The final major of the year is just round the corner now and with the WGC about to tee-off we thought it was only best to publish a cheeky pre-preview for next weeks PGA Championship.
We have written a ‘trends’ and stats break down for each of the last 3 majors and it has seemed to be popular so would have been rude not to do the same here! Jason Dufner will be defending his crown at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky – a course that has not hosted the tournament since Tiger Woods romped to victory in 2000.
In fact it has only hosted 2 PGA’s (the other in 1996 when Mark Brooks came out on top) and 2 Senior PGA’s (Hale Irwin in 2004 and Tom Watson in 2011.)
The 7,458 yard par 71 also held the infamous 2008 Ryder Cup when JB Holmes et al brought about the Americans only victory since the turn of the Millennium.
It is a long course and has similarities with a host of other tracks which makes betting very interesting. Last year was a slight anomaly in PGA history with a shorter, tighter track so expect the return of drivers and bombers. It has been obvious that the 3 winners so far this year have won because of an amazing game from the tee – Bubba was imperious at Augusta, Kaymer showed that length and accuracy combined is un-matchable and McIlroy pretty much cancelled out most difficult approach shots by bombing it unbelievably far.
So, before our in-depth preview that will be up on the site next Monday evening (GMT) we have taken a look at some of the trends of previous PGA’s and Valhalla tournaments to hopefully get left with a few interesting players…
The last 8 winners have finished inside the top 22 of the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. We will look at the Top 25 – Obviously we can’t answer that yet, but we can then discount all those who aren’t there at Firestone.
DUSTIN JOHNSON, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Paul Casey, George Coetzee, Darren Clarke, Roberto Castro, Scott Piercy, Marc Warren, Boo Weekley, Jason Bohn, KJ Choi, Erik Compton, Charley Hoffman, Billy Horschel, Charles Howell III, Freddie Jacobson, George McNeill, Will MacKenzie, Ben Martin, Ryan Palmer, Rory Sabbatini, Brendan Steele, Chris Stroud, Brian Stuard, Daniel Summerhays, Nick Watney, Chesson Hadley, Ross Fisher, Tommy Fleetwood, David Hearn, Ryo Ishikawa, Kim Hyung-sung, Brooks Koepka, Anirban Lahiri, Shane Lowry, Matteo Manassero, Edoardo Molinari, Koumei Oda, Thorbjørn Olesen, Kenny Perry, Tom Watson, Bernd Wiesberger, Chris Wood, Pádraig Harrington, Y.E Yang.
Barring last year, every winner since 2004 has averaged at least 290 yards on Tour before their victory.
Jason Dufner, Graeme McDowell, Webb Simpson, Jonas Blixt, Tim Clark, Zach Johnson, Kevin Streelman, Steve Stricker, Brendon de Jonge, Luke Donald, Matt Every, Brian Harman, Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk, Ryan Moore, Kevin Na, Ian Poulter, John Senden, Brandt Snedeker, Jordan Spieth, Brendon Todd, Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño, David Hearn, Kenny Perry, Tom Watson, Thomas Bjørn, Jamie Donaldson, Mikko Ilonen, Thongchai Jaidee, Miguel Ángel Jiménez, Pablo Larrazábal, Francesco Molinari, Richard Sterne.
12 of the past 14 winners won during the season
Keegan Bradley, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Marc Leishman, Henrik Stenson, Steven Bowditch, Graham DeLaet, Rickie Fowler, Bill Haas, Hunter Mahan, Kevin Na, Kevin Stadler, Gary Woodland, Victor Dubuisson, Branden Grace, Brooks Koepka.
There is a slight similarity with Links tracks at Valhalla. The past 4 champions here have all had a top 5 in their career at the Open Championship. We have looked at everyone who has had at least a top 10.
JB Holmes, Russell Henley, Harris English, Jason Day, Kevin Streelman, Bubba Watson, Matt Jones, Chris Kirk, Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker, Scott Stallings, Stephen Gallacher.
No denying there has been a few anomalies, but 14 of the last 17 winners have been inside the top 21 in the world. The average is 22.5 since Mark Brooks last won here in 1996, so we are doubling that and looking no higher that 45th in the current OWGR.
Angel Cabrera, Louis Oosthuizen,
Watson and Woods were interestingly inside the top 10 of ball striking before their victories here and that is understandable considering the requirements of this track. We are going to look no further than the Top 50 on the PGA Tour stats.
Hideki Matsuyama, Charl Schwartzel, Justin Rose
The past 4 winners at Valhalla have had a top 3 at Muirfield Village (the Memorial Tournament) and there are similarities visually between the 2 tracks. 3 of them have actually won both tournaments, so there is certainly something to think about there. We are looking for those with at least 1 Top 5 in career at Muirfield Village.
That means we are left with 3 players and sadly for us and everyone they are quite predictable. A few guys only narrowly missed out with the odd trend, but these 3 made it all the way through –
Sergio Garcia (28/1 various)
Sergio Garcia. When will he finally push himself over the line. When. He has finished at least 4th in all 4 majors over the years – a remarkable 10 top 5s. He has finished 2nd at the PGA twice and both times he could have won. Another near miss at The Open this year as well and it all adds up to a pro who has done everything but win.
Could this finally be that time? He seems to come through our trends very often and is usually in our thinking at every major because he has the game to combat pretty much anything. It’s just what goes on between his ears.
Perfect fit for the course with his length and accuracy, whilst we all know what his irons can do. He actually played here back in 2000 and finished a respectable T34, so that is an advantage he has over the majority of the field. Let’s look to see what he does this week at the WGC and go from there.
Adam Scott (14/1 various) and Rory McIlroy (15/2 various)
We have put these two guys together because we just didn’t feel there was much point writing separate columns for two of the best players in the world at the moment. Adam Scott is the number one and rarely drops outside the top 10 in many tournaments and has the perfect game for Valhalla. As does Rory McIlroy and what he has showed in recent weeks is what we should expect from someone of his class. A rampant victory at The Open and these next two weeks he has the chance to create history with two courses that suit him down to the ground, hence his odds. And hence why we didn’t go Scott outright for the WGC and hence why we are likely to not for the PGA.
Things have a habit of changing over the space of a few days in the world of golf, so all we can say is come back and check out what we are officially going to for next Monday evening (GMT)
We did want to quickly mention a few players who only just missed out –
Louis Oosthuizen (80/1 Coral BEST PRICE)
His sort of game is another perfect match because he has unbelievable control for someone with such distances off the tee. The only reason he didn’t make it to the end was the fact he has dropped outside the top 50 in the world and let’s be honest, that isn’t a true reflection of his abilities. Injuries have cost him since February, but he seems to be playing regular golf again and watch out for him at Firestone. If he does well, he could well be in our plans next week…
Martin Kaymer (28/1 Coral BEST PRICE)
Winner of 2 of the biggest tournaments so far this year and we have great confidence he can grab a third at the WGC. Will this be one step too far? Already won this trophy so we all know how his game matches up to the challenges of traditional tracks the USGA set. Every chance.
Chris Kirk (150/1 various)
The only thing he didn’t fit was the fact he has never finished inside the top 10 at the Open. But, you have to consider he has only ever played in one and that was this year. He finished T19… That is quite impressive, so considering he fits everything else, outside gamble galore!