In recent years, the PGA Championship has — in a lot of ways — supplanted the U.S. Open as the toughest, fairest test of golf on the major championship schedule.
As such, the cream typically has risen to the top. Justin Thomas winning in 2017 followed by back-to-back Brooks Koepka wins leading into Collin Morikawa’s first career major all made sense. In all of those instances, each player was close to the top of the betting board.
Then came 2021. Last year’s PGA Championship will go down as one of the more improbable majors of our lifetimes as Phil Mickelson turned back the hands of time and outlasted Koepka at Kiawah Island. Mickelson, who won’t be back to defend his crown, started the week as long as 300-1 to win his sixth major.
That neighborhood is occupied by players like Padraig Harrington, Beau Hossler and Kevin Streelman this year to name just a few. All decent enough players but not real threats to win the Wanamaker Trophy — or so we think.
Here’s a look at a few slightly more realistic long shots to win this weekend’s PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club.
(Betting odds via DraftKings Sportsbook)
Gary Woodland (+11000): Woodland was admittedly woeful at the Wells Fargo two weeks ago and missed the cut, and he also failed to reach the weekend at the Masters. But he has shown some flashes in 2022, with top-10 finishes at Valero, the API and Honda. He kind of fits the mold, too. You’re hearing a lot of people talk about how small the green complexes are at Southern Hills. Those tiny greens are flanked by myriad bunkers. It’s not dissimilar to Pebble Beach ? where Woodland won the 2019 U.S. Open. He ranks third in the field in bogey avoidance when it’s firm-and-fast conditions which we’re probably looking at this weekend in Tulsa. If the winning score is going to be closer to 2-under than 12-under, then Woodland could hang around.
Harold Varner III (+11000): The models always love HV3, who rates out very well as a ball-striker. We’re finally starting to see the results, too. He beat out a solid field in Saudi Arabia earlier this year and does have eight finishes of 23rd or better in his last 13 starts. It’s pretty feast or famine, so he could just as easily miss the cut. His around-the-green game has improved since the star of 2022, and a sixth-place finish at The Players paired with a 23rd-place showing at the Masters shows he’s not intimidated easily. Off the tee, he can get a little squirrelly, but if the rough isn’t overly penal, that figures to be less of a factor.
Alex Noren (+13000): Noren’s game seems to come and go in waves, and he’s certainly closer to a crest than crash right now. He has four top-12 finishes dating back to Phoenix in February, and he’s gaining nearly seven strokes overall in his last five tournaments. The tee-to-green game has been sensational aided by a great run of approach play. His recent run coincides with improved play near the greens, and the putter is dialed again. Speaking of the flat stick, he does his best work on bentgrass greens which Southern Hills has.
Talor Gooch (+15000): You can expect Viktor Hovland to get plenty of buzz this week as the former Oklahoma State Cowboy returns to the Sooner State. It’s a true homecoming for Gooch, though, a native Okie who also played for OK State. Hovland obviously is better, but Gooch checks in with a very intriguing 150-1 number. He missed the cut last week with some uncharacteristically bad ball-striking. That’s been a bit of a trend, so that has to be monitored, but he’s been quite good around the green, gaining an average of 1.3 strokes in his last 10 starts. Save for a missed cut this year, he’s played well at Riviera, which is a fairly comparable course and finished 14th at the Masters this year, another similar track. A top-10 bet might be worth it, too, at 12-1.