The PGA Championship circles back to its new May position this week to bring us the second Major of the year – the USPGA Championship.
The host venue this week is the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, which measuring at a whopping 7,876yds officially becomes the longest course in Major Championship history.
A par 72 designed by Pete Dye and situated on the South Carolina coast, the track last graced our screens for Major Championship golf back in 2012, when Rory McIlroy memorably won the PGA Championship here by eight shots.
My suspicion this time around however is that we will see a very different course to the wet one which played so much in to McIlroy’s hands in the humid August conditions back then.
With dry conditions forecast we should see a firmer course with the coastal winds being more of a factor, and a strong iron game and good scrambling skills look the key to success.
So let’s take a look at some of the market leaders starting with the favourite, Rory McIlroy.
Following his resurgent win at Quail Hollow a fortnight ago and his demolition of the field here in 2012 it is understandable that the Northern Irishman is all the rage. However, he is not for me this week at the odds as his putter, not his trademark long game, did his best work in Charlotte and he faces a different test to that of 2012.
Of the other market leaders, Jon Rahm understandably still looks distracted from becoming a dad recently for the first time, Justin Thomas’ form has dipped slightly since his superb win at Sawgrass, while Dustin Johnson has not only seen a dip in form but was also forced to withdraw from last week’s event with a knee problem.
With Bryson Dechambeau looking frustrated more often than not on the course of late, the one who did tempt from the top is Jordan Spieth. The resurgent Spieth has the pressure of trying to complete the career Grand Slam of Majors this week, so I’ll avoid him too in the outright market.
Instead I’ll start this week’s team with Xander Schauffele.
Schauffele has been a machine in the Majors throughout his career posting eight top 10 finishes in 15 starts in the biggest events and he was at it again recently at the Masters when finishing third.
The California native has shown a good liking for coastal golf in his time on tour with his last win coming at Kapalua in Hawaii to go alongside a second place in the Open at Carnoustie, and his all round game looks a great fit to me for this week. Granted it is over two years now since that last success in Hawaii, however he has continued to knock on the door and I can see him ending that drought this week.
One look at the 2012 final leaderboard here, which saw Wigan’s finest, David Lynn, finish second, will tell you that the European’s relished this coastal challenge and Tommy Fleetwood is one of the best proponents of coastal golf around. He finished 14th last time out at Quail Hollow which was a perfect warm up. With his ball striking and strong scrambling skills ideal for the likely conditions this week.
I expect a big showing from the man from Southport.
The Chilean youngster Joaquin Niemann is yet to miss a cut this season is undoubtedly heading to the very top of the game. A low-ball flight, which is perfect for playing in the wind, Niemann arrives here on the back of two top 20 finishes and looks primed to go well.
Finally in an event where Paddy are paying to ten places each way I shall wrap things up with two three figure odds plays on Branden Grace and Joel Dahmen.
Grace returned to the winners circle by the coast in Puerto Rico earlier this year and with his only other PGA Tour success coming just down the coast at the Dye designed Harbour Town home of the RBC Heritage, the South African, who is always a threat when wind is a factor, looks a perfect fit this week.
Dahmen meanwhile landed his maiden tour success also by the coast at The Corales Puntacana event earlier this year and with confidence still high he could easily repeat his top 10 finish from last August’s PGA Championship.
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