USPGA: Major championship golf returns this week, and though having the PGA Championship in May as opposed to August has taken some getting used to, it does make the schedule flow nicely as spring turns to summer.

The menu this week is nothing less than thrilling for anyone who loves golf: the world’s best players, including a sprinkling of LIV guys for some added spice, will do battle at the East Course at Oak Hill Country Club, a venue that has hosted nine professional Majors, two U.S. Amateurs, and a Ryder Cup. It’s just what you’d expect from a major championship layout– a strenuous tee-to-green test that rewards patience, accuracy off the tee, and intelligent course management. Missing it in the wrong place around the greens will leave you completely dead, and even for players who strike the ball well this week, there will be plenty of 5-footers for par.

That’s the way Donald Ross intended it to be when he designed Oak Hill some 98 years ago. The course has seen some renovations, naturally, but the most recent one, by Andrew Green in 2020, was an attempt to return to Ross’s original vision. Slopes have been accentuated, some greens have been slightly re-shaped to match the original design, and primary rough lines have been altered in places. What’s left is a beast of a par-70 that measures nearly 7,400 yards from all the way back and features small, undulating greens surrounded by deep bunkers and thick rough. Every aspect of a player’s game will be tested this week, but especially the short game, as Oak Hill is too difficult to be dominated tee-to-green by anyone for four consecutive rounds.

BETDAQ’s Win Market looks pretty much like you’d expect for an event of this nature, with the top two players in the world, Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler, playing the role of co-favorites at 9.2. Rory McIlroy (17.5), Xander Schauffele (21.0), and Patrick Cantlay (22.0) lead the next group, and the value really starts to pop when you get to the 30/1-40/1 range. This will be a fun week to fire off a few bets… there are definitely several players that have caught my eye. Here’s what I’m thinking:

WIN MARKET

Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)

Xander Schauffele (21.0)- Though he’s yet to find the winner’s circle in 2023, Schauffele is playing as well as anyone in the world right now, logging four top-5s in his past five starts, including a runner-up at the Wells Fargo last time out. Oh yeah, his “other” finish in this recent stretch, the one that wasn’t a top-5? It was a T10 at the Masters. Schauffele is putting himself in contention every time he tees it up, and with 7 career PGA Tour victories he’s conclusively demonstrated that he knows how to close the deal. It’s only a matter of time until he wins his first major, and with his combination of ball-striking and short game touch (he ranks 5th on Tour in strokes gained on approach and 27th in scrambling), he seems well-equipped to take on the challenge of Oak Hill. I’m happy to take a chance on him at 20/1.

Cameron Smith (39.0)- Like all the LIV guys, there has been a bit of an “out of sight, out of mind” factor with Smith this year, as it’s easy to forget how talented someone is when you’re not seeing them play on a regular basis. That said, there has been nothing to suggest that Smith’s form has slipped appreciably from last year, when he was the hottest player on the planet for a time and ascended to No. 2 in the World Gold Rankings before resigning from the PGA Tour to take the Saudi money. He played beautifully in the LIV Tulsa event last week, shooting 17-under over three rounds to get into a 3-way playoff that was eventually won by Dustin Johnson. It was Smith’s third consecutive top-6 finish on that tour. His performance in major championships has been well documented– this is someone who consistently plays his best in the biggest events– and his otherworldly short game should serve him quite well around the treacherous Oak Hill green complexes. Smith is a bargain at a price like 39.0.

Corey Conners (122.0)- After a slow start to 2023 Conners has found his stride and has been playing some great golf over the past few weeks, with a victory at the Valero Texas Open and a T8 at the Wells Fargo among the recent highlights. He’s a ball-striking machine whose methodical style of play lends itself to difficult courses and high-stress environments, so he has what it takes to hang tough at a demanding track like Oak Hill. While he’s yet to win a major, he does have a couple of PGA Tour victories and has recorded five top-20 finishes in majors since 2020, including three top-10s, so he’s no stranger to the pressure cooker. The putter will have to cooperate, but if it does, Conners has a legitimate chance to shock the world this week.


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