PGA Championship 2020 picks: Our experts love this under-the-radar star
We’ve waited over a full year to say it: this is MAJOR. Or, is this glory’s last shot? Or COVID’s first shot? Whatever, you get the point. It’s a major week for the first time in a long time. Man, that feels good to type.
This year’s PGA Championship has the potential to attract more eyeballs than usual as it takes the place of the season’s first major. The casual fan is likely to tune in after such a long hiatus without live sports, and that means fans playing major pools and making bets will be focusing on this big-time tournament.
All the stars are here, including tournament favorite Justin Thomas, fresh of his WGC victory. Brooks Koepka, last week’s runner-up, is going for the PGA three-peat and looking to become one of 20 golfers ever to win five majors. Rory McIlroy is hoping to achieve that same feat. Jordan Spieth is gunning for the Career Grand Slam. Dustin Johnson, sneakily at 20-1, is searching for an elusive second major. Bryson DeChambeau a first ... Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele ... need we continue?
Oh, right, there’s also Tiger Woods, a 15-time major champion who is 33-1 to win this week. Yeah, it’s going to be a fun one in San Francisco, where the weather and the juicy rough at TPC Harding Park are expected to give players fits.
If you’re new to this space, welcome to the most successful betting panel in golf. Our experts have picked 13 winners this season, and we’re hungry to add a major to our record. The panel consists of a tour caddie, offering insight from the range and putting green at this week’s 2020 3M Open; picks from three of the most respected experts in the daily-fantasy community, including Gdula; Pat Mayo of DraftKings, and Rick Gehman, a leading data scientist and founder of RickRunGood.com; and Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports, which tracks DFS ownership and sentiment.
Read on for our full analysis this week at the 2020 PGA Championship.
PGA Championship 2020 Picks To Win (Odds from PointsBet)
Anonymous Caddie Picker of the week: Xander Schauffele (18-1) — He's been having a very consistent season, and yet he still flies a little under the radar. He's proven he can play at the highest level especially around grueling tracks. He also has experience playing the majority of his golf out on the West Coast. This would be a fitting place for him to get his first major.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National analyst: Dustin Johnson (20-1) — Dustin has already been good to me since the PGA Tour restart, so why not see if he can do it again? I get everyone is on Brooks this week. I can see it, but the odds don’t work out for me. Essentially, DJ is 75 percent Koepka at over double the odds. That’s simply a better betting price. Plus, DJ was very sneaky good in Memphis. Turns out his back wasn’t actually an issue, he just wanted to bolt from Minneapolis. Finishing in a tie for 12th at the WGC, DJ gained at least 2.2 strokes in each of the tee-to-green categories while losing strokes on the greens.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire managing editor: Xander Schauffele (18-1) — A PGA Championship in California sets up too well for Schauffele to ignore. Schauffele can grind out anywhere because he excels in all four areas of the strokes gained data, and we saw that in effect at Muirfield Village just a few weeks ago when he went 78-69-72-70 to climb his way back to 13th after a dismal start. In 2020, he’s been a top-five player in adjusted strokes gained: tee to green and has five top-10s in 11 majors.
Rick Gehman, data scientist and RickRunGood.com founder: Brooks Koepka (12-1) — It would be historic and unheard of if Brooks Koepka completes the “three-peat” of PGA Championship victories, but it certainly feels like he’s in the driver's seat to make it happen. It’s been a year since Koepka has raised any trophy, but he’s on the verge of greatness right now. He was second in the field in birdies (22) last week and led the field in strokes gained/approach. If he can get the putter to cooperate at all, he’s going to be in contention all week at TPC Harding Park.
Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest dep. managing editor: Jon Rahm (13-1) — I’m looking at the Memorial as a decent indicator to what we can expect this week—that was a true major-like setup with rough similar to Harding Park. And Jon Rahm was so good at Muirfield Village. How good? Rahm gained 15.5 strokes tee-to-green, which is the best figure for any player this season, according to our guy Rick Gehman and his RickRunGood.com database. In fact, there have only been eight better showings in the 60,000+ rounds in Rick’s database. Rahm is clearly playing as well as anyone in the world, and that tee-to-green game should translate well to what you need at Harding Park.
Christopher Powers, Golf Digest assistant editor: Brooks Koepka (12-1) — What can I say, this dude has completely suckered me in. I’ve been on him since Harbour Town, and he’s repaid me with ZERO total dollars, though we came damn close last week. What was most encouraging was outside of the first round, he putted pretty poorly, and he didn’t drive it great either. But he ranked first in the field in strokes-gained: approach and third in strokes-gained: tee-to-green. Now, just imagine he dials in the driver and the putter? A three-peat is imminent, folks. I refuse to miss out on it.
Lee Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Jon Rahm (13-1) — Rahm’s superior ability to putt on extremely fast Bentgrass greens should give him an edge against this very competitive PGA Championship field. The course will suit his game, thanks to his brilliant off-the-tee game on this tight course. Plus he ranks sixth for strokes gained/tee-to-green since the PGA Tour restart so is playing great golf right now.
Results from this season: DraftKings’ Pat Mayo nearly added his sixth winner of the season last week before Brooks Koepka was taken down by Justin Thomas. That keeps Mayo one behind Brandon Gdula of numberFire/FanDuel, who nailed at the Memorial for his sixth winning pick in this column this season. We’ve correctly predicted four winners in the past seven events, including six outrights in the past 10 tournaments. Overall, we have nailed 13 of the first 29 winners of the season. Golf Digest's betting panel continues to be the hottest golf betting panel in the industry: Counting outright winners, top-10 bets and matchups won and lost, we are up 261.06 units (the equivalent of being up $2,610.60 if you wagered $10 on all of our bets).
2020 PGA Championship picks: Sleepers/Dark Horses (odds from PointsBet)
Caddie: Shane Lowry (60-1) — The reigning Open champion has proven he can win on the big stage, he thrives in colder conditions and he's a powerful player which helps around a tight track with penalizing rough. Quietly he’s playing well, too, coming off his best finish of the season at TPC Southwind last week.
Mayo: Kevin Na (150-1) — Does he have a better chance to withdraw than win? Maybe. But these odds are just too deep for someone who has won three PGA Tour events in the past two years. Na has gained on approach in nine of the past 10 events he’s finished, and while he constantly loses strokes off the tee, he is seventh in accuracy since the restart. If he keeps himself out of trouble off the tee, his irons and putting can get hot enough to actually give this a run.
Gdula: Tony Finau (40-1) — Finau has been one of the best golfers of 2020, particularly tee to green. He has potential to unleash serious distance and can always linger in any event, even majors. Long shot bets don’t attract me much for majors, but Finau has some value.
Gehman: Ryan Palmer (150-1) — Palmer’s excellent season continued with a second-place finish at the Memorial and a T-15 at the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational last week. That now makes three top-15 finishes in his last five events, all of which had a better strength of field than the BMW Championship last season, a playoff event on tour. Palmer was fourth in the field from tee-to-green last week behind only Justin Thomas, Chez Reavie and Brooks Koepka.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Tyrrell Hatton (55-1) — TPC Harding Park has seven par 4s that should play between 450-500 yards, so I’m looking at scoring on par 4s in that distance as a big factor. In the past 50 rounds according to FantasyNational.com, Hatton is T-3 in that category. You’re going to need to be proficient with your long irons off some of these tees, and that’s playing to Hatton’s strength.
Powers, Golf Digest: Jason Day (33-1) — To me, a real longshot in golf is at least, at LEAST longer than 60-1, and should probably be 100-1 or higher to be considered a true “bomb.” Guys who try to pass off 35-1 and 40-1 guys as “longshots” are just too scared to really take it deep (my guy Steve Hennessey was guilty of this last week, yes I’m calling him out). All that said, Day is my fringe longshot this week at 45-1. He’s finished in the top seven in three straight starts, a product of his iron play steadily improving. Last week, the putter was back to peak Day form too. This is a former PGA winner and a former World No. 1 who is trending in the right direction, and he’s 45-1? Between 2015 and 2018, had he come into a major off three straight top 10s, he’d be 20-1 at minimum. I love this number for the Aussie, who is technically still in his prime, provided he doesn’t WD on Thursday morning because it’s a little chilly (kinda worried about this happening but whatever).
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Emiliano Grillo (200-1) — For a player that hits the ball so accurately off the tee and has such a strong approach game, this course should really suit him. He also ranks first for Opportunities Gained in this field since the PGA restart so 200-1 is far too big a price.
Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)
Caddie: Tiger Woods (25-1) — It's always risky doing this, but the track record speaks for itself. When there are cold conditions, paired with long rough Tiger struggles to get going.
Mayo: Rickie Fowler (40-1) — Nothing against Rickie, but he has a tough enough time closing out a regular event, and now he’s priced as one of the best players int he field. Pass.
Gdula: Dustin Johnson (20-1) — DJ’s win at the Travelers and 12th-place finish at the WGC-St. Jude do a lot to cover up what has been inconsistent iron play and even shaky short game at times. It’s always difficult to fade any of the stars in a major, but I’m okay passing on Johnson in favor of pretty much every other name due to the statistical concerns.
