The final Major of the year starts tomorrow at Quail Hollow, when the USPGA Championship takes place. American weather gurus are predicting a Monday finish, with thunderstorms forecast for three of the four days, with the course already sodden from recent downpours.
Add to that the inconvenience of having to watch the proceedings from behind the BBC’s ‘Red Button’ and possible having to listen to Peter Alliss, this tournament does not have much going for it.
The usual suspects are at the head of the market, with Rory McIlroy leading the way at 8-1. Quail Hollow, it should be remembered, is the course where McIlroy made his breakthrough US Tour win, scraping through to the weekend right on the cut line and then going berserk on Saturday & Sunday. Since then he has added another victory round this North Carolina course and it is this love affair with the course that has propelled him to the favourite’s position.
However, unless Rory’s short game has undergone a miraculous transformation in the past few days, he will not be winning this. His driving has been back to almost his best, but if you can’t fire a wedge to within 30ft, birdies become difficult, which has been the case on his latest two appearances. For outright win purposes, therefore, he is discarded.
So too is the second favourite, Jordan Speith, fresh from his Open triumph and bidding to become the youngest player ever to complete the title Grand Slam. He is put to one side solely because he can’t play this course, which does not suit his game. The only time he has competed round here, he failed to break par and that doesn’t win Majors.
Third favourite is Dustin Johnson and the Spanish Archer fires his third arrow. DJ hasn’t recovered from his argument with a staircase on the eve of The Masters and the flashes of brilliance he has been showing are accompanied by a fair few double bogeys. Inconsistency makes him a frightening bet at the moment, and we’ll pass.
And so to the bets:
Hideki Matsuyama must be first on the list. Already a winner of six events this season and fresh from a demolition of the world’s best in the WGC Bridgestone last weekend, he is in the form of his young life and has the temperament to go with the talent. With 8 places on offer, an each way bet at 12-1 looks an assured ‘runner’.
The other recommendation in the ‘Outright’ market is ‘nearly man’ Ricky Fowler, also each way, at 16-1. Course form is already in the book, with a win, a fourth and a sixth place finish already achieved and with the hoohah surrounding McIlroy & Speith, our Ricky can just go about his business and get the job done.
The Top American market has thrown up two interesting each way (small) bets at attractive odds, with most bookmakers offering first five places.
Readers of these previews will doubtless recall my putting up Xander Schauffele for this market in The Open and while the bet didn’t cop, young Xander did well to finish overall 20th. 5th in the US Open and 13th in the WGC Bridgestone were either side of that and he’s worth another go at 50-1.
Patrick Rodgers may not be too familiar a name, but when McIlroy won the Wells Fargo on this course in 2015, Rodgers finished in second place and he has been showing signs of recovering that sort of form in recent weeks. At 100-1 he is worth a minor punt.
Finally, most bookmakers have priced up a Top Dane market, which is a three-runner race. With the field made up of Soren Kjeldsen and Thomas Bjorn, you would think Thorbjorn Olesen would be long odds-on – but he isn’t.
Recommendation: boot filling at 6-5.
Hideki Matsuyama e/w @ 12-1
Ricky Fowler e/w @ 16-1
Xander Schauffele e/w @ 50-1
Patrick Rodgers e/w @ 100-1
Thorbjorn Olesen win @ 6-5