I wish we could cover betting odds at major golf championships farther in advance. As veteran readers (and handicapping bloggers) know, time-advance is gold when you’re trying to make sense of the sports odds at betting sites. Not to mention, it helps get more readers turned-on to a hot prediction. We’re trying not to be a tree falling at Pine Valley here.
Perhaps that’s why Bovada Sportsbook and its myriad of copycat and sister sites wait until 6 AM EST on Wednesday morning – give or take 12 hours – to finish the typical odds board for a PGA Championship.
A secret to success in betting is to view and analyze a maximum of markets, while choosing only a select minimum of wagers to place. The process offers the best % chance to find a mistake on the odds board, while not wasting stake on outcomes that come down to coin-flip luck. The finest soccer handicapper I have ever met works for our pals at Global Sports Intelligence (GSI) and is as likely to dish-out a prediction on some nickel-and-dime minor league in Israel as on UEFA. In golf terms, he’s like a modern-day Mark McCormack, getting as choked-up over the Japanese tour as the Open Championship. I realized quickly that his minor-league fandom was less about solidarity (or geek-dom) and more about simple math. He looks at all of the odds on the betting board, then chooses 3 bets. The more bets available, the better. The more-selective we are, the more mistaken bookies are likely to be.
There are always likely to be mistakes hidden somewhere in a bookmaker’s midweek spread on a major tournament. For 1 thing, players’ big-picture preparation styles are not always factored-in to analyses of form prior. Jack Nicklaus, for instance, changed his system to a less majors-obsessed annual routine around 1969, and gamblers in 1970 actually turned a better profit on Big Jack grabbing smaller trophies than in his epic Claret Jug win. Sportsbooks knew to put short odds on the latter but not necessarily the former. (For a similar, modern example, think of Hal Sutton stomping up the green after sinking a Texas wedge shot to beat Tiger Woods at Sawgrass in 2000. Sutton wept and discussed his religious faith in the post-round presser, prompting lots of “hunch” and “hope” gambling on Hal and other veterans to out-play Tiger in majors. Woods joked about not having to reprogram his remote control for a FL visit, then won 3 of the 4 biggies. TPC had been part of his prep work.)
Older PGA pros often surprise bookies in the 1st and 2nd round by winning for head-to-head markets, shooting in the 60s even as they approach or surpass their 50s. Then their nerves and relatively-short drives start catching up to them, and they fade into the pack in front of huge throngs on Saturday and Sunday. The syndrome is hard for trend-trackers to pin down, though, because while it tends to happen at big traditional championships, star attractions who have never won a specific major still shoot great rounds in the event far past their primes, like Palmer at the PGA or Mickelson at the U.S. Open.
The good news is that save 1 category, pretty much all standard betting markets on the Wanamaker Trophy and individual rounds at the 2020 PGA are available as of 48 hours to tee-off. The bad news? Only if you combine sportsbooks. Feel free to thumb-through WagerBop’s handicaps and focus on the latest odds from your online bookmaker.
2020 PGA Championship 3-Balls Bets
Update: Various books have released their batches of chronological 3-balls lines, but much of the field has gone un-handicapped in Las Vegas as far as the 1st round goes. Perhaps bookmakers are gun-shy because Thursday’s round could be the windiest of the 4 at Harding Park, and because a lack of rain could turn the course into a fiery and unforgiving landscape. PGA Championship greens-keepers won’t roll the greens a 2nd extra time just to be mean, but they won’t take artificial steps to soften the course if it’s playing harshly.
Selected 18-hole 3-balls odds courtesy of MyBookie, with WagerBop’s picks in bold. To check the tee-times of your 3-balls players, visit the golf tournament’s official site.
Kevin Kisner +250 vs Ryan Palmer -120 vs Michael Thompson +275
The wind gives gamblers an easy angle (excuse the pun) – if a favorite can sustain a solid 1st round through a minor gale, then he’s a decent pick, if he is known to falter in tough conditions, then 1 of the 2 underdogs should be the pick. Kevin Kisner’s wind-blown opening 74 at The Masters a few years back could turn off some 3-balls speculators, but Kisner made the cut that weekend, and shot a 64 despite wind at the Sony Open in January. Still, Palmer grew up in Texas and could be 2020’s Lee Trevino if all tournaments were dust-bowls.
