What are the best bets in this week's US PGA Championship?
The US PGA follows hot on the heels of the Open Championship having been brought forward to accommodate the Olympics and Baltusrol, New Jersey is hosting.
Phil Mickelson lifted the trophy the last time this Major was played here in 2005 with a winning score of four-under and something around that could again suffice – they certainly won’t get even close to the 20-under posted by last year’s winner Jason Day. Baltusrol is a very long par-70 with average width fairways, penal rough and small, tricky greens. While the power hitters will enjoy an advantage, the premium is going to be more on accuracy off the tee as a missed fairway will leave players scrambling for par.
The last four winners have been relatively easy to find with Rory McIlroy winning twice (2012 & 2014) and Jason Dufner (2013) fitting a lot of trends and having finished fifth the previous year, but there have been plenty of shock winners this century – Keegan Bradley, Y.E Yang, Shaun Micheel and Rich Beem were all hard to fathom – and 12 of the last 20 winners of this event were breaking their major duck. All three Majors in 2016 have gone to a first-timer, so don’t be surprised if we get another this week and they could well be a big price.
That said, Baltusrol is a classic test and the cream has tended to rise to the top in previous Majors (it has hosted seven US Opens), so there’ll be plenty of punters happy to place their trust in the front five in the betting: Dustin Johnson is bet365’s 8/1 favourite and he’s closely followed by McIlroy and Day at 9/1, with Jordan Spieth and Henrik Stenson at 14/1 and 16/1 respectively. Of that quintet, Rory boasts by far the best record in this event – the dual winner can also boast two third place finishes – but if Stenson plays like he did at Troon, the others may as well stop at home. The Open-PGA double has been achieved five times in the last 22 years, so that’s no barrier, and the dynamic Swede can boast four top-six PGA finishes. BetVictor’s 18/1 could look huge come Sunday.
But with arguably the strongest field of the year teeing off on Thursday, there has to be some value further down the betting list and while deliberating over Mickelson (surely nailed on to contend) and Sergio Garcia (likely to be in the mix until it comes to the crunch on Sunday), I first stopped at Justin Rose. The Englishman won the 2013 US Open at Merion with a winning score of one-under and tough layouts seem to bring out the best in him. He’s contended in several majors since, coming to closest to bagging another when second in last year’s Masters, and his US PGA record shows two top-five finishes in the last four years. Now healthy after a short spell out due to back problems, his accurate and deceptively long driving – he’s ranked 40th in Total Driving (a measure of both distance and accuracy) – makes him a good fit for this week’s track.
Likewise two former winners and tournament specialists – Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner – who arguably rate even better value at triple-figure odds. Bradley beat Dufner in a playoff in 2011, after they had both posted eight-under, and took third as defending champion the following year – he also cracked the top-20 in 2013. He ranks No.1 for Total Driving in 2016 and has been playing well for the last couple of months, with the highlights being a tied-eighth at Memorial and tied-18th at Troon, where he was a factor for a long way. Dufner has also been enjoying a a good run of form with five top-10s in 2016, including a win and a tied-eighth at Oakmont, and has the stats to back that up – he ranks 23rd for Total Driving and eighth for Greens In Regulation.
If we are to complete the full set of first-time Major winners in 2016, then Kevin Chappell has to be a prime candidate. He’s a Tour maiden admittedly but has produced some of his best golf on the big occasion – he finished third and tenth in consecutive US Opens from 2011 and shared the first round lead en route to 13th in the 2014 US PGA. He’s taken his game to another level in 2016 with runner-up finishes at both the Players Championship (golf’s unofficial fifth major) and Arnold Palmer Invitational, while more recently he has finished third at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone, which is not too dissimilar to Baltusrol in that it is a long par-70 with smaller greens. The 125/1 on offer looks too big for a player of his ability and 10/1 that he finishes in the top-10 is not to be sniffed at either.
That could be the best way to support my final two picks, Emiliano Grill0 and William McGirt, though it’s hard to resist a small play on these emerging talents in the outright market with seven places up for grabs – Sky Bet, Coral and William Hill have joined Paddy Power in offering that extra place, albeit at one fifth the odds. Grillo came off a tied-14th at Firestone to finish tied-12th at Troon (69-72-72-70) and the 23-year-old Argentinian shares the No.1 ranking for Total Driving with Bradley. It won’t be long before he adds to his sole Tour victory in the Fry’s Open. McGirt also shed his maiden tag this season, following a playoff victory in the Memorial, and was tied-seventh at Firestone on his tournament debut. An accurate driver and a terrific scrambler, he’s way overpriced at 200/1.
Justin Rose each-way @ 33/1 Paddy Power
Jason Dufner each-way @ 100/1 Sky Bet
Keegan Bradley each-way @ 150/1 BetVictor (6 places)
Kevin Chappell each-way @ 125/1 Sky Bet / Top-10 Finish @ 10/1 bet365
Emiliano Grillo each-way @ 150/1 Coral / Top-10 Finish @ 11/1 bet365
William McGirt each-way @ 200/1 Coral / Top-10 Finish @ 16/1 bet365