Mears: Koepka over Rose? How to Handicap 5 Big-Name PGA Championship Matchup Bets

Mears: Koepka over Rose? How to Handicap 5 Big-Name PGA Championship Matchup Bets article feature image
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Photo credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Brooks Koepka

  • I created a golf model based on past PGA Championship data to identify head-to-head betting opportunities for this week's tournament.
  • Below are my five favorite matchup bets among the studs in the field, including Brooks Koepka vs. Justin Rose.

Using the FantasyLabs Trends tool, I backtested historical PGA Championship data to create a model for this week’s tournament. Using that data, I’ve handicapped the 100-plus head-to-head matchup props, with the ones I’m most interested in betting listed below.

Brooks Koepka (-115) over Justin Rose

Rose certainly has the talent to compete at any event, but he’s one of the lower studs in my model this week. That’s scary given his elite long-term form and world-class ball-striking, but his his recent play has been lacking.

The past PGA Championship data shows that golfers who are peaking entering the tournament have done much better than those who are tinkering.

He did bounce back at Wells Fargo with a third-place finish, but that Masters missed cut is dragging him down. He uncharacteristically hit just 55.6% of his greens, and he was errant off the tee and poor with the short game. Perhaps those turn around this week, but, again, I’d rather bet on players who I know are in elite form currently rather than ones needing to prove it.

And Brooks needs no more proof. Last year’s winner is the top player in my model, he perfectly suits Bethpage Black and he’s coming off back-to-back finishes of fourth at the Byron Nelson and second at the Masters. The price of -120 given those factors is too low, and I’d bet it up to -135.

Adam Scott (+105) over Paul Casey

The major to bet on Casey is the Masters; he’s struggled relative to expectations in the other three. He has just one top 10 in his 16 PGA appearances, and last year he missed the cut.

Further, since my theme is fading golfers with poor recent play, Casey is an easy target. He’s had some strong finishes lately, including a fourth at the Wells Fargo and a win at Valspar, but he also missed the cut badly in the two big fields with tough courses at the Masters and Players. He shot opening rounds of 81 and 78 in those, and he was terrible with his irons and short game.

Scott, meanwhile, has five top-five finishes at the PGA, including a third at last year’s event. Further, he’s in solid form currently, especially with his driver and long irons.

That’s a recipe for success at this event, and Scott already has good history at this course and other comps. I’d personally have him as the favorite in this matchup (Casey currently is with -135 odds). I would bet this up to -120.

Rickie Fowler (-140) over Francesco Molinari

This one is a bit scary. Molinari’s last three major finishes have been first, sixth and fifth most recently at the Masters.

Were it not for a disappointing Sunday at Augusta, in fact, he might have his second major in less than a year. He’s recently really lifted his game in these big fields.

He talked before Heritage about bouncing back from that Masters Sunday round, saying, “You try. You’re never quite sure how long that’s going to take … My concern is just having the mental energies to perform this week and be competitive against a really strong field. That will be the challenge for me.”

He did not perform well, missing the cut at Harbour Town, hitting just 50% of his greens in the process. He’s not the longest off the tee, so those second shots with his long irons are crucial to him contending here.

Given the uncertainty around whether he’ll turn it around this week, I think it’s worth a small bet on Rickie, who is playing very well right now.

Fowler, famously still searching for his first major, hasn’t missed a cut in over a year. His iron play has been stellar of late, and he’s had two top 10s in his last two events, including at Augusta.

He has perhaps the best short game in the world, so he’s a safe bet to at least be competitive on the weekend. With Molinari more a boom-or-bust option this week, I’ll lay the odds on a small bet. I wouldn’t bet it more than this, though, given Moli’s recent major history.

Patrick Reed (-115) over Phil Mickelson

This is more of a Mickelson fade than a desire to buy Reed.

Mickelson has been really off his game lately, missing three of his last four cuts. Again, I don’t think a major and especially a tough course like Bethpage Black is the time to tinker and find your game.

Mickelson’s usually solid short-game has been terrible lately, and he’s been one of the worst golfers in the field over the last bit in hitting fairways. Reed isn’t super high up in my model, but I think he’ll be a bit more stable than that, especially given his superior short game currently.

I trust him more to be able to hit greens and fairways, and he’s been a better scrambler lately even if that’s a wash. I would bet this to -135.

Bubba Watson (-105) over Louis Oosthuizen

My colleague Jason Sobel laid out Bubba’s pros and cons this week well here, and I agree that this should be a great course for him. He’s had success at Bethpage in the past, getting inside the top 20 in each of his three trips. He’s had some trouble with PGA Championships lately, but he’ll be able to attack off the tee and move the ball into these greens.

Oosty, meanwhile, also has solid history at Bethpage, but he’s at a significant disadvantage compared to Bubba off the tee. He’s just 51st this season in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, and he’s been very up-and-down hitting greens over the last couple of months.

I have this matchup handicapped as Bubba -137, so there’s clearly value at this number.