The USPGA Championship tees off at at Whistling Straits on Thursday with more competing plot lines than True Detective.
Is Rory McIlroy match-fit? Will Jordan Spieth win his third Major? Does Dustin Justin know the difference between sand and grass?
Your Sex is on Firestone …
While finding the winner of the first two Majors Stateside this year has basically meant clicking on the words Jordan and Spieth, the PGA Championship has traditionally seen some of the games solid but not spectacular pros (if you strip out Rory Mc’s (below) two wins in the last three years and Tiger Woods in 2006/07) lifting the Wanamaker Trophy.
Although it still wasn’t enough to keep Mrs D happy, Jason Dufner (2013) at Oak Hill was the last player to break his seasonal duck in the final Major of the season. But the Dufinator, as nobody ever calls him, had finished T4 at the Bridgestone Invatational (nine shots off Tiger Woods) the week before.
Even Keegan Bradley’s 2011 win in Atlanta followed a T15 in Ohio (after he dropped four shots on the final day) while Martin Kaymer’s T22 at Firestone wasn’t a barrier to him beating Bubba Watson in a three-hole play-off at Whistling Straits the last time the tournament was played there in 2010.
So unless you’re Joey Essex, you should have realised that there’s a very good chance that whoever is crowned champ next week could join the last 10 US PGA Champions who all played in Ohio the week before golf’s lesser-loved Major.
Over ‘sand’ Out …
The last time the tournie was played at Whistling Straits (2010) Dustin Johnson looked all over the winner with a one-shot lead going up the last before a wayward tee shot landed on a patch of sand that was ‘officially’ one of the 950-odd bunkers that line the course.
DJ grounded his club and the subsequent two-shot penalty added to his bogey on 18 saw him miss out on a play-off place in a tournament where the lead changed hands six times on the final day.
The returning Rory McIlroy and this year’s Open Champion Zach Johnson also held a share of the spoils at one stage that Sunday five years ago after Nick Watney proved he was up there with DJ and Jim Furyk when it comes to bottling tournaments. His three-shot lead going into the final day soon disappeared with a closing 81.
Narrow the Field …
With 13 of the last 15 US PGA Champions having already won a tournament that season this is usually no place for surprise maiden winners.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry maiden win in the States secured his card and saw him join regular network attractions like Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, Jim Furyk, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Patrick Reed as a US Tour winner this term.
But some lesser lights like Rob Streb, David Lingmerth, Danny Lee, Brooks Koepka and Steven Bowditch have also won Stateside and were Top 25 again at Firestone as were European Tour winners – and links exponents – Danny Willett and Branden Grace.
Two likely contenders …
Form ponies and previous Major winners Bubba Watson (14/1) and Justin Rose (20/1) have their games in great shape heading to Wisconsin. Both are Tour winners this year and while Watson couldn’t quite catch Lowry down the back stretch he did lead the field in driving distance and greens in regulation – an important pointer to winning at Whistling Straits.
Combined with his previous course form when second to Kaymer in 2010 he looks rock solid to add to his two Masters’ victories.
Justin Rose was two shots off Bubba when T3 at Firestone and has been knocking on the Majors’ door after finishing T2 behind Jordan Spieth at Augusta and T6 to Zach Johnson at St Andrews. The 2013 US Open winner looks a solid option for another big week.
And the winner is …
But if you’re looking for a little more bang for your buck, young gun Brooks Koepka (45/1) (above) ticks all the boxes as he chases his first win in a Major and fired in four rounds in the 60’s when T6 to Lowry last weekend.
A winner at the Waste Management Phoenix Open his Major profile has steadily increased this year with finishes of T33 at Augusta, T4 at the US Open and T10 at the Open Championship at St Andrews with his overall game trending in the right direction.
With Paddy paying each-way the first six places the 25-year-old tee-box boomer who ranks sixth in driving distance on the Tour can get the engraver’s hand shaking when it gets to squeaky bum time on Sunday night.