2023 PGA Championship Picks: Ranking the Top-25 Players at Oak Hill
Getty Images. Pictured: Dustin Johnson (left) and Xander Schauffele.
PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Man, this ain’t getting any easier.
Look, I know your heart bleeds for the guy who’s holed up at Oak Hill Country Club for the week, having to write this top-25 ranking in between watching the world’s best players prep for this week’s PGA Championship and pondering a third lunch.
I’m not asking for sympathy. (Although if you could send an extra hoodie, I wouldn’t turn it down.) I’m just pointing out that trying to rank a potentially wide open field on a golf course most of them have never played, and one that’s changed immensely since the last time this event was held here, feels like an exercise in at least humility, if not also futility.
Anyway, here goes nothing. You’ll see most of the usual suspects on this list, though perhaps not in the usual order. On a course which could look as much U.S. Open as PGA Championship, expect the cream to rise, as it so often does at the game’s biggest events.
Sungjae Im (+3500)
In seeking a player who does everything well – one who can hit it a lengthy way off the tee yet still find the short grass and hasn’t quite peaked this year despite playing at an elite level – Sungjae Im checked every box for what I think we’ll see from a winner this week.
Pick: Sungjae Im Outright
Xander Schauffele (+2000)
I promise placing Xander Schauffele in second place on this list isn’t some sort of troll job toward a player who keeps coming close without winning. Fresh off a runner-up finish in his most recent start at Quail Hollow, it’s tough to envision him not contending again.
Pick: Xander Schauffele
Dustin Johnson (+2500)
Even before DJ won this past weekend’s LIV event, I had him targeted for a big performance at this one, based largely on his penchant to feast on big, brawny, Northeast courses, from Oakmont to Firestone and beyond. He says he’s playing really well, and we should believe him.
Pick: Dustin Johnson
Max Homa (+3500)
Most bettors are banking on Max Homa’s major championship breakthrough coming at next month’s U.S. Open, and while that’s certainly possible, don’t discount his maturing tee-to-green game on this course, which could be right up his alley.
Jon Rahm (+700)
Over the last 50 years, only two men have captured the first two legs of a grand slam – Tiger Woods (2002) and Jordan Spieth (2015). Few, however, have been as well-positioned to do this as Jon Rahm, whose Masters victory is one of four titles so far this year.
Pick: Jon Rahm
Cameron Young (+2500)
There isn’t an elite-level player competing in a “home game” this week, but Cameron Young, who grew up some five hours away, is the closest thing. Throw in the fact that he’s the son of a PGA professional, and he’s got plenty of signs pointing us in his direction down Narrative Street.
Brooks Koepka (+1800)
If it’s a major, expect Brooks Koepka in the mix. In his last 21 major starts, he owns eight top-two finishes, including yet another runner-up at last month’s Masters. It wouldn’t come as any surprise to see him become LIV’s first major champion.
Tony Finau (+2200)
It’s been a rapid progression for Tony Finau over the past two years, from a one-time winner who kept coming close to a guy who’s figured out how to close. No, it hasn’t happened on a bigger stage yet, but it will, sooner rather than later.
Scottie Scheffler (+750)
I think Rahm deserves to own the shortest price in the outright market, and Scottie Scheffler deserves to own the shortest price in the top-5/10 market. Scheffler might not have the highest ceiling, but he does have the highest floor, as evidenced by 13 straight top-12 results.
Rickie Fowler (+7500)
There are those who still, after all these years, believe that Fowler is more hype than substance, but his previous inconsistent play has been replaced by elite numbers across the board, including a rank of 16th in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and 11th in Total Strokes Gained.
Pick: Rickie Fowler
Jason Day (+2800)
For those who think Jason Day might’ve peaked just a week too early with his win at the AT&T Byron Nelson, here’s a stat to consider: Twice in his career – in both 2015 and 2016 – he won titles in back-to-back starts. Point is, he knows how to keep his foot on the accelerator.
Keegan Bradley (+11000)
Let’s face it: There are bound to be a few mild surprises on the final leaderboard, and you didn’t come here to read a chalk top-25 ranking, so it might seem blasphemous to list Keegan Bradley at triple-digit odds before a few superstars, but we’ve gotta take a few chances around here.
