It’s here. The second major of the season tees off at a new and improved Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, OK. It’s the 2022 PGA Championship and the fight for the Wannamaker Trophy. As always, here is your early deep-dive on the 2022 PGA Championship and a preview for how to bet. In addition, listen below to the Golf Gambling Podcast for more information about golf betting.
2022 PGA Championship Preview – The Field
It’s a major. Pretty much every big fish in professional golf will be at Southern Hills to fight for the 2022 PGA Championship. There’s no need to spotlight any of them. However, there are storylines with the field worth mentioning.
The only legitimate contender who may be missing from the PGA Championship is Sungjae Im. Reportedly, Sungjae Im was forced to withdraw from a Korean Tour event last week due to COVID. Because the diagnosis happened in Korea, Im must follow Korea’s strict COVID protocols. As such, he may miss the 2022 PGA Championship. This is a developing story, so stay tuned.
Another star who will miss the 2022 PGA Championship is defending champion Phil Mickelson. Phil’s win at Kiawah last year was not only immensely surprising, but immensely satisfying and popular. The scene on 18 with the galleries chasing Phil up the fairway was pretty remarkable. Almost as remarkable as a 50 year old winning on one of the most grueling golf courses in America. But it seems like the negative PR on Phil Mickelson is too much for the governing bodies to handle. For the second straight major, Phil “decided” to withdraw from the PGA Championship. He’ll likely resurface once again in London for the first LIV Golf event.
Lastly, it appears that Tiger Woods will give it a go at Southern Hills. He was spotted at Southern Hills a few weeks ago for a practice round. And as of this writing, he has yet to withdraw his name from the field. While Tiger showed well the first two days of the Masters, he ran out of gas over the weekend. The walk at Southern Hills is equally grueling to Augusta National, and the rough is significantly more punishing than Augusta too. Temper your expectations for Tiger this week.
For the full field, click here.
2022 PGA Championship Preview – The Golf Course
Typically, I would devote between 500 and 1,000 words to describe the golf course to you. But there is a tremendous wealth of great videos on Southern Hills that can give a much better and clearer picture of what the players are up against this week.
As such, here are three videos that I suggest watching in preparation for the 2022 PGA Championship. The first is a hole-by-hole description of Southern Hills Country Club from Golf Digest:
The next video is a discussion between Garrett Morrison and Andy Johnson of The Fried Egg of how the recent changes to Southern Hills Country Club breathes new life into the golf course:
The last video is a discussion with Gil Hanse, who led the recent renovation and restoration of Southern Hills Country Club:
Take time to watch each video. These are a great preview of what to expect at the 2022 PGA Championship.
The only other comment I’ll add is about the greens at Southern Hills Country Club. The most recent renovation converted the greens from Bermuda to Bentgrass. This is a bold move given the challenges of keeping Bentgrass healthy in the oven-like summers of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Once soil temperatures eclipse 78 degrees, Bentgrass is strained.
To address this, the golf course sodded the greens with a new strain of Bentgrass called Pure Distinction. This strain is much more durable than other strains of Bentgrass. But the most important thing they did was install a state-of-the-art Hydronic System under each green. Basically, there is a series of tubing underneath each green to regulate temperatures of the roots. It has the ability to both heat and cool soil temperatures about 15 degrees different than surface temperatures. This ensures that, even in sweltering Tulsa summers or their cold winter nights, the Bentgrass greens remain healthy for play.
The remainder of the commentary on Southern Hills will come below in the betting strategies.
2022 PGA Championship Preview – Betting Strategies
While gamblers have seen Southern Hills Country Club a few times this millennium, drawing upon the 2001 U.S. Open and 2007 PGA Championship isn’t tremendously helpful. The renovation by Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner materially changed the golf course. From different grass, to repositioned greens, to expanded creek beds that will make the golf course more penal, this is a completely different golf course than the one won by Retief Goosen and Tiger Woods. As such, gamblers need to start from scratch.
