Here we are, the final major of the 2013 season, the PGA Championship. This event is notorious for throwing up a surprise winner over the years, with players such as, Rich Beem, Shaun Micheel, Y.E Yang and most recently Keegan Bradley all getting a win at this major championship, showing just how unpredictable this game is. With only five professional wins between them before they won this event, it’s fair to say they weren’t the most fancied players going into the week. Shaun Micheel had never won on the PGA Tour, but did win on the NIKE Tour (now know as the Web.com) that year, similarly Rich Beem and Y.E Yang’s solo wins both came in the same year they won the major, so if you’re looking for players that have not won regularly, or like the players mentioned above, only won once, it may be best to side with a player that has won in recent times, most notably this season. Recent winners of this event include last years winner and former World No.1 Rory Mcilroy, Keegan Bradley as mentioned above in 2011, and Martin Kaymer in 2010, all of whom are still under the age of 30 so don’t be worried about the youth factor when making your picks.
Last time the PGA Championship was hosted at Oak Hill Country Club, back in 2003, the winner Shaun Micheel won with a score of -4, one of the highest scores in recent times, with only Padraig Harrington’s -3 score back in 2008 at Oaklands Hill being higher since the turn of the century. Oak Hill should provide a tougher test than other courses have in recent years, and it’s highly unlikely that we will see a winning score like we have in the last four editions of this major, so it will have more of a British/U.S Open feel than before. Back in 2003 only the top three broke par, and 4th place levelled it, with Tiger Woods’ being the most notable player to struggle, coming T39 and not managing to break par in a single round, with rounds of 74,72,73,73 and for him that would of been highly disappointing. Coming into the 2003 PGA Championship, Tiger Woods had four victories, one less than he has this time around, so he was clearly not out of form and certainly wouldn’t of expected to shoot +12. He was by no means the only good player to struggle, plenty did, but when you look at his price and his streak of five years without a major, I don’t particularly fancy him this week. Yes he completely romped the WGC-Bridgestone field, like we know Tiger can but it was again at a course (Firestone) that we know Tiger excels at, and so too have three of his other wins so far this year. Tiger did have that win at the Players’ Championship, somewhere he doesn’t always play well but yet again was a course he has won at in the past, so at a course that he didn’t play well at last time, coupled with his major drought, I’m happy again to leave him out, this time at 4/1. The next closest to Woods’ in the betting is none other than 2013 Open Champion and 2005 US PGA Champion Phil Mickelson, who is in the betting at 16/1. Although Tiger has nine more major wins, and three more US PGA victories, I still wouldn’t make Mickleson four times the price. Unlike Woods, Mickelson did break par at Oak Hill in 2003, firing himself into the first round lead with a 66, six shots better than Tiger’s best round that week. Yes Mickelson did tail off, with rounds of 75,72,75, but he had that superb round and the way he’s playing at the moment you wouldn’t be surprised to see him do that again. These two are followed in the betting by the two other major champions from 2013 Adam Scott (20/1) and Justin Rose (28/1) and they will both be well fancied again. Let’s have a look at the course set up, and the defending champion of the US PGA Championship.
The Course: Oak Hill Country Club (East Course), 7,163 yards, par 70. The East Course at Oak Hill designed by Donald Ross is not typical for a PGA Championship in recent years, and would on first glance suit the U.S Open. The course is fairly short, but features difficult rough, much like Merion and Muirfield which hosted the U.S Open and Open Championship respectively so far this year, so players who have performed well in these two majors will be confident of rising to the challenge here in Rochester, New York. Two holes have been lengthened since the championship was played here back in 03′, 14 yards have been added to the par-4 17th hole, which is now playing at 509 yards, and the 19th hole has been increased by 15 yards to 497. These changes may reward some of the longer hitters, but ultimately shouldn’t make too much of a difference. So far only moderate winds are expected come tournament time, which is unlikely to effect the overall result this week, so don’t look too much into that. The rough is playing tough this week, highlighted by multiple players on Twitter, so finding the fairway on a regular basis will serve the players well this week. This has been touted as the top factor to bear in mind this week when picking your players, and greens in regulation to follow that up will always help. As mentioned above the winning score in this very event in 2003, at this course was -4 and only three players broke par, so if you can find a guy that breaks par this week, you may well be in with a chance. To summarise, this week is going to challenge even the best of players, and patience will be another huge factor this week. It’s easy to get downbeat and shoot some silly high score if you lose concentration on a course like this that will punish, just like we’ve seen at the two previous majors in 2013.
