May 17, 2021
May 17, 2021

2021 PGA Championship preview

PGA Championship odds and betting preview

Who will win the 2021 PGA Championship?

2021 PGA Championship predictions: Where is the value?

Get expert insight from Sophie Walker

2021 PGA Championship preview

After a dramatic US Masters tournament in April, the biggest and best names in golf are back for this year’s PGA Championship. Who are the favourites and where is the value? Inform your 2021 PGA Championship predictions with expert insight from Sophie Walker.

Dates: May 20–23, 2021

Venue: Kiawah Island Golf Resort Ocean Course, South Carolina (US)

Defending champion: Collin Morikawa

Bet: PGA Championship 2021 odds

2021 PGA Championship: Background and build-up

The 2021 US PGA Championship returns this May, after being pushed back to August last year due to COVID-19. It also returns to a familiar venue - Kiawah Island in South Carolina. The Pete Dye-designed Ocean Course last hosted the US PGA in 2012, where Rory McIlroy lapped the field to clinch his second major championship. The resort also hosted the “War on the Shore” Ryder Cup of 1988.

The PGA Championship is the strongest field in golf and it’ll need to be, as the Ocean course is 7,848 yards long. They’ll all be hoping to lift the Wanamaker Trophy as Collin Morikawa did nine months ago.

The course

Kiawah Island has five courses that stretch along the USA’s eastern coastline. It is a links-style course, which is heavily affected by the weather. Tee times and being on the right side of the draw will be critical. It is also very important to hit the fairways in order to access the flag locations. You’ll get no prizes for hitting it long and wrong around here.

The Ocean course is ranked as one of the hardest golf courses in America, there have been changes made to it since 2012. There are new tee boxes to make this the longest course in Major history and an expansion of the native areas on the course to aid visual appearance. Like many traditional links-style courses you head out and then back in; on the first nine holes you make your scores and on the last nine you hold on tight. This is due to the prevailing wind being in your face as you turn for home.

Kiawah has Paspalum grass across the whole course with the greens struggling to gain significant speed. They’re protected by their small size and the fact that it’s such a tough test, Tee to Green. This grass is seen at other PGA Tour venues, such as El Camaleon (Mayakoba Golf Classic) and Grand Reserve Country Club (Puerto Rico Open). Everything about this course and conditions points towards a Northern European setup.

2012 PGA Championship: What can history tell us?

Rory McIlroy has talked pre-tournament about how the course suits a links specialist but unlike British links-style courses, the Paspalum grass means pitches and chips will stick no matter how firm the greens get. This sounds right up Rory’s street, as the grass is the same as his home club in Jupiter, Florida. The Bears Club is also where Keegan Bradley, Dustin Johnson, and Brooks Koepka are members (though Koepka has recently left).

Colin Morikawa recently visited the Kiawah Island resort for a media day and said: “It’s definitely a ball-strikers course. You have to be able to control your ball, the greens are pretty small, and you are going to be tested on every shot”.

Below is the final leaderboard from the PGA Championship in 2012 which Rory Mcllroy won. This is a diverse leaderboard in terms of distance - Rory being long and David Lynn not so much. What it highlights is that the players had plenty in common, this was high greens in regulation and bogey avoidance statistics.

2012 US PGA final leaderboard

Player

Score

Rory McIlroy

-13

David Lynn

-5

Keegan Bradley

-4

Karl Pettersen

Ian Poulter

Justin Rose

Blake Adams

-3

Jamie Donaldson

Peter Hanson

Steve Stricker

2021 PGA Championship predictions: Where is the value?

My favourite to win is Jon Rahm. He has to win a Major soon - he hasn’t been outside the world’s top three players in 18 months. The Spaniard can take hope from his fellow countrymen Seve Ballesteros and Jose Olazabal, in their performance during the 1989 Ryder Cup at Kiawah. Both Seve and Jose were top points scorers in the match. Jon grew up in Barrika, Spain which is exposed to the high winds from the Atlantic Ocean.

Viktor Hovland has been performing impressively for a recent amateur.

