PGA Championship: Odds, best picks, key players to watch

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The PGA Championship, the year’s second major is upon us, and it’s time to get your funds in order. Here to walk you through the best opportunities for turning warm feelings into cold cash are Yahoo Sports’ Jay Busbee and Scott Pianowski.

BUSBEE: Scott, my friend, the PGA Championship is here. I’m still not adjusted to it showing up now instead of in August; I always feel like it’s the end of the major season rather than the middle. To me, this gives the PGA more heft, and the fact that we’ve had some strong winners of late – like the gentleman that won last year – only adds to the weight of the week.

PIANOWSKI: I love the PGA in May. "Glory's second shot." At least it won't be quite as hot as the August swelter-fests we saw in recent years. Golf has a better cadence since the change was made — one major per month starting in April, and some time to breathe before the FedExCup wraps and the Ryder Cup (every other year) comes calling. I like the major season ending across the pond too. If the PGA is going to be the fourth-of-four in everyone's mind, it needs to bat second, not cleanup. Even Sawgrass in March makes sense. They got it right.

BUSBEE: Let’s start with the big dogs. Your thoughts on the favorites?

PIANOWSKI: I'm going to semi-fade the two favorites, Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler. Let's be clear on what that means; I'm not picking them to win and certainly not on short odds. Although Rahm won in Mexico, his chipping and putting isn't going to work here. And for as fantastic as Scheffler has been, this is the first major where he has the big red X on his back. That's a different ask, to do it when you're expected to do it. I realize this is his favorite course in the world — he's had college success here — but I'm a capitalist. I'm not paying up now that the ROI has collapsed.

BUSBEE: Southern Hills is a largely unfamiliar course to a lot of these players — but it's more wide open, and it's going to be hot as hell. Who's someone you're looking to take advantage of this setup?

PIANOWSKI: How does Cameron Smith strike you? He’s not afraid of big stages and big-boy golf courses. Chipping is going to be critical here, and he has that down — that’s why he’s always a popular pick at Augusta. I can’t say he’s a steal at 22-1, but it’s still a ticket I’ll punch. And the value is probably better for him down the leaderboard, in the Top 5, 10, and 20 markets.

Rory McIlroy hits his tee shot on the 4th hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club. (Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports)
Rory McIlroy hits his tee shot on the 4th hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club. (Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports)

BUSBEE: The PGA has the "strongest field in golf," which often leads to some unpredictable one-and-done winners. (Jimmy Walker and Keegan Bradley, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you.) Who do you think fits that bill this week?

PIANOWSKI: I think the PGA used to be the Cinderella slipper of the majors, but that's been less of a thing lately. Phil Mickelson obviously won out of nowhere last year, but he’s still Phil Freaking Mickelson. Collin Morikawa, star. Brooks Koepka two wins, boss. Justin Thomas, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, all uber-talents. The only strange winner in the last eight runnings was Jimmy Walker, and heck, he played in two Ryder Cups. I’m more likely to bet overdogs over underdogs here. I want someone with some gravitas, a made man.

BUSBEE: Tiger. How's he going to do?

PIANOWSKI: Tiger's mind made him a two-day story at the Masters; he can play that track in his sleep. His body creaked to a 77-77 finish. Southern Hills isn't a fun walk, either, especially if your joints hurt. Woods is too smart and too competitive not to flirt with the cut, but I think gravity takes some revenge. I'd love to watch Tiger for four days; we're only going to get two.

BUSBEE: Jordan Spieth is going for the career Grand Slam. Does he get it?

PIANOWSKI: I don’t know what to do with Jordan Spieth. He’s in decent form, and could have easily won last week. I talked about chipping, and nobody does it better. But his putter hasn’t been good most of the year, and Spieth is so realistic with himself, he can get discouraged in pressure spots. I expect contention, and a very popular run. But I can’t give him anything better than a T9.

BUSBEE: OK, enough preamble. Who do you like this week?

PIANOWSKI: Morikawa's iron game is angelic, and he's so smart. He doesn't look great on some of the efficiency metrics, but he understands the Koepka secret — it's better to peak at the right times, rather than burn yourself out over 52 weeks. I wish Morikawa had played more in the last couple of months, or shown more than a backdoor fifth at the Masters. But he's so easy to like, to root for and to invest in.

I have a Xander Schauffele problem. I always pull for the empaths. I picked Xander over Scheffler in my hometown Masters pool last month, which feels comically misguided now. But X won in New Orleans and did you see that 61 on Sunday in Dallas? OK, they were handing out birdies at the airport last week. Give me some of that 25-1 honey.

Dustin Johnson? He just got married. Bad timing. Viktor Hovland? Not with that chipping game.

Cameron Young is my semi-sleeper for Top 10s and 20s, if you can say that about someone who's made a million in his last two starts.

Brass tacks. My gut says Cameron Smith. My linear side says Collin Morikawa. My heart says Xander Schauffele. Which probably means I'll be apologizing to Justin Thomas sometime Sunday night.

BUSBEE: You’ve got $100 to bet. Which way do you go?

PIANOWSKI: Ten apiece on my three horses to win and top 5 – Smith (+2200), Schauffele (+2500), Morikawa (+2000) – so that's $60. Five apiece on Young carding a top 10 (+550) and top 20 (+250). Twenty on Tiger to miss the cut (+100). And another $10 on Lowry to finish in the top 10 (+275).

BUSBEE: Morikawa and Spieth (+2000) are too tempting at 20-1 or more … $20 apiece on those. Fifteen on top 10s for Will Zalatoris (+160), Koepka (+160) and, what the hell, Louis Oosthuizen (+260). Over on the prop side, I’ll go $10 with the BetMGM special of Shane Lowry, Joaquin Niemann and Brooks Koepka to make the cut (+140), and my final $5 on an ace (+125).

For more betting tips on the PGA Championship, go here. For more information on PGA Championship prop bets, go here. And for a complete list of PGA Championship bets at BetMGM, go here.

TULSA, OKLAHOMA - AUGUST 08: A view from the clubhouse at Southern Hills Country Club on August 8, 2021 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo by Gary Kellner/PGA of America via Getty Images)
TULSA, OKLAHOMA - AUGUST 08: A view from the clubhouse at Southern Hills Country Club on August 8, 2021 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo by Gary Kellner/PGA of America via Getty Images)
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