2021 PGA Championship Betting Odds & Picks: 5 Players to Target After Round 1 at Kiawah Island
Montana Pritchard/PGA of America via Getty Images. Pictured: Brooks Koepka.
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — The opening round of the 2021 PGA Championship was everything we could ask for from a major championship.
The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island played tough, but not overly tough. There were red numbers, but not too many red numbers.
Here are the signs of a great course with a fair setup: Seven players shot in the 60s, 30 players broke par, no players had a bogey-free (or worse) round and the scoring average was 74.7. If you were on your game, a solid score was out there. Just a little off, it could get ugly.
— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelTAN) May 21, 2021
By the time it was over, Corey Conners took first-round leader honors with a 5-under 67, racing up oddsboards to become the new outright favorite at +750 on BetMGM.
If you’re looking for a live wager, though, there’s some value further down the board.
Based on what we’ve witnessed so far, Kiawah should play into the hands of the elite ball-strikers, so I’m targeting those known for iron play — and those who showed it off in the opening frame.
Also, if we’re seeking an edge, the wind is forecasted to grow stronger as Friday progresses, so those who played late in the first round and will tee it up early in the second round could own an advantage.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at five players potentially worth chasing.
Brooks Koepka: 3-under 69 (+1100)
When I asked Koepka about that injury after the round, he didn’t mince words, saying, “I’m fine. It’s a major.” He said before the tournament that he was injured at the Masters and is now hurt. He sure played like there was a difference on Thursday.
Collin Morikawa: 2-under 70 (+1400)
No player had better combined strokes gained numbers off the tee and with approach shots than the defending champion, who ranked fourth and seventh in those categories, respectively.
I spoke with Morikawa on Wednesday and while he’s not the type to beat his chest and guarantee victory, it was very apparent that he was riding some confidence into this one.
Will Zalatoris: 1-under 71 (+3000)
Following his solo second-place finish at last month’s Masters, Zalatoris wasn’t a player I was prepared to target too much this week, but he’s simply striking the ball too well to ignore. Much like Conners, his iron play is so good that he need only be above-average with his wedges and flatstick to seriously contend for a title.
Zalatoris' opening-round approach shot numbers were undoubtedly buoyed by a hole-out for eagle on the par-4 sixth hole, but they were still impressive nonetheless.
Gary Woodland: 2-under 70 (+3300)
When Woodland is playing well, when he’s confident in his game, you can see it in his body language. He walks with a casual swagger and offers enough of a grin that you’d fold your cards against him at the poker table.
He’s got exactly that going on right now, crediting recent work with instructors Butch Harmon and Pete Cowen. Woodland has proven he can win a major, and he tends to like it when the wind blows.
Patrick Cantlay: 1-over 73 (+7000)
The final total doesn’t look like anything special, but Cantlay had a seven-hole stretch in which he went eagle-bogey-bogey-bogey-par-eagle-bogey. That’s a hell of a way to keep it at even-par for those holes.
More importantly, he led the field in strokes gained on approach shots, picking up nearly four strokes on the field. Another round like that and his 70/1 price should look like a bargain.