2021 PGA Championship Odds & Picks: The Players We Bet Right Away at Kiawah Island
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images. Pictured: Will Zalatoris.
The second major of the 2021 calendar year is finally here.
The 103rd PGA Championship will kick off at Kiawah Island in South Carolina on Thursday as Collin Morikawa looks to defend his title.
This tournament is one with plenty of betting value across the board, and four picks stuck out to our golf experts right away. Check out all of their favorite early bets for the weekend below.
Marc Leishman +6600
Full disclosure: I actually made this wager two weeks ago, knowing that Kiawah should fit Leishman’s skill set perfectly.
There are three aspects of his game in particular that I really like.
The first is that growing up in windy Warrnambool, he learned early how to flight his ball with a low trajectory that can’t be impacted as much by the breeze. So many of today’s top players launch their approach shots into the air, which works just about anytime there isn’t a two-club wind. Those high-arcing shots won’t look so impressive when they’re getting blown off target, though.
The second thing I like about Leishman is his length. I know what you’re thinking: He only ranks a lowly 148th in driving distance this season. Ah, but length should not be measured with a driver alone. You won’t find it in the stats, but the Aussie hits his low- and mid-irons longer than most other players, which should serve him well on this course playing 7,800-plus yards.
And lastly, I believe that scrambling is going to be extraordinarily relevant this week, as GIR numbers will be lower than at most other events. When he’s on with his wedges, Leishman can get up-and-down from the proverbial trash can.
Need more? Fine, there’s more.
Leishman joined SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio’s “Gravy and the Sleaze” last week and said of Kiawah, “I think it actually sets up as good as one will for me.”
Last but not least, he’s also in form, finishing top-30 in his last three individual starts and winning the Zurich Classic alongside Cameron Smith. I mentioned above that I bet Leishman two weeks ago, but nothing that happened at the AT&T Byron Nelson changed my mind.
In fact, a T-21 result during which he played solidly but didn’t have to expend the mental energy needed for a serious title contention is exactly the type of precursor I’m seeking for major championship picks.
I know the knee-jerk reaction is to play the big boys on a big course at a big event, but I think there’s a lot of value just a little bit further down the board, and Leishman is the epitome of this value.
Matt Wallace +11000
When I clicked this bet last night, it was actually at +15000, and while it has dipped a bit, we are still getting some great value on Wallace, who has been in some of the best form of his career.
We saw his promise on the European Tour, where he has four victories, and now he is starting to show it stateside as well. He finished in a tie for sixth two weeks ago at the Wells Fargo and finished third at the Valero just a few weeks prior to that.
The Englishman has gained more than six strokes on the field tee-to-green in each of his last three measured events and seems poised for a breakthrough TOUR win.
In looking back at the results from the 2012 PGA Championship at the Ocean Course, internationals littered the top of the board at this event, and I think there may be something to that again this week. Wallace certainly fits the mold of a player I’m looking for this week with his ability to grind out pars where needed and score when given opportunities.
He’s long enough off the tee to handle the length of this track but also has the short game to scramble when needed.
His odds are simply too long this week for the ability and form he’s shown over his past several events, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him be in position to be a factor in deciding the PGA Championship this weekend.
Keegan Bradley +10000
My first click actually came one month ago when I wrote this piece about betting Keegan Bradley as a future bet.
As I expected, many people are realizing why the bet makes a ton of sense, which has dropped his odds down to 100-1, so hopefully people jumped on this back in April.
While there have been some disappointments for Bradley in between then and now, there is no doubt he’s playing well. He’s an elite ball-striker who has great success on paspalum greens in his career and excels on Pete Dye tracks.
That is plenty of reason to bet Bradley as a long shot this week.
Will Zalatoris +6000
I’m sorry, but this number is too high for me. There’s no reason for Willy Z’s odds to be longer than those of Tommy Fleetwood or Abraham Ancer.
We immediately knew this kid was destined for superstardom when he debuted on TOUR at the US Open and finished T-6 at Winged Foot, one of the most difficult courses on the circuit. Since then, he’s posted a T-7 at Torrey Pines, T-15 at Riviera, T-10 at Bay Hill and a solo runner-up finish at some course called Augusta.
He seems impervious to pressure and is already one of the purest ball-strikers in the world at age 24. If you need any more convincing that Zalatoris is primed for this week, he finished Sunday’s round at the Byron Nelson gaining 4.18 strokes on approach, which was .34 strokes better than anyone else in the field.
He also ranks 21st on TOUR this season in driving distance, which will be key considering Kiawah Island will play close to 7,900 yards long. It seems crazy to back someone at a major who’s never won a PGA event before, but those are the lofty standards we’ve come to expect from this golf wunderkind.
Matt Fitzpatrick +8000
The harder the better for the 26-year-old Brit. He has exceled time and again on the toughest courses presented. He’s yet to record a victory on the PGA TOUR, but that didn’t stop fellow global talents such as Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel and Danny Willett – to name three relatively recent – from connecting for their breakthrough TOUR titles in a major. What’s more, Fitzpatrick has been riding one of the steadiest and most reliable trajectories to the summit since crashing into mainstream awareness as a 22-year-old at the 2016 Ryder Cup.
As a result of the experience and holding ground in the stiffest of conditions, he’s more refined. He owns all the skills to tackle Kiawah Island, including the inherent bonus of growing up playing in unfavorable conditions in which confidence is born for weeks like this. And before you rule him out for not being a long hitter, consider that David Lynn (2nd), Ian Poulter (T3), Steve Stricker (T7) and Blake Adams (T7) all averaged fewer than 280 yards in driving distance at the 2012 PGA Championship en route to their top 10s. In fact, champion Rory McIlroy, who led the field in distance, was the only inside the top 10 in distance and the final leaderboard that week.
Great courses cater to all. Distance won’t play as large of a role as you think.