Steve Bamford Golf Tips

Steve Bamford's US PGA Championship Tips 2020

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The 102nd PGA Championship from TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, California, should be an absolute feast of golf. Unbelievably the first Major Championship of 2020 after the global Covid-19 pandemic, this was originally set to be played in May. So in-essence the PGA Championship has actually returned to it’s traditional August spot in the golf calendar. This Major is always the deepest of the year, and again it’s a high-class field with Barracuda Championship winner Richy Werenski the last into the field.

New World Number 1 Justin Thomas is the 9/1 favourite for this and rightly so after his WGC win last week. But as is the norm these days at the highest level of golf, the likes of defending champion Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele are all 25/1 or shorter in what looks to be a very open affair.

Before we talk the PGA Championship, the number of new visitors to Golf Betting System will be considerable for this first Major Championship of 2020.  Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published Tuesday) the Golf Betting Show on YouTube and our hugely popular private group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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Course Guide: TPC Harding Park is located on the west side of San Francisco, less than 1km inland from the Pacific coast. Set in Lakeshore, close to San Francisco Zoo, the course is only separated from 2012 U.S. Open venue the Olympic Club by Lake Merced. A public golf course, Harding Park is a mid-length parkland golf course which has hosted a number of top-level tournaments over the years. The 2005 WGC-American Express Championship (won by Tiger Woods), 2009 Presidents Cup (won by the USA with Tiger Woods scoring 5 full points) and multiple PGA Tour Champions Charles Schwab Cup Championships across 2010, 2011 and 2013, have all been hosted here.

TPC Harding Park, San Francisco, California: Designer: Willie Watson & Sam Whiting, 1925, with 2014 renovation; Course Type: Classical; Par: 70; Length: 7,234 yards (per the scorecard); Water Hazards: 7; Fairways: Kentucky Bluegrass with Ryegrass; Rough Kentucky Bluegrass with Ryegrass; Greens: Tyee Bentgrass with Poa Annua.

Widths Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for TPC Harding Park and how they compare to recent courses on Tour:

  • TPC Harding Park: 22-30 yards.
  • TPC Southwind: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:29; 300:29; 325:31; 350:26.
  • TPC Twin Cities: 250 yards from the tee: 38 yards wide; 275:38; 300:31; 325:30; 350:36.
  • Muirfield Village: 250 yards from the tee: 34 yards wide; 275:33; 300:29; 325:24; 350:29.
  • Detroit Golf Club: 250 yards from tee: 34 yards wide; 275:34; 300:35 325:34; 350:33.
  • TPC River Highlands: 250 yards from the tee: 38 yards wide; 275:36; 300:29; 325:29; 350:28.
  • Harbour Town: 250 yards from tee: 29 yards wide; 275:26; 300:22; 325:26; 350:22.
  • Colonial: 250 yards from tee: 27 yards wide; 275:26; 300:27; 325:26; 350:23.
  • TPC Sawgrass: 250 yards from the tee: 31 yards wide; 275:32; 300:30; 325:28 350:20.
  • Bay Hill: 250 yards from the tee: 32 yards wide; 275:33; 300:33; 325:39 350:29.
  • PGA National: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:27 350:25.
  • Riviera: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26 350:28.

Course Overview: TPC Harding Park is a parkland course, with holes outlined by cypress trees. The cypress trees are more picturesque than hazardous. Last seen by us over 5 years ago at the 2015 WGC Cadillac Match Play won by Rory McIlroy, that week it played as a 7,127 yard, Par 71. But with 5 tees pushed back and the 9th and 12th holes converted from par-5s to par-4s, the 2020 USPGA will play to a 7,234 yard, Par 70 scorecard – it plays as a standard Par 72 for amateurs, and can be extended to circa 7,400 yards.

