PGA Championship 2024 Tips: Rahm is one of Jamie’s six for Valhalla

 | Monday 13th May 2024, 14:37pm

Monday 13th May 2024, 14:37pm

jamie worsley pga tour

It has been five weeks since Scottie Scheffler memorably coasted to victory at Augusta National. We now move on to our second major of the year, the PGA Championship and with the likes of Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka finding winning form in the interim, it is set to be an exciting week as these golfing warriors battle it out at the aptly-named Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky.

Let's jump right in with star golf tipster Jamie Worsley's PGA Championship Predictions, which range from 16/1 to 200/1!

PGA Championship Betting Tips

  • 3 pts Jon Rahm each-way (1/5 - 10 places) - 16/1 
  • 2 pts Max Homa each way (1/5 - 10 places) - 30/1
  • 1.5 pts Wyndham Clark each way (1/5 - 10 places) - 35/1 
  • 1 pt Matt Fitzpatrick each way (1/5 - 10 places) - 60/1
  • 1 pt Sepp Straka each way (1/5 - 10 places) - 80/1 
  • 1 pt Kurt Kitayama each way (1/5 - 10 places) - 200/1

*Click on the linked odds to add the selections directly to your betslip on betfred.com (or app)

TOURNAMENT HISTORY

The PGA Championship was the third of golf’s most coveted titles to be established, doing so in 1916 as a match play event. With the exclusion of the two World Wars, it has taken place every year since and remained in a match play format up to and including 1957.

The early years of the match play era were dominated by Walter Hagen, who claimed five PGA Championships, including four on the spin from 1924-27. That tally has since been equalled by Jack Nicklaus, with each of his wins between 1963-1980 coming in the stroke play era.

Tiger Woods (1999, 2000, 2006, 2007) comes next on the list with four wins, having successfully defended his title on two occasions.

Gene Sarazen (1922, 1923, 1933) and Sam Snead (1942, 1949, 1951) each recorded three wins apiece in the match play era. They were joined by Brooks Koepka last year, who after having won in back to back years in 2017/18 became just the sixth player to win the Wanamaker Trophy on three or more occasions.

Rory McIlroy is among a long list of players to have won two PGA Championships, including when last staged here at Valhalla Golf Club in 2014. His first success at Kiawah Island in 2012 saw him win by a huge eight strokes - the highest winning margin in the tournament’s history - whilst in 2015, Jason Day’s -20 at Whistling Straits broke the record for lowest winning score in the event.

Last five winners:

  • 2023 (Oak Hill CC) – Winner: Brooks Koepka (-9); runners-up: Scottie Scheffler, Viktor Hovland (-7)
  • 2022 (Southern Hills CC) – Winner: Justin Thomas (-5, playoff); runner-up: Will Zalatoris (-5)
  • 2021 (Kiawah Island) – Winner: Phil Mickelson (-6); runners-up: Brooks Koepka, Louis Oosthuizen (-4)
  • 2020 (TPC Harding Park) – Winner: Collin Morikawa (-13); runners-up: Paul Casey, Dustin Johnson (-11)
  • 2019 (Bethpage Black) – Winner: Brooks Koepka (-8); runner-up: Dustin Johnson (-6)

Brooks Koepka was at his brilliant major championship best last year to see off current world #1 Scottie Scheffler and a then in-form Viktor Hovland. That win not only took him to fourth on the PGA Championship winner’s list but into the top 20 on the all-time majors list and he returns to defend this week, looking to move himself further up that elite list of players.

THE COURSE

The Jack Nicklaus-designed Valhalla Golf Club has previously hosted the PGA Championship three times and was also the scene of the 2008 Ryder Cup, where Team USA ran out convincing 16 ½ - 11 ½ winners.

Previous PGA Championship winners at Valhalla Golf Club:

  • 2014 – Winner: Rory McIlroy (-16); runner-up Phil Mickelson (-15)
  • 2000 – Winner: Tiger Woods (-18, playoff); runner-up: Bob May (-18)
  • 1996 – Winner: Mark Brooks (-11, playoff); runner-up: Kenny Perry (-11)

It has been 10 years since Rory McIlroy won his fourth and as yet last major championship at Valhalla, and whilst much the same course, there will be some changes that those past competitors will have to look out for this week.

