Youmans: Money pouring in on Scheffler, Spieth at PGA Championship

May 17, 2022 07:28 PM
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Five months ago, Scottie Scheffler was simply a promising golfer lost in the shuffle with more accomplished players. His story started to turn from mundane to remarkable on the second Sunday in February, when Scheffler was the warm-up act for Matthew Stafford.

A few hours before Stafford, a long-suffering quarterback, won his first Super Bowl for the Rams in Los Angeles, Scheffler earned his first PGA Tour win in Phoenix. The golf tournament was overshadowed by the football game that day, but it was the beginning of Scheffler’s stunningly sudden rise into a star and the No. 1-ranked player in the world.

Scheffler’s first win came in his 71st start on tour. He’s now 4-for-78 after winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational and WGC-Match Play in March and the Masters in April. Scheffler dropped the zero and is now the hero — to paraphrase Vanilla Ice — heading into this week’s PGA Championship.

“It’s a crazy run that he’s on,” Westgate SuperBook golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman said. “There were eight to 10 players ahead of him, and Scheffler shot up there and surpassed them all. That ascension happened so quickly.”

Sherman posted his PGA odds board last year and listed Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Cantlay, Viktor Hovland and Hideki Matsuyama above Scheffler, who opened at 40-1. The SuperBook and Circa Sports each list Scheffler as the 12-1 favorite in the year’s second major.

“It’s a tough sell for me at 12-1 and I would not play him,” said Sherman, adding that Scheffler is the leader in money wagered and the ticket count. “I would need 16-1 to think about it.”

Paul Stone, a golf and college football handicapping specialist from Texas, said he is taking the short price on Scheffler and another former Texas Longhorns star, Spieth, this week at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Spieth (16-1) ranks second in money wagered at the SuperBook.

“I like the Texas duo of Scheffler and Spieth,” Stone said. “Scheffler is without question the hottest golfer on the planet. He always had the game, and now he’s got so much confidence. I could see the two former Longhorns on the first page of the leaderboard on Sunday.”

Current form is one reason to bank on Scheffler and Spieth, who missed the cut at the Masters but rebounded the following week to win the RBC Heritage in South Carolina. Spieth continued his resurgence by finishing second last week in the Byron Nelson tournament. The Southern Hills course is also a fit for players such as Scheffler and Spieth with a sharp short game.

“From what I see, approach shots into the greens are going to be the most important aspect, so it’s a focus on short-iron play,” Sherman said.

In a practice round at Southern Hills in the first week of May, Scheffler shot a 6-under 64. Scheffler called this his favorite course, and it’s where he won the Big 12 individual title in 2015 while at Texas.

Stone, who bets most of his tournament bankroll on player matchups, said his strategy for the futures board is to play “a couple of short shots, a mid-shot and a long shot.”

At mid-range odds, Stone is taking a shot on Irishman Shane Lowry at 37-1. Lowry is not as hot as Scheffler yet has nine straight top-25 finishes in stroke-play events. Stone’s long shot is Keegan Bradley, the 2011 PGA winner, at 105-1. Bradley’s recent form is strong and his putting has dramatically improved this season.

Sherman said he played short prices on Cantlay (25-1) and Schauffele (30-1), grabbed a good number early on Lowry (50-1) and is going with Joaquin Niemann (55-1) and Matt Fitzpatrick (65-1) as his long shots.

Augusta National tends to overwhelm inexperienced players who might be unprepared for the challenging course or emotionally vulnerable to the crushing pressure of a prestigious major. Spieth, Koepka and Schauffele were the biggest names to miss the Masters cut. The PGA always attracts the smallest wagering handle of the four majors and it’s the one most likely to produce a long-shot winner.

“This is like a normal tournament in between the Masters and U.S. Open,” Sherman said. “Of all the majors, I don’t think the younger players are intimidated by this one because there’s not the same type of prestige with this tournament.”

It’s not a tournament without hype, due in part to another return by Tiger Woods, who won the 2007 PGA at Southern Hills. Woods finished 47th at the Masters and said his body is better prepared this week. Circa is offering 95-1 odds on Woods, for those interested.

I’m passing on Scheffler and Tiger on the futures board but will play full-tournament matchups on Woods (-110) over Rickie Fowler and Scheffler (-145) over Schauffele. Now for my best bets …

Short shots: Driving distance and accuracy off the tee are not major advantages at Southern Hills with its wide fairways. I’m focusing on precision short-iron players who can gain strokes on approach and on the greens.

Morikawa (21-1) is a two-time major winner who conquered the 2020 PGA at Harding Park in San Francisco. He has Tiger-type iron play and the all-around game to win on any course.

Cameron Smith (21-1) came up short for me at the Masters, tying for third with Lowry and one stroke ahead of Morikawa. The young Australian is accurate with his short irons and ranks fourth on tour in one-putt percentage and strokes-gained putting.

There are several attractive players at short odds, including Thomas, but I’ll stick with those two for now and probably add a player or two at adjusted odds during the tournament.

Long shots: I jumped too soon on Will Zalatoris (34-1) before Circa Sports bumped his odds to 43-1. Zalatoris, who has everything but a hot putter, tied for sixth at the Masters.

Cameron Young (80-1) is a bomber with an all-around game and seems ready for a breakthrough after three runner-up finishes. Circa offers some tantalizing prices that are too good to refuse, so I also took shots on former major winners Jason Day (105-1) and Gary Woodland (180-1) in addition to young guns Maverick McNealy (135-1) and Cameron Champ (155-1).

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