That makes it comparable with say the classical Colonial Country Club layout in Texas, but some way shorter than the Bethpage Black host course of the 2019 PGA Championship which played as a 7,459 yard Par 70. But as we saw at the neighbouring Olympic Club in 2011, when Webb Simpson won the U.S. Open with a +1/281, course length doesn’t necessarily equate to difficulty. Now don’t expect an old-style U.S. Open type set-up, but Kerry Haigh will ensure that the course will be at its very best and a true test of golf, “TPC Harding Park is going to be quite a bit more difficult than it has been.

Fairway widths are tight enough at 22-30 yards and many a player at the 2015 WGC Match Play commented how the course really benefitted the better drivers in the field. Long and straight here works, especially as the vast majority of holes are straight in front of players. With Major-style Kentucky Bluegrass with Ryegrass rough up to 4 inches in length also likely to be in play, the benefit of long, straight driving should again prove to be pivotal.

Greens were re-laid as part of a pre-WGC 2014 renovation and the last time we saw them they were pure Tyee Bentgrass. Described as extremely grainy by WGC Match Play competitors back in 2015, green complexes are also pretty flat, with little undulation or severely breaking putts. For WGC week they were also very firm, but extremely slow at the same time. Over 5 years on, the greens will be well established, and local sources also point to the fact that green complexes have evolved now to include Poa Annua. That is yet to be confirmed, but well worth keeping an eye on, as we know many players struggle with the latter.

Total drivers (Strokes Gained Off the Tee) and high quality ball strikers undoubtedly dominated proceedings here in 2015. Those players with consistent medium to long approach play also dominated. A longer, PGA Championship set-up isn’t likely to change things too much in that respect.

us pga championship tips

Winners: 2019: Brooks Koepka (-8); 2018: Brooks Koepka (-16); 2017: Justin Thomas (-8); 2016: Jimmy Walker (-14); 2015: Jason Day (-20); 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 | Combined Stats.

Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau, Jason Day, Webb Simpson and Shane Lowry.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Charles Schwab Challenge, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour (where recorded) events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Jim Furyk; 2) Kevin Streelman; 3) J.T. Poston; 4) Webb Simpson; 5) Abraham Ancer; 6) Ryan Moore / Collin Morikawa; 8) Brendon Todd; 9) Russell Henley / Nick Taylor; 11) Tyler Duncan / Jazz Janewattananond; 13) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Andrew Landry / Steve Stricker; 16) Brian Stuard / Jim Herman; 18) Matthias Schwab; 19) Daniel Berger / Graeme McDowell.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Matthias Schwab; 2) Nick Taylor; 3) Jim Furyk; 4) Viktor Hovland / Tom Lewis / Xander Schauffele; 7) Sergio Garcia / Kevin Streelman; 9) Ryan Moore; 10) Jon Rahm; 11) Bryson DeChambeau; 12) Adam Hadwin; 13) Paul Casey / Emiliano Grillo / Matthew Fitzpatrick / Chez Reavie; 17) Russell Henley; 18) Daniel Berger / Lucas Glover / Doc Redman / C.T. Pan / Bubba Watson.
  • Scrambling: 1) Harris English; 2) Kevin Kisner; 3) Daniel Berger; 4) Abraham Ancer; 5) Justin Thomas; 6) Rory Sabbatini / Brandt Snedeker; 8) Brendon Todd; 9) Tyrrell Hatton / Adam Long; 11) Christiaan Bezuidenhout / Patrick Cantlay; 13) Bryson DeChambeau; 14) Brian Harman / Shane Lowry / Kevin Na; 17) Jason Day / Phil Mickelson; 19) Mark Hubbard; 20) Michael Thompson.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Daniel Berger; 2) Tyrrell Hatton; 3) Mackenzie Hughes; 4) Patrick Cantlay / Rory McIlroy / Webb Simpson; 7) Abraham Ancer; 8) Ian Poulter; 9) Patrick Reed; 10) J.T. Poston; 11) Bryson DeChambeau / Tony Finau  / Gary Woodland; 14) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 15) Richy Werenski; 16) Brooks Koepka; 17) Jordan Spieth / Danny Willett; 19) Joaquin Niemann / Xander Schauffele.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Charles Schwab Challenge, which includes both PGA and European Tour events where recorded. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 20 SG Off The Tee: 1) Bryson DeChambeau; 2) Rory McIlroy; 3) Cameron Champ; 4) Jon Rahm; 5) Sergio Garcia; 6) Tom Lewis; 7) Collin Morikawa; 8) Paul Casey; 9) Viktor Hovland; 10) Abraham Ancer; 11) Justin Rose; 12) Corey Conners / Tony Finau / Matthias Schwab / Xander Schauffele / Bubba Watson; 17) Patrick Cantlay / Webb Simpson; 19) Jason Kokrak; 20) Scottie Scheffler / Kevin Streelman; 22) Russell Henley / Brooks Koepka; 24) Dustin Johnson; 25) J.T. Poston.
  • Top 20 SG Approach: 1) Joaquin Niemann; 2) Viktor Hovland; 3) Nick Taylor; 4) Daniel Berger / Lucas Glover; 6) Corey Conners; 7) Doc Redman; 8) Hideki Matsuyama / Justin Thomas; 10) Patrick Cantlay / Paul Casey / Tyrrell Hatton; 13) Abraham Ancer; 14) Gary Woodland; 15) Tyler Duncan; 16) Adam Hadwin; 17) Russell Henley / C.T. Pan; 19) Harris English / Emiliano Grillo / Collin Morikawa; 22) Kevin Na / Webb Simpson / Brendan Steele / Kevin Streelman.
  • Top 20 SG Around The Green: 1) Brian Harman; 2) Sergio Garcia; 3) Tommy Fleetwood; 4) Justin Thomas; 5) Phil Mickelson; 6) J.T. Poston / Rory Sabbatini; 8) Daniel Berger / Jason Day; 10) Steve Stricker; 11) Patrick Reed; 12) Chez Reavie / Matt Wallace; 14) Dylan Frittelli; 15) Brian Stuard; 16) Rickie Fowler / Sungjae Im; 18) Graeme McDowell; 19) Christiaan Bezuidenhout / Tyrrell Hatton / Si Woo Kim / Shane Lowry.
  • Top 20 SG Tee to Green: 1) Sergio Garcia; 2) Justin Thomas; 3) Viktor Hovland; 4) Daniel Berger; 5) Corey Conners; 6) Rory McIlroy / Jon Rahm; 8) Patrick Cantlay / Joaquin Niemann; 10) Bryson DeChambeau; 11) Lucas Glover / Xander Schauffele / Nick Taylor; 14) Abraham Ancer / Hideki Matsuyama; 16) Tony Finau / Kevin Streelman; 18) Tom Lewis; 19) Russell Henley; 20) Tyler Duncan / Webb Simpson; 22) Collin Morikawa / Matthias Schwab; 24) Paul Casey / Harris English.
  • Top 20 SG Putting: 1) Mackenzie Hughes; 2) Matt Kuchar; 3) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 4) Daniel Berger; 5) Tyrrell Hatton / Gary Woodland; 7) Bryson DeChambeau; 8) Harris English; 9) Patrick Cantlay / Mark Hubbard; 11) Christiaan Bezuidenhout / Ian Poulter; 13) Denny McCarthy; 14) Abraham Ancer / Kevin Kisner; 16) J.T. Poston / Michael Thompson; 18) Xander Schauffele; 19) Matthew Wolff; 20) Adam Long / Sepp Straka.
  • Top 20 SG Total: 1) Daniel Berger; 2) Bryson DeChambeau; 3) Patrick Cantlay; 4) Abraham Ancer; 5) Tyrrell Hatton / Viktor Hovland; 7) Harris English; 8) Justin Thomas; 9) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Tom Lewis / Xander Schauffele; 12) Sergio Garcia; 13) Matt Kuchar / Rory McIlroy; 15) Tony Finau; 16) Jon Rahm; 17) Corey Conners; 18) Brooks Koepka / Webb Simpson / Kevin Streelman / Richy Werenski; 22) Kevin Kisner; 23) Jason Day / Adam Hadwin; 25) Christiaan Bezuidenhout.

