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US PGA Championship Tips 2021

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The 2021 US PGA Championship returns to Kiawah Island, in South Carolina, as Major Championship golf returns to May this year.

The Pete Dye designed Ocean Course will welcome the strongest field in Major Championship golf, only 9 months after Collin Morikawa lifted the Wannamaker Trophy at TPC Harding Park, San Francisco, last August. And all in all, the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, at just under 8,000 yards, will be a return to the monster tracks that the PGA of America like to send their Major to.

 

The 103rd edition of The PGA Championship takes place from Thursday 20th May 2021. Now into our 12th season, Golf Betting System will as ever be hunting for profit with our US PGA Championship tips from Paul Williams and Steve Bamford. Golf Betting System has full 2021 coverage with PGA Championship tips, long-shot and alternative market selections, a full range of free course and player statistics, plus of course our famous free statistical Predictor Model. You can also listen to our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), which is also available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and on the Steve Bamford Golf Channel

US PGA Championship 2021 Additional Each-Way Places

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  • Each-way terms updated 17.5.21 but subject to change and apply to pre-event bets only. Ante-post terms and in-shop terms may vary, please check every aspect of your bet very carefully before placing your bet. T&Cs Apply.

2021 sees a return of the PGA Championship moving back to an earlier spot in the golfing calendar, as per 2019 when Brooks Koepka won the title at Bethpage Black in New York in mid-May.

Back then, as per this year, the revised positioning of the tournament was a learning curve for both the players and punters alike, with no WGC Bridgestone Invitational as a lead-in tournament the week before. Instead, 2021 sees the world’s best professional golfers with the choice to play the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in North Carolina or the AT&T Byron Nelson at new venue TPC Craig Ranch in Texas in the direct build-up to the PGA Championship. What’s for sure though is that the PGA will be the first US-based Major Championship since the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach to be played on the coast.

US PGA Championship Insight And Tips Research

Golf betting at the Major Championships, and especially the PGA Championship, is a complex subject. Mistakes can be costly, however select the right player or player portfolio and the rewards can be excellent. Golf Betting System’s goal is to provide you with informed PGA Championship tips, free tournament research guides and insight and information that will help you make educated decisions about what players to back at the 2021 US PGA Championship.

The PGA Championship in recent history has seen a plethora of long hitters getting the job done, with many capturing their first Major titles in this event. The PGA of America’s choice of Oak Hill in 2013 raised eyebrows as the classical, claustrophobic nature of the course was totally alien to its mantra of testing through course length. As it transpired, the neat and tidy Jason Dufner won his first Major.

Either side of Oak Hill, Y.E. Yang (2009), Martin Kaymer (2010), Keegan Bradley (2012), Jason Day (2015), Jimmy Walker (2016) and Justin Thomas (2017) have like Dufner all captured first-time Majors. All can hit the ball along way, as can Rory McIlroy (winner at both Kiawah Island in 2012 and Valhalla in 2014) and Brooks Koepka who drove the field into submission at both Bellerive (2018) and Bethpage Black (2019).

As we expected, 2020 proved slightly different with the tighter 7,200+ yard, Par 70 at TPC Harding Park falling to another Major first-timer in the form of Collin Morikawa. Now you can’t classify Morikawa as a ‘bomber’ but averaging 297 yards off the tee and in the top 80 for Driving Distance – All Drives across 2020, Collin is certainly no slouch off the tee.

Course Information

Ocean Course, Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Kiawah Island, South Carolina: Ocean Course, Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Kiawah Island, South Carolina: Designer: Pete Dye 1991, with 2011 and 2019 (Scot Sherman) renovation; Course Type: Coastal; Par: 72; Length: 7,876 yards; Holes with Water In-Play: 6; Fairways: Sea Shore Paspalum; Rough 419 Bermudagrass overseeded with Ryegrass 3.5″; Greens: 6,000 sq.ft average featuring Sea Shore Paspalum.

Kiawah Island Golf Resort in Kiawah Island, South Carolina boasts 5 championship golf courses. Set 45 minutes drive from Charleston, this stretch of Atlantic eastern coastline is famous to golf punters for Harbour Town Golf Links, home of the RBC Heritage and Sea Island Resort, home of the RSM Classic. However it’s the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island which is the most famous course on this stretch of coastline. It hosted the 1991 Ryder Cup won by Team USA, the 1997 & 2003 World Cups – won by the Republic of Ireland (Harrington & McGinley) and South Africa (Immelman & Sabbatini), plus the 2012 PGA Championship, won by Rory McIlroy.

