2021 PGA Championship: The Pros and Cons Live Betting Phil Mickelson
Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR via Getty Images. Pictured: Phil Mickelson.
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – When Julius Boros won the 1968 PGA Championship at age 48 to become the oldest golfer to ever claim a major championship, he looked … well, he looked his age. Granted, the black-and-white photos don’t do him any favors, but you can practically see the Grecian Formula and smell the Aqua Velva straight through the scrapbooks.
That’s not to suggest that Phil Mickelson doesn’t have a few wrinkles behind those aviator shades, but as a 50-year-old who still hits self-professed bombs and hellacious seeds off the tee, he at least looks the part of a potential major champion once again.
If you don’t believe that, then you don’t believe the current leaderboard: one which shows the unsinkable lefthander tied atop the PGA Championship following opening rounds of 70-69.
Of course, you can’t cash tickets based on the potential to be the winner, so let’s ask a more demanding question entering this weekend here at Kiawah’s Ocean Course: Can Mickelson actually win this damned thing?
Or more importantly: Is there any reason to bet him live entering the weekend?
At +1200 odds at DraftKings and tied with Louis Oosthuizen as a bevy of big names linger just behind them, anyone hoping to jump on Lefty as a live outright needs to measure the pros and cons.
Pros of Live Betting Mickelson
For the sake of optimism, let’s start with the pro side of things.
The driving distance number is modest, mostly due to the fact that he’s often hitting a 2-wood, but he ranks second in the field in strokes gained off the tee, an all-important stat on this course.
For a guy who’s won majors hitting it all over the ballpark, the key to a sixth might be keeping it in the short stuff.
Perhaps, though, the biggest thing that Mickelson has going in his favor is that Kiawah promotes creativity – especially around the greens. Wanna open up a wedge, take a massive cut and flop one tight? Go ahead. Wanna play a bump and run? That could work. Wanna just putt the thing close? Go ahead.
Mickelson is, of course, amongst he most creative short-game players of all-time, so that should suit him throughout the weekend.
Then there’s his attitude. After Friday’s round, he spoke about the thrill of being in the hunt at a major, something he hasn’t done in a half-decade.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” he said. “To play well, to know I’m playing well heading into the weekend, to be in contention, to have a good opportunity, I’m having a blast. I’m excited for the weekend. This has been a lot of fun.”
Sounds pretty positive, huh? Well, hold off on adding him to the card until you consider the cons.
Cons of Live Betting Mickelson
The most obvious one is what I’ve already outlined here: He’s a 50-year-old who hasn’t contended in a major for five years.
Maybe he’ll be buoyed by those old feelings rushing back as he plays in the final pairing on Saturday afternoon, but it’s tough to replicate that rush in range sessions or Tuesday morning practice rounds.
Much of that stems from what Mickelson has so often discussed – his recent propensity to lose focus mid-round, making more mental mistakes than physical, technical or strategic ones.
It’s something he’s worked on diligently and something he knows he’ll need to control.
“I’m just making more and more progress just by trying to elongate my focus,” he offered. “I might try to play 36, 45 holes in a day and try to focus on each shot so that when I go out and play 18, it doesn’t feel like it’s that much. I might try to elongate the time that I end up meditating, but I’m trying to use my mind like a muscle and just expand it because as I’ve gotten older, it’s been more difficult for me to maintain a sharp focus, a good visualization and see the shot.
“Physically I feel like I’m able to perform and hit the shots that I’ve hit throughout my career, and I feel like I can do it every bit as well as I have, but I’ve got to have that clear picture and focus. So, these first two days have been much better.”
Knowing the issue is an important first step, but overcoming it might be asking a lot this weekend.
Many bettors tend to wager with their hearts. If your heart is dead-set on spending a weekend on the couch rooting for Phil and you want some financial benefits to accompany those rooting interests, then feel free to take a shot.
If you’re only betting with the bottom line in mind, though, it feels like the risk doesn’t equal the potential reward. Over the next two days, Mickelson will attempt to stave off major champions such as Oosthuizen, Brooks Koepka, Hideki Matsuyama, Gary Woodland and Bryson DeChambeau, not to mention hungry potential first-timers Branden Grace, Corey Conners, Sungjae Im, Paul Casey and Joaquin Niemann.
That’s a lot to ask.
With such a tightly packed leaderboard, the current co-leader with five majors who’s hoping to rewrite the record books might be getting all the attention, but the value is lingering somewhere further below that surface.