There were two players head-and-shoulders above the rest at least week's Canadian Open in world No. 1 Jason Day and No. 2 Dustin Johnson. I didn't think either would win, though, and they didn't. That honor well to fairly unknown Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas for his first PGA Tour victory since 2011. He will also represent his country in Rio.
Vegas birdied his final three holes on Sunday at Glen Abbey to shoot a final-round 8-under 64 and finish at 12 under overall, one shot better than Johnson (final-round 69), Martin Laird (67) and someone named Jon Rahm (67). The previous week at the Barbasol Championship opposite the British Open, Vegas had a six-shot lead entering the weekend but lost by three. He started Sunday at the Canadian Open five shots out of the lead.
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Brandt Snedeker and Canadian amateur Jared du Toit were in the final pairing on Sunday with du Toit the obvious breakout star of the tournament. Both shot a final-round 71, with Snedeker finishing fifth and du Toit ninth.
My pick to win last week was Jim Furyk, and I just missed him at least for a Top 10 as he was 13th at 8 under, one shot from ninth. I did get Matt Kuchar at +130 for a Top 10 as he was ninth. I thought Day would get a Top 10 but he was T14 at 7 under. A second-round 76 really killed him.
So now the pros head to Baltusrol Golf Club (the Lower Course) in Springfield, New Jersey, about 20 miles from New York City, for the PGA Championship (Vegas got a spot in it with his victory). If you are scratching your head wondering why it feels the year's final major championship is really early this year, that's because it is. PGA officials moved it up a few weeks because golf returns to the Summer Olympics. Normally, the PGA Tour wants to have one signature event per month in the heart of the golf season and before football steals away all the attention: Masters in April, the Players Championship in May, the U.S. Open in June, the British Open in July and the PGA Championship in August. I guess the Olympics will have to suffice this August, although it seems most of the world's top players are passing on catching the Zika virus in Brazil.
Baltusrol is a very exclusive private club that has hosted seven U.S. Opens and one prior PGA Championship. That latter event was in 2005, and Phil Mickelson won at 4-under 276. Thomas Bjorn and Steve Elkington were a shot back and Tiger Woods two out -- it has now been made official that Woods will not play a PGA Tour event this season. It's the first time as a pro that Woods will not play any majors in a calendar year.
The PGA Championship always touts itself as having the strongest field of any tournament each year, and all but three of the world's Top 100 are set to play this week. The defending champion is Day. He won his first major at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin with a record-setting score of 20 under, the lowest under-par total ever in a major. That was matched by Sweden's Henrik Stenson two weeks ago in winning the British Open at Royal Troon. No player has repeated in this event since Tiger in 2007. An American has won this just twice since then: Keegan Bradley in 2011 and Jason Dufner in 2013. Dating to Day's win at last year's PGA, the past four major winners are all first-timers.
Golf Odds: PGA Championship Favorites
The scorching-hot Johnson is the +800 Bovada favorite. He hasn't finished worse than T9 at his past six events this year with two wins. That's crazy. Johnson was seventh at this tournament last year, his fourth Top 10 in the event since 2009.
Rory McIlroy, winless on the PGA Tour this season, is +900. If you believe in the San Francisco Giants' even-year success of late, perhaps Rory is the right pick this week as he won the PGA in 2012 & '14. McIlroy had Top 10s this year at the Masters and British Open but wasn't ever a threat to win those.
Day (+1000), Jordan Spieth (+1400) and Stenson (+1400) round out the favorites. Day had Top 10s at the Masters and U.S. Open this year. Spieth was a runner-up to Day at the 2015 PGA by three shots. He didn't play well at either the U.S. Open or British Open this year, however. Stenson shot that amazing major championship record-tying 63 on Sunday at Royal Troon to win the British Open. Mickelson, who was second to Stenson, is +1800 to repeat at Baltusrol.
Golf Odds: PGA Championship Picks
For a Top 10, I like Johnson (-125), McIlroy (even), Bubba Watson (+300) and Rickie Fowler (+350). Head-to-head, go Mickelson (-140) over Adam Scott (+110), Stenson (-110) over Spieth (-120), McIlroy (-110) over Johnson (-120), Snedeker (-115) over Branden Grace (-115), Kuchar (-115) over Patrick Reed (-115), and Fowler (-120) over Watson (-110).
So the question I'm going to ask myself is whether to pick another first-time major winner. I tend to think McIlroy will win to salvage his season. But I'm going to throw some money on Fowler at +3000. True, he's not playing great at the moment with just one Top 10 and three missed cuts in his past three tournaments. But he was close to winning the PGA two years ago. There's also a prop of Stenson, Mickelson, Watson and Fowler at +550 vs. the field (-1000). That might be the smarter bet. You can also get DJ & McIlroy at +350 vs. the field (-550). That's a tempting hedge.
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