2022 PGA Championship First-Round Leader Picks: Weather Will Affect FRL Market
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images. Pictured: Tony Finau.
Southern Hills Country Club should provide the best golfers in the world with a stiff test at this week’s PGA Championship. With small greens and plenty of wind, it may be a battle of attrition to see who can avoid the most mistakes.
Another challenging aspect of golf in Tulsa, Okla., is wind. There is plenty of wind expected on Thursday, and it will undoubtedly be a factor in the scoring.
Does the wind on Thursday give the morning or afternoon starters the advantage?
Early morning starters on the PGA TOUR typically start a bit faster than the afternoon starters, and it looks like the weather will give a very slight advantage to the early starters at the PGA Championship.
As of now, it looks like the morning starters will be facing about 14-15 mph winds with gusts up to 23 mph, and afternoon starts will be facing about 16-18 mph winds with gusts up to 25 mph. I don’t believe this is enough of an advantage to completely rule out afternoon starts for first-round leader bets, but I would be sure to have at least half of your FRL bets as morning starters.
Another factor that should be considered when betting first-round leaders is a golfer’s ability to start fast and make early birdies. With scoring unlikely to get out of control, an added emphasis on bogey avoidance may make some sense as well.
2022 PGA Championship FRL Picks
Tony Finau +5500
Tony Finau’s play has been up and down of late, but he’s shown some serious signs that he is returning to peak form.
Chief among those signs was his 14.8 Strokes Gained: Tee to Green performance at the Mexico Open. His putter was abysmal that week, but there’s reason to believe Southern Hills will be a better match for his putting stroke, as Bentgrass greens are by far his preferred surface. Finau gained strokes putting in his next start at TPC Potomac, which also features Bentgrass greens, so there may be some hope yet for his balky flat stick.
Finau finished fourth in the 2020 PGA Championship and eighth in the 2021 PGA Championship, and a strong case can be made that Southern Hills is a great course for him to have another strong showing.
Ryan Palmer +11000
Ryan Palmer doesn’t have a lot of major championship success in his career, with only two top-10 finishes at 45 years old. However, there is some reason to believe that the Texan could go well at Southern Hills Country Club.
Having played golf in Texas for his entire life, he should be incredibly comfortable playing in the region. We haven’t seen many major championships in this area in recent years, so I am viewing this one as a separate test from the majors that he’s struggled with throughout his career.
Palmer finished fifth place last week at the Byron Nelson and can certainly carry those positive vibes with him to Oklahoma this week. He’s also in the second group off on Thursday morning and should be faced much less wind than the rest of the field.
Ryan Fox +12500
Another morning starter that I have my eye on for first-round leader is Ryan Fox.
The 35-year-old from New Zealand comes into the PGA Championship scorching hot. He’s fresh off of a second-place finish at last week’s Soudal Open on the DP World Tour. It was his third straight top 10 finish, and he is now sixth on the DP World Tour standings.
Fox gained an impressive 7.87 strokes on approach last week in the runner-up performance. The strong iron play is a great way to lead into the PGA Championship at Southern Hills, which is a second-shot golf course.
Fox has some major championship experience and will be making his 12th major start this week. He finished in 27th in the 2018 PGA Championship, so I believe he is more than capable of playing well in the form he’s currently in.
Anirban Lahiri +12500
Anirban Lahiri has had a phenomenal 2022 season. At the PLAYERS Championship, the 34-year-old finished in second place to Cameron Smith and was impressive from start to finish. Since then, he has three top-15 finishes in four starts, including a six in his most recent start at the Wells Fargo.
Lahiri celebrated the birth of his second child on Monday, and is heading to Tulsa, Okla., in good spirits.
The Indian fired an opening-round 67 at TPC Sawgrass, so he’s no stranger to starting out of the gates fast in an elite field.