Diane Knox Balas: Our Pickswise golf analyst with her PGA Championship best bets and course insights
The second major of 2022 is finally here; yes, I feel like the wait has been long since Scottie Scheffler won the Masters!
This week, it’s the iconic Wanamaker Trophy that’s up for grabs at the PGA Championship. Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma plays host to the 104th PGA Championship. The last time the PGA was held here was 2007, and the champion? The inimitable Tiger Woods, who will tee it up this week after saying he feels “a lot stronger” than he did for his four-day stroll around Augusta National last month. In ’07 he finished at 8-under and beat Woody Austin by two shots, aided by the fact he one-putted 25 times over the course of the tournament.
Major weeks are a little different when it comes to making picks, and the field gets a lot narrower when looking for an outright winner. That’s especially true this week, when 20 PGA club professionals will tee it up and — without sounding cut-throat — you can almost eliminate them from the mix right away. Additionally, some former winners from years gone by will be playing — such as John Daly and Rich Beem. Again, it’s safe to say they’re not going to win. However, on the flip side Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship last year and had odds as long as 300/1 when that tournament began!
The cream rises to the top at the majors; that’s typically evident in the four yearly events. However, it gives us a great opportunity to really dive into some interesting (and profitable) names.
Southern Hills Championship Course: What you need to know
Southern Hills measures in at 7,556 yards and plays as a par 70, so it’s a long one. The course is a familiar track on the major circuit having hosted seven men’s majors — the U.S. Open three times and four PGA Championships. The course will look slightly different from the 2007 PGA, where Tiger lifted the Wanamaker, due to a restoration project headed by Gil Hanse in 2018 and ’19.
The most dynamic element of Southern Hills has always been the greens, and following the course changes that remains the same. The legendary course designer trimmed back trees, widened the fairways and gave more prominence to the stream that winds its way through the property. There is a great deal of Scottish influence on the course, with contoured fairways, deep strategically-placed bunkers at the doglegs and undulated greens.
It’s worth noting that, with the removal of some trees, the Oklahoma wind is going to be more of a factor — and the winds are set to blow this week, reaching in excess 20 mph over the first three days before dying down on Sunday.
Now, back to those greens: they are smaller than average, slopey and have large, shaved areas surrounding them. So if you miss your spot and catch a slope, your ball won’t be saved by the rough and is going to run…and run. Good, safe approach play is going to be a key this week.
The two par-5s are not easy scoring holes, each measuring more than 600 yards, and could play even longer with the wind that’s expected. Three of the par-3s are also lengthy, playing more than 200 yards.
Hanse also calls the 18th hole a “killer finish.” A one-shot lead coming down the final hole on Sunday will cause even bigger stress than usual! The hole plays 491 yards, with the second shot uphill to the green, but the green slopes from the back to the front, making it really tricky to maintain your spot. In the seven men’s major championships that have been held here, only two of the winners have made par on 18: Tommy Bolt at the 1958 U.S. Open and Woods in 2007.
Knox’s Knockout PGA Championship picks
Jordan Spieth (+1800) DK Sportsbook
Yes, Spieth is a favorite this week, but not one of the top-6 favorites on the majority of the odds boards. The Texan is playing some phenomenal golf right now, and the golf that makes him phenomenal isn’t the same week after week! For example, when Spieth won the RBC Heritage this season he endured one of his worst putting weeks. However, last week — when he finished T2 at the AT&T Byron Nelson — he was gaining strokes on the field with the flat-stick. That is a great sign heading into the only major he hasn’t won. He played Southern Hills a few weeks ago with his buddy Justin Thomas and predicts it will be one of the highest-scoring PGAs. He also said it played firm and fast, that he “really enjoyed playing it” and that it will require a lot of “really delicate little shots” around the greens — a Spieth specialty! I’d love to see him enter the history books this week.
Corey Conners (+6600) BetMGM
I’m just not ready to stop betting Corey Conners to win a major! He’s a fantastic shaper of the ball, which will be necessary around Southern Hills’ doglegs. Plus his major record is excellent, with three top-10 finishes at the Masters, a T15 at the ’21 Open Championship and a T17 at last year’s PGA. It’s the same old story; he just needs a hot putter! But his length and strong wind play should help him a lot in Tulsa.
Cameron Young (+8000) DK Sportsbook
What a year it’s been for this PGA Tour rookie. Young has demonstrated an elite level of consistent ball-striking and has mega length off the tee. He has posted four top-3s this year and three of them are runner-up finishes, including the Wells Fargo Championship just a few weeks ago. He plays well on tricky courses, such as TPC Potomac and Riviera CC; Southern Hills could really compliment his game. Again, a good putting week will be the key factor for Young.
Talor Gooch (+15000) DK Sportsbook
Gooch is someone who’s going to be thrilled to be in Oklahoma this week…and I’m loving his odds! Gooch was born here and attended college at Oklahoma State University, so he’s going to feel right at home and pumped up to be back with the fans. This has been his defining year on the PGA Tour, with his debut victory coming this season at the RSM Classic to go along with three other top-10 finishes and two T11s. He had a great week at Augusta National, finishing T14 in the first major of 2022. Gooch is really cementing himself as someone who will be contenting a lot in his career, and with his strong approach and around-the-green play I like him as a longer shot this week.
For more picks, check out my best PGA Championship prop bets.
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