The Pete Dye designed Ocean Course at Kiawah Island has been designated the hardest course in the United States by Golf Digest over the years and traditionally ranks as a very difficult assignment. One of the most wind-affected courses in North America, it was fascinating to see Rory McIlroy, David Lynn, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter all inside the top 5 of the 2012 PGA Championship leaderboard here. Success on links-style golf courses in Europe is an obvious but strong angle here. A list of Pete Dye designs are listed below:

Pete Dye

  • Austin Country Club – WGC Dell Matchplay since 2016
  • Crooked Stick – 2012 and 2016 BMW Championship
  • Harbour Town – RBC Heritage
  • TPC River Highlands – The Travelers
  • TPC Louisiana – Zurich Classic of New Orleans
  • TPC Sawgrass – The Players Championship
  • TPC Stadium, PGA West – The American Express since 2016
  • Whistling Straits – 2010 and 2015 PGA Championship

For full Strokes Gained numbers for the US PGA Championship field on Pete Dye tracks only click here.

The course will be slightly different from the one we saw back in 2012. MacCurrach Golf Construction, led by Scot Sherman, worked through the changes in 2019 and early 2020. Being a coastal course, wind and sand movement continually attack the course. So all tees were laser-levelled and re-sodded with Platinum Paspalum. Several holes gained additional tournament tees to increase length and a few tournament tees were slightly shifted for improved views of the course. So, in essence if Kerry Haigh, who is the Chief Championships Officer of the PGA of America, wants the course to play from its tips, an additional 204 yards has been added to the golf course. Most, but not all of that distance has been added to the par-4s later in the round, with the 12th hole being the most significant, jumping from 412 yards back in 2012 up to 484 yards for 2021.

The maintenance work to see the Ocean Course fit for the 2021 PGA Championship also included expansion of native areas within the course. A few sandy blowouts were recreated in some dunes. These blowouts are akin to what we see at Whistling Straits. Take the par-5 7th hole, where a waste area has been brought into play on the right side of the hole to make the design as close to what Dye originally designed in 1991. The greens themselves were left alone from a size and contours perspective, but naturally all greens were re-laid with fresh Sea Island Supreme Paspalum.

At 7,876 yards, the Ocean Course will play as the longest course in Major Championship history. Clearly the PGA Championship is going back to its roots in 2021!  This faux-links course on the South Carolinian eastern seaboard features 10 exposed holes that run along the coast, with a front 9 that will yield birdies and a tough back 9 into the prevailing wind.

The first 3 holes on the course are where players can take advantage with a couple of sub-400 yard par-4s sandwiching a shortish par-5. From there, the course features a set of long iron par-3s – the shortest of which is 197 yards. The other 3 measure 207 yards (5th), 238 yards (14th) and 223 yards (17th). Undoubtedly the very best long iron players will thrive here.

And it doesn’t get any easier with the bulk of the par-4s later in the round. 6 of them are over 450 yards with 2 more par-4s measuring 514 yards and 505 yards to end each set of 9 holes. With 2 par-5s, namely the 11th and 16th, playing at almost 600 yards into the prevailing wind, post the opening 3 holes on the Ocean Course, apart from the opening to the round there is no easy stretch of golf.

2012 featured a course soaked by recent rain and it played extremely long. But a change from August to May will see undoubted changes to temperature, with the searing heat and humidity of August in South Carolina being mitigated to a degree. The Ocean Course’s turf should also be in prime condition, while Kerry Haigh expects higher winds in spring, “The course should have more teeth to it.

Interestingly post-2003, the Ocean Course has featured Paspalum across the whole course, with fast drying Sea Island Supreme Paspalum grass on the greens, which although closely related to Bermuda grass actually has no grain and runs quite slowly at around 11.5 on the stimp. PGA Tour stop-offs with Paspalum include El Camaleon (Mayakoba) and Grand Reserve Country Club (Puerto Rico Open). European Tour Paspalum stop-offs include Royal Greens G&CC (Saudi International), Education City GC (2020/21 Qatar Masters) and Al Mouj Golf (2019/20) Oman Open.

Putting surfaces are pretty large, and undulating, so 3-putt avoidance is key, but the Par 72 format features wide fairway landing areas hence the longer hitters who feature well in Strokes Gained Off the Tee, Total Driving, Ball Striking, Greens in Regulation and Strokes Gained on Approach categories will be at a real advantage.

