Only five players led by Rory McIlroy hit all the key trends identified by Niall Lyons for finding the winner at the PGA Championship.
The Premier League reaches its conclusion this month with another two horse race being played out before our peepers as City and Liverpool enter the final furlong of another long season.
The last time the PGA Championship was played at Southern Hills one can be forgiven for thinking it was a one horse race, with Tiger beating Woody Austin by two strokes. When you look at some Major leaderboards back then from Tiger victories and look at the opposition, it is incredible to think he has slayed the new faces of the game also.
Don't expect a long odds winner
It's fair to say the PGA is the widest open of the four majors, but that doesn't mean to say there have been many surprises as we can show here.
|PGA Winners||Previous Major Finish||Season Best Prior to PGA Win||Non Major Winner?||Year End SG T2G||App||OTT|
|Mickelson||21st Masters||21st Masters||No||160||131||152|
|Morikawa||18th Masters||Won Workday||Yes||5||2||19|
|Koepka||2nd Masters||2nd Masters||No||12||11||21|
|Koepka||39th Open||Won US Open||No||19||65||9|
|Thomas||CUT Open||Won Sentry+Sony||Yes||5||6||29|
|Walker||CUT Open||4th Farmers||Yes||35||7||85|
|Day||4th Open||Won Farmers+Canadian||Yes||5||25||3|
|McIlroy||Won Open||Won Open+Bridgestone+BMW||No||1||12||1|
|Dufner||26th Open||4th US Open||Yes||21||31||14|
|McIlroy||60th Open||Won Honda||No||1||2||2|
|Bradley||Major Debut||Won Byron Nelson||Yes||70||162||6|
Prior to the 2019 switch to May players of course had a longer period to win that season, but it still must be noted that seven of the last 11 winners have won earlier that season. Two of the other three not to post a win prior the PGA had top five finish in a major that season. The other finished 21st in the previous major.
Mickelson is no doubt the outlier in the last few editions of this Championship but it must be said that Kiawah Island presented a very stern test that was no doubt suited to experienced campaigners. 39-year-old Oosthuizen followed the 50-year-old Mickelson home, whilst 49-year-old Harrington and 44-year-old Casey were tucked in behind.
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Generally speaking, that type of renewal is few and far between and I fully expect the PGA to revert to type this year at Southern Hills. At nearly 7500 yards and a par of 71 this will more than likely be a test that suits the strongest drivers in the game. That usually means the longest and although there is room for a Woody Austin type player, I'd be surprised should one of those come out on top.
What trends are we looking out for?
Five of the last 11 winners have finished the season inside the top five in SG Tee to Green. Eight of the 11 were inside the top 25. This stat usually does produce the best in the game but nevertheless it must be looked at when considering potential contenders for both the PGA and US Open. More often than not they are long, enduring tests of golf where the nuances that are needed to win the Masters or maybe an Open Championship are a pre requisite.
Since the 2019 schedule switch the winner's worst position in the Masters was 21st, and with a close space between both majors I expect that trend to continue. If we look at everyone in the top 30 in the world and note who finished inside the top 20 at the Masters, currently rank inside the top 25 in SG T2G and have a regular win or major top five to their name this season, let's see what we're left with.
|Ranking||Name||Masters 2022 Finish||SG T2G 2022||Win or Major Top Five 2022||Lowest Score|
*Yellow denotes hitting the trend, with red missing. Lowest score calculated by adding Masters finish to SG T2G 2022. Rankings accurate as of 06/05/2022.
Which five players hit all the trends?
Five players hit the trends with the best score going to Rory McIlroy (best price 14/1). Sungjae Im (50/1), Collin Morikawa (16/1), Shane Lowry (40/1) and Hideki Matsuyama (33/1) are the others who feature closely in behind the Northern Irishman. I think we'll find a number of players who played well at Augusta feature once again at Southern Hills. Equally the PGA result will likely point towards contenders in the US Open also.
I refer back to my Masters article back in March ahead of the Masters. The most likely way to find the winner is look at the last handful of Major Championships, like we did here:
|US Open 2021||Jon Rahm||Four previous top fives in majors including three top eights leading into Torrey Pines|
|PGA Championship 2021||Phil Mickelson||21st in the Masters on last major start|
|Masters 2021||Hideki Matsuyama||Three top 25s in majors leading into Augusta as well as numerous previous top fives|
|US Open 2020||Bryson DeChambeau||4th in the PGA on last major start|
|Masters 2020||Dustin Johnson||2nd and 6th in previous two majors|
|The Open 2019||Shane Lowry||8th in the PGA two major starts before winning Open and a previous runner up at the US Open|
|US Open 2019||Gary Woodland||8th in the PGA on last major start|
|PGA Championship 2019||Brooks Koepka||2nd in the Masters on last major start|
|Masters 2019||Tiger Woods||2nd in the PGA on last major start|
Scottie Scheffler added to the above list with his dominant display in winning the Masters. His previous three Major outings were 8-7-8.
Who are the Non-Major winners to consider?
If I were to pick two non-major winners who could feature heavily in this year’s PGA I'd choose Im and Will Zalatoris (33/1). The Korean now has a runner up and an 8th place finish at the Masters and although not pulling up any trees in the other majors will surely be suited by this Parkland test.
The wind could also be a factor at this venue and he has won around one of the toughest tracks in that regard, PGA National. Will Zalatoris didn't quite hit the trends above but came mighty close.
One shot better at the Masters and he would have hit all the trends and indeed had the lowest score of the top 30 in the world. Non-major winners often have the hunger and guts now to get their names on the biggest prize and Zalatoris certainly looks capable of achieving this sooner rather than later.
In six major outings he has landed four top eight finishes. Quite similar to Scheffler in that regard but he will have to overcome the hurdle of his first win on tour being a major. If he could land the Wanamaker trophy he would be the first player to do so as a maiden since Shaun Micheel in 2003.