Whistling Straits, Kohler, Wisconsin, USA
13-16 August 2015
The year's 4th, final and perhaps least prestigious Major is imminent and it contains plenty of intriguing possibilities:
Can Jordan Spieth continue the incredible form that's seen him contend almost every start for a year and seen him walk away with victories in The Masters & US Open as well as winning a couple of lesser events? He was a whisker away from winning at St Andrews as well.
How will Rory McIlroy play, fresh off an ankle injury-enforced 7-week competition break, on a course where he's played well previously (he missed the playoff by a stroke in 2010) and in a tournament he won in 2012 & 2014?
Will Tiger Woods be able to somehow recapture some of the old magic for just one week and win that 15th Major he's been chasing since 2008? Or will he be heading home Friday night to take a break and get in some 'reps' before perhaps emerging in December at his own tournament? A few weeks shy of his 40th birthday! Tempus fugit!
Will one of the world's right-in-form players, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler or Bubba Watson, grab a totally merited win?
How will Dustin johnson fare after again proving fragile at weekends this year, and on the course where but for a moment's cruelly punished carelessness he might easily have won his 1st Major in 2010? Yes, I backed him!
Will this be a famous last hurrah for one of the 'anchored brigade' before the new rules put an end to their cheating from 1 January 2016?
Can another fearless and talented 20-something win another Major and add to the ever-growing list of such youthful achievers?
Whistling Straits is now well-known as a long, links-style test and one that's produced exciting finishes in both previous PGA Championships hosted there; both playoffs. It's massive in every way, not least because of its ability to host 300-400,000 spectators over the four days; I'm sure the PGA loves that!
Nestled along a two-mile (3 km) stretch of Lake Michigan, the course has eight holes hugging the lake, along with vast rolling greens, deep pot bunkers, grass-topped dunes and winds that can sweep in off the lake. A wonderful imitation of the a traditional British links, upgraded for the 21st century.
It can play as long as 7,800yds and that length, combined with Pete Dye's design ability, make the course itself one of the talking points of the week. I regard it as 'Chambers Bay for grown-ups' as it shares many elements with this year's US Open track but presents a golfing examination of far greater integrity. It'll assuredly have better greens as well!
I'm confident the course will thus provide the true all-round test one always wants in a Major, something Chambers Bay & St Andrews frankly failed to deliver. Despite its length it's more than just a 'bombers track' and thus does not exclude shorter drivers from contending (witness Zach Johnson in 2010 and a host of others who lackef length off the tee) but will, significantly, test all aspects of a player's game. In short, the best player should win this week - which was not the case in the two aforementioned Majors which were more in the nature of crapshoots in determining their champions.
Jordan Spieth @ 7/1 clearly heads the market, and justifiably so. He was close to starting here in pursuit of a super-rare calendar year Grand Slam! Logical favourite. QED! I liked the way he tenaciously fought back last week at Firestone too after a sloppy 3rd round 72. He'll contend, for sure!
Rory McIlroy, equally justifiably, is the 2nd favourite on a course that suits his game even more than Spieth's. But for that ankle injury he might have played and won The Open Championship and been the clear favourite here. However, first-up after that injury break his price has been drifting and he may even tee-off as 3rd favourite!
Nobody else all year came close to disputing favouritism with Jordan or Rory who are followed in the market by perennial Major-contenders Jason Day & Dustin Johnson, then the aforementioned in-form trio of Fowler, Rose & Watson.
The next tier in the betting markets includes the anchored Scott, the 2015 Majors' Mr Consistency Louis Oosthuizen, Sergio Garcia - the nearly-man from 1999 who's sadly remained one ever since and hugely talented up-and-comers Matsuyama & Koepka. Oh, and Jim Furyk who blew a 54-hole lead for the umpteenth time last week but who still, perhaps amazingly, looks in good enough form to contend for another US Open victory at age 45!
So, who to bet on or lay?
Both of the favourites are rather short-priced so I'll be laying both along with guys who've proven they can't handle the course like Rose, Stenson, Oosthuizen et al. I should be able to lay fading stars, Tiger Woods & Phil Mickelson, again at half their true odds!
If I delete all these guys, and the ones who just can't quite get it done on Major Sundays (Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Sergio Garcia, etc) from my staking plan I'm looking at each way bets on players who are nestled well down the market this week - dreaming of a winner but firmly believing in a place finish.
And why not? The PGA Championship, in the three decades I've been watching it, has thrown up a plethora of longshot, almost unbelieveable, winners such as: Bob Tway, Wayne Grady, John Daly, Mark Brooks, Rich Beem, Shaun Micheel, YE Yang and more!
I'm not digging that deep in the barrel for my each way selections, however I am buying into the 'youth ethic' where the under-30's have been successfully storming the barricades of the 'oldies' for a couple of years now!
My Two Each Way Selections
My top each way recommendation is 26-y-o Russell Henley @ 175/1 who has been playing extremely well in recent times without quite topping it off.
A Top25 placer in The Masters & The Open Championship this year, Henley is a cool customer who is in top driving and putting form, two of my most highly rated stats categories this week.
In addition, he has that touch of class about him that leads me to believe he can win a big one. He won his first Tour start in Hawaii in 2013, won again at The Honda last year and is due, in my opinion, another win soon. Hopefully this week!
My second pick is 25-y-o Patrick Reed @ 66/1 a ridiculous price for a player with his credentials and ability! He's been playing consistently well, though without that extra edge he demonstrated last year. He's finished Top20 almost every start since May and in the Top25 in all three Majors this year.
Patrick is driving sufficiently well, scrambling and putting as well as almost anybody and, crucially, has that steely temperament that will stand him in good stead should he get into the mix at the business end of things.
I tipped Charley Hoffman for a Top10 at Augusta at tasty odds and he delivered so I'm going with him once again here. His 7th at Glen Abbey & 31st last week at Firestone confirm his maintenance of good form and he can remain strong down the stretch as he proved at Augusta National.
I rate him 7/1 here and the early markets have him at 13/1 - 16/1. A big fat 'over', in my opinion.
My final selection is Tony Finau who has made the transition to the top level quite seamlessly and who has been playing consistently well since April with Top25's in 8 of his 10 most recent starts. He's available at 6/1 - 7/1 and the course will suit his long power game. He just needs an average putting week to snare a Top20 here.
Cheers & Good Luck with your Golf punting!
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