2023 PGA Championship First-Round Leader: FRL Picks for Hideki Matsuyama, Bryson DeChambeau, More
Via Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images. Pictured: Hideki Matsuyama of Japan runs up to the 14th green during a practice round prior to the 2023 PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club on May 16, 2023 in Rochester, New York.
The second major of the 2023 season is upon us. The best players in the world will head to Rochester, New York to play the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club.
I expect the East Course at Oak Hill to play as a difficult PGA Championship course, so limiting mistakes will be just as important as making birdies this week. The course is a long par-70, and the rough looks to be very penal for errant drivers off the tee.
In the past five editions of the PGA Championship, there have been six first-round leaders or co-leaders. Of the six, three have come from the morning wave, and three have come from the afternoon wave. Of the six first-round leaders, only Brooks Koepka in 2019 went on to win the championship.
This week, there doesn’t seem to be a wind advantage for either the morning or afternoon wave. I’d give a slight lean to the afternoon starters due to how cold it gets in the region in the early morning.
PGA Championship First-Round Leader Picks
Brooks Koepka +3500 (DraftKings)
First-Round Tee Time: 12:48 p.m. ET
As I argued in my tournament preview, I believe Brooks Koepka is the best major championship player of his era. Throughout his dominant run in majors, the two-time PGA Champion has started out hot.
In Koepka’s last five PGA Championships, he’s been within two shots of the lead after the first round three times. The four-time major winner was also the co-leader after Thursday’s round at this year’s Masters.
When Brooks contends in majors, more often than not he starts his week off with a strong round of golf. In an event where I don’t expect the first-round lead to be incredibly low, I think the 33-year-old gets in the mix right away.
Pick: Brooks Koepka FRL
Hideki Matsuyama +5500 (FanDuel)
First-Round Tee Time: 2 p.m. ET
Despite injury concerns throughout his 2023 season, Hideki Matsuyama enters the PGA Championship playing some good golf. In his last four starts, the Japanese star has finished no worse than 23rd. In those events, he’s gained an average of 5.3 strokes from tee to green on the field per start.
Last week at TPC Craig Ranch, Matsuyama’s signature iron play was on full display. He gained 5.1 strokes on approach, which ranked eighth in the field. While Oak Hill will be a much different test, his strong effort in Texas at least provides some confidence about his current health.
Matsuyama also has some great history in the Northeast. He finished fourth at The Country Club (2022), fourth at TPC Boston (2019), 16th at Bethpage Black (2018), 15th at Ridgewood CC (2018) and 16th at Shinnecock Hills.
If Deki is healthy, which he appears to be, he should be a major threat to contend for the Wanamaker Trophy.
Pick: Hideki Matsuyama FRL
Bryson DeChambeau +7500 (FanDuel)
First-Round Tee Time: 2 p.m. ET
If anyone is familiar with a long and difficult par-70s in New York, it’s Bryson DeChambeau. He won the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot by a whopping six strokes. He’s played his best golf in the Northeast, having also won at TPC Boston and Ridgewood CC.
It’s been a difficult 18 months or so for DeChambeau, who’s gone from being one of the worlds best players to an afterthought. However, some recent changes should help to get the 29-year-old back on track. He’s lost a lot of weight, which has helped reduce inflammation in his body. He’s been vocal about how much better he feels, and his on course results line up with that.
DeChambeau also has a new caddie. Last week at LIV Tulsa, he had his first tournament with Greg Bodine, who was Tony Finau’s caddie from 2014-2020.
I’m not sure if Bryson is “back” to the point where he can win a major championship, but he should be able to shoot a low round at a course he should be really comfortable on.
Pick: Bryson DeChambeau FRL
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