In the game of musical chairs atop golf odds boards, Rory McIlroy appears to deserve the catbird seat this week. It’s not because he’s riding a win streak. It’s due to history.
McIlroy is a two-time winner at Quail Hollow, where he shot a course-record 61 two years ago, and plenty of other numbers show he should be the favorite in this week’s PGA Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“It’s deservedly so. McIlroy is the starting point because of his course form at Quail Hollow,” Westgate sports book manager Jeff Sherman said. “Rory has a fabulous history here. He said there’s a certain comfort level he has on this course, so that’s going to give him a mental edge.”
But his edge is slight over Jordan Spieth, who’s off a British Open win in the year’s third major. McIlroy is the 7-1 favorite at the Westgate, where Spieth (8-1 odds) ranks No. 1 in money wagered and the ticket count. At the South Point and some other Las Vegas books, Spieth is the favorite ahead of McIlroy.
But the horse for the course at Quail Hollow is McIlroy, who has shot par or better in 19 of his 26 rounds in Charlotte, with a field-best scoring average of 69.5.
It’s a long course that will allow McIlroy to unleash his driver. According to PGATour.com, McIlroy averaged 344 yards off the tee, and hit 52 of 56 drives longer than 300 yards, in last week’s Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio. He finished fifth and remains winless this season.
In fact, McIlroy is riding an 11-major winless streak since capturing the PGA for the second time in 2014. But he has gained momentum in recent weeks, and this is his hot spot.
Still, it’s far from a one-horse race. Spieth and long hitters Dustin Johnson (12-1), Rickie Fowler (12-1), Hideki Matsuyama (12-1), Brooks Koepka (20-1) and Jon Rahm (25-1) figure to give McIlroy and golf bettors a run for the money. McIlroy, Fowler and Rahm will play together Thursday in a high-profile threesome.
Entering the Masters in early April, Johnson was the hottest player on the planet and owned the top spot on the odds board each week. But a back injury forced him to withdraw at Augusta, he missed the U.S. Open cut and was just another guy in the British field. In the past four months, it’s a decent bet that Donald Trump has played more rounds of golf than D.J.
Fowler has performed well in all three majors, and he has an impressive track record at Quail Hollow, where he beat McIlroy in a playoff in 2012. Fowler’s form is fine, too. He fired 67-66 in the final two rounds of last week’s Bridgestone to finish one stroke behind McIlroy. Fowler, who leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained-putting and ranks No. 2 in strokes gained-total, is a good bet to go under his posted finish position of 17½.
“Fowler’s got the label of best golfer not to win a major,” said Sherman (@golfodds on Twitter). “He’s been so close. The public will continue to support him until he finally wins one, and that day will come at some point.”
The odds on Fowler have moved from 15-1 early in the week. The 20-1 price posted last week on Matsuyama disappeared after he shot a final-round 61 to run away with the Bridgestone win on a course similar to Quail Hollow.
“Matsuyama has been seeing a lot of support this week,” Sherman said. “And don’t discount Koepka. This is a long course, which will suit him.”
Fowler was the early leader in the U.S. Open, which Koepka won after holding off a strong charge by Matsuyama on the final day.
Expect most of the big names and same characters to be in the hunt this weekend, with a couple of possible additions. Phil Mickelson (50-1) has faded this year, but his Quail Hollow course history is remarkable. Rahm, a flop in the first three majors, fits the profile of a long, accurate driver with the short game to contend.
“I think Mickelson is a good matchup play,” Sherman said. “He could definitely be there on Sunday.”
Best bets: Rickie Fowler (12-1), Jon Rahm (25-1).
Long shots to watch: Justin Thomas (35-1), Justin Rose (40-1), Phil Mickelson (50-1).
PGA Championship propositions
(Posted at Westgate sports book)
Quail Hollow = Par 71
Winning 72-hole score: 271.5 (over/under -110)
Lowest completed round shot by any golfer: 63.5 (over -140)
Will there be a hole in one? Yes plus-130; No -150
Will there be a playoff? Yes plus-300; No -400
Will Rory McIlroy or Jordan Spieth win the tournament? Yes plus-350; No -450
Finish position by McIlroy: 9.5 (over/under -110)
Finish position by Rickie Fowler: 17.5 (over/under -110)
Finish position by Brooks Koepka 22.5 (over/under -110)
Finish position by Jon Rahm: 24.5 (over/under -110)
Will Phil Mickelson make the cut? Yes -270; No plus-220
Rory McIlroy -150
Jordan Spieth plus-130
Hideki Matsuyama -120
Dustin Johnson plus-100
Brooks Koepka -135
Jon Rahm plus-115
Phil Mickelson -105
Justin Thomas -115
Rickie Fowler -140
Jon Rahm plus-120