Daniel Berger +150 vs Xander Schauffele -105 vs Steve Stricker +450
Stricker would be an awesome pick under normal conditions, since Thursday and Friday are old timer’s days at majors. But golfers lacking in brute power and stubborn shot-integrity (read: Senior Tour players) are known to struggle in the wind.
Tyrrell Hatton +105 vs Lucas Glover +185 vs Bud Cauley +280
Glover was at cusp of a late-career resurgence when the 2020 season went wacky.
Henrik Stenson +180 vs Collin Morikawa +110 vs Zach Johnson +275
Morikawa is likely to sneak into contention on the weekend playing controlled golf. His 5’9″ frame could actually help him stay balanced on wind-swept greens. But he’s not any more likely than Johnson or Stenson to win his group on Thursday.
Shane Lowry +240 vs Brooks Koepka +105 vs Gary Woodland +220
Lowry has a chance to out-Koepka the man himself on Thursday, showing up and posting a 68 despite the flags flapping because he doesn’t know he’s not supposed to.
Jordan Spieth +225 vs Justin Rose +225 vs Dustin Johnson +110
There is no reason for D.J. to be 1-to-1 odds in this group. He could sink 7 birdies on Thursday or shoot a 76 as the conditions punish long, high, wayward shots and shaky putting. Rose is hard to top in the wind, but Spieth is still the most-underrated major tournament bet out there and is likely to continue to be until he wins another.
Rory McIlroy +160 vs Justin Thomas +130 vs Tiger Woods +260
Woods is probably getting a little too much action from recreational gamblers as usual, but these lines are fresh, and even McIlroy and Thomas aren’t predictable par-breakers this time.
Louis Oosthuizen +175 vs Matt Fitzpatrick +130 vs Max Homa +240
Another (slight) underdog 3-balls winner ooozes out of the pack.
MyBookie is the lovable mad scientist of online bookmakers, easy to employ and capable of clever ideas, but also quirky to the point of absurd charm. As of press time Tuesday 8/4 there are no standard 18 or 36 hole 3-balls markets for Harding Park available at MyBookie, which is not a surprise for the reasons given above. There are no reliable 3-balls odds yet available anywhere in the blog’s purview. But the Costa Rican book is dressing up some of its prop and match-up odds to feel like 3-balls markets, even before the genuine article arrives.
There are “group” bets that pose a 5-man “leaderboard” throughout 4 rounds in San Francisco:
PGA Championship 72 Hole Group Betting – Group A
Brooks Koepka (+275)
Justin Thomas (+280)
Rory McIlroy (+400)
Jon Rahm (+400)
Bryson Dechambeau (+450)
Interesting. The proposition “5-balls” market is a way to pare a major-tournament field down to its fundamentals. 5 excellent players are represented, but the “field” is so small that if a golfer in 1 of the gambling lines has an excellent 72 holes at Harding Park, a missed shot on the 71st or a near-triumph on the big leaderboard may not matter on the 5-up version.
Koepka is a commodity to which speculators have returned over the summer. His form has been inconsistent and his putts lipped-and-yipped at a variety of postponed events, but woe be to the bettors who didn’t listen to WagerBop and pick the emotionless cyborg to beat 100+ human players on the futures board while the getting was good, at longer odds. Now everyone acknowledges his solid chances to lift the Wanamaker 3 years in a row.
Rory hasn’t won a major in a while, but his most-recent glory came at the PGA. Dechambeau is following a Tiger-like path of sensational rookie feats, followed by a sophomore slump, followed by an uptrend. His 4.5-to-1 is probably the best value in the prop.
MyBookie is also including “Draw” lines on 3-way “Match-Up” bets between 2 golfers over 72 holes (or 36 holes if the Friday cut comes into play) in California. That’s kind of like that Yogi Berra quote, “Pair up in 3s, boys.” But just as in a soccer match, the 72-hole “Draw” line prevents pushes and comes with nice long odds that could change your living room’s allegiances in a hurry.
