Golf’s fourth and final major of the season – the PGA Championship – is once again upon us. However, from next year it will become the second major of the season for the foreseeable future, with it being rescheduled for May to help split the four majors up over four consecutive months starting with the Masters in April. Consequently, this may help increase the popularity of a championship which many a golf fan deems the least exciting of the four.
The 100th PGA Championship heads to Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis for the second time in the championship’s history with it last being held there in 1992. Bellerive has also hosted the U.S. Open in 1965 as well as the PGA Tour’s 2008 BMW Championship and is regarded for its very deep bunkering - where the average green-side shot is 25 yards long - and its huge greens making it a course that requires accuracy over length.
In the last 10 years, Rory McIlroy is the only player to have won the PGA Championship more than once (2). Furthermore, Whistling Straits is the only course to have hosted more than once (2).
The PGA Championship is often likened to a tougher and more hyped-up regular PGA Tour event as the major provides no uniqueness to the course set-ups unlike the other three. As a result, this has yielded winners of the highest calibre other than 2009 winner Yang Yong-eun – who battled off Tiger Woods in the process – and arguably 2011 champion Keegan Bradley.
On average, the winner of the PGA Championship has finished 26th at the third major of the season – the Open Championship – which is typically played just three weeks beforehand.
In the past 10 years there have been two players who have won back-to-back majors, Rory McIlroy in 2014 – where he won the big three in a row – and Padraig Harrington in 2008.
The World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational is normally sandwiched between The Open and PGA except for in 2016, when the PGA was moved to earlier in the season to accommodate for the Rio Olympics.
On average, the winners of the PGA Championship have finished 13th in the WGC Bridgestone, suggesting that playing well the week previous is a good marker for success in the final major of the season. This is perhaps due to the WGC having the world’s current top 50 players in the field around a golf course that is often similar to the hosting course at the PGA.
Consequently, TSZ have assessed the world’s top 50 players who competed in last week’s WGC Bridgestone Invitational and the combined average result for the Open Championship and WGC.
21 players have an average result of 30th
or better from the combined championships and the above 16 players all finished inside the top 28 of the WGC which is the same as the highest result of the 2017 PGA winner (Justin Thomas).
TSZ have chosen the following four players as favourites this week based on their current form in two of the biggest championships of the season. This will be the third championship in four weeks that many of the world’s top 50 players are competing in and those who have been in contention to win perhaps have the most recent advantage in claiming the final major of the season.
McIlroy’s form in recent weeks has been somewhat back to its best as he has started to hole more putts and consequently put himself into contention regularly. Even though he had a great opportunity to claim his fifth major at this year’s Open Championship after finishing in a tie for second, his game was not quite there throughout the week and eventually it caught up with him on Sunday. However, being in contention two tournaments in a row – having been in the final pair at the WGC - Bellerive Country Club should really suit his eye and it appears his next win and third PGA Championship could well come this week.
Koepka has become a big tournament player in recent years with his back-to-back victories at the U.S. Open. As one of the longest and straightest players in the game with a putting ability to match, PGA Championships certainly favour his style. With an average finish of seventh in his last three PGA’s and a fifth-place finish at the WGC, expect to see his name right near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon.
The world number 24 has snuck up the rankings having recorded his first PGA Tour victory at the beginning of the season. His form over the past month has seen him become a player for the big tournaments having opened up with a 64 last week and placing T6 after a T12 at the Open previously. A victory this week might be a step too far but a top-five finish is well within reach.
Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen is the type of player who once he gets in form is able to compete at the very highest level and isn’t afraid to win – a stretch he is in currently. With a T12 at the Open and T3 at the WGC, his game is in the perfect position to contend this week. As a long ball hitter and aggressive player who performs on momentum, expect to see him well within the top 10 at the end of the week.