After 13 long months, it's finally time to talk about a major championship.
TPC Harding Park plays host to this week's PGA Championship, the first major played since Shane Lowry won The Open last July. It's the first time that the San Francisco venue will host a major, and the first PGA Tour event there since 2015.
Brooks Koepka will look to make history by winning the tournament for the third straight year, while Tiger Woods makes just his second start since February. But the field of 156 runs deeper than just the biggest names on the board.
Here are some players and wagers to consider this week with the Wanamaker Trophy once again up for grabs:
To Win (odds via Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)
Xander Schauffele (20/1)
This feels like it could be his week. After a number of close calls in majors, including runner-up finishes at the 2018 Open and 2019 Masters, Schauffele heads into another big test with his game in a good place. He ranks sixth on Tour this season in strokes gained: tee-to-green and is coming off a T-6 finish in Memphis despite an uncharacteristically loose week with his irons (74th out of 78 players in strokes gained: approach). He’s likely to bounce back this week in his native California and seems to be flying under the radar despite five top-20 finishes in six starts since the Tour resumed competition. He’s had a number of close calls in recent months, including a playoff loss in Kapalua and a T-3 finish at Colonial, but knows how to win on a big stage and is overdue for a breakthrough.
Webb Simpson (25/1)
Simpson opened at 40/1 in March, but his price dropped after his victory at the RBC Heritage in June. But at 25/1 he’s still worth a stab given his major pedigree and the fact that, at age 34, he’s playing the best golf of his career. Simpson ranks inside the top 20 in four of the Tour’s six major strokes gained categories and has proven over the last 15 months that he can compete at an elite level without challenging the game’s longest hitters off the tee. He’s added a pair of top-12 finishes since his win at Harbour Town, including last week, and should have plenty of good vibes given that the Olympic Club (site of his 2012 U.S. Open triumph) is visible across the lake from the back nine at Harding Park.
Jason Day (40/1)
The former world No. 1 appears to have turned a corner. It’s now three straight top-10 finishes for Day, the last coming after he announced a split from longtime swing coach and mentor Col Swatton, after the Aussie had only one such result in the previous 12 months. Day was the best player in the world when he won this event five years ago at Whistling Straits, and he has spent much of the time since among the pre-tournament favorites at majors. But now he’s slotted firmly in the middle of the pack given his lean season up until last month, and that creates an appetizing price for a player who understands what it takes to close out a major and one who has been known to go on streaks of sustained success at various points in his career.
Top-5/Top-10 finshes (odds via DraftKings)
Tony Finau (+900 top 5, +450 top 10)
If you’re looking for a player who seems likely to contend but who doesn’t instill a ton of faith about closing out a victory, Finau’s name will quickly bubble to the top of the list. The American has racked up 30 top-10 finishes since 2017, all without a single victory. That stockpile has included a prominent run in the majors, as Finau has five top-10s in his last eight major starts. His recent close call at the Memorial prompted a caddie change, but he finished T-3 in Minnesota in his very next start with his swing coach on the bag. Now in his second week with veteran looper Mark Urbanek, Finau can lean on his prodigious length off the tee on a long course that should play even longer in the anticipated chilly and damp conditions. He may not win this week, but getting almost 5-to-1 on a top-10 seems too good to pass up.
Adam Scott (+1200 top 5, +600 top 10)
Hey, remember him? While many of his peers have played a half dozen or more tournaments in the last two months, Scott hasn’t teed it up competitively since The Players got wiped out in March. But he’s been playing plenty of recreational rounds, spending much of the quarantine in his native Australia, and his victory earlier this year at Riviera after two months off showed that a prolonged break doesn’t necessarily hinder him out of the gates. Scott turned 40 last month and may face a sense of urgency to add an elusive second major title, but he has cracked the top 10 in three of his last five major starts. That includes each of the last two PGA Championships (third in 2018, T-8 in 2019). Scott’s weakness has long been putting, but it may be somewhat neutralized on putting surfaces that could prove fickle in the late afternoon conditions.
Matt Wallace (+2800 top 5, +1200 top 10)
Wallace may not be well-known to many casual fans, but he finished third at this event a year ago and has shown just enough recent form to warrant consideration of a repeat. Wallace nearly crashed the 2018 European Ryder Cup team with a three-win season that seemingly came out of nowhere, and he has followed it up with solid play in U.S. majors: T-19 at the 2018 PGA and T-12 at last year’s U.S. Open to go along with his T-3 at Bethpage. Wallace is brash and unapologetically confident, traits that often bode well when seeking players who might out-perform their consensus trajectory on a big stage. While some Europeans have been slow to return to competition, Wallace has played seven out of the last eight weeks and has made four cuts in a row, finishing T-12 in Detroit and T-4 at the Memorial. The short game acumen he displayed at Muirfield Village could go a long way this week in San Francisco, and a sprinkle on a top-20 finish at around 5-to-1 odds has ample appeal.
Tournament head-to-head matchups (odds via Caesars Entertainment)
It’s always nice to back the guy with a major trophy currently sitting on his dresser, and Harding Park should fit the Irishman’s eye. Lowry has had success at other brawny, tree-lined courses, namely Firestone (where he won in 2015), Oakmont (T-2 at the 2016 U.S. Open) and Torrey Pines. He also enters off a T-6 finish in Memphis, where he closed with a bogey-free 67. English has been one of the better stories of the season, a resurgent campaign that includes several top-20 finishes, but his major record leaves plenty to be desired. In 15 starts he only has one top-35 finish, and he’s never finished better than T-48 in four prior trips to the PGA.
This is less of an endorsement of the Ice Man as a fade of Im. The Korean ironman has been one of the players most negatively affected by the break, as it seemingly stunted the momentum he garnered with a breakthrough win at the Honda and third-place showing at Bay Hill. Im had five straight finishes outside the top 50 before a middling T-35 result last week, but even he ranked 73rd out of 78 players in strokes gained: approach. Iron play is typically his strongest asset, and his recent slump means there is value on the underdog here as Stenson has missed just one cut in his last 10 major starts.
This is a situation where two talented veterans have gone in opposite directions since returning from the break. Garcia has a T-5 finish at Harbour Town among four straight top-35 results, and last week in Memphis he ranked second in the field in strokes gained: off the tee. That bodes well this week on a course where most players will need to lean on the driver to contend. Leishman won at Torrey Pines and finished second at Bay Hill in the early part of the year, but he hasn’t been the same player in recent weeks with T-40 at Memorial his best result in five starts. Last week in Memphis he finished near the bottom of the pack in ball-striking, and it won’t get any easier on a more narrow and penal layout this week.