Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's US PGA Championship Tips 2021

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If longshots are more to your taste then check out Paul Williams’ choice of those over 100/1 here: US PGA Longshots

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Congratulations if you were on board K.H. Lee at pre-event prices of up to 200/1 last week. He’s certainly been trending in 2021 and he captured his first PGA Tour win in fine style. This column landed Charl Schwartzel for a full each-way place at 66/1, with our 12/1 selection Jordan Spieth disappointing on Sunday at his home town event. I thought he was going to hunt down Sam Burns, but it wasn’t to be.

The 103rd PGA Championship from the Ocean Course, Kiawah Island in South Carolina, should be an absolute feast of golf. The longest course in Major Championship history awaits, as does a course which is as exposed to the Atlantic elements as any on the eastern seaboard of the United States.

As per usual there are plenty of sub-plots for us golf punters to wade through. Can betting favourite Rory McIlroy win his first Major Championship since 2014 and consecutive tournaments on a course where he captured the 2012 PGA Championship? World Number 1 Dustin Johnson has been quiet in 2021, but the Ocean Course is sure to suit as he looks to capture his 3rd Major title. Can Jon Rahm capture his first Major? And what about big-hitting Bryson DeChambeau, who won the U.S. Open last September?

Before we talk through my 2021 US PGA Championship tips, the number of new visitors to Golf Betting System this week will be considerable. Welcome to the Number 1 Free Betting you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube and our hugely popular, 5,900+ strong private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

Maximise your PGA Championship research by listening to our in-depth preview podcast, PGA Championship Preview Podcast.

2021 PGA Championship Key Bookmaker Promotions

The 2021 US PGA Championship looks to be the most competitive Major in recent history, with a whole host of top players looking more than capable of winning at Kiawah Island. The second Major Championship of 2021, it’s great to see that a number of bookmakers have risen to the challenge with a fantastic range of additional each-way place promotions, giving you ever more opportunity to profit:

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Course Guide: 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 familiar to golf punters wth 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 and at a maximum of 7,846 yards in length, this is the longest golf course in Major Championship history.

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.

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

  • Ocean Course – Kiawah Island: Up to 50 yards wide.
  • Quail Hollow: 250 yards from tee: 33 yards wide; 275:32; 300:31; 325:30; 350:29.
  • Copperhead: 250 yards from the tee: 24 yards wide; 275:20; 300:21; 325:23 350:19.
  • Harbour Town: 250 yards from tee: 29 yards wide; 275:26; 300:22; 325:26; 350:22.
  • Oaks Course: 250 yards from tee: 33 yards wide; 275:34; 300:29; 325:27; 350:26.
  • PGA National: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:27 350:25.
  • 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.
  • Riviera: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26 350:28.
  • Pebble Beach: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:33; 300:29; 325:30 350:26.
  • TPC Scottsdale: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:30; 300:28; 325:27; 350:27.
  • Torrey Pines South: 250 yards from the tee: 26 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:24; 350:23.
  • TPC Stadium: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26; 350:24.
  • Waialae: 250 yards from the tee: 34 yards wide; 275:32; 300:34; 325:37; 350:34.
  • Plantation Course: 250 yards from the tee: 59 yards wide; 275:61; 300:65; 325:60; 350:62.

Course Designer Links: For research purposes, other Pete Dye designs include:

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

Course Overview: At 7,876 yards, the Ocean Course will play as the longest course in Major Championship history from its tips. Clearly the PGA Championship is going back to its roots! But away from the headline number, the Ocean Course format (6 tees per hole) allows the PGA of America, under Kerry Haigh, to tinker throughout the championship, as does the fact that many of the holes play either with the wind or into the players. The likelihood of the course playing to its full from the tips yardage is unlikely and 100% dependant on the level of wind.

This Pete Dye faux-links, 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 easterly 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, after the opening 3 holes on the Ocean Course there is no easy stretch of golf.

