PGA Championship 2021: Betting preview, odds, favorites and tips

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The PGA Championship returns this week, teeing off later this week at the Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. It's a wide-open course and a wide-open tournament, so there are wagering opportunities aplenty. All lines courtesy of BetMGM and Yahoo Sportsbook.

What’s the best way to bet the PGA Championship?

Your average NFL or NBA game has two possible winners. The 2021 PGA Championship, by contrast, has 156 possible winners. Granted, some of those winners are much more likely than others, but still: picking a specific individual to lift the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday evening is a challenge.

Nailing the winner in a golf tournament is always tricky, but that’s even more the case this week at Kiawah Island. There’s no true favorite, and the circumstances surrounding the course, which we’ll discuss below, will shake up the leaderboard over the course of the week. Rory McIlroy leads the field at +1100, or 11-1, meaning you’d win $1100 on a $100 bet; by contrast, Bryson DeChambeau was as low as +750 for the 2020 Masters, and Dustin Johnson was +900 for this year’s Masters.

If you’re looking to stay in the game until Sunday evening, then, you can also bet a specific player makes (or, if you’re feeling soulless, misses) the cut, or finishes in the top 40, top 20, top 10 or top 5. You can gamble on head-to-head matchups, positions after each round, nationality of the winner … no need to focus on just the top of the leaderboard.

It's time for the PGA Championship. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
It's time for the PGA Championship. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Breaking down the leaders

McIlroy is the favorite at +1100. But that’s largely based on the fact he won by eight strokes at Kiawah’s last PGA, in 2012, and the fact he won earlier this month at the Wells Fargo. Here’s the thing: That victory snapped a 19-month losing streak that included an ugly missed cut at the Masters and all kinds of turmoil on Team Rory. McIlroy being “back” makes for a great story, but it may not make for a sound wager.

Jordan Spieth (+1400) is the tournament’s other must-watch figure from a legacy standpoint, since the PGA Championship is all he needs to win the career Grand Slam. Unlike McIlroy, Spieth is absolutely rolling, with seven top 10s in his past nine tournaments, including a win at the Valero Texas Open. He’s also an expert in the wind, a skill that will come in handy this weekend.

Jon Rahm (+1400) isn’t yet at that best-to-never-win-a-major stage of his career, but by the numbers, he’s the best player on Tour not to win a major yet. It’ll happen, sooner rather than later. Justin Thomas (+1400) has a Players Championship win already this year, but also some erratic play as he looks to add a second PGA Championship.

Johnson (+1600) ought to be comfortable playing in his home state, but he’s been inconsistent since his Masters win last November. DeChambeau (+1600) won’t be able to unleash his usual power on this course, since leaving the fairway is so punitive, but if he can throttle back and stay accurate, he’ll be in fine shape.

Some players outside the traditional titans who are drawing notice thanks to their recent play: Daniel Berger (+2800), Viktor Hovland (+2000) and Sam Burns (+4000). And Xander Schauffele (+2000) is heading toward that fabled bet-him-til-he-wins status.

The PGA is incredibly generous to first-time major winners — six of the last 10 PGA winners have only that one major victory on that resume — so don’t be afraid to look a little lower down the rankings for picks.

Brooks Koepka gets in some practice at Kiawah. (Darren Carroll/PGA of America via Getty Images)
Brooks Koepka gets in some practice at Kiawah. (Darren Carroll/PGA of America via Getty Images)

What impact will the course have?

At 7,876 yards, Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course will be longer than any course in major championship history, 200 yards longer than in 2012. As its name implies, the course runs along the water, with all the possible headwinds, tailwinds and crosswinds that implies. Gusts are expected to reach 25 mph this weekend. Oh, and the greens are raised, so every approach is going to be subject to the whims of the wind.

That makes for great viewing, but what about betting? You’re going to want to keep an eye on a couple stats: accuracy off the tee, since the scrub and sand along the fairways will throw extra strokes on cards, and second shots approaching the green. Staying steady on the first two shots will put a good chunk of the field in your rearview mirror.

With that in mind, consider accurate drivers like Webb Simpson (+4000) and Abraham Ancer (+5000). Look at accurate second-shot players like Thomas, reigning PGA champion Collin Morikawa (+3000) and edge-of-a-breakthrough Corey Conners (+6600). And if you’re feeling it, roll with around-the-green specialists like Cam Smith (+4000), Patrick Cantlay (+4000), or Christiaan Bezuidenhout (+15000). All of those players rank in the top 10 on Tour in their respective categories, and this far into the season, that’s a reliable metric.

All eyes will be on Rory McIlroy this weekend. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
All eyes will be on Rory McIlroy this weekend. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

What are some compelling head-to-head matchups?

You can match players in virtually infinite combinations. For instance, you could take McIlroy, Thomas and Spieth versus the field; they’ll pay out at +333, while the field is the favorite at -450. You could be generous and bet on multiple players to make the cut, like Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose at +230.

BetMGM has also grouped the tournament favorites into five-man pods, and you can bet on which player among those five will have the lowest score after 72 holes. The big dogs in Group A, for instance, will include McIlroy (+275), Rahm (+300), Thomas (+375), DeChambeau (+400) and Spieth (+450).

Another, more challenging wager: betting on two specific players to finish first and second in any order. The best odds on the board for this bold gamble are 80-1 for McIlroy/Rahm and McIlroy/Spieth. If you had confidence that, say, Hideki Matsuyama and Tony Finau would win and place this year, you could get that pairing for 500-1 odds.

What are some special bets this week?

You could throw some wagers down on the winning margin — one stroke is +225, four or more is +350, and a playoff is +350. You could bet on anyone carding a hole-in-one, with both yes and no coming in at -110. You could bet on the nationality of the winner (American: -150, English: +800, South African: +2000). You could even gamble that McIlroy could record a birdie or better on all four days at the par-5 16th at +1800. The games are plentiful.

What about John Daly?

He’s at 1000-1 odds. If you bet on him and he wins, buy him a steak dinner with your proceeds.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook at @jaybusbee or contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com.

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