The PGA Championship is upon us, and that means we’re back to kick around the prospects of the game’s best and brightest. Yahoo Sports senior writer Jay Busbee and lead fantasy analyst Scott Pianowski are here to give you the insights you need heading into the year’s second major … as well as some tips for wagering a few, uh, jelly beans.
BUSBEE: Scott, my friend, here we are, back in the PGA Championship groove again. Still feels weird to have this tournament in May; it's usually at the tail end of summer and kickoff is just days away. Not so this year! Let's dig in, starting with the tournament itself. The PGA gets grief for being the fourth-of-four majors — not the old-world nobility of The Open, not the brute force of the U.S. Open, not the rich tradition of the Masters. But I love it anyway. What's your take on the PGA as a major?
PIANOWSKI: The PGA Championship has worn a lot of hats and tried a lot of marketing hooks. It was a match play event until the late 1950s. It's been pushed all over the calendar. In our lifetimes, the marketing angle was "Glory's Last Shot", golf's way of shrugging and admitting, hey, this will never be as prestigious as the other three majors, but it's still a freaking major, it's still one of four. Ringo Starr is still a Beatle, right?
It's going to take a while for the May landing spot to feel natural, but it was a necessary move. Once the FedExCup and the Olympics became part of the golf calendar, the late-summer schedule became too congested. We just need some time for the cadence to sink in. And when my memory thinks back to previous PGA Championships, I remember a bunch of sweltering August events won by ordinary players and journeymen. I suspect we'll see more star power at the PGA going forward, and that's a good thing.
Which is not to say we have to ignore the middle of the market for our picks and jelly-bean investments. Kiawah Island is a Pete Dye creation, and when I think of his courses, I think of a wide swath of the field having a shot. Plenty of non-power players were competitive back in 2012, although Rory McIlroy left everyone in the dust. And who doesn't love a golf course on the water? Time to get excited.
BUSBEE: Kiawah Island has the potential to give us a truly great tournament this weekend. I love every aspect of it — the wind that can come from any direction, the greens that are elevated to prevent links-style bump-and-runs, the scrub and rough that penalizes big hitters with suspect accuracy. The last time the tournament was at Kiawah, only one guy finished at better than 5-under; that's U.S. Open-level strength.
Now, it's time to dig in. Bust open that big jar of jellybeans and let's throw 'em down.
PIANOWSKI: We need jellybeans in play. Let’s start with who I can’t bet on.
I can’t bet on DJ, he’s not in form. Brooks Koepka hasn’t fully hit stride yet, either. I can’t bet on Bryson DeChambeau, because I don’t like rooting for gorilla golf. And I’m not thrilled with how he reacts when he hits some turbulence. It’s a good thing to demand and expect greatness, but you need something else when you’re punched in the mouth.
I can’t imagine anyone not in love with Viktor Hovland’s game, but I was stunned to see him listed as the seventh favorite. I don’t see enough resume to justify that price, not yet.
BUSBEE: I'm kinda big on Hovland, to be honest. A solid run of strong finishes lately, plus the fact that the PGA is so generous to first-timers — six in the past decade alone — sets him up nicely. I'm also big on Daniel Berger, a guy who's won twice since the return from the pandemic shutdown and who ranks in the top 25 in most of those stat-nerd categories that are key to cashing big.
I know I'm being heretical here, but I'm not quite as high on McIlroy as I'm being told I ought to be. He won a tournament, yes, but he was one bad decision away from giving it away at the last second. He's won at Kiawah Island, yes, but that was nine years ago in August.
So dig deeper. Everyone's going to be looking at Rory and Spieth. Who else lower down the board intrigues you? With all lines courtesy of BetMGM, of course.
PIANOWSKI: Longer shots who can win: Cameron Smith has the cojones you need on this type of stage. He’s not afraid to play aggressively and deal with the nervy par savers you’ll have to make. My first five bucks go on Smith outright, 40-1. Abraham Ancer is a ball-striking machine, the type of guy who might hit 15 greens on a Sunday. Just needs to get comfortable on the greens early. His match-play experience has hardened his resolve; he’s also not afraid of the moment. Five bucks at 50-1.
Corey Conners has the type of reliable tee game that I want in a major. He’s been on the periphery of contending at some big boy courses. He probably won’t win but I’m getting some overlay at 66-1. Another fiver. And let’s throw $5 on Will Zalatoris, who’s too young to realize just how hard golf is. If Augusta didn’t make him throw up, this moment won’t, either.
So that’s 20 percent of my budget. The rest of it goes on Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele.
Thomas has the most gears of any current player, even DJ. He’s the most consistent. He has the power, the finesse, and the confidence to tinker mid-round and find something that’s working. Give me $10 on Thomas to win, Top 5, Top 10 and Top 20.
I’ll make the same bets on Schauffele. I’m a noted sympathizer for the empaths. Look at all the yellow on Xander’s major page — he’s already booked eight top-10s in majors, including six top-5 finishes. He’s far too young to be labeled an underachiever or have scar tissue yet; these experiences actually help him. This wall comes tumbling down eventually.
I wish Seve was still around to see this. He was the best player in the 1991 Ryder Cup, when this course came into our lives. I think this week’s winner will need the same derring-do, the same creativity, the same imagination. That can be Thomas. That can be Xander.
You need just one pick? Keep betting JT until I tell you to stop.
BUSBEE: You're going all in on those two, huh? I like it.
Zalatoris and Smith took good care of me at the Masters, so I'll throw five on each of them for a top 10 (+350 and +400, respectively). I love the way that Hovland is playing and reigning champ Collin Morikawa is set up, so another five on each of them for a top 5 finish, at +200 and +275 respectively.
Now, let's go bigger. I'll put 20 apiece to win on Berger (+2800), Spieth (+1400) and DJ (+1600), who could thrive in his home state. That leaves me with 20, so let's get special. Another 5 on each of these props: the winning margin being two strokes (+400), the winning score being 278 or higher (+110), Berger and Morikawa to finish in the top 10 (+3000), and — why not — a wire-to-wire winner (+1200). Good luck!
The PGA Championship begins Thursday and runs all weekend long. Enjoy the tournament!
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