The PGA of America traditionally like a target winning score of around -8 to -12 to win their Major, and the Ocean Course format (6 tees per hole) allows them to tinker throughout the championship. However the true unknown here is of course the wind and if it proves stronger than anticipated expect scoring to be closer to Par for the leading contenders.

Below are some revealing comments from the PGA Championship held here in 2012:

Tiger Woods: Well, I think in terms of similar courses, it would be Whistling Straits; same architect being Pete. But again, played totally differently. A lot of mounding and a lot of movement in its designs.  One of the things you learn about Pete’s golf courses, a lot of it is visual.  There’s a lot more room out there, whether it’s on the fairways or on the greens, than you think. He just makes you look the other way. And he’s a masterful designer in that way.

And he always likes to present a lot of the targets at angles and if you’re aggressive, it can play very short, and if you’re hitting it well off the tees, the golf courses that he designs are not very long if you’re able to be aggressive off the tees. But if you play conservative, he gives you a lot more room, but also you’re far away from the green all the time. He’s a wonderful designer.  And this week is, it’ll be interesting how they set up the golf course because it could play really long or they could move it up and have us have a go at it.

Well, I think this being so close to the ocean, the dunes and the marshes that they have here, it just drains unbelievably well. I think that playing through the dunes like we do here; one, it’s pretty, you’re right along the ocean; and two, no matter how much rain we get, it’s going to drain pretty quickly.  And it being Paspalum, we’re not going to get a lot of mud balls. I like what this golf course has, and it’s just a wonderful piece of property.”

Rory McIlroy: “Do I think those with linksstyle course experience have a real advantage this week? Well I think if the golf course was playing a little firmer, maybe.  But because it’s so soft, of course there’s going to be a little bit of wind, but it’s not playing like it really is designed to be played or how it should be played. So I think anyone has got a good chance this week, and people that can hit it long and hit it in the fairway are going to have a great chance.

I think it can’t be played along the ground here because just the type of grass that it is; the type of grass and the Paspalum here is quite sticky.  So the ball, it doesn’t run very far when it pitches.  Even if you get the greens firm here, the ball is still going to grab on this grass.

I think most Pete Dye courses, anyway, are mental challenges more than physical.  Even though this is a very long golf course, mentally you’ve really got to be on the top of your game.  And if the wind and the rain comes, it’s obviously going to be more about how you mentally approach that than physical, yeah. It’s an American course that looks linksy. Yeah, it’s very similar to Whistling Straits in 2010.

The Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Florida actually has Paspalum.  We practice on Paspalum all the time; me, Luke, Keegan, Dustin.  It’s something we are quite used to and something I was talking to Luke about yesterday, something that the guys that are members of the Bear’s Club might have an advantage because we are used to how it reacts and we practice on that stuff on our offweeks, so it’s actually quite nice. It’s very spiny. When you see guys chipping off of greens and hitting wedge shots, it bites a lot.  Even as I said earlier, when the greens are firm, just this certain type of grass, it just really grabs the ball.  So you can be aggressive with your chip shots and definitely aggressive with your wedge shots, too.

So I feel like I’m pretty comfortable on this golf course.  I’ve got my lines off the tees and I know what it’s like around the greens.  I think that was any first bogeyfree round in a while, and it’s always nice to shoot a round with no bogeys. So I was happy with that. I hit 10 drivers today. ”

Adam Scott: Look, I think it sets up well for me if I strike the ball well this week. I think the guy who leads greens in regulation has to do well this week, I’d think. It’s just so long.  And if you are getting more looks at birdie, and then obviously 2putting for pars, that’s going to be pretty good at the end of the week. It does, especially the back nine, well, even the front nine with some of the waste bunkers down the side, looks like Sawgrass, and that’s the same designer.  In some ways, very similar.  In other ways, a bit different I guess around the greens, a lot less rough here. And I think it sets up well for me.  If I strike the ball well, then I feel like I can be one of those guys who has a little edge.

Well, it’s different at Lytham than, say, playing here.  Obviously the ball runs a lot on a links course and there’s often an entryway into a green on the ground there. So if you can control your ball flight low, you can keep the ball out of the wind and have it not as affected, and I was swinging well and had everything under control.  I drove the ball great.  I teed it very low and just hit very low, hot runners off the tee and they were going straight all week.  I was at a huge advantage, because I was hitting a lot of drivers out there and playing somewhat aggressively I guess. But a different story here if the wind gets up, because you’re still going to have to hit the ball in the air.  There are a lot of forced carries off tees and there are some forced carries into greens, so there’s no option of running the ball along the ground up on to the greens.