Chief among these changes is that much like the previous renewals of the event here, the tournament setup has been lengthened. With yardages upped on holes 1, 12, 14 and 18, the course will now play to 7609 yards, as opposed to the 7458 yards it played at in 2014.

In addition to this, the fairways have been changed from bentgrass to a more sustainable zoysia and natural limestone outcrops have been further exposed on the 13th and 18th, giving those holes a more dramatic look.

This par 71 course is made up of 11x par 4s (351-508 yards), 4x par 3s (190-254 yards) and 3x par 5s (570-597 yards).

Valhalla Golf Club is not tricked up and has a reputation of being a challenging but fair course, where you can shoot a decent score if in control of your ball-striking but will be severely punished if loose in this area. This is something certainly backed up by those last two winning scores of -16 and -18, and though not entirely the same course as last time, there’s little to suggest that will change this time around, despite that longer yardage.

The course is essentially split into two nines, with the flat and largely exposed links-like feel of the outward holes replaced by tougher, tree-lined parkland holes on the inward nine; which are more undulating and possess more in the way of elevation changes.

The fairways are about average in width overall, with an even split of tight and generous landing areas, most of which are protected by a bounty of strategically-placed bunkers. Almost all of them dogleg, with players required to shape the ball in both directions and aside from the smart bunkering, 4-inch thick Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue rough add further protection.

The small and gently undulating bentgrass greens will be setup to play at a lightning fast 13 on the stimp this week. The majority of them are elevated with run-offs and players will need to be precise in approach to hit them, with the combination of bunkers, thick rough and tightly-mown chipping areas making for a demanding and varied scrambling challenge.

Water is in-play on seven holes and plays an important role on the back nine. The short 351-yard 13th is the signature hole on the course and with the island green lowered this year, it will provide a greater viewing experience for the fans. It will be drivable at times this week and prompts the player to make a decision on whether to go for the green in one and risk finding water, or whether to layup into the generous fairway and leave themselves a simple pitch to set up what should be a good birdie chance.

The water reappears on the 435-yard par 4 15th, with a creek sitting right of the fairway and hugging the right-hand side of the small, narrow putting surface. That same stretch of water then plays down the right side of the lengthy 508-yard par 4 16th and though getting a small respite on the 472-yard par 4 17th, it returns on the exciting closing hole.

That final hole is the newly-lengthened 570-yard par 5 18th. Whilst the fairway here is relatively generous, there is no room for an errant drive, with a strategic bunker sitting left and water hugging the fairway right. Though it will be reachable for most, it is hard to stick this elevated, sloping horseshoe green, which is protected by a deep bunker to the centre.

The finish at Valhalla Golf Club is setup perfectly for drama, with a couple of risk/reward opportunities mixed with lengthier holes on which par may well feel like a birdie. It looks sure to provide us with plenty of entertainment this week, especially as those main contenders near the end on Sunday.

THE WEATHER

The tumultuous conditions that have been consistently on show over recent weeks in the U.S look set to continue this week. Thunderstorms and some heavy rains could soften the course up somewhat prior to the start on Thursday, though barring a hint of stormy weather on Friday, it looks largely dry from Thursday-Sunday.

With wind currently forecast to be a non-issue, it looks like it will be up to the course itself to provide the challenge this week.

KEY STATS

  • SG: Off-the-Tee
  • Driving Distance

Major championships usually require a little bit of everything but I struggle to see how those longest and strongest ball-striking types won’t be favoured by this sizeable venue.

We’ll start with driver as Rory McIlroy led the field in both driving distance and off-the-tee when winning here in 2014, and it was a leaderboard generally fully of similar driving types.

Indeed, Rickie Fowler in 3rd ranked 6th in driving distance and 11th OTT, whilst Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson – 2nd and T3 respectively – ranked inside the top 25 OTT.

Though there are a few holes where most of the field will be forced to layup to a similar spot, the rest encourage players to take driver out of the bag and with some lengthy par 4s (five above 480 yards) and none of the par 5s exactly short, these longest drivers will be best-equipped to handle both the easier and harder holes on the course.

