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The PGA Championship 2016 preview
Our golf scribe previews the final 'Major' of the year, The PGA Championship, being played at Baltusrol Golf Club.
Just two week’s after a thrilling Open Championship, we’re back in the States for the final major of the year. Previously referred to as “Glory’s Last Shot,” even the PGA realised that was a bit silly given how much golf is actually played each year.
It’s been an odd year, all told. All the talk of The Big Three never quite materialised, with three first-time major winners seizing the initiative. Only Spieth has managed to go close at a major this year, before he simply forgot how to play golf around the back nine at Augusta. He hasn’t quite recovered since.
Instead, there’s a new batch of players pushing their names to the fore. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a fourth first-time major winner of this remarkable season. In order to do so, that player will have to conquer the demanding Baltusrol course.
Measuring 7,428 yards, it’s a very long par 70 with fairly narrow fairways, murderous rough and small, testing greens. You’ll need to be long and if you’re not, you’ll need to be damn accurate. Phil Mickelson won here in 2005 on -4, so don’t expect the low scoring we saw at Whistling Straights last year. Looking back through its history and no-one has ever won a major here with double digits under par.
2015 Jason Day -20 | 2014 Rory McIlroy -16 | 2013 Jason Dufner-10 | 2012 Rory McIlroy -13 | 2011 Keegan Bradley -8 (playoff)
Dustin Johnson 8/1 | Rory McIlroy 9/1 | Jason Day 10/1 | Jordan Spieth 14/1 | Henrik Stenson 16/1 | Phil Mickelson 25/1
By the numbers
98 – 98 of the world’s top 100 golfers will be in action at Baltusrol. Class.
13 – 13 of the past 15 US PGA winners had won an event earlier in the season. Form.
8 – 8 of last 10 US PGA winners were in the world’s top 25. Cream.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello First Round Leader 100/1
I was extremely tempted to go with Garcia on this one until I checked out the tee times. Instead, I’ve opted for his fellow countryman who has quietly gone about his business this year. Cabrera-Bello has racked up the Top 10 finishes on both sides of the Atlantic and has an upward curve when it comes to majors. For the first time in his career, he has made the cut at the year’s first three majors, his career is progressing nicely and he currently sits at a career-high 27th in the world rankings. Back him at triple figures for the FRL.
Tony Finau (140 Win & 28/1 Place)
A powerfully built youngster, Finau showed his potential by finishing 18th at Troon, and Baltusrol is exactly the kind of course where he could do real damage. He has also shown the temperament to compete at the big events – in just four appearances at Majors, he’s finished inside the top 20 three times, including last year’s 10th at the PGA. It may be a bit early in his career for him to be notching up major titles, but at 28/1 a place, the value is too good to pass up.
Branden Grace (40/1 Win & 8/1 Place)
Having claimed a win and four Top-10 finishes during a five-event stretch prior to the Open Championship, Grace’s showing at Troon was something of a disappointment. On the wrong side of a severe draw bias, Grace was simply never in it at Royal Troon, but I’m expecting a very different showing back across the pond. He’s produced his best performances Stateside and comes in a bit under the radar at 40/1. He’s been contending for majors consistently over the last two years, finishing inside the top five on three separate occasions. It’s only a matter of time before he actually wins one.
JB Holmes (66/1 Win & 13/1 Place)
A toss up between the consistency of Patrick Reed and the explosiveness of Holmes, I’ve opted for the latter. I hope he doesn’t live to make me regret that decision. Baltusrol asks for a bomber and there aren’t many better than Holmes. He is first in the world in driving distance and sixth in strokes off the tee. He already has two Top-5 major finishes this year (fourth at the Masters, third at last week’s Open Championship), and if he can get his flatstick working, he has the game to go close once again.
Adam Scott (35/1 Win & 7/1 Place)
Scott has slowed down since back-to-back victories in late February and early March, but he quietly has four Top-20’s in his last six events. That includes an 18th at the US Open and 10th at Firestone before a low-key showing at the Open. Ranked first in the world in strokes gained tee to green and first in strokes gained approaching the green, Scott seems a perfect fit for the tough Baltusrol layout. He’s an excellent ball striker, who only needs to get his putter going in order to win his second career major.