PGA Championship Predictions: First Round Leader Picks

Golf expert Sam Eaton provides his picks for the First Round Leader market for the PGA Championship
Sam Eaton
Wed, May 19, 6:15 AM EDT

PGA Championship Predictions: First Round Leader Picks

Jason Day landed me a 50/1 first round leader last PGA Championship, and the competition only got better after landing a +7669 day two parlay, and a 35/1 winner in Morikawa. I’ll be more than pleased to only land one winner this PGA Championship, but we will certainly be trying for more than that.

The three-ball parlays will be posted throughout the week, with the day-one parlay dropping today, and my outright picks can be found on Twitter. Anyway to the first round leader market…

There are a few key stats which I’ve focused on when looking for my first round leader picks for the PGA Championship, these include Shots Gained: Approach, Shots Gained: Driving Distance, Shots Gained: Ball Striking, Shots Gained: Prox 200+ and Shots Gained: Par 5’s. Whoever is the first round leader will need to score well on the par fives, as they are four of the five easiest birdie opportunities.

As for the weather, there doesn’t appear to be too much of a bias in terms of tee times. However, I’d slightly favor the morning group as the wind does pick up in the afternoon, and the temperature doesn’t fluctuate much at all during the day.

Normally I only make three picks per PGA Tour event, but given it’s a Major, and there’s a bit more juice in the field, I have made five PGA Championship predictions in the first round leader market at big odds, please see below:

PGA Championship First Round Leader Predictions

View the odds market here.

Keegan Bradley +7000

Anyone who follows my picks on a weekly basis will not be shocked to find Keegan Bradley in my PGA Championship predictions. Bradley has been a pick of mine in the last couple of PGA Tour events, winning one at 75/1 and placing in the other at big odds.

Bradley’s game is in great shape, and whilst I don’t think he can string it together for four days and compete against the worlds best, he’s got a low round in him. He’s averaged 2.7 shots on the field when it comes to shots gained in approach over the last five events, and 1.2 shots off the tee.

Keegan Bradley isn’t the best of putters, but he’s gained in five of his last six events, including his last three.

It might not be the most inspiring PGA Championship predictions, but you’d be a brave man to rule out Keegan Bradley’s first round leader chances.

Joaquin Niemann +7000

I’ve made Joaquin Niemann one of my main PGA Championship predictions, and also backing the Chilean in the first round leader market. Niemann’s achievements go under the radar due to other young talents like Hovland and Morikawa, but the boy can play.

Joaquin Niemann has had five top ten finishes since the last PGA Championship, where he flopped and missed the cut.

Niemann will gain shots off the tee, which he showed at Wells Fargo when he gained 5.2 shots on the field. He’s also got a rock solid approach game to back up his tee shot, he’s gained on average 2 shots on the field in approach in his last ten events. He can also get the putter hot, which he showed recently at the Valspar Championship, where he gained 5.6 shots on the field.

Sergio Garcia +8000

Sergio Garcia’s stats will shock a few who don’t follow the game as closely, as he’s not a big hitter but will produce amazing numbers when it comes to gaining shots of the tee. Sergio’s recent form has been awful, with three missed cuts in a row. However, this isn’t a massive concern, as he did hit a 65 and 68 during these missed cuts.

Sergio Garcia is one of these players who can go really low, which he’s showed in the opening round on several occasions in 2021. This year alone he has five top ten finishes in the first round leader market, including a lead at The Players Championship.

It’s all about Sergio’s irons here though, he gained 8.3 shots on the field in approach at The Players Championship, but then lost 3.9 at the RBC Heritage a month later.

The Spaniard’s putter is never going to be hot, but if he can control the damage with the putter he has every chance on day one. We wouldn’t recommend watching some of his 6 fters on the opening day if you do make him your PGA Championship prediction.

Jason Kokrak +9000

This course should suit Jason Kokrak, especially if it proves as difficult as it did when Rory McIlroy won here. Kokrak’s tee to green game has been one of the best in recent events, which has lead to three top ten finishes on the PGA Tour since the backend of February.

Kokrak has also got the putter going after a string of bad results with the flatstick, if you take out the Masters, he’s gained over three shots from the field in four of his last five events.

Jason Kokrak is also a fast starter, he’s not finished outside the top twenty after the opening round in his last six events.

Well worth making Jason Kokrak your PGA Championship pick this week.

Cameron Tringale +10000

Cameron Tringale has been another favorite of mine in 2021, and is a bit of a stats angel. Tringale’s main asset is his work around the green, which could become important on this lengthy course to save par on a couple of holes. Making par on a few of the trickier par 4’s won’t put you out of contention in the first round leader market.

Tringale tees off in the first group of the day, so will get to play most of his round before the wind picks up for the afternoon session.

Tringale missed the cut at Wells Fargo, mainly due to his putter, but his stats in his previous three PGA Tour events make his price look value here.

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