Interestingly post-2003, the Ocean Course has featured Paspalum across the whole course, with fast drying Sea Shore Paspalum grass on both the fairways and greens, which although closely related to Bermuda grass actually has no grain and typically run quite slowly. Fairways are wide at anything up to 50-55 yards, and rough, which is best described as first cut, is Bermudagrass overseeded with ryegrass at anything up to 3.5 inches. As I say, rough tends to be very limited and errant drives, beyond the first cut, can end up in all sorts of trouble including deep bunkers, sand-blasts, waist high fescue and plenty of water hazards.

Putting surfaces for the length of course are pretty small at 6,000 sq.ft average, and the variety of green complexes is impressive. Many though are elevated with surrounding run-off areas, and most have hazards in front of them, making low ‘links-like’ approaches impossible.

Winning score will be totally wind dependent, with recent renewals being won at -8 or anything up to -20 at the Pete Dye-designed Whistling Straits in 2015.

us pga championship tips

Winners: 2020: Collin Morikawa (-13); 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 | Recent Majors 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 Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Gary Woodland, Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Viktor Hovland, Joaquin Niemann and Xander Schauffele.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Corales Championship / Kenya Savannah Classic, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Brendon Todd; 2) Victor Perez; 3) Aaron Rai; 4) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Chez Reavie; 6) Abraham Ancer / Brian Harman; 8) Corey Conners; 9) Jim Herman; 10) Rickie Fowler; 11) Henrik Stenson; 12) Collin Morikawa; 13) John Catlin; 14) Chris Kirk; 15) Billy Horschel / Louis Oosthuizen; 17) Sergio Garcia; 18) Jon Rahm; 19) Christiaan Bezuidenhout / Tom Hoge / Webb Simpson; 22) Emiliano Grillo / Matt Kuchar / Francesco Molinari; 25) Bernd Wiesberger.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Collin Morikawa; 2) Xander Schauffele; 3) Jazz Janewattananond / Aaron Rai / Justin Rose / Daniel van Tonder; 7) Emiliano Grillo; 8) Chris Kirk / Justin Thomas; 10) Stewart Cink / Jon Rahm; 12) Bubba Watson; 13) Paul Casey; 14) Corey Conners; 15) Abraham Ancer / Daniel Berger / Shane Lowry / Webb Simpson; 19) Louis Oosthuizen / Charl Schwartzel; 21) Garrick Higgo / Keegan Bradley; 25) Brooks Koepka / Francesco Molinari.
  • Scrambling: 1) Aaron Rai; 2) Tyrrell Hatton; 3) Webb Simpson; 4) Brian Harman / Rory McIlroy; 6) Daniel van Tonder; 7) Abraham Ancer / Christiaan Bezuidenhout  Patrick Reed; 10) Stewart Cink; 11) Cameron Smith; 12) Viktor Hovland; 13) Charley Hoffman; 14) Bryson DeChambeau / Lanto Griffin; 16) Louis Oosthuizen; 17) Jordan Spieth; 18) Billy Horschel / Cameron Tringale; 20) Jason Kokrak; 21) Keegan Bradley; 22) Branden Grace / Jazz Janewattananond; 24) Emiliano Grillo; 25) Brendon Todd / Matt Wallace.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Xander Schauffele; 2) Kalle Samooja; 3) Daniel van Tonder; 4) Sami Valimaki; 5) Hideki Matsuyama / Danny Willett; 7) Daniel Berger / Brian Harman / Viktor Hovland / Jordan Spieth; 11) Joel Dahmen / Tommy Fleetwood / Matt Wallace; 14) Jazz Janewattananond; 15) Chris Kirk / Gary Woodland; 17) Garrick Higgo / Dustin Johnson / Marc Leishman; 20) Billy Horschel; 21) Dean Burmester / Shane Lowry / Sebastian Munoz; 24) Brian Gay; 25) Alex Noren / Ian Poulter.