Suppose Jon Rahm rides his accurate long game and consistent red figures to a lead over Rory, who gets hot late on Saturday afternoon? If you’ve wagered on the pair’s Draw odds at 15-to-1, you’re yelping for Rory to make his comeback. But if Wee Mac passes Rahm on the leaderboard like Woody Wabbit, suddenly you’re cheering for Rory to make a couple of bogeys and fall back into a tie with Rahm’s score.
We’ll update 3-balls odds as-available on Wednesday evening.
72-Hole Match-Up Betting Odds and Picks
Selected lines courtesy of Bovada Sportsbook.
Xander Schauffele (-170) vs Tiger Woods (+130)
Harding Park’s lack of mind-numbing distance should allow some older veterans into the mix, especially players like Tiger, who cannot afford to focus on more than reaching peak efficiency at 5-10 huge events each year at this stage. Pick: Woods
Rickie Fowler (-130) vs Patrick Reed (EVEN)
Another handicap which appears ignorant of the fact that power-hitters won’t enjoy any kind of customary/automatic advantage with the expected layout and conditions. Pick: Reed
Gary Woodland (-135) vs Jordan Spieth (+105)
Koepka hit a nadir in betting action a number of weeks ago and Spieth, a finesse player who should flourish on holes like the 175-yard Par-3 17th while Woodland is too-often putting for par and moving on, could be at the same point on the wave-pattern now. Pick: Spieth
Jason Day (-120) vs Tony Finau (-110)
This line doesn’t just ignore the shorter course, with its stretches of drive-and-flick Par-4 opportunities and 2-shot Par 5s negating Finau’s distance advantage. It also sets aside that the COVID-19 pause and long stretch of inactivity in 2020 hurts young players worse than veterans and helps perpetual health-scare cases like Day get to San Francisco in shape to complete 4 rounds at top form. Day’s vertigo won’t be exacerbated by wind or chilly weather unless the barometer changes rapidly during a round. Pick: Day
Prop Odds on the 2020 PGA Championship
Selected odds courtesy of Bovada, MyBookie, and FanDuel Sportsbook.
Winning Region: USA (-210) vs Europe (+250) vs World (+700)
Top U.S. Player: Justin Thomas (+600), Brooks Koepka (+700), Bryson DeChambeau (+1000), Various Odds on 75+ other entries
Top Canadian: Corey Connors (+175), Adam Hadwin (+210), MacKenzie Hughes (+250), Nick Taylor (+470)
Top Lefty: Phil Mickelson (+165), Bubba Watson (+185), Robert MacIntyre (+340), Brian Harman (+430)
FanDuel’s “country” props on the PGA are a riot, though it’s strange to see a market like “Top Lefty” among all of the non-gimmick lines available. Then again, country-props are themselves a gimmick, similar to “themed” USGA or PGA Tour groupings which can become geography lessons, inside jokes, or just plain silly and sarcastic on purpose. (More than once, 3 players known to be royal jerks on the course have found themselves frowning over putts together on the 1st green, at 10 AM Thursday morning.)
The “Europe (+250)” line might be (+600) if it wasn’t for Mr. Rory McIlroy and Mr. Jon Rahm, but the pair + company isn’t a bad wager at 2.5-to-1.
It’s with a heavy heart that WagerBop is recommending Bubba Watson’s (+185) market to beat Phil Mickelson, THE “Lefty” himself, and the other southpaws in the field. But it’s not a 3-balls market for 18 holes after all. Mickelson may play a “rabbit’s” tournament at Harding Park in which he’s -2 or -3 at some point on Friday, but fading away with high-70s or low-80s scores on the weekend as his putter betrays him on up-and-down efforts.
Meanwhile, even if Watson falters on tricky short-iron shots during the weekdays, he’ll make enough birdies to survive the cut line, and with little to lose, potentially dominate the short Par 5s to finish the tournament sniffing the top 15.
Expected wind and low-60s temperatures on the weekdays won’t make life any easier for Mickelson, who hits high country-club shots to the green with his irons. Bubba Watson hits his approaches high in the air too, but because he’ll have wedges or niblicks in-hand when not playing to upwind greens, his shots will have less time to be blown off target.
