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So we've made it to the final Major Championship of the season, the 2015 US PGA Championship, where the Straits Course at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin plays host to the 97th US PGA Championship. 'Glory's Last Shot', as it's affectionately known in the United States, may be the least renowned of the four Majors, but Whistling Straits looks set to provide a shoot out with World Number 1 Rory McIlroy returning and looking to defend his title from an in-form pack of challengers. For new visitors, Golf Betting System is into its 7th season providing free statistics, predictor models and previews across every Major Championship, PGA and European Tour event. We also have a thriving golf betting community with constant golf betting chat and insight from golf punters 24/7 on our Facebook Group. Welcome and don't hesitate to get involved!
The PGA Championship traditionally has the strongest and deepest field of all Major Championships. The PGA of America event returns, for the 3rd time, to Pete Dye's Whistling Straits on the western shores of Lake Michigan. World Numbers 2 through 7 all arrive in Wisconsin in top form giving this week the potential to be a real cracker with a fit again Rory McIlroy sure to be up for the fight. So here's my US PGA Championship preview which walks you through some interesting angles that have shaped my final selections.
The PGA Championship has an established track record of delivering triple digit each-way punts in the paying places. So it's well worth reading our dedicated Longshot and First Round Leader preview by Paul Williams.
Course Guide: The Straits Course at Whistling Straits will play as a 7,501 yard Par 72 this week as the Pete Dye design has been tweaked since 2010. Length has been added to the 5th (Par 5), 14th and 18th (both Par 4) holes, whereas over 50 yards has been taken from the 11th (Par 5). It's all academic really as these changes equate to a 5-yard course length reduction from 2010, but the reality is that Whistling Straits is a long, open golf course, especially with pre-tournament rain softening the bentgrass, fescue/poa annua mix fairways. Fine fescue rough measuring up to 6" isn't appealing, but fairways are wide enough to be more than fair although blind tee-shots are numerous. The key skill at Whistling Straits is hitting at least 70% of Pete Dye's difficult to hold green complexes, many of which feature his infamous upturned saucer design. However the most famous feature of Whistling Straits are the 950 bunkers or sandy waste areas which again in 2015 will all play as hazards. If you see Dustin Johnson, be sure to tell him.
Straits Course, Whistling Straits, Kohler, Wisconsin: Designer Pete Dye 1998; Course Type: Technical, Coastal; Par: 72; Length: 7,501 yards; Fairways: Bentgrass mix with Fine Fescue and Poa Annua; Rough: Fine Fescue 4-6"; Greens: 7,500 sq.ft average featuring Providence Bentgrass; Tournament Stimp: 11ft; 2010 Scoring Average: 72.92 (+0.92).
Course Overview: The similarities between Whistling Straits and Chambers Bay are numerous, although the PGA of America are more amenable to lower scoring. Located on Lake Michigan and featuring Scottish links styling, don't be fooled into thinking that this will be an Open Championship style test though. Previous PGA Championship visits here in 2004 and 2010 featured breezy conditions at worst and 2015 will be no different. However it's clear that the course really is a test in the air as approaches to Pete Dye's green complexes are favourable to high, soft approach shots. Power from the tee is an undoubted advantage this week in fairly soft conditions, but the winner this week will need to hit at least 13 of 18 greens a day, be able to reach a number of long Par 5s and scramble well. In essence Whistling Straits is actually a very American Par 72 test.
Winners: 2014: Rory McIlroy (-16); 2013: Jason Dufner (-10); 2012: Rory McIlroy (-13); 2011: Keegan Bradley (-8); 2010: Martin Kaymer (-11); 2009: Y.E. Yang (-8).
Tournament Stats: We've published some key player statistics for this week's event that are well worth a look. Naturally they'll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes.
Published Predictor Model: Our published PGA Championship predictor is available here. You can build your own tailor-made model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Key players included in the Top 5 of the Predictor include Jason Day (Predictor number 1), Bubba Watson, Justin Rose and Jordan Spieth.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the Memorial Tournament / Nordea Masters and includes both PGA Tour and European Tour. Players must have played in a minimum of 3 main Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
Winners & Prices: 2014: McIlroy 5/1; 2013: Dufner 40/1; 2012: McIlroy 20/1; 2011: Bradley 175/1; 2010: Kaymer 50/1; 2009: Yang 150/1. For a summary of winners' odds on the PGA Tour for the past 5 years based on the 2015 schedule click here.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Whistling Straits is here. Conditions will be fine across the majority the tournament, but Friday may well see electrical activity and associated downpours. Any rain will keep the course in a receptive state, the result of rain on both Friday and Monday pre-tournament. Breezy 15mph winds will be a feature on Thursday with the very early starters getting a small advantage potentially.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of Vijay Singh (2004) and Martin Kaymer (2010) who both captured the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits gives a little insight into what the event demands:
Tournament Skill Averages: Driving Distance: 19th; Driving Accuracy: 48th; Greens in Regulation: 4th; Scrambling: 8th; Putting Average 28th.
