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The PGA Championship may be the most minor of the Majors but this year’s edition has so many storylines it’s hard to know where to start.
With Phil “No Mates” Mickelson not there to defend his title, the continuing Tiger Woods comeback sure to dominate every sports bulletin and the Saudi Golf League a hot potato, the actual golf will struggle to get the coverage it deserves.
That would be a great shame because we have Scottie Scheffler bidding to win back-to-back Majors, Jordan Spieth out to complete a career slam, Jon Rahm desperate to regain the No.1 spot, dual PGA champion Rory McIlroy chasing a PGA hat-trick and much, much more.
It’s a golfing feast on a course, the majestic Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a 7556-yard par 70 test that will sort the men out from the boys. With only two par fives - both 620-plus monsters - it is 425 yards longer than the one Woods conquered 15 years ago to claim his fourth PGA and the 13th of his 15 Majors.
Given a substantial makeover in 2018, with a new creek added to the hazards and the bunker count upped into the 90s, this is no push over and the winning score is likely to be single digits under par.
This is the fifth PGA at Southern Hills. In the first, in 1970, winner Dave Stockton was the only man to beat Joe Par and it was 600 yards shorter then! Of the seven Majors played there, only once - Nick Price in 1994 - has the winner got into double figures under par. And the 1958 US Open winner, Tommy Bolt, got it done at three OVER par.
Despite its name, this is a predominantly flat course which is great news for the Woods leg as the climbs on hilly Augusta National left him exhausted and in a fair amount of pain. He still made the cut in his first competition golf for 17 months, which was some feat and he claims he has come on a bundle in the five weeks since. As we are never likely to see a three-figure quote against his name again (he was trading at 110 on the betting exchanges on Monday), now could be the time to strike.
He is, after all, a course winner and with the PGA moved to May from August’s draining humidity - the 2007 PGA was played in 100+F (40C) - a big improvement on his 47th place at the Masters can be expected.
Scheffler and Rahm head the betting at 12/1 but I’m swerving both. Although he never looks like he’s under pressure, the laid-back American will be feeling it this week, going in as world No.1 and being the reigning Masters champion with much expected of him. As for Rahm, he arrives on the back of his first victory in a while but made heavy weather of beating a Mickey Mouse field in Mexico in a performance that failed to convince.
So for my main bet it’s going to be the revitalised Spieth, first and second on his two latest starts. This is a strategy course with no fewer than 11 doglegs and punishing fall-off areas to smallish greens which will give full rein to the Dallas star’s around-the-green wizardry. True, he misses more short putts than he did when he was world No.1 but to compensate he is driving it much straighter and, with an average drive of 307 yards, much longer too.
Only a Sunday brain fade when he three-putted from 12ft at the tenth prevented him winning back-to-back following his Heritage triumph but there were still birdies galore in a 25-under showing at the Nelson. That would have been more than good enough most weeks. He was just unlucky that repeat winner KH Lee refused to wilt. As Spieth said later: “I feel like I have all the shots. I just feel I’m doing the right things.”
The closest Spieth came to taking the Wanamaker Trophy was in 2015 when Jason Day got the better of him at Whistling Straits. That elusive Slam beckons and it will be fascinating to see how he handles the pressure if he’s in the mix at the weekend.
To follow him home, Hideki Matsuyama, who rarely has a bad week, and Xander Schauffele put down markers with top-five finishes at Craig Ranch with the latter’s closing 61 sending him off to Tulsa in high spirits. The Olympic gold medalist is overdue a Major and in a week when staying out of the Bermuda rough is key, he has the right attributes.
Rory McIlroy has to come into the conversation after following second place at the Masters with a top-five at Wells Fargo but I need more convincing while Viktor Hovland will relish strong local support as he studied at Oklahoma State. His suspect scrambling skills will come under scrutiny here.
I’m sure Padraig Harrington will be saying “If Mickelson can win this after turning 50, why not me?” I think this great scrapper will make nonsense of his 400/1 odds. A past PGA champion and, more relevantly, fourth alongside his Irish pal Shane Lowry last year, Pod he still has plenty of game and he warmed up nicely with second place to the redoubtable Steve Stricker in the first Champions Tour Major of the year at the weekend.
Sadly, Paul Casey who shared fourth spot with the two Irishmen last year has had to withdraw with back trouble.
The scrambling skills of Pod and Lowry will stand them in good stead this week. Both play difficult courses well and are worth backing with firms paying eight or more places.
Max Homa has finally, after four Tour victories, discovered he belongs in the big-time and could be a danger while Christiaan Bezuidenhout’s straight driving and solid putting are made for Southern Hills. Twelfth place on Sunday was his best finish of the year but not having a top-ten on his 2022 CV didn’t stop KH Lee last week.
If you fancy Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay or Cam Smith, I could not put you off but, for me, whoever beats Spieth will get his hands on the 30-inch tall, 29lb trophy. Bring it on and don’t drop it!
PGA Championship Golf Betting Tips 2022
- 2pts each-way Jordan Spieth at 18/1 (William Hill) 9 places (opens in new tab)
- 1pt each-way Xander Schauffele at 25/1 (William Hill) 9 places (opens in new tab)
- 1pt each-way Hideki Matsuyama at 28/1 (Bet365) 8 places (opens in new tab)
- 1pt each-way Shane Lowry at 30/1 (William Hill) 9 places (opens in new tab)
- 0.5pt each-way Tiger Woods at 75/1 (Bet365) 8 places (opens in new tab)
- 0.5pt each-way Padraig Harrington at 400/1 (Bet365) 8 places (opens in new tab)
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Celebrating my 50th year tipping and writing about golf. Tipped more than 800 winners (and more than 8000 losers!). First big winner Lee Trevino at 8-1, 1972 Open at Muirfield. Biggest win £40 each-way Ernie Els at 80-1 and 50-1, 2012 Open. Most memorable: Giving the 1-2-3 at 33-1, 50-1, 33-1 out of 4 tips from a field of 180 in 2006 Pebble Beach Pro-Am. According to one bookmaker “Undoubtedly one of the greatest tipping performances of all time”. Lowest handicap 9 Present handicap 35.6. Publications tipped for: Sporting Life, Racing Post, Racing&Football Outlook, Golf World, Golf Weekly, Golf Monthly, Fitzdares Times. Check our Jeremy's latest tips at our Golf Betting tips home page
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