There should absolutely be a PGA professional futures-odds board in honor of the club professionals who run the “fine old championship,” as Big Jack likes to call it. The field of club pros has been halved to 20 qualifiers in recent years but that’s still enough for a Top Club Pro Performance prop-futures category. The closest thing would be MyBookie’s prop lines on various golf teachers in the field to hit the top 40 on Sunday afternoon, such as standout PGA’er (the other PGA) Alex Beach at (+1400) odds.
Jazz Janewattanond To Finish Top 10: (+5000)
MyBookie’s long-odds proposition bets on Jazz Janewattanond may take more explaining for some than for others. Jazz is an Asian and European Tour standout who has made several splashy debuts at PGA Tour events over the past several months. He has only ever played in 4 majors, missing the cut in 3 Open Championships but finishing a surprise 14th at the PGA in 2019, a big reason for the special prop odds from Costa Rica.
Does Jazz have a 50-to-1 chance to make the top 10 in 2020? Maybe, but probably no better than that. Like a lot of 20-something golfers, Janewattanond (I’ll be calling him Captain Janeway if he starts winning Green Jackets) is at his best competing on soft, forgiving PGA Tour layouts where the ball is as likely to bounce backward as forward, or on arduous torture-tracks such as ’19 PGA venue Bethpage Black, where 72 holes of energetic high-ball play can help overcome deficiencies vs a field of tiring veterans. Jazz was fine at the St. Jude Invitational this summer, but his +13 finish at The Memorial is a warning sign. Harding Park’s challenges will be nearer Big Jack’s iconic layout than Tillinghast’s.
Koepka, Thomas, DeChambeau, D. Johnson, Schauffele, Cantlay, Simpson, or Woods to Win (+140) vs Rest of Field (-200)
Bovada’s “celebrity pros vs the no-names” line includes some names that make the 1.4-to-1 payoff chance as tempting as a short-side flag in 9-iron range. “D. Johnson” is of course none other than Dustin Johnson, or The Cheetah, whose length off the tee and with high-lofted clubs could turn the municipal course’s “virtual” par into 68 for the Gretzky heir. Koepka is rounding into strong form as the 3 (not 4) 2020 majors approach. Patrick Cantlay and Webb Simpson together comprise at least as nice of a % winning chance as Tiger, despite the yawning gap in name-recognition.
There are 2 names left-off that make WagerBop shy-away from the (+140) market, though…Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.
Futures Odds and Weekend PGA Championship Betting Lines
Sunday Update (6 AM PST)
So we’re obligated to handicap Sunday morning’s futures lines (though payoff is no longer very far in the future) on a potential 2020 PGA Championship winner. However – call it a handicapper’s ethics – at a certain point in a golf tournament a ‘capper makes their final all-in pick and it feels like blatant cheating to change it once more rounds are played. If WagerBop’s 22-to-1 pick Justin Rose shoots a 64 to win, then our prediction was correct. If he shoots an 80 to finish T-45th, it was very wrong.
But some readers may be just finding this page now, or perhaps they didn’t get around to making any bets earlier this weekend. That means it’s only fair to re-handicap the Harding Park tournament and find the best gamble in the final round.
Just remember, our official “money down” pick is on Justin Rose and will be until he wins or loses.
Sunday morning leaderboard:
Dustin Johnson -9
Cameron Champ -8
Scottie Scheffler -8
Paul Casey -7
Brooks Koepka -7
Collin Morikawa -7
Daniel Berger -6
Tommy Fleetwood -6
Justin Rose -6
Jason Day -6
Odds from Bovada Sportsbook:
Dustin Johnson +285
Brooks Koepka +450
Collin Morikawa +1000
Cameron Champ +1100
Scottie Scheffler +1200
Bryson DeChambeau +1400
Paul Casey +1800
Daniel Berger +2000
Tommy Fleetwood +2000
Jason Day +2200
Justin Rose +2800
Tony Finau +2800
Xander Schauffele +4000
Dustin Johnson has got his putting stroke working consistently, and that’s a good-enough reason to tout DJ as a solid pick at 3-to-1. When Achilles has successful heel surgery, he’s no longer a bad wager to stand with.
But odds-makers could also be weighing strokes-under par too highly this morning. So many “birdie” and “bogey” holes litter the windy Harding Park links that 3 strokes is not too much of a margin to make up.
