USPGA 2016

Look towards America this week and you’ll be likely to see screaming conventions and rash statements that sum up 2016 in a nutshell, but there’s always fun to he had in the Land Of The Free and the Home of the Brave and the USPGA Championship will showcase its finest talents this week.

The venue is a well-trodden one for majors; A.W Tillinghast’s Baltusrol has already been used for seven US Opens, four US Amateurs, two US Women’s Opens, two US Women’s Amateurs and a USPGA, played here in 2005. It’s a tough and punishing course which is 7,428 at par 70 and the fairways here are tight – far more so than for instance Augusta – and the greens small and tricky. Since 2005 there have been more chances to keep up with modern advances in the game; the first, fifth and 12th greens now have collection areas around them and new tees have increased the yardage on the fifth, 13th and 15th, There are only two par fives now, and they backend the course, the 17th playing at 647 yards and the 18th at 553.

 

The key skill this week will be accuracy – off the tee especially – and also touch to give oneself opportunism on notoriously small and tricky greens in a test of skill and game management.

Golf’s big four have a skillset to overcome all those tests but one doesn’t make appeal. Jason Day has had a phenomenal year and a half but illness can take down anyone and he’s yet to see Baltusrol thanks to family illnesses that have made his kids sick and given his wife an allergic reaction to boot. To add to that, Day has not been getting the right amount of sleep and this is on top of three events the last three weeks and he has admitted himself that his patience suffers when he is under the weather. Those looking to take advantage might wager on a missed cut, or Adam Scott to land the honours for Top Australasian.

 

Jordan Speith doesn’t seem to have the form of last year – an exalting standard yes, but his driving has been very erratic this season which is a big no-no around this set up to begin with and others are preferred.

 

Two of those are Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy. Rory’s record at the USPGA is exceptional for someone who is still only 27 – he has won two of the last five renewals and his tournament course record reads 3-3-64-1-8-1-17. Widely expected to contend seriously at Troon, he hit the worst of strong winds in the draw especially coming towards the weekend when players were losing up to 20 yards per shot and he did well to finish fifth at Troon there considering. He’s big off the tee but is straight and hardy too with the driver and has been in form for a long while so gets the vote of the major contenders.

 

The same could be said of Dustin Johnson, who was a never nearer ninth, and he since was just beaten in the Canadian Open despite some poor rounds which shows an in form competitive streak that he’s had before the US Open. The only negative would be that his length isn’t as big an advantage here compared to elsewhere but he’s got the main things going for him and he has played Tillinghast courses well recently and both should contend.

None of them were a match for Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickleson at Troon and whilst this is a very different test the pair of them are amongst the most adaptable golfers in the world and there’s no reason that they can’t go close again. Mickleson, to begin with, was the winner of the last USPGA here, having come after an impressive reconnaissance effort which included rounds with a club member to boot and a strategy that included sacrificing distance for accuracy. Mickelson doesn’t have the consistency that he used to but it’s increasingly clear that he targets certain events now including the majors and wherever he’s had previous course form he’s thrived, see the Opens in 2013 and this year for an example and The Masters. Having lost out to Stenson would have been a blow to him but that’s now five fine rounds for Left who can go well again.

Stenson will also be on the portfolio. With four top sixes in his last appearances, having challenged strongly in third place at both Valhalla and Oak Hill in 2014 and 2013, he has plenty of USPGA pedigree to begin with and he shot a 67 here in Round 2 11 years ago. He has Tillinghast form a plenty through the years and a career of contending at majors has given him the skill necessary to see things out. The Open/PGA double has been done five times in the last 22 years and others have gone close in that time and with two wins in his last three starts he arrives here as the form golfer in the field. He drives hard but won the Open through his magnificent long range putting and scrambling could come into play here to boot.

 

Of the other leading contenders, one standards out as a safe each/way play. Since winning the Bryon Nelson Championship, Sergio Garcia has finished fifth three times in-a-row – at the US Open, the BMW International Open and two weeks ago at Troon. The Major question has come and gone time and time again but he actually fits the profile of a first time major winner and he’s chock full of form at Tillinghast courses. 23rd here in 2005, he’s finished second and tenth in previous US Opens at Bethpage, and it would be no surprise were he to be in contention come the weekend.

 

Rickie Fowler was sick before The Open but is sneaking out of the picture which shouldn’t be the case given that he’s made three cuts on the trot however including a top ten finish at the Bridgestone. Branden Grace didn’t get anywhere close in The Open but that result can be easily forgiven and he was third in the USPGA last year. A three time top five finisher in Majors, the big stage holds no fears for him. In Scotland he had no chance with the draw, grinding a score on Day 1 before chasing into the wind, and that effort along with his one in Scotland can be easily forgiven here. Take those two efforts away and he’d be far shorter – he went off the same price as Stenson for the Open. Justin Rose has a strong Tillinghast record and no back troubles so has to go on the longlist too.

 

JB Holmes has been placed in both the US Masters and the Open Championship and looks a big price on that basis Tyrell Hatton was 25th last year and that time since he’s risen upto 55th in the world rankings and comes here off a fifth in The Open, his best in a Major. That was his sixth Top 20 in nine events and he appears to be able to play punitively punishing courses as well as anyone. Starting early tomorrow, he should face no winds amongst the early starters and looks best of the three figure prices.

 

 

Advice

 

1 pt each/way Rory McIlroy (8/1 general)

 

1 pt each/way Henrik Stenson (16/1 general)

 

1 pt each/way Phil Mickleson (22/1 general)

 

1 pt each/way Sergio Garcia (22/1 general)

 

1 pt each/way Branden Grace (50/1 general)

 

1 pt each/way Tyrell Hatton (175/1 Betfair)

Look towards America this week and you’ll be likely to see screaming conventions and rash statements that sum up 2016 in a nutshell, but there’s always fun to he had in the Land Of The Free and the Home of the Brave and the USPGA Championship will showcase its finest talents this week.

