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2024 PGA Championship Preview and Early Best Bets: Can Anybody Catch Brooks Koepka?

2024 PGA Championship Preview and Early Best Bets
Nicholas Berault
Written by Nicholas Berault
May 14, 2024

21+ to wager. Please Gamble Responsibly. Call 1-800-NEXT-STEP (AZ), 1-800-522-4700 (KS, NV), 1-800-BETS-OFF (IA), 1-800-270-7117 for confidential help (MI). Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER. Call 877-8-HOPENY or text HOPENY (467369) (NY) Call 1-800-327-5050 (MA).

Golf's Major championships unite die-hards and casual fans four times a year, beginning with The Masters in the first week of April and concluding at the historic Open Championship in late July. The PGA Championship used to hold the distinction of being the season's final Major until 2019, when it was moved from August to May. It now bridges the gap between The Masters and the US Open, typically held on the third Sunday in June.

Valhalla Golf Club will host its fourth PGA Championship in mid-May, its first since 2014. That year, Rory McIlroy claimed his fourth and most recent Major title by a shot over two-time PGA Champion Phil Mickelson.

Other past champions at Valhalla include Tiger Woods (2000) and Mark Brooks (1996), with both tournaments requiring a playoff to determine the winner. Woods' victory marked his fifth triumph at a Major and was the third of four straight he claimed as part of the "Tiger Slam" from 2000-01.

2023 PGA Championship Recap

Brooks Koepka finished no better than 55th in any Major tournament in 2022, a steep dropoff from three top-six results in 2021. Last year, the future Hall of Famer rediscovered his form, especially early in the season. After losing a third-round lead at the Masters thanks to a disappointing weekend, Koepka left no doubt at Oak Hill.

The Florida native recovered from an opening round of +2 (72) to fire consecutive 66s and close out the tournament with a Sunday 67. He posted nine-under and won his third PGA Championship and fifth Major title by two shots over Viktor Hovland and Scottie Scheffler.

Koepka's lead had shrunk to one over Hovland while standing on the tee of the tournament's 70th hole, but that was as close as the Norwegian would get. Hovland carded a double-bogey following an errant drive into a bunker and a plugged second shot, requiring a penalty drop.

Koepka birdied that hole to extend a four-shot lead over the field and never looked back en route to his first Major championship victory in four years. He closed at +2300 odds, handsomely paying out those backing him on the heels of a near-miss at Augusta National.

2023 Front Runners

Early in the season, the favorites to win each Major championship will look almost identical, with slight variations to accommodate course fit and past performance. What remains constant is who the top four players on every list are: Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, and Viktor Hovland.

Statistically, Scheffler has been the best player in the world over the last two years. According to DataGolf, he is #1 in total strokes gained, strokes gained tee-to-green, and strokes gained approaching the green. He ranks second in strokes gained off the tee and fifth in strokes gained around the greens to boot.

His Achilles heel has been the flat stick. Scheffler ranks 121st in the world in strokes gained on the greens over 181 rounds during this period, losing 0.15 shots per round to the field. Since 2020, Scheffler has played 12 Majors where strokes-gained data is available.

In seven of those tournaments where he was at least an average putter, meaning he didn't lose shots on the green, his finishes were T4, T8, T7, Won (2022 Masters), T2, T2, and solo 3rd. In the other five, where Scheffler struggled with putting, he finished T18, Cut, T21, T10, and T23. It's been a coin flip as to whether he will have aggravating misses throughout these desired tournaments, but Scheffler's ball-striking and touch around the greens will allow him to remain competitive regardless.

Now the face of LIV Golf, Rahm has won two of the last ten Majors, including the 2023 Masters. The PGA Championship has been the most challenging for him based on past results. The third-ranked player in the world has finished T48 or worse in four of seven starts at this Major, including each of the last two. Rahm's title defense at Augusta will be the golf world's first look at his game against top competition in 2024.