To begin our preview of betting strategies for the 2022 PGA Championship, let’s start with some nuts and bolts about Southern Hills. Southern Hills will play a little over 7,550 yards. That’s over 400 yards longer than the 2007 PGA Championship at Southern Hills. Most of these gains came from lengthening the 7th, 10th and 13th holes. These holes were lengthened by a combined 275 yards.
As mentioned earlier, the golf course converted its Bermuda greens to Bentgrass with the most recent renovation. The greens average about 5,000-5,500 square feet in area. That’s smaller than average for the PGA Tour. Gil Hanse also added numerous greenside bunkers to the property that are fed by run off areas off the green. Sometimes, a player will land their ball on the green, only to hit the wrong side of a slope and roll back down into either a bunker or a collection area far from the greenside surface.
However, the grass between the tee and the green isn’t Bentgrass or another northern strain. Both the fairways and rough are Bermuda. This adds a little wrinkle to our handicapping. The rough at Southern Hills is wiry and thick. Even if your ball is just off the fairway, you could walk up to the ball and find it in a horrible lie. Balls are very difficult to hit out of thick Bermuda rough, let alone try and hit it onto a small and firm Southern Hills green.
We typically don’t see a ton of Bermuda rough at major venues. Most of the big boy golf courses who host majors are ones with either ryegrass or bluegrass rough. There’s only three majors since 2010 that featured Bermuda rough. They’re the following:
- 2011 PGA Championship – Atlanta Athletic Club (7,467 Yards) – Won by Keegan Bradley (-8)
- 2012 PGA Championship – Ocean Course at Kiawah Island (7,676 Yards) – Won by Rory McIlroy (-13)
- 2017 PGA Championship – Quail Hollow Club (7,600 Yards) – Won by Justin Thomas (-8)
While Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy are very good drivers, both are more known for their length than accuracy. But Keegan Bradley had a decent combination of length and accuracy off the tee in 2011. Heading into the 2011 PGA Championship, Keegan ranked 6th in Strokes Gained – Off-the-Tee, 99th in accuracy and 16th in driving distance. Despite ranking 169th in Strokes Gained – Approach heading into the tournament, Keegan’s good combination of length and accuracy off the tee put him in a very advantageous position. For the tournament, Keegan ranked 21st in driving distance and 20th in driving accuracy. This was a very well balanced attack off-the-tee for Keegan Bradley. And that combination helped Keegan finish 2nd in greens in regulation on the week.
And behind all of them on the leaderboard were a ton of accurate drivers. Of the 32 players who finished inside the Top 10 at the 2011, 2012 and 2017 PGA Championships, 26 qualified for PGA Tour stats leading up to those events. Of those 26, only 7 ranked outside the Top 100 in Driving Accuracy ahead of their respective PGA Championships. And included in those Top 10’s were accurate players on the European Tour like Anders Hansen, Lee Westwood and Jordan Smith. Their ability to keep the ball in the fairway put them at an edge over those who struggled to do so. Even for those who didn’t show well in approach play performance heading in, their ability to hit approach shots from the fairway more than their competitors allowed them to gain an advantage in that category all week.
Next, let’s discuss approach play. Due to the lack of strokes gained and ShotLink data for the 2007 PGA Championship and the changes to the course, there isn’t an approach shot distribution chart from Southern Hills to refer back to. However, I charted out the golf course on Google Earth and took my best guess as to where approach shots would come from. Considerations I factored in included wind, club choice off the tee, the warm temperatures and the expected firmness of the fairways to allow for roll out.
Here’s the Southern Hills estimated approach shot distribution chart for the 2022 PGA Championship:
- <125 Yards: 18.1%
- 125-150 Yards: 25.0%
- 150-175 Yards: 18.1%
- 175-200 Yards: 16.7%
- 200+ Yards: 22.2%
The proximity chart is evenly distributed. There’s a good mix of short Par 4’s, long Par 4’s, and long Par 3’s on the golf course to provide some variety with the iron shots. But what was tricky was trying to determine how players would tackle the Par 5’s. Both are well over 600 yards long and feature a ton of trouble around the firm greens. To the right of the 5th green is a creek where balls feed down into, along with several bunkers around a small, firm green. Players will also have to contend with a crosswind on the hole all four days. That’ll put the players to a test of how much risk they’re willing to take.
