The final golf major of the year takes place this week when the best in the world head to North Carolina for the USPGA Championship. News broke earlier in the week that this tournament will be shifted to May from 2019 so this is the penultimate time it will be the final major of the year. The tournament also sees a return to major golf on the BBC with them snatching the coverage from Sky for this renewal.
Jimmy Walker will be looking to defend his title at Quail Hollow but he faces competition from a very strong field with many leading runners heading into the tournament in good form.
2016 – Jimmy Walker
2015 – Jason Day
2014 – Rory McIlroy
2013 – Jason Dufner
2012 – Rory McIlroy
2011 – Keegan Bradley
2010 – Martin Kaymer
2009 – Y E Yang
2008 – Padraig Harrington
2007 – Tiger Woods
Quail Hollow is a familiar stop on the PGA Tour as it has hosted many editions of the Wells Fargo Championship. It was always a beast of a course but now that they have dropped the par down to 71 it is even more of a monster. The course still measures 7,600 yards and with heavy rain in the area before and during the event we can expect it to play to its full length.
In the Wells Fargo the fairways and greens here are among the hardest to find on the Tour. Usually respite comes in the form of mowed down rough but that will be so wet this week it is hard to see players getting much relief in there.
All things being equal length is going to be a huge thing this week but tee to green monsters with an ounce of course management are the ones to be on. This is a major championship though so do not ignore the need to scramble and putt well.
Sometimes in this particular major you can get a few too many withdrawals given all the big events that have been on recently and the many still to come but that has not happened this time around. The course is largely to do with that I would fancy.
There are major winners everywhere you look in the field as well as a batch of players ready to take down their first major so we are all set up for a massive week on a brilliant golf course.
Rory McIlroy has plenty going for him this week. He has the best record around here having won the Wells Fargo twice, he arrives off the back of a decent showing in the WGC last week not to mention The Open two weeks prior and he gobbles up soft courses for dinner. All that means he is an 8/1 favourite. There is no doubt in my mind he is the worthy favourite. He could win this by five but I’m no single figure player especially in a major.
All eyes will be on one man this week and that is Jordan Spieth. He goes in search of the holy grail of the career Grand Slam at the amazingly young age of just 24. This course might just be too long for him with all the rain but despite that I am sure he will still be popular at 10/1.
Hideki Matsuyama is what many would describe as a streaky player and that will be a positive this week after he landed the WGC Bridgestone last week. There is not much to dislike about the Japanese star although at 12/1 you could argue the value in him has disappeared after last week’s win.
At the start of the year if you had told me we would be getting 14/1 about Dustin Johnson around here I would have laughed at you but he has flattered to deceive since his injury at The Masters. He has the power to tear this place up but he isn’t quite on top of his game and you have to be flushing it to get around here with a score intact.
Rickie Fowler is a surprising fifth favourite for the tournament. I only say that because this is a stellar field. That is certainly no slant on Fowler as a player. He’s 16/1 to win which is a little skinny to me but he will win one of these things soon. It is 25/1 bar.
I’m going with two main bets this week. I don’t think either will surprise anyone. They are extremely good drivers with length and decent all-round games who should in theory test this course out throughout.
Brooks Koepka has already won a major this year and while I don’t usually like backing players to win a second major in the same year because it is so rare that someone wins two in a year I can’t ignore the major form of the US Open champion. You have to go back to the 2015 Masters for the last time he was outside of the top 25 in a US major and in this one he arrives with back-to-back top five finishes. He put up a wonderful showing at The Open too and his form looks good. With his length he should have a great chance this week.
Daniel Berger is playing very well this season. He is one of my favourite players to back on the Tour and now that these greens are Bermuda I’m happy to get on him here. He hits the ball so well off the tee, can find pins and is a solid putter. He’ll be teeing it up in the Presidents Cup later in the year and he can head off down there with a massive run from here under his belt.
I’ll allow myself a few pops at the bigger prices. They basically follow the same lead as my main bets in profile with the exception of one but all are attractive prices to chuck a few quid at.
Tony Finau looks to have the potential to go well around here. He is exceptionally long off the tee which should open the course up for him and from there the rest of his game looks in decent enough order to deliver something substantial from this tournament. He has seven top 10s on Tour this year including two in his last three events. With the power in that driver he should be right there on Sunday.
I took Xander Schauffele last week and while I didn’t get paid out he went well enough at Firestone to merit giving him another crack here. There is no doubt he is in decent form and has featured well at the last two majors. He has won a tournament recently too which I always like heading into this particular major and he has the length off the tee to be competitive. If he can clean up the errors he can be right there.
Webb Simpson is a member of this golf course so nobody will know the place better than him but more importantly he will have plenty of support and be comfortable in the surroundings. With all the pressure that is around a major championship knowing and being content on the course can be a big thing. He sits fourth in scrambling and when he hits greens in the right number he is right there on proximity. If he finds enough greens this week he could walk off with a second major title.
I always think Alexander Levy is a man to back when the weather is bad and courses get soft and play long. He has shown on a number of occasions in Europe that he is proficient and did so recently at the European Open where he was edged out in a playoff by Jordan Smith. There’s no shame in that though and at 300/1 I’ll happily take the chance that he relishes the juice in the ground this week especially with his underrated length and precise iron play.
Back B.Koepka to win USPGA Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 26.00 with Skybet (1/5 1-8)
Back D.Berger to win USPGA Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 61.00 with Paddy Power (1/5 1-8)
Back X.Schauffele to win USPGA Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with Paddy Power (1/5 1-8)
Back them here:
Back T.Finau to win USPGA Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-8)
Back him here:
Back W.Simpson to win USPGA Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 151.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-7)
Back A.Levy to win USPGA Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 301.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-7)