Defending Champion: Rory Mcilroy comes to Rochester, New York looking to defend his 2012 PGA Championship title, and his form isn’t quite where you’d expect it to be. Mcilroy has had a torrid time of late, repeatedly having to answer pressing question about his life on and off the course. Many are speculating that Rory is getting distracted, others believe it’s his equipment change, either way Rory could be playing a whole lot better. That being said, he wasn’t in his best form coming into this week last year and he went on to lift the trophy, so if you are keen on him this week it is possible he will just turn it around on any given week. My feeling on Mcilroy this week is that it’s going to be a hard tournament for him to find his game, and the way it’s set up, for me doesn’t suit him. When Rory wins he shoots low, his highest winning score is -12, his highest -23. Both times he has won a major he has absolutely destroyed the field, first at the U.S Open in 2011 when he shot -16, finishing 8 shots clear of next best Jason Day, and he then shot -13 in the PGA Championship last year, again winning by 8 shots, this time ahead of David Lynn. Although he’s a big price, and one that is becoming increasingly hard to ignore, I’m happy to again leave him out on the basis that both times he’s won a major the course/event hasn’t played out as it was expected, and he doesn’t seem to excel in events that see the winning score being around level par. Rory is widely available at 33/1 this week.
Something that is worth looking at is form shown at other Donald Ross designed golf courses, players tend to play well at similarly designed tracks, and it could be another factor this week. Three events (courses) that I have looked at are, the Wyndham Championship (Sedgefield), the Tour Championship (East Lake), the 2010 and 2011 AT&T National (Aronimink) which are all originally designed by Donald Ross. Players that have played well here all ooze quality and have picked up wins either at these courses, or elsewhere and that is a good sign going into this week. Although the courses mentioned threw up lower winning scores, or an easier challenge whichever way you want to put it, it has been proved in the past that this can be a factor, the top three at the 2003 PGA Championship all have good records around Sedgefield. With this in mind hopefully the link I will make between players and the other courses mentioned will prove there is some substance to this point and it could be a big factor in finding a winner at the PGA Championship this week.
I am looking forward to the final major of the year, and I also hope to break the major duck this season. I have yet to find a winner in the major championships, despite coming close, so hopefully this week is the time to change that. It’s been an up and down season so far for me and anyone who follows this blog, and I’m hoping we can end the season strong, starting here. Here’s my selections for the 2013 PGA Championship.
Brandt Snedeker 30/1 (PaddyPower & SkyBet) 2.5pts e/w: So it’s happened. I have now picked Brandt Snedeker for every single major this year, as well as two regular tournaments. Is this because he’s an obvious pick, or am I just his biggest fan? Whichever way you decide to look at it, he has again made the list, and I’m going to give you several reasons why. First off, he’s just picked up another win, two weeks ago at the RBC Canadian Open. This bodes well for him immediately, as it’s been well documented that players have a win in the season heading into this week, and Snedeker may just of won at the right time. Not just this but Snedeker is one of players that epitomises the link made between the Donald Ross’ courses. As mentioned above, players tend to play well at similarly designed courses, and in Snedeker’s case it’s definitely true. Firstly back in 2007, Snedeker won the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield (Donald Ross design) and followed that up with a T8 again in 2010, so that’s that course ticked. Then it was on to the 2010 AT&T National held at Aronimink (another Ross design) where Snedeker again had a good finish, this time a T16. Last and certainly not least, last year Snedeker completed his career breakthrough at the 2012 Tour Championship held at East Lake, so he certainly shows signs of consistency around these tracks and I’m struggling to find a reason as to why he’ll struggle here. Although he is not amongst the top players in terms of Driving Accuracy, a stat that is being well heralded this week, he is a respectable 57th and is hitting over 63% of fairways, so his accuracy doesn’t concern me. Then you look at his Greens in Regulation percentage and he is again above average finding over 67% of greens, so he should be comfortable with his approaches. A counter argument against picking Snedeker this week, is he seems to come so close, yet so far, but with five top 10 finishes in majors since 2008, two in the last two years, I do believe it’s just a matter of time. He came close again this year, when he held the 54-hole lead at Augusta, and birdied the 1st hole of the final round, only to capitulate from then on. He has however put this behind him and found some very steady form after bouncing back from injury, and although he didn’t excel at Firestone last week, he did finish a respectable T33. It’s clear for all to see that I highly rate Snedeker, and others may not be so sure when it comes to majors, but I just can’t see him not being involved this week.
