Kentucky is probably most renowned for its fried chicken, but you’d be dining on champagne and caviar over there this weekend if you were one of the lucky men to get a slice of the £7.3m prize fund up for grabs at the US PGA Championship.
The final Major of the golfing season is upon us, and it’s an event the Americans have dominated. But apart from preferably being a yank, what other characteristics help in the battle to get the Wanamaker trophy on your mantelpiece for the next 12 months? The Paddy Power Blog has crunched the stats from the last 15 years in an attempt to pick out the key trends using a flower-like design that would have some number-crunchers purring.
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Swing when you’re winning
It may sound obvious but backing someone who knows how to win seems fairly key here. Someone who has been there, done it, got the t-shirt and the juicy cheque to buy many more t-shirts often has the nerve to do it again. In the last 15 years, 13 winners had already picked up a win on the circuit that year, so backing someone who already has a win on either the European or PGA Tour this year is a pretty basic starting point. Not that Jason Dufner or Shaun Micheel would agree.
Dufner hadn’t won a tour event for 15 months going into last year’s US PGA Championship, but he managed to ignore that fact and the numerous jibes from the @paddypower Twitter account calling for him to do the Truffle Shuffle, to win by two strokes in New York. It was his first and only Major. Even more remarkable was Shaun Micheel’s win in 2003, which was his only PGA Tour win in his career. Going into the event he was ranked 169th in the world but that didn’t stop him winning the event by two shots.
A heart-warming tale, but still if you’re looking for the 2014 winner it’s probably wise to stick with someone who knows how to hole the winning putt.
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Major form isn’t quite a major trend
The step up from being a previous winner on tour is of course being a former Major winner. If you’re able to hole a putt that wins a Major and know how to deal with the wobbly knees and sweaty palms, then you’re immediately more likely to win than Jim Furyk. However previous Major form isn’t quite a key trend in the last 15 years of US PGA Championship winners.
Although seven of the 15 winners had previously won a Major, four of those champs were a certain Tiger Woods (1999, 2000, 2006, 2007) who had won the Masters in 1997. A closer look into the stats shows that of the five most recent winners – Jason Dufner, Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, Martin Kaymar and Yang Yong-eun – all apart from McIlroy were breaking their Major duck. Although having a notch on your bedpost for the season is important, the trends suggest you shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss someone on the verge of picking up their first big one.
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Age is just a number
It sounds like something your paranoid friend says just before his 30th birthday ends in a drink-fuelled spontaneous trip to Amsterdam and only leads to tears, however in this case it’s true. Kind of. 10 of the last 15 winners were aged 30 or older which would imply that an experienced head was more valuable in this tournament than a slice of youthful exuberance.
Vijay Singh wasn’t contemplating a pipe and slippers when he won this tournament at the ripe old age of 41 in 2004, while Dufner was 36 when he claimed victory last year. Two of Tiger Woods’ wins came after he turned 30, however his first two wins were at the ages of 23 and 24 when his young innocence and fresh baby-face could never have let us believe the mischief he’d eventually get up to.
However there have been a spate of young winners in recent times. Since 2010, Kaymar (25), Braddley (25) and McIlroy (23) have all taken home the trophy which means that it isn’t completely ridiculous to see a talented up-start upset the oldies.
- Rory is the favourite and this year he’s been the punter’s pal. Get his latest odds here: Desktop | Mobile
New kids on the block
Strangely enough 10 of the last 15 winners had less than five previous US PGA Championship appearances each. The fact that this event moves to different courses each year makes this trend a touch insignificant however it is interesting to note that newcomers to the US PGA Championship are well worth considering. Woods’ win in 2007 was his 11th USA PGA Championship, while Phil Mickelson had made 12 appearances at the event before winning in 2005. Similarly Padraig Harrington had made eight previous appearances before lifting the trophy six years ago.
However since Harrington’s victory the five winners had made less than five appearances each – with Dufner the most experienced with four US PGA Championships under his belt before winning 12 months ago. Keegan Bradley won in his debut US PGA Championship in 2011.
So to conclude. Having already won this season is a big advantage, but it isn’t certainly necessary. Being a previous Major winner helps but is in no way essential, while being young and exuberant is almost as good as having an older wiser head on your shoulders. All of this and it doesn’t really matter too much if you’ve played many US PGA Championships in your time either. Basically we have no idea who is going to win, but it is set to be a cracking tournament.