The final major of the season comes hot on the heels of an epic Open Championship and has barely given us time to catch our breath.
The PGA has traditionally thrown up a few surprise winners, though more recently the established names have gathered up a few of them as the likes of McIlroy, Day, Kaymer and Woods have shown.
The venue for this year’s championship, Baltusrol, will certainly ensure a worthy winner as it will provide a stern test. At close to 7,500 yards and a par 70 we will not be seeing scoring of the likes produced by Jason Day last year or Henrik Stenson at Troon. Like other A. W. Tillinghast masterpieces, the winning score at Baltusrol will be kept close to par. As he as produced such other iconic layouts as Winged Foot, Bethpage Black and Ridgewood, it is well worth considering the players who have had success at these venues and the style of play required to fare well.
This should be a far more US Open-like course than some PGA courses and so form from these events should also be considered. It’s very hard to look past Dustin Johnson in the form he is currently enjoying. Having claimed his maiden major at Oakmont he went straight out and won the Bridgestone, top ten at The Open and second last week in Canada. That said, it really feels like a year for the first time winners and DJ’s odds are too stingy.
It would be very easy to pile into Stenson once again (after backing him for The Open) but a combination of first major hangover and one eye on the Olympics just makes me think that he may come up a little short. Phil Mickelson is obviously in incredible form too having produced one of the great Open performances too – he has also won at Baltusrol in 2005 and loves the course – but I am concerned at the impact of the defeat to Stenson and the physical toll it may have taken on Lefty.
Baltusrol is a top quality course, and we’re looking forward to a proper tussle on Sunday, hopefully with a few of these guys well and truly up to their back wheels in it:
Sergio Garcia 25/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £332.50
Since winning the Byron Nelson in May, Sergio has had 5 straight top 5’s including at the US Open and The Open. He’s been frustrating us for 17 years now with his insistence on owning the tag of “best player never to win a major”, but there is no arguing that he is fine form and his game is suited to the most testing conditions. You’d pretty much bank him now for a top 5 here, but there may be some confidence gained in his good friend Stenson breaking his duck at Troon. Fared well here in 2005 and has also won on Tillinghast’s nearby Ridgwood in The Barclays. All the indicators point toward this being a week that will be dominated by great play tee to green and not necessarily putting magic – few can lace Sergio’s boots when it comes to ball striking!
Justin Rose 35/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £457.50
We were perhaps a little premature in backing him at Oakmont given his dearth of golf off the back of his back injury. Having had a respectable Open Championship on which he got the rough side of the draw, he is making all the right noises about feeling great. His game appears to be in decent shape too and his win at Merion on a course that demanded accuracy off the tee and was a stern mental test. He was only bettered in his major form last year by Spieth and has been in the top 15 of Stokes Gained tee-to-green since 2009 which all combines to tell us that his game is well suited to this course. He’s the only previous major winner included in our picks and is included because of his freshness and relative lack of golf this summer.
Branden Grace 55/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £707.50
These odds seem somewhat out of kilter for a guy who has fared so well in the US Majors (aside from The Masters this year) in the last 18 months. He is a class act and to see his odds almost double off the back off a tough draw at Troon that saw him finish further back. He’s already won twice this year and in winning at Harbour Town came straight off the back of MC at The Masters he’s proved his “bouncebackability.” Recent form of 5th at Oakmont and 10th at Firestone very much indicate a player on form and one in the orderly queue to be the next debut major winner.
Brandt Snedeker 60/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £770
Sneds is a guy who’s come close in majors a couple of times before and has been bubbling up these past weeks. He looked great in Canada last week and caught our attention when he singled out his driving as the most pleasing part of his game – getting the ball in the fairway this week is going to be key. He’s also performed well at Bethpage (2nd) in 2012 and was in amongst it at Merion when Rose won. He’s won enough on the PGA Tour to be considered experienced and with a confident driving game should prove a dangerous competitor, particularly at these odds.
J.B. Holmes 70/1 – Stake £5 e/w Potential return £447.50
Not necessarily a player that you would naturally think of for such a tough track, but he’s more than just a bomber and gouger. I think that he’s a far more accomplished player than people give him credit for and this has been born out with some impressive finishes in this year’s other majors, finishing in the places at The Open and The Masters. He’s been in too good a form to dismiss him and at these odds with the demand on length, I’m pretty happy to give him a run.
Justin Thomas 125/1 – Stake £5 e/w Potential return £791.25
There are a whole bunch of options at the longer odds this week but Thomas has got the look of one of those Americans who’s got one major victory in them. He’s
a good enough player to have already won on tour, and certainly isn’t short of length. Maybe we are doing him a disservice as he currently lies 11th in the Fedex points list and has gone well thus far in this year’s majors.