PGA Championship Picks: Five Long Shots Who Could Contend At Valhalla

Two major champions make the short list of long shots


May 15, 2024

There is a pretty strong consensus developing when it comes to identifying the players most likely to contend at the PGA Championship this weekend.

Golf’s second major makes its return to Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., for the first time since Rory McIlroy hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy in 2014. McIlroy unsurprisingly is one of the favorites coming into the week, partly because he’s playing some very good golf. He won last week at the Wells Fargo and a few weeks ago with Shane Lowry at the Zurich Classic.

McIlroy is also among the favorites because he brings a very valuable skill set to Valhalla. Once again, the PGA of America has set up the course to play very long, and with rain in the forecast, it’s going to play slower than most probably would prefer. The fairways are also rather narrow, and with smaller green complexes, the players most likely to dot the top of the leaderboard are those who can hit it long and far. Obviously, that sort of game plays every week on Tour, but if Valhalla plays the way most expect it to, the big bombers are going to have an even bigger advantage this week.

We know all about McIlroy and the other superstars atop the betting board. Here, we went a little deeper for some long shots (75-1 and longer) who fit the bill and could make some noise at the PGA Championship.

(All betting odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)

Hideki Matsuyama (75-1)
This might be the first time the same player is featured on both our power rankings and long shots. It’s a risk, of course. Matsuyama’s back injury is a major X factor. His off-the-tee game is trending down a bit, and the putter is still his biggest issue. That being said, he is just so solid from tee to green that he’s hard to ignore at that number.

Matt Fitzpatrick (80-1)
He’s not in the best of form, but he checks the boxes. Fitzpatrick completely reinvented himself over the last decade by adding a ton of swing speed. Despite having just one top-10 finish in his last five starts, he does rank eighth on Tour in total driving, which accounts for both distance and accuracy. He’s also one of the better long-iron players in the field and putts well from 10 feet and in. He’s just a solid player who’s unlikely to give a ton of strokes back to the field, and as he has proved in the past, he can contend for — and win — major championships. Getting that at 80-1 is hard to pass up.

Si Woo Kim (90-1)
His undeniable putting struggles cut into his win equity, so he might just be a better DFS play than anything. Kim comes in with three straight top-20 finishes, including a pair of signature events. He’s also one of the best tee-to-green players in the field, so if he can just putt average to the field, he can contend. The last time he gained on the course in putting was at The Players Championship where he finished tied for sixth. He also has gained strokes around the green in his last seven starts. It’s all there — you just need one week of putting.

Stephen Jaeger (150-1)
Look, he’s 150-1 for a reason, but Jaeger’s failure to contend won’t be because he’s not long enough. He ranks 13th in the field in driving distance over his last 12 rounds, and he has played well recently. Jaeger finished worse than 21st in just one of his last five starts, a run that includes a win at the Houston Open. The approach game leaves a lot to be desired, which we saw at The Masters where he trunk-slammed after a couple of poor days of ball-striking. The thinking here, though, is that Valhalla favors the bombers so heavily that someone like Jaeger just drives his way to the top of the leaderboard.

Keith Mitchell (150-1)
It looks like he has found something. Mitchell was in the wilderness late last year, but he has now made the weekend in nine of his last 10 starts with six top-20 finishes. He’s back to borderline elite ball-striking, and he ranks sixth in strokes gained off the tee, fifth in tee-to-green. The short game is a borderline disaster, and it ultimately will probably be what does him in. He’s similar to Jaeger, though, where if he’s 300 yards off the tee in the fairway all week, he should be able to pepper the greens in a far more comfortable manner than the rest of the field.

Thumbnail photo via Clare Grant/USA TODAY Sports Images

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