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Corales Championship / Kenya Savannah Classic, which includes both PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Daniel van Tonder; 2) Bryson DeChambeau / Viktor Hovland; 4) Jon Rahm / Scottie Scheffler; 6) Cameron Champ / Jason Kokrak / Aaron Rai; 9) Bubba Watson; 10) Collin Morikawa; 11) Corey Conners; 12) Jazz Janewattananond / Ryan Palmer; 14) Abraham Ancer / Dustin Johnson; 16) Adam Scott; 17) Jim Herman; 18) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Garrick Higgo; 20) Charley Hoffman; 21) Daniel Berger / Lucas Herbert; 23) Rickie Fowler / Kevin Streelman; 25) Cameron Davis / Sergio Garcia / Victor Perez.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Jordan Spieth; 2) Corey Conners / Shane Lowry / Webb Simpson; 5) Stewart Cink; 6) Daniel Berger; 7) Marc Leishman / Hideki Matsuyama; 9) Matt Wallace; 10) Collin Morikawa / Louis Oosthuizen; 12) Justin Thomas; 13) Sam Horsfield; 14) Sam Burns / Daniel van Tonder; 16) Paul Casey / Thomas Pieters; 18) Aaron Rai / Kevin Streelman; 20) Tyrrell Hatton; 21) Charl Schwartzel; 22) Will Zalatoris; 23) Keegan Bradley; 24) Emiliano Grillo / Xander Schauffele.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Cameron Smith; 2) Xander Schauffele; 3) Jordan Spieth; 4) Keegan Bradley; 5) Cameron Tringale / Daniel van Tonder; 7) Matt Wallace; 8) Brendon Todd; 9) Brian Harman; 10) Justin Thomas; 11) Tony Finau; 12) Tyrrell Hatton / Alex Noren; 14) Dylan Frittelli / Robert MacIntyre; 16) Tommy Fleetwood / Bernd Wiesberger; 18) Brooks Koepka / Collin Morikawa; 20) Charley Hoffman; 21) Kevin Na; 22) Sam Burns / Maverick McNealy / Aaron Rai; 25) Byeong Hun An / Jason Day.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Daniel van Tonder; 2) Jordan Spieth; 3) Collin Morikawa; 4) Viktor Hovland; 5) Aaron Rai; 6) Corey Conners / Charley Hoffman / Xander Schauffele / Cameron Smith / Matt Wallace; 11) Jazz Janewattananond / Justin Thomas; 13) Daniel Berger / Tyrrell Hatton; 15) Keegan Bradley; 16) Webb Simpson; 17) Abraham Ancer / Scottie Scheffler; 19) Sam Burns / Cameron Tringale; 21) Sam Horsfield / K.H. Lee / Thomas Pieters / Bubba Watson; 25) Stewart Cink / Emiliano Grillo.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Brian Harman / Louis Oosthuizen; 3) Marc Leishman / Sami Valimaki; 5) Kalle Samooja; 6) Jazz Janewattananond; 7) Christiaan Bezuidenhout / Jason Kokrak / Rory McIlroy; 10) Viktor Hovland; 11) Stewart Cink / J.T. Poston; 13) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Harry Higgs / Billy Horschel; 16) Joaquin Niemann; 17) Ian Poulter / Robert Streb; 19) Zach Johnson / Robert MacIntyre / Cameron Smith; 22) Harris English / Garrick Higgo; 24) Daniel van Tonder; 25) Brian Gay / Sebastian Munoz / Xander Schauffele / Webb Simpson.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Daniel van Tonder; 2) Jordan Spieth; 3) Jazz Janewattananond; 4) Viktor Hovland / Xander Schauffele; 6) Cameron Smith; 7) Webb Simpson; 8) Charley Hoffman / Marc Leishman / Collin Morikawa; 11) Keegan Bradley / Brian Harman; 13) Abraham Ancer / Matt Wallace; 15) Stewart Cink / Louis Oosthuizen; 17) Corey Conners / Matthew Fitzpatrick; 19) Bubba Watson; 20) Sam Horsfield / Justin Thomas; 22) Joaquin Niemann; 23) Daniel Berger / Alex Noren; 25) Hideki Matsuyama / Cameron Tringale / Sami Valimaki.