  • SG: Approach
  • Proximity 175-200/200+
  • Greens-in-Regulation

The softening of the course due to rain may yet be minimal but if it transpires fully, the highest quality approach players should relish conditions early doors.

Simply hitting these small targets and putting well may be enough to get you into the mix, as shown by Henrik Stenson in 2014, who ranked 12th in GIR and 1st in putting.

It is also no surprise to see that most holes will call upon the long irons on this lengthy layout. I estimate close to 60% of the approaches this week will come from 175 yard and upwards, with all par 3s above this distance; all the par 5s requiring approaches in this range to reach in two and those lengthier par 4s all necessitating an approach shot from distance.

  • SG: Around-the-Greens
  • Scrambling

It is extra important to hit these putting surfaces as Valhalla Golf Club served up a demanding scrambling test last time. Each of the top 4 in 2014 ranked inside the top 20 in scrambling, whilst Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler in 2nd  and 3rd ranked 6th and 5th respectively around-the-greens.

Rain may not be enough to soften the course up too much and even then, it will likely dry out over the course of the week. Left with small, firm surfaces it is almost a certainty that greens will again prove hard to find and players will need to show a touch of class with the short game.

  • SG: Putting (bentgrass)

Experience of putting well on fast bentgrass greens has to be a major positive this week. It certainly was in 2014, as each of the top 4 ranked 13th or better in putting.

Look out for those who have putted well in The Masters, Memorial Tournament, 2020 & 2023 BMW Championships, 3M Open, John Deere Classic and Charles Schwab Challenge; all courses that possess similarly speedy bentgrass surfaces.

  • Par 4 Scoring

Finally, I expect the higher volume and variety of par 4s to be the keys to success at Valhalla Golf Club. Rory McIlroy led the field in scoring on these holes in 2014, whilst each of the other top-4 finishers ranked inside the top 10.

TOURNAMENT TRENDS

  • Long thought of as a great opportunity for first-time major winners, recent renewals have required more quality PGA Championship experience. Four of the last five have gone to previous PGA Championship winners; eight of the last 10 had recorded at least one PGA Championship top 10; and all bar Collin Morikawa in 2020 had a top 20.
  • If a player doesn’t have previous form in this event then form in other majors is a necessity. Six of those last 10 winners were already major champions and nine had hit the top 10. Collin Morikawa is the outlier, with a best of 35th in the US Open prior to winning in 2020.
  • Current form is an obvious plus, with eight of the last 10 winners having recorded a top 10 in their three starts prior to winning. However, winning form in that year isn’t too important, with six of those players having already recorded a win that year and four not.
  • Each of the last 10 winners had previously recorded a victory on the PGA Tour.
  • After six of the prior eight renewals went to International/European players, the last eight PGA Championships have been won by an American.

CORRELATING EVENTS (COURSES)

Memorial Tournament (Muirfield Village)

Muirfield Village looks the most obvious comp for Valhalla Golf Club. It’s a fellow lengthy Jack Nicklaus design, with small and quick bentgrass greens that are tough to scramble around. There is a mixture of narrow and more generous fairways, which are protected by similarly thick Kentucky bluegrass and fescue rough, whilst it requires a large volume of approach shots from 175yds+.

Wells Fargo Championship (Quail Hollow Club)

We’re fortunate to have a number of regular tour stops that also act as major championship hosts and with that I come to Quail Hollow, which hosted the 2017 PGA Championship and returns to host again next year.

This long brute of a course has been a favourite of quality drivers of the ball, as shown again by Rory McIlroy’s brilliance there last week. Though the rough isn’t quite as thick for the Wells Fargo as it would be for a major, the course still ranks high in difficulty on tour in almost every aspect and with approaches from over 175 yards key, it strongly mirrors the ball-striking test that awaits this week.

Genesis Invitational (Riviera Country Club)

Host of the annual Genesis Invitational, Riviera Country Club is another regular tour venue that has been home to several majors, most recently hosting the 1995 PGA Championship. It is one of the most demanding ball-striking tests on the PGA Tour and calls on players to be strong on approach from 175-200 yards.

