COVID-19 complications have scuttled the RBC Canadian Open once again and the Congaree Golf Club in South Carolina will instead play host this week to its replacement, the one-off Palmetto Championship.
What was more than an eventful week at the Memorial Tournament will be followed up with a bit of a letdown. It has nothing to do with the Palmetto Championship and Congaree Golf Club. I am personally excited to see a new golf course on the circuit, but the tournament’s place on the golf calendar is not conducive to producing a strong field.
Sandwiched between a storied, invitational event hosted by Jack Nicklaus and the third major championship of the year, the U.S. Open, it’s not surprising that we will have one of the weakest fields of the season this week. With that being said, the Palmetto Championship provides a great opportunity for a first-time winner to break through or possibly for a veteran to make a long-awaited return to the winner’s circle.
There are two names that rise above the rest when it comes to those in the field at the Palmetto Championship. Those would be world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and four-time major winner Brooks Koepka. At Bovada, they are listed as co-favorites at +800, with an implied probability to win of 11.11 percent. If successful, a $100 bet on either player would net you $800 in profit.
|Harold Varner III||+5000|
Odds as of June 8 at Bovada
What to Expect from Congaree Golf Club?
Making its public debut, the Congaree Golf Club will hold the distinct honor of being the longest par 71 on the PGA Tour this year. Measuring to nearly 7,700 yards, this Tom Fazio design looks similar to a few of his other designs from what I can gather. Fazio has his name tied to a number of courses that have been featured on the PGA Tour, including Firestone Country Club, Shadow Creek and Quail Hollow. In addition to those three courses, he is responsible for Pinehurst No. 6 and No. 8, BMW Championship host Caves Valley, and TPC Myrtle Beach.
Based on various flyovers, photographs and quotes pertaining to the property, the general typography and layout looks most similar to Fazio’s work at Pinehurst. That’s a general statement as nothing will be perfect this week, having to juggle a couple more variables than usual. And while we have no course history to go on, there are a couple of players who have become acquainted with Congaree.
Lucas Glover is a course ambassador. What does that exactly entail? I am not entirely sure, but I reckon he has his fair share of rounds under his belt. Kevin Kisner is another player who has been around Congaree before. When the move to South Carolina was announced, Kisner was vocal in his excitement for the Palmetto Championship coming to his home state.
How Will Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka fare ahead of the U.S. Open?
This will be the first time that we see both Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka since the PGA Championship. It was a tale of two tournaments for each of them. Johnson, after withdrawing from the AT&T Byron Nelson the previous week, missed the cut at Kiawah Island. The world No. 1 hasn’t looked right in 2021 and will look to regain his 2020 form in his home state of South Carolina.
As for Koepka, it appeared the PGA Championship was his to lose after making birdie on the first hole of his final round. Poor iron shots were eventually his downfall as he finished as the runner-up to Phil Mickelson. He will try to keep his good play going as he will look to add a third U.S. Open title to his trophy case next week at Torrey Pines.
Congaree Golf Club Course and Analysis:
Like I previously mentioned, despite all the research that has been conducted, there are still some unknowns for the Palmetto Championship betting odds breakdown. What we do know is that the course is long, the fairways are wide, the greens are large, and it is Bermuda grass throughout. If we get firm and fast conditions, it won’t play nearly as long, but with rain in the forecast, that may be unlikely and distance will still be advantageous.
This could favor a number of players, particularly those who call Florida home, as these conditions are what they have grown accustomed to. It could also play into the hands of those who make a living with their irons. While larger than your normal PGA Tour greens, precision will be needed to avoid run-off areas and potentially missing the green entirely. Finally, with it being a par 71, I will also look into par-4 scoring numbers as they make up nearly two-thirds of the holes. Based on this and the latest Palmetto Championship odds, these are my Palmetto Championship best bets.
PGA Tour Palmetto Championship Expert Picks:
Ben Martin (+6600 to win)
This is where things are going to start to get ugly for us, but what the average golf fan may not know is that Martin has been putting together a very strong stretch of golf. He has been positive in SG: Approach in five consecutive starts and would fit the description of a past PGA Tour victor returning to the winner’s circle. This stretch of golf began at the Corales Punta Cana Championship where Martin was able to nab his first top-10 finish on the PGA Tour since the 2018 Sony Open.
The former Clemson Tiger has since continued his solid play and should return to his native state of South Carolina brimming with confidence. What I am most excited about when it comes to Martin is his play last month at the Wells Fargo Championship. As mentioned, Fazio had his hands all over Quail Hollow during the redesign leading up to the 2017 PGA Championship.
In one of the strongest fields of the year, Martin finished just outside the top 10 in a tie for 11th. He gained nearly five strokes ball-striking in Charlotte and there’s the potential that Congaree fits his eye tee-to-green. Obviously, being a course history apologist, we are grasping at straws with a brand-new venue this week, but if true, Martin is just a solid putting performance away from contention.
Kramer Hickok (+15000 to win)
Having won with our selection of Patrick Cantlay at +2200 at the Memorial, we are playing with house money this week. As such, we are going to undertake an unorthodox methodology at the Palmetto Championship. To me, this tournament is completely wide open and anyone in the field is capable of winning. I figure those at the top of the Palmetto Championship oddsboard will be looking ahead to next week, leaving the door open for those a bit further down. With this in mind, I feel comfortable with the addition of Kramer Hickok to our betting card.
The Texas product tends to be a more feast-or-famine option, which is not the least bit surprising considering his price. But he has a number of strong starts this season, including a top-10 at the Bermuda Championship, a top-20 at the Sony Open and most recently a top-15 in his last start at Colonial.
Hickok first popped up on my radar the weekend of the Wells Fargo Championship. I believe he was in the second-to-last group on Saturday, before going the wrong way on the leaderboard over the last two days. Despite the disappointing finish, eventually placing T-51, Hickok brushed it off and played well once again three weeks later.
This time it was at the Charles Schwab Challenge as he put together yet another strong performance. He gained nearly six strokes tee-to-green in Fort Worth, as he was able to couple the ball-striking with his typical around-the-green prowess. If he is able to do something similar this week at the Palmetto Championship, then I like his chances to post another quality finish.
Hank Lebioda (+15000 to win)
If you thought the first two selections were out there, you haven’t seen anything yet. Lebioda comes into the Palmetto Championship boasting some of the best form of his career. The Florida State product has been riding a hot set of irons as he looks to contend for only the second time on the PGA Tour. That first occurrence came back in 2019 when he finished in a tie for third in the Bermuda Championship, six strokes behind eventual champion Brendon Todd.
If there was a place or time for Lebioda, I believe it is this week at Congaree. In his last two starts, Lebioda has posted 6.2 SG: Approach at the Wells Fargo Championship and 4.1 SG: Approach at the AT&T Byron Nelson. While those are fantastic statistics to have on our side, it’s actually his play at the Valspar Championship that gives me reason to believe he’ll thrive around Congaree.
Despite losing strokes on approach, Lebioda finished in a tie for 13th at the Copperhead Course, his best finish since the Bermuda Championship I mentioned above. He gained nearly six strokes on the greens that week, good for the best performance of his career. I don’t expect a performance like that out of him at the Palmetto Championship, but just a fraction of it should be more than enough for him to at least get into the thick of things by week’s end.
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