US PGA Championship Preview - Niall Lyons
We return to Whistling Straits in Wisconsin for the final major as the curtain comes down on the four big ones in 2015. The majors this season have been relatively straight forward to predict with many of the bookies favourites filling the win and places. Zach Johnson bucked that trend in The Open, beating a well-backed Louis Oosthuizen. Spieth, Day and Dustin all made their presence felt throughout that week too. Jason Day to win the US PGA Championship - 3pt e/w @ 14/1Won 52.5pt
This week the Pete Dye test is likely to produce the same type of result. It seems you need to have notched a victory in that year prior to teeing up at the PGA, and playing well at last week's Bridgestone is another positive factor. That trend is widely talked about heading into this week, and while I don't want to rule out everybody outside of those parameters, it is worth keeping that in mind when narrowing our search for a potential winner.
The course is one of those manufactured links that are becoming all more common on the major rota in the States. I for one love them because certain players seem to play well on all these layouts. The course is without doubt a stretch and although some short hitters have made the argument here down the years, longer hitters do have the advantage. Kaymer and Singh have won the recent majors here, both big hitters who on their day have a silky putting touch. The 2010 renewal was particularly memorable with Kaymer, Dusty, Bubba and Rory fighting out the finish. Dustin Johnson was penalised two strokes for grounding his club in a bunker on the 72nd hole and fell out of the playoff before it even began. Rory was just a kid back then and really could have won the tournament outright by a few shots had his putter behaved a bit more during the four days. There is sure to be a bit of bad weather at some point in the tournament with wind and rain likely scattered across the first few days. This should really play more into the hands of the bombers, as they'll be able to overpower the course relatively speaking.
Jordan Spieth maintains the role as tournament jolly and his price of 13/2 is enough to put me off entirely. He has every chance of playing well however I'd give the likes of Day, Dustin and Rory the same kind of chances so I'd be looking almost double those odds to get interested. There are plenty of questions to answer with the others. Will Rory's lack of match practice result in him playing a cameo role this week? How will Dustin fare after some major disappointments this year, and also returning to the scene of his lowest moment on the course? Can Day finally put that final round together to become the major champion he so deserves to be? Unfortunately I don't have the answers, but these are the question marks surrounding the top of the market.
I have to say I was tempted by the 14/1 on offer on the exchanges on McIlroy. He is swinging it well in practice and has been working hard with his coach over the last number of days. He shows no signs whatsoever of the ankle giving him bother. He's teeing it up, and is fit. However he isn't match fit and that is just about enough to put me off investing. He will have battled mentally to get prepared for this week also and he may just be a shade overcooked when Thursday comes.
There is no doubting the best bet here this week in the shape of Jason Day. The Aussie has been trending towards this all season long. With a win two weeks ago in Canada and earlier in the season at the Farmers, Jason is slotted in behind Spieth as the most impressive player of the year. He finished in the Top Ten here at Whistling Straits in 2010 and he has kicked on and become a better player since. His major record is nothing short of spectacular without landing a win. What I distinctly remember from a hot and sticky final day in 2010 was the amount of opportunities passed up by some players, most notably McIlroy on the final 12 holes.
I believe a lot of the story will be told on the greens over the four days and I've been impressed by Jason's performance in that category lately, especially when under pressure. No more so was this demonstrated when he holed a 30-footer across the 18th in Canada a few-weeks ago to seal the title. This represents a decent opportunity for Day considering there are question marks surrounding the others and his price of 14/1 is more than fair. He was lying second after day one of the Masters before fading, leading going into day four of the US Open, and finished one off the pace at St Andrews. His major play is outstanding and I fully expect Day to contend once again.
Let's deal with another towards the top of the market. Dustin Johnson will not be as effected as many people presume by his major woes in recent years. This man has had some serious personal issues off the course and as a result is a lot more mellow while on it. Believe me, Dusty has enough money in the bank and a sufficiently stunning partner to sleep next to so as to not be too worried about not crossing the line in a golf tournament. Life is good to him. So when he tees it up this week, his 2010 mishap and three-putt at Chambers Bay will be far from his mind. What is important is his golf. His failure to go on to victory following a 36 hole lead at The Open is a shade more worrying for me. The long delay in play between the 2nd and 3rd rounds certainly upset his rhythm and I suspected he was a shade tired after a taxing year. He won impressively at the Cadillac after a brief hiatus from the tour to sort his personal problems. He has dealt with the aftermath and the publicity of this and a somewhat disappointing showing coming 53rd and shooting 7 over at the Bridgestone was all the evidence I need to suggest he is running out of steam. Matt Kuchar to win the US PGA Championship - 2pt e/w @ 66/1Lost 4pt
Bubba Watson comes into this in some serious form and has every chance of going one better than he did in 2010. His 16/1 is tempting also, but I can't help but feel there is a rick in him even in the closing stages of this event. The course can bite you towards the end and I'm not prepared to take that risk, especially since he is liable to miss the cut also. Anything goes with Bubba, but I'm more than happy to pass him up this week.
