PGA Championship Preview

Hunter Mahan - Image courtesy pga.com Hunter Mahan - Image courtesy pga.com

PGA of America - PGA Championship - 8-11 August 2013
Oak Hill Country Club, East Course, Pittsford, New York

INTRO

This is the final and lowest profile Major of 2013; sometimes referred to as 'glory's last shot'.

In Majors thus far in 2013 Scott, Rose & Mickelson have been quality winners and, on a classically challenging course, I expect a fourth quality winner here.

COURSE

Oak Hill is a demanding Donald Ross design, subsequently toughened by Tom Fazio for the 2003 US Open, measuring 7150yds at a par of 70.

With narrow, tree-lined, fairways and five par4's measuring in excess of 450yds it'll be a real test! In addition, the two par 5's are barely reachable except by the longest hitters and bogey avoidance on these seven long holes will be one of the keys to success here.

However, despite the longish holes, this course is more about accuracy and precision, especially with longer rough in place, than long driving or good bent grass putting.

HISTORY

The East Course has hosted a dozen or so significant championships, though none since the 2003 PGA Championship won, among a host of longshots, by Shaun Micheel. South Africans Tim Clark (3rd) and Ernie Els (5th) plus Charles Howell (10th) were the only other of this week's competitors to finish in the top 10 in 2003.

A number of current players performed well at Oak Hill in the 1998 US Amateur; Sergio Garcia & Matt Kuchar both made the final 8 in the matchplay. Additionally, Jason Dufner, Adam Scott & Charles Howell (2nd) finished top30 in the 36-hole stroke play qualifier - albeit playing both East & West courses.

Oak Hill hosted the 1995 Ryder Cup where, perhaps relevantly, Phil Mickelson was unbeaten, winning all three of his matches. Of interest also is the rare feat of four players scoring holes-in-one at the 6th hole within the space of two hours during the 1989 US Open!

EARLY MARKET

After his dominating win at Firestone last week, Tiger became the logical fan favourite here and opened at 4.50-5.00 though he was a disappointing 39th here in 2003.

However, in my estimation that WGC Bridgestone win merely confirmed a strong Tiger-trend of recent seasons where he's been winning regular events almost exclusively on his favourite courses but not winning any Majors - in which he;s now winless since 2008.

More significantly to my way of thinking, not winning any Majors after having got himself into contention by Sunday. Nonetheless, I rate him the fave here, albeit at a longer 8.00 price.

The logical 2nd choice for punters and for me is New York favourite and 2013 Open Championship winner Phil Mickelson at 15.00-17.00 and, to be honest, it's difficult to see why he'd be market-rated four times less likely to win than Tiger. Especially if you add-in his good memories from that 1995 Ryder Cup. I rate him 14.00.

Next in the betting come the usual suspects: Masters champion Adam Scott at 17.00-19.00, the resurgent Henrik Stenson 26.00, US Open winner Justin Rose 26.00, Brandt Snedeker at 29.00 followed by Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Matt Kuchar, Keegan Bradley, Luke Donald & Hunter Mahan all in the 29.00-36.00 range.

SELECTIONS

My top selection is Hunter Mahan at 34.00-36.00. He finished 9th in the Open Championship and was then leading the Canadian Open after two rounds before he withdrew owing to his wife going into labour - so his recent form is terrific.

He's one of the best players going around not to have yet won a Major and the birth of little Zoe might just give him the impetus to attain the next level. He certainly doesn't need the money so he's gotta be shooting for big titles from here on in!

Hunter drives it long enough for this course and, critically, very accurately. Additionally, he is ranked 29th overall on tour in strokes gained putting. For me he ticks all the Oak Hill boxes, is in good form and an attractive price.

My each way value selection is a guy I simply can't ignore here, having profitably tipped him at long odds for Top10's in two recent Majors - the US Open & Open Championship.

He's 21-y-o Japanese revelation Hideki Matsuyama at 81.00-101.00 The kid just keeps on delivering great results, so why not another strong Major showing here?

Finally, two longshot selections for a Top 10 placing at 15.00-17.00:

Jonas Blixt whose price is far too long for a streaky guy who has already won twice on the PGA Tour during the past nine months and who has a win and a 2nd in recent starts. He's placed Top10 in 30% of his 41 PGA career starts. The other aspect of his game I like is that if he gets a sniff he doesn't fall away like so many do; he'll either miss the cut or contend!

Charles Howell performed well here in both the 1998 US Amateur (runner-up in the strokeplay qualifier) and the 2003 PGA (10th). Unlike most players, he should be refreshed after a 3-week break and, after an awful 2012, he's placed Top10 in 25% of his starts in 2013.

Cheers and good luck with your golf punting!

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