What to Know About TPC Harding Park Before Betting the PGA Championship

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Photo credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images. Pictured: TPC Harding Park

It has been over a year since the PGA’s last major championship was played, and it feels like a lifetime ago when Shane Lowry won the Open Championship in Northern Ireland last July.

The PGA Championship has arrived, as players will compete at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, California. It last hosted a WGC-Match Play event back in 2015 and was the host venue of the Presidents Cup in 2009.

For a lot of fans, it’s an unfamiliar course. And for bettors, it means we have almost no past data on it from which to look towards this week.

We do have some things to lean on, though. First, we know that it’s a par-70 course and will play at a little over 7,200 yards. We also know it’s going to set up similarly to other PGA Championships in the past, and we know that the weather in San Francisco could be a factor; it could be cold and windy.

Since we don’t have previous data from this exact course, let’s look instead at the most important metrics for PGA Championships. It’s not perfect — but it’s a decent place to start.

The Most Predictive Stats at PGA Championships

Using FantasyLabs data, we can look at how golfers in the 90th-plus percentile for each stat entering this course have historically performed. It measures their performance against a salary-based expectation. And while that might seem like a weird way to go about it, note that DFS salaries in golf are highly correlated with odds to win.

That means we can lean on DFS data and its baselines to measure stats.

On this week’s Action PGA podcast, host Jason Sobel offered some telling stats about former winners. He found that 16 of the past 20 winners of the PGA Championship had already won in that calendar year. And 18 of the 20 had finished in the top-30 in their prior tournament leading up to the PGA Championship.

The narrative that recent form matters at this event is borne out in the above data: Of the stats I analyzed over the last six events, the most predictive metrics of success were recent birdie rate, recent Adjusted Round Score, recent driving distance and recent greens in regulation.

Add the dynamics of the COVID-19 layoff, and betting on recent form isn’t a bad idea. A major championship is often not the time to find your game, and that’s probably even more true now and at this week’s PGA Championship.

Overall, this course — and majors in general — will test all parts of a golfer’s game. Ball-striking will be important as usual. A hot putter isn’t very easy to predict, but it’ll be necessary to win.

All in all, I want to weigh players in strong form plus guys who excel in Total Driving, which combines length and accuracy off the tee. If it’s colder than usual, and perhaps a bit windy off of the bay, distance could be at a premium, as it often is at PGA Championship events.

Some guys who fit the mold described include the best of the best like Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas, of course, but also guys perhaps a bit further down the board like Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay and Jason Day.

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