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Corales Championship, and only PGA Tour events. Players rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Bryson DeChambeau / Viktor Hovland; 3) Jon Rahm / Scottie Scheffler; 5) Cameron Champ / Jason Kokrak; 7) Bubba Watson; 8) Collin Morikawa; 9) Ryan Palmer; 10) Abraham Ancer / Dustin Johnson; 12) Adam Scott; 13) Jim Herman; 14) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 15) Charley Hoffman; 16) Daniel Berger / Lucas Herbert; 18) Rickie Fowler / Kevin Streelman; 20) Cameron Davis / Sergio Garcia / Victor Perez; 23) Aaron Wise; 24) Cameron Smith; 25) Brooks Koepka.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Jordan Spieth; 2) Corey Conners / Shane Lowry / Webb Simpson; 5) Stewart Cink; 6) Daniel Berger; 7) Marc Leishman / Hideki Matsuyama; 9) Matt Wallace; 10) Collin Morikawa / Louis Oosthuizen; 12) Justin Thomas; 13) Sam Burns; 14)Paul Casey / Thomas Pieters; 16) Kevin Streelman; 17) Tyrrell Hatton; 18) Charl Schwartzel; 19) Will Zalatoris; 20) Keegan Bradley; 21) Emiliano Grillo / Xander Schauffele; 23) Tom Hoge; 24) Max Homa / Rory McIlroy.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Cameron Smith; 2) Xander Schauffele; 3) Jordan Spieth; 4) Keegan Bradley; 5) Cameron Tringale; 6) Matt Wallace; 7) Brendon Todd; 8) Brian Harman; 9) Justin Thomas; 10) Tony Finau / Robert MacIntyre; 12) Tyrrell Hatton / Alex Noren; 14) Dylan Frittelli; 15) Tommy Fleetwood; 16) Brooks Koepka / Collin Morikawa; 18) Charley Hoffman; 19) Kevin Na; 20) Bernd Wiesberger; 21) Sam Burns / Maverick McNealy; 23) Byeong Hun An / Jason Day; 25) Christiaan Bezuidenhout / Viktor Hovland / Adam Scott.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Jordan Spieth; 2) Collin Morikawa; 3) Viktor Hovland; 4) Corey Conners / Charley Hoffman / Xander Schauffele / Cameron Smith / Matt Wallace; 9) Justin Thomas; 10) Daniel Berger / Tyrrell Hatton; 12) Keegan Bradley; 13) Webb Simpson; 14) Abraham Ancer / Scottie Scheffler; 16) Sam Burns / Cameron Tringale; 18) K.H. Lee / Thomas Pieters / Bubba Watson; 21) Stewart Cink / Emiliano Grillo; 23) Hideki Matsuyama; 24) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 25) Charl Schwartzel.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Brian Harman / Louis Oosthuizen; 3) Marc Leishman; 4) Christiaan Bezuidenhout / Jason Kokrak / Rory McIlroy; 7) Viktor Hovland; 8) Stewart Cink / J.T. Poston; 10) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Harry Higgs / Billy Horschel; 13) Joaquin Niemann; 14) Ian Poulter / Robert Streb; 16) Zach Johnson / Cameron Smith; 18) Harris English; 19) Brian Gay / Robert MacIntyre / Sebastian Munoz / Xander Schauffele / Webb Simpson; 24) Kevin Na / Bubba Watson.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Jordan Spieth; 2) Viktor Hovland / Xander Schauffele; 4) Cameron Smith; 5) Webb Simpson; 6) Charley Hoffman / Marc Leishman / Collin Morikawa; 9) Keegan Bradley / Brian Harman; 11) Abraham Ancer / Matt Wallace; 13) Stewart Cink / Louis Oosthuizen; 15) Corey Conners / Matthew Fitzpatrick; 17) Bubba Watson; 18) Justin Thomas; 19) Joaquin Niemann; 20) Daniel Berger / Alex Noren; 22) Hideki Matsuyama / Cameron Tringale; 24) Emiliano Grillo / Patrick Reed.

