Field: 156 golfers / Top 65 and ties make the cut
Course: TPC Harding Park
Length: 7234 yards
Defending Champion: Brooks Koepka
WGC – Memphis review
Like we mentioned last week, this is an exciting stretch of the PGA Tour season with seemingly top tier fields every tournament. This past weekend in Memphis was no exception. The World Golf Championship saw new world #1, Justin Thomas, and the 2019 defending champ, Brooks Koepka, battle down the stretch with ultimately Thomas taking home the title.
I mentioned in last week’s preview that Thomas was my overall favorite golfer in the field but I couldn’t justify placing a bet at +1100 with how much premier talent was competing. Well, after the second round on Friday, Thomas was six shots back and his odds were +1600. Again, the importance of live wagering in golf is crucial to long term success. Nothing changed about how well Thomas fit the course. His odds slipped, I bet it, and it turned into a very successful week.
But enough about that. It is officially major championship season.
Welcome to the 2020 PGA Championship. We have finally made it to the first major of the year. When the golfers tee off on Thursday, it will have been over 12 months since the last major was played which was the Open Championship held at Royal Portrush last July. This year, the 102nd PGA Championship will take place in San Francisco at TPC Harding Park. Although there will be no fans in attendance, it is still a week that all viewers of golf have been waiting for and the four majors always offer some of the best betting opportunities available.
As with all major championships, the field will be one of the strongest we see all year. Below are all the different ways that a golfer can qualify to compete in this year’s first major.
- Every former PGA Champion.
- Winners of the last five U.S. Opens.
- Winners of the last five Masters.
- Winners of the last five Open Championships.
- Winners of the last three The Players Championships.
- The current Senior PGA Champion.
- The low 20 scorers and ties in the previous PGA Championship.
- The 20 low scorers in the last PGA Professional Championship.
- The 70 leaders in official money standings on the PGA Tour (starting one week before the previous year’s PGA Championship and ending two weeks before the current year’s PGA Championship).
- Members of the most recent United States and European Ryder Cup Teams, provided they are in the top 100 of the Official World Golf Ranking as of one week before the start of the tournament.
- Any tournament winner co-sponsored or approved by the PGA Tour since the previous PGA Championship .
- The PGA of America reserves the right to invite additional players not included in the categories listed above in order the fill any final spots needed
The top of the betting board offers names such as Rory McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau, and, of course, Tiger Woods. Tiger will be making his second start since golf returned in May. His first being a 40th place finish at The Memorial at Muirfield Village last month. International players of note will be Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tyrell Hatton, and Henrick Stenson. The popular young tio of golfers; Viktor Hovland, Collin Morikawa, and Matthew Wolff, will also be in attendance.
One of the most anticipated storylines is Brooks Koepka chasing history attempting to be the first person since the 1920s to win the PGA Championship in three straight years after he completed the back-to-back victories last year at Bethpage Black. To do so, Brooks will need to top the best golfers in the world and conquer what is expected to be an incredibly challenging course in TPC Harding Park.
One key golfer that we have yet to see this year is Adam Scott who will be making his first tour start since The Players cancelled play after the first round back in March.
Notable names that qualified but will not be in attendance are Francesco Molinari, Lee Westwood, Charles Howell, and Eddie Pepperell. Richy Werenski claimed the final spot by winning the Barracuda Championship this past weekend.
TPC Harding Park is a par 70 course that measures just over 7200 yards in length. It is the first west coast course to host the historic PGA Championship since 1998. The course is situated against the shores of Lake Merced in San Francisco and features fairways that are lined with large Cypress trees which makes accuracy off the tee crucial. In the early 2000’s there was a great deal of renovations made including adding an extra 400 yards in length to make it championship ready. This course was the host to the 2009 President’s Cup which the United States won over the International team. The WGC Match Play was also held here back in 2015. Rory McIlroy defeated Gary Woodland in the final round.