You just have to really have to stand up there and hit a great shot.  And it’s kind of an educated guess on how much the wind will affect your shot.  If you hit the shot well, you’ll have a good idea how much it affects it, but if you misstrike it, it’s up to Mother Nature to determine where your ball is going to finish.

Ernie Els: Yeah, I mean, everybody’s got a chance in the field, but I think it definitely helps the superlong bombers, Bubba, Dustin, Tiger, the real long guys that can fly it 320.  Those guys can reach all four par 5s now, where I can hit it 300, but I can’t fly it 320.  So I’m probably going to lay up on all of the par 5s.  Doesn’t take me out of the tournament, but you know, it definitely gives those real superlong bombers a great advantage around this golf course now. There’s no run out there. It’s just plugging where it is.”

us pga championship tips

Ocean Course, Kiawah Island: an exposed, coastal faux-links at over 7,800 yards.

Key Skill Sets for Kiawah Island

No Strokes Gained data was available 9 years ago, when Rory McIlroy won the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. It’s also difficult to compare Rory to surprise runner-up David Lynn in terms of player skills. Indeed Wigan’s best ever golfer averaged just the mere matter of 40 yards less off the tee that week than McIlroy.

The top of the leaderboard back in August 2012, featured McIlroy Lynn, Bradley, Poulter and Rose. Rory, Keegan and Justin were long off the tee, whereas David and Ian were not. However when it came to Greens in Regulation, Rose ranked 1st, Lynn 8th, McIlroy 13th, Bradley 16th and Poulter 21st. So consistent iron play was pretty much a must to seriously contend, with only the local knowledge of Carl Pettersson supporting the model of Seve-esque scrambling and a red-hot flat stick.

Ultimately though, Rory’s game shape of amazingly long driving which found 2 out of 3 fairways was the launchpad for victory. 20 Birdies across the week was 2 clear of Bradley, McDowell and Rose, and he only made 7 bogeys, which again was the best in that particular category. When he did miss greens, he missed on the right side as well, as Rory topped Scrambling for the week, with runner-up Lynn 4th best when it came to making par from off the putting surface.

From a 2012 season perspective, Rory was on fire. He won the Honda Classic pre-PGA victory and then went on to win the Deutsche Bank and BMW Championships in consecutive FedEx Cup PlayOff events. And from a Strokes Gained perspective, arriving in South Carolina he ranked 2nd for Off the Tee, 5th for Approach and 1st for Tee to Green on the PGA Tour. Amazing looking back that I, like many of you, managed to get him at 20/1 for the win!

U.S. PGA Championship Tips - Key Points

Correlating Course Form

The 2012 PGA Championship was certainly a mixture of protagonists with World Number 3 coming out on top by a distance. World Number 91 David Lynn was the surprise runner-up and that set me thinking – what PGA Tour courses have seen both Rory and David play well on? Well you will not be surprised to read that the list is short, on the basis that the underrated Mancunian only played just over a full season in the United States.

2013 was the season and David finished 4th at PGA National (Honda Classic) and was runner-up at the classical Carolina golf course at Quail Hollow (Wells Fargo Championship). A select, but interesting twosome. Now Rory won the 2012 Honda Classic and his first PGA Tour victory was the 2010 Wells Fargo Championship, a title he again captured in 2015, amongst 6-further top-10 finishes in Charlotte.

Expand results at these 2 courses out to other 2012 contenders Keegan Bradley, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose and the results are pretty striking:

  • PGA National – McIlroy 1st, 2nd; Lynn 4th; Bradley 4th; Poulter 3rd; Rose 3rd, 4th, 5th.
  • Quail Hollow – McIlroy 1st x3, 2nd, 8th x2; Lynn 2nd; Poulter 5th; Rose 3rd, 3rd 5th.

Week Before Finish

This trend was established back in 2006 when the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational was added to the schedule a week before the PGA Championship. Naturally the annual visit to Firestone South, in Akron is no more, but the idea that a player will need to be playing well in their immediate start should be one to consider.

2019 saw the PGA Championship take place in May and in 2020 the USPGA make an unscheduled return to an August date, the week after the WGC FedEx St Jude Invitational played at TPC Southwind. There are no doubts though that form players win the PGA Championship. 2019 saw Brooks Koepka finish 4th at Trinity Forest GC in Texas the week before lifting the Wannamaker Trophy, and 2020 saw Collin Morikawa finish a hard-charging 20th, powered by a 67/66 across the weekend the week before at St Jude.

