PGA Championship 2023 Picks: Long Shots To Consider At Oak Hill

Off-the-tee play might be the No. 1 ingredient for success


May 16, 2023

Whoever walks away with the Wanamaker Trophy at this weekend’s PGA Championship sure is going to have earned it.

The golf’s second major is here, and the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., looks like it will be a very challenging test of the world’s best players.

Once again, players will face a brute of a course, stretched out in an attempt to impose its will on the 156-man field. Similar to last year at Southern Hills, Oak Hill plays to a par-70 with the PGA Championship website listing 7,394 yards for the course. The PGA stretched out Southern Hills to more than 7,500 yards in the first round last year before tightening it up to just 7,357 on Sunday.

Justin Thomas’ final-round charge paired with Mito Pereira’s hard-to-watch meltdown highlighted Sunday in Tulsa a year ago. Thomas took home the trophy by getting to 5-under to force a playoff with Will Zalatoris (Pereira finished 4-under with a double-bogey on the 72nd hole). That 5-under score seems to be a pretty good barometer for what to expect this week.

As for Oak Hill, a recent restoration certainly improved the western New York course. That being said, this doesn’t have the same allure as a place like Bethpage Black or Kiawah Island.

“It’s a solid, yet unspectacular golf course,” No Laying Up’s Chris Solomon tweeted Monday. “The fairways aren’t crazy narrow, but they aren’t wide. Rough is not crazy high but it’s not short. So far, it feels like a very middle-of-the-road major championship venue, which is not a slight. I don’t think there are going to be many flaming takes about the course this week.”

Here’s another take, this one from The Fried Egg’s Andy Johnson.

“I think this is more ‘if Winged Foot and Bethpage Black had a baby,'” he tweeted. “Greens are more interesting than Bethpage but nothing like Winged Foot. Land is a lot better than Winged Foot but not nearly as good as Bethpage. Narrow and thick rough shared characteristics right now.”

The main takeaways are that it obviously will play extremely long, as telegraphed by both par-5s being longer than 600 yards and four par-4s of 480 yards or more. The consensus is a New York course in mid-May won’t be super-firm, meaning carry off the tee will be important this week. Yet, the rough will be typically long, as it is for most PGA Championship weeks, so you can’t just spray it all over the place. At the very least, you need to be strong to hack it out of the rough as Bryson DeChambeau did when he outmuscled Winged Foot at the 2020 U.S. Open.

Aside from Phil Mickelson’s miracle win at Kiawah in 2021, we typically see the favorites stand tall at the PGA (as is the case with most majors). However, if a long shot were to get it done this week, don’t be surprised if it’s one of these players hoisting the Wanamaker on Sunday afternoon.

Wyndham Clark (+7500) — We might be nearing the end of getting the real value out of Clark. He’s probably a better placement finish bet or DFS option, but Clark is playing undeniably great golf. He finally broke through and cashed tickets in the 65-1 number a couple of weeks ago, so his price might be slightly inflated here. He does, however, check some pretty major boxes. He’s extremely long off the tee with plenty of carry. His approach game has been quite good, especially since mid-March, a run that includes three top-10 finishes in five starts.

Joaquin Niemann (+9000) — Last year, the Chilean up top was Pereira. Could his countryman and good friend be ready to climb the board this year? Niemann is another LIV guy, so it’s hard to get a great read on how he’s playing. He did finish in the top 10 in his last two starts, and he finished tied for 16th at the Masters in April. Don’t let Niemann’s slender build fool you; he can absolutely move it. He ranked 33rd in his final year on Tour in driver carry, so he has the distance and carry to separate himself from a large chunk of the field.

Talor Gooch (+9000) — The Oklahoma State product had a relatively disappointing showing in Tulsa last year, though he did finish in the top 20. Now on the LIV tour, he needs to make the most of his major appearances to ensure he keeps coming back. A win this week would sure help, and Gooch definitely has the tools to do just that. He’s unquestionably one of the most talented players in the world. He won a pair of LIV events this spring and had a respectable showing at the Masters, too. He’s not a prototypical bomber, but he’s not short. He’s remarkable around the greens, which could be a major asset with the tiny Oak Hill greens. And given his recent spat with the USGA over his U.S. Open status, he should have no shortage of motivation.

Seamus Power (+19000) — Let’s end on a bomb and put some faith in Power. The Irishman doesn’t really jump off the page, but he typically plays well when scoring is more difficult. We saw that just last year at this tournament when he entered Sunday in sixth place en route to a top-10 finish. He’ll keep the ball in play off the tee and has an improving approach game that spiked last week at the Byron Nelson. If the small greens become a big factor, he’s proved he can go target hunting. He has a ninth-place and 15th-place finish at Pebble Beach where the greens are smallest on Tour.

Thumbnail photo via Adam Cairns/USA TODAY Sports Images

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