2017 PGA Championship Preview: Quail Hollow Best Bets - Favorites (8/7/17)
The last major of the year, the PGA Championship, heads to Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina this week. PGA Tour players will not be strangers to Quail Hollow and its demands as they play an annual event there, the Wells Fargo Championship.
Quail Hollow is long, tight, and will require a great week of driving the golf ball. There are a number of longer par 4s that play over 450 yards, including a few that could be set up to play over 500 yards. Thus, approach shots, especially with longer irons, will be an important factor this week. You'll want the bombers off the tee who can knock it in tight. One would not expect the greens to play particularly difficult considering the length of the course and the flatter putting surfaces.
I'll be doing a three-part series, instead of one longer article, on who to play and avoid this week at Quail Hollow. There will be a simple approach to finding the best options: the demand of the course, the correlating aspect to each player's game, and recent success, or lack thereof. Today, we'll focus on favorites atop the world golf rankings and betting favorites that you can still find value.
Favorites, for the sake of this study, will be those who have current odds under 50 to 1. Odds will be courtesy of Bovada at the time of publishing this artcle.
Rory is the favorite this week and rightfully so. Not only does the course fit his game as closely as you could want, he's played well recently and has previously dominated Quail Hollow. In his seven starts at Quail Hollow, Rory has a combined score of 66 under par, has won twice, only missed one cut, and has an average finish of fourth overall. Of all the favorites, Rory hits it further than anyone and is impressively accurate for his length. McIlroy's average round gains 1.332 strokes off the tee box alone. The only other two golfers, amongst the favorites, that are above one stroke gained off the tee per round are Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm. As the par-4s get longer, the more opportunity there is to miss greens and need scrambling. Rory excels there, as well, getting up and down 64.9% of the time this season. If Rory could build a course to fit his own game, Quail Hollow would be that course. The 7 to 1 odds are the lowest on the board for good reason, but there's not a ton of profit to be made. There's more opportunity to make money below with a few other favorites.
There isn't a lot of profitability with Dustin Johnson, either, at just 11 to 1; however, he's the best fit for Quail Hollow outside of Rory. Though he hasn't played particularly well since injuring himself in his rental house at the Master's, Johnson may be able to right himself this week. After winning three consecutive tournaments earlier this season, DJ finished tied for second at the Wells Fargo Championship. With a 314.3 average driving distance, 1.045 strokes gained off the tee, 0.683 strokes gained on approach shots, and impressive 63.0% scrambling rate, Johnson comes in a close second to Rory's game fit this week. Jordan Spieth, off his Open Championship victory a few weeks ago, is currently the only golfer between Johnson and McIlroy and one would anticipate the difference in those odds to shrink as the week goes on.
Another bomber who hasn't been up to true form of late is Jon Rahm. Rahm missed the cut at the Memorial, the US Open, and finished T44 at The Open, T28 at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, both middle of the pack. If it weren't for his last four tournaments, Rahm would be my best bet of the week. Nonetheless, I still like his odds a bit for the PGA Championship as the third best driver of the ball inside 50 to 1 odds. Rahm isn't a slouch on approach shots, either, as he's averaged 28'1” on approach shots between 150-175 yards, a frequent distance he'll face this week. Load up on Rahm for DFS and sprinkle a little on 22 to 1 as I anticipate him to right the ship starting Thursday.
Justin Thomas makes my best bet of the week. At 5'10” and 150 pounds, Justin Thomas looks more like a lightweight boxer than a bomber of the golf ball, but the 24-year old swings it almost as hard as anyone on tour. Thomas averages 308.8 yards with the driver which ranks third among the favorites behind only Rory and DJ. Though he does struggle with accuracy from the tee box at times, Thomas' approach shots make up for the deficit. Justin Thomas averages 24'3” from the hole on approach shots from 150 to 175 yards, by far the best among the golfers analyzed. They'll need to bomb it and stick it this week, and Thomas fits the bid. He is getting the tenth best odds this week but should be a top five pick for Quail Hollow. Thomas does not come without concern as he's missed three of the last four cuts since finishing T9 at the US Open; however, he played a handful of courses, including The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, that hasn't fit his game. Nothing is a guarantee in sports, particularly in golf, but Thomas is worth the risk on the board and in DFS this week.
Next, we'll do Long Shots.