McIlroy has two victories and seven top-tens in 15 PGA Championship appearances, including back-to-back top-ten results in 2022-23. Past venues for the PGA have played to McIlroy's strength of bombing it off the tee. At nearly 7,500 yards, Valhalla will be similar, and McIlroy has a winning history at this track.

Hovland has been a consistent threat to the top three, which his ascent to the fourth spot in the world rankings reflects. The Oklahoma State product finished in the top 20 in five straight Majors, including a career-best T2 at the 2023 PGA. Off the tee, Hovland's numbers mirror Scheffler's, with above-average length and accuracy. Those skills are useful, if not required, to compete in PGA Championships.

Koepka must be included in this section due to his performance in the early-season Majors last year. His form entering the four Majors in 2023 was a key indicator. Before his T2 finish at The Masters and victory at the PGA, Koepka posted a T5 or better in the LIV tournament leading up to them. His T12 and T17 LIV finishes before the US Open and Open Championships precluded worse results for the five-time Major winner. Keep an eye on his performances in the build-up to each key tournament this season.

Players We Have High Hopes for at Valhalla

The home game models are off the charts for Louisville's Justin Thomas. The two-time PGA Champion wandered through the golf wilderness last season, who fell to 29th in the world rankings and missed the cut in three of the four Majors.

Thomas continued to grind through the fall season, which paid off in the form of four top-fives and a T6 finish in five events. The local son is first in the world in total strokes-gained over his last 20 rounds despite not quite figuring out the putter, and will be heavily bet on at a course he knows well.

Joaquin Niemann has three wins and six top-five finishes over his last seven starts, launching him to the 16th-best player in the world according to DataGolf's rankings and earning him a special exemption into the 2024 Masters. His accuracy with the driver will be the primary concern when he tees it up in Majors this season, but his game is trending upward after a brutal 2023 campaign.

Since the start of this calendar year, Sam Burns has been among the best players in the world. He ranks fourth in total strokes gained over his last 20 rounds, and his driver/putter combination has been lethal, propelling him to four straight top-ten finishes from the American Express to the Genesis Invitational.

Adam Scott is playing his best golf in two years, having cemented seven straight top-20s through the Genesis, three of which were top-five results. He ranks tenth in putting and 16th off the tee in his last 20 tournament rounds and will look to rediscover his form at the PGA Championship. Scott had back-to-back top tens in 2018 and 2019 and finished T15 during the last time this event was held at Valhalla in 2014.

Best Bet: Scottie Scheffler +900 (FanDuel)

We outlined Scheffler's dominance in all areas of the game except on the greens, and while the 'something's gotta give' approach may be foolish, we see its validity.

The formula is simple: if he putts well, he'll finish in the top five and likely compete for the win. We'll roll with Scheffler at Valhalla.

Best Bet: Brooks Koepka +1700 (FanDuel)

The three-time PGA champ went back-to-back for his first two victories at this Major and doing so again in 2024 would put him in a class with Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and Walter Hagan with four PGA Championship wins.

We'll be monitoring his performance at Augusta and in the tournament or two between The Masters and the PGA, hoping he enters the second Major of the year with good momentum.

Best Bet: Sam Burns +7500 (FanDuel)

Burns' recent form has us bullish on his ability to compete at Valhalla. If he continues to get off the tee and putt as well as he has, Burns will be a great player to have a future on come mid-May.

May 14th Update

It pays to be early. Before Scottie Scheffler’s second Masters victory, we locked in his odds to win at Valhalla at +900. The market has shifted significantly over the last month, and Scheffler has moved to +400 at both DraftKings and FanDuel just a few days before players tee it up in Louisville. According to DataGolf’s pre-tournament model, Scheffler has a 16.7% chance of lifting the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday evening. That’s more than double the probability of the next closest player, Rory McIlroy (8.2%).