Winners & Prices: 2019: Brooks Koepka 11/1JF; 2018: Koepka 20/1; 2017: Thomas 45/1; : 2016: Jimmy Walker 150/1; 2015: Day 14/1; 2014: McIlroy 5/1F; 2013: Dufner 40/1; 2012: McIlroy 20/1; 2011: Bradley 175/1; 2010: Kaymer 50/1. Average: 53/1.

Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for San Francisco, California, is here. Pretty consistent weather this week which is good. Think dry, not particularly warm (for the United States) and a nagging, doubt-provoking 10-15 mph wind throughout on a tough, classical, Major-style golf course.

Rain won’t be a feature and temperatures at around 18-20 degrees Celsius will make this feel rather northern European in my opinion. How firm will the course play, well that’s up to Kerry Haigh from the PGA of America to decide, and I’d expect him to want the greens to release a little as the tournament develops.

Here are some comments about TPC Harding Park and how it will play from the tournament organising PGA of America:

Kerry Haigh (PGA of America Chief Championships Officer): “We wanted to adjust the fairways to bring into play some more of the course’s challenges namely the bunkers and some more of the penalty areas. So we have brought the fairway landing areas closer, by adjusting the contours of the fairways and actually re-aligning the fairways themselves. This fairway work finished in 2019, with some of the fairways as per their original width, and some a little narrower. Our aim was to get the combination of fairway widths, contours and bunkering to a stage where the players have to think, when the player stands on the tee. They have to think a little bit about where they are going to hit the ball and whether they are going to take driver or 3-wood or whatever.”

“It’s a beautiful parkland golf course, which is relatively flat, it’s very easy to walk from a player’s perspective, and it’s highlighted by stunning cypress trees. And the whole property is surrounded by Lake Merced. It’s a beautiful golf course to play. Adding 3-4 tees across the course allowed us to provide a longer par-3, the 8th hole which now plays at 250 yards. The other par-3s are all relatively short. The 2 par-5s are probably both reachable to the majority of the field and the course also features 2 relatively short par-4s.  The 7th and 16th hole. With the set-up, probably 1 or 2 days for either or potentially both holes, we will be able to bring the tee-up, again to give the players the option to go for the green. And if you decide to do that, taking the 16th hole – that has Lake Merced on the left side of the green and a big overhanging cypress tree on the corner of the left to right dogleg. So where this hole is should lead to some real excitement during the tournament. A couple of other par-4s have been lengthened to create a dogleg on one hole and bring the fairway bunkers into play on the other. The greens at TPC Harding Park are generally not severe greens in terms of slopes, which should allow us to get the greens fairly quick. That’s appropriate for the best players in the world.”

Brooks Koepka (2020): “It’s a big boy golf course. You have to be able to hit it long. It’s very difficult. It’s a major championship golf course. You know that. You look at — this finish will be interesting. I think it will be a great finish. You look at the back nine there, starting on about 13, 14, it gets really interesting. You’re going to see a lot of — it will be exciting, especially if it’s close on Sunday. I think those holes let up for quite a few disasters and some good golf. You know the rough is going to be thick. You know what you’re going to get. You have to be able to hit it far and you have to be able to hit it straight. There’s been a precedent on making sure accuracy is big, and you know that when you come out here. You have to find the fairways if you event want to have a chance. If you don’t hit the fairways, you’re going to be struggling to make pars. You’re not going to make any birdies, but it’s a golf course that it’s set up for a major championship like this.”