Winners & Prices: 2020: Collin Morikawa 35/1; 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: 51/1.

Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Kiawah Island, South Carolina, is here.

First thing I would urge you to do is constantly check the weather forecast – this is a coastal golf tournament! Compared to 2012, the course will be undoubtedly firmer, with no rain falling on the course since last Wednesday when a considerable +50mm fell. So course conditions will be optimal, with no rain in the forecast whatsoever this week.

Winds also look light, but do change direction. Thursday will see a 15 mph easterly in play across the day. That will have an impact here. From there though the wind amounts to little more than 10 mph throughout. Directions at this stage are easterly on Friday, switching to south-westerly on Saturday and south-easterly on Sunday. Temperatures will be ideal at 24-25 Celsius across the opening 2 days, rising to 28-29 degrees on the weekend. For me a typical PGA Championship mid-score is very much to be expected this week.

Here are some comments about the Ocean Course, Kiawah Island and how it will play from the tournament organising PGA of America:

Kerry Haigh (PGA of America Chief Championships Officer (2012): “Setting up the golf course, both the drivable par‑4s and the reachable par‑5s, I think so much, as I say, depends on the weather and the forecast and the wind strength and direction. We will certainly work closely with the weather to determine which, if any, holes we may or may not move around.  Likelihood we’d probably not do it in the first round probably for making any par‑4 drivable.  But other than that, I think any round would be open. So much is dictated by the wind strength and the wind direction.  And as we’ve seen in the three, four days we’ve been here, the wind changes constantly, not only from day‑to‑day but during the day based on the tide.”

Kerry Haigh (PGA of America Chief Championships Officer (2021): “Kiawah Island is one of the best courses in the world, second to none in terms of challenges. The course has evolved from the 1991 Ryder Cup. Through the ensuing 30 years, grasses changed, tees were moved to add length and create different angles, and agronomy improved. But the Ocean Course always will have the wind and if the wind blows, this is one of the most difficult courses anywhere.

“My goal in setting up the course is that it’s the players against the golf course. My aim is to set up the golf course difficult but fair. We want to test the players, to make the best players in the world think, and they will have to think to play this course well. Being in May as opposed to August, the overseed grass will be hanging on and the course will play differently in that respect. How much depends on the weather three or four weeks before the tournament. But the players will adjust. They’re the best in the world.

We also saw from the 2007 Senior PGA (played in late May) that wind directions are different and stronger than in August. ”

Let’s take a view from players as to how the Ocean Course set-up in 2012 and what skill sets the course favours:

Rory McIlroy (2012): “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.

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.”

Ernie Els (2012): 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.”

Keegan Bradley (2012): “Well, I don’t think anybody was very prepared, just because we never played.  There were a few holes that were just brutal.  I think that that stretch from about 7 to 13 is about as hard of a stretch of golf as there is in the world, I would think. Today (Friday) they didn’t have control of that wind, so that was the toughest round of golf I’ve ever played.”

Adam Scott (2012): It’s a different story here to say a genuine links such as Lytham, especially 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.”

Bubba Watson (2012): ” I think that it’s going to be down to the short game.  I think we say that a lot.  If it gets windy it’s going to be short game because you’re going to play away from some places, you’re going to try to make sure you don’t short‑side yourself.  The par‑3, I don’t know the numbers, the par‑3, 17 is a good one.  But 14 with as long as that hole can play, I don’t know if they’re going to play it that long, but with that wind coming off the ocean, it was playing pretty tough yesterday afternoon.  It’s all about the short game.  So I think the short game, putting and chipping is going to be the key around this golf course.”

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 11 winners of the PGA Championship:

  • 2020 – Collin Morikawa: Round 1: 33rd, Round 2: 25th, Round 3: 4th.
  • 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:

  • 2020 – Collin Morikawa: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 6 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2019 – 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:

  • Collin Morikawa: 20th St Jude/48th Memorial/1st Workday/MC Travelers.
  • 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.

  • 2020 – Day / Todd – AM/PM Split -5/65 – 50/1 & 90/1.
  • 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 Paspalum PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 2 – Viktor Hovland, Justin Thomas.
  • 1 – Harris English, Tony Finau, Brian Gay, Branden Grace, Charley Hoffman, Viktor Hovland, Matt Kuchar, Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter, Brendon Todd.

