Nick Bonfield picks out five USPGA Championship outsiders worth backing ahead of the second Major of the year at Bethpage Black


USPGA Championship Outsiders Worth Backing

On Thursday, the USPGA Championship heads to Bethpage Black for the first time as it slots into an unfamiliar position as the second major of the year.

The course, which hosted the 2016 and 2012 Barclays and the 2009 US Open, won by Patrick Reed, Nick Watney and Lucas Glover respectively, is renowned as being one of the toughest in the country.

The par-70 layout plays over 7,500 yards from the tips and the golf course has been pelted by rain over the last couple of days, meaning it will play long and present a significant challenge.

With seven par 4s over the 460-yard mark and three par 3s over 210 yards, it’s no wonder the longer hitters are being favoured by the bookmakers. Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy – who lead the betting – are three of the most powerful hitters in the game.

The good news is there is excellent value further down the betting, a product of the best players in the world being in form and seemingly good fits for Bethpage Black.

Below, I’ve picked out five USPGA Championship outsiders who I feel represent good value.

Adam Scott – 55/1

I’ve been impressed when I’ve watched Adam Scott this season. He looked in great form at the Farmers Insurance Open – where his putting was as good as I’d seen it – and played well at both TPC Sawgrass and Augusta National. He remains one of the best ball-strikers in the game and he pushed Kopeka all the way lat last year’s USPGA en route to a third-place finish. What’s particularly encouraging is the fact he ranks 15th in Strokes Gained: Putting on the PGA Tour. That, combined with an excellent long game, could mean he’s in the hunt come Sunday.

Bubba Watson – 60/1

Bubba Watson isn’t having a brilliant season, but he’s been pretty steady of late. He hasn’t missed a cut since the Sony Open in January and he finished 12th in his last start at The Masters, two events after a season-best tie for 4th at the Valspar Championship. What makes Watson so appealing at this price is the fact he ranks second in the PGA Tour’s Strokes Gained: Off-the-tee category. He’s missed the last two PGA Championship cuts, but he came close to winning in 2010 when he lost to Martin Kaymer in a  play-off.

Related: Getting to know Bubba Watson

Jason Kokrak – 125/1

Jason Kokrak isn’t a household name, but he’s been in good form this season and I have a feeling a big-hitting, lower-profile American will feature on the final leaderboard. Kokrak is yet to record a victory on the PGA Tour, but he’s had four top-tens since March, including a second at the Valspar Championship. What’s encouraging is that he’s played well on tough courses this season, and they don’t come much tougher than Bethpage Black. His chipping and putting is a slight concern, but he ranks 10th on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Approach the Green and 17th in Strokes Gained: Total.

Thomas Pieters – 175/1

I’m a big fan of Thomas Pieters and I’m convinced he’ll win a Major before the end of his career. His form hasn’t been particularly encouraging so far this season, but he did finish 6th at the Oman Open four events ago and played some good golf en route to a top 25 last week at the Byron Nelson. Pieters averages more than 310 yards off the tee this season and ranks 27th on the European Tour in Strokes Gained: Off-the-tee. He’s hitting more than 70 per cent of greens in regulation this year and he’s a quality putter when he gets going. At this price, I’m definitely taking a punt, especially given he finished 6th at the USPGA Championship last year. 

Luke List – 250/1

I have to admit, this selection is informed more by inkling than anything else. He’s not in great form and he hasn’t made a cut at the PGA Championship, but the course should suit him and he’s played challenging layouts well in the past. List ranks 10th on the PGA Tour in Stokes Gained: Off-the-tee and 3rd in Driving Distance, and if there’s ever a course where length is important, it’s Bethpage Black. Putting is a concern, but his tee-to-green stats are very good indeed.