Rory McIlroy (2015): Yeah, as a match play venue, it’s very fair.  You get rewarded for good shots and you get punished for bad ones.  The greens are getting very firm.  That will separate the longer guys and guys that can hit it quite high, which isn’t a bad thing for me. But the course played well.  I think these greens are relatively new, so a few of the green speeds were a little inconsistent.  And I struggled a little bit with that early on.  I felt like I got them you have to be really aggressive with them and I started to get that a little bit towards the end.”

Gary Woodland (2015): “The golf course suits me really well. It allows me to hit driver, which is good.  And it just sets up well for my eye.  For me to hit driver, if I drive it in the fairway I’m turning a lot of holes into birdie holes.  So that’s the key for me tomorrow.  If I drive it pretty well I should have a pretty good chance for the weekend. The tree line, just sets up well to my eye.  That’s the key.  It’s long, too.  The fairways are pretty receptive as well.  It widens the fairways for me.  If I get driver down there far enough, I can get wedge on the green from about anywhere.  I like the setup. The format allows me to play aggressive, which for me is key. The first hole sets up really well for me.  I’m hitting middle iron where a lot of guys are hitting hybrids and long irons.  I’ve had some success there. You come to 5 and it’s a long hole where I can get home, where a lot of guys can’t.  Had the tee up today which allowed some guys to get up a little closer.  But that’s two holes where I feel like I have a huge advantage early in the round and get up early and put pressure on guys, and I’ve done that so far this week.”

Jim Furyk (2015): “Here it’s kind of more right in front of you, old traditional style golf course.  There’s not a lot going on in the greens.  Actually, I’ve found them very difficult to read the last few days, just because there’s so many subtle little breaks, where I can’t decide if it’s breaking left or breaking right or straight from 20 feet.  So there really hasn’t been‑ it’s just a different style.  But I’m definitely more comfortable on a golf course like this where it’s kind of right straight in front of you. There is not a lot of break in the greens.  There’s a lot of grain in them, which is very rare for bentgrass.  But you can see how the grass is laying down they’re quite a bit slower than we’re used to playing.  So I think that in itself is causing some problems with the players. Nothing is definitive left‑to‑right, there’s a lot of very straight putts or inside left, inside right.  There’s a lot of times guys are struggling to figure out which way it goes. Guys are one way, the caddie is saying the other, and I think it’s hard to get set over some putts.”

Path to Victory: Below are the end-of-round positions for the last 10 winners of the PGA Championship:

  • 2019 – Brooks Koepka: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2018 – Brooks Koepka: Round 1: 33rd, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2017 – Justin Thomas: Round 1: 44th, Round 2: 7th, Round 3: 4th.
  • 2016 – Jimmy Walker: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2015 – Jason Day: Round 1: 3rd, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2014 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2013 – Jason Dufner: Round 1: 11th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2012 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 5th, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2011 – Keegan Bradley: Round 1: 36th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2010 – Martin Kaymer: Round 1: 44th, Round 2: 15th, Round 3: 4th.

Shots From the Lead: Below are the winners of the PGA Championship and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2018 – Brooks Koepka: Round 1: 1 ahead, Round 2: 7 ahead, Round 3: 7 ahead.
  • 2018 – Brooks Koepka: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 2 ahead.
  • 2017 – Justin Thomas: Round 1: 6 back, Round 2: 5 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2016 – Jimmy Walker: Round 1: 1 ahead, Round 2: Level, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2015 – Jason Day: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 2 ahead.
  • 2014 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2013 – Jason Dufner: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 2 ahead, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 2012 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 3 ahead.
  • 2011 – Keegan Bradley: Round 1: 8 back, Round 2: Level, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 2010 – Martin Kaymer: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 4 back.