Winning prices in the PGA Championship can 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 Brooks Koepka at 11/1JF and 20/1 over 2019 and 2018 renewals, plus defending champion Collin Morikawa at 35/1, Justin Thomas at 45/1 and Jason Dufner at 40/1. So 8 of the last 9 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.

The PGA Championship in recent history has seen a plethora of long hitters getting the job done, with many capturing their first Major titles. Exclude Oak Hill in 2013 (7,163 yard Par 70) and TPC Harding Park last year (7,234 yard Par 70), which weren’t your stereo typical long, PGA Championship venue and Y.E. Yang (2009), Martin Kaymer (2010), Keegan Bradley (2011), Jason Day (2015), Jimmy Walker (2016) and Justin Thomas (2017), have all been long off the tee and captured first-time Majors to boot. Add Dufner and Morikawa to that first-time list on those short Par 70s.

Rory McIlroy (winner here at 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), provide even more evidence that long hitters have a distinct advantage at ‘traditional’ PGA Championships. Yes, Kiawah Island is on the coast, but as Rory McIlroy said himself in 2012, “The Ocean Course, is an American course that just looks linksy.”

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 either the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, or last week’s AT&T Byron in Texas, 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 (clearly that may change in 2021) and finished no worse than 28th (Justin Thomas 2017). Go back further to 2002, 2004 and 2005, and you will 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 pre-requisite.

Xander Schauffele 2pts EW 22/1 (9EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Xander Schauffele leads my 2021 PGA Championship squad, after finishing 14th at the Wells Fargo Championship last time out. It was very much an undercover performance, but that’s fine as I like Xander coming in under the radar this week.

A -3/139 weekend total was 4 short of Viktor Hovland, who topped weekend scoring, and 3 short of Wells Fargo winner Rory McIlroy – and that was despite finishing double bogey, bogey across the 17th and 18th on Sunday. And that’s the point with Xander who was in the top 5 at the time – winning is all that motivates the 27 year-old and he went for bust on the most difficult hole on the golf course. The fact he ultimately finished 13th both kept his odds bigger for this week and means little to the Californian, who targets Majors rather than Wells Fargo titles, but the fact he’s winless since January 2019 is undoubtedly focusing the mind of the World Number 4.

That much is clear by just looking at his Majors CV. 2nd at the 2018 Open Championship, 2nd at the 2019 Masters, 2nd at the 2021 Masters and 4 top-6 finishes at the U.S. Open, Xander is undoubtedly a player who peaks for the Major Championships. His PGA Championship results are progressing encouragingly with 16th at the Bethpage Black and 10th last August at TPC Harding Park. For those counting it’s 7 each-way payouts across his last 15 Majors.

Over the last 8 weeks his form is excellent. Across my traditional stat trackers in this field he ranks 2nd for Greens in Regulation and 1st for Putting Average (Putts per GIR). Strokes Gained-wise, he’s 21st for Approach, 4th for Tee to Green and 2nd for Current Form. In the top 30 for Driving Distance this season and 2nd for par-5 Birdie or Better, I think Kiawah Island will set up nicely for Xander and it’s worth remembering that he was best of the rest the last time we gathered for a Major at Augusta National just 6 weeks ago. RESULT: MC

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Viktor Hovland 2Pts EW 25/1 (9EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Since 2009, 8 first time Major winners have won the PGA Championship (that’s 66%), with the last of them being Collin Morikawa who we were on at 35/1 last August. And if we’re looking for a non-Major winner whose form and game are both taking shape at the perfect time, look no further than Viktor Hovland.

The former Amateur World Number 1, who went to Oklahoma State University, has always had a career where he has excelled by the coast. The winner of the 2018 U.S. Amateur at nowhere less than Pebble Beach, Viktor came to most of our attentions when he finished 12th at the 2019 U.S. Open, again played at Pebble Beach as an amateur. Amazing stuff!

