PGA Championship picks to win: Here’s who our staff is betting on at Kiawah Island

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy hits his tee shot earlier this month on the 14th hole at Quail Hollow Club.

Getty Images

We’ll call it the Rory riddle. Or the McIlroy mystery. Regardless, it’s a Kiawah conundrum. (I’ll put the thesaurus away now.) 

At the Masters, just over five short weeks ago, Rory McIlroy was nowhere to be found. Unless you want to count the woods. The four-time major winner and 28-time winner worldwide was in the middle of a year-and-a-half winless drought, in the middle of a swing change, and, for a few minutes, in the middle of the trees, where during the first round, he hit his dad with a ball, and during the second round, he lost a ball. It would end up being his second straight stroke-play missed cut. (He failed to advance out of round-robin play at the Match Play, too.) 

And then, four rounds and 274 strokes later, there McIlroy was. He won the 2021 Wells Fargo Championship. He’s now the betting favorite for the PGA Championship. From goat to GOAT. In a month. 

All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy a linked product, GOLF.COM may earn a fee. Pricing may vary.


Sign up for ESPN+ now to catch 12 hours of exclusive coverage of the first and second rounds, early weekend coverage, featured groups and much, much more from the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.

Wondering which McIlroy will show up? We can help. First, we answer that exact question. Then, members of our staff have each made a to-win bet using odds from DraftKings to help you with your own weekly picks, whether those are for a low-stakes office fantasy league, (legal!) big-bucks bets with a sportsbook or through free-to-play Chirp Golf, an app from our parent company that is available in the App Store and at Google Play.  

On to the analysis — and info on how to bet for free.

Why Rory McIlroy will win the PGA Championship?

Josh Sens: He will win because he has found something, and when a player with his gifts finds something, watch out. On top of that, he clearly has a comfort and discomfort level with certain courses and events (see Quail Hollow and Augusta National for that contrast) and we all know what he did last time the PGA was held at Kiawah. It wasn’t close. 

Josh Berhow: Because he putted beautifully in his last start — a win at the Wells Fargo — and he’s going back to the place he dominated in 2012. Sure, that’s a long time ago, but nothing is more important in golf than current form, and Rory’s got that going for him, which is nice.

Nick Piastowski: Let’s just go Josh plus Josh here — horses for courses plays, and so does momentum. Can’t beat that, right … 

Why Rory McIlroy won’t win the PGA Championship?

Josh Sens: He won’t win because winning is really, really hard, and even as one of the odds-on favorites, he has the odds stacked heavily against him 

Josh Berhow: So he won in his last start? Big deal. Let’s not forget he’s missed the cut in two of his past four starts, and both MCs came in his biggest events of the past six months. And he didn’t just miss those cuts — he missed them badly, with a combined scoring average of 76. It would be a nice story if he returned to Kiawah and found magic once again, but fairytale endings don’t happen near as much as we’d like them to.

Nick Piastowski: I think that the win means that McIlroy is on the way back — but isn’t quite there yet. That one-over 72 in the first round at the Wells Fargo also jumps out at me. 

Expert picks 

The sportsbook at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino.
8 things you MUST know to make money on golf betting
By: Nick Piastowski

Alan Bastable

To-win: Abraham Ancer, +5500. Few players have been steadier over the last two months, with no finishes outside of the top 30 in last eight starts — including a runner-up finish at Quail Hollow and a 5th at Innisbrook in his last two starts. Ancer will get his first PGA Tour win in 2021 — why not at a major? If you don’t pick him to win, be sure to grab him at +450 to top-10.

Josh Berhow

To-win: Patrick Reed, +3,500. I like a gritty player with a strong short game to win this week, so Patrick Reed immediately grabs my attention. He’s second on Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting and is one of the best/craftiest players around the greens, too. It’s also a major, and he rarely struggles in the big ones. He’s been no worse than T13 in his past four major starts.

James Colgan

To-win: Brooks Koepka, +5,000. Is Brooks Koepka fully healthy? Probably not! He looked hobbled (and not at all himself) in his performance at the Masters, which is a smart reason to stay away from him. That said, +5,000 odds for a player six months removed from contending for a PGA three-peat? That value might just be worth the risk.

Dylan Dethier

To-win: Xander Schauffele, +1,700. This PGA is particularly interesting because none of the front runners come in without some extra baggage. Was Xander Schauffele allergic to the lead on Sunday at Augusta? Sure. But he still might be the best player in the game. This is the week he climbs the mountain. (But maybe sprinkle in a top 10 bet just to make sure. …)

Jessica Marksbury

To-win: Rory McIlroy, +1,150. I just can’t imagine anyone having a better chance than Rory this week. Not only is he fresh off a victory at Quail Hollow, he’s a former champion at this very venue, and the ultra-long course seems like it will suit him even better (if that’s even possible) this time around. Bring on major victory No. 5!

Zephyr Melton 

To-win: Jordan Spieth, +1,500. Jordan Spieth is back to doing Jordan Spieth things, and it feels like this is finally his time to complete the career grand slam. The small tweaks he made in his swing are paying dividends, and with the championship contested at the windblown Kiawah Resort, I like the shot-making Texan’s chances to hoist the Wanamaker Trophy come Sunday. 

Nick Piastowski 

To-win: Matthew Fitzpatrick, +6,000. The major breakthrough happens this week. And when I looked at the 2012 leaderboard and saw three Englishmen in the top six (and Rory McIlroy from Northern Ireland winning), this pick began to look really good to me. (Could also be a sleeper at those odds.) 

Tim Reilly

To-win: Dustin Johnson, +1,850. I still feel that we’re bound to get a run in DJ’s career where he rolls off a few major victories. I still have faith the ’20 Masters was the start of it, and it will pick up at the ’21 PGA Championship. 

Claire Rogers 

To-win: Rory McIlroy, +1,150. The new father secured his first win since November of 2019 at the Wells Fargo Championship last weekend, and he won the PGA Championship by eight (!) at Kiawah in 2012. His game is trending in the right direction, and I’m expecting a good week for the Northern Irishman.

Josh Sens

To-win: Daniel Berger, +3,000. Lots of talk this week about the Ocean Course playing nearly 8,000 yards. Big whoop. I’m betting that bombing it will matter less than plain old grit. I’ll take the great putter who doesn’t have an ounce of quit. Not to mention a guy who has been rock solid all year.

Andrew Tursky 

To-win: Patrick Reed, +3,500. Reed is a grinder who navigates windy conditions well with a relatively low ball flight. That’s not a bad combination for success on an Ocean Course that typically sees high winds and unpredictable conditions. He’s also in decent form coming off a T6 at the Wells Fargo and a T8 at the Masters over his past three events (although he did miss the cut at the Valspar).

Jonathan Wall

To-win: Viktor Hovland, +2,000. Has the game and mindset to handle whatever Kiawah throws at the players this week. And with back-to-back T3 finishes heading into the PGA, he’s peaking at the right time. Hovland has the pedigree to win at least a couple of majors during his career. It starts this week.  

Sean Zak

To-win: Daniel Berger, +3,000. It’s time for the Class of 2011 to bag another one. Berger’s best golf has come in the past 12 months. Let’s see it! 

How to bet on the PGA Championship — for free! 

Chirp is a new golf-gaming platform that allows users to place live bets using fake money to win amazing, real-life prizes. The app, which is owned by’s parent company, 8AM Golf, is designed to inject the adrenaline of live gambling into a fun, risk-free contest. For more on Chirp, click here.

Golf Magazine

Subscribe To The Magazine

generic profile image

Nick Piastowski Editor