The greens are made with bent grass and are set to be faster than the average greens on tour. With the tournament being moved to August, it will lead to drier conditions and greens that are harder to hold approach shots on. The Association has let the rough grow out quite a bit and is ready to penalize golfers that veer their drives into the trees. Unlike the past few courses the tour has visited, Harding Park will not offer too many water hazards, outside of the large lake hugging the left side of the 18th hole. Instead of water, the golfers will face a collection of other challenges such as a number of strategically placed bunkers, tall Cypress trees, and coastal winds that can allow the course to play quite a bit longer than the 7200 yard scoreboard may suggest.
With the length of the course and the potential that the weather leads to it playing even longer, driving distance will be an important metric to look at. However, with how penial the rough can potentially end up being, accuracy will definitely come into play as well. The further the golfers can get the ball down the fairway, the better chance they will have at getting an approach shot to stay on the green. But regardless, the difficulty of the rough will make it a challenge to take on many flagsticks if they are not precise with the drives. Both accuracy and length will key. The golfer who combines the two of these stats will ultimately find success.
The collection of par 4s on the course vary quite a bit. There are going to be three of them playing under 400 yards most of the week. That leaves seven of them to play over 450 yards. This will be one category I will look for when attempting to target golfers; par 4 scoring on holes 450 – 500 yards. There are two par 5s on the card, one of which will play over 600 yards and surely be a three shot hole for the majority of golfers in the field. The par 3s range in length from 170 all the way to almost 250 yards.
- Strokes Gained: Approach
- Strokes Gained: Off the Tee
- Par 4s: 450-500 yards
- Driving Accuracy
- Proximity Over 200 yards
I will also be placing an importance on recent form, more so than usual. Prior to last year’s PGA Championship, the top three finishers all had a top 10 in the month leading up the event. This is a trend that we have seen continue over time and wouldn’t expect it to change coming into this week. We don’t necessarily need top 10 finishes leading in but we are looking for golfers who have been popping up on leaderboards as of late.
Last week proved that trusting the process and stats can lead to success over time. After looking into the notable stats for the WGC, it concluded that Justin Thomas was the top golfer in the field. He ended up winning the event by three shots. Does it always work that way? Of course not. But sticking to a consistent process each week is key long term results.
Let’s get to the picks.
High end value
It is difficult to bet against Brooks Koepka this week. He is the two time defending champion of this event. A couple weeks ago when breaking down the field for the 3M Open, I wrote that Brooks makes sure he is at this best when it comes to the premier events. He proved that last week with a 2nd place finish at the WGC. His odds have dropped all the way down to +1000 which is in the unbettable range for me. But he is my #1 target when it comes to looking for live outrights after the 1st or 2nd round this week.
Patrick Cantlay +2500
After one week on Bermuda, Patrick Cantlay is back on his preferred putting surface, bent grass. He gains strokes putting on all grass types but especially on bent. Cantlay is primed to breakthrough in a major after a number of close calls. Last year he finished in the top 21 of three different majors, with a 3rd place finish at the PGA Championship. He has not missed a cut on tour since March 2019 and this stretch has also seen a number of high finishes including a 7th place finish just three weeks ago at Muirfield. Cantlay’s name always seems to appear on the first page of leaderboards and I don’t expect that to be any different this week.
He has gained strokes in all major categories throughout his past 5, 10, 20, and even 85 events as you can see below.
This past weekend in Memphis, he gained 2.7 strokes on approach but was wayward with his drives off the tee and couldn’t get a putt to drop. Moving back to bent is going to help him out and he is one of the players in the field who hits irons well enough to hold the firm greens that Harding Park will offer. Cantlay is poised to hoist a major trophy soon enough. Why not this weekend at the PGA.
Collin Morikawa +2800
This won’t be the only time throughout the week that you hear Morikawa is a local kid to the bay area. He went to Cal Berkeley where he won the Pac-12 Championship in 2019. He has played in these types of conditions arguably more than anyone else who is in this field. But the local roots are not the only reason to back him this week. When looking at relevant stats, Morikawa is primed for success. He is 3rd in the field in strokes gained: approach, 9th in proximity over 200 yards, and 11th in strokes gained: off the tee.
