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Bolton: Target proven ball-strikers for fast starts at Valhalla

6 Min Read

Golfbet News


    Written by Rob Bolton @RobBoltonGolf

    The PGA Championship isn’t just any ol’ tournament, but it’s just another tournament.

    Our perspective as fans and bettors really isn’t that different in the context of what we get out of our investment in the second major of the season. Rather, the biggest change is in the coverage at Valhalla Golf Club. As it should be. The more information, the better, at least in theory, but our objectives are the same. Enjoy the golf and hopefully hit paydirt.

    To that end, it’s just golf and what got them there. Dismissing the 20 PGA Professionals for whom it can be a career goal to play in at least one PGA Championship, once the first tee ball is aloft on Thursday, it’s just another golf tournament. Hit it, find it, hit it again. Add up the scores at the end.

    In between the first tee ball and the rush for a few at the Wanamaker Trophy, it’s the skill set that matters most. And when a course is largely unfamiliar, as Valhalla is, the pacesetters typically are proven ball-strikers. To be certain, the world’s best talents are quick to get a feel for how the greens roll, but they can hit full shots everywhere and put themselves into position to score.

    Focus on this subset of the competition for considerations for the first-round leader and longer outrights among the proven.


    As promised in the Power Rankings, there’s a disruption on the horizon, and that doesn’t include the complications caused by uncooperative conditions early in the week.

    Thursday’s opening round still promises the most brilliant backdrop. Calm and clear air is expected, so keep an ear to the ground for how later starters categorize the speed of the greens. After what could be a soft start, they will dry and probably quicken.

    The uncertainty enters midday on Friday when a very good chance for a delay is possible due to lightning and storms. If that happens, the second round will bleed into Saturday morning, which isn’t necessarily the worst thing for guys sweating the cut in a major (low 70 and ties). Still, the late-early draw figures to finish on time, so the mindset for the 78 in it will be to post and rest.

    Things eventually simmer down by Sunday’s scheduled conclusion when the course should battle back from any early exploitations due to the rain and absence of challenging wind.

    Power Rankings wild card

    Patrick Cantlay (+160 = Top 20) … He has us right where we want him. Only one top 20 (T3, RBC Heritage) in his last six starts but all of the last four were top 30s. Sure, when expectations are so high, it’s easy to wonder what’s wrong, but he’s not as far off as it feels. He’s cashed in 15 straight thanks in part to leading the PGA TOUR in fewest putts on average in the opening round. There’s also the obvious factor that this is a major, but he’s connected for 10 top 20s in 25 starts in the series as a professional.

    Other notables

    Matt Fitzpatrick (+250 = Top 20) … Pure and simple, he’s been better since adding length off the tee in advance of his U.S. Open victory two years ago. The thing is, ever since leaving Northwestern University after just one semester, the Englishman has been on a steady and sturdy climb as a professional, so he’s continued to reinvent where and when needed. After just four top 20s in six years playing the majors full-time, he’s recorded five top 20s in his last nine starts in the series.

    Sam Burns (+240 = Top 20) … The Nappy Factor is an enigma but it’s real. The education is in the aggregate. See it enough times and you’ll understand. Some guys thrive while they nest, while others are erratic amid the unknown. As it concerns this first-time father, he scuffled across his last five starts before his son was born, and then rose for a front-loaded T13 at the Wells Fargo Championship. His talent is proven, so the timing of the arrival couldn’t be better for him to get back on track with singular focus. The rub is that he’s had only one top 20 in 14 career starts in the majors (T20, 2022 PGA Championship).

    Tommy Fleetwood (+150 = Top 20) … I took a long look at him at +320 for a top 10 but the conservative in me prefer this much more than the stretch. Run back nine majors and he’s logged five top 10s and another two top 20s – thus the consideration for the forward lean – but given that his short game will be pressured, he presents as an against-the-grain profile for the test. He’s also below average in par-5 scoring relative to the field. However, revisit the top-10 market when the cut falls and consider a unit on that if he’s lurking. With scoring projected to rise on the weekend, his value will as well.

    Jordan Spieth (+180 = Miss the Cut) … It wouldn’t be a complete preview if his eighth attempt to achieve the career Grand Slam went overlooked. Unfortunately, he’s not in the kind of form that excites the senses what with four missed cuts in his last seven starts. On paper, he looks pretty good but there are regressions in his short game and general consistency, thus the middling results. Like Fleetwood above, Spieth also has not been doing damage on par 5s. And while it’s 10 years ago, it’s still a fact that his last missed cut in the PGA Championship was at Valhalla.

    Jordan Spieth on chance to achieve career Grand Slam


    NOTE: Not everything needs a setup. For a variety of reasons, these lines are too enticing to ignore.

    • PARLAY: Si Woo Kim, Shane Lowry and Sepp Straka (+180 = All to Make the Cut)
    • PARLAY: Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele (+900 = Both Finish in Top 10)
    • PARLAY: Chris Kirk and Sahith Theegala (+1600 = Both Finish in Top 20)
    • Keegan Bradley (+150 = Top 40)
    • Corey Conners (+240 = Top Canadian)
    • Thomas Detry (+200 = Top 40)
    • Rickie Fowler (+125 = Miss the Cut)
    • Alex Noren (+320 = Top 20)
    • Patrick Reed (+125 = Top 40)
    • Erik van Rooyen (+350 = Top South African)
    • Matt Wallace (+225 = Top 40)

    Returning to competition

    Hideki Matsuyama (+200 = Top 20) … Although he’s been a worry for neck and back soreness for as long as he’s been contributing, his early exit from last week’s Wells Fargo Championship was his first since the opening leg of the 2022 FedExCup Playoffs. That aside, he’s performed really well this season with a string of four straight top-12 finishes launched by a victory at The Genesis Invitational. He’s never missed a cut in 11 tries in the PGA Championship, so he’s a gamer in whom we should believe in a timely upswing, especially for double the investment for this finish.

    Notable WDs

    Taylor Montgomery … To those watching closely, it might be surprising to learn that this is his first early withdrawal of the season. That’s because he withdrew during the Valero Texas Open and THE CJ CUP Byron Nelson around missing the cut at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. No news has surfaced to explain his need to rest. So, after a strong start to 2024 that includes three top 15s, he’s gone 0-for-5. Still 84th in the FedExCup while leading the PGA TOUR in both Strokes Gained: Putting and conversion percentage inside 10 feet, the sophomore can be patient in determining his schedule moving forward.

    Steve Stricker … He telegraphed early during last week’s Regions Tradition on the PGA TOUR Champions that he was leaning against pegging it at Valhalla. This will give him a week to rest ahead of the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. He qualified for the PGA Championship via his victory at the 2023 Senior PGA Championship.

    For resources to overcome a gambling problem, call or text 1-800-GAMBLER today.

    Rob Bolton is a Golfbet columnist for the PGA TOUR. The Chicagoland native has been playing fantasy golf since 1994, so he was just waiting for the Internet to catch up with him. Follow Rob Bolton on Twitter.

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