Pick: Keegan Bradley
Justin Thomas (+2000)
Last year’s champion hasn’t quite played up to his usual standards so far this year, but there are signs he’s ready to start posting some better results, and the PGA Championship setups have been to his liking in the past.
Patrick Cantlay (+1800)
There are some situations when a new caddie results in immediate success and other situations where there’s a bit of a learning curve in the relationship. I have no doubt Patrick Cantlay will find success with Joe LaCava; it’s just a matter of how quickly it will happen.
Tom Hoge (+19000)
Nobody is better built for a cold-weather major than a guy from North Dakota, though that’s hardly the only reason to be bullish on Tom Hoge. Up until this week, he was ranked first in approach play this season; dropping to second should hardly dissuade us.
Pick: Tom Hoge
Rory McIlroy (+1200)
Rory McIlroy is the biggest X-factor in the field, based on his massive range of outcomes. An honorary member of Oak Hill, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Rory won by five this week, but it similarly wouldn’t surprise anyone if he misses the cut by that same number.
Matt Fitzpatrick (+2800)
At least one player is likely rooting for this course to play more like a U.S. Open than a PGA Championship, and that’s the reigning U.S. Open winner, who just happens to make a habit of playing his best golf when the conditions are toughest.
Viktor Hovland (+2500)
There’s so much potential here, but Viktor Hovland also owns as many reasons to fade him as just about any other top-15 player, from his beleaguered short game, which has admittedly improved greatly, to a recent results table which shows three finishes outside of the top 30 in his last four starts.
Cameron Smith (+2800)
The Aussie went on a serious charge during Sunday’s final round of the LIV event, eventually losing in a playoff. Strangely enough, while Cameron Smith owns a win at The Open, four top 10s at the Masters and a U.S. Open top five long ago, his PGA Championship results leave plenty of room for improvement.
Sahith Theegala (+8000)
He’s yet to win at the highest level, but Sahith Theegala owns talent mixed with a flair for the dramatic, which he displayed on the back nine at Augusta National during last month’s final round. There remains some inconsistency, but placing the world’s 25th-ranked player at 20th on this list is hardly a reach.
Pick: Sahith Theegala
Talor Gooch (+6500)
With two recent victories on LIV, Talor Gooch is starting to show a higher ceiling to accompany his already solid floor. In his last seven major starts, he owns six made cuts, five of which were inside the top 35.
Collin Morikawa (+2800)
Other than a few brief moments when he couldn’t hit his patented cut last year, we rarely have to worry about Collin Morikawa’s ball-striking, but his putting stroke looked downright horrific at times during a missed cut at Quail Hollow just two weeks ago.
Justin Rose (+12000)
Justin Rose has been quiet since that AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am victory back in February, but that doesn’t mean he’s been playing badly. After a pair of MCs directly following that win, he’s now finished in the top 25 in three of his last four starts. For a guy who knows his window is starting to close a little, he’s doing everything he can to remain competitive in the big ones.
Pick: Justin Rose
Tyrrell Hatton (+3500)
It’s the same old story with Hatton: When things are going right – when he likes a course and the putts are dropping – he can contend anywhere. But when things aren’t going his way, well, his indignation is our entertainment. It’s tough for me to place him any higher on this list without yet knowing exactly how he feels about this place.
Thomas Detry (+30000)
There are a few players with big numbers who appear intriguing this week, if not for outrights, at least for prop plays. Among them are Cam Davis and Adrian Meronk, but Thomas Detry might be my favorite of the deep sleepers because he’s a big-hitter who isn’t afraid to play his way onto this board.
Pick: Thomas Detry
Jordan Spieth (+3000)
You astute readers out there might’ve noticed that my top-25 ranking has gone 26 deep. Nice observational skills there. I did this because, at the time of this writing, there was no update on Spieth’s wrist injury. If he’s close to 100 percent healthy, he’s in the top 25; if not, well, it’s tough to like a guy with a wrist injury hitting out of juicy rough all week.
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