And guarding the front of the 13th are two large ponds and don’t allow a player to run the ball up to the green. While south winds Thursday through Saturday will provide some help, hitting the small, firm green from a 275+ yard shot is a near impossibility. Add to it that anyone who hits their tee shot into a bunker or the rough has no shot of getting to the green in two, I expect the Par 5’s to be a three shot hole for most of the field. As such, their true approach shot proximity stat to look into is probably in the 125-150 yard range.
However, I don’t think proximity stats will be all that useful this week. Because the greens are so small, so firm and repel balls away from the green should they find the wrong slope, I expect the green in regulation percentage to be much lower than average (52%-58% is probably a good ballpark estimate). Target golf is when I want to use proximity stats the most. Southern Hills won’t be target golf. As such, I’ll just focus on general approach play performance.
But as referenced in the last paragraph, what I’ll truly be looking at the most is around the green performance. In the videos above, you kept hearing the references to Augusta National because of the uneven lies, the tight greenside surrounds and the Perry Maxwell greens. A huge part of success at Augusta National is around the green performance. While incredibly difficult, one can still pull off a shot with daring creativity and impeccable skill.
Much the same can be said about Southern Hills. The degree of difficulty chipping off of tight lies and from the greenside bunkers is great. But it’s doable for those with these skills. As such, around the green performance is a huge part of my handicap this week. If one is deficient around the green, I’ll need to find several arguments to support their inclusion on my betting card.
Lastly, here are some general trends as to what types of players have won the last 12 PGA Championships:
- 12 of the last 12 PGA Champions made the cut in their final start before the tournament.
- 12 of the last 12 PGA Champions missed a cut at least once in one of their five final starts before the tournament (a very peculiar and bizarre trend).
- 11 of the last 12 PGA Champions finished inside the Top 30 in their final start before the tournament.
- 11 of the last 12 PGA Champions had at least 1 individual stroke play win in the last 2 years before the tournament. 10 of 12 had multiple wins in the last 2 years before the PGA.
- 10 of the last 12 PGA Champions were ranked inside the Top 50 in the world before the tournament. 9 of the last 12 were ranked inside the Top 25 in the world.
- 10 of the last 12 PGA Champions had at least one Top 10 in a major prior to winning. 9 of the last 12 had at least 3 prior Top 10’s in majors before winning.
- 9 of the last 11 PGA Champions made the cut in the previous major they played in (Keegan Bradley won in his debut, so he was excluded from the list).
- 9 of the last 12 PGA Champions were less than 30 years old.
- 9 of the last 12 PGA Champions had at least one Top 10 finish in the five events before the tournament.
This column will go up before the conclusion of the AT&T Byron Nelson. Several top contenders of the PGA Championship are playing the Byron Nelson this week. As such, several trends of players heading into the 2022 PGA Championship can’t be finalized until then. However, on the 2022 PGA Championship Preview show of the Golf Gambling Podcast, we’ll identify a list of players who potentially satisfy all these criteria.
So to sum it up, here is what I’m looking at this week:
- Excellent scramblers. Success scrambling at Augusta National or other golf courses with tight chipping areas is a big plus.
- Two types of players off-the-tee. Those who gain a ton of strokes off the tee in general, and those who find a lot of fairways. Preferably, target those with a good combination of both. Players without much length and erratic accuracy are an immediate cross off this week unless they are wizards around the green.
- Good iron players in general. No pigeon holing anyone into a specific proximity distance.
- Good putters on Bentgrass surfaces.
These areas are a good preview of what a contender at the 2022 PGA Championship may look like.