The case for Xander Schauffele this week is almost identical to that which could be made ahead of both the FedEx St Jude Invitational, and the PGA Championship. In both events, he stepped up on solid recent form to contend, and that’s largely down to the difficult conditions he so clearly prefers.
Schauffele’s major record says as much and he’s bagged top-10 finishes on each of the three tough, long, rough-lined par-70s he’s played since the resumption. That’s exactly what we have at Olympia Fields and he’s among the strongest candidates at the top of the betting.
There were signs last week that Viktor Hovland might be about to return to the sort of form which saw him contend regularly six to eight weeks ago, and it’s worth taking the hint after an impressive final round in Boston.
The Norwegian was peppering flags with his approaches throughout the final round and his superb long-game – he’s top-20 in driving and top-10 in iron play – looks ideal for a long, hard layout like this one.
Hovland knows the course, too, having played in an amateur event here in 2018, and it’s the type on which he could threaten once more.
It’s not taken long for punters to forget about Bubba Watson and this two-time major winner may well have done his winning at this sort of level. However, top-25 finishes in his last two non-major starts offer some hope of a resurgence and he’s certainly focused on the job, doubtless a reflection of the fact he has two trips to Augusta coming up.
Watson has been working with a breathing coach and on the putting green in a bid to get back to his best and it’s paying off, last week’s effort in Boston among his best at that course.
Though a lack of power is a concern given that Olympia Fields will play long, Cameron Smith’s wedge and short-game could take him a long way.
He’s shown before that he knows how to grind – see top-five finishes in the US Open and the Masters, plus victory in the Sony Open which was played in foul weather – and his back-to-form top-20 last week might represent a big clue.
He’s twice finished third in these Playoff events having only played in a handful and has a big-time mentality.
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