Golf Expert Picks: Our Staff’s Favorite Bets for the 2019 PGA Championship
Soobum Im, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Jhonattan Vegas
- The 2019 PGA Championship starts on Thursday, May 16 at Bethpage Black.
- Read our staff's favorite bets for this weekend's tournament including Top-20s, matchups and more.
The 2019 PGA Championship begins on Thursday morning (6:45 a.m. ET) at Bethpage Black on Long Island, NY.
After taking down the Masters in heroic fashion, Tiger Woods is the current favorite at 8-1 with Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy right behind him at 10-1.
Given the size of these events, the elite fields that participate and the attention that they garner, bookmakers light up the board, giving bettors a gigantic menu of betting options.
Here are our favorite bets for this weekend’s tournament at Bethpage Black:
The bet: Tony Finau +150 to Top-20 finish
I’m going to keep betting this one at majors until they stop offering plus money. Finau has hit the top 20 in four of the last five majors and is 7-for-12 overall for his career. Couple that with how well the lengthy Bethpage should suit his skill set and Finau should be in store for a solid week.
The bet: Dustin Johnson: Top-10 Finish (+110)
Well, I picked DJ to win the tourney this week, so yeah, I guess I like him to top-10, too. The truth is, this is a smash spot for Johnson at plus-money, especially considering he finished T-2 at the Masters last month without his best stuff. He’s obviously enjoyed success on lengthy golf courses in the past, and soggy courses, and Northeast courses, winning his only major at Oakmont, which owns some similar characteristics to Bethpage.
But the reason I most like DJ this week is that despite being No. 1 in the world and earning more OWGR points than any other player in 2019, he’s still somehow flying under-the-radar this week — just the way he likes it.
Dr. Lou Riccio*
The bet: Corey Conners over Kiradech Aphibarnrat
We’re taking advantage of a huge disparity between my model and Vegas’ numbers here. 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.
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. More of his predictive analysis can be found over at Golf Digest.
The bet: Craig Hocknull (-140) over Craig Bowden
Your boy Sleeze is going off the grid here to find you a true gem.
These kind of match-ups don’t exist in regular event PGA Tour stops. Both Hocknull and Bowden are PGA section pros competing this week at Bethpage. Both of them competed at Bellerive last year as well, where Hocknull bested Bowden by five shots on Thursday and Friday before they both missed the cut.
That’s great and all, but here’s the real reason I love this bet:
Craig Bowden will be the shortest player at the PGA Championship by a landslide. I mean not even close. Last year, he competed in three WEB.com Tour events, and averaged 257 yards off the tee. When I say he is short, I don’t mean by PGA Tour standards, I mean he wouldn’t be the longest player in your Saturday morning group.
There absolutely, positively, could not be a worse course on the planet for Bowden. I played with him six or seven years ago, when he was 44 or so, in a WEB event, and he was without question the shortest player I’ve ever seen play at a high professional level.
I don’t think he will be hitting anything into par 4’s that don’t involve a graphite shaft, and I have serious doubts as to whether or not he can reach a lot of the fairways.
This is the kind of inside scoop the Sleeze brings to the table….load up on this one.
The bet: Jordan Spieth to miss the cut (+220)
Considering this course doesn’t fit Spieth at all, and it’ll be tough conditions out there, this bet doesn’t seem too farfetched. He’ll enter this tournament hitting just 64.6% of greens in regulation while hitting 58.9% of fairways over his past four tournaments.
If his drives are missing the fairway, he’ll be struggling to save pars on a course that should be challenging for his overall length.
Bethpage will set up long approach shots for Spieth, an area that he’s struggled this season as he ranks 85th in Strokes Gained: Approach. Not to mention his horrid tee-to-green game this year, where he ranks 122nd, respectively.
The bet: Jhonattan Vegas (-140) over Billy Horschel
Vegas is one of the more intriguing longshots in this loaded field given his recent play, which I found — based on past data — has historically been predictive of PGA Championship success. He has been inside the top 30 in each of his last six events, including an impressive third at the Players in March.
Further, he’s a pretty decent fit for Bethpage Black given his distance off the tee and hot ball-striking currently. In fact, he currently ranks 21st in the world in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green; Horschel, for reference, ranks just 137th.
Horschel is at a sizable disadvantage off the tee, and he hasn’t been particularly great with his second shot irons of late, either. I’ll take the hotter golfer in Vegas, especially since he’s a better fit for the course. I would bet this to -160.
The bet: Lucas Glover (-115) over Marc Leishman
I actually grabbed this line at -105 on Monday when Tournament H2H lines opened and would bet it all the way up to -140. Leishman withdrew from the Byron Nelson during Round 1 before teeing off, citing a back injury.
The Byron Nelson has been a lucrative tournament for Leishman throughout his career and he gets to sleep in his own bed nearby so I don’t see him withdrawing for any reason other than actual injury.
He has not withdrawn this week, indicating he intends on giving it a go, but I think if this was the Fort Worth event and not the PGA Championship, Leishman may have taken another week off. So l will gladly take Lucas Glover, who won the 2009 US Open here at Bethpage, in this matchup.
If we completely disregard Leishman’s questionable back injury and focus only on recent form- over his last five tournaments, he is losing an average of two Strokes Gained: Total per tournament, as per Fantasy Golf National.
Glover, on the other hand, is gaining an average of two Strokes Gained: Total on the field during this same time period, which in theory would indicate that he is beating Leishman by four strokes on average during their last five tournaments.
The soft conditions expected at Bethpage also favor Glovers excellent ball-striking, while I always prefer Leishman when conditions are firm and fast which won’t be the case this week.
The bet: Buy Tommy Fleetwood Everywhere
I am focusing on ball striking and total driving this week which leads me to my biggest position of Tommy Fleetwood. I love his value in DFS ($10800 on FD and $9200 on DK) and have been buying him in a variety of other markets.
Fleetwood has seen a ton of line movement in his favor in matchups, he is a favorite over Schauffele and Jason Day in most places now. I have found value in him in the outright markets at 30/1 or better and love him in T5/T10/T20 bets.
Fleetwood was No. 2 in total driving in 2018 and for my money is the best driver of the golf ball in the world.