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PGA Championship odds, preview, and course notes

Profile Picture: Ashley Anderson

May 19th, 2021

The last time Rory McIlroy played Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, he set a PGA Championship record with an eight-stroke margin of victory.

McIlroy’s dominant performance handed him his second career major title (and first of two at the PGA Championship). He went on to triumph in the 2014 Open Championship, and hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy again at Valhalla Golf Club that year.

Since then, McIlroy has endured a major drought, but on Thursday, the No. 7 player in the world will enter the 2021 PGA Championship as the tournament favorite (+1100), due to his recent surge on the PGA Tour. 

PGA Championship 2021

Sun, May 23 2021, 8:00 PM

McIlroy, Rory

+1100

Rahm, Jon

+1400

Thomas, Justin

+1400

Spieth, Jordan

+1400

DeChambeau, Bryson

+1600

Johnson, Dustin

+1600

Schauffele, Xander

+1600

Hovland, Viktor

+1800

Berger, Daniel

+2500

Morikawa, Collin

+2800

The 32-year-old rebounded from back-to-back missed cuts at The Players Championship and the Masters to celebrate a win at the Wells Fargo Championship in early May.

He will attempt to tie Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen with three PGA Championship victories, which would place him two behind Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen's record of five.

The last player to earn his third PGA Championship title was Tiger Woods in 2006.

In the past decade, six winners at this tournament secured their only major championship to date, while McIlroy and Brooks Koepka (+4500) won the event twice in that span.

Also of note in this year's edition, Jordan Spieth (+1400) could finally obtain the missing piece to a career Grand Slam. Like McIlroy, Spieth recently pulled himself out of a rut when he won the Valero Texas Open. It was Spieth's first PGA Tour win since claiming the 2017 Open Championship.

Kiawah Island's Ocean Course layout and relevant statistics

For the second time in the PGA Championship's 105-year run, a 156-player field will confront Kiawah Island's Ocean Course, a coastal layout with a view of the Atlantic Ocean from every hole.

Last time, the Pete and Alice Dye design stretched 200 yards shorter than this year's layout, which measures 7,876 yards — the longest major championship setup in history. 

The par-72 course features 11 par 4s, ranging from 390 to 579 yards, four par 3s, between 197 and 238 yards, and three par 5s, from 557 to 593 yards.

Putting surfaces, comprised of Paspalum, average 6,000 square feet, and Bermuda rough is over-seeded with ryegrass, up to three inches.

Fairways are wide and blanketed by Paspalum, as well, while 30 acres of sand run in front of, behind, or along most holes.

An already difficult course, players should face an even steeper test this weekend, with double-digit wind speeds in the forecast for Thursday, Friday, and Sunday.

Best bets for 2021 PGA Championship

When McIlroy won this event at Kiawah Island, he ranked first in driving distance and scrambling, fourth in birdie or better percentage, ninth in three-putt avoidance, and 13th in greens in regulation. 

Keeping these statistics in mind, along with strokes gained approaching the green and strokes gained off the tee, should help narrow down a few contenders.

One player we pegged for a top finish at the AT&T Byron Nelson last week was Daniel Berger (+2500), who landed third at the Texas tournament.

The 28-year-old has one win this season, at Pebble Beach, and finished ninth at The Players at TPC Sawgrass, another Pete Dye design.

Berger ranks third on Tour in birdie or better percentage and par-3 scoring, fifth in par-4 scoring, 18th in strokes gained approaching the green, and is tied for 24th in strokes gained off the tee.

He also fits a few important trends related to the last 10 PGA Championships.

Eight of the past 10 winners were in their 20s, ranked in the top 25 of the Official World Golf Ranking (Berger is 16th), and won a stroke-play event earlier in the season.

Nine of the past 10 champions also posted a top-20 in one of their two starts prior to the PGA Championship.

In addition to Berger's top-three finish last week, he also placed 13th at the RBC Heritage in his other recent start.

For a longer shot to climb the leaderboard, look to 22-year-old Joaquin Niemann (+6600), who came in 18th in his most recent PGA Tour appearance at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Before that tournament, he finished eighth at the Valspar Championship and was runner-up in both the Sentry Tournament of Champions and Sony Open in Hawaii earlier this season.

Niemann ranks eighth on Tour in driving distance, 10th in strokes gained off the tee, and 34th in strokes gained approaching the green.

How to watch the 2021 PGA Championship

The purse for the PGA Championship is expected to match last year's at $11 million. Collin Morikawa took home $1.98 million for his win at TPC Harding Park in 2020.

The 2021 champion will also collect the famed Wanamaker Trophy and 600 FedEx Cup points.

You can catch all the action Thursday and Friday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET on ESPN+, and from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. CBS will provide coverage from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET. on Saturday and Sunday.

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