You can work statistics to form any kind of argument, but taking the last 2 winners around Whistling Straits the key to success around this long Par 72 is Greens in Regulation. Traditionally 290+ yard drivers win the PGA Championship, with top-rate scrambling always a key on tough, technical golf courses. This also looks to a be far more of a test in the air than a putting contest.
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 3 PGA Championships and Whistling Straits renewals across 2004 and 2010.
So let's take a view from players as to just how Whistling Straits will play this week:
Rory McIlroy: "It definitely looks more like a links course than it plays. Yeah, especially with the overnight rain that we had, the course is still very soft and you wouldn't find a links course in Ireland playing that soft. Aesthetically, and visually, it does look very much like a links course, but it just doesn't play like one."
Phil Mickelson: "What's interesting about Whistling Straits for me is that it's a Scottish-looking course that plays like an American course. It doesn't play like a course in Scotland, but yet it has all the aesthetics of it. And so that actually takes a little bit of getting used to, the fact that you see the fescue and the sand, the dunes and the pot bunkers and so forth; and the openings in front and you think you want to run balls up. But you, it's just, it just doesn't work. It's too soft and the ball stops so you have to fly balls on to the green. So that take a little getting used to, especially when we're just coming from the British Open."
The price points of the past six PGA Championship winners marry up very succinctly with the way golf betting has been during 2015. Short prices or distinct longshots has been the story of the golfing season to date and I don't see that changing this week at Whistling Straits. Hot on the heels of Shane Lowry's amazing 150/1 victory at Firestone last week, I wouldn't put anyone off backing some tasty triple-digit players this week - so let me point you in the direction of Paul Williams' longshots/first round leader feature.
However I'm going for a group of 4 players who I think Whistling Straits will favour. A technical and long course, Whistling Straits will also appeal to those who like to play their golf by the coast. It's also hard to ignore some key facts: 13 of the last 15 PGA Champions (87%) had already won a tournament in the same season prior to winning the PGA Championship. On top of that, the Bridgestone Invitational cannot be overlooked. Since the Akron-based tournament became the PGA 'warm up' event in 2006, the winner of the PGA Championship has always been in the Bridgestone field and has always finished in the Top 22 of the tournament. That leads me to a team with 2 short prices, both of whom I think have exceptional chances in soft conditions, plus 2 talented non-Major winners. My selections are as follows:
Jordan Spieth 3.5pts Win 7/1 with £25 free bet here: - for a golf betting review of Ladbrokes by GBS readers click here.
The leading three in the betting market all have obvious chances this week. Jason Day, who is playing the best golf of his career in my opinion, came very close to my selections - I'm one of Day's biggest fans and Whistling Straits will undoubtedly play to his strengths. His wins at Torrey Pines and Glen Abbey have shown a new resolve and he seemingly contends in every Major Championship, although until this point he hasn't sealed the deal when in control. 14/1 is about right but still short for a non-Major winner. Rory McIlroy will tempt many at a best-priced 11/1 on a soft course where he finished 3rd in 2010, but for me competitive rust will be a definite issue even for the World Number 1. So I'm turning to World Number 2 Jordan Spieth whose Major record in 2015 reads 1-1-4. Whistling Straits, if you look past the sand dunes and Lake Michigan panoramas, is a stock American Par 72 with large and receptive Bentgrass greens. The 'Golden Boy', as he's recently been dubbed by the US media, plays brilliantly on these open formats - especially when conditions are soft - and his ability to peak for Major Championships is Tigeresque.