Zach Johnson 50/1 (PaddyPower) 2pts e/w: Zach Johnson is another player I have picked on multiple occasions this season, most recently last week, when he came T4 at the WGC-Bridgestone and at 66/1 he looked great value there. He comes into the final major of the year a shorter price, but with form figures of T2, T6, T4 in his last three events, he’s certainly proving why he is well fancied this week. His T6 came at the Open Championship, and on the Sunday he showed some signs of mounting a challenge, staying bogey free on the front-09, he did however fail to kick on from that, but his game looks in great shape and his accuracy could be key here at Oak Hill. His form on Donald Ross designs in recent years aren’t outstanding, but he did finish T9 at the 2010 Tour Championship which proves he can do well on his courses. He added a T15 again last year, which was middle of the pack (only 30 players make this week) so he can get round East Lake well. To add to this claim, Johnson also holds the course record at East Lake when he shot a 60 in 2007, so he’s certainly got an eye for another Ross design course. When he won the Masters back in 2007 the winning score was +1 so he can win in tough conditions and that on top of his steady performances in recent weeks was just further evidence that he could be well suited to win this week. He is playing some his better golf again at the moment, after an inconsistent start to the year, and there’s no reason why he can’t ride the form bus all the way to victory this week. Johnson is currently sitting 12th in Driving Accuracy and 69th in Greens in Regulation so he meets the criteria for good play here, and if he can keep the putter hot he’s certainly another player that can go extremely well here.
Webb Simpson 66/1 (General) 1.5pts e/w: Webb Simpson is yet again a player I’ve bet on multiple occasions in the past, and with good reason, as I believe he will go on to add to his one major victory he already has under his belt , the 2012 U.S Open. As I’ve mentioned previously it looks as though this course will play more like a U.S Open than a PGA Championship, and although Webb has failed to make the cut at a PGA Championship so far in his career, I do believe he’s well suited this week. He’s played tough courses well, winning the 2012 U.S Open, coming T14 the year before that, as well as coming T16 in the Open Championship also in 2011. He knows how to win, that’s the first thing you’ve got to look at, he’s won three times since turning pro in 2008, one of them being a major, as well as losing out in a play-off on three occasions, so he’s regularly getting himself in the mix. He has been in up and down form all season, losing in a play-off to Graeme McDowell in the RBC Heritage, as well as two T5 finishes at the WGC-Matchplay and the Travelers Championship. He’s gone well at the Northern Trust Open (T6) and the Players’ Championship (T15) so typically of Simpson, he’s giving himself multiple chances. His most important return to form however, was last week at the WGC-Bridgetone coming in a tie for 14th, off the back of two very below par tournaments. His season form isn’t the main factor behind me picking him this week however, it’s more to do with how he’s played the Donald Ross tracks, and he’s certainly played them well. First up was his T8 finish at the 2010 AT&T National, followed by a T8 at the Wyndham Championship in the same year, as mentioned above both Ross courses. He then went on to win the Wyndham Championship the very next year (2011) and followed that up with a T10 at the same event last season, so he’s popping up at these events on a regular basis. Last and by no means least Webb Simpson finished up his year by coming T5 in the Tour Championship in 2012, further cementing his name into the form books of these tracks. He’s 63rd in Driving Accuracy and 44th in Greens in Regulation, but I feel this week he can improve on both of those statistics on route to playing the weekend. Simpson for me has got the game to play this style of event, and with a major win under his belt early on in his career, he should always go into majors full of confidence in his own ability. At 66/1 with his form at the other courses taken into account I thought he was great value, and I fancy him to turn around his PGA Championship fortunes here this week.