Incoming form of winners since 2010:

  • Brooks Koepka: 4th Byron Nelson/2nd Masters/56th WMP/56th Players.
  • Brooks Koepka: 5th Bridgestone/MC Canada/39th Open Champ/19th Travelers.
  • Justin Thomas: 28th Bridgestone/MC Open Champ/MC Quicken/MC Travelers.
  • Jimmy Walker: 14th Canada/MC Open Champ/16th Bridgestone/MC US Open.
  • Jason Day: 12th Bridgestone/1st Canada/4th Open Champ/9th US Open.
  • Rory McIlroy: 1st Bridgestone/1st Open Champ/14th Scottish Open/MC Irish Open.
  • Jason Dufner: 4th Bridgestone/26th Open Champ/MC Travelers/4th US Open.
  • Rory McIlroy: 5th Bridgestone/60th Open Champ/ 10th Irish Open/MC US Open.
  • Keegan Bradley: 15th Bridgestone/43rd Greenbier/22nd Canada/MC AT&T National.
  • Martin Kaymer: 22nd Bridgestone/7th Open Championship/MC Scottish Open/6th Open de France.

First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.

  • 2019 – Koepka – AM -7/63 – 25/1.
  • 2018 – Woodland – PM -6/64 – 100/1.
  • 2017 – Kisner/Olesen – AM/PM Split -4/67 – 80/1 & 125/1.
  • 2016 – Walker – AM -6/65.
  • 2015 – D Johnson – AM -6/66.
  • 2014 – Chappell/Palmer/Westwood – 1AM/2PM -6/65.
  • 2013 – Furyk/Scott – AM/PM Split -5/65.
  • 2012 – Pettersson – AM -6/66.
  • 2011 – Stricker – AM -7/63.
  • 2010 – Kuchar – PM -5/67.

For the record, here’s the breakdown of pure Poa Annua and Bentgrass/Poa Annua mix PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 11 – Dustin Johnson.
  • 6 – Bubba Watson.
  • 5 – Phil Mickelson.
  • 4 – Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Brandt Snedeker, Tiger Woods.
  • 3 – Bryson DeChambeau, Adam Scott, Jimmy Walker.
  • 2 – Brooks Koepka, Collin Morikawa, Scott Piercy, Jon Rahm, Patrick Reed, Vijay Singh, Jordan Spieth, Brendan Steele, Gary Woodland.
  • 1 – Keegan Bradley, Patrick Cantlay, Cameron Champ, Jason Dufner, J.B. Holmes, Billy Horschel, Matt Kuchar, Nate Lashley, Marc Leishman, Shane Lowry, Hideki Matsuyama, Graeme McDowell, Andrew Putnam, Chez Reavie, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Steve Stricker, Nick Taylor, Vaughn Taylor, Justin Thomas, Kevin Tway, Bo Van Pelt.

Winning prices in the PGA Championship vary significantly. Short prices such as Rory McIlroy – who’s won this title twice at 20/1 (2012) and 5/1F (2014) – and Jason Day at 14/1 (2015) have had much recent success. Throw in defending champion Brooks Koepka at 11/1JF and 20/1 over the past 2 renewals, Justin Thomas at 45/1 and Jason Dufner at 40/1 in 2013, and 7 of the last 8 PGA Championships have been won at 45/1 or less. The exception is Jimmy Walker who played brilliantly at Baltusrol in 2016 to lead from start to finish and capture his first Major title at an unbelievable (after the tournament) 150/1. He joined Keegan Bradley (2011) and Y.E. Yang (2009) who won at 175/1 and 150/1 respectively.

TPC Harding Park will be a fascinating challenge and may well play differently to the predominantly soft golf courses we’ve seen in the United States since it resumed in June. Apart from the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village, soft, receptive greens have been the order of the day, but Kerry Haigh, the PGA of America Chief Championships Officer, has an opportunity this week to generate a little bit of release on the greens. With no rain in the forecast, the decision on how fast the course can get will be in the hands of both Haigh and just how warm temperatures will get, but with modest breeze in the forecast, and flat green complexes, I’d expect stimp readings higher than we saw in Memphis last week. With thin fairways and thick, lush rough at TPC Harding Park, I think top-quality drivers who can flush their mid-to-long irons to have real advantage this week.