He is one of the most consistent golfers on tour, notably when he made 22 consecutive cuts to begin his professional career. That is second to only Tiger Woods, who made 25. That streak ended a few weeks ago at the Travelers, but what did he do the next week? Took down the title at the Workday Charity Open for his first win on the PGA Tour. File that in the “recent form” category. Driving distance is where other golfers have the edge on him but his long irons are so solid that he can make up for the gap.
The stats line up. He’s familiar with the course. His recent form is strong. He is in the range we like to bet. I’m picking Collin Morikawa to win his first major championship this week at Harding Park.
Daniel Berger +4000
Berger has had a bizarre list of results since the return to golf in the middle of June.
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Which week do you think I bet him? Correct…The Memorial. Such a weird missed cut but it’s hard to argue with the other finishes thus far. Three top 3 finishes in his last four starts? Too good of a stretch not to consider. I also loved to see that he finished 2nd in the WGC. People have been unsure of his ability to compete in the high end fields but he proved them wrong this past weekend in Memphis.
Daniel Berger plays par 4s better than most people on tour which is going to be a big advantage this week. He is ranked 5th in the field in scoring par 4s between 450 – 500 yards. He is also 10th in approach and in the top 21 for proximity from 200+ yards, driving accuracy, and total strokes gained.
You can’t argue with results or stats. Daniel Berger currently has both going for him and he is undervalued this week in a field with every big name in the golf world competing.
Matthew Fitzpatrick +5000
The British golfer formerly of Northwestern University has been red hot as of late. He is coming off back to back finishes of 3rd and 6th. This run has been fueled by playing all around solid golf. He is not flashy. He doesn’t hit it the furthest. But he is top tier in all aspects of the game gaining strokes in almost all relevant stats.
Obviously he is one of the best putters on tour at the moment but there are no serious flaws in any part of the game. Consistency is needed when competing for a major championship and Fitzpatrick more often than not finds himself in the middle of the fairway and on the center of the green. He managed to finish 6th last week at the WGC even after losing an astounding 3.5 strokes on approach. This was only the second time in the past 6 events where he actually lost on approach, and he still pulled together a top 10.
Only one missed cut since March 2019, Fitzpatrick looks to be ready for the challenging track the golfers will face this weekend in Northern California. If the weather turns overcast and windy, which is normal for this area of the state, the course could closely resemble some British courses that Fitzpatrick is more than familiar with. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see the English golfer in contention down the stretch on Sunday.
Joaquin Niemann +10000
If you’ve been following along with the articles, by now you know once we get into this range on the betting card we are looking for any sign that a golfer can compete. For Niemann, it is how well he strikes his irons. He is 7th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach. That alone is enough reason to get on someone in his range. All it takes at that point is to get hot with the putter and he can move his way up the leaderboard. Signs point to just that for the Chilean golfer. Bent grass is the only surface that he actually gains strokes on.
He unfortunately missed the cut at last year’s PGA Championship but since then has had six top 10 finishes on tour including a victory at the Greenbrier last September. His most recent top finish came at the RBC Heritage where he finished in a tie for 5th. Other golfers on top of that leaderboard? Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Daniel Berger, and Webb Simpson. All of which appear to be good plays this week so Niemann is no different. As with anyone in this range, we will be looking for odds on top 10 and top 20 finishes but hopefully he can be in the mix for the title come Sunday afternoon.
Other numbers that stood out as value:
- Webb Simpson +2500
- Tyrell Hatton +4000
- Viktor Hovland +5000
I am beyond excited for this week. We are ready for a major championship after all of this time. Golf has been great as of late with the top tier names in contention every week. Sunday’s have led to close battles down the stretch and this week should be no different. Hopefully one of our guys can hoist the Wanamaker Trophy when things are all said and done.