Was Justin Rose a solid wager at 22-to-1? Absolutely, and Jason Day may be an even-better pick at the same price. My recommendation is 3 units on Dustin Johnson and 1 unit each on Day and Rose prior to Sunday’s round.
Saturday Update (8 AM PST)
Haotong Li posted 1 of the most amazing rounds ever to lead a major championship on Friday, playing from the rough, sand, and scrub onto the green and going -8 for the tournament anyway. Justin Rose, WagerBop’s 54-hole pick to win the PGA, finished a similar scrambling round to stand at -6.
Is Li the next Walter Hagen? Tom Watson? Seve Ballesteros? Not according to Sin City, which still has the underdog at 16-to-1.
We’re sticking with our pick Rose who is now at (+1200) odds to win. A few lucky souls have bet slips with “Justin Rose +2200” on them…but only if they read WagerBop.
Saturday’s lines prior to afternoon tee-off:
Brooks Koepka +450
Tommy Fleetwood +800
Daniel Berger +900
Jason Day +1000
Justin Rose +1200
Dustin Johnson +1600
Haotong Li +1600
Xander Schauffele +1600
Paul Casey +2800
Brendon Todd +3300
Bryson DeChambeau +4000
Cameron Champ +4000
Hideki Matsuyama +4000
Rory McIlroy +4000
Jon Rahm +5000
Friday Update (1 AM PST):
Jason Day shot a 65 to co-lead the PGA after 1 round, no big surprise after so many months or preparation for Day to nurse his health and his form to 100%. 35-year-old Brendon Todd matched Day with a 5-under-par 18 holes. Tony Finau surprised this pundit with a cool 67 that puts him 1 shot behind a group at -4 which includes Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose, Xander Schauffele, and Martin Kaymer of Germany.
Tiger Woods shot a 2-under-par 68 to sit ahead of Dustin Johnson (-1) and Rory McIlroy (E) on the Harding Park leaderboard.
Friday morning’s futures odds at Bovada:
Brooks Koepka +450
Xander Schauffele +800
Jason Day +1000
Bryson DeChambeau +1400
Tiger Woods +1600
Brendon Todd +2000
Justin Rose +2200
Daniel Berger +2800
Jon Rahm +2800
Rory McIlroy +2800
Tony Finau +2800
Dustin Johnson +3300
Gary Woodland +3300
Adam Scott +4000
Justin Thomas +4000
Patrick Reed +4000
Scottie Scheffler +4000
Viktor Hovland +4000
Collin Morikawa +5000
Shane Lowry +5000
Wiseguys will be looking for golfers who shot average scores on Thursday but could contend on Sunday afternoon, with the scenario granting nice long odds if only temporarily. The betting tactic could be even more advantageous if Harding Park proves resistant to a winner getting below 10 under par. However, weather should be stable if breezy throughout the weekend.
McIlroy is a strange wager at nearly 30-to-1, a proven winner who was “wayward” (in The Guardian’s words) on his front 9 but soon birdied 3 out of 4 holes to get under par in midst of the back 9 on Thursday. Sunday’s winner will be in the fairway often, taking short approach shots at Harding Park’s complex greens. Wee Mac must prove he can return to elite form with the driver in hand, and a major tournament is a tough scenario in which to make swing improvements.
Woods’ lines are as inflated by recreational gambling as tempered by bookmakers’ skepticism of older athletes with injury problems. If you’re going to bet on Tiger to win the PGA in 2020, though, now is the time to do it. The course’s length does not overtax 40-something players. Woods is a devoted student of playing in the wind, and he’s got better than a 1-in-16 chance this week.
The best bet on the board prior to Friday’s round is Justin Rose at longer than 20-to-1 odds. Why would a guy with about 30 worldwide wins, 2 recent runner-up finishes in majors, and a legacy of scoring well in all conditions be handicapped with less than a 1-in-20 shot to win, given a nice head-start on most of the field with 54 holes to play? Again, if the venue was a Crooked Stick or a Bethpage on which young power-hitters have a built-in advantage, that’d be different. But we’re talking about a weekend in which finesse and experience could be everything, and Rose appears to be the forgotten man on the leaderboard who could quietly, methodically win a Wanamaker.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.