The PGA Championship
When: July 28-31, 2016
Where: Baltusrol GC (Lower) – Springfield, NJ
by: Evergreen of Predictem.com
There is almost nothing in sports that adds drama like a last chance. A last second field goal, a 3-2 pitch with two down in the bottom of the ninth or that moment when the river card is turned over produces excitement purely based on the fact that the end is immediate. The PGA Tour golf season isn’t even to the playoffs yet but this week provides the last chance to win a Major in 2016. The 97th PGA Championship in on tap and all eyes will be on Baltusrol as the best in the golf world tee it up for what the PGA likes to call “Glory’s Last Shot”.
The PGA Championship might be regarded as the lesser of all the Majors but the rewards for winning are just as grand. The winner this week assures himself exempt status to just about everything you can think of so there is plenty on the line even if the prestige of winning the final Major doesn’t rise to that of the other three. One unique item for the PGA Championship is that there is no room made for amateur players. This event purposely puts the emphasis on professionals as the invite list replaces the amateurs with 20 players from this year’s club professional’s championship. They join roughly 136 others to round out the field with 97 of the top-100 scheduled to be in attendance. Jason Day won his first Major Championship at Whistling Straits last year and goes off as one of the betting favorites in his title defense. This tournament also has a fondness for creating super-groups and will pair the three Major champs from this year, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Danny Willett, for the first two days. Phil Mickelson, Day and Rory McIlroy make for another star-studded grouping and the crowds following these talented pairings can create some fantastic reactions if players get hot or doing something incredible. The international players have succeeded to a high degree in recent years with seven non-American players winning The PGA Championship since 2004. Padraig Harrington and Martin Kaymer are among them with McIlroy’s name showing up twice to go alongside Day from last year.
Baltusrol is no stranger to championship golf with seven U.S. Opens and four U.S. Amateur championships on its hosting record. The 2005 PGA Championship was contested here with Phil Mickelson winning at 4-under par. That is a remarkably low winning total when compared with recent years but it shows that the Lower Course at Baltusrol can be very demanding despite what appears to be a straightforward setup. The course will play at par-70 for the championship and stretches out to over 7,400 yards. That raw distance will give the bombers on Tour an advantage but control is necessary as well in order to avoid well-placed bunkers and to setup proper angles. The par-5, 17th hole measures something north of 640 yards and has been reached in two by only John Daly in competition although Tiger Woods sent an approach over the green during the 2005 championship. The oppressive heat that has settled over much of the U.S. over the last week will come into play as that kind of heat dries out and speeds up a course. There has been rain but the powers that be will make sure that the greens at Baltusrol will be firm and don’t be surprised if it becomes very difficult to hold greens on approaches from the rough.
Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight our best bets. We make some picks to win and breakdown the group of players most heavily featured in the head-to-head matchups that you can find at Topbet Sportsbook (Get a 50% bonus on your first deposit up to $250 FREE!). We are looking to make it two in a row after correctly nailing Jhonattan Vegas as the winning 80 to 1 longshot last week. Here are our picks to win the 2016 PGA Championship.
I remember when it was the simpler days of just Tiger v. the field, that was certainly less complicated than what we have now. I digress and want to take a quick look at what most sportsbooks are now tabbing as the Big 6 and how they shake out based on their previous PGA Championship performance. You will undoubtedly see numerous bets from the collection of Johnson, Day, McIlroy, Spieth, Stenson and Mickelson this week so here is my ranking of those individuals.
1. Dustin Johnson (8 to 1) He just looks the part of the best in the world and can overtake Jason Day this week to officially earn that distinction. He has not let the U.S. Open win affect him in any way and just missed an RBC playoff by one stroke last week. His PGA Championship record is great with just one missed cut in six starts and four top-10 finishes but his recent Major record is phenomenal with seven top-10 finishes in just the last nine Majors. He is comfortable at the big events, making 26-of-30 cuts at Majors for his career and he might have the best power game since the vintage Tiger days.
2. Jason Day (9 to 1) Not straying too far from the betting odds yet, especially since his T22 at the British Open snapped a streak of five straight top-10 finishes in Majors, including the PGA Championship win last year. He has missed two of six cuts at the PGA but all four made cuts have resulted in top-15 finishes so he is a tough guy to beat in any tournament-long match. Day actually played very well in Canada last week outside a rough stretch on Friday or you would have seen him right up there with the leaders. Defending a title at a different course than where you won it makes for a difficult defense but Day is a threat anywhere.