The venue is a well-trodden one for majors; A.W Tillinghast’s Baltusrol has already been used for seven US Opens, four US Amateurs, two US Women’s Opens, two US Women’s Amateurs and a USPGA, played here in 2005. It’s a tough and punishing course which is 7,428 at par 70 and the fairways here are tight – far more so than for instance Augusta – and the greens small and tricky. Since 2005 there have been more chances to keep up with modern advances in the game; the first, fifth and 12th greens now have collection areas around them and new tees have increased the yardage on the fifth, 13th and 15th, There are only two par fives now, and they backend the course, the 17th playing at 647 yards and the 18th at 553.

 

The key skill this week will be accuracy – off the tee especially – and also touch to give oneself opportunism on notoriously small and tricky greens in a test of skill and game management.

Golf’s big four have a skillset to overcome all those tests but one doesn’t make appeal. Jason Day has had a phenomenal year and a half but illness can take down anyone and he’s yet to see Baltusrol thanks to family illnesses that have made his kids sick and given his wife an allergic reaction to boot. To add to that, Day has not been getting the right amount of sleep and this is on top of three events the last three weeks and he has admitted himself that his patience suffers when he is under the weather. Those looking to take advantage might wager on a missed cut, or Adam Scott to land the honours for Top Australasian.

 

Jordan Speith doesn’t seem to have the form of last year – an exalting standard yes, but his driving has been very erratic this season which is a big no-no around this set up to begin with and others are preferred.

 

Two of those are Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy. Rory’s record at the USPGA is exceptional for someone who is still only 27 – he has won two of the last five renewals and his tournament course record reads 3-3-64-1-8-1-17. Widely expected to contend seriously at Troon, he hit the worst of strong winds in the draw especially coming towards the weekend when players were losing up to 20 yards per shot and he did well to finish fifth at Troon there considering. He’s big off the tee but is straight and hardy too with the driver and has been in form for a long while so gets the vote of the major contenders.

 

The same could be said of Dustin Johnson, who was a never nearer ninth, and he since was just beaten in the Canadian Open despite some poor rounds which shows an in form competitive streak that he’s had before the US Open. The only negative would be that his length isn’t as big an advantage here compared to elsewhere but he’s got the main things going for him and he has played Tillinghast courses well recently and both should contend.

 

None of them were a match for Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickleson at Troon and whilst this is a very different test the pair of them are amongst the most adaptable golfers in the world and there’s no reason that they can’t go close again. Mickleson, to begin with, was the winner of the last USPGA here, having come after an impressive reconnaissance effort which included rounds with a club member to boot and a strategy that included sacrificing distance for accuracy. Mickelson doesn’t have the consistency that he used to but it’s increasingly clear that he targets certain events now including the majors and wherever he’s had previous course form he’s thrived, see the Opens in 2013 and this year for an example and The Masters. Having lost out to Stenson would have been a blow to him but that’s now five fine rounds for Left who can go well again.

 

Stenson will also be on the portfolio. With four top sixes in his last appearances, having challenged strongly in third place at both Valhalla and Oak Hill in 2014 and 2013, he has plenty of USPGA pedigree to begin with and he shot a 67 here in Round 2 11 years ago. He has Tillinghast form a plenty through the years and a career of contending at majors has given him the skill necessary to see things out. The Open/PGA double has been done five times in the last 22 years and others have gone close in that time and with two wins in his last three starts he arrives here as the form golfer in the field. He drives hard but won the Open through his magnificent long range putting and scrambling could come into play here to boot.

 

Of the other leading contenders, one standards out as a safe each/way play. Since winning the Bryon Nelson Championship, Sergio Garcia has finished fifth three times in-a-row – at the US Open, the BMW International Open and two weeks ago at Troon. The Major question has come and gone time and time again but he actually fits the profile of a first time major winner and he’s chock full of form at Tillinghast courses. 23rd here in 2005, he’s finished second and tenth in previous US Opens at Bethpage, and it would be no surprise were he to be in contention come the weekend.

 

Rickie Fowler was sick before The Open but is sneaking out of the picture which shouldn’t be the case given that he’s made three cuts on the trot however including a top ten finish at the Bridgestone. Branden Grace didn’t get anywhere close in The Open but that result can be easily forgiven and he was third in the USPGA last year. A three time top five finisher in Majors, the big stage holds no fears for him. In Scotland he had no chance with the draw, grinding a score on Day 1 before chasing into the wind, and that effort along with his one in Scotland can be easily forgiven here. Take those two efforts away and he’d be far shorter – he went off the same price as Stenson for the Open. Justin Rose has a strong Tillinghast record and no back troubles so has to go on the longlist too.

 

JB Holmes has been placed in both the US Masters and the Open Championship and looks a big price on that basis Tyrell Hatton was 25th last year and that time since he’s risen upto 55th in the world rankings and comes here off a fifth in The Open, his best in a Major. That was his sixth Top 20 in nine events and he appears to be able to play punitively punishing courses as well as anyone. Starting early tomorrow, he should face no winds amongst the early starters and looks best of the three figure prices.

 

 

Advice

 

1 pt each/way Rory McIlroy (8/1 general)

 

1 pt each/way Henrik Stenson (16/1 general)

 

1 pt each/way Phil Mickleson (22/1 general)

 

1 pt each/way Sergio Garcia (22/1 general)

 

1 pt each/way Branden Grace (50/1 general)

 

1 pt each/way Tyrell Hatton (175/1 Betfair)