PGA Championship picks: Tiger Woods is not one of our experts' picks. Here's who they think will win at Bethpage
Bethpage conjures images of Tiger Woods lifting the U.S. Open trophy at this public golf mecca. The people’s golfer took home our national championship in 2002, the first time the U.S. Open was played at a true public golf course. Now with the 15-time major champion coming off his Masters victory, is it an eventuality this extra-motivated, rejuvenated Tiger will win again at Bethpage? Not so fast, our experts say.
Though our experts won’t go as far as to fade him at this week’s PGA Championship, nobody has chosen Tiger to keep his Grand Slam hopes alive. He is the betting favorite, with a high asking price likely steering our experts toward more value in this deep field.
We continue to bring the best collection of golf expertise in betting circles, thanks to a partnership with the Action Network, a leader in premium handicapping data for sports bettors, which is becoming a must-follow in golf. Joshua Perry, one of the Action Network's golf handicappers, joins our weekly panel, which includes a PGA Tour caddie, offering insight from the range and putting green at Bethpage, thanks to our partnership with The Caddie Network; two of the most respected fantasy golf experts, Pat Mayo of DraftKings and Brandon Gdula of FanDuel; and Columbia University senior lecturer and Ph.D. Lou Riccio, who uses predictive analysis and modeling to forecast winners in golf.
2019 PGA Championship Picks To Win (Odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie Guest Picker of the Week: Justin Rose (20-1) — This is very strong value on Rose. The winning score is going to be single-digits under par. I like Rosie not only physically, but he makes the fewest mental mistakes. He’s the No. 2-ranked player in the world, and his lone missed cut this season came at the Masters. In his last start, the Wells Fargo, Rose finished third. I’m anticipating a big week from the 2013 U.S. Open champ.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National analyst: Xander Schauffele (29-1) — I’ve decided to quit being a coward and just turn myself over to the X-MAN at majors. Schauffele’s gained the 15th most total strokes at majors over the past two years, made the weekend in seven of his eight career majors, with top-six finishes in four of them. He’s won against stacked fields at the Tour Championship, a WGC and the Tournament of Champions, and along with Rickie Fowler, Ryan Fox, Gary Woodland, David Lipsky and Keegan Bradley, via FantasyNational.com), ranks inside the top 20 in both proximity gained from 75-100 yards and 200+ yards.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire editor: Tommy Fleetwood (33-1) — With how tough the course could play and with the weather shaping up to be wet and cold, variance could spike, so I think starting your card in the second or third tier is the right way to approach things for the PGA Championship. Fleetwood, over a large sample, has both the distance and accuracy to gain strokes on the field and avoid wet, problematic rough. He has made eight straight cuts at major championships, with two top-fours at the US Open. Frankly, this feels a bit like a U.S. Open. Fleetwood should gain greens in regulation and is a strong option to start a card. Avoiding the top options should allow us the bankroll to pick up some other plays in this range, primarily Xander Schauffele (+2800).
Dr. Lou Riccio, Columbia University: Dustin Johnson (11-1) — My model points to the odds being way off on Dustin Johnson. Maybe it's the fact Brooks Koepka has developed such a reputation for playing well at the majors (and rightfully so). He has become a public darling, thus inflating his odds. According to my modeling, DJ's odds to win are double that of anyone else in this field. In such an elite field, to say that DJ has an 8 percent chance of winning, compared to 4 percent for Rory, Koepka and Rickie, is reason enough to take DJ's low odds. They could end up being worth it.
Joshua Perry, Action Network golf handicapper: Justin Rose (20-1) — He was a popular pick at Augusta and burned everyone there. I've jumped in here with him flying slightly under the radar now. Outside of the missed cut at the Masters, the form has been great, and he's got a win this year at Torrey Pines.
Golf Digest editors: Justin Rose (20-1) — Looking deeper at the elite 10 to 15 players in this world, there needs to be a way to differentiate one from the other. Sure, Brooks Koepka is the big-game hunter who is the betting favorite. But look more closely at the stats, and there's a reason Justin Rose is our pick. Tee to green, Koepka, DJ and Rory are as good as it gets. What puts Justin Rose ahead of that class is his short game. Over the past 50 rounds, according to FantasyNational.com, Rose is ranked second in strokes gained/short game and ninth in strokes gained/around the green in this field. There will be greens missed at Bethpage Black, and the mighty Black is penal to missed shots. It will take creativity to get up and down, though most of these greens are relatively flat, you must have deft touch around the greens. Advantage, J-Rose.
