Picks and Tips: Looking Ahead to Kiawah Island

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Patrick McDonald
·6 min read
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With The Masters having just wrapped up, another major championship may be the last thing on your mind. But before you know it, you’ll blink and the 2021 PGA Championship will be at your doorstep. Only five tournaments separate us from the year’s second major. This window of time presents a great opportunity to buy low on a particular player (or players) that you believe may peak come the week of May 20-23.

The PGA will take place at Kiawah Island in South Carolina. Last seen in 2012, when Rory McIlroy lapped the field for the first of his two PGA Championships, the Ocean Course is an absolute beast of a golf course. McIlroy was able to overcome many obstacles along the way, including hitting his tee shot on the 3rd hole of his final round into a tree. He would go on to save par and win his first PGA Championship over the likes of David Lynn and Carl Pettersson.

A Pete Dye design, the Ocean Course plays to a par-72, stretching out to nearly 7,700 yards. That’s pretty long, even for the world’s best. This means that length will most certainly be a factor. Combine that with the ocean “breeze” coming off the Atlantic Ocean which borders the property and these players could be in for a rude awakening. In 2012, wind played a major role in the championship and it is likely that it will again nine years later.

Oddsmakers at PointsBet Sportsbook have already priced up the favorites for the PGA, with Dustin Johnson (+1000) leading the way despite missing the cut at the Masters. Defending champ Collin Morikawa is listed at +2200, while Hideki Matsuyama is listed at +2500 after capturing his first career major at the Masters.

There will be a slew of storylines heading into the PGA. Can Jordan Spieth complete the career Grand Slam? Will two-time winner Brooks Koepka even be in attendance? Will the Ocean Course bring McIlroy back to his former self? How will Matsuyama follow his green jacket triumph? Can another first-time major winner breakthrough? All of these provide intrigue from a viewing perspective, but I’m more concerned with the betting perspective.

Odds to win the PGA Championship (via PointsBet)

+1000: Dustin Johnson

+1100: Jon Rahm

+1200: Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas

+1400: Rory McIlroy

+1600: Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele

+2200: Collin Morikawa

+2500: Hideki Matsuyama

+2800: Daniel Berger, Patrick Cantlay

+3000: Viktor Hovland, Webb Simpson

+3300: Patrick Reed, Tommy Fleetwood, Tony Finau, Tyrrell Hatton

+4000: Harris English, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Scottie Scheffler

+5000: Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Fitzpatrick, Matthew Wolff, Paul Casey, Will Zalatoris

My strategy for a futures bet is to find someone a bit further down the odds board who I think will perform well in the upcoming weeks. With that in mind, I’ll be forgoing those listed above. Of the bunch, Will Zalatoris provides the most thought and rightfully so. You can’t go wrong with Zalatoris, who just finished second in his Masters debut, but I would act quickly. Zalatoris’ odds of +5000 could be long gone before the week’s end as a win at the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town, another Pete Dye design, is not out of the realm of possibilities. Instead, I’ll be going with a man who I believe is extremely undervalued and should continue to trend in the right direction heading into next month's PGA.

To Win (Odds via PointsBet)

Jason Kokrak (+12500): The 36th-ranked player in the world is playing some of the best golf of his career. He’s long off the tee, precise with his irons, and most recently, he’s become a wizard with the flat stick. While those of you who were on Kokrak at the Masters may still have a sour taste in your mouth from his 49th-place performance, I implore you to move past his struggles at Augusta National.

My interest in Kokrak is two-fold. The first being the upcoming schedule and his history in these particular events. For the first time in nearly a decade, Kokrak will not be playing at Harbour Town Golf Links this upcoming week. While it would be nice to see Kokrak play another Pete Dye design, we can take solace in the fact that he’s gained in approach in his last eight appearances at Harbour Town. It is also likely that Kokrak will skip the Zurich Classic as he currently is not committed and without a teammate, which is required for the event. That leaves us with the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook the week of April 29th.

Kokrak should be a serious contender at the Valspar. It was here in 2019 where Kokrak finished runner-up to Paul Casey by one shot. That was just one of his quality starts at Innisbrook, as others include a T-8 in 2018, a T-7 in 2015, and a T-14 in 2014. Couple his affinity for the Copperhead with his current form and another run at the Valspar is all but certain.

After the Valspar, it is likely Kokrak plays in the Wells Fargo Championship, before taking a week off to prepare for the PGA Championship. He hasn’t had much success at Quail Hollow, but most of those struggles can be attributed to a less than cooperative putter, an old weakness that Kokrak has since turned into a strength.

This is where we move into the second part of the equation and why I like him for the PGA and that is simply the state of his game. Kokrak had a phenomenal Florida swing, which included three top-10 finishes in three starts. A T-8 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational was sandwiched by T-9 finishes at both the WGC Workday Championship and The Players. Some of those fields, specifically The Players, may arguably be stronger than what we are going to see at the PGA.

Kokrak gained strokes tee-to-green in each of those starts and followed them up with a solid performance at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club, another Pete Dye design. The main concern for Kokrak is typically his short game, but outside of The PLAYERS Championship, it has held its own as of late. In theory, his game should fit the Ocean Course like a glove. And if all goes to plan and Kokrak contends in a tournament before the PGA, his odds at +12500 will seem like a bargain.

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