The second major championship of the year is here already as the tour heads to South Carolina for the PGA Championship 2021. Kiawah Island is once again the host after first hosting the PGA in 2012.
Kiawah Island is a par 72, playing around 7,845 yards. It’s a tough test and a really long golf course. Rory McIlroy lapped the field in 2012, winning by eight shots. The rest of the leaderboard was trip down memory lane with many players who are now irrelevant occupying the top 20.
There wasn’t a huge contingent of bombers at the top of the leaderboard 9 years ago despite the length of the golf course. The greens were historically difficult to hit that week and if you missed the fairway, you hit the green only about a third of the time.
Kiawah is also a Pete Dye designed course and his courses seem to lend themselves towards certain players. Looking for guys with success on Pete Dye tracks is another thing to consider.
Based on the way the course played in 2012, players will need to be in the fairways, which are somewhat wide, and they will have to be great with their irons. I like to try and find the longer hitters who can still find fairways.
A lot of the players who showed out at the last PGA held here were excellent short game players so keep that in mind. I think different styles can definitely contend here though depending on weather.
Kiawah lies right on the coast and its main defense is the wind. If it blows pretty good it will get really tough. Kiawah is known as one of the toughest courses in the country when the wind gets going.
Ultimately, the field is loaded and the winner is likely coming from one of the elite players given the recent history of major champions. A surprise winner is more likely at the PGA but still not common at least recently.
SG: Approach will be the key statistic as always but i’m going to also lean into guys who hit fairways pretty consistently. I know the course is long but most guys are long enough now to handle courses like this, particularly if they are good iron players and playing from the fairway.
If the weather is looking like it could get windy and nasty, I will be looking harder at the short game guys like Reed and Fitzpatrick. European players are another nice angle if the wind gets up. There were a bunch of Euros at the top in 2012.
Collin Morikawa +2800
Morikawa is being disrespected a bit with this number considering his pedigree and what he has shown over the last year. He has three wins including last years PGA and a WGC. He can flat out get it done.
Hit putter can come and go and usually determines whether he wins or not but I think his recent trend upward there is enough for me to be all in here.
Morikawa is simply the best iron player on tour now. His SG: Approach number recently are absurd and he ranks first easily. He is gaining incredible amounts on the field every time he is in the fairway. His lack of length doesn’t matter because his 6 iron is as accurate as some guys’ wedges.
I just think he has shown he can win in the best fields, on long golf courses and this is no different. His irons are lights out right now and at +2800, his win equity is simply better than that.
Patrick Reed +3300
I like Reed particularly if the weather gets tough. His short game is second to none and that will be key if the wind starts to blow. Plus Reed is a proven winner.
Reed has the proven winning pedigree in big events that I like. He has a Masters and a WGC among nine total tour wins. Reed is also playing some really good golf with four top 10’s in his last seven starts.
Reed’s iron game can come and go but he is such a good putter. He ranks third in SG: Putting over the last 36 rounds. His chipping is also elite. Reed has also been consistently gaining strokes off the tee lately.
Reed’s game might be better the worse the weather gets here. I think he has the nerve and skill to get it done here especially if things get tough.
Longshots I like: Abe Ancer +5000 & Joaquin Niemann +6600
Xander Schauffele +188
I can’t stay away from Xander in the majors. His track record is too good to not keep betting on this. Xander’s game also makes a ton of sense at Kiawah.
Xander has eight top 10’s in majors since the 2017 U.S. Open which is incredible. He can’t seem to get over the hump for a win but he always finds himself at the top of the leaderboard at the end of the tournament.
Xander is coming in well rested and off two top 15 finishes. He can bomb it and he’s one of the straightest drivers of the long guys on tour. But what I love most about him this week is his short game.
Xander is a great putter and consistently good around the greens. His irons are in the upper echelon on tour and are plenty good enough to win any event. Xander is going to break through at some point but we might as well keep riding his heater in majors.
Will Zalatoris +150
This is my favorite bet on this card. If you have read any of my article over the last six months, you know I love Zalatoris and he is headed to a course he should love.
Zalatoris has been the best top 20 bet I can remember over the last six months. Since he started playing on tour last fall, he is 10 for 17 on finishing in the top 20 with a 21st and a 22nd. He has established his floor as one of the highest in the game.
Zalatoris is long and right there as one of the top five on tour with an iron in hand. He should be able to use his approach prowess to get some nice birdie looks that others will not.
Matt Fitzpatrick +175 & Tyrell Hatton +200
I’m putting these two together because I like them for similar reasons. Both players are overlooked players because they haven’t played as much on the PGA Tour so they don’t have the wins over here that others do
Both players have excellent short games and can really go low if the conditions allow. The main reason I like them though is when the wind starts to blow, these guys can still get it done.
Their experience in the wind in Europe will be invaluable and their ability to get up and down when they miss a green will be key. Fitz will be in the fairway all the time and Hatton can really bomb it.
Both players have played some good golf this spring and should be pretty confident heading in. The 2012 leaderboard here was littered with Euros and I think we may see a similar one this time.
Dustin Johnson -110 over Viktor Hovland
The disrespect is real here. I love Vik as much as the next guy but the books are making Hovland a favorite at -120 against the number one player in the world in his home state?
DJ hasn’t played his best golf of late and that seems to have thrown everyone off his scent a bit and clearly that is why this number is where it is. DJ just had a top 15 at the Heritage after the Masters and hasn’t played a ton otherwise.
DJ can definitely turn it around at any point and the best driver of the ball on tour at a super long golf course seems like a good fit. DJ does everything well and he should feel comfortable here.
I can’t say much bad about Hovland but he shouldn’t be favored against a two time major champ with the pedigree of Dustin Johnson.
This a Pete Dye play here. Ancer ranks 1st in the field in SG: Total at Pete Dye courses over the last 24 rounds. He just has a knack for knowing how to get around the tricky and demanding Pete Dye designs.
Beyond that Ancer is quietly coming off of back to back top fives and a string of seven made cuts without finishing worse than t-26. That is some super good form headed to a course he should like.
Ancer’s tee to green game has been really good and his propensity to hit fairways and excel with his irons will be important here. Ancer sits at +5000 to win and +175 to finish in the top 20. Also, playing him in a matchup is a nice way to get some exposure.
A couple other guys to consider given their form and their fit here are Corey Conners and Matt Wallace. Conners has been tearing it up and his tee to green game is elite and Wallace is coming on strong and has the game for Kiawah for sure.