Gehman: Rory McIlroy (12-1) — It’s terrifying to fade McIlroy at a major, or any event, but the numbers look really poor right now. Per the RickRunGood.com golf database, he has gained a total of 1.89 strokes on approach in his 20 rounds since the break. To put that into perspective, he gained a total of 21.41 strokes on approach in his last 20 measured rounds before the shutdown. The strokes-gained/approach stat is generally one of the more important stats from week to week, and McIlroy has been in a bad run with his irons.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Tiger Woods (25-1) — Could Tiger win this week? Nothing he does would ever surprise me, he’s the GOAT. I’m just not going to invest in Tiger with his lack of competitive rounds since the restart. I’d like to see a little flash of greatness before backing him at a major. I’ll get on him at Winged Foot, and I’ll pass on him here.
Powers, Golf Digest: Rory McIlroy (12-1) — Still not loving what I’m seeing from him. I think there is absolutely something to him needing the fans to play well. He’s a momentum guy, all the proof of that coming at Portrush last year, when the fans nearly propelled him to a miraculous made cut on Friday. He needs the juice. He needs the roars. He won’t get either of those things at Harding Park this week. I’m out on Rory until life returns to normal. For his sake, I sincerely hope that happens.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Bryson DeChambeau (16-1) — I’m not convinced DeChambeau is ready to win a major quite yet. There seems to be too much going on in his head away from getting a small white ball in a tiny hole, like arguments with rules officials, his diet etc. The course also doesn’t set up very well for him, ranking just 90th in our course-suitability ranking this week.
PGA Championship 2020 picks: Matchups
Caddie: Justin Thomas (-139) over Jon Rahm (DraftKings) — I had this same exact matchup last week, and that worked out pretty well, didn’t it? JT has more patience to avoid the big numbers at TPC Harding Park. Rahm has been close in majors (Pebble Beach, Augusta, Portrush), but I like JT’s demeanor – and his elite iron game, to translate well here.
Mayo: Kevin Na (-106) over Harris English (DraftKings) — If I’m going to tout Na has a potential winner, I have to think he can top Harris English, who has only appeared in one Major the last three years.
Gdula: Daniel Berger (-122) over Jason Day (FanDuel) — I initially liked Berger as a sleeper before his odds skyrocketed. He’s a stellar performer in all four strokes gained stats, and that should win out over Day’s short game.
Gehman: Patrick Cantlay (+110) over Rory McIlroy (DraftKings) — Cantlay played himself out of the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational last week with two horrid rounds on Thursday and Friday. He flipped the switch to have the fifth-best score over the weekend and gained over four strokes on approach in the process. He is matched up with McIlroy, who, as noted, has been struggling with his irons and is looking like a shell of himself since the restart.
Hennessey: Daniel Berger (-105) over Tiger Woods (William Hill) — This one is going to get a lot of my money. Berger is hotter than just about anyone in the world right now, and Tiger hasn’t shown us anything yet. Berger’s run of top-10s might not be getting enough credit, as evidenced by him being an underdog in this matchup against Tiger.
Powers: Jon Rahm (+115) over Justin Thomas (DraftKings) — Going against Thomas after last week is dangerous, but Rahm should be pretty motivated after he had the No. 1 ranking ripped from him. Plus, Thomas was shaky off the tee coming down the stretch. He also already has his major, not that he won’t win many more. Rahm seems ready to explode in a big event.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Jon Rahm (-110) over Bryson DeChambeau (Betway) — As you can see from the rest of my picks. This course sets up so much better for Rahm than it does DeChambeau. Rahm also has the better temperament to win a major right now.
Matchup Results from WGC FedEx St. Jude: Mayo: 1 for 1 (Webb Simpson (+105) over Patrick Cantlay); Alldrick: 1 for 1 (Webb Simpson (+105) over Patrick Cantlay); Hennessey: 1 for 1 (Rory McIlroy (+100) over Jon Rahm); Tour Caddie: 1 for 1 (Justin Thomas (-110) over Jon Rahm); Gdula: 1 for 1 (Brooks Koepka (-110) over Dustin Johnson); Gehman: 0 for 1; Powers: 0 for 1
Matchup Results this season: Powers: 11-5-1 (+6.42 units); Tour Caddie: 15-8-1 (+6.2 units); Hennessey: 11-6 (+5.92 units); Alldrick: 16-9-2 (+5 units); Gehman: 4-4 (-0.38 units); Gdula: 11-13-2 (-1.44 units); Mayo: 12-15 (-2.81 units)
Top 10 (odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)
Caddie: Collin Morikawa (+350) — Collin's a West Coast guy, so he's familiar with these conditions. He's also one of the most consistent players tee-to-green, which gives him a huge advantage around a course which demands accuracy and precision.
Mayo: Sung Kang (+3300) — Hilariously inconsistent but oozing with upside, Kang tends to do his best work in windy, long conditions. He’s also been a revelation in his two PGA Championship appearances. In those two starts, the South Korean has gained strokes on the field in every round he’s played. The result: a T-7 and T-44.
