2021 PGA Championship Picks: 5 Players You’ll Want to Watch

By Kellie Noszka

Rory McIlroy smiles with hands on hips

Rory McIlroy is hoping history repeats itself when the PGA Championship kicks off this week at Kiawah Island Golf Resort’s Ocean Course. Not only is McIlroy a two-time champion in the tournament, the 32-year-old won by a record eight strokes the last time the Championship was held at the course in 2012.

McIlroy sank a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that year to best the previous margin-of-victory record held for over 20 years by golf great Jack Nicklaus. The four-time major champion also won the tournament in 2014.

That multi-win experience is one reason McIlroy is the favorite at 11-1 heading into the 2021 PGA Championship.

McIlroy (+1100) is Playing Well Now, Too

While past success is evident, McIlroy has also performed well lately. He recorded his 19th PGA Tour career win just two weeks ago with a one-stroke victory at the Wells Fargo Championship. It was McIlroy’s first win in 18 months but shouldn’t be a measure of his overall performance as of late. McIlroy missed the cut at this year’s Masters Tournament in April and Players Championship in March, but does have five top-10 finishes this season. He is currently ranked 19th in the FedEx Cup standings.

Fans are Back and McIlroy is Happy to Have Them

McIlroy is a favorite on the Tour, both with the fans and his peers. After his win at Wells Fargo, where crowds were almost back to pre-COVID levels, McIlroy stressed how important it was to have the in-person support.

“I’m certainly glad the crowds are back and I’m glad that I was able to get the job done in an atmosphere like that,” McIlroy said. “I’m excited going forward knowing that we get to play in front of crowds like that. It was just an awesome experience to feel that again over the weekend.”

The PGA Championship won’t be at full capacity for fans, but tournament officials announced that around 10,000 spectators will be permitted to attend each day. It is likely McIlroy will again feed off the energy of the crowd.

While McIlroy is the favorite, there are several other golfers to keep an eye this week.

Jordan Spieth (+1600)

Arguably the hottest golfer on the Tour right now, Spieth has finished in the top 10 in six of his last eight tournament appearances, including a victory at the Valero Texas Open in April. Spieth is one major victory shy of completing golf’s Grand Slam and that missing tournament is -- you guessed it -- the PGA Championship. Motivation is definitely there for Spieth at Kiawah this week.

Dustin Johnson (+1800)

Nagging knee discomfort kept Johnson out of last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson, but it would still be difficult to discount the world’s No. 1 player this week at the PGA Championship. After a resounding win at the Masters in November, Johnson has proven he can handle the spotlight of major tournament action. Johnson hits the ball long and consistently, which will play well at the wide-open Ocean Course where winds affect almost every shot.

Jon Rahm (+1400)

Rahm is currently third in the World Golf Rankings and has made the cut at every tournament this season, with the exception of the Wells Fargo Championship earlier this month. While he hasn’t won a tournament this season, Rahm has finished in the top 10 seven times. Rahm is often considered the best golfer to have never won a major title. Many think he could break the winless major streak this week, as evident by his 14-1 odds to win, second only to McIlroy.

Will Zalatoris (+5500)

Zalatoris was impressive at the Masters, finishing second to green jacket winner Hideki Matsuyama. The 24-year-old proved to be unflappable in the high-pressure setting and that confidence will serve him well at the PGA Championship. The last four winners of the PGA Championship were in their 20s. Could Zalatoris be the fifth in a row?

Collin Morikawa is proof enough that it can happen. Morikawa sailed through the 2020 PGA Championship, topping the field in his first major appearance as a professional.

Image: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

About the Author

Kellie Noszka is a freelance writer and former sports reporter for the Cincinnati Post. She was a golf caddie for 10 years and earned an Evans Scholarship to The Ohio State University. Kellie developed a deep appreciation for the game of golf at an early age.