3. Rory McIlroy (9 to 1) The PGA Championship is McIlroy’s best statistical Major. Even with a T64 in 2011, his average finish for this event clocks in at just over 13th. He has never missed a PGA cut, won twice and has three more top-10’s in just seven career starts. He hasn’t been his top-level self for a while but he has an uncanny habit of still being right around the top-10 or so even when he isn’t in contention. I put him behind Day and Johnson in terms of win probability but I wouldn’t feel great about betting against him in head-to-head as his missed cut potential is still very low.
4. Phil Mickelson (20 to 1) Lefty continues to be relevant in Majors and is fresh off what is one of the best runner-up performances you could imagine at the British Open. His veteran calmness and easy-going attitude will help shake off that rather unlucky bad-beat and he will probably spin that British Open experience into confidence given it took a historic effort to beat him. Phil has missed just one PGA Championship cut in 23 career appearances and has been around for the weekend every year since 1996. He is the defending Baltusrol champ so he should have some good mojo going and he was 2nd as recently as 2014 so a win is not out of the question. He has found a way to absolutely get the best out of himself for four weeks out the year and that is not an easy task.
5. Henrik Stenson (16 to 1) I think Stenson’s romp at the British is hard to evaluate just two weeks removed but history will remember how amazing that performance truly was. The 40-year old has some emotional management to do this week coming off his first Major win and that can be difficult considering golf is so focus driven. I give Henrik a good chance to do so given his veteran status and he is just playing so well right now. He basically owns the EPGA from a statistical standpoint and he has fared well at the PGA previously. He ran T3 in 2013/14 with T4 and T6 finishes in 2008/09 to give him four legitimate contentions is nine career starts. I think it would be a big ask for him to win back-to-back Majors but I wouldn’t put many above him in head-to-head terms.
6. Jordan Spieth (10 to 1) Spieth is really getting some back-burner treatment from the golf writers but that is less hate and more love to the group ahead of him. Jordan is still one of the brightest 22-year old talents we have ever seen but the “choke” at the Masters and also ran T30-something finishes at the Opens have him knocked down a couple pegs on the favorites list. It is too soon to say he needs to do something or be labeled some kind of flash-in-the-pan because but he does need to steady the ship and have a nice tournament or the whispers will start about a slump. Jordan will be making just his fourth PGA Championship start and while he was 2nd last year, he has missed the cut in his other two appearances. He probably isn’t too far away from the form that saw him finish T4 or better in five straight Majors but he is still sixth on this list for this week.
Picks to win based on predicted score for all four rounds. Check out 5Dimes Sportsbook for single round matches and prop bets.
Bubba Watson (30 to 1) The theme of riding the long hitters at Baltusrol should payoff and Bubba is one of the biggest names on the bomber list. He is close to becoming a Masters specialist as far as Majors are concerned but he did have a 2nd at the 2010 PGA Championship and this is his second best statistical Major. He has not missed a cut this year and even though his other Majors have been pretty blah to be honest, he seems close to breaking back through. His putter has been underwhelming outside of a win at The Northern Trust and that has been the big detractor in his rounds. He isn’t scoring well enough to contend yet not wrecking hard enough to miss cuts so he just needs a good week on the greens to have a good result here. His ball control is elite and he is among the few that can play this course from the rough so look for a solid T15 finish as his floor with a good potential to sneak a win that is not widely projected but won’t really surprise either.
Brandt Snedeker (60 to 1) Snedeker is one my faves this week based on the fact that he has added some pop to his driver to go along with a stellar putter. He had a chance to get in a playoff on the last hole in Canada before finding a nasty lie in the bunker and that came on the heels of a strong British so the trend is looking good. Brandt is top-25 in putts per round, putting average and total putting so there isn’t anything he can’t do on the greens. If he is finding fairways and hitting his standard amount of greens, he will be among those heading into Sunday with a chance to win. T13 and T12 finishes in the last two PGA Championships makes him a comfortable head-to-head bet, too.
J. B. Holmes (80 to 1) Holmes is the second longest driver of the ball on Tour and that length will be his best weapon this week. He has used his power game to finish well in some big events with T4’s at the Masters and Memorial and most recently a T3 at Troon. Holmes has technically never missed a PGA Championship cut in seven starts but does have two WD’s which count all the same from a betting standpoint. A tough stat to figure out for him is his 6th ranked birdie average coming off the 161st strokes-gained putting stat. A poor putter shouldn’t score that well but a deeper look shows that J.B. putts better and better as the rounds go on, to the point where he is a top-25 putter on the weekends. Maybe he just needs the time to get used to the greens but it is a nice thing to lean on if he is in the mix late.
Good luck and good golf!
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