PGA Championship expert picks to win, sleepers to watch at Southern Hills
Cameron Champ? Cameron Champ!
If you’ve come to this page before, you’ll know that one of the items I like to check before making a major championship bet is seeing where the public money is going. Yeah, you’ll get a lot of the favorites because those are “name” bets — of course, folks are going to pick the Rorys and the Tigers because that’s whom they know. But every so often you see a Cameron Champ, a name that makes you almost wonder: What does everyone else know that I don’t?
And this is no knock against him. Count me among those who believe he has as good a chance as anyone to win this week’s PGA Championship at Southern Hills. It’s just that the bookmakers don’t — over at BetMGM, Champ’s well down the board, at 150-1 to win. And yet over at oddschecker.com, a site that tracks both odds and which players are the most popular with gamblers, Champ is … tied for the third-most popular bet. With Jon Rahm, the world No. 2.
So what gives? Champ offers tremendous value if the public is on to something, so let’s zoom in.
He’s trending: Over his past three events, he tied for 10th at the Masters, tied for sixth at the Mexico Open, and tied for 38th at last week’s Byron Nelson. Over those 12 rounds, he’s shot over par just once — a three-over 75 during the second round at Augusta.
He’s healthy: Toward the end of last year, Champ suffered a left wrist injury, and the effects may have crept into his swing. No more. “Probably the first four, five events, I played with some pretty decent pain,” he said at the Mexico Open. “It’s got a lot to do with just the bone was healed, there was just a lot of nerve damage. So I had to fight through it and just get the muscle back. I lost all the muscle in my arm pretty much for not using it for four and a half, five months. But yeah, right now, it’s been good; I’ve had no issues. Just sometimes certain shots I might feel it a little bit, but again, it’s rare that it causes me any problems.”
He’s relaxed: Champ rehabbed on a farm, and I’ll let him explain the vibe, which he also shared at the Mexico Open.
Question: How did you spend that, like how did you occupy the time?
Champ: “We just did stuff on my farm, on my property; I had nothing else to do. I couldn’t touch a club for eight, 10 weeks, 10, 11 weeks, and even at that, it took a little longer for me for the process. But again, it was a good time off, but definitely enjoyed being out here more.”
Question: What’s on the farm?
Champ: “We have cattle, we have horses. My wife rides horses, she got back into that. We got it all, chickens, goats, you name it. Yeah, it’s our little oasis at home, and we love it.
Question: Where is that?
Champ: “We’re in Houston, Texas. We’re about an hour north of downtown. We have about 30 acres right now. We’re about to have a little bit more. Like I said, it’s my little escape from all this.”
Sounds lovely. Our staff also likes a few more to-win bets and sleeper picks. We have made one of each using odds from BetMGM to assist you with your own weekly picks, whether those are for a low-stakes office fantasy league, or (legal!) big-bucks bets with a sportsbook. (And if you’re looking to place any of these bets yourself, we teamed with BetMGM, and the online sports book is offering a new promotion: Make a risk-free bet up to $1,000. Sign up for an account to get into the action today.)
On to those picks.
Expert picks for the PGA Championship
To-win: Daniel Berger, +5,000. Berger’s not long by Tour standards, but he is accurate, and he’s a killer around the greens, which will be essential at the new-look Southern Hills with its slick, difficult-to-hit surfaces. Stellar short games will be a must, and few players are better around the greens than Berger. Last week, Jordan Spieth was asked about the sneaky-best short-game whizzes on Tour. Berger, he said, is “as impressive as anybody.”
Sleeper pick: Cameron Young, +8,000. He’s not playing like a “sleeper” with a T2 and T3 in his past two starts — and on two very different golf courses (TPC Potomac and Harbour Town). But he is a player with whom casual fans are still not familiar. He will win a major, and likely soon. Crazy talent. No real weaknesses. Also, the smartest picker I know has been crowing about Young for months.
To-win: Xander Schauffele, +2,500: I have it on good authority that an elite ball-striker is going to win the PGA. Why not Schauffele, to break the major-less streak, at +2,500? The value is just too good to pass up.
Sleeper pick: Davis Riley, +25,000: Riley is striping it as well as anyone in professional golf right now. It’s a long shot, but this is a dice roll I feel good about taking.
To-win: Sam Burns, +4,000. Don’t let a MC at the Byron Nelson (or the Masters) fool you. This number is too high for a guy who hits it this well and is this good around the greens.
Sleeper pick: I’ll give you two! Keegan Bradley at +10,000 and Cameron Tringale at +25,000. Speaking of high numbers! Good iron players with good hands and (hopefully!) hot putters.
To-win: Cameron Smith, +2,000. Sure, this season has been all about Scottie Scheffler, but these odds are too good to pass up for a player experiencing a similar meteoric rise this season. Smith has two PGA Tour wins in 2022, including the Players, and is considered by many to have the hottest putter on the planet. He made the most birdies (22) of any player at Augusta National, and as late at the 11th hole on Masters Sunday, the Aussie was in position to give Scheffler a run for the green jacket. For all intents and purposes, Smith’s the second-hottest player in the world, and he’s getting the seventh-best odds in the field. At 20-1, Smith clearly presents the best value this week at Southern Hills.