The World Golf Championship status Bridgestone Invitational the week before at Firestone South was always a real indicator of who went on to win the PGA Championship. The Firestone-based tournament became the PGA ‘warm up’ in 2006, and from that point onwards, the winner of the PGA Championship was firstly always in the Bridgestone field and secondly was always in the top 28 of the tournament.

Previous Week Performance

YearUS PGA ChampionWeek Before Finish
2020Collin Morikawa20th
2019Brooks Koepka4th
2018Brooks Koepka5th
2017Justin Thomas28th
2016Jimmy Walker11th
2015Jason Day12th
2014Rory McIlroy1st
2013Jason Dufner4th
2012Rory McIlroy5th
2011Keegan Bradley15th
2010Martin Kaymer22nd
2009Y.E. Yang18th
2008Padraig Harrington20th
2007Tiger Woods1st
2006Tiger Woods1st

 

We also have other precedents here. 2016 saw the Olympic Golf Competition creating massive changes with the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational moving to July. Instead the RBC Canadian Open directly preceded the PGA Championship, where Jimmy Walker finished fast on Sunday to grab 11th spot at Glen Abbey.

Excellent immediate tournament form was also key to both Mickelson and Singh’s triumphs in 2005 and 2004 respectively. Mickelson finished 10th in Colorado before jumping on his private jet to New Jersey and winning the following weekend at Baltusrol.  Singh won his prior tournament 2 weeks before the PGA at Warwick Hills, before travelling across to neighbouring Wisconsin to capture his 3rd Major at Whistling Straits. Even Rich Beem in 2002 won at Castle Pines (The International) and then won a fortnight later at Hazeltine.

For me, I will be keeping a very close eye on the preceding Wells Fargo Championship and AT&T Byron Nelson tournament leaderboards, to ascertain who is playing great golf prior to arriving in South Carolina.

Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green

We all love a statistic and in the era of the PGA Tour’s Strokes Gained analysis we have plenty to wade through.

Looking at PGA champions’ last tournament performance since 2010, it’s fascinating to see that there are real similarities across the Strokes Gained Tee to Green numbers. Koepka, Thomas, McIlroy (x2), Dufner and Kaymer all ranked within the top 10 of that category at Firestone the week before. 2019 saw Brooks Koepka rank 6th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green and 8th for Greens in Regulation at the Byron Nelson played at Trinity Forest the week before triumphing at Bethpage Black. And in outliers Jimmy Walker – who played the RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey – Jason Day (at Firestone), and 2020 champion Collin Morikawa, they still ranked in the top 27 for the SG Tee to Green category and finished 14th, 12th and 20th respectively in their warm-up event, with Jason Day and Collin Morikawa ranking in the top 5 and top 10 respectively for Greens in Regulation.

All in all, it’s clear to deduce that those struggling to keep the ball in front of them immediately prior to playing the PGA Championship ultimately don’t win it.

Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green

YearPGA WinnerPrevious EventGIRSG Tee-To-Green
2020Collin Morikawa20th3rd21st
2019Brooks Koepka4th8th6th
2018Brooks Koepka5th1st1st
2017Justin Thomas28th6th3rd
2016Jimmy Walker14th30th25th
2015Jason Day12th9th27th
2014Rory McIlroy1st25th1st
2013Jason Dufner4th18th2nd
2012Rory McIlroy5th2nd2nd
2011Keegan Bradley15th14th12th
2010Martin Kaymer22nd15th8th

 

Driving Distance is the Key

So what’s the key player attribute that a PGA Championship winner needs in his arsenal to get the job done?

Well with the PGA Championship being played on a stretching 7,800 yard+, Par 72, a premium advantage will inevitably return to longer drivers of the golf ball. In recent times that’s always been the case. Taking 2013’s exceptionally tight Oak Hill setup out of the overall picture, every winner of the PGA Championship since 2010 has been a minimum 295 yard hitter from the tee:

Driving Distance Analysis

YearPGA WinnerSeason Driving Distance (Yards)
2020Collin Morikawa297
2019Brooks Koepka309
2018Brooks Koepka313
2017Justin Thomas310
2016Jimmy Walker301
2015Jason Day314
2014Rory McIlroy306
2012Rory McIlroy312
2011Keegan Bradley301
2010Martin Kaymer294
2009Y.E. Yang291
2008Padraig Harrington296
2007Tiger Woods302
2006Tiger Woods306
2005Phil Mickelson301
2004Vijay Singh301

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