Farmers Insurance Open (Torrey Pines)

As well as being the main host course used at the Farmers Insurance Open, Torrey Pines South is a two-time US Open venue, staging the event in 2008 and 2021. Coming in at 7765 yards, it’s a behemoth of a course and warrants a high standard of play with the long irons into small and speedy greens.

Arnold Palmer Invitational (Bay Hill)

Asking questions of the players from start to finish, the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill has become one of the most severe, major-readying challenges around. With a high portion of approaches coming in at over 200 yards, the field there need to be on point with their long irons and though bermudagrass and larger, the greens and their surrounds mirror major championships in speed and difficulty.

2020 & 2023 BMW Championship (Olympia Fields Country Club – North)

Olympia Fields has hosted four men’s major in its history, most recent of which was the 2003 US Open. At 7366 yards, it is reasonably lengthy for a par 70 and with small, quick bentgrass greens, strong strategic bunkering and 4-inch thick Kentucky bluegrass rough, it parallels many aspects of play at Valhalla Golf Club.

DP World Tour

With a sizeable contingent of current and former DP World Tour players teeing it up this week, I felt it necessary to check out a few events/courses on the tour that could guide us this week.

Two stood out more than others in the shape of the Nedbank Challenge at Gary Player Country Club and the Porsche European Open at Green Eagle’s North Course. Both measuring over 7600 yards, these are two of the longest courses on the DPWT and regularly rank among the most demanding tee-to-green challenges on tour.

THE FIELD

This week’s stellar field is missing just one of the world’s top 100 players. Scottie Scheffler returns from his four-week absence after winning his fourth event in five starts at the RBC Heritage, following on from taking the first major of the year at Augusta.

Brooks Koepka is back to defend having won his last start on LIV and world #2 Rory McIlroy returns to the scene of his last major championship win in fine form, after recording wins on his last two starts.

They are joined by a further 14 former PGA Championship winners, including fellow former Valhalla winner, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who became the oldest major winner in history at this event in 2021.

Away from recent major winners like Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson, we have a larger pool of LIV golfers teeing it up this week, as the PGA extended several invites to players from the circuit. This includes 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed and the in-form Joaquin Niemann of Chile.

Adrian Otaegui and Sebastian Soderberg of the DPWT earned spots having finished inside the top 3 of the recent Asian Swing mini-rankings; Chris Gotterup played his way in after recording an impressive first PGA Tour win in the Myrtle Beach Classic last week and of course what makes this major that little bit different is those spots available for PGA Professionals, who will all be hoping to follow in Michael Block’s footsteps last year, whose superb 15th-place finish won him a return for this 2024 edition.

SELECTIONS

PGA Championship Odds

*Please click on the link above to be taken to the main PGA Championship on betfred.com (or app) for all the live betting prices on this tournament.

Market leaders: Scottie Scheffler 4/1, Rory McIlroy 7/1, Brooks Koepka 12/1, Xander Schauffele 14/1, Jon Rahm 16/1, Ludvig Aberg 16/1, Collin Morikawa 22/1, Bryson DeChambeau 22/1

Scottie Scheffler is an expectedly strong favourite as he looks to win a first major away from Augusta National. He’s been a constant feature near the top of major leaderboards for the last couple of years now, however this is the first one he’ll be playing after such a lengthy absence and whilst I don’t think it seriously hinders his chances, it is enough of an unknown to want to take him on at the prices.

Rory McIlroy is of course of interest after his sensational final-round display at Quail Hollow last week, as is major specialist and defending champion, Brooks Koepka. Though coming in here a little more under that radar than those guys and indeed than he did as defending champion at Augusta, it’s Jon Rahm who gets the nod from me at the top of the betting this week.

3 pts Jon Rahm each-way (1/5 - 10 places) - 16/1 

I put Rahm up in that title defence at Augusta and it was no doubt disappointing to see him come up well short in 45th place. Though I can think of few players who will have gone away and felt both as angry with that display and as determined to rectify it as him, and with all eyes on that leading trio in the betting he should benefit from a more relaxed build up.