Speaking of McIlroy, all storylines point to this being among his best chances to break his Major drought in a decade. Coming off a solo win at Quail Hollow and a team victory alongside Shane Lowry at the Zurich Classic, McIlroy returns to the site of his last Major triumph with momentum and confidence. He’s the clear runner-up to Scheffler on odds lists at +750.

Brooks Koepka, another player included in our best bets from early March, has been building momentum since a disappointing Masters finish. The three-time and defending PGA champion tied for ninth at the LIV event in Adelaide and backed that up with a win in Singapore. If his trend from the last five Majors is an indication, Koepka (+1400) will be a factor this weekend.

One more LIV player we covered in March who is in solid form is Joaquin Niemann. The Chilean posted top-ten results in Australia and Singapore following a T22 finish at Augusta National. Niemann (+3500) ranks eighth in DataGolf’s ranking system compared to his 91st position in the OWGR.

Our final best bet for this championship was Sam Burns, who has cooled off significantly since the original article was released. One silver lining for our long-shot play is that he posted his best performance from tee to green since the Phoenix Open at last week’s Wells Fargo Championship. Burns is still out there at +7500 on FanDuel.

PGA Championship FAQ

Did you know that the first-ever PGA Championship was held way back in 1916? With a storied history that goes back this far, it's easy to see why the PGA is considered one of golf's most prestigious tournaments. Because of this, we know that folks may want to learn more about the PGA Championship.

The following FAQ section will arm you with the knowledge that you're looking for. Feel free to send in your questions to [email protected] or on Twitter @EatWatchBet

What golfer has won the most PGA Championship titles?

The golfer with the most PGA Championship titles is Jack Nicklaus, who won the tournament a total of 5 times. He won the PGA Championship in 1963, 1971, 1973, 1975, and 1980. Nicklaus is widely regarded as one of the greatest golfers of all time, and his record of 18 major championships remains unmatched to this day.

Where is the PGA Championship held?

The PGA Championship is held at different locations each year, rotating among various golf courses in the United States. The tournament is organized by the Professional Golfers' Association of America (PGA of America), and it is one of the four major championships in men's golf. The selection process for the host courses typically takes into account factors such as the course's design, its location, and its ability to accommodate large crowds. Some past venues for the PGA Championship include Bethpage Black in New York, Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, and Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky.

What is the name of the PGA Championship trophy?

The name of the trophy awarded to the winner of the PGA Championship is the Wanamaker Trophy. The trophy was named after Rodman Wanamaker, a department store magnate who is credited with playing a key role in the founding of the Professional Golfers' Association of America (PGA of America) in the early 20th century. The Wanamaker Trophy is one of the most prestigious trophies in golf, and it is considered one of the sport's major championship trophies. The trophy is a large silver cup that stands nearly two feet tall and weighs over 27 pounds, and it is engraved with the names of all the PGA Championship winners since its inception in 1916.

Who is the biggest underdog to ever win the PGA Championship?

There have been several golfers who have won the PGA Championship as underdogs over the years, but one of the biggest upsets in the tournament's history occurred in 1991 when John Daly won the PGA Championship at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Indiana. Daly was a relatively unknown golfer at the time, and he had only qualified for the tournament as the ninth alternate after several other players dropped out due to injury or other reasons.

Despite his low ranking, Daly put on a remarkable performance over the four days of the tournament, hitting the ball prodigious distances and sinking some incredible putts. He finished the tournament with a score of 12-under-par, beating runner-up Bruce Lietzke by three shots to claim his first major championship. Daly's victory at the 1991 PGA Championship is widely regarded as one of the biggest upsets in golf history, and it helped to launch his career as one of the sport's most popular and iconic figures.

Has a golfer ever won the PGA Championship 3 years in a row?

Yes, a golfer has won the PGA Championship three years in a row. Walter Hagen accomplished this feat in the 1920s, winning the tournament four times in a row from 1924-1927. Hagen was one of the dominant golfers of his era and is considered one of the greatest players of all time. His record of four consecutive PGA Championship victories still stands today as the longest winning streak in the tournament's history.

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