2021 PGA Championship Picks: Our Best Outright Bets at Kiawah Island
Julio Aguilar/Getty Images. Pictured: Corey Conners
The second Major Championship of the year has arrived. The 2021 PGA Championship will begin on Thursday, May 20 at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.
Checking in at 7,849 yards, the Ocean Course will play the longest of any major in PGA TOUR history. In addition to the length, Mother Nature also figures to play a pretty big impact this week as there is some wind in the forecast.
Who do we think will win the 2021 PGA Championship? Check out our favorite outright bets below:
Marc Leishman (+7000)
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.
Daniel Berger (+3000)
Berger’s form is right where we want it heading into a major as he’s finished inside the top-20 in four of his last five starts and is coming off a third-place finish at the Byron Nelson.
The 28-year-old has been one of the most consistent performers on TOUR since the hiatus and I have no worries about his skillset at this course.
Jordan Spieth (+1800)
It’s time for Jordan’s Spieth resurgence to come full circle as I think he is poised to take home the PGA Championship this week and complete the career grand slam. Everything I have dug into this week leads me back to Spieth, who I believe has the complete tee-to-green to excel at The Ocean Course.
Spieth heads to Kiawah in tip-top form and has been putting up eye-popping numbers since February. He my top-ranked player by a long way this week and I believe the 18/1 at FanDuel is a solid number to buy in on a player that could arguably be the favorite on any course he plays right now.
This is set up to be a historic week for Spieth.
Viktor Hovland (+2200)
Viktor Hovland checks all of the boxes for me this week. Coming off of back-to-back third-place finishes, the young superstar enters the PGA Championship in immaculate form.
The stats back that up as well. In the two aforementioned starts, Hovland gained 8.7 and 8.8 strokes on the field from tee to green.
The 23-year-old Norwegian is also a perfect fit for Kiawah Island. He has the length and driving ability to tame the Ocean Course’s 7,849 yard scorecard, ranking third in the field in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee in his past 24 rounds.
Hovland also has had amazing success on golf courses that feature paspalum greens, which we will see this week. Vik has two career PGA TOUR victories, and both of them were on paspalum (Puerto Rico Open and Mayakoba Classic).
Throughout TOUR history, we have seen many golfers get their breakthrough victory at the PGA Championship, and I believe this young superstar is next in line.
Brooks Koepka (+5000)
This is one of the most disrespectful things I’ve seen in quite some time. I am fully aware of Koepka’s knee surgery, and the fact he looked more than a little rusty at Augusta. However, we are now six weeks removed from the Masters and if you listened to his presser on Tuesday Koepka stated that he’s no longer injured, just hurt. He also said the only club that gives him any discomfort when swinging is his driver, which he said only happens on about “one of 20 swings.”
The four-time Major Champion is being severely undervalued this week, and it’s preposterous to me he’s priced around guys like Abe Ancer and Paul Casey, while others such as Scottie Scheffler are 15 points shorter.
Despite missing the cut at the Byron Nelson, Koepka gained strokes tee-to-green on both days and actually ranks 11th in SG: Off-the-Tee and 10th in SG: Around-the-Green over his past two rounds in this field. There are very few players, maybe in PGA history who get up for big time events quite like Koepka, and we very well might be looking back asking how in the heck did this price ever get to 50/1.
The two-time PGA Champion should not be taken lightly under any circumstances, as he has both the length off the tee and short game chops to hoist his third Wanamaker Trophy come Sunday evening. I believe it’s a mistake to not have some action on him.
Corey Conners (+7000)
Conners was the first name I clicked on when the odds came out. This course demands supreme accuracy off the tee and a solid approach game into the greens in order to post competitive scores. Over the last 50 tracked rounds, Conners ranks first in good drives and second in Fairways gained. As far as his approach, over the last 12 rounds he ranks ninth and in the last 50 rounds he ranks seventh. From a ball-striking standpoint, there is no denying he is an excellent fit for the Ocean Course.
My only concern with Conners is his putting, which is historically bad and what holds him back from being one of the elite players on TOUR. We can speculate that the perceived slowness of the paspalum greens will help Conners, but at the end of the day nobody truly knows how this type of grass will play.
Regardless, at +7000 this number is just too good to pass on for one of the premier ball-strikers in the world.
Marc Leishman (+7000)
The big Aussie, who is also part of my top-five picks for the tournament, should probably be closer to +6000 odds in my opinion. Leisman has finished top 10 or better in three tournaments, plus he’s landed inside the top 25 on seven occasions in 16 TOUR starts.
I firmly believe you’re going to need to keep the ball low on the windy Ocean Course at Kiawah, so this should play into his skill set. Leishman, who was in the mix all week at the Masters before finishing T5 at Augusta National, is coming off a T21 at the Byron Nelson Classic.
You’re not going get north of this number prior to Thursday’s start, so jump on these ripe odds now if you’re interested.