PGA Tour: PGA Championship Preview

Golfer lines up iron shot

Damien Kayat previews the final Major of the year: the PGA Championship which is set to take place between 9 August and 12 August.

The fourth and final Major of the year sees the players head to St Louis for the 100th edition of the US PGA Championship. The Professional Golfers Association of America formed just over a century ago, with Rodman Wanamaker helping to coordinate the inception of this event: it is in commemoration of Mr Wanamaker for which the iconic Wanamaker Trophy is named.

Justin Thomas returns to defend his maiden Major crown in scintillating form after a dominant display at Firestone last week. But there will be no shortage of contenders in an era where every consecutive Major seems more open than the last. And with the Ryder Cup looming large on the horizon it provides prospective players from both sides with a final opportunity to stake their claim for golf’s showpiece event.

PGA Championship | 9 August - 12 August | Bellerive Country Club, St Louis

Originally known as the Field Club, Bellerive was renamed in honour of Governor Louis St Ange de Bellerive. The club has been in existence since 1897 but was relocated in 1960 to its current locale. It was designed by Robert Trent Jones SR, with Gary Player winning its first US Open hosted five years later. Coincidentally, this win helped the South African become the third player to win the career Grand Slam: Jordan Spieth fans will no doubt revel in that little piece of history. Jones’ son Rees Jones came in to further renovate the course in 2005 and 2006. His reputation as the ‘Open Doctor’- he has toughened up courses such as Torrey Pines and Winged Foot- goes some way to explaining the difficulties facing the players this week.

This par 70 course is a relative monster at 7,317 yards. It has only two par 5’s but both will probably play as 3 shot holes for the majority of the field. Length will always be an asset, but where Carnoustie’s rough was relatively week, Bellerive’s taller stuff will prove punitive. Thus accuracy could prove equally pertinent this week. There are six par 4’s that measure over 450 yards and there is water in play on 9 holes. The Zoysia fairways and large bentgrass greens are cut around a large creek that comes into play on half the holes. I have no doubt that this will prove yet another in a succession of perilous US Majors.

Justin Thomas will be looking to not only defend his crown but possibly dethrone Dustin Johnson as the World Number One. Johnson’s recent victory in Canada seems to suggest that he is sure to be a contender this week as well. Jordan Spieth’s quest for a career Grand Slam could prove tricky following a poor showing around Firestone last week; Firestone is traditionally seen as a strong harbinger for success at the PGA. Tiger Woods capitulated badly at Firestone and looks somewhat off the pace of other contenders. Former Champions Jason Day and Rory McIlroy seem to be finding their best form while the likes of Justin Rose and Jon Rahm will lead the European contingent.

Past Winners
2017: Justin Thomas (-8)
2016: Jimmy Walker (-14)
2015: Jason Day (-20)
2014: Rory McIlroy (-16)
2013: Jason Dufner (-10)

To Win Outright:
Dustin Johnson 8/1 | Rory McIlroy 12/1 | Justin Thomas 14/1 | Jordan Spieth 20/1 | Brooks Koepka 20/1

Tony Finau- To Win 40/1, To Place 8/1
While it’s obvious that I was going to opt for Finau this week. Clearly, his monstrous length off the tee could prove critical this week. He currently sits third in Driving Distance on the Tour and will prove devastating should he remain straight. He also sits 13th in Scoring Average and 15th in Shots Gained Tee to Green. He is the only player on tour with top 10 finishes in all three Majors this year. The problem with Finau is actually winning. His only victory came in an alternate event in the 2016 Puerto Rico Open but his consistency this year has been striking. Paying 8/1 for six places, Finau seems excellent value this week.

Kyle Stanley- To Win 75/1, To Place 15/1
16 of the last 19 PGA Championship winners had already won prior to the event. So form clearly plays a huge role in recent PGA Championship history. Stanley may not have a win this season, but two runner-up finishes do highlight his consistency. He currently sits 18th in the FedEx Cup points race and he possesses the type of long game that this course will require. His runner-up finish at the Bridgestone last week bodes well for the man who also finished runner-up at the Memorial. 15/1 to place looks very attractive for a man starting to realise his potential.

Aaron Wise- To Win 125/1, To Place 25/1
Aaron Wise will be making his debut at the PGA Championship and has already made big splashes thus far this season. It’s easy to forget that Wise is already a winner on tour this season with that sensational victory at the AT&T Byron Nelson Classic. The 22-year-old finished in a tie for sixth at Firestone last week and boasts some excellent stats. He currently sits third in Strokes gained Putting, second in Driving Accuracy and T16th in Greens in Regulation. 125/1 just doesn’t make sense for Wise given his obvious potential and current trajectory.

The Man to Beat- Jordan Spieth- To Win 20/1, To Place 4/1
In mentioning Gary Player’s Bellerive Grand Slam success I was kind of setting up Spieth as my candidate from the pack of favourites. Spieth sits at 20/1 following a poor week at Firestone. It’s no secret that the young Texan has struggled for consistency this season.  But he still boasts two top 10’s at the Majors this year. In fact, since the 2014 Masters he has finished the day as the leader of a Major 17 times. He has been the most consistent player in Major Championship golf by some distance over the last four years. Furthermore, evidence seems to suggest that his Firestone failure wasn’t all bad. He ended up ranking 19th overall in putting, which has clearly been the area of his game that has troubled him the most this year. Spieth just has that intangible ability to offset current form and burst into Major Championship contention.

Top Finishing Englishman- Ian Poulter 9/1
With the likes of Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrell Hatton about, Ian Poulter actually comes in at an excellent 9/1 to finish top of the pile for the Englishmen. Already a winner in Houston this season, Poulter was bang in contention at Firestone before a slightly erratic finish saw him finish in a tie for 10th. That followed a tie for 12th in Canada and it really seems as if the totemic hero of Europe’s Ryder Cup team is peaking for another late-season surge.

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Written by Damien Kayat for

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