PGA Championship Odds and Analysis
by Trevor Whenham - 08/07/2007
The last golf major of the year is just around the corner. Every time I write a preview for one of the big tournaments I feel like an unoriginal moron, but I can't help it. There is no way that I can write about this tournament or any other without gushing about Tiger Woods, saying that he is deservedly the heavy favorite, then complaining that there isn't much value given the price. I may as well just write one article and then change the name of the course and the tournament as appropriate.
The PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is no exception. If you caught any of the last round of the WGC event this past weekend then you saw the kind of ridiculous domination that only Woods can pull out of his bag. He's clearly in top form and full confidence, and will be the man to beat. Yet again. The course at Southern is tough, but it can't be any harder than Firestone was for the WGC. The rough there was virtually unplayable, yet Woods seemed unbothered. Not a good sign for everyone else in the field this week.
If you are looking for a reason to bet against Woods, you might want to grab onto his past history at Southern Hills. He has played there twice. The first was the Tour Championship in 1996, the first year he went pro. He didn't do well, but his father was in the hospital at the time, so he was clearly distracted. He also played the 2001 U.S. Open on the course. Though he finished 12th, he had a rough first round and was never really a factor, ending up seven strokes back. Tiger can be a bit erratic of the tee at times, and Southern Hills is one of those courses that punishes you badly for missing the fairway.
One look at the odds will tell you the opinion of oddsmakers about the tournament. Woods is obviously the favorite, at odds of 9/4. The next closest on the board is a group of heavyweights - Els, Furyk, and Mickelson, but they are only at 20/1. As I said before, Woods is the obvious favorite, and deserves to be, but it's hard to see value. That's especially true considering the uncharacteristic inconsistency that has marked Woods' efforts this season. For the interest of getting a real payout, let's take a look at who might beat Woods. After all, he can't win them all. (all odds are from Bodog).
The obvious choices
Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els are all at 20/1, and all have the game to win it. Els is in improving form, and could be a factor. Furyk is red hot, but missed the tournament at Firestone with a back injury. If he was healthy he would be a steal at this price. Mickelson has struggled, missing the cut in his last two majors. His wrist has been the culprit to blame for his poor play, though, and there's a good chance that it is healthier by now. He certainly hasn't been playing enough to wear it out. A solid case could be made for at least two of those players here.
Vijay Singh is also playing well. He lost a final round lead at the Canadian Open, but that wasn't a collapse - he played well, but Furyk was on fire. His consistency and unflappability seem tailor-made for a challenging course like this. He's intriguing at 22/1, if only because he is intriguing every time he tees it up. He's also won the tournament twice before, so he knows what it takes.
Retief Goosen won the last time the tour visited Southern Hills, and the South African is probably comfortable with the incredibly hot conditions expected in Tulsa, so he would seem to be a good choice. The problem, though, is that he is in such a terrible slump this year, especially on American soil, that even his 40/1 price likely doesn't offer a lot of value.
Sergio Garcia is at 28/1, and will surely win a major at some point, but this tournament falls not long after the British Open, and I would like him to prove that he has recovered mentally from that debacle before trusting him with my hard earned money.
Off the beaten path
There are at least a couple of reasons to consider some more obscure choices for this tournament. The list of recent past winners contains some real head scratchers - Shaun Micheel, Rich Beem, Mark Brooks, Wayne Grady. Like all majors, anyone can win it if he gets hot at just the right time. A somewhat obscure but scorching hot winner has also been a repeating trend this season in the majors - Zach Johnson, Angel Cabrera, and Padraig Harrington were all far from unknown, but they weren't the first names that jumped to mind for anyone who isn't related to them before their wins. Outside of Vijay's two wins, this tournament has been the domain of American winners for more than a decade. Here are two with big prices that capture the imagination a bit:
Hunter Mahan (45/1) - This guy is young, but he has consistently found his way to the top of the leaderboard at some point during the weekend in each of the past few weeks. He won his first tournament in June and was sixth at the British Open. I worry about his ability to handle the pressure of the situation, but you could have said the exact same thing about Shaun Micheel, Todd Hamilton, Ben Curtis or any of the other inexperienced major winners. He's far from a sure thing, but might be worth a shot at this price.
Stewart Cink (50/1) - Cink is a grizzled veteran who has the game to contend at any time. He's never won a major, but he has been third twice, and he tied for sixth at this year's British Open. He's a streaky player, but when he finds form he can plod along and find his way to the top of the list. He's certainly not exciting to watch, but he could be in the mix when the dust settles. I'd feel better if he had won more recently than 2004, but he stands a solid chance of being a factor here.
Check Bodog.com for current PGA Championship odds.