It feels like ages since the last major when Scottie Scheffler ran away with the green jacket at Augusta National, but we're now stepping into the heart of major season with this week's PGA Championship.
Southern Hills Country Club is the host for the 2022 iteration of the PGA Championship. The course has hosted seven majors (four PGA Championships and three U.S. Opens). The most recent majors -- and the only since 1995 -- were the 2001 U.S. Open and the 2007 PGA Championship, so we don't have much to go off of in the way of event history for this year's field. There also is no ShotLink data from the 2007 PGA.
What might that mean for this week, then?
Let's dig into the course, the key stats, the win simulations, and the best bets of the week.
You can jump ahead to any specific section of the piece you would like.
Southern Hills Country Club Course Info & Key Stats
Distance: 7,556 (long: ~330 yards longer than the average par 70)
Fairway Acres/Yard: 7.8 (wide: PGA average is 4.1)
Average Green Size: 5,047 square feet (small: ~84% of PGA average)
Green Type: Bentgrass
Past Winning Scores: -8 (2007 PGA Championship), -4 (2001 U.S. Open)
Past Cut Lines: +5 (2007 PGA Championship), +6 (2001 U.S. Open)
Key Stats (in Order of Importance): Strokes Gained: Approach, Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, Strokes Gained: Around the Green, Strokes Gained: Putting, Birdie or Better Rate
Since we last saw Southern Hills host in 2007, the course has undergone a renovation (in 2018 by Gil Hanse). The 1936 design by Perry Maxwell has been updated to be major-championship-ready.
Hanse tried to strike a balance between updating the course and keeping its original design at heart. Specifically, then, he and his team targeted the greens and aimed to honor the slope at the edges of the greens.
"You get anywhere near the edge and your ball is going off instead of being funneled back on the green," said Hanse. Unreceptive greens will lead to extra shots for those who aren't precise with their irons -- or even their wedges if they can't control their spin. The removal of rough in favor of short grass near the greens will make this course play significantly different than it did in 2001 and 2007.
Speaking of the greens, they're tiny, and the renovation included hydronic tubing to ensure that the greens can stay firm.
While it's long (the longest par 70 in my database by a wide margin), the true test likely won't be off the tee (fairways are wide) but rather with irons and wedges.
Golfers With Great Course/Event History
I will not be factoring in the 2007 PGA Championship this week.
Here are the most likely winners this week, according to my win simulation model, as well as their FanDuel Sportsbook win odds.
Win Simulation Analysis and Best Bets
Starting at the top, Jon Rahm (+1200) is a co-favorite with Scottie Scheffler (+1200), but if you rely on the sample I use (the past year, weighted for field strength and recency), Rahm still wins out over Scheffler and deserves to be the true favorite. That said, if we scrutinize Rahm, we'll see some weaker around-the-green and putting stats than are typical for him. I don't change the numbers to fit any narratives here. Rahm is still worth a long look even if he's losing a lot of public luster.
In the second tier, I'm most drawn to Justin Thomas (+1600). Thomas has the iron and wedge game that seems to be vital for Southern Hills, and the putting weakness shouldn't matter quite so much so long as he's using the tee-to-green play to score and save par.
Patrick Cantlay (+1900) has shortened from +2200 over the weekend, and there's still value there. Cantlay, in my database, is the second-best long-term golfer in the field behind only Rahm; he just isn't as volatile as Rahm, so the win odds take a step back. That said, point me to a weakness in Cantlay's game. You can't.
Xander Schauffele (+2600) also shortened from +2900 after a strong showing at the AT&T Byron Nelson, a birdie-fest that doesn't really suit Xander's game. Schauffele has some win issues, sure, but he's been great at majors in his career.
Shane Lowry (+2900), once more, is a golfer I'm targeting whose odds shortened (he was +3300 over the weekend). Lowry has the game to stick irons close and get up-and-down with wedges. It's a great recipe.
Given that it's a major, I'm limiting my "long shots" to golfers with some realistic win odds. Ones I'm considering still for outright are Sam Burns (+4200), Max Homa (+5000, down from +6500), and Daniel Berger (+5000, also down from +6500).
My main plays at the top will be Thomas, Cantlay, Lowry, and Schauffele.
Daily Fantasy Golfer Picks for the PGA Championship
All stats cited below originate at FantasyNational. Strokes gained data includes stats from the past calendar year and is adjusted based on my field strength and recency tweaks. Putting surface splits also come from FantasyNational and include the past 50 rounds when possible -- unless noted. All ranks and percentile ranks are among the field. References to my combo model refer to a combination of long-term, field-adjusted form, key stat performance, and hole-by-hole-level strokes gained data.
Best of the Best
Scottie Scheffler (FanDuel Salary: $12,000 | FanDuel Sportsbook Win Odds: +1200) - You won't sneak up on anyone by rostering the world's top-ranked golfer, but with his complete game and a major win out of the way, Scheffler is wide open to pick apart Southern Hills. Scheffler shot an "easy 64" here in a practice round. Scheffler is very deserving of the top salary this week.
Justin Thomas ($11,700 | +1600) - In looking for great tee-to-green performances, Thomas sits atop the field. He has recorded an 80th-percentile outcome in adjusted strokes gained: tee to green in 68.8% of his events over the past year, a field-best mark. Weighting in putting spike weeks (a stat in which he's average against the others with a salary above $10,000), he trails only Rory McIlroy ($11,800) in my adjusted spike week rate stat. Thomas -- even if you remove his strength off the tee -- ranks in the 96th percentile in adjusted strokes gained: fairway through green. Thomas has made 20 of 25 cuts at majors with 14 top-25s and 6 top-10s.