Gdula: Paul Casey (+900) — Casey’s got some bad finishes to his name the past few weeks, but they’re pretty easy to explain from the data. He’s been terrible as a putter and around the green. We can’t excuse that and pretend it’ll go away, but his ball-striking rates out quite well. He’s priced as an afterthought but shouldn’t be for a top-10 finish.
Gehman: Scottie Scheffler (+600) — Scheffler is finding his stride right now with back-to-back top 25s at the Memorial and the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational. He’s elite off-the-tee, ranking 10th on TOUR and he makes a ton of birdies, ranking 11th on tour. That’s a really good recipe for success as long as his short game can hold it together.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Tyrrell Hatton (+500) — TPC Harding Park has seven par 4s that should play between 450-500 yards, so I’m looking at scoring on par 4s in that distance as a big factor. In the past 50 rounds according to FantasyNational.com, Hatton is T-3 in that category. You’re going to need to be proficient with your long irons off some of these tees, and that’s playing to Hatton’s strength.
Powers, Golf Digest: Adam Scott (+600) — I actually bet Scott top 20 at +300, but I might add the top 10 late Wednesday if I’m feeling frisky. The long layoff (Scott hasn’t played since Bay Hill) might scare some, but he’s going to be ready. This is how he operates during a normal season anyway, so it’s not like he’ll be coming in ice cold. Plus, he’s finished inside the top 20 in seven of his last nine PGA starts. Having to hit fairways and greens like he’ll need to this week is a strategy that plays right into Scott’s hands.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Hideki Matsuyama (+400) — Matsuyama’s excellent approach and strong off the tee game makes this course ideal for him. We have him ranked 14th in our course-suitability ranking, plus he is playing good golf right now ranking ninth for strokes gained/tee-to-green over the last two months and 18th for Opportunities Gained.
Top 10 Results from WGC-Fed-Ex St. Jude: Mayo: 1 for 1 (Chez Reavie, +1000); Gdula: 1 for 1 (Matthew Fitzpatrick, +300); Tour caddie: 0 for 1; Gehman: 0 for 1; Hennessey: 0 for 1; Powers: 0 for 1; Alldrick: 0 for 1
Top 10 results from this season: Mayo: 5 for 25 (+21.5 units); Hennessey: 4 for 16 (+3.75 units); Alldrick: 5 for 26 (+0.5 units); Gehman: 1 for 8 (-1 unit); Powers: 2 for 16 (-3.3 units); Gdula: 4 for 27 (-4.8 units); Tour caddie: 1 for 34 (-20.5 units)
By The Numbers:
Courtesy of Rick Gehman:
2.27 — The average strokes gained per round for Daniel Berger, the most on tour since the restart. Berger, along with Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau, are the only golfers to average 2+ strokes gained since the Charles Schwab Challenge.
12 — The number of rounds that Brooks Koepka has lost at least four strokes to the field since the start of the 2017 season. That’s the most of any golfer priced over $10,000 on DraftKings in that span. Schauffele (8), Bryson (7), Rahm (6), Thomas (4), McIlroy (4)
10.01 — The number of strokes gained putting by Matthew Fitzpatrick last week in Memphis. By far, the most he’s ever gained in a single event in his career. In fact, four of the best six putting events ever have happened in the restart.
747 — The number of places that Brendan Todd has improved in the Official World Golf Rankings since this time last year. He was ranked 795th after his T25 at the Barracuda Championship, now currently ranked 48th.
FanShare Sports' Lee Alldrick has two picks to consider for your DFS lineups:
Under The Radar DFS Pick: Hideki Matsuyama (DraftKings: $8,200) — Matsuyama has just two mentions within the industry so far this week. It’s crazy … he’s not being trusted, and he’s been one of the most successful players in the world in the past three to four years. This course is made for Matsuyama’s excellent approach and off-the-tee game. Hence why he is ranked 14th in our course-suitability ranking. He also ranks ninth for strokes gained/tee to green and 18th for Opportunities Gained since the PGA Restart.
Value DFS Pick: Joaquin Niemann (DraftKings: $7,300) — Niemann ranks first in our course-suitability ranking this week. His ability to play tight, long par 70s gives him a really advantage this week. Believe it or not, he actually putts well on extremely fast Bentgrass greens too, ranking 38th in the field this week for strokes gained/putting on such surfaces. It is usually his putting that holds his excellent long game back, but this week that shouldn’t be the case.
About our experts
Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio. Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com.
Brandon Gdula, managing editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year *(congrats, Brandon!)*. Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.
Rick Gehman is the founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.
Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports started out writing an article highlighting the best bargain plays for fantasy golf under his twitter handle @DKGolfBargains. His success at this prompted FanShare Sports to enlist him as a guest writer, which evolved into him writing the weekly Under The Radar article. As a U.K.-based expert, Alldrick’s insight into European Tour regulars and low priced, low owned plays has provided an invaluable edge for readers when it comes to DFS GPPs.