(Results on the season: We’ve correctly predicted five of the season’s 24 events. Pat Mayo has correctly picked Bryson DeChambeau (12-1, Shriners); Matt Kuchar (60-1 at the OHL Classic) and Phil Mickelson (25-1 at Pebble Beach). Golf Digest editor Christopher Powers correctly picked Kevin Tway (55-1) to start the season at the Safeway Open. Lou Riccio called Rickie Fowler's win (16-1) in Phoenix. And Brandon Gdula has four picks of his who have finished runner-up. We're due for another winner.)
Sleepers/Dark Horses Who Could Win at the PGA Championship (odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie: Matt Kuchar (49-1) — I love those odds. Distance is definitely an advantage this week but hitting fairways and scrambling just as important. That’s where Kuchar excels. He’s got a career year going and, let’s be honest, the only thing missing from his resume is a major.
Mayo: Sergio Garcia (38-1) — In three career trips to Bethpage, Sergio’s finished inside the top 10 every time. He’s one of the few in the field with that, plus distance, plus the accuracy we crave. He's second in the field in approach, ninth in proximity gained from 75 to 100 yards and 21st on par 4s from 450-500 yards. And the major factor: The poa putting surfaces. In his career he’s been almost 10 times better on poa than all other surfaces, and has gained strokes putting in 11 of his past 16 rounds on this specific surfaces. And, you may get an ownership break after he screwed everyone at Augusta. Most will focus on that instead gaining over nine strokes tee-to-green at a difficult Quail Hollow track two weeks ago, en route to a T-4 finish.
Gdula: Patrick Cantlay (38-1) — Cantlay isn’t a traditional dark horse, but he provides a way to add another near-elite option if we avoid the heavy favorites and instead grab shares of other golfers, which is the way I’m approaching this week. Cantlay grades out 11th in strokes gained/off the tee and 10th strokes gained/approach over the past 100 rounds on tour, via FantasyNational.com), and he has made five of six cuts at his majors, including four straight. Cantlay has the distance and enough accuracy to avoid trouble off the tee.
Riccio: Marc Leishman (80-1) — The Australian started this season out hot, and he has cooled down considerably. But not enough to give us 80-1 odds. My model puts his true odds at 46-1, so you're getting an extremely favorable number. Some reasons to have faith in Leishman: He ranks 13th in this field in proximity to the hole on approaches from 200-plus yards and fifth on approaches from 175-200 yards over his past 36 rounds, according to FN. Those are crucial distances on this extra-long par-70 layout. Leishman has seven top-15 finishes in majors since 2013. If it wasn't for his struggles lately, and him missing last week's AT&T Byron Nelson with a back injury, these odds would be in the 50-to-1 range, so you can take advantage of this value.
Perry, Action Network: Matt Wallace (125-1) — I'm not really feeling too many longshots this week, but Wallace would be the play if I had one. He won three times on the Euro Tour last year and has a couple seconds this years. He's going breakthrough in the U.S. soon.
Golf Digest editors: Keegan Bradley (160-1) — Want to talk extreme value? Keegan played Bethpage Black a bunch while playing college golf at St. John's in nearby Queens. He also pops on a number of statistical levels: He's first in the entire field in proximity, including first in proximity from the crucial 200-plus yard range over his past 36 rounds, via FantasyNational.com). And he's first in this field in the past 36 rounds in strokes gained/approach, and sixth in strokes gained/ball-striking. We're ignoring his poor short-game stats at this extremely high number. We like his 100-to-1 first-round leader odds just as much. Keegan will be fired up to be back in NYC.
Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)
PGA Tour Caddie: Jordan Spieth (48-1) — The facts are the facts. He just has not returned to form. He’s shown glimpses, but just hasn’t put four great rounds together. At a place like Bethpage—with the way it’s going to play this week … wet, soft and extra-long—it’s just not a place where I think Jordan will suddenly find “it.”
Mayo: Jordan Spieth (48-1) — With the way Spieth’s been playing since last year’s British Open, what would be a number you’d actually consider him at? Remember a year ago, when Spieth was near the top of the PGA through five months in SG: tee-to-green, and the putter was just holding him back? Well, that’s flipped. Spieth has lost strokes tee-to-green in nine of his past 11 starts, and is currently only making cuts because he’s dropping everything inside 15-feet again, like vintage Spieth. I actually think he’ll put the pieces back together at some point, maybe even over the summer, but Bethpage isn’t that place.
Gdula: Rory McIlroy (11-1) — McIlroy has been lights out, and people seem to be forgetting that a bit since Tiger’s win at Augusta, but McIlroy doesn’t grade out as well on poa greens as the other top-four options, and this course offers plenty of eruption spots. That’s enough for me to avoid McIlroy at 11-1, especially when advocating a more well-rounded card.
