2023 PGA Championship sleeper picks to watch: Here’s who might break out at Oak Hill
Shaun Micheel wasn’t just a sleeper when he won the 2003 PGA Championship. No, no.
When he won 20 years ago at Oak Hill Country Club — site of this week’s PGA — he was maybe one of the most unlikely players ever to win a major championship. And at the time, Micheel was perhaps just as surprised as you.
“I really can’t believe that has happened to me. I was just trying to make the cut,” he said then, according to a recent story from National Club Golfer. “That was my main goal, and I would have been happy with that.
“I don’t know what else to say. I’m just thrilled.”
Your takeaway here, as we try to pick an underdog this week, is simple. We’ve said it before in this space, though it can be understandably frightening: Don’t be afraid to scan past Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy on the odds board. There are gems deep.
Like Micheel was in ’03. Could you have seen that one coming? Maybe, maybe not. He had never won a PGA Tour event before — and didn’t win another after. He entered Oak Hill with odds at about 250-1. But he won. And his insight into Oak Hill is very important. And that begs this question:
What will it take to win the Wanamaker, Shuan?
“I don’t think there’ll be anybody that would really separate themselves. I think that’s what this course does,” Micheel told rochesterfirst.com earlier this year. “It doesn’t really allow anybody to win by four or five shots. I think par is going to be a good score. Par-3s are tough. A lot of longer clubs in. Are the par-5s going to be reachable? Especially with the newness of the greens, there’s a lot more challenge around the greens. A lot more difficulty in pitching over the greens.
“It’s just a lot of unknowns.”
With that, members of our staff have each picked a long shot. The hope is, of course, we help you with your own weekly picks, whether those are for a low-stakes office fantasy league, or (legal!) big-bucks bets with a sportsbook.
On to our picks.
2023 PGA Championship sleeper picks to watch
Sleeper pick: Keith Mitchell, +10,000. Mitchell is like a BMW right now — the ultimate driving machine. He’s No. 1 on Tour in total driving (a combination of distance and accuracy rankings) and has played solid all season. His weakness is in approach play, but if he can put a good week in with the irons, he’s going to be on the first page of the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon.
Sleeper pick: Mito Pereira, +12,500. I would be fascinated to travel to a different dimension and learn how much higher Pereira’s odds would be had he not experienced a bad case of the shanks on the 72nd tee box last year. Feels like good value. Plus, I hear there’s less water at Oak Hill.
Sleeper pick: Seamus Power, +10,000. Power had never played in a major until last year but showed an immediate aptitude, logging three top-30 finishes, including a T9 at the PGA Championship. He’s rounding into form just in time for a solid showing at Oak Hill. (Others available for consideration: Cam Davis, Davis Riley, Harris English — and hell, why not Padraig Harrington?)
Sleeper pick: Aaron Wise, +17,500. After taking some time off to focus on his mental health (kudos to him), the 26-year-old Wise is back — and a PGA Championship run would be a hell of a story. As one of the top putters on Tour, Wise can roll it with the best of them. One interesting finish to focus on? Last year’s runner-up at the Memorial Tournament, a comparable course to Oak Hill.
Sleeper pick: Tom Hoge, +15,000. Out of the whole group at 150-1, I like Hoge the best. The 33-year-old can find his way to the top of the leaderboard when we least expect it. He’s logged four top 10s this season, including a T3 finish at the Players.
Sleeper pick: Si Woo Kim, +10,000. There are few things in golf harder to predict than a Si Woo Kim victory, but I’m going to make a case for it anyway. After all, when he broke through at the Players, he was one of the worst drivers on the PGA Tour. Nonetheless, his inspired play in Sunday singles at the Presidents Cup seems to have returned him to form. He’s picked up a win already this year, and he’s on track to make the Tour Championship for the first time since his rookie season. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him restore some of that early-season momentum at Oak Hill. Okay — I would be shocked — but that’s still good value.
Sleeper pick: Adam Scott, +9,000. It feels a bit rude to ever pick a player of Scott’s caliber as a sleeper, but odds like this allow it! Not only did Scott finish in the top five the last time the PGA was played at Oak Hill, he’s also rounding into form at the right time, with a T5 finish at the Wells Fargo Championship. It’s been a while since he’s been in contention at a major, but I think this could be the week.
Sleeper pick: Harris English, +12,500. Oak Hill is going to demand patience. Par is your friend, over and over again, until opportunities — and birdies — present themselves. English loves that game.
Sleeper pick: Denny McCarthy, +12,500. McCarthy is a good value bet. He has finished inside the top 25 in five of his past six starts. All you can ask for in a sleeper pick is someone entering the week playing well with major upside.
Sleeper pick: Chris Kirk, +12,500. With a win at the Honda, a good showing at the Masters and a handful of other high finishes, it’s been a quietly great season for Kirk. Love his swing and his ball striking. A hot putting week and these long odds could cash.
Sleeper pick: Joaquin Niemann, +5,000. Just barely hitting the threshold to qualify as my sleeper pick, Niemann has long had major championship-winning talent. Now it’s time to cash-in.