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Horses for Courses: Justin Thomas goes for back-to-back Wanamaker wins

5 Min Read

Horses for Courses

Horses for Courses: Justin Thomas goes for back-to-back Wanamaker wins

    Written by Mike Glasscott @MikeGlasscott

    For the third time this century, Oak Hill Country Club's East Course will welcome a field of 156 professionals for the PGA Championship. Justin Thomas (+2200) will look to join Tiger Woods and Brooks Koepka as the only players to defend during the stroke-play era. The son of a PGA professional, Thomas picked up his first PGA Championship title at Quail Hollow Club in 2017. Making the cut in six of seven tries, half of those weekend visits have resulted in top 10 paydays.

    Major championship golf sparks the interest of Brooks Koepka (+2200). His back-to-back titles in this event came at Bellerive in 2018 and Bethpage Black in 2019. US Open medals he picked up in 2017 and 2018 confirm his game resonates on the most-difficult courses. The East Course, brought back to its original Donald Ross design of the early 1920s by Andrew Green, will play almost 7,400 yards at Par 70. That qualifies. Of his 10 starts in PGA Championships, he's completed 72 holes every time. He's a five-time top five finisher, including a T2 at Kiawah Island in 2021.

    Rory McIlroy (+1400) joins Thomas and Koepka with two Wanamaker trophies residing on the mantle. Jack Nicklaus set the margin of victory record, seven shots, at Oak Hill in 1980. The Ulsterman bested his record by a shot, winning by eight in the summer of 2012 on Kiawah Island's Ocean Course. His second title came at Valhalla, the site of the 2024 edition, outside Louisville, in 2014. Overall, he's cashed in 13 of 14 visits. Seven top 10s consist of wins (twice), T3 (twice), and eighth (solo or tied, three times), including solo eighth last year at Southern Hills. Top 10 finishes in five of his last seven major championships.

    Not many who enter the PGA Championship for the first time come away as the victor, but that's what Collin Morikawa (+3300) accomplished in 2020 at TPC Harding Park. Returning to defend in spring of 2021 at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island, he made it two top 10 finishes in two starts. Later that summer he cashed T4 at the U.S. Open before picking up his second major title at Royal St. George's on his debut at the Open Championship. The two-time major champion has only needed 13 career tries to pick up two wins plus seven top 10 finishes.

    The 2015 champion Jason Day (+2800) almost joined the elite club of repeat winners, but his 2016 defense fell just one shot short. The Australian has played the weekend 11 times in 13 visits, and his cuts-made streak has reached ten consecutive events. Six visits have resulted in top 10 finishes, including T4 in 2020 as the most recent.

    Oddsmaker's Extra

    (cuts made/appearances)

    Dustin Johnson (9/13; +2500): Winner of the Masters (2020) and U.S. Open at Oakmont (2016), Johnson hasn't cracked the code yet. Signing for all four rounds in the 60s at Bethpage Black in 2019 was good enough to be two shots back in second place. Four more rounds in the 60s in 2020 at TPC Harding Park resulted in a tie for second, the same two shots behind. MC the last two editions.

    Adam Scott (16/22; +6600): One of just seven in the field this week to have seen the course in 2003 and 2013 but the East Course won't resemble what was on display earlier this century. The greens have been redone and expanded to their original sizes, adding hole locations. The oak trees bordering the fairways and greens have been reduced to the early 1920s original strategy. The Australian went close at Bellerive in 2018 (T3) and added T8 in 2019.

    Phil Mickelson (26/29; +15000): Became the oldest major champion at this event in 2021 when he was 51. His second victory was his 10th, top 10 payday at the PGA Championship and sixth major win of his career. Finishing T2 at Augusta National earlier this season should have caught your attention.

    Justin Rose (14/20; +10000): The Englishman has cashed in 10 of his last 11, and all have hit T33 or better. Only hitting the podium once (T3, 2012 Kiawah Island) is surprising, but he's turned it on over the last three years with a run of ninth, T8 and T13.

    Shane Lowry (8/11; +9000): It's not a coincidence that all listed here and above are major champions. The 2019 Open Champion has rattled off six straight at this major, including four of his last five T23 or better. The best of the bunch was a T4 in 2021, following T8 in 2019, and T12 in 2018. T23 last year.


    Francesco Molinari (12/12; +50000): Went close in 2017 (T2) and 2018 (T6) for two of his three top 10 checks.

    Hideki Matsuyama (10/10; +5000): Made his PGA Championship debut here in 2013. T4 2016 followed by T5 in 2017 are the only two top 10 paydays.

    Billy Horschel (9/10; +25000): After MC in his first appearance, it's nine straight weekends. T23 is the best of the bunch.

    Jordan Spieth (8/10; +3500): Eight straight after MC in his first two attempts. Solo second in 2015 by three to Day and T3 in 2019 account for the only top 10s. The career Grand Slam is on the line again, as it has been, since 2017.

    Webb Simpson (9/12; +30000): Eight straight but T13 is the best of the bunch. Zero top-10s in this event.

    Russell Henley (7/9; +9000): T12 in 2015 began a run of seven straight. It's also his only top 20.

    Gary Woodland (9/11; +10000): Six straight is highlighted by T6 in 2018 followed by T8 in 2019.

    Former Champions of Note

    Jimmy Walker (6/11; +40000): 2016 winner at Baltusrol has posted just one top 25 (T23, 2019) in his last five.

    Keegan Bradley (10/12; +10000): Debut winner at Atlanta Athletic Club in 2011. Only other top 10 is T3 in defense in 2012. T17 (2021) is the next best.

    OWGR Top 20

    Ranking/PlayerPGA Championship (Cuts/Made Starts)Top 10sTop 25sMajor winsOdds
    01 Jon Rahm5/6231+800
    02 Scottie Scheffler2/3221+750
    03 Rory McIlroy13/14794+1400
    04 Patrick Cantlay5/6120+1800
    05 Xander Schauffele4/6130+1600
    06 Max Homa2/4010+3300
    07 Matt Fitzpatrick4/7121+3300
    08 Cameron Smith6/7021+3300
    09 Will Zalatorisinjured; not playing
    10 Jordan Spieth8/10243+3500
    11 Viktor Hovland3/3000+3000
    12 Tony Finau7/8330+2200
    13 Justin Thomas6/7342+2200
    14 Sam Burns2/3010+4000
    15 Cameron Young1/1110+3300
    16 Collin Morikawa2/3222+3300
    17 Tyrrell Hatton6/8240+4000
    18 Sungjae Im2/4010+3000
    19 Tom Kim0/2000+6600
    20 Jason Day11/13691+2800

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