Riccio: Francesco Molinari (28-1) — It's tough to fade someone who has played so well on the biggest stage the past two years. But my model—which values a player's strengths from a particular hole yardage, especially—is really down on Molinari this week. It gives the Italian odds of 105-1. Though Molinari is being forgotten somewhat in the talk leading up to the PGA, my model says to keep it that way on your betting sheets.
Perry, Action Network: Tiger Woods (11-1) — I've gone as far to lay the juice and bet Tiger to not win a major the rest of the year at -300. I'm sure he can play well this week. I mean, he's won here before, but there's been a bit of an overreaction with his number after The Masters win.
Golf Digest editors: Dustin Johnson (11-1) — It has been a quiet season by Dustin Johnson standards. And that's a compliment. A second-place at the Masters would be a season-making result for most players. Especially in the nonchalant way he did it—simply two-putting the par 5s to make birdies and plodding along most of the way with pars. And he won in Mexico. But when you look at this elite level of talent at the top, Koepka, Rory and Tiger have more momentum than DJ, reason for us to stay away. It could be a dangerous game to play, considering DJ has five top-10s in his last six starts. But we like the other favorites better.
2019 PGA Championship: Matchups
PGA Tour Caddie: Chez Reavie (-145) over Jimmy Walker (Sportbet) — I like Chez’s driving accuracy. That’s going to be important around here this week, as is bogey avoidance. Jimmy – the 2016 PGA Champion – has had a rough go of it so far this season, as he’s without a top-25 finish in any of his 14 starts. Chez, meanwhile, has three top-10s and enters this week on the strength of top-20 finishes in each of his last two starts.
Mayo: Dylan Frittelli (-110) over Cameron Champ (Sportsbook) — Cameron was pretty mediocre through the West Coast swing, and has been downright dreadful since entering the Eastern time zone. He withdrew from the Players with an injury and has missed four cuts in a row, and has begun hitting his irons like Wes Bryan smacks his driver. Not great. Frittelli, he’s fine. Good off the tee, solid with his irons, this is mainly a play against Champ, at a very fair price, too, considering the opponent.
Gdula: Rickie Fowler (-118) over Francesco Molinari (FanDuel) — Molinari definitely has fared well at majors, of course, but so has Fowler. Over the past eight majors, Fowler ranks second in total strokes gained (+77.8), behind only Brooks Koepka (+85.0). Molinari is sixth at +55.7. The stats suggest that Fowler isn't phased by cold conditions, and, to me, he fits the course better than Molinari.
Riccio: Corey Conners (+100) over Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Sportbet) — We're taking advantage here in a huge disparity between my model and Vegas' numbers. My model gives Conners the 15th best chance of winning this week (yes, I'm probably higher than most), whereas Aphibarnrat has the 80th best odds to win. Conners pops on so many statistical levels: He's first in proximity this season; eighth in strokes gained/approach and sixth in strokes gained/tee-to-green. Aphibarnrat is 97th on tour in bogey avoidance, compared to Conners who is in the top 40. The advantages for Conners are too strong to avoid.
Perry, Action Network: Brooks Koepka (-135) over Tiger Woods (Sportbet) — Brooks was better than Tiger tee to green at Augusta, but had an awful performance with the putter. Woods knows those Augusta greens as well as anyone, but I think that advantage is neutralized a bit on the soggy poa annua awaiting at Bethpage.
Golf Digest editors: Lucas Glover (-120) over Rafa Cabrera-Bello (Sportbet) — There are lot of reasons to like Lucas Glover this week. High on that list is that he's second on tour this season in bogey avoidance. Sure, this isn't a U.S. Open—but this par-70, 7,400+-yard layout will play tougher than most PGA Championships. Rafa is 106th this season on tour in that stat. We like the consistency of Glover here.
(Matchup results last week: Action Network: 1 for 1 (Scottie Scheffler (-110) over Lucas Bjerregaard); Riccio: 1 for 1 (Henrik Stenson (-130) over Patrick Reed); GD Editors: 1 for 1 (Justin Harding (+130) over Bud Cauley); Gdula: 0 for 1; Mayo: 0 for 1; PGA Tour Caddie: 0 for 1.)
(Matchup results for the year: GD Editors: 11 wins, 6 losses, one push; Riccio: 10-6; Action Network guest picker: 2 for 2; PGA Tour Caddie: 8-10; Mayo: 8-7-2; Gdula: 7-9-1.)
