A Cinderella story out of nowhere is unlikely to unfold this week. These days, the best stories in golf come from long shots or a comeback by Tiger Woods, but the Masters champion is unlikely to win consecutive majors.
Woods has not hit a competitive shot in more than a month, and the truth is he’s no longer the young bomber with the driving muscle to tame the monster that is Bethpage Black.
Who is best suited to win the PGA Championship?
“You definitely need to find a long hitter. This course is so tough it’s a joke,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said. “I don’t think a lot of players can win this tournament, which is not usually the case. If I had to pick one player, it would be Brooks Koepka.”
When Woods won at Augusta in April, Koepka was sitting one stroke back in a three-way tie for second. The defending PGA champ, Koepka has three major titles in the past three years. He launches rockets off the tee, attacks pins with precision irons, putts with poise and plays a cool hand under pressure.
At William Hill books, Woods and Koepka are 8/1 co-favorites in the PGA. At the Westgate SuperBook, Woods is the 8/1 favorite with Koepka at 10/1.
Koepka has been getting strong betting support since his odds opened at 14/1 last month. “Koepka is so focused on the majors, and I think he’ll be ready to go and in a good mindset,” Westgate golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman said. “He’s one of the guys who obviously will be in the mix. The money is neck and neck between Koepka and Tiger.”
Three long shots have cashed since the Masters — C.T. Pan in South Carolina, Max Homa in North Carolina and Sung Kang last week in Texas. All three players were first-time PGA Tour winners who teed off at triple-digit odds.
Koepka finished fourth in Dallas, firing a bogey-free final round to go 20 under par. He’s in good form and has a Long Island win on his resume from last year’s U.S. Open.
Not to dismiss the well-rested Woods, but Koepka is the better bet. Consider a wager on those two, and here are eight more players to watch in the PGA (with Westgate odds):
DUSTIN JOHNSON (10/1)
Rain has softened the Bethpage course, making the driver the key club for most players this week. Johnson has only one win in 2019, but he did rally late to tie for second at Augusta. DJ’s inconsistency with the putter — similar to Rory McIlroy — makes him a bad bet most weeks, yet this 7,459-yard layout is right up his alley.
RICKIE FOWLER (16/1)
Eventually, Fowler will win a major. Hey, if Sergio Garcia and Patrick Reed can win one, Fowler can do it. He’s got the driving accuracy and distance to score well this week. He was the 54-hole leader in the 2016 Barclays at Bethpage Black.
“Fowler has eight major Top 5s in his career and just turned 30. It’s go time,” VSiN golf analyst Wes Reynolds said.
JON RAHM (16/1)
Critics always question the fiery Spaniard’s composure and that’s fair. Still, his game is tailored for this course as he ranks No. 2 in strokes gained off the tee. Rahm has eight Top 10 finishes in 12 events this season.
XANDER SCHAUFFELE (25/1)
After a win in Maui to open 2019, Schauffele tied for second at Augusta. He’s long off the tie and can handle the pressure, with four top-six finishes in eight majors. The 25-year-old is knocking on the door.
PATRICK CANTLAY (30/1)
With six Top 10s this season and stats to state his case (No. 3 in scoring average and scrambling), Cantlay is confident following a good run at Augusta. Bogdanovich and Sherman each like his chances.
“He’s one of the few guys who has a nice price attached to him, and Cantlay is flirting with wins,” Sherman said.
BRYSON DECHAMBEAU (35/1)
He’s raving about the Bethpage layout and his words this week are full of confidence. After posting a 66 in the opening round at Augusta, DeChambeau fizzled, but his hot start at the Masters is a sign of what’s to come.
ADAM SCOTT (50/1)
Reynolds is a strong proponent of Scott, the best player on Tour this year with a wedge in his hand. Scott ranks first in approaches from 50 to 125 yards, 75 to 100 yards and 100 to 125 yards. He tied for fourth at Bethpage in 2016.
“I still like Adam Scott even though I putt better than him,” Bogdanovich said. “Through three rounds (at Augusta), no one hit it better than Scott.”
SCOTT PIERCY (100/1)
A hot hand is the main reason to try this long shot from Las Vegas. Piercy went 21 under to finish second last week in Dallas, making 51 pars and 21 birdies in 72 holes. His odds were as high as 250/1 on Monday