And his professional career again has seen plenty of success on the coast. The winner of the 2020 Puerto Rico Open at the Par 72 at Grand Reserve Country Club, Viktor went on  to win another coastal PGA Tour title last year, this time the Mayakoba Golf Classic at El Camaleon in Mexico. Few players win more than once in a calendar year, but Hovland is by no means a run of the mill player and it’s also fascinating to observe that both of his wins came on Paspalum golf courses. That can only bode well for this week.

The World Number 11 in my view has always been one to keep a close eye on when it comes to the Majors, even at just 23 years of age. A glance at his season-long statistics from last season highlight a player who ranked in the top 10 for Strokes Gained Approach and the top 20 for SG Off the Tee and Tee to Green. His glaring weakness was his short game, where he ranked 148th for Scrambling, 168th for SG Around the Green and 115th for SG Putting.

But right now we’re seeing the metamorphosis of Hovland into a player who I think has a great chance of winning Majors. 2021 sees him sitting from a Strokes Gained Perspective 4th for Off the Tee, 22nd for Approach and 6th for Tee to Green. Within that he now sits 77th for Scrambling (up 71 spots), 96th for SG Around the Green (up 72 spots) and 66th for Putting (up 49 spots). 13th for All-Round last year, he now finds himself in 7th spot, mixing it with Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, and ahead of the likes of Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau. Those weaknesses are undoubtedly being eradicated.

2nd at Torrey Pines, 6th on Paspalum in Saudi Arabia and 5th at Riviera Country Club in the first 2 months of 2021, recent outings have seen him finish 2nd in a World Golf Championship at The Concession, plus consecutive 3rd place finishes at Copperhead and Quail Hollow in very strong fields. And at the Wells Fargo Championship, a course where 2012 Kiawah Island champion Rory McIlroy has won 3 times, Viktor was 7th for Greens in Regulation, 2nd for Scrambling, and from a Strokes Gained perspective 6th for Off the Tee, 7th for Tee to Green and encouragingly 13th for Putting.

Viktor across our fantastic Pete Dye Design Strokes Gained Analysis also sits 2nd for Off the Tee, 6th for Approach, 1st for Ball Striking and 10th for Tee to Green. RESULT: T30

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Daniel Berger 1.5Pts EW 30/1 (9EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Daniel Berger really caught the eye in Texas last week on a course that was getting on for 7,500 yards. Strokes Gained-wise he was 4th for Off the Tee, 7th for Approach, 4th for Tee to Green and 29th for Putting. That translated to 9th for Driving Accuracy, 2nd for Total Driving, 4th for Greens in Regulation, 1st for Ball Striking and 4th for All-Round. He might be a nemesis of mine, but those numbers are simply too strong to ignore! And slowly but surely, his performances in the biggest tournaments have undoubtedly improved.

10th at the 2016 Masters and 6th at the 2018 U.S. Open at Augusta National and Shinnecock Hills across 2 of his last 3 PGA Championships, Berger has finished 12th (2018 Bellerive) and 13th (TPC Harding Park). Throw in a 2nd spot at last year’s 2020 WGC-St Jude Invitational and 9th at The Players this year and Berger is starting to show his real ability on the biggest stages.

A winner on the South Californian coast this February at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Daniel has also had success at Harbour Town (3rd 2020 – 13th 2021) ticking the Carolina and Pete Dye golf course angle, plus top-10 finishes across TPC Sawgrass, TPC Louisiana and TPC River Highlands which are all Dye tracks.

2nd in Puerto Rico in 2019 ticks the Paspalum box and I also love his record at the Honda Classic. PGA National seems to correlate nicely to the likes of McIlroy, Bradley, Rose and Poulter, all of whom thrived here at Kiawah Island in 2012. Berger of course finished runner-up to Padraig Harrington there in 2015 as a Tour rookie and was 4th there again last year. If it gets tough, Daniel can grind. RESULT: T75

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Will Zalatoris 1pt EW 50/1 (10EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

I’m thinking that Will Zalatoris is also a nice fit for Kiawah Island this week. The wide fairways will undoubtedly suit and as we’ve seen this season, Major Championships are where he comes to the party.

