2020 PGA Championship Preview and Picks: Can Tiger Contend?

Photo credit: Kyle Terada (USA TODAY Sports)

“Of course.”

This was Tiger Woods’ answer during his Tuesday media session at the PGA Championship when he was asked if he could win this week.

A confident Tiger Woods always fires up golf fans. Especially now, as his chase to set the record for PGA Tour wins heats up, Woods captures the attention of the entire golf community. And even more so during a major tournament.

Due to the modified schedule spurred by the coronavirus, the 2020 PGA Championship is the first major event of the year. It’s been over a calendar year since golf fans have been able to take in major championship golf. That alone is cause for excitement. But of course, Woods’ chase for the all-time PGA Tour wins record (he’s currently tied with Sam Snead at 82) and Jack Nicklaus’ mark of 18 major wins (Woods currently has 15) only adds to the fun.

Woods absolutely can win his 16th major and 83rd PGA Tour title this week. It would be foolish to doubt Woods after he came back from myriad back surgeries and fusions to win a Green Jacket at the 2019 Masters.

But as it pertains to the 2020 PGA Championship in particular, Woods has course history on his side. The site of the event is TPC Harding Park, located in San Francisco. The course has not hosted many events in the past, but Woods has been successful when teeing it up at Harding Park. He won the 2005 WGC-American Express Championship in a playoff over John Daly.

In 2009 TPC Harding Park hosted the Presidents Cup, which consists of the best American players against the best players from the rest of the world outside of Europe. Woods won all five matches he played that week, most of them in dominant fashion, to lead the USA to the win. His performance was capped off by one of the most legendary club twirls in the history of the game.

Of course, things have changed quite a bit since then. The course has been lengthened, with tee boxes added to a few holes. Woods himself has also changed his swing and been through numerous surgeries. It won’t be quite like those appearances in the 2000s, but at the very least Woods should be comfortable on a course where his only result has essentially been winning.

Standing in his way is a plethora of golfers chomping at the bit for a major win and a golf course that, from all accounts, will play extremely tough. A colder, thicker air will decrease the length of tee shots. Longer rough will penalize poor accuracy. Meanwhile, dozens of bunkers will create many tough pin positions.

The PGA of America likes to set up the course in a way that prioritizes course management and creating the right angles to attack pins. And of course, both length and accuracy are demanded off the tee — which practically eliminates the short hitters from contention. The winner this week will hit his driver well and take advantage of the birdie opportunities when presented, because they may not come often.

Can Woods win this week? Yes, he can. He’s got the game for it. He certainly has the mentality for it. If the back holds up, he just might be in contention come Sunday.

Here are the golfers that present the best value bets at the PGA Championship (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook):

Brooks Koepka (+1100)

This one is a no-brainer. Koepka is the two-time defending champion at the PGA Championship and is in the midst of one of the most stellar major championship runs in the history of golf. In 2019, his worst finish at a major was tied for fourth. He has finished inside the top 20 at 17 of the last 21 majors he has competed in dating back to 2014. At the PGA Championship specifically, Koepka’s last six finishes are Win, Win, T13, T4, T5, T15.

Plus, Koepka hit the ball beautifully last week at TPC Southwind and finished in a tie for second at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. He’s in great form and always elevates his game for the major tournaments. Koepka in contention on Sunday is almost a sure thing.

Xander Schauffele (+1800)

If anyone is due to break through for their first major win, it’s Schauffele. He has routinely placed well in majors over the last three years, including five Top 10 finishes in 11 events. Plus, the former San Diego State Aztec is rounding into form just in time for the PGA Championship. He’s finished T20, T14, T13, and T6 in his last four events, and his excellent performance off the tee (currently No. 7 on the PGA Tour in strokes gained off-the-tee) has been huge in his success. That off-the-tee game will be crucial this week at TPC Harding Park.

Tiger Woods (+3300)

The main thing holding Woods back from consistently contending nowadays seems to be his health. That back tends to flare up randomly, which can make it difficult to trust Woods in any given week. However, it’s worth noting that Woods did draw a Thursday morning tee time, which means he’ll get some extra rest before teeing off during the Friday afternoon wave. Since he has begun competing again regularly, Woods has been much more successful when he draws a Thursday morning tee time. Plus, his aforementioned prior success at TPC Harding Park will surely provide some added confidence.

Gary Woodland (+5000)

Speaking of prior success at TPC Harding Park, Woodland was runner-up at the 2015 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship that was held at this venue. Plus, the 2019 U.S. Open winner has proven that he can perform on tough courses that require precision both off the tee and approaching the green. His U.S. Open win at Pebble Peach is the biggest example of this. But one could also point to last year’s PGA Championship, which demanded many of the same skills as it appears this year’s PGA Championship will, where Woodland finished T8. He has struggled a bit off the tee lately, at least for his standards, which is a bit of a concern. But his ability to control the trajectory of the golf ball will give him a boost in what should be tough conditions.

Christian Bezuidenhout (+15000)

It wouldn’t be right to create a list of best picks for the week without including a sleeper. Bezuidenhout is No. 47 ranked golfer in the world and has finished inside the Top 30 in three of his last four events. Plus, the South African is No. 19 on the PGA Tour this season in strokes gained on approach shots and is inside the Top 30 in strokes gained overall. Meanwhile, he also gains strokes against the field both around the green and on the green. He also showed he can thrive on tough golf courses last year, winning the European Tour’s Andalucia Masters at Valderrama Golf Club by six shots. If he can piece together good week driving the golf ball, the rest of Bezuidenhout’s game will carry him into contention.

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