Jim Furyk 70/1 (General) 1pt e/w: Jim Furyk is the oldest of my selections this week, and it’s fair to say he’s well and truly been around the block. Furyk has been on Tour now since 1994, and in that time he has managed to pick up 16 PGA Tour wins, including a major title at the 2003 U.S Open and he certainly knows how to get over the line. Admittedly he has not one on Tour since 2010, and that will no doubt be playing on the veterans mind, but he continues to come close, and he still has the game to compete at the highest level. Furyk has proved this even in recent weeks, as he’s heading into the championship this week off the back of back-back T9 finishes, firstly at the Canadian Open and then again last week at the WGC-Bridgestone, so his game looks in good shape. As for his record on the other courses we are looking at, he ranks up there at the very top. He won the 2010 Tour Championship, and finished well last year coming T7 so he’s had a good recent record, he’s also got a good result under his belt at the Wyndham Championship, coming T9 in 2011. What Furyk has that the other players I’ve mentioned so far haven’t is an experience at Oak Hill to draw on. Going back to 2003, after winning the U.S Open, Furyk would of come into this event with confidence in his game and he proved that with a T18 finish, higher than likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Luke Donald and Ian Poulter, who all made the cut that week and are all above him in the betting this time around. Although it’s been a long time since Furyk won, he’s still playing well and could of had a win in the WGC-Bridgestone last year had he of not thrown it away, so the winning feeling is still around and his experience could shine through this week. He’s 8th in Driving Accuracy and 48th in Greens in Regulation, so he’s striking the ball as well, of not better than any of the players mentioned at a shorter price so far and if he can get warm up the putter and play a patient game he could well feature on Sunday.
Harris English 125/1 (PaddyPower) 1pt e/w: Harris English in direct contrast to Jim Furyk, is the youngest of my picks this week, but the 24-year old definitely strikes me as having the game to win a major championship, and with his current form in mind there’s no reason why he can’t challenge for his first here at Oak Hill. To get the main negatives out the way, Harris is way down the list in Driving Accuracy (132nd) and only just above the average in Greens in Regulation (63rd) but even though he seems to be struggling with accuracy, he’s racked up a win and three further top 10s so far this season, building on his great rookie year last season. In his last two events he has finished, T15 (Open Championship) and T14 (WGC-Bridgestone) so he’s certainly enjoying a run of form. You cannot underestimate the quality of both of these events, and coming T15 in your first ever major appearance is certainly a good way to introduce yourself. Muirfield was a tough test for the worlds very best players, so to finish so high on that leaderboard outside of the U.S was a stellar attempt. Now back in his home Country, English will be keen again to show that he has the skill set to compete at the very top and hopefully he does that here this week. English does have a good showing at the Wyndham Championship behind, T10 in 2012 and that might be a good indication of what he is capable of. Of course this is going to be a much tougher test, but the fact that he did so well in the Open Championship leads me to believe he is up for the challenge, and the more experience he gets under his belt, whether it be majors, or WGCs, the more competent he will be in these situations. He may look at Keegan Bradley’s win in this event two years ago as a sign that he can in fact go right to the wire this week and hopefully his accuracy doesn’t hinder him, he found 60% of fairways last week so hopefully he can improve again here at Oak Hill. I’m backing him on the basis that youngsters have got a knack for winning this event, and he’s also coming into the week with very goof form behind him and at 125/1 he is worth keeping in mind.
Tim Clark 150/1 (StanJames & William Hill) 1pt e/w: Tim Clark is my speculative bet this week, and at 150/1 the South African may look great value, here’s why. First and foremost, Clark has played this course before, not only that but finished 3rd when the PGA Championship was here in 2003. I am fully aware that this was 10 years ago, but sometimes players can just feed off good memories when returning to certain tracks and I’m hoping that is the case for Clark this week. Apart from that Tim Clark has also built a very good case to be picked this week for other reasons. He currently sits 2nd in Driving Accuracy and that could prove vitally important for him this week, although he is way down the line when it comes to Greens in Regulation, the return to a course where he’s enjoyed relative success may just be what he needs to change his fortunes around. Clark has also proved to be a fan of the Donald Ross courses, finishing 2nd in the Wyndham Championship last season, four years on from his T6 at the same course in 2008. One other positive strike against Clark is his T13 in the 2010 Tour Championship again showing his competence around these designs. Clark is pick mainly based on his price, but the fact he sits 2nd in Driving Accuracy is also very important and anyone who has finished 3rd at a course previously can always go well again.
Total Points Staked: 18
Profit/Loss for 2013: +66.15
I hope you all enjoy the final major of the year, and it would be even better if we can find the winner. It’s been a while since we last winner, and I definitely feel it’s overdue. If it wasn’t for Tiger’s brilliance last week, Zach Johnson’s performance would of looked even better and at 66/1 he looked good coming in a tie for 4th, so hopefully he can go well here yet again. Once again enjoy the week and get in contact on Twitter @TomJacobs8 if you have any questions or points you’d like to make.