Sleeper pick: Cameron Champ, +10,000. This isn’t the same Southern Hills where Tiger won in 2007. This week, the course will play 300 yards longer, and its fairways much wider. Enter the Tour’s longest hitter (323.5 yds/drive). In his past two starts, Champ has been channeling that power into better scoring, with a T10 at the Masters and T6 at the Mexico Open.
To-win: Will Zalatoris, +3,300. The only common thread I can find between past winners at Southern Hills is that they’re all properly good ball-strikers. He’s long enough, accurate enough and consistent enough. His putting remains a concern, but that’s also why he’s 33-1. Those odds are long enough for me to take the bait.
Sleeper pick: Keegan Bradley, +1,000. Speaking of good ball-strikers and sketchy putters: Keegan Bradley! The former PGA champ is 12th on tour in SG: Tee to Green, and in the midst of an impressive T8, T4, T2 run. The putter will need to get hot for him to walk away with the trophy, but he could end up in the top 10 even with a cold one.
To-win: Scottie Scheffler, +1,100. I’m not going to overthink this. Scheffler not only had an impressive practice round at Southern Hills recently, he also says it’s one of his favorite courses. (!!) That’s enough for me!
Sleeper pick: Marc Leishman, +10,000. Leish has fallen off a bit since his early-season form, and he’s missed the past three PGA cuts. But there’s something about Southern Hills that I think will suit the Aussie to snap that streak.
To-win: Jon Rahm, +1,200. Jon Rahm was sort of MIA early in 2022, but a win in his latest start is encouraging. The putter is still not cooperating like he’d hoped, but if he can get even average results on the greens in Tulsa, he should be in contention on Sunday.
Sleeper pick: Y.E. Yang, +100,000. TIL Y.E. Yang is in the field. Let’s go with the legend himself for a DEEP sleeper.
To-win: Jordan Spieth, +1,800. The form is there, and by all accounts, the course fit is there. He completes the grand slam.
Sleeper pick: Cameron Young, +8,000. Four top fives this season, two of which have come in his past two starts. He’s a sleeper only because of the odds.
To-win: Jordan Spieth, +1,800. Scheffler has knocked Jordan Spieth off the Texas golf throne with his stellar play these past few months. There has been a lot of talk about how Southern Hills is Scheffler’s favorite course, and rave reviews came from his recent practice round there. I expect Scheffler to find himself in the final pairing come Sunday, but Spieth will be there with him. In a Lone Star showdown, Spieth takes home the Wanamaker to complete the grand slam.
Sleeper pick: Robert MacIntyre, +15,000. I’m not sure he’s ready to get the job done on a major stage, but Robert MacIntyre is one of golf’s up-and-comers who has been playing well of late. With +15,000 odds, I’ll take a flier on someone who I see as a future major champion. Why not now?
To-win: Jon Rahm, +1,200. Rahm has finished top-10 in five of the past six majors, including a win at last year’s U.S. Open. He shines at major championships. Yes, Scottie Scheffler is on a heater, is No. 1 in the world and is golf’s current darling, but Rahm is one of golf’s fiercest competitors. He wants the throne back, and a win at Southern Hills, Scottie’s favorite course, will remind everyone that Rahm is still golf’s best player.
Sleeper pick: Matthew Wolff +12,500. Matthew Wolff hasn’t exactly had the trajectory that we anticipated. But recently, it seems he has turned the corner, especially when it comes to his mental game. For +12,500, I will bet that we see flashes of 2020 Wolff at Southern Hills.
To-win: Jordan Spieth, +2,000. Spieth’s finishes since the Masters feature a win and a solo second, so his game is shaping up. The career grand slam has never culminated at the PGA Championship, and I think if anyone can make history at Southern Hills, it’ll be Spieth — assuming he putts well.
Sleeper pick: Richard Bland, +50,000. We had a 50-year-old win the PGA last year, so why can’t a 49-year-old get it done this week? Bland fell just short of earning a Masters invite this year, so I’d love to see him have a great major week at Southern Hills.
To-win: Patrick Cantlay, +2,200. In his 10 starts since the Ryder Cup, Cantlay has a win and six top-10s. Two of those were playoff losses to guys who aren’t exactly slouches (Spieth and Scheffler). These are decent odds for the best player in the world without a major, a mantle he won’t have for long.
Sleeper pick: Cameron Champ, +10,000. A feast or famine player, Champ has been flashing some strong form lately. Obviously, we’ll need a hot week with the putter. But Champ has such a high ceiling, there’s big potential upside here.
To-win: Scottie Scheffler, +1,100. This one feels too easy. Hottest golfer on the planet. Just shot 64 at Southern Hills — his favorite course. I’d be shocked if Scheffler isn’t in the mix on Sunday afternoon. It’s the chalkiest pick on the board, but I’m taking it anyway.
Sleeper pick: Justin Rose, +12,500. Rose finished T12 the last time the PGA Championship was contested at Southern Hills, in 2007. For whatever reason, he’s embraced Perry Maxwell designs during his career. Wins at the U.S. Open (Merion) and Colonial were contested on courses that feature Maxwell’s fingerprints. Is it a stretch? Maybe. Then again, I’m searching for value at a major.