Spieth, although a decent enough wind player, will welcome relative tranquillity this week and will also return to a course he's had chance to practice and research fully, unlike St Andrews. I could quote plenty of stats of course, however suffice it to say that it's noticeable that the 22 year-old has been in the Top 10 for Greens in Regulation across Augusta National, Chambers Bay and St Andrews. On Sunday afternoon in the heat of battle, I can't see him not being right in the mix and Spieth is a born winner. RESULT: 2nd
Bubba Watson 2pts EW 16/1 with £25 matched bet: - for a golf betting review of William Hill by GBS readers click here.
Bubba Watson has telegraphed his 2 Major triumphs, both at Augusta National, to this point in his career. 2nd at Doral and 4th at Bay Hill preceded his first Green Jacket in 2012, with 1st at Riviera and 2nd at Doral leading up to his 2014 success. So 1st at TPC River Highlands followed by 13th at Old White TPC and 2nd at Glen Abbey had me on alert well before the Bridgestone Invitational last week. Firestone South, with its tight lines, claustrophobic tree-lined fairways and firm conditions, is far from a match made in heaven for Bubba. So it's a mark of just how well the Floridian World Number 3 is playing that he beat, bar Shane Lowry, a top-class field in Ohio last week.
Whilst the US Open and Open Championships are unlikely to be a great friend of Watson, I get the feeling that Bubba has been targeting his return to Whistling Straits since Augusta in April. An open, tranquil and therefore scoreable Par 72 is like manna from heaven to the Floridian whose wins at Torrey Pines (2011), TPC Louisiana (2011 plus a Dye design) and Sheshan (2014) over and above Augusta National shouldn't be overlooked. With a perfect early Thursday morning draw, Watson knows he has every chance this week 5 years on from his play-off defeat to Martin Kaymer. RESULT: T21
Brooks Koepka 1pt EW 45/1 with £/€50 matched bet: - for a golf betting review of Paddy Power by GBS readers click here.
Brooks Koepka is a talented 25 year-old Floridian whose rise into the World's Top 20 has been fast and individual in its path. A 3 time All-American at Florida State University, Koepka shunned the traditional American route when he turned professional in 2012, heading to Europe's Challenge Tour where he quickly won the Challenge de Catalunya. 3 further wins in May and June of 2013 saw Koepka jump to the European Tour where he finished 12th at Castle Stuart on his full Tour debut followed by an exceptional 7th at Crans. 2014 saw a twin campaign across both main Tours with his first top-level win last November coming in Turkey where he held off Ian Poulter, and Henrik Stenson. His maiden PGA Tour soon followed this February when he won at TPC Scottsdale, holding off Bubba Watson and Hideki Matsuyama. Koepka can play and is not afraid to win in the very best of company. Brooks is a long hitting ball-striker who sits 7th in my rolling Greens in Regulation tracker. His current form line is really consistent and reads 3(TPC Southwind)-18(Chambers Bay)-22(Gullane)-10(St Andrews)-18(Glen Abbey)-6(Firestone) and his Major form reads 4(Pinehurst)-67(Hoylake)-15(Valhalla)-33(Augusta)-18(Chambers Bay)-10(St Andrews). Koepka has the right game shape for Whistling Straits and could make a serious breakthrough this week. RESULT: T5
Branden Grace 0.75pt EW 80/1 with £30 Free Bet: - for a golf betting review of Betway by GBS readers click here.
A cursory look at Branden Grace's results since 2012 singles the 27 year-old out as a player who knows how to win and who excels on coastal/links courses. 8 tournament victories in 108 starts in that time is a strike rate bettered by very, very few at the top of the game and that includes a winless year in 2013 having grabbed five pieces or silverware the year before. 2015 is shaping up to be a similarly successful year to his breakthrough season with spring victories in Qatar and at the Dimension Data Pro-Am. Since then Branden has built a twin Tour approach both sides of the Atlantic - a luxury afforded by his lofty OWGR Top 30 spot - and 7th on the Pete Dye design at Harbour Town and 11th at Wentworth, were the pre-cursors to his breakthrough Major performance at Chambers Bay where he could have captured a shock US Open victory until his drive on the 16th. An eventual 4th though unveiled Grace to the masses and since June Branden has played well enough with 20th at St Andrews and 17th at Firestone. An in-form ball-striker, it was noticeable that the putter warmed last week making him a real danger this week to repeat his US Open effort. RESULT: 3rd
Watch these US PGA Championship Tips on YouTube with Steve Bamford: Golf Betting System YouTube Channel
Our predictions and final tips for the 2016 US PGA Championship will be published here on the Tuesday before the event.