The PGA Championship is called “Glory’s Last Shot” because it’s the final major championship of the golf season. And, unfortunately for the tournament, it’s always considered the weak sister of the four. The only time it won’t be overshadowed by the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open is if a golfer is going for the Grand Slam at the PGA. That’s certainly not the case this year with three different winners of the first three majors. In addition, the PGA is overshadowed even more this season because of the Olympics, not to mention the first full slate of NFL Preseason games on Thursday night.
100% bonus up to $500
at GT Bets
But make no mistake: There are some terrific storylines for the tournament when it tees off Thursday morning at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort in South Carolina. For one, there’s the course itself. According to the PGA’s official site, the Ocean Course has more seaside holes than any other course in the Northern Hemisphere -- 10 along the Atlantic with the other eight running parallel to those. And, thus, the wind and weather should be a huge factor this weekend much like it would be at a British Open. This is the first time the Ocean Course has hosted a major, although the 1991 Ryder Cup was there (and the movie “Legend of Bagger Vance” was filmed there).
There’s always a Tiger Woods storyline at a major. This week Woods said he thought he still had plenty of time to pass Jack Nicklaus’ record mark of 18 majors. Tiger has been stuck on 14 since his epic 2008 U.S. Open win. Thus, failing to win this week means Woods will have gone four calendar years without a major. Should Tiger win his fifth PGA Championship, he would take over the world No. 1 ranking from Luke Donald and essentially clinch PGA Tour Player of the Year honors.
There is also the Ryder Cup storyline. The Top 8 on the Ryder Cup points following this tournament automatically qualifies for the U.S. team, with the final four spots being choices of captain Davis Love III. The big name on the bubble at No. 8 is Phil Mickelson. Lefty has struggled massively this summer, with not a single Top-10 finish since May, when he was seventh at the HP Byron Nelson Championship. He has one just sub-70 round in his last 13 rounds and has missed two of his past three cuts on the PGA Tour. At least he is part-owner of the Padres now.
A final thing to look for is whether the 54-hole leader can win the tournament. All three major winners this year were fourth or worse entering the final round. Webb Simpson was tied for 29th after two rounds at Olympic, the worst 36-hole position by a U.S. Open champion -- ever. Ernie Els trailed Adam Scott by six shots when he made the turn on Sunday at The Open Championship. Simpson and Els never held the outright lead while they were actually playing.
Keegan Bradley is the defending champion of this tournament and he also had to stage a huge comeback. Bradley was five shots behind Jason Dufner with only three holes to play in Atlanta before Dufner melted down and lost to Bradley in a playoff. Bradley became just the third player to win a major in his first-ever major championship start. And Bradley is rolling right now. The 2011 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year entered the final round at Firestone last Sunday down four shots to Jim Furyk. But Bradley became the 11th player on Tour this year to win when trailing by at least four shots after 54 holes. In all of 2011, there were just six such comebacks.
Golf Odds: PGA Championship Favorites
Tiger is, of course, the favorite (8/1) at Bovada this week. And while Woods has a Tour-high three wins this season, he might be playing a course that doesn’t suit him at Kiawah. The Ocean Course is a Pete Dye design, and in two previous majors on Dye-designed courses Tiger has finished T28 (2010 PGA) and T24 (2004 PGA) and has never shot lower than 69. Woods also has just one Top-10 finish since 2002 at TPC Sawgrass, a Dye-designed course and home of the Players Championship.
Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald are at 18/1 at Bovada. McIlroy has been lousy all summer, but maybe he figured something out with a T5 last week. He also finished second in the field in driving distance and greens in regulation, two stats that could come in handy at Kiawah, the longest major championship course in history.
Donald, of course, continues to look for his first major. Whenever Donald’s No. 1 ranking has been threatened of late he usually fends off the charge. The PGA Championship is his seventh major as the No. 1 player. But Donald has just seven Top-10s in majors since the start of 2005. He wasn’t a factor at the Masters this year and missed the cut at the U.S. Open but did finish fifth at the British Open. Donald thinks he can build off that.
Speaking of coming up short in majors, Lee Westwood is next on the odds at 20/1. He is generally a Top-10 machine in majors but comes off a vastly disappointing T40 at the British Open where I pegged him as the winner. He has finished in the Top 10 in his past two PGAs.
Finally, Scott rounds out the favorites at 28/1 with Jason Dufner and Justin Rose. Scott, of course, gagged away the British Open by bogeying the final four holes. I’ll be honest, I hope he wins this week to make up for that crushing loss, but it likely will take him time to get mentally over it. Dufner blew last year’s PGA, as noted above, but he has been terrific with five Top-10s, including two wins, in his past seven events. Rose, meanwhile, is an amazing player but seems to lose his game at the PGA Championship as he has just one Top-10 finish in nine tries and has missed the past three cuts.
Golf Odds: PGA Championship Predictions
On the Top-10 props among those I didn’t mention in my props-only preview story, I like the following at “yes”: Tiger (-120), Westwood (+200), Donald (+150), Rose (+300) and Louis Oosthuizen (+275). At “no”: McIlroy (-215), Scott (-350) and Watson (-400).
The last 16 majors have been won by 16 different players. That’s the longest run without a duplicate champion since the Masters began in 1934. So that bodes well for the likes of Donald, Westwood, Scott, Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Dufner and Rose.
I really like Rose at 28/1 to win, especially if this will play like a British Open course. He led the field in greens in regulation last week at Firestone and was T3 in birdies. He has nine Top-10s in his last 14 starts worldwide.
But I am going with Johnson at 33/1. He’s a South Carolina native so should know the course better than anyone. And his length of the tee obviously will be a huge bonus. Johnson was T9 at the British Open and T19 last week. And he plays Dye-designed courses well: remember the 2010 PGA at Whistling Straits? There are no “bunkers” this week for Johnson to ground his club in. A new ruling is in place at the PGA where every sanded area on the course is not considered a bunker. That means players will be able to ground their club and take a practice swing prior to executing their shot. So it would be fitting for Johnson to redeem himself from the sand.
Doc’s Sports is offering $60 worth of member’s picks absolutely free – no obligation, no sales people – you don’t even have to enter credit card information. You can use this $60 credit any way you please for any handicapper and any sport on Doc’s Sports Advisory Board list of expert sports handicappers. Click here for more details and take advantage of this free $60 picks credit today.