PGA Championship sleeper picks to watch: Here’s who might break out at Southern Hills 

Cameron Young hits a shot out of a bunker last month at the RBC Heritage.

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Phil Mickelson is a major champion. Again. Let that sink in. The 50-year-old Mickelson, ranked 115th in the world, without a top 10 in his past 16 starts and without truly contending in a major championship the past four years, did the near-unthinkable on Sunday — he won the 103rd PGA Championship on the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island, S.C.

That was the opening paragraph in the story from our Josh Berhow after the final round of last year’s PGA Championship, and it sums up things well here. Phil Mickelson was a major champion. Again. But let that sink in.

Over a year later, it still stuns, doesn’t it? For our purposes, Lefty was also a bit down the toteboard entering the event, at 250-1, according to golfodds.com. And he rewarded his faithful handsomely. It also re-emphasized a valuable point:

Underdogs sometimes have their day. Sometimes a 50-year-old, ranked 115th in the world,  without a top 10 in his past 16 starts and without truly contending in a major championship the past four years, can do the near-unthinkable.

So who could be this year’s Mickelson when the PGA Championships tees off Thursday at Southern Hills? Our staff is looking at a few. They’ve each made a long-shot bet 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 the picks.

Staff sleeper picks for the PGA Championship 

Alan Bastable 

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.  

James Colgan 

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.

Dylan Dethier   

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. 

Connor Federico

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. 

Luke Kerr-Dineen

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.

Jessica Marksbury

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.

Zephyr Melton 

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.

Nick Piastowski 

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. 

Tim Reilly

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?

Darren Riehl

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.

Claire Rogers 

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.

Josh Sens

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.

Jonathan Wall 

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. 

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.