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PGA Tour

PREVIEW: 2023 PGA Championship

The PGA Championship takes centre stage this week as the planet’s finest players descend on Oak Hill Country Club for a shot at lifting the Wanamaker Trophy.

Xander Schauffele - PGA Championship

The PGA Championship takes centre stage this week as the planet’s finest players descend on Oak Hill Country Club for a shot at lifting the Wanamaker Trophy.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

2022/2023 US PGA Tour
US PGA Championship
East Course, Oak Hill Country Club, Pittsford, New York
18th-21st May

Jason Day rose back to relevance last week, surging back to win the Byron Nelson with a ridiculous Sunday 62. It was an extremely emotional victory for the former World No.1. He lost his mother last year to cancer and seriously thought about quitting the game due to crippling bouts of vertigo.

But the uber-talented Aussie has kept plugging away, slowly creeping up leaderboards prior to last week’s massive victory. It was also fitting that the victory came on the eve of the US PGA Championship- the site of Day’s greatest-ever accomplishment. He won his one and only Major at the 2015 US PGA Championship, solidifying his status as the world’s best golfer and becoming the first man to shoot 20-under-par in a Major.

Many felt that would be the beginning of a period of Major dominance for Day. While it hasn’t worked out that way, I’m glad that the affable Aussie is back in the winner’s circle. Could he be a factor in this week’s stacked field?

The PGA Championship

The Professional Golfer’s Association of America was formed in February 1916. Wealthy store owner Rodman Wanamaker was instrumental in the formalization of the PGA (hence the reason his named is attached to that gargantuan trophy).

The first US PGA Championship was staged in 1916. There was no event in 1917 and 1918 due to World War I. The 1943 edition was similarly sidelined due to the events of World War II. That makes this the 105th edition of this event.

But let’s be real: this event always felt like the runt of the Major Championship litter. It fell at the end of an arduous season and felt slightly anti-climactic in the aftermath of the Open Championship (the only Major to be played outside of America).

This was just exacerbated by the inception of the FedEx Cup series in 2007. The PGA Tour took much-needed action in 2019, pushing the event forward to May. It became the 2nd Major Championship of the year and immediately felt like it had found its home.

I just want to make one quick sidenote here. Is the PGA Tour at risk of diluting the impact of the Major Championships? In their quest to compete with the financial riches of LIV, the tour hastily decided to elevate many of the purses and fields on the tour.

These newly formed designated events- 13 excluding the four Majors- feature Major Championship fields and pitch the best against the best. Is there a chance that casual viewers will start to find the designated events indistinguishable from the Majors? It just feels like a slippery slope trying to outdo LIV at every turn.

Oak Hill Country Club

Designed by Donald Ross and opened in 1925, the East Course at Oak Hill Country Club is one of the most decorated courses in America. This course has hosted six previous Major Championships. It has hosted this event three times (1980, 2003 and 2013).

Jack Nicklaus won the 1980 event while the subsequent editions featured surprise victors (Shaun Micheel in 2003 and Jason Dufner in 2013). It has been tinkered with several times over the years. Course designer Andrew Green has been commissioned to return the course to something resembling Ross’ original design. This is a demanding track and you shouldn’t expect any Jason Day-type scoring scenario this year.

A par 70 that measures just under 7,400 yards, the East Course is a bit of a beast. Extensive tree removal probably opens the course up even more to the bigger hitters. But the key metric to success here over the years has been GIR.

The last six Major winners here have all ranked inside the top four for GIR. This shouldn’t come as a surprise when you look at the green complexes. The old Bentgrass/Poa Annua greens have been replaced with pure Bentgrass.

But they are very small targets and will require pinpoint accuracy. The new bunkering has also been the talk of the town. They have been extensively remodelled and feature steep, sheer faces. This could put a higher premium on bunker play than usual.

The Contenders

Let’s take a look at some of the contenders this week. Most of these guys find themselves near the top of the betting boards and will expect to be in the mix come Sunday afternoon. 

Rahm To Go Back-To-Back?

Reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm will be looking to make it back-to-back Major Championships at Oak Hill. He has only played twice since Augusta, finishing down the field at the RBC Heritage before a runner-up finish in Mexico. He has been the best player in the world for the last 12 months and has to be respected this week.

Scottie Ticking Boxes, Rory’s Form A Worry

Scottie Scheffler ticks a lot of boxes this week. He currently leads the tour in GIR and was well in contention at last week’s Byron Nelson. Can he sort out some of his putting demons this week? Rory McIlroy has been in poor form of late and looks a real longshot to break his Major drought this week.

More Mickelson Magic On The Cards?

It will be intriguing to see how Phil Mickelson fares this week. He missed last year’s US PGA Championship due to the fallout from his Saudi comments. So, this will be his first crack at the PGA since his history-making victory at Kiawah in 2021. And he is fresh off that incredible final round at Augusta.

Spieth’s Injury Worries, Koepka & Thomas Looking To Add To Honours

Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas are both two-time champions and have to be respected this week. Jordan Spieth is taking his sixth tilt at completing the career Grand Slam this week. But he does come in under an injury cloud and I think there’s better value out there this week.

Tiger Misses Out, Xander And Tony Red-Hot Coming Into This Week

I haven’t even mentioned the likes of Tony Finau and Xander Schauffele and this could be one of the most unpredictable Majors in recent memory. One person who won’t be in attendance this week will be Tiger Woods. The four-time champ has required follow-up surgery following that horror car crash.

Past Winners

2022: Justin Thomas (-5) *playoff
2021: Phil Mickelson (-6)
2020: Collin Morikawa (-13)
2019: Brooks Koepka (-8)
2018: Brooks Koepka (-16)
2017: Justin Thomas (-8)

To Win Outright:

Jon Rahm 15/2 | Scottie Scheffler 15/2 | Rory McIlroy 12/1 | Xander Schauffele 18/1 | Patrick Cantlay 18/1 | Brooks Koepka 20/1

Value Bets

Let’s take a look at three guys who I think could challenge this week – with one coming in a massive 90/1 to win and 18/1 to place. Others can be found further up the betting boards, but are still good value nonetheless!

Brooks Koepka- To Win 20/1 | To Place 4/1

If Koepka were to win this week, only Woods and Mickelson would have more Major Championships than him when looking at active players. He won back-to-back US PGA Championships in 2018 and 2019. With his runner-up finish at Augusta earlier this year, he now has eight finishes of 1st or 2nd in Major Championships. He has also been consistent on the LIV Tour this year, finishing inside the top 11 in each of his last four starts. This included a reasonable T7 tune-up in Tulsa last week. I’m a tiny bit worried by his recent tendency to fluff his lines on Major Sundays. But this week could present him with the perfect opportunity to rectify that situation.

Keegan Bradley- To Win 90/1 | To Place 18/1

I’m willing to take a chance on Keegan Bradley as my outside bet this week. He burst onto the scene in this championship, beating Jason Dufner in a playoff to claim his only Major title in 2012 (his rookie season). He has always shown the ability to turn it on in high-quality fields. He won a WGC event in 2012 and a FedEx Cup Playoff event in 2018. He also won last year’s ZOZO Championship. He has played well at shot-shaper’s courses this year (he was runner-up at Torrey Pines and T10 at Bay Hill). He has been consistent- if unremarkable- in recent weeks. He ranks inside the top 40 this season for his tee-to-green game. But he seems to have crucially turned things around with that unreliable flat stick. He has gained shots on the field in four of his last six starts with the putter.

The Man to Beat- Xander Schauffele- To Win 18/1 | To Place 36/10

20 of the last 30 Major Championships have gone to first-time winners. That’s why I’m ready to swerve Rahm and Scheffler at 15/2. Schauffele has three top-16 finishes in his last four US PGA Championship starts. That includes a T13 at Southern Hills last year. And the San Diego native has been exceptionally consistent this season. He has eight top 10’s in 13 starts this season, including a runner-up finish last time out at Quail Hollow. I think he makes a strong case for being the best player in the world without a Major Championship. He ranks 19th on tour for GIR and I can see him contending this week.

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