Top 10 (odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie: Patrick Cantlay (+400) — The guy drives the ball so well. In 12 starts this season, half have resulted in a top 10. That includes a T-9 at the Masters where he had a great weekend. That was Patrick’s first top-10 in a major. I expect him to continue to add to his plethora of top-10s and add a second major top-10 this week. Bethpage sets up to be a great week for him.
Mayo: Bubba Watson (+550) — You want risky, then you want Bubba. He's not quite having close to the three-win season from a year ago, but he has been on the precipice a couple times already. And there’s a lot working in his favor at the PGA Championship. Bubba tends to play well at exactly the same places most years. They’re known as Bubba tracks. You know them: Augusta, Riviera, TPC River Highlands, TPC Louisiana and TPC Scottsdale. Bethpage, it may just be a Bubba Track too.
In three starts at Bethpage, Bubba churned out a T-18 at the 2009 U.S. Open, a T-10 at the 2012 Barclays and a T-13 in 2016. In both Barclays years, Bubba gained positive strokes in all three facets of strokes gained/tee-to-green. Even better, Bubba was able to manufacture those elevated finishes despite losing strokes putting both times, an average of -1.6 strokes gained/putting over both starts. Since his putter change at the beginning of the year, Bubba has turned around his horrendous season on the greens and he's been OK of late. There could be good news, though. In his eight measured events in 2019 for Bubba, only two have been on poa greesn, Genesis and WGC-Mexico, those events were two of the three times he has gained strokes putting all season.
Gdula: Henrik Stenson (+550) — Stenson doesn’t have the distance that we generally want to see for a course like Bethpage Black, but he grades out elite in accuracy and greens in regulation gained. According to FantasyNational.com, Stenson has gained 6.7, 2.5, 7.3, 6.1, and 4.4 strokes via approach shots in his past five measured events, elite marks. Stenson also has great splits in cold weather.
Riccio: Rickie Fowler (+280) — You're getting almost 3-to-1 on your money with Rickie Fowler to finish in the top-10, which is extremely strong. Rickie is coming in a little undervalued, as my model gives him the fourth highest odds of winning. More likely is the top-10 finish, which he's done 10 times since 2011. That's value.
Perry, Action Network: Matt Wallace (+1000) — I mentioned Wallace as my longshot and I could see him playing really well this week. He's got the length to hang around at Bethpage, and his form is back in shape after a solid week at the British Masters, where he finished second.
Golf Digest editors: Tommy Fleetwood (+360) — The Englishman hasn't had the hottest year, so we're getting great value on one of the world's best players.
(Top-10 results last week: Mayo: 1 for 1 (Matt Jones, +800); Everybody else: 0 for 1)
(Top-10 results for the year: Action Network: 1 for 2 (+800); Mayo: 7 for 18; Gdula: 5 for 17; GD Editors: 4 for 17; PGA Tour Caddie: 4 for 18; Riccio: 3 for 17)
Mayo: If you’re convinced Tiger and Brooks Koepka are going to finish first and second, the depth of talent leaves you with almost $7,100 remaining for your average player for the final four spots on your roster. While there’s a lot of risk to choose from at $7,100 and below, there’s also a lot of quality talent, if you can manage to sift through the trash. Now, if you decide to punt the $10,000 range, the balanced lineup of beginning with $9,000 players may be more esthetically pleasing to look at on the page. While there’s no Tiger, Brooks, Rory McIlroy, or Dustin Johnson, starting your squad, with three players from Justin Rose, Francesco Molinari, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Tony Finau, Matt Kuchar tier, not only gives you an extra top end player on your roster, but actually leaves you more money remaining for your final three spots. That’s where I lean. I’ve expressed love for Xander, and I’ll add Tommy Fleetwood to that group. I’ve been swapping back and fourth between him and Rickie Fowler, and the glory is, with this lineup build, I can actually fit them both. But, the tougher the track, and a worse the conditions, be it rain or cold or both I’ll give a sight lean to Tommy Boy.
If you want to take Tiger, I got a guy from down low. So, scan all the way to the bottom, then come back up past the local pros and old dudes, and stop at $6,600 with Ryan Fox. The Kiwi will surely be overlooked, and, on the surface, that’s completely by passing him seems sensible. Just 81st in the world rankings, Fox has real issues with accuracy, chipping and putting. Not ideal. But there are certain aspects of his game that should allow him to fill out your roster if you really want to jam in two high priced players.
