The 2022 edition of the PGA Championship takes centre stage this week as the world’s finest golfers descend on Southern Hills in Oklahoma for the second Major of the year.
Another surprise winner on the cards?
This was the Major that caught everyone a little off-guard last season. Matsuyama winning at Augusta had a feeling of inevitability about it. Rahm and Morikawa’s respective wins at Torrey Pines and Royal St George’s merely cemented their reputation as serial Major contenders.
But the US PGA Championship threw the script out the window, with Phil Mickelson fending off the likes of Koepka and Oosthuizen to secure his sixth Major title. This made him the oldest Major champion in history.
But things have changed dramatically for Lefty a year after he claimed that improbable win at Kiawah Island. Mickelson may have ruined his reputation forever by throwing his lot in with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
He admitted that bin Salman was a murderer who treated homosexuals in his countries inexcusably. But he was essentially willing to look past that for financial reasons.
It’s been well known that Mickelson is extremely motivated by financial gain. But that level of cognitive dissonance (greed) was just too much for most to handle. He has chosen not to defend his title due to this self-inflicted idiocy.
Greg Norman should take notice of how quickly this Saudi association can utterly destroy a reputation.
104 not out
Ok, let’s switch to the History Channel for a few seconds. At this stage, everyone knows a little bit about the history of this great event.
Rodman Wanamaker- after whom the gargantuan trophy is named- formed the Professional Golfers Association of America in February 1916. October 1916 saw the maiden staging of the US PGA Championship.
It wasn’t staged in 1917 and 1918 due to the First World War. It was also cancelled in 1943 due to the Second World War. This makes this the 104th edition of this great event.
This event was previously staged in August and was the final Major of the year. It was always treated like the ugly sister and this problem was only exacerbated by the advent of the wildly successful FedEx Cup Series.
The tournament was shifted to May in 2019, lending the tournament a far greater sense of gravitas.
Southern Hills – a true all-round test
This will be the eighth Major hosted at Southern Hills. The Perry Maxwell-designed course hosted the US Open in 1958, 1977 and 2001. This will be the fourth time it hosted this event, previously hosting the US PGA Championship in 1970, 1982, 1994 and 2007.
But this promises to be a far tougher proposition this year following Gill Hanse’s 2019 renovation. It is now a well-bunkered, heavily protected, tree-lined test. The course has also been significantly lengthened (which could negatively affect Spieth’s chance of claiming that career slam).
This 7,556-yard par 70 looks like a real monster. I would probably tend to favour length over driving accuracy this week. This is especially true since many of the fairways have been significantly widened.
But what you do from these undulating Bermuda fairways is equally important. Players will need to be accurate to find these smaller-than-average, fiendishly fast Bentgrass greens. This is really a course that will test every facet of your game.
Mickelson’s absence- while deeply sad on some level- is mitigated somewhat by the presence of Tiger Woods. Woods has declared himself fit to play this week and it’s going to be interesting to how he competes with all these battle-hardened competitors.
We all know that Tiger will only enter an event if he thinks he can win. His fans will point to his familiarity with this week’s venue: Southern Hills. This was the venue that saw Tiger capture the 13th of his 15 Major titles.
But this will be his first outing since a disappointing 47th at Augusta. And that’s not where the grand narratives end this week. Jordan Spieth finished runner-up last week in Texas and he looks primed for a push at an amazing career Grand Slam.
Rory will be looking to win his 3rd US PGA Championship while Bryson DeChambeau returns to action this week. There are just too many storylines to cover in one humble article.
This looks primed to be an exhilarating week with as many as 30 possible champions out there.
2021: Phil Mickelson (-6)
2020: Collin Morikawa (-13)
2019: Brooks Koepka (-8)
2018: Brooks Koepka (-16)
2017: Justin Thomas (-8)
2016: Jimmy Walker (-14)
To Win Outright:
Scottie Scheffler 12/1 | Jon Rahm 14/1 | Rory McIlroy 14/1 | Justin Thomas 16/1 | Collin Morikawa 18/1
Hideki Matsuyama- To Win (35/1), To Place (15/2)
Matsuyama just ticks the boxes in terms of all-round game. Last year’s Masters champion currently ranks sixth for Approach, seventh for GIR and 22nd in Scrambling. That’s a pretty neat package for any Major. Sure, he doesn’t blast the ball ala Bryson DeChambeau. But he has added some sneaky yardage to his game over the past few years (he currently ranks 44th in Driving Distance). He won the Sony Open in January (seven of the last US PGA Champions had won earlier in the season). He is also coming off a rip-roaring finish at the AT&T Byron Nelson. She shot a 10-uner par final round to finish two shots outside of a playoff. He also ranked 1st in Approach throughout the week in Texas.
Cameron Young- To Win 125/1 | To Place 25/1
This has got to be one of the more short-sighted sets of odds this week. Cameron Young is enjoying a brilliant first full season on the PGA Tour. He has three second places and a third place over his 15 events this season. He missed the cut at the Masters. But he followed that up with a T3 at the RBC Heritage and a T2 at the Wells Fargo Championship (his last two outings). He is slightly mercurial (which isn’t too surprising for a relatively inexperienced player). But he is in red-hot form and he also happens to rank ninth on the tour for Driving Distance. I think 25/1 to place looks great value to me.
The Man to Beat- Scottie Scheffler- To Win 12/1 | To Place 26/10
I really hate backing outright favourites at Majors. But I have to say, 12/1 for Scheffler seems like a bargain at this point. The current Masters champ is a ball-striking demon who has won four of his last seven individual events. He struggled a little bit alongside Ryan Palmer at the team event in New Orleans. But he comes into this Major after the perfect prep at last week’s Byron Nelson. He’s shot four rounds in the 60’s and finished seven shots off the pace at -19. A comfortable top 20 finish was just what the doctor ordered. It has taken a bit of the heat off him but still shows that his form is right there. He will benefit from all the attention being aimed at Woods and Spieth this week. He can shape the ball both ways and should be able to manage the numerous doglegs out there. He also won a college event at Southern Hills back in 2015!
Top South African- Christiaan Bezuidenhout- 11/2
I know it’s somewhat sacrilege to bet against Major maestro Louis Oosthuizen in this category. But Oosthuizen has hardly played any golf this season and was forced to withdraw from the Masters due to injury. Bezuidenhout is a ball-striking beast who has started to show real maturity of late. He finished 12th at last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson, shooting 20-under-par in the process. He has made the cut in his last five Majors and looks settled on the PGA Tour.
First Round Leader- Jason Day- 66/1
I can’t see Jason Day adding to his magnificent 2015 US PGA Championship triumph this week. He has been far too inconsistent this year and always seems a moment away from that back injury flaring up. His best result was a T3 at the Farmers Insurance Open. But he has come out the starting blocks fast in recent weeks. He led the Wells Fargo after the first round and the second. But terrible weather completely derailed his chances on Saturday. He also sat in T12 after the first round of the AT&T Byron Nelson. He once again had a poor third round to finish well down the leaderboard. It appears as if Day can’t maintain momentum at present. But could he show his undoubted class for one magnificent round? 66/1 for Day to pull ahead of the field for one day looks a nice dark-horse bet.