Expert predictions: Our staff picks PGA Championship winners and sleepersAugust 6, 2018
It’s PGA Championship week, and the game’s best head to Bellerive in St. Louis for the final major of the season. We asked our experts to select a winner and name a sleeper who is destined to turn some heads. Check out ours picks below.
Who will win the PGA Championship, and who is your sleeper pick to contend?
Josh Sens: It’s Tony Finau time. He’s been knocking at the door in the majors, and now he comes to a big straight-forward layout that favors bombers and an event that has no par-3 tournament for him to wreck his ankle in. Sleeper: Luke List. Putting is his historical weakness but he’s been rounding into form and is coming off a strong showing at Firestone, a course that plays not unlike Bellerive.
Michael Bamberger: Rory. The driving game he showed in Akron, for one thing. Also, how long can you keep a good man down? Sleeper: Bryson. He’s earned his place in the darkhorse category because of the talk around him. Example: he’s choking his way off the Ryder Cup team (some people will say), he had a fit of driving-range craziness (some will say) at the Open and he was classless and looked lost (some will say) in the final day in Germany. I’m guessing he’ll dig deep here to make the Ryder Cup team on points. That driving range “episode” — it was hardly an episode. It showed SOMEBODY WHO CARES and somebody who uses the range, as Francesco Molinari does, as a place to try out the shots you will actually need in competition. So if the shots are lousy you have a reason to be upset. As for the poor play in Germany, he’s too smart and too talented not to learn from that. I’m bullish on him in every way.
Alan Shipnuck: Justin Thomas. He is the game’s most complete player and comes in with a ton of momentum. And a softish parkland course like Bellerive is right in his wheelhouse. Sleeper: I took Schauffele at Carnoustie and I’m afraid his profile is too high now to qualify as a dark horse, so I’m going with Luke List. He has one of the best long-games in golf and early word is that Bellerive is a bomber’s paradise.
Sean Zak: Bubba Watson. It’s been an incredible year for Bubba, and it continues this week when he picks apart Bellerive with that pink driver. Sleeper: Hossler has been there all year. He’s shown the ability to play his way into contention at normal Tour stops. I think he avoids the weekend blow-up that has normally followed and bags himself his first top 10 in a major.
Can Bubba Watson bag his first PGA Championship?
Joe Passov: Tiger Woods. Why not? He’s excelled at hot-weather PGA Championship venues, with four victories. With the forecast for St. Louis as hot and muggy all week, it favors Tiger. Tiger loves brawny 1960s-style courses with eight wins apiece at Firestone, Torrey Pines and Bay Hill alone. Bellerive fits the profile perfectly. And hey, he’s close. Six top 12s in 2018, including a recent T4 at the Quicken Loans and T6 at the British Open. He’s playing very, very well. At the 100th PGA Championship, he’ll rise again. Sleeper: Muscular Kiwi Ryan Fox is one of the biggest hitters on any tour, and when he keeps it in the park, he can contend anywhere. Quietly he’s climbed to ninth on the Race to Dubai points list and 80th in the OWGR, thanks to a playoff loss at the Irish Open and a T6 at the Scottish Open. He made the cut at both the U.S. Open (T41) and British Open (T39), so he knows what it feels like to be around for the weekend in a major. Don’t be surprised to see this Fox go crazy at the PGA.
Jeff Ritter: I’ve underestimated him at two of the majors this year, but I expect Jordan Spieth to contend deep into the weekend at this one, so, what the heck: why not just win it and finish the career slam right here? Bellerive is tree-lined with deep, penal bunkers and big greens. Iron play should be a major factor, and it all sounds like a fit for him. Also, if you like a history angle, Bellerive hosted the U.S. Open that Gary Player won to complete his own career slam. What’s one more? Sleeper: Pat Perez is still riding a career rebirth, and he got a taste of the fire at Carnoustie. I can see him playing his way back into the thick of it and hanging there even longer than he did at the Open.
Dylan Dethier: Tiger Woods. Plenty will focus on a disappointing finish at Firestone, but even this week I saw plenty to be encouraged by. A couple of days of intense practice and we’ll see a dialed-in Tiger in Missouri. Sleeper: Kyle Stanley. I had Stanley locked in as a sleeper last week; his runner-up finish at Firestone makes him slightly less sleepy but I like the way his ballstriking sets up for Bellerive. Plus there’s the added potential bonus of Stanley completing the Former Nike Staffer Without a Club Deal Grand Slam.
Josh Berhow: Rory wins and he wins big. Now, that was my prediction before the Bridgestone, where he had a little Sunday letdown (again), but he’s still my pick. It’s the kind of course McIlroy beats up and, as simple as it sounds, the guy is due. My sleeper is Keegan Bradley. After a few quiet years he’s playing better this season. Ballstriking game is solid, dude just needs to make some putts!