Truth be told, there wasn’t an awful lot wrong with Rahm’s game in The Masters. He struck the ball well enough, ranking 25th in ball-striking and he hit more greens than anyone in the field. It was a dreadful week on the greens, as he ranked 57th of 60 players, that ultimately led to his poor finish.

He’s since played twice on LIV, finishing 3rd in Adelaide and 10th in Singapore, meaning he’s now finished inside the top 10 in each of his seven starts there this year. Though the win eludes him, this impressive level of consistency suggests that the game can’t be all that far away.

The Spaniard’s brand of explosive ball-striking and a sharp short game makes him one of the game’s true elites and a danger on any golf course, especially one like Valhalla. His suitability for this test is enhanced further by his exceptional long iron game, shown by him ranking 2nd from 175-200 yards and 4th from 200yds+ on the PGA Tour last year, whilst he’s won plenty of times on bentgrass.

Rahm is a two-time major winner and with victories at Muirfield Village, Riviera, Olympia Field and Torrey Pines he has wins at four of the six comp courses mentioned. He’d have been fuming and probably a little embarrassed with how he performed in defence of his Masters title and I expect nothing less than a contending performance in response this week.

Jon rahm 16-1

2 pts Max Homa each way (1/5 - 10 places) - 30/1

With top 10s in his last two, Max Homa looks to have at long last found a level of comfort in the majors and coming here after an encouraging 8th-place finish at Quail Hollow last week, he looks primed to continue the progress and turn those top 10s into a first major victory this week.

Homa had been enjoying a really steady year prior to The Masters but he truly came alive at Augusta. He entered the final round with a major shot there, sitting just two back of Scheffler in 3rd. Though ultimately no match for the world #1, his 3rd-place finish was his best ever major performance and second consecutive top 10 having finished 10th in last year’s Open Championship.

The Californian has played twice since that major top 5, understandably struggling to get anything going when 55th in the RBC Heritage following that highpoint, but he looked much better last week at Quail Hollow, where he finished 8th and found his best round of approach in round four. Something I’m hoping he’ll continue into this week.

He was superb across the board at Augusta and whilst generally a strong ball-striker and excellent putter, it’s his continued improvements around-the-greens that have really caught the eye this season, ranking 25th. It’s no surprise that after turning this weakness into a strength he was able to forge that career best major performance in April and as a strong long iron player, ranking 21st from 175-200 yards, he has plenty in his favour for Valhalla.

With wins at Riviera, Torrey Pines and Quail Hollow, along with top 5s at Olympia Field and in the Memorial Tournament, Homa has long held a likeable book of correlating form for major championships. After finally finding his feet in these premier events, this looks an excellent chance for him to earn a major breakthrough.

Max Homa 30-1

1.5 pts Wyndham Clark each way (1/5 - 10 places) - 35/1 

Wyndham Clark was rather disappointing when put up in last week’s Wells Fargo Championship. However, I’m hoping he worked a few things out there and on the basis of his otherwise superb form this year he looks well worth another shot at a now attractive price this week.

After winning in both sensational and rather fortuitous fashion at Pebble Beach earlier this year, Clark has since had to settle for playing second fiddle to Scottie Scheffler; finishing 2nd to him in back-to-back weeks in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and PLAYERS Championship, and two starts ago he finished 3rd at Harbour Town as Scheffler walked away with his fourth win in five starts. Though there’s really no shame in being the man to push the world’s best player closer than almost anyone else this year.

Coming back after a three-week break last week, he can be forgiven his 47th-place finish. He did show quality across all areas at some point but struggled to put it all together. This has certainly not been the case for the season as a whole, where he’s shown little weakness and ranks both top 20 tee-to-green and in putting; a combination that goes some way to explaining his impressive sequence of results.

A win at Quail Hollow last year and runner-up finish in this year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational show exactly why Clark was able to make his major breakthrough in last year’s US Open in L.A. He has the length and all-round skillset to make a habit of contending for these biggest prizes and I’m expecting him to be a feature near the top of the leaderboard this week.

Wyndham clark 35-1

1 pt Matt Fitzpatrick each way (1/5 - 10 places) - 60/1

Matt Fitzpatrick has missed just one major cut since 2020 and with those gains he’s made off-the-tee in recent years, combined with his stellar long iron game and superb touch on and around-the-greens, he can keep his strong major record going in Kentucky.