Patrick Cantlay ($11,200 | +1900) - Patrick Cantlay is a real standout this week at $11,200. He's a 97th-percentile bentgrass putter and a 99th-percentile golfer in adjusted strokes gained: fairway through green. He can scramble and get out of trouble with the best of them. He's 17 of 20 in making cuts ag majors with 8 top-25s.
Xander Schauffele ($10,900 | +2600) - A usual mainstay in my major analysis, Schauffele is available to roster at a sub-$11,000 salary. Presumably, that'll lead to a lot of popularity -- especially after a strong finish at the AT&T Byron Nelson -- but if looking for major consistency, Schauffele generally has it. He has two missed cuts in his past four majors but has, in total, made 16 of 19 major cuts with 12 top-25s and 9 top-10s.
Shane Lowry ($10,700 | +2900) - A former major winner, Lowry is 22 of 35 with cuts at majors, including five top-25s in his past six majors (not even including his Open Championship win from 2019). Lowry is a 99th-percentile option in adjusted strokes gained: fairway through green and in bogey avoidance. With tough conditions expected this week, Lowry is a pretty enticing option.
Sam Burns ($10,400 | +4200) - Burns has a major-ready game for sure. He has distance (85th percentile), irons (90th), wedges (83rd), and putting (83rd-percentile expected putting and 95th-percentile actual putting). The major history is still scarce (three missed cuts and no top-25s in six total starts), but that's not really indicative of what is to come for Burns.
Corey Conners ($9,800 | +5000) - There aren't many better options available if you want precision both off the tee and to hit small greens. Conners ranks in the 97th percentile in adjusted off the tee play and in the 79th percentile in adjusted iron play. He'll have to overcome 29th-percentile adjusted strokes gained: around the green. Conners was T17 at last year's PGA Championship, his fifth top-25 result in 13 major starts.
Max Homa ($9,800 | +5000) - Homa will need to overcome his major woes (seven missed cuts in 10 starts with a top result of T40 at last year's Open Championship), but it's hard to argue the form and upside that he offers when he's on. Using my weighted spike week metric, Homa ranks 15th in the field over the past year. We're getting 92nd-percentile adjusted ball-striking from him.
Talor Gooch ($9,500 | +10000) - Gooch rates in the 93rd percentile in adjusted strokes gained: fairway through green, and it's not like he's short (66th percentile), either. Gooch should give us average putting with steady stats tee to green and has had a spike week in 47.6% of his events the past year in adjusted strokes gained: tee to green. He's also made four of five cuts in major starts while finishing T14 at the Masters in April.
Billy Horschel ($9,100 | +8000) - Horschel will have to overcome a lack of driving distance (12th percentile) but has the other tools to play well at Southern Hills. He ranks in the 84th percentile in adjusted strokes gained: fairway through green including 94th-percentile adjusted short game. Horschel is an 88th-percentile scrambler and has 74th-percentile results out of the sand. He's also one of the best close-range putters in the field, so par saves should be more likely than we'll get with other value golfers.
Russell Henley ($8,700 | +10000) - Henley is the ideal candidate for a course where we're looking for strokes gained from fairway through green. He ranks in the 97th percentile in adjusted strokes gained: approach and in the 77th percentile in adjusted strokes gained: around the green. Henley also has had a spike week in adjusted tee-to-green play in 60% of his measured events over the past year. Nobody else below $9,000 has better than a 47.0% rate. He's made 20 of 29 cuts in majors with 9 top-25 results but no top-10s.
Seamus Power ($8,600 | +10000) - Power is a great statistical fit for Southern Hills so long as the irons are there. He's a phenomenal putter from within 15 feet (99th percentile in the field) and has a penchant for getting up and down (82nd percentile in scrambling). The long-term form suggests he's a bit undervalued at $8,600. This is actually just the second major for the 35-year-old Power after a T27 at the Masters in April.
Alexander Noren ($8,500 | +10000) - Noren is always a tough nut for me to crack. Statistically, he's a bit limited because he's not a ball-striking standout (63rd percentile) but has a pristine short game (92nd percentile). He's a great putter from within 15 feet (94th percentile). He's no stranger to majors (30 starts) but has just 17 made cuts. It's a good setup for him, however, to provide value at $8,500.
Cameron Young ($8,200 | +6500) - Young is a standout based on the betting odds versus his salary. He's one of two golfers with a sub-$9,000 salary with win odds better than 100/1. Young has missed all three cuts at majors in his carer but is still only 25 years old. His distance (97th percentile) should be a plus, and his irons put him in the 57th percentile in a tough field. The scrambling (95th) and putting from 5 to 10 feet (92nd percentile) suggest the right profile for saving par at a very tough setup.
Sebastian Munoz ($8,000 | +12000) - With Munoz's hot start at the AT&T Byron Nelson, he's bound to draw some attention, but the reality is that no value golfer is ever really "the chalk." Is it an overreaction to target Munoz? No. He's a very balanced golfer who ranks above the field median in all three adjusted tee-to-green stats as well as the 72nd percentile overall in adjusted tee to green strokes gained over the past year. He's also got above-average spike potential in the tee-to-green department.
Oliver Bekker ($7,000 | +42000) - I just want to note that Bekker is inside the top 100 in the OWGR (89th) and has 7 top-11 finishes in 11 DP World Tour starts this year. The 37-year-old has just one major (a missed cut at the 2017 U.S. Open) but rates out pretty well in datagolf's true strokes gained metric in recent rounds.