Naturally the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone South is no more, but the idea that a player will need to be playing well in their immediate start, which for most of the elite will be the WGC-St Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind, should be one to consider and we have masses of precedent here. Going back to 2006, every winner of the PGA Championship has played the week before and finished no worse than 28th position (Justin Thomas 2017). Go back further to 2002, 2004 and 2005, and you’ll see that PGA Championship winners Rich Beem, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh finished 1st, 10th and 1st respectively in their previous outings. So strong form in seems a prerequisite.

My selections are as follows:

Brooks Koepka 4pts Win 10/1 with bet365

Defending champion Brooks Koepka is almost an auto-bet when it comes to Major Championships. 4 wins in his last 10 Major Championships and you can add a Masters runner-up spot behind Tiger Woods and another 2nd to Gary Woodland at Pebble Beach.

The last time we saw him in a Major, he finished 4th at windswept Royal Portrush to Shane Lowry. And that’s the deal with Brooks who can mix it in all conditions and on all Major Championship golf courses, no matter the weather. We’ve landed him at 20/1 and 11/1 across the past 2 PGA Championship renewals, and I can’t really see a reason to swap allegiance for this one.

His WGC outing last week in Memphis wasn’t too bad for a warm-up with Brooks finishing 2nd to new World Number 1 Justin Thomas. 3rd for Driving Distance, 1st for Greens in Regulation, 1st for Strokes Gained Approach, 3rd for Strokes Gained Tee to Green and 13th for Putting Average (Putts per GIR), it’s safe to say that all is in order for Koepka who’s more than experienced and capable of defending Major Championships successfully.

Whilst others at the top of the PGA market like Rory McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau have fell away across recent outings, Koepka in Memphis shot an opening round -8/62 and despite obvious Sunday back-9 contention rustiness, he was still very much in the hunt standing on the 18th tee last week, after holing a monster 40 footer on the 17th green.

Yes Brooks is going for an unlikely PGA Championship 3-peat this week as he would follow on from Walter Hagen (PGA Championship 1924-1927] and Peter Thomson (Open Championship 1954-1956) to win 3 straight times at the same Major. But if one guy this week has the mental fortitude it’s Brooks. His interview after the final round Sunday sounded ominous for the opposition, “I feel good. I feel like my game’s right there. This is where we wanted to be, peaking for the PGA. I feel like my game’s right there, everything’s solid. Everything’s moving in the right direction. So once you lose, doesn’t matter if it was by one or 10, it doesn’t matter. So pleased with it, moving in the right direction and looking forward to next week.” RESULT: T29

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Dustin Johnson 2.5pts EW 20/1 (9EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Dustin Johnson heads my published predictor model by over 600 points, and that tells you all you need to know about his chances this week. An 11-time winner on Poa Annua or Bentgrass/Poa Annua mix greens, I get the feeling that TPC Harding Park will be a great track for the 21-time PGA Tour winner.

Players last week at TPC Southwind were discussing how the PGA Championship in San Francisco will be more like a U.S. Open type set-up, with thinner fairways, brutal rough and firmer turf conditions. Well I doubt that concerns DJ who has finished 8th at Pebble Beach (2010), 4th at Pinehurst Number 2 (2014), 2nd at Chambers Bay (2015), 1st at Oakmont (2016) and 3rd at Shinnecock Hills (2018) in U.S. Open tough conditions.

Yes, he’s been inconsistent since the PGA Tour resumed, but he won the Travelers Championship on Bentgrass/Poa Annua greens only 6 weeks ago, and 12th last week at TPC Southwind was very encouraging. He ranked 6th for Driving Distance, 17th for Total Driving, 7th for Greens in Regulation, 9th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green and 10th for Putting Average (Putts per GIR).

