Gdula's Golf Simulations: PGA Championship

Which golfers rate out as the most likely to win at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course for this week's PGA Championship?

Volatility is the name of the game in golf, and picking winners isn't easy. With fields of 150-plus golfers sometimes being separated by how a putt or two falls each week, predicting golf can be absurdly tough.

We'll never be able to capture everything that goes into a golfer's expectations for a week, but we can try to account for that by simulating out the weekend and seeing what happens.

The Process

Over the years, I have made plenty of tweaks to my original golf model, which uses a combination of the OWGR's field strength numbers and datagolf's field strength numbers to adjust each golfer's score relative to the field (on the PGA Tour, the European Tour, and the Korn Ferry Tour).

The ultimate goal is to place a score from the Waste Management Open, the BMW International Open, and the Knoxville Open on level playing fields. This adjusted strokes metric lets me see how golfers are performing across all tours. From there, a golfer's adjusted stroke data is combined with their round-to-round variance to see how the field is likely to perform when playing out the event thousands of times.

In addition to that long-term adjusted form, I factor in course-level adjustments for course fit.

I run a second model that uses more granular strokes gained data, which allows me to very easily adjust for course fit. The results are averaged out.

I let the data do the talking and don't make many tweaks -- if any. Golfers with a small sample get regressed to a low-end PGA Tour player to round out their samples. Data points are weighted more heavily toward recent performance.

Here are the most likely winners for the PGA Championship, according to the models.

Golfer Simulated
Made Cut%
Win Odds
Jon Rahm5.3%31.2%81.4%+1400
Xander Schauffele4.6%28.1%80.3%+2000
Dustin Johnson4.5%25.8%78.3%+1700
Justin Thomas4.0%26.2%78.9%+1500
Bryson DeChambeau3.7%24.2%77.0%+1500
Viktor Hovland3.6%24.4%77.6%+2200
Daniel Berger3.4%25.1%78.2%+3000
Webb Simpson3.0%21.9%76.1%+3700
Rory McIlroy2.8%19.9%72.9%+1100
Tony Finau2.5%18.4%73.0%+4000
Tyrrell Hatton2.4%18.3%72.5%+4600
Matthew Fitzpatrick2.2%18.3%72.9%+8000
Patrick Reed2.2%18.4%73.1%+3600
Abraham Ancer1.9%17.7%72.1%+4500
Patrick Cantlay1.9%17.1%71.4%+3800
Collin Morikawa1.9%17.3%71.6%+2800
Scottie Scheffler1.6%16.1%70.8%+4500
Corey Conners1.6%17.3%72.0%+7500
Cameron Smith1.6%14.2%68.7%+3700
Jordan Spieth1.5%14.0%67.7%+1400
Brooks Koepka1.5%13.7%67.8%+3700
Hideki Matsuyama1.5%14.3%68.3%+3300
Joaquin Niemann1.5%15.4%70.1%+7500
Will Zalatoris1.5%14.6%69.0%+6000
Paul Casey1.4%13.9%68.0%+5500
Louis Oosthuizen1.3%12.5%66.7%+8000
Harris English1.2%11.6%65.1%+14000
Brian Harman1.1%13.0%67.7%+9000
Cameron Tringale1.1%11.7%65.6%+18000
Jason Kokrak0.9%11.0%64.6%+15000
Sungjae Im0.9%9.7%62.8%+7500
Russell Henley0.9%11.5%65.1%+22000
Ryan Palmer0.9%9.2%61.6%+18000
Sam Burns0.8%9.7%61.3%+4500
Tommy Fleetwood0.8%8.6%60.7%+5500
Billy Horschel0.8%9.3%62.0%+16000
Charley Hoffman0.8%9.5%61.4%+22000
Sergio Garcia0.7%9.6%62.2%+11000
Brendon Todd0.7%7.7%58.9%+28000
Jason Day0.7%8.5%60.8%+11000
Bubba Watson0.7%8.9%61.1%+10000
Keegan Bradley0.7%9.4%61.7%+8000
Siwoo Kim0.7%9.5%62.0%+8500
Emiliano Grillo0.6%8.6%60.0%+15000
Chris Kirk0.6%8.3%60.1%+19000
Kevin Kisner0.6%6.7%56.4%+28000
Adam Scott0.6%6.6%55.8%+10000
Max Homa0.6%7.2%57.3%+15000
Christiaan Bezuidenhout0.6%7.6%59.2%+22000

With such a loaded field here for the PGA Championship, win odds get spread out a lot, even at the top.

My model is just not there yet on Rory McIlroy (+1100 on FanDuel Sportsbook) and Jordan Spieth (+1400) just because of their long-term form.

I like Dustin Johnson (+1700), as he has a South Carolina angle here and plays Pete Dye courses well in his career. I'm leaning toward him at the top of the betting board.

Of note, Xander Schauffele is actually the best golfer in the world over the past year when adjusting for field strength and recency. I will always bet him at majors.

Some of the best betting values on the board include Matt Fitzpatrick (+8000), Webb Simpson (+3700), Corey Conners (+7500), Tyrrell Hatton (+4600), Daniel Berger (+3000), Joaquin Niemann (+7500), and Tony Finau (+4000).

Johnson, Schauffele, Fitzpatrick, and Berger are on my card, and I've added boatload of first-round matchup bets.

First-Round Matchup Bets:
Bubba Watson over Henrik Stenson, Danny Willett
Daniel Berger over Billy Horschel, Steve Stricker
Talor Gooch over Harry Higgs, Ben Polland
Kyoung-Hoon Lee over Greg Koch, Dean Burmester