditions are a fantastic equalizer, and the skillsets of the best players in the world will be sorely tested. Perhaps, then, there is an opportunity for a sleeper pick to prevail, so let’s see if we can find another sleeper to be on the leaderboard this weekend at the 2021 PGA Championship.
What We’re Looking For:
Well, where do we even begin!? It seems almost a given that being long off the tee will be a major advantage, although remember that the rough is expected to be up, thus one would suspect there has to be a happy medium. As with most Dye layouts, strategy will also come into play, and hitting approaches into the right part of these raised greens will be essential – tee-to-green mastery will be a major part of the puzzle. Few in the field will have much competitive experience on Paspalum, and note that these surfaces do tend to run slower than average – that can catch plenty out. This is an exposed windy layout too, so that’s another consideration, and winning a major is hard enough anyway – that is a tale as old as time...
To Win Outright: These are played at BET365 because of their cashout option.
Joaquin Niemann 60-1
Niemann is a really nice fit for Kiawah Island Resort’s Ocean Course. Ranking fifth ON TOUR for driving distance, he has the necessary firepower off the tee to make the course a bit more manageable. “The Wonder Kid” is also solid in wind and gains over a half-shot on the field per round in windy conditions. He has the ability to create a low ball flight that pierces through the wind off his tee shots, and that should play nicely at Kiawah. Niemann is another golfer who has a chance to have a major breakthrough on the PGA TOUR by adding a major championship to his resume at just 22 years old. That may be a tall task for such a young golfer, but historically, the PGA Championship has been the most likely major for a young player to come out on top (Risking 0.2 units to win 12 units).
Emiliano Grillo 140-1
Would it really be a huge surprise if Emiliano Grillo was to win the PGA Championship? It wasn’t more than two years ago that we believed he was going to be ranked #1 at some point because he really is that good. We can still ride the coattails of his recent excellent form to achieve maximum sleeper returns. The Argentine has served up finishes of T21 or better in five of his last seven PGA TOUR outings, and even if that is because of a carefully curated schedule, we shouldn’t bemoan the fact – he should also thrive on Kiawah too. A long, straight driver of the golf ball, Grillo is also excellent with irons in hand and as such is well placed to tackle Pete Dye golf courses – he boasts some decent performances on Paspalum greens too. Grillo ranks 11th ON TOUR in Total Driving – 17th in SG: Approach and 19th in Scoring Average. At these odds, Grillo is worth 0.2 units to win 28 units and 0.2 units to finish Top 5 (28-1). Total risk is 0.4 units.
Stewart Cink 170-1
Reach into the deepest, darkest recesses of your mind, and you may just recall the time that Stewart Cink won the British Open back in 2009. That’s a long time ago and the veteran is a different style of player these days, but he still loves exposed, Links-style conditions – that was evident when he won the RBC Heritage earlier this season. Cink has added plenty of length to his game in recent years, and he might not need every yard of that at Kiawah Island – having the best season of his career so far, he should relish the challenge. Cink ranks 1st ON TOUR in Greens in Regulation, 19th in SG: Approach and 23rd in Driving Distance. At these odds, Cink is worth 0.2 units to win 34 units and 0.2 units to finish Top 5 (34-1). Total risk is 0.4 units.
Head-to-head Matchups for the PGA Championship
HEAD-TO-HEAD MATCHUP below is for 72 holes:
Thomas Pieters +112 over Chris Kirk (Pinnacle)
The Belgium bomber does not play on the PGA TOUR very often, but when he does it’s usually for major championships or other big-time events. In his career, Pieters has shown to do his best work when the lights get bright, as he has a bunch of strong finishes in big-time events. He boasts a T-4 at Augusta, a T-5 at the WGC Mexico and a T-6 at 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive. Last week he missed his first cut of the season at the Byron Nelson, but that turned into a putting contest and he only missed by a stroke. Prior to that, Pieters posted four consecutive top-15’s on the Euro Tour and certainly looks primed to make a run at what should be quite the difficult test at Kiawah Island this week. He can absolutely send it off the tee and ranks 20th on approach in this field over his past 48 rounds. Getting him at a price to beat Chris Kirk is tremendous value and you might even want to sprinkle a bit on Pieters to win at 175-1 (Risking 2 units to win 2.24).