Matt Kuchar is one who doesn't fit the trend of having won earlier in the season however I'm more than prepared to take a punt on him this week at tasty odds. Kuchar is a likeable big sod and seeing him win a major would delight the golfing public. Sentiment doesn't rule our decisions however and he has plenty going for him heading into the final major of the year. He is mighty consistent having missed only one cut in the last 16 months. He finished fifth at Harbour Town in the Spring - another Pete Dye designed course. Of course he won at another Dye venue, Sawgrass, although I fail to see many similarities between there and Whistling Straits. A Top Ten in Canada a few weeks back was backed up by a consistent performance at the Bridgestone. The performance of his year came at the Scottish Open playing magnificent stuff down the stretch only to be outdone by a sparkling performance by his buddy Rickie Fowler. He seized his opportunity that day and looked all over the winner before Fowler played great stuff down the closing holes. It demonstrated the ruthless streak Kuchar has at his disposal when he's in the mood. He doesn't win as often as he should considering the amount of cuts he makes, however he is still a major champion in the waiting. He finished 10th here in 2010 which was a shade disappointing having held the 18 and 36 hole lead. He started with 65,67 in 2010 and that shows a real likeness for the venue. He has added four wins since then, three of them being big tournaments the Heritage, The Memorial and The Players. If ever there was somebody coming in under the radar it's Matty. This represents his best chance at a major in a long time, I expect him to play well.
I was extremely surprised to see Patrick Reed chalked up at 66/1. His game is one to suit here surely, and if he's on his game from the off the others will find him difficult to get past. Top Twenty finishes in his last two majors have been impressive enough and this may just be Patrick's time to nail one. He wasn't totally on his game last week but I was pleased with the way he battled to a T15 finish. He had every chance heading into the weekend at Chambers Bay a few months back but if anything it was a bit early for him to win such a prestigious event. The PGA remains his best chance of a major and just like when Keegan struck when the iron was tropical, Reed might be about to do the same. Nobody would be surprised should this lad land one and his price is of major value this week. He is an absolute bulldog when he has got a sniff and major opportunities should surely come his way in the coming years. Early quotes of 66/1 have made way for 60s however that is still 20pts too big for me. He is a solid each-way selection.Patrick Reed to win the US PGA Championship - 1.5pt e/w @ 60/1Lost 3pt
Ian Poulter's putting absolutely caught fire last week and I was expecting to see around 70/1 for this event. At 125/1 he has to be worthy of our support. He chased McIlroy home in the 2012 PGA at Kiawah Island, another similar Pete Dye design. He has shown some very decent form on the tour this year and although he's a bit of a lottery at times, the price is just far too big to ignore. He lacks the length required, however as I said in my intro, some shorter hitters have fared well here, most notably Justin Leonard who just missed out in a playoff with Vijay Singh. He posted a T6 finish at Augusta and there's been a few other close calls at the Honda and Crowne Plaza. A return to a venue similar to Kiawah will get Ian's juices flowing, and he'll be excited after last weeks exceptional putting display. Ian Poulter to win the US PGA Championship - 0.5pt e/w @ 125/1Lost 1pt
Another in the same mould as Kuchar is Brandt Snedeker. He has won twice around Pebble Beach which no doubt has some similar tests to that faced at Whistling Straits. Another win at Harbour town suggests he has the skills to flourish around here. He had four Top Tens on the trot before missing the cut at St Andrews. His one-under par total at Chambers Bay was worth noting and with a few more putts falling he could have contended there. With enough question marks around some of the leading contenders I believe Snedeker along with Kuchar will be licking their lips at the prospect of contending here. His price of 80/1 is a shade on the big side and we'll have to have a small bet, despite it being a bit risky. Brandt Snedeker to win the US PGA Championship - 0.5pt e/w @ 80/1Lost 1pt
One more small wager on American J B Holmes. Holmes has had his fair share of health problems down the years however there is no doubting his talent and he comes to Whistling Straits on the back of a very successful year. Second place finishes at the Farmers and Cadillac were finally backed up with a win at the Shell Houston Open. He loves taking courses apart and he may have the right attitude to succeed here this week. A T25 finish at this venue in 2010 included a second round 66 which shows what he is capable of. He arrives this time around in better form and he fits that trend I mentioned above. at 125/1 he is another who must be supported.J B Holmes to win the US PGA Championship - 0.5pt e/w @ 125/1Lost 1pt
Rickie Fowler is another I thought long and hard about however I worry slightly about his ball striking on this layout. I may be wrong and he could play very well. I'm unsure to be honest. It could go either way and I just can't pull the trigger. I've got solid enough reasons to oppose some, I have to admit there's little in the way of negatives right now with Rickie. Justin Rose throws in absolute stinkers with the putter occasionally and I find it hard to invest when I believe this will be won and lost on the greens on Sunday.