Fox notched his first Euro win earlier this year in the gimmick Super 6 event, and currently ranks 3rd on the European Tour in greens in regulation, while sitting seventh tee-to-green, 15th in approach and 16th off the tee. And he hasn’t been terrible state side either. He made the cut in all three of his major appearances a year ago, and five out of six in his career, and like Rickie and Xander, sits top 15 in this field in proximity gained from 75-100 yards, and over 200 yards. The two most important iron ranges for the PGA Championship. Just pray he doesn’t combust with wayward drives.
Tommy Fleetwood ($9,200); Xander Schauffele ($9,100); Bubba Watson ($8,000); Sergio Garcia ($7,900); Ryan Fox ($6,600).
Riccio: Four of these players are among the top-20 betting favorites to win, and they all make a ton of birdies. And you're capped off by Chez Reavie and Brian Gay, two steady players who are good bets to make the cut. That should be the recipe to cash in a DraftKings contest this weekend. Plus, you have my pick to win, Dustin Johnson.
Dustin Johnson ($11,100); Rickie Fowler ($9,300); Jordan Spieth ($8,600); Phil Mickelson ($8,000); Jason Dufner ($6,600); Brian Gay ($6,300).
Golf Digest Editors: We decided to go with a well-balanced lineup here, and we were able to choose four of the top players in the world, and pair them with two players who figure to be around on the weekend—ultra consistent Corey Conners and Scott Piercy, fresh off a bogey-free performance at Trinity Forest en route to a second-place. Would we be surprised if either Rahm, Fleetwood or Schauffele won this week? Definitely not. Matsuyama's ball-striking has been elite all year, so we like including him, too. This should be a cash-friendly lineup.
Jon Rahm ($9,500); Tommy Fleetwood ($9,200); Xander Schauffele ($9,100); Hideki Matsuyama ($8,500); Corey Conners ($6,800); Scott Piercy ($6,500).
Gdula: Everything starts with whether or not you’re spending up for Brooks Koepka ($12,600) in a weak field. In head-to-heads and double-ups, it makes sense to do so. Even in smaller tournaments you can justify it. In the massive tournaments, it’s probably best to consider pivoting away from the chalk and going with Hideki Matsuyama ($11,600) or Henrik Stenson ($11,000).
The $10,000 range offers lot of options this week — Aaron Wise ($10,900), Sungjae Im ($10,600), Rafa Cabrera Bello ($10,500), Ryan Moore ($10,300), Keith Mitchell ($10,200), Kevin Na ($10,000), and Scott Piercy ($9,800) — and can be a great place to build the core of your lineup, giving you multiple great golfers in a weak field.
Riccio: I'm riding my four studs at the top, plus two lower-priced players who are some of the most undervalued, consistent ball-strikers in this field: Scott Piercy and Troy Merritt.
Dustin Johnson_ ($12,200); Rickie Fowler ($11,100); Jordan Spieth ($10,600); Phil Mickelson ($10,300); Beau Hossler ($7,900); Jason Dufner ($7,800).
GD Editors: Despite what we said about fading DJ, that's more of an outright-betting philosophy. To get DJ and Koepka in the same daily-fantasy lineup is ideal—plus Fleetwood, who shot a final-round 63 the last time he played a major in N.Y. Sergio has had great finishes at Bethpage (see Pat Mayo's sleeper explanation), Eddie Pepperell has been super consistent and finished high at the Players, and Jorge Campillo offers extreme value at this low price. His most recent European Tour finishes: T-2, T-2, T-20, third, win, third. All you need is a made cut here from Campillo and Pepperell, and this figures to be a money-making lineup.
Dustin Johnson ($12,200); Brooks Koepka ($11,800); Tommy Fleetwood ($10,800); Sergio Garcia ($9,700); Eddie Pepperell ($8,400); Jorge Campillo ($7,100).
About our experts
Dr. Lou Riccio, a PhD senior lecturer, teaches rational decision making at Columbia's Graduate School of Business and has served on the USGA's handicap research team for three decades. His predictive analysis and modeling helps him make expert picks for our column.
Pat Mayo is known as one of the pre-eminent experts in daily-fantasy sports and golf handicapping specifically. Mayo is a 17-time fantasy sports-writers association finalist, the most of any writer this decade, and Mayo won the 2019 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Podcast of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Video award. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com. Here’s a link to watch his complete DraftKings preview of the 2019 PGA Championship.
Brandon Gdula, a senior 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.
Jason Sobel is the Action Network's senior golf writer, and one of the most respected writers on tour, having previously covered the PGA Tour for ESPN.com and the Golf Channel. One of the Action Network's experts will join our weekly column every week. Click here to read Action Network's full AT&T Byron Nelson coverage.