Steady Scottie Scheffler sits perfectly poised at PGA Championship
6 Min Read
Written by Ben Everill @BEverillGolfbet
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Pre-tournament betting favorite Scottie Scheffler justified his position during the opening round of the PGA Championship.
Scheffler produced a bogey-free 3-under 67 at Oak Hill Country Club to move from the +750 favorite to +275 with BetMGM when play was suspended for darkness after an earlier frost delay.
The PLAYERS champion wasn’t the lowest score in the clubhouse with that honor instead going to former U.S. Open winner Bryson DeChambeau (66) while PGA TOUR rookie Eric Cole sat 5-under through 14 holes when forced off the course.
With three rounds to go here are the updated odds to win the PGA Championship (via BetMGM Sportsbook).
+275: Scottie Scheffler (-3, T3)
+700: Dustin Johnson (-3, T3)
+1100: Bryson DeChambeau (-4, 2nd)
+1200: Viktor Hovland (-2, T6)
+1400: Corey Conners (-2, T6)
+2000: Rory McIlroy (+1, T27)
+2500: Adam Scott (-2, T6)
+2500: Keegan Bradley (-2, T6)
+3300: Colin Morikawa (+1, T27)
+3300: Eric Cole (-5 through 14, 1st)
Here’s a look at some of the players I’m looking to back (and oppose) after seeing them in action on day one in upstate New York.
Golfbet Action Report: Friday preview from the PGA Championship
SCOTTIE SCHEFFLER (+275 to win, -3 T3)
Full disclosure… I hate these odds… but I understand them. Scheffler made golf look easy on a tough Oak Hill on Thursday and that was without his best stuff.
One of only three players to be bogey-free in the opening round, and the other two still have holes to play, Scheffler played “boring” but smart golf and plotted his way toward the top of the leaderboard.
He hit just eight of 14 fairways and 11 of 18 greens yet was seven from seven in scrambling. Normally you might look to fade a player who was scratchy like this but Scheffler still ranked 14th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach and importantly was 28th in SG: Putting.
“I feel like my game is better suited for this kind of test. I don't know if the results will say that, but I feel like I get more excited for a tournament like this versus a birdiefest,” Scheffler said post-round.
If, like me, you find it hard to swallow the short number with three rounds to go, then consider holding off until midway through the second round when the target to chase is clear. But should you decline to get on the Texan now, don’t overextend yourself elsewhere!
In saying that, here are some other options.
Scottie Scheffler dials in approach to set up birdie at the PGA Championship
VIKTOR HOVAND (+1200 to win, -2 T6)
It was a terrible start for Hovland as he bogeyed two of his opening three holes but the Norwegian showed tremendous character and grit to fight his way back under par.
Despite hitting just six of 14 fairways and ranking 108th in the field in SG: Off-the-Tee, Hovland was second in SG: Approach, gaining 4.690 strokes to the average. His Proximity of 26 feet 6 inches led the field.
Given Hovland ranked fourth on the PGA TOUR in SG: Off-the-Tee leading into the week we can have a degree of confidence in his tee ball accuracy improving in round two. Couple that with his iron play and he could certainly make a run.
“I certainly I feel like this course fits me well, but it's one of those you can hit good shots and still miss fairways and greens, and that's where you do have to rely on your short game a little bit, but I hit a lot of greens today, so, obviously, that favored me,” Hovland said.
ADAM SCOTT (+2500 to win, -2 T6)
With one hole to go, I was ready to make Scott my top draw (based on odds value) but the Australian soured his dinner with a final hole double bogey.
Fresh off back-to-back top 10s on TOUR the veteran continued to defy earlier season numbers to lead the field in SG: Off-the-Tee. He also sat 10th in SG: Approach despite the late hiccup.
So, while plenty of algorithms and models might throw Scott up as a fade as those numbers defy his season-long efforts, I’ll counter with my own two eyes and a lengthy conversation with his swing coach while watching his round here at Oak Hill.
Scott has clearly found something over the last month and let’s not forget he played at Oak Hill in 2003 and 2013, the latter producing a T5 finish. His team are quietly confident the veteran will remain in the mix.
Adam Scott throws a dart to set up birdie at the PGA Championship
COREY CONNERS (+1400 to win, -3 T3)
This one stings a bit because Conners was my longshot to win in my pre-tournament preview at +9000 and I was ready to boast about it to all and sundry.
But on close inspection of his numbers, we see that while the usually sublime ball-striker was ranked 11th in SG: Approach, a big part of his six birdies actually came via his usually less-reliable putter.
Conners was 7th in SG: Putting and while I want to believe he can continue to roll the rock so beautifully I’m not confident he will make two birdie putts outside 25 feet again like he did Thursday.
“Probably didn't see six birdies out there in the practice rounds… I knew it was possible to give yourself some opportunities,” Conners said.
“I would say the couple of things that worked really well, I hit a couple of couple great approach shots when I could be aggressive and hit a lot of smart shots and was able to roll in some putts. That certainly felt good to see some putts go in.”
RORY McILROY (+2000 to win, +1 T27)
I get it. Rory is a superstar. A proven major winner. A three-time FedExCup champion. But the McIlroy we saw out at Oak Hill Thursday wasn’t a shadow of that guy. Yes, he showed determination to fight back from three over to one over but his game was anything but trustworthy.
McIlroy hit just two of 14 fairways, tied for 152nd in the field, and ranked 92nd in SG: Off-the-Tee. Somehow, he still has 11 of 18 greens, ranked sixth in SG: Approach but then failed to get the job done on the greens.
The honorary Oak Hill member lost -1.269 in SG: Putting and – perhaps most importantly – did not appear to be in a great state of mind for the majority of the round.
I’d need to see at least two and a half times these odds to be excited at this stage!
Rory McIlroy throws a dart to yield birdie at the PGA Championship
ERIC COLE (+3300 to win, -5 through 14, 1st)
It is not lost on me that 20 years ago Shaun Micheel surprised everybody to win the PGA Championship at Oak Hill but as cool a story it would be to see a mini tour legend, the son of two TOUR pros, and PGA TOUR rookie win… I just can’t see it happening.
Cole was brilliant on his way to a runner-up finish at The Honda Classic earlier this year – and has shown he’s not afraid to mix it on the big stage – but I’m not sure he can maintain all facets of his game at such a high performance.
He sits eighth in SG: Tee-to-Green, 13th in SG: Around-the-Green and ninth in SG: Putting.
Add to this the fact he will also face a long day of 22 holes on Friday having slept on the lead in a major… a new experience for him.
Senior Writer, Golfbet Follow Ben Everill on Twitter.