And from a correlating course perspective I love Johnson this week. 6 of his wins at Cog Hill (2010), Doral (2015), Kapalua (2013 & 2018) and Pebble Beach (2009 & 2010) have been on courses where 2005 TPC Harding Park winner Tiger Woods has triumphed. And at the 2005 WGC hosted here, Tiger defeated John Daly in a playoff. Daly naturally won the 1995 Open Championship at St Andrews but also won on the PGA Tour at both Torrey Pines (Woods is an 8-time winner at La Jolla) and Crooked Stick. DJ has finished 3rd (2011) at Torrey Pines, 6th (2010) and 1st (2016) at Crooked Stick and is 2-time winner at TPC Southwind, where Daly has a top 5 finish to his name.

3 wins, (Pebble Beach x2 and Riviera Country Club), 11 top 5s and a further 5 top 10 finishes in the Golden State, suggest that Johnson has a live chance this week to capture a hugely popular 2nd Major Championship. RESULT: T2

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Collin Morikawa 1.5pt EW 35/1 (9EW, 1/5) with Betfred

35th on his first Major Championship appearance at Pebble Beach last June, Collin Morikawa has come a long way since then. 2 wins at Montreux G&CC and at Muirfield Village have both come on Bentgrass/Poa Annua greens and he now sits at 12th in the Official Golf Rankings after only 25 professional tournaments. As Sir Matt Busby once said, “If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.

Born in Los Angeles, Morikawa went to the University of California, Berkeley, just a short drive over the Oakland Bay Bridge from TPC Harding Park, and sure enough he’s played plenty of competitive amateur golf here. He finished 5th (2018) and 3rd (2019) on the freshly extended Harding Park layout when playing for his University and when you look at the way he plays golf you can see why. 17th for Strokes Gained Off the Tee, 27th for Greens in Regulation, 2nd for SG on Approach and 4th for SG Tee to Green across the PGA Tour this season – those are numbers many above him in the betting market would love. And 20th last week at the WGC-level St Jude Invitational was also enlightening. 3rd for Total Driving, 3rd for Greens in Regulation, 9th for SG Off the Tee and 21st for SG Tee to Green, he shot a final round -4/66 and will arrive in San Francisco, full of confidence.

His determination and mental fortitude when in contention so far in his career has been amazing, and I’ll be fascinated to see how well he goes this week. RESULT: Winner

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Shane Lowry 1pt EW 70/1 (9EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Shane Lowry and his long-time caddie Bo Martin were back together last week and boy did it show. With no main Tour top-10 finishes since his Open Championship victory last year, Lowry delivered 8th last week in a hot and humid Memphis. So a trip to the Pacific coast and some nice northern European temperatures, with the likelihood of a little sea breeze and faster turf conditions, must have Lowry licking his lips especially with his recent PGA Championship record.

12th at Bellerive in 2018 and 8th at Bethpage Black last term highlights a player who likes the PGA Championship format, where long and straight off the tee is never a bad scenario. And let’s not forget that Shane also finished 9th at the 2015 U.S. Open hosted at Chambers Bay and led much of the 2016 U.S. Open hosted at Oakmont, before the final round charge from Dustin Johnson. In summary Lowry can mix it with the very best, whether that’s on a windswept Northern Irish links course, or on some of the United States’ most difficult golf courses.

14th for Driving Distance (307 yards), 13th for Total Driving, 7th for Greens in Regulation, 2nd for Scrambling and 6th for SG Tee to Green, the Irishman’s game was in rude health at the WGC last week, especially in a final round where his -3/67 was powered by 2nd for SG on Approach. An elite-level long iron, fairway approach and scrambling game, the putter also started to thaw a little last week. All-in-all everything seems to be coming together and with no expectation on his shoulders, the World Number 26 could have an excellent week in San Francisco. RESULT: T66

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 16:20BST 3.8.20 but naturally subject to fluctuation.