Fitzpatrick has been reasonably steady all year but his results have improved over his most recent starts. Which includes a 5th in THE PLAYERS, a 10th in the Texas Open and hitting the top 25 at Augusta. Though an uninspiring 52nd at Quail Hollow last week, he was doing all of his best work late on and I’m hoping he can carry that momentum over into the PGA Championship.

A lot is made of the Englishman’s excellence with the short game and those increased driving distance numbers in the last couple of years. Whilst those areas will of course be key this week, it’s his long iron stats that struck me most. He’s continually ranked high from 175-200/200+ in recent years and this has been well on show again in 2024, ranking top 35 in both ranges.

As a runner-up at Bay Hill and possessing top 5s at Muirfield Village and Riviera, Fitzpatrick has regularly performed well on championship courses. He of course put this to good use to win the 2022 U.S Open at Brookline, which came just a few weeks after contending on another lengthy PGA Championship course with bentgrass greens at Southern Hills, where he eventually finished 5th.

Those two excellent major performances are part of his promising wider form in these events, having finished inside the top 25 in seven of the last nine majors. He’s just more at home when the going is that little bit tougher and I fancy him to perform with credit once again this week.

matt fitzpatrick 60-1

1 pt Sepp Straka each way (1/5 - 10 places) - 80/1 

Sepp Straka looks to have found his ball-striking best at just the right time and can keep his excellent recent major form going with another positive showing this week.

Straka took a little time to get going this year but after finding something when 16th in THE PLAYERS Championship he’s continued to perform well. This wasn’t immediate, as he missed the cut on his next start in the Valspar Championship but he put that right at Augusta next time out, recording his best Masters result with a finish of 16th. He then looked a long-time contender in the RBC Heritage on his next start before finishing 5th, and after an 11th-place finish in the Zurich Classic team event when paired with Brice Garnett, he returned to action at Quail Hollow last week. Where he entered the final round within five of the lead and though a 74 was only good enough for 8th, it was another very pleasing display overall.

He hit the ball superbly there, ranking 6th in ball-striking overall. This follows on from him ranking 2nd in this area in the RBC Heritage, 8th at Augusta and 15th at TPC Sawgrass; each time looking strong both with his irons and driver.

Straka is a confidence player and once he finds something he tends to maintain it. A similarly high standard of ball-striking has taken him to an excellent recent run in the majors, ranking 1st with the long game in last year’s 7th-place finish in the PGA Championship and he was 2nd in ball-striking when finishing runner-up to Brian Harman in The Open; before that top-10 showing in The Masters this year.

The Austrian has fast shown himself to be a player who doesn’t wilt on the big occasion and with that ball-striking looking so strong, I expect him to continue his strong major run this week.

sepp straka 80-1

1 pt Kurt Kitayama each way (1/5 - 10 places) - 200/1

Kurt Kitayama has hit the ball well all year, which has translated to a super-steady formbook in 2024. He produced his best ever major performance in this event last year and as a player who has proven he can take down some of the game’s elites at a championship course, he looks well worth a short at a huge price with the amount of places on offer.

Kitayama has missed just one cut in 11 starts this season, which came as the result of an unusually poor approach display in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He’s hit the top 25 on three occasions, with his best performance coming when 8th in the Phoenix Open.

Ignoring his effort at Bay Hill, he has been one of the most consistently strong ball-strikers on tour in 2024, ranking 26th in approach and 30th off-the-tee. He’s an excellent long iron player, ranking 16th from 200yds+ and is adept at getting it up and down, ranking 29th in scrambling; an all-round tee-to-green prowess that should serve him well at Valhalla.

Kitayama showed his ability against top-class fields on challenging golf courses, by taking down Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy et al. in last year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational for his first PGA Tour victory. He recorded a best major finish just a few months after that, finishing 4th at Oak Hill in this event and is hitting the ball well enough to put himself among the challengers again this time around.

kurt kitayama 200-1

You can find all Jamie's latest Golf Betting Tips over on our dedicated golf Insights hub.

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