The PGA Championship, the fourth and final major tournament of the golf season, returns to the Valhalla Golf Club for the first time since Tiger Woods won the 2000 edition.
Because the PGA Championship, colloquially known as glory’s last shot, moves around there is only limited course form on which to frame one’s assessment of this year’s 96th running of the tournament. Opened in 1986, the Valhalla Golf Club has been the venue for five prestigious events – the 1996 PGA Championship, the 2000 PGA Championship, the 2004 Senior PGA Championship, the 2008 Ryder Cup and the 2011 Senior PGA Championship. One is inclined to ignore the 2008 Ryder Cup because United States of America captain Paul Azinger asked for the track to be set up with minimal rough because he felt that would advantage his team over the Europe side.
So what can take one from the raw results of the 1996 PGA Championship (won by Mark Brooks), the 2000 PGA Championship (won by Woods), the 2004 Senior PGA Championship (won by Hale Irwin) and the 2011 Senior PGA Championship (won by Tom Watson)? Well, length off the tee seems to be important, so does major success and there appears to be a link between the Open Championship and Valhalla Golf Club performance.
Many people have remarked that the Valhalla Golf Club has a links golf feel to it and perhaps that is why Brooks (third and fifth in the two Open Championships prior to his PGA Championship victory), Woods (three Open Championship wins), Irwin (three top 10s, including one second, in his 11 Open Championship starts) and Watson (five Open Championship triumphs) have been successful on the Louisville course.
Other factors that may help one unearth the PGA Championship winner are this term’s honour roll – 12 of the 14 champions had won at least one event in the season prior to winning the campaign’s final big one – and the results of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational because since 2006 no golfer has gone from finishing lower than 22nd on the Firestone Country Club South Course to grabbing glory.
So one is looking for a long-hitting, links-loving, recent winner who performed well above the mean in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational and knows what it takes to claim lucrative prizes. The only two golfers who tick all the boxes are Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott.
McIlroy’s game has gone to another level since – and one hates saying this – he split from Caroline Wozniacki. He is ranked third for driving distance, seventh for ball striking and 18th for total driving on the PGA Tour this term, he won this year’s Open Championship at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club and he shot four consistently good rounds to win last week’s World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational by two strokes from perennial tournament choker Sergio Garcia.
Scott, whom McIlroy usurped as the world number one last week, is ranked 18th for driving distance, 10th for ball striking and second for total driving on the PGA Tour this season, he has finished in the top five in each of the last three Open Championships and he was right in contention for the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational title last week until he shot one over par in the final round.
McIlroy is trading at odds of +500 with several bookmakers, including Bet365 and Paddy Power, to win the PGA Championship, while Scott is available at odds of +1200 with several bookmakers, including Sky Bet and Unibet, to raise the Wanamaker Trophy at the Valhalla Golf Club. The golfers may be the PGA Championship favourites but they are at the top of the market for sound reasons and dutching them to generate odds of +311 is not the worst bet in the world.
Outside of McIlroy and Scott, one could make decent cases for Garcia (but he has not won a major tournament), Charl Schwartzel (but he has not shone in the Open Championship), Keegan Bradley (but he has neither excelled in the Open Championship nor won an event this term) and Rickie Fowler (but he is a major virgin without a victory this season).
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