6th at the U.S. Open and 2nd at The Masters from 2 Major starts certainly catches the eye and shows us the kind of talent we’re dealing with here. Poster boy Zalatoris averages 307 yards off the tee, is in the top 35 on Tour for Distance to Apex, and is 14th for Scoring Average across this, his rookie season. Amazing stuff!

The thing that really grabs me though is the maturity within the 24 year-old. At Augusta National he was undoubtedly in the line of fire from a long way out. 2nd after 36 holes, he went out in the Saturday Final Group with Justin Rose. Where the Englishman shot 72, Zalatoris shot 71. You simply cannot teach that kind of pedigree and nerve and, of course, Will went on to shoot 70 on Sunday to earn himself solo 2nd place, under the most severe pressure.

His performance last week at the AT&T Byron Nelson was also eye-catching. Rounds of 70-68-67-67 progressed nicely as conditions got tougher and across the closing 54 holes ‘Will Z’ was only 4 shots off the best totals shot by K.H. Lee, Scott Stallings and Daniel Berger. 25th for Strokes Gained Off the Tee, 1st for SG on Approach and 3rd for Tee to Green, he was also 1st for Greens in Regulation and 6th for Scrambling – a combination that will go far at Kiawah Island.

7th at the coastal Torrey Pines in January, Paspalum courses have also been a happy hunting ground across Zalatoris’ short career. 4th at the 2020 Great Exuma Classic on the Bahamas coastline on the Korn Ferry Tour, Will was also 8th at the Corales Championship in September on the main Tour – that was the week after a gruelling 6th at the U.S. Open. RESULT: T8

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Gary Woodland 1pt EW 100/1 (8EW, 1/5) with bet365

Another who I think has the perfect game for the PGA Championship is Gary Woodland who after a 9 month downturn has started to show real progress of late.

The 2019 U.S. Open champion at Pebble Beach, Gary has already finished 12th (2011), 22nd (2017), 6th (2018) and 8th (2019) at PGA Championships from Atlanta Athletic Club right through to Bethpage Black. Long off the tee and with a low stinger which works perfectly in the wind, Gary’s seaside CV highlights a player who can mix it on the United States coast.

2nd and 7th at Kapalua (2019, 2020), 3rd, 6th and 7th at Waialae (2015, 2017, 2018), 5th and 1st (2017 & 2019) at Pebble Beach, plus 2nd at Liberty National (2013), Gary has often been in contention on coastal assignments and naturally won his first Major on the South California coast. Plus he’s more than comfortable on Paspalum golf courses as 2nd (2013) and 2nd (2014) at TPC Kuala Lumpur plus 2nd (2016) at El Camaleon highlight.

I also like Woodland from a correlating course perspective. 1st (2011) and 8th (2014) at Copperhead which plays very much as a Carolina-type golf course, Gary has also finished 4th (2015) and 5th (2021) at Quail Hollow. 2012 Kiawah Island leaderboard toppers McIlroy, Lynn, Pettersson, Poulter and Rose, all have top 10 finishes at the long North Carolina, Quail Hollow. Plus another link I like is PGA National, home of the Honda Classic. McIlroy has won there and finished runner-up, with David Lynn, Keegan Bradley, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, all have top 4 finishes on the tough, windswept Jack Nicklaus design. Gary has delivered 6th (2012), 2nd (2017) and 8th (2020) at the Honda.

6th at the Texas Open, 40th at The Masters and 5th last time out at Quail Hollow, the 36 year-old based on the coast at Delray Beach, Florida is undoubtedly peaking at the right time. And his numbers last time out at the Wells Fargo Championship were excellent: 11th for Total Driving, 10th for Ball Striking, 2nd for Scrambling and 2nd for All-Round in traditional statistic form, from a Strokes Gained perspective he was 8th for Tee to Green and 18th for Putting. RESULT: T38

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 13:55BST 17.5.21 but naturally subject to fluctuation.

If longshots are more to your taste then check out Paul Williams’ choice of those over 100/1 here: US PGA Longshots

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