Corey Conners -110 over Matthew Fitzpatrick
We have to trust that Conners is a steal of a price to beat Fitz. Fitz just never seems to do well on these long courses and usually doesn’t even put his hat in the ring for them. Dude ranks 168th ON TOUR in Driving Distance so he’s at a big disadvantage right off the tee at just about every hole.
This course demands length off the tee, supreme accuracy off the tee and a solid approach game into the greens in order to post competitive scores. Over the last 50 tracked rounds, Conners ranks first in good drives and second in Fairways gained. As far as his approach, over the last 12 rounds he ranks ninth and in the last 50 rounds he ranks 7th. From a ball-striking standpoint, there is no denying he is an excellent fit for the Ocean Course. The only concern with Conners is his putting, which is historically bad and what holds him back from being one of the elite players on TOUR. One can speculate that the perceived slowness of the paspalum greens will help Conners, but at the end of the day nobody truly knows how this type of grass will play. Regardless, this is a great fit for Conners and not such a great fit for Fitzpatrick (Risking 2.2 units to win 2).
Cameron Smith +100 over Patrick Cantlay
We wanted to have some action on Cameron Smith but at 40-1 to win outright and 8-1 to finish in the Top-5, there is better value out there. That doesn’t mean Cameron can’t win. Smith is playing the best golf of his career at the moment. Very quietly, Smith is up to No. 25 in the world and seemingly always gets overlooked in these big time fields. Considering he has three top-10’s at Augusta and an additional T-4 at the US Open at Chambers Bay, it’s only a matter of time before the market wakes up on just how great he is. This week may very well turn into a battle of the short games, and very few have been better than Smith in that department of late. Smith ranks fifth in this field in SG: Around-the-Green and third in SG: Putting both over his past 16 rounds. He also quietly ranks 27th on approach in that same time frame, and it seems his game is in a very good place at the moment.
Cantlay favored over Smith? Plain and simple, he’s missed four consecutive cuts in individual, stroke-play competition and he’s gone 10 consecutive rounds without a red number (Risking 2 units to win 2).
Others to consider for DFS or to win Outright:
Gary Woodland 90-1
Blessed with knowing what it takes to win a major, Gary Woodland’s tiptoeing back to form has come at an excellent time. Pebble Beach, the scene of his U.S. Open triumph in 2019, shares plenty of characteristics with the Ocean Course, and it’s noteworthy too that Woodland has solo second places on the ledger at the coastal Tournament of Champions and at the CIMB Classic – played on Paspalum, of course. Solo fifth at the Wells Fargo Championship and T6 at the Texas Open, Woodland has been talking positively about his game of late – could he cash in this week?
Tyrrell Hatton 60-1
If he can keep a lid on his simmering emotions, Tyrrell Hatton looks to be a major champion in the making. The Brit has now compiled seven wins worldwide, and that ability to get over the line in all manner of conditions will bode very nicely for him now and in the future. A two-time champion of the Alfred Dunhill Links in Scotland, Hatton does not fear the wind – indeed, exposed conditions are where he thrives. Paspalum will be quite new to him as it will be for many, but from tee-to-green Hatton has the game to navigate the long and windy Ocean Course.
Ryan Palmer 150-1
A renowned wind player and an excellent driver of the ball, Ryan Palmer comes gift-wrapped at a very agreeable price this week. You have to go back six months or more to find the last time the Texan last missed a cut, and his success has come from some excellent all-round performances. It’s been a while since he contested the thick end of a tournament, but T17 at Sawgrass and T34 at Augusta confirm that Palmer is on the brink of something more substantial in the near future. If nothing else, you will struggle to find any player at a sub DFS price in this range with such a strong formline over the medium term. Dude ranks 21st OMN TOUR in Total Driving, 40th in Scrambling and 48th in SG: Tee-to-Green.
Total risk is 7.20 units and we'll update this once the event is officially over.
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PGA Championship 0 (Risking 7.2 units - To Win: 0.00)