Round 2 PGA Championship best bets: Our top futures wagers

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Day 1 at the PGA Championship has concluded at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, OK and Rory McIlroy leads the way by one stroke over Will Zalatoris and Tom Hoge. McIlroy has led or been the co-leader now 19 times on the PGA Tour (20 overall PGA Tour wins) but has only converted 3-of-18 of those leads into victories (2-for-4 in major championships).

This is his first outright lead or share of the lead after Round 1 in a major since his last major championship victory in the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla. However, a good start could be a positive omen for McIlroy. Dating back to 2015, McIlroy had shot 35-over (72.33 average) in the first round of a major; In Rounds 2-4, he is 68-under (70.09 average). He will head into Friday as the only player with single-digit odds at + 300 to raise the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday. 

McIlroy ranked fourth in the field for both Strokes Gained: Putting (+ 3.33 strokes relative to the field) and Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee (+ 1.87 strokes). He certainly loved seeing these widened fairways at Southern Hills as he led the field for Driving Distance (331.6 yards).

Of the 156 players that comprise this year's PGA Championship field, only 26 reached red figures on Thursday and 17 of them were out of the morning session where the wind was more benign. Players in the morning tee times posted an average round score of 72.35 and the players out in the afternoon posted an average score of 73.32. 

Here is the leaderboard with current odds from BetMGM at the conclusion of the first round. 

1

Rory McIlroy

-5

3/1

T2

Will Zalatoris

-4

10/1

T2

Tom Hoge

-4

28/1

T4

Matt Kuchar

-3

40/1

T4

Abraham Ancer

-3

30/1

T4

Justin Thomas

-3

7/1

T7

Chris Kirk

-2

80/1

T7

Mito Pereira

-2

50/1

T7

Xander Schauffele

-2

14/1

T7

Cameron Smith 

-2

11/1

T7

Kevin Na

-2

66/1

T7

Davis Riley

-2

66/1

T7

Matt Fitzpatrick

-2

25/1

T7

Lucas Herbert

-2

100/1

T7 

Joaquin Niemann

-2

30/1

World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler (now 22/1), the pre-championship favorite and winner of last month's Masters, shot 1-over 71 and began a tournament over par for the first time in 2022. Meanwhile, World No. 2 Jon Rahm, who opened the PGA at 12/1, shot a 3-over 73 and is now 66/1. Other disappointments included Jordan Spieth, who finished first (RBC Heritage) and second (last week's AT&T Byron Nelson) coming in, shot 2-over and is now 50/1. Spieth struggled on the greens, ranking 123rd of 156 players in strokes gained putting (-1.28 strokes). Patrick Cantlay, the current World No. 5, continues to struggle in major championships and shot 6-over 76 and is currently T-122nd. 

As for Tiger Woods, he labored to a four-over 74 after a promising start. Woods started his PGA with a birdie on the 10th hole, just as he had done in his 2007 victory here. But he was obviously struggling with pain as the day progressed and played his last 10 holes of the day in five-over, with just a single birdie in that stretch. Woods hit just seven greens in regulation, his fewest in a PGA Championship round since 2003. Tiger is now 400/1 to win the PGA. 

Even with just a one-stroke lead after 18 holes, McIlroy is clearly the man to beat right now as this good start, which has been atypical in recent years, must give him a ton of confidence going into the final three rounds. However, the lead is far from insurmountable and there are many players that are in contention for a victory. 

Justin Thomas, who I bet pre-tournament at 17/1, made a 20-footer for birdie on 18 late in the day and finished 3-under. The round of 67 is his best opening round score in seven PGA Championship starts including when he won his lone major in the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow. Thomas also had his best round for Strokes Gained: Putting (+ 3.18) on the season. He is currently 7/1 and should be in the easier conditions tomorrow. 

Cameron Smith is another player I bet at 30/1 pre-tournament. He made seven birdies in Round 1 but only shot a 2-under 68. The reigning PLAYERS Champion led the field for Strokes Gained: Approach (+ 4.42), but uncharacteristically struggled on and around the greens, where he is one of the best in the world. The Australian also was 2-over through his first eight holes but kept the round together nicely. 

Matt Fitzpatrick just missed my card this week because he is not the longest hitter off the tee and this course played over 7,500 yards (7.503 to be exact) today. However, he is an excellent ball striker and gained everywhere today except for the putter. I will be adding a small wager in-play at 25/1 on the Englishman. 

While there is temptation to take shots on long bombs with still 54 holes to play, keep in mind that Nine of the last 11 major champions have been inside the top-10 entering the second round and twelve straight winners have been at or within four strokes of the lead after round one. Furthermore, each of the previous 14 major winners have opened their week with a round in red figures, the last exception being Koepka at Shinnecock Hills in the 2018 U.S. Open.

Round 2 Matchups I like

Tyrrell Hatton + 125 over Will Zalatoris

After a disappointing missed cut in his home event in Dallas last week at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Zalatoris was much more on-point with his irons and led the field for Greens In Regulation at 88.9% (16-of-18). Meanwhile, Hatton gained strokes in all the strokes gained categories but settled for a round of even par. 

Cameron Smith -115 over Viktor Hovland

Smith has one of the best short games in the world, and yet only went 2-for-7 on opportunities to get up and down (Scrambling). On the other hand, Hovland, who is a budding superstar in the game but has a weakness especially around the greens with his chipping, went 4-for-5 in his Scrambling opportunities. 

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