2021 PGA Championship Sleeper Picks: Our Favorite Longshot Bets at Kiawah Island
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images. Pictured: Joaquin Niemann
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.
Will the tough conditions at Kiawah open the door for a sleeper to win the PGA Championship? Here are our favorite longshot bets:
Si Woo Kim (+13000)
It doesn’t take an expert to know that Si Woo thrives on Pete Dye tracks, which means he should love what he sees when he shows up here this week. He didn’t have his best stuff at the Nelson, but his ball-striking numbers did improve in the final round, which portends good things.
Matt Wallace (+9500)
It seems like everybody is focusing on a few things at The Ocean Course. It’s a long course, it will likely play difficult and there is wind in the forecast. All of that leads me to Matt Wallace.
Wallace is really strong off the tee and he did play to a third-place finish at Bethpage, another PGA Championship where driving was very important.
Tommy Fleetwood (+7500)
There are certain guys that just simply play better when the conditions are tough, and one of those players is undoubtedly Tommy Fleetwood. The Merseysider seems to relish the opportunity to play in firm, fast, and windy conditions all of which should come into play this week in South Carolina.
Fleetwood hasn’t had the best start to the year, but he seems to have found some form over his last few events, most recently with a 14th-place finish at the Wells Fargo. The Englishman is another player that isn’t the longest off the tee but his accuracy and ball-striking will put him in position to contend this week and the number is just simply too long for his skillset and fit at this course.
We saw in 2012 that the internationals led the way on the leaderboard at The Ocean Course as it has a links type feel to the course and the weather tends to suit better to those types of players. Fleetwood is a guy that has feasted and flashed in similar style events in his career, and at +7500 we are getting fantastic value on an elite golfer.
Joaquin Niemann (+7000)
Joaquin Niemann is a really nice fit for Kiawah Island Resort’s Ocean Course.
Ranking fifth on TOUR for driving distance, he has the necessary firepower off the tee to make the course a bit more manageable.
“The Wonder Kid” is also solid in wind and gains over a half-shot on the field per round in windy conditions. He has the ability to create a low ball flight that pierces through the wind off his tee shots, and that should play nicely at Kiawah.
Niemann is another golfer who has a chance to have a major breakthrough on the PGA TOUR by adding a major championship to his resume at just 22 years old.
That may be a tall task for such a young golfer, but historically, the PGA Championship has been the most likely major for a young player to come out on top.
Thomas Pieters (+17500)
The Belgium bomber does not play on the PGA TOUR very often, but when he does it’s usually for major championships or other big-time events. In his career he has shown to do his best work when the lights get bright, as the 29-year old has a bunch of strong finishes in big boy fields. He boasts a T-4 at Augusta, a T-5 at the WGC Mexico and a T-6 at 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive.
Last week he missed his first cut of the season at the Byron Nelson, but that turned into a putting contest and he only missed by a stroke. Prior to that Pieters posted four consecutive top-15’s on the Euro Tour and certainly looks primed to make a run at what should be quite the difficult test at Kiawah Island this week.
He can absolutely send it off the tee and ranks 20th on approach in this field over his past 48 rounds. Getting 175/1 here is delicious.
Emiliano Grillo (+15000)
This is a name that I did not expect to be writing up this week. However, every time I researched a specific stat I felt was applicable to the course, Grillo kept popping up.
For example, I did a quick search for players who perform well in approaches from over 200 yards, Grillo Ranked fourth. I wanted to gather a list of players who hit the most fairways over the last 50 rounds on TOUR, Grillo ranked 20th. The list of golfers who have gained the most strokes on approach over the last 12 rounds, Grillo ranked sixth. At some point I just could not ignore him. He was showing up everywhere, so he snuck his way onto my card.
On a different course, with different weather conditions, I wouldn’t have enough belief in him actually winning to justify the wager. However, with the way this course is setting up this week, a player of Grillo’s profile does suit exactly what I am looking for. I believe if things break correctly, he can be in the mix to raise The Wanamaker Trophy come Sunday.
Tommy Fleetwood (+7500)
I’ve honestly lost count when it comes to how many times I’ve backed Fleetwood in a major championship. So, to say picking the British golfer triumph has been frustrating would be the definition of an understatement.
Well, we’re going to back to our favorite well once again and this time we’re hopeful he can finally break through for his first major championship on The Ocean Course.
What led me to coming back to Fleetwood is the fact the world’s 28th-ranked player is someone who can succeed in what could turn out to be challenging conditions. The weather forecast this weekend for Kiawah Island, S.C., is calling for plenty of wind that could reach 20 miles per hour.
That signals to me it’s going to take someone like Fleetwood (or the others from across the pond being highly touted) to navigate potentially challenging conditions, much like he did when nearly broke through at the U.S. Open three years back when he fired a final-round 7 under par. He came up short, finishing second to Brooks Koepka in some brutal Sunday conditions at Shinnecock, but it was a performance that was almost good enough to win.
Fleetwood, who finished T-14 last time out at the Wells Fargo Championship, has to be played at these long, generous odds. Let’s hope this where he finally comes through in his quest for that long-awaited major championship.