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Time after time the Major Championships produce long-priced contenders and the odd winner - the US PGA Championship possibly being the most likely of all 4 to produce a 3-figure winner and certainly some outsiders in the mix come Sunday afternoon. The last few years have produced the following unfancied players, each of whom finished in the top 6 at least:
The list goes on: Shaun Micheel won at 300/1 in 2003; Rich Beem was 200/1 in 2002, David Toms 100/1 in 2001 - all in all, it's Majors like this where it can often pay to look a little further down the field in terms of the betting. Most of the mainstream bookmakers have extended their EW places to 6 spots this week to give us an extra chance of grabbing that long-priced payout, notable exception at the time of writing is Boylesports who are still 5 places each way and 888 Sport who are win only/top-5 place betting - however do check your bet very carefully before placing. If you're concerned that the new World No.1 is going to scupper your chances of a long price winner, another option is to place your bets in the 'without McIlroy' market that Paddy Power are offering with 5 places EW - latest prices and details here: Paddy Without Rory
Here's my pick of three experienced outsiders who I think could make the frame on Sunday afternoon:
I backed El Pato last week in Akron and whilst he started slowly once again, there was plenty of decent golf to suggest he's retained his form of the past month nicely and could be ready to contend at a Major once again. 8th for GIR at Firestone was eye-catching given he managed to find less than half of the fairways over the course of the 4 days and the relatively lenient rough here at Valhalla can only help if he performs in a similar vein this week. It's interesting how the Argentinean's price has lengthened versus Hoylake where he was a best-priced 75/1 coming off the back of his victory at the Greenbrier Classic and it's only his performances at the US PGA Championship in the past versus the other 3 Majors that dampen what is otherwise an incredibly strong history at golf's 4 most prestigious events. If length is going to be a factor here then the 44 year-old has the necessary firepower to handle the demands that Valhalla presents and his putting has been generally very strong since his return to form. Cabrera has proven his ability to handle speedy, undulating bentgrass greens in the past (think Augusta) and he's got this uncanny ability to up his game when the Majors arrive - maybe this will be the week that he completes the third part of the his own personal Major quartet. RESULT: WD
There's plenty to like this week about Thomas Bjorn and an each-way place is certainly not out of the question. 3rd here in 2000 when the US PGA Championship last visited this part of Kentucky, the 43 year-old has recorded 4 further Major top-4 finishes in a career that's produced 15 European Tour titles and looks far from over given his performances of late. Rory McIlroy's efforts may have relegated the Dane from top spot on the Race To Dubai, however a 3rd Ryder Cup appearance after a 12-year gap is very much a possibility and a final push here could get him over the line with a few weeks to spare. A former Jack Nicklaus course winner (Gleneagles 2011), it's Bjorn's performance last week at Firestone that really catches the eye: his best result at Akron for more than a decade was fuelled by a field-leading performance in terms of strokes gained putting and 3rd overall for putts per GIR. We know from history that a positive result at the WGC is a strong indicator of success for this event and his 4 sub-70 rounds to finish in a tie for 15th on a track that doesn't play to his strengths is noteworthy. Typically a strong tee-to-green performer with an excellent wedge game, when the putter is firing the Dane can be extremely dangerous and having already recorded a Major top-10 this season (8th at Augusta) he's quite capable of going a little deeper into the tournament this week. RESULT: MC
There are a number of players who should interest those punters looking for a 3-figure chance who could sneak into contention. Local JB Holmes is an interesting prospect despite his relatively poor Major record having got himself back into the winner's enclosure recently and playing some great golf. Shane Lowry is also mighty close to a win in my opinion, however it's a bigger stretch to expect him to do it here - despite arriving off the back of his best ever Major finish at Hoylake last month. Instead I'm going to take a chance on Robert Karlsson who obliged for us in this column at Atlanta Athletic Club in 2011 with a tie for 4th place.
I've been watching Karlsson's return from the golfing abyss with interest of late and I suspect he'll grab some silverware before too long. From a career high of 6th in the World in 2008, the 44 year-old dipped as low as 287th towards the end of last year as a mixture of health issues and mental challenges (yips to you and me) took its toll on his game. With a clean bill of health and the assistance of golf psychologist Gio Valiante, the former European Tour Order Of Merit winner has steadily improved his game since a 6th-place finish at Mayakoba last autumn and arrives here off the back of 3 consecutive top-12 finishes, the last of which was at Hoylake and represented his best Major result since that aforementioned finish at AAC in 2011. At his best the Swede is a long driver of the golf ball with a deft touch around the greens and the ability to putt really well for prolonged stretches - it's this latter point that catches the eye with excellent performances in Scotland (7th for total putts) and France (2nd for total putts). With his focus on the European Tour for the time being, the Swede can concentrate on maximising his position on the Race To Dubai over the next few months which, from his current position of 30th, gives him the perfect platform to rebuild his OWGR and ultimately get himself back playing golf's biggest events in 2015. RESULT: T46
First Round Leader
Worthy of note is that Stan James are going 6 places EW in the first round leader market - click here for current prices.
Steve Bamford has backed Patrick Reed as part of his outright selections and I concur 100% - if he is going to contend then I wouldn't be surprised to see him get off to a flying start from a prime early tee time on Thursday alongside Angel Cabrera and Hideki Matsuyama. Like him or loathe him, one thing's for sure and that's Reed is a natural-born winner - 3 wins in his last 26 events are testament to that. Finished off with a 65 at Firestone to secure 4th place on debut and that positive momentum may well follow into Thursday's round. Opened with a pair of 68s at Congressional a month ago, then 67/69 at the Greenbrier and 67/68 last week - another fast start is better than a 66/1 shot in my opinion. RESULT: Lose
200/1 about Rafa Cabrera-Bello in the first round leader market from a morning tee-time was enough to make me sit up and take note. In my analysis, the Spaniard is in the top 5 of this field in terms of overall first round performances in recent times and has been playing some excellent golf of late overall. He also ranks 3rd for first round score in my analysis for the past 15 Majors and 9th in terms of US PGA first round average courtesy of rounds of 68/71 over his last 2 attempts. Now averages don't tell us everything of course, however those raw numbers are difficult to ignore and anyone who's observed the 30 year-old on the European Tour this season will have noted that he's made a habit of starting events strongly before fading at the business end of proceedings. Opening rounds of 67 (Abu Dhabi), 66 (Qatar), 68 (Morocco), 66 (Laguna National), 65 (Wentworth) and 64 (Cologne) have been interspersed with some more average rounds but for a 200/1 shot that's to be expected. Opened with a 70 at Hoylake despite a 3.11pm start before missing the cut from that ill-fated side of the draw, if you can look past that you'll find a player who's in the top-5 for GIR for the season to date and scoring heavily when the putter shows any kind of warmth. RESULT: Lose