Justin Suh: The one player Oak Hill seems to favor

Justin Suh, 2023 PGA Championship, Oak Hill,Syndication: Democrat and Chronicle
Justin Suh, 2023 PGA Championship, Oak Hill,Syndication: Democrat and Chronicle /

If you’re looking for a longshot bet coming into the weekend at Oak Hill, you could do worse than Justin Suh.

"Currently, Justin Suh is listed at +4000 to win the second major of 2023.Odds are courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook and are subject to change."

Justin Suh began play solidly among the unwashed masses of respected but anonymous Tour pros in the event. His best finish this season is only a tie for fifth at the Honda Classic back in late February. He missed the cut last week at the Byron Nelson.

Yet while almost all of his fellow Tour pros struggle to cope with Oak Hill’s classic challenges, Suh – almost alone – is playing like he has come home. He’s turned in rounds of 69 and 68 and enters the weekend tied for fourth, just two strokes behind leaders Scottie Scheffler, Corey Conners, and Viktor Hovland.

It isn’t just his two sub-par rounds that make Suh an intriguing pick to emerge Sunday evening as a surprise champion. It’s the almost unique way he has elevated his game at exactly the moment when Oak Hill is destroying the games of most of his fellow competitors.

Through 66 competitive rounds this season, Suh is averaging about three-quarters of a stroke under par. By Tour standards, that’s OK but not great.

He has been, however, one of the Tour’s most consistent players. The standard deviation of his rounds – the established normal spread – is just 2.89 strokes, an uncommonly low range. That makes him predictable if unspectacular.

Compare that normal range with the ranges of better-known players.

Scottie Scheffler’s normal range is 3.02 strokes, Jon Rahm’s is 3.72, Jordan Spieth’s is 3.47 and Jason Day’s is 3.31.

The average first deviation spread on Tour – the range of normality – is about 3.13 strokes.

You can couple Suh’s predictability with the fact that he seems to really like Oak Hill. His Thursday and Friday scores of 69 and 68 were, respectively, six-tenths and 1.2 standard deviations better than his seasonal norms. He’s done that in a week when Oak Hill has reduced the games of most of the logical contenders to wreckage.

Illustrations of that fact fairly litter the PGA Championship scoreboard. Sungjae Im came to Oak Hill averaging about one and three-quarter strokes under par for the week and promptly turned in a 10-over 80.

Jason Day, coming off a win, brought a season-long average of two-under to Oak Hill and shot five-over. Rahm, carrying an average of about three and one-quarter strokes under par for the season, opened at 76.  Cameron Young, a touted young star, shot 74-75 and went home.  U.S. Open champion Matthew Fitzpatrick, who averages one-under, shot 76. You want more? I got dozens of them.

Through all that carnage, Justin Suh has been the only player in the field to significantly better his season-long performance relative to par at Oak Hill. For some reason, he and he alone seems to like this old, difficult place.

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Obviously, that doesn’t mean Justin Suh will emerge Sunday night with the trophy.

There remain 36 holes to play, and judging purely by his track record – no victories in 46 career starts – he’s not exactly a money magnet.

But that may be what makes him most attractive. Statistically, Suh seems to take to a course that repels the talents and interest of his better-known competitors. If the best indicator of future performance is past performance, especially on this course, that might be reason enough to keep an eye on Justin Suh.