Rahm has a strong links-style course record with a win at the Irish Open in 2017 and a third-place finish in the Pebble Beach US Open of 2019. He also won the Farmers Insurance tournament in 2017 (coming second in 2020 and placing T7 this year) – on the Torrey Pines course which is exposed to the Pacific ocean and requires skill in controlling your ball flight in the wind.

Rahm also performed well around another Pete Dye-designed course this year, with a T9 at The Players Championship 2021 (at Sawgrass). The Tee to Green stats of this man are mind-blowing (gaining 1.7 shots on the field) but equally, his putting is at the other end of the spectrum (losing on the field). PGA Champions are usually this type of player - think back to past champions Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, and Rory McIlroy.

His recent form is fantastic and he has had nine top-10 finishes this season (the most of any player). Unfortunately, he hasn’t got a win to his name. Rahm’s best finish in the US PGA was fourth at Bellerive in 2018 and he will be looking to get across the line first this year and get rid of the “best player not to win a Major” tag.

Viktor Hovland won both the Mayakoba Golf Classic and Puerto Rico Open in 2020. As mentioned, they are both Paspalum grass courses that are exposed to the wind. The world number 11 is on form after a T3 at the Valspar Championship and his game is incredible Tee to Green. He seems to play well every single week and here are the reasons why: Hovland is 2nd in birdie average (4.70) and he is averaging over 300 yards from the tee but, significantly, he hits 64% of fairways (62nd). This is ideal for Kiawah Island.

I don’t often look into a player’s amateur record but it seems like only five minutes ago since Hovland was a student at Oklahoma State University. As an amateur, he finished T13 in the 2018 Australian Open. Not bad for an amateur but what has caught my eye is where the Open was held. The Lakes Golf Club in Sydney has a very similar look and layout to Kiawah Island, with the seaside winds and rolling dunes. He also won the US Amateur Championship that year at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Tony Finau has had eight top-10 finishes in the last 12 Majors. He has to be worth an each-way bet this week. Finau has won once on the PGA Tour and that was at the Puerto Rico Open, and his lack of victories is why his odds are higher than his stats suggest they should be. Finau’s stroke average is under 70, mainly due to his impressive iron play (he ranks ninth in approach play). His final rounds cost him last year with a 71.54 average, though he has improved that this year to 69.64. These are signs that he isn’t fading away, it’s just that others are beating him.

2021 PGA Championship predictions: Notable outsiders

The Argentine Emiliano Grillo is having a steady season on the PGA Tour, currently sitting top-50 in the Fed Ex. His best finishes were at Mayakoba (he has finished in the top 10 in three of the last five years) and Puerto Rico (two top-three finishes in the last three years).

Branden Grace has recently retured to form and his style is suited to the course.

He isn’t super long off the tee but makes up for it with his accuracy, which carries on into his approach play. Grillo ranks third in greens regulation (72.9%) and fourth in proximity to the hole (32 feet). On the back of Morikawa’s ball-striker statement, he is worth a look at.

Branden Grace has the lowest round in men’s Major history with a 62 at Royal Birkdale in 2017. The South African also has real form on a Paspalum grass course, starting way back in 2015 and 2016 when he won the Qatar Masters and most recently winning the Puerto Rico Open around the Grand Reserve Country Club. Grace’s best finish in a Major was the US PGA in 2015 (third) which he followed up with a fourth-place finish the following year - proving he is comfortable playing on the biggest stage and around tough courses (the 2015 venue was Whistling Straits - the most similar layout to Kiawah I have seen on the PGA Tour).

The reason for his long odds is his lack of inconsistency over the past two years - missing as many cuts as he has made. But 2021 has seen him steady the ship and grab a victory which gets him into the strongest field in men’s golf. I’m very much tipping him based on the course style and his ability to play in tough conditions, rather than his overall stats.

I hope this has helped you decide on your guys for the second men’s Major event of the year. It’s going to be a great tournament to watch, both on television and for those lucky 10,000 fans a day allowed into the venue.

Do you think one of the favourites will win the 2021 PGA Championship or could there be another surprise on the cards? Get the latest golf odds on the 2021 PGA Championship with Pinnacle.

Odds subject to change

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