It is almost time for the US PGA Championship, the fourth and final major of the golfing season, and always an exceptional event. For the first time, the beautiful Quail Hollow Golf Club will host the event. Although it is a regular stop on the PGA Tour, it makes its debut as a major venue and will also host the Presidents Cup in 2020.
Form and pointers
Last week’s WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone is a good starting point when looking for which players to back. The course at Quail Hollow will have a similar setup, so those who performed well last week, including winner Hideki Matsuyama (who we recommended as a best of the rest bet at 7/2) can be expected to carry some form into this tournament. He led home Zach Johnson, Charley Hoffman and Thomas Pieters – all will be confident heading into this event.
Jordan Spieth’s success at The Open ended a run of consecutive first-time major winners, but that is not to say that we will not see another new name in the winner’s circle here. Jimmy Walker (2016), Jason Day (2015), Jason Dufner (2013) and Keegan Bradley (2011) are among those to have broken their major duck at the PGA in recent years, and Quail Hollow has also seen some players become first-time tour winners there.
However, the players coming into this tournament looking on top form include Spieth and Rory McIlroy while even Day showed signs of a return to good form last week. We think there is a high chance that we will see somebody who has already won a major doing so again, given the challenging nature of the remodelled course.
Conditions and course
The Quail Hollow course is undulating, challenging and has hosted PGA Tour events since 2003. The greens are fast and even heavy rain will do little to slow them down. You must putt well to win here. That challenge offsets the fact that the course is shorter than some – although accuracy will be critical to avoid the difficult rough. Look out for the big drivers trying to reach the par-4 14th from the tee (but beware water on the left) then take on the tough uphill par-5 15th.
They call the final three holes “The Green Mile”, and they are supremely difficult. Players’ nerves will be tested as much as their skill, especially when they take on the all-water carry to the par-3 17th green.
The weather forecast for the weekend is not good. Rain is forecast on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday with scattered thunderstorms threatening the area. The wind is not expected to vary much, so the weather may cause some delays and disruption, but is unlikely to help or hinder players in particular. It will be a constant challenge on some holes.
Betting odds and markets
In the outright market, Rory McIlroy (8/1 – BetFred), Spieth (10/1 – BetFred), Dustin Johnson (12/1 – several), Matsuyama (14/1 – William Hill) and Rickie Fowler (20/1 – 188Bet) are the favourites. As usual, bookmakers will offer generous place terms as this is one of the biggest tournaments of the year. For example, Ladbrokes offer 1/5 the odds for eight places, so if your selection finishes in the top eight, you will still get a payout. Coral is the only bookmaker paying out for ten places, so they are worth a look if you are looking for outsiders to make the top-10.
Plenty of other markets are available, including betting on who will be the leader at the end of the first day (see below for our pick), and who will finish with the best score in each group of three players that go around together. Some bookmakers also offer markets like Best American player, Best British player, Best Danish player, and so on. There is something for everybody.
You can also bet on whether there will be a playoff (we think there might and 3/1 with William Hill is tempting), the margin of victory, and bookmakers offer 72-hole match betting, where you bet on which of two selected golfers will perform the best over the weekend e.g. Rickie Fowler vs. Jason Day.
As ever, we recommend picking a clutch of golfers and backing them each-way. I was not sure that McIlroy would play as well as he did last week, having changed clubs, but proved that he is in good form and is worth a punt at 8/1. He has won twice at Quail Hollow, including his first PGA Tour victory in 2010.
Stick with Matsuyama as well, as the likes of McIlroy and Tiger Woods have proved that you can follow up top-3 finishes at the WGC by performing well at the PGA in the past.
Fowler at 20/1 is an attractive option as he also knows how to win around this course and leads the PGA Tour for strokes gained with the putter this season. Like McIlroy, his first PGA Tour win came at Quail Hollow.
Justin Thomas improved with every round at the WGC, so we recommend him at 50/1 with BetFred and also backing him to be the first round leader at 45/1 with Paddy Power.
You can get 60/1 with Marathon Bet against Paul Casey, which I would also snap up as he is becoming Mr Consistent on tour this season, with a finish of fifth last week.
It was interesting to see Patrick Reed played at the German Open recently, and he will be boosted by a top-20 finish there as well as a strong finish at the WGC last week. You can back him at 110/1 with BetFred.