PGA Championship Player Profiles – Leading Contenders

PGA Championship Betting Preview: Evaluating the Stats and Leading Contenders 

Quail Hollow Club – Par 71, 7,600 Yards

The top of the leading contenders list keeps getting stronger as the list grows of potential winners from the 156 players challenging for a major PGA Championship at Quail Hollow. While 20 of those players entered are PGA Club pros, it’s still the deepest and most competitive field of the majors.

Value should always be a major consideration when wagering at the sports books, and it’s tough to get that on the top favorites at 10-1 or less. That applies to the 2 co-favorites with 4-time major champion Rory McIllroy, who has won the PGA Championship twice, and 3-time major champ and most recent Open Champion at Royal Birkdale Jordan Spieth, who shoots for the career grand slam this week at the age of 24.

As mentioned in my previous PGA Championship preview article, there are some key stats to apply and consider when analyzing this major in search of a winner, top finisher or the preferred percentage play on head-to-head match-ups. Fantasy and prop players take note too.

Ball Striking – Measures Total Driving combined with Greens in Regulation.

Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee – Measures player performance off the tee on all par-4s and par-5s.

Strokes Gained: Approach-The-Green – Measures player performance on approach shots including par 3’s.

Putting is always at a premium, and this week the players will use the flat stick on new Champion Ultradwarf Bermudagrass, which will make putting more pure on relatively flat surfaces. Players from Texas, like Jordan Spieth and last year’s PGA Champion Jimmy Walker, have played and putted more rounds on Bermuda grass. The familiarity of Bermuda will help selected players to more easily determine how firm the greens are in determining how the ball is going to react, which includes chipping from around the greens.

Here is a list of some of the top-50 players in these categories.

Ball Striking – Stanley, Glover, Casey, Garcia, Matsuyama, Bradley, Woodland, Finau, Henry, Fowler, Schauffele, Molinari, Lowrey, Rahm, Steele, Horschel, D. Johnson, Berger, Kisner, Dufner, Scott, Hahn, Thomas, Knox. Next – Chappell, Lee, Leishman, Hoffman, Spieth,

Strokes Gained – Off the Tee – Rahm, D. Johnson, Garcia, Finau, Stanley, Bradley, B. Watson, Rose, Matsuyama, Hoffman, Glover, Lowery, Molinari, Woodland, Scott, Holmes, Steele, Oosthuizen, Leishman, Dufner, Berger, Kisner, Thomas, Fowler. Next – Koepka, Lovemark, Day, Reed, Casey, Kuchar, Grace

Strokes Gained – Approach to Green – Spieth, Molinari, Casey, Poulter, Mickelson, Berger Thomas, D. Johnson, Stanley, Matsuyama, Fowler, Dufner, Kisner, Walker, Scott, Simpson, Woodland, Na, Finau, Chappell, Steele, Leishman

Here are comments and notes on some leading contenders, along with some long shots to put in your bag and wagering account at the PGA Championship. Insight and examination in hopes to assist you with your match-up wagering as well fantasy drafts, pools and other betting opportunities.

Jordan Spieth & Rory McIllroy are the top 2 favorites at the 2017 PGA Championship

Rory McIllroy – A deserving favorite rounding back into top form and the best course form of all competitors. McIllroy was less than 6-1 when he won the Wells Fargo Championship by 7-strokes at Quail Hollow in 2015, and he also won by four strokes over runner-up Phil Mickelson in 2010. In fact, he’s finished top 10 in 6-of-7 starts at this course. Lengthening the course only helps players like McIllroy, currently ranked No. 2 in the world following a pair of top 5 finishes at the Open Championship in England and last week in the WGC event at Firestone, another long and tough track.

Jordan Spieth signing autographs at the PGA Championship

Jordan Spieth – The recently-turned 24-year-old start can complete the career grand slam with his 4th major title this week. Don’t count on it. His premier putting and bullseye around the greens makes him most dangerous, but his Strokes Gained – Off the Tee rank of 100, poor driving-accuracy and his course form does not. He did win the Travelers in June and the Open in England in July before a top-15 last week at Firestone with a closing 68 when he noted his putter was not cooperating. No win this week, or even a top-10 finish, knowing too that the betting market at BookMaker shows McIllroy a -165 favorite over Spieth in head-to-head tourney match-up.

Hideki Matsuyama – Up to No. 3 in the world and on top of the FedEx Cup Points standings following last week’s victory and final round 61 in the WGC at Firestone, Matsuyama has five PGA Tour wins and seeks his first major title full of confidence. A pair of top-20s in his last two starts at Quail Hollow suggests his strong shot-making and form will provide him his fourth consecutive top-15 finish in the 2017 majors.

Dustin Johnson – World No. 1 clearly has the game but has not been in good form or playing well. The recent arrival of his second child may have taken some of his focus, but he’s also seen limited success in his few visits to Quail Hollow. The only thing hot for Dustin at the moment is his wife, the daughter of a true champion, Wayne Gretzky.

Sergio Garcia – No. 5 in the world and won his first major at this year’s Masters. Last played this course in 2013 when he finished top-20, and he was runner-up back in 2005. Recently married and focus not precise, but ball-striking and stats suggest a good week for Sergio.

Brooks Koepka – The U.S. Open champ also contended at Birkdale in England at #TheOpen, and finished top-20 following a slow start last week at Firestone. A potential wet weekend only gives a greater advantage to long hitters like Koepka.

Rickie Fowler – The next top player behind Matsuyama as the best without a major win. He did take the PLAYERS in 2015, which is a major accomplishment, and he’s been playing very well for quite some time this year including top-10 in three of his most recent four events with a strong weekend finish last week at Firestone. Fowler survived and won a playoff at this course in 2012 over McIllroy and D.A. Points, and nearly won again here last year despite a final round 74. Along with solid stats above in the key categories, Fowler ranks No. 1 in Strokes Gained: Putting and No. 11 Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green (11th). He’s finished top-22 in all three majors this year and enters the PGA Championship with confidence shooting for a Major breakthrough.

Will a leading contender or long shot win the PGA Championship & The Wanamaker Trophy?

Jason Day – He started the year as the World’s No.1 ranked player, but has fallen sharply with some off course things to attend to and less than quality play with a no top-10 finishes since May. But Day has shown signs of improving and especially early last week at Firestone. He’s finished 9th on this course in previous event, and while Day is a PGA Champion, even a top-5 finish this week would be a little surprise.

Jon Rahm, Adam Scott, Paul Casey are all capable of contending greater than 25-1 with Casey the longest odds but the most consistently placed this season. But the Spaniard Rahm has been one of the season’s breakthrough stars expected win a major soon, but he’s in his worst form of the season over his last four events, yet still ranks No. 1 on Tour in the key stat Strokes Gained: Off the Tee. Casey meanwhile has been so consistent, and in the past 2+ months, he’s finished 5th twice including last week at Firestone, 11th at #TheOpen despite a 2nd round 77, contended at the U.S. Open into the weekend and was T10 in late May after blowing a lead on Sunday. Casey is one of this seasons leaders in ball striking, and recall he also finished 6th at this year’s Masters and has contended in many other majors.

Head-to-head Tournament Match-up:

Paul Casey (-115) over Adam Scott

Best wishes as you shoot for #birdies and the #green at the PGA Championship.

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Author: FairwayJay

FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay