Dave Tindall

Across the Pond

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PGA Championship Euro Preview

Monday, August 6, 2018


The 100th edition of the PGA Championship takes part at Bellerive golf course in St. Louis, Missouri which is six hours behind the UK.

 

And talking of time differences, next year the PGA becomes the second of the four majors as it switches to a new date in May. That still sounds weird to be honest but nothing stays the same forever.

 

This was a graveyard for European golfers until Padraig Harrington won it at Oakland Hills in 2008 but that victory sparked a run of four wins in seven thanks to Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy twice.

 

The Wanamaker trophy returned to American hands when Justin Thomas lifted it (no easy task) last year and home U.S. players have won 12 of the last 20.

 

 

The Weather

 

We're used to hot and humid conditions for the year's final major and temps in St. Louis will hover around 90 degrees for the first two days before cooling a touch on the weekend. There could be an odd t-storm in the build-up. Winds are set to be light although could get into double figures on Sunday.



The Course

 

Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr, Bellerive opened on its current site in 1960 and is a tree-lined, parkland par 70 measuring 7,317 yards. The 11th is a 355-yard driveable par 4 while 14, 15, 16 and 17 are referred to as ‘The Ridge’ due to that four-hole stretch being set on the highest part of the course and playing into the prevailing wind. The 16th is a 237-yard par 3. The two par 5s are at 8 (610 yards) and 17 (597). The tee at 17 is likely to be moved up on at least one day to bring eagle into play. Bellerive boasts extremely large bentgrass greens while the fairways are Zoysiagrass so there could be some correlation with other south-east courses - TPC Southwind, East Lake and Trinity Forest.  

 

 

1992 PGA Championship at Bellerive

 

-6 Nick Price

-3 Nick Faldo, John Cook, Gene Sauers, Jim Gallagher, Jr.

-2 Jeff Maggert

-1 Russ Cochran, Dan Forsman

Evs Brian Claar, Anders Forsbrand, Duffy Waldorf

 

2008 BMW Championship at Bellerive

 

-15 Camilo Villegas

-13 Dudley Hart

-12 Jim Furyk, Anthony Kim

-11 Stephen Ames, K.J. Choi, DJ Trahan

 

Last 10 PGA Championship Winners

 

2017 Justin Thomas (Quail Hollow) -8

2016 Jimmy Walker (Baltusrol) - 14

2015 Jason Day (Whistling Straits) - 20

2014 Rory McIlroy (Valhalla) -16

2013 Jason Dufner (Oak Hill) -10

2012 Rory McIlroy (Kiawah Island) -13

2011 Keegan Bradley (Atlanta Athletic Club) -8

2010 Martin Kaymer (Whistling Straits) -11

2009 YE Yang (Hazeltine) -8

2008 Padraig Harrington (Oakland Hills) -3

 

 

The Leading Contenders

 

Rory McIlroy

Rory would appear to be doing plenty of things right after T2 at The Open followed by T6 at the WGC-Bridgestone but, quite simply, he doesn’t hit the jackpot as much as he used to. He suffered another Sunday anti-climax at Firestone and his last major win came in this event four years ago. On the plus side he’s finished in the top five at three of the last five majors so it’s all relative.

 

Justin Rose

The big dilemma for gamers this week. Rose has had a superb year, finishing T12, T10 and T2 in the majors and looks on the verge of landing another huge win. However, that’s balanced by him withdrawing from the WGC-Bridgestone due to back spasms. If his fitness can be trusted, Rose’s vastly improved putting could take him to a second major. Has a T3 (2012) and a solo fourth (2015) at the PGA.

 

Jon Rahm

It’s one of the slight curiosities of recent times that Rahm has such a poor record in the majors. He’s missed the cut in the last two and has just one top 20 in nine starts. At least that was a solo fourth at Augusta National this year but managers are getting a little frustrated showing blind faith in him. This should be a good course for the Spaniard.

 

Tommy Fleetwood

It’s harsh to say Fleetwood is flattering to deceive given the high level he’s doing it at but the Englishman has wasted some great positions in recent big events. Even his second place in the U.S. Open carried a tinge of regret given that his closing 63 followed a 78. Bottom line is that his form in the last two majors reads 2-12 so he’s likely to be one of the main Euro challengers again.

 

Francesco Molinari

It can be a dangerous policy expecting more good things straight away from first-time major winners and, despite his laid-back nature, the Carnoustie hero proved no exception at Firestone when finishing down in T41 although he did finish with a 69. It shouldn’t be forgotten that he was also T2 in last year’s PGA so he has event form as well as those three wins in the last three months.

 

Henrik Stenson

Like Rose, an injury concern hangs over Stenson (elbow) and he was never a factor at either Carnoustie or Firestone. That’s a shame as the PGA has been his second favorite major in terms of results. The Swede has five top seven finishes and hasn’t been outside the top 25 in the last five. Has posted T5 and T6 in the two American-based majors this season.

 

Paul Casey

Casey admits he’s been fighting his swing, a battle that started in the final round of the Travelers when he saw a three-shot 54-hole lead evaporate. He masked it when T7 in a weak field in the European Open in Germany but his modest tee-to-green stats were exposed at Firestone when T31. T10 and T13 in the last two PGA Championships.

 

Alex Noren

A winner at Le Golf National, this year’s Ryder Cup venue, at the start of July was part of a run of six straight top 25s for the Swede although it ended with T31 at Firestone. There’s a slight feeling that he’s not quite on it with his long game at the moment and perhaps saving himself with the putter. 1st for SG: Putting at the WGC-Bridgestone backs that idea up.

 

Sergio Garcia

Sergio is one of the few big names in the field with experience of Bellerive. That came when he shot 68-68-69-70 for T20 (out of 70) in the 2008 BMW Championship there. Aside from a couple of decent results in Europe, the Spaniard has been in poor form since handing back the green jacket although there were some better signs in his T31 at Firestone.

 

Ian Poulter

IJP opened with a 62 at Firestone and was T2 with 18 to play but the closing 74 which led to T10 was very disappointing. Nevertheless, that top ten followed T12 in Canada and he’s cracked the top 25 in 11 of his last 14 worldwide starts. The lure of the Ryder Cup remains strong. Poulter was T22 at Quail Hollow last year and T3 in the 2012 PGA.

 

The Next Rung

 

Tyrrell Hatton

Others may be further up the queue when considered likely contenders but the fiery Englishman was T10 in the 2016 PGA at Baltusrol and T6 in this year’s U.S. Open at Shinnecock. Also T9 in the Scottish Open, Hatton took T28 at Firestone and, if you like omens, that’s the same position occupied by Justin Thomas before he went on to win the PGA last year.

 

Thorbjorn Olesen

One of Europe’s form horses. Olesen wasn’t having much of a season until June but in the last couple of months he’s won the Italian Open, finished second at the BMW after a closing 61, added T6 in the Irish Open and T12 at Carnoustie before coming home with 64 to take tied third at Firestone on Sunday. He’s 4-for-5 in this event and was once T6 at Augusta.


Thomas Pieters

The Belgian has upped his game over the summer, taking T6 at the Scottish Open and T28 at Carnoustie, but still hasn’t found that huge points earner that will thrust him into a Ryder Cup spot. This is his first start in America since MC at Augusta but he has some notable form in the U.S. with T4 in the 2017 Masters and solo fourth in last year’s Bridgestone. Only 86th and MC in two starts at this event.

 

Shane Lowry

A former Firestone champ, Lowry didn’t qualify this year so tried his luck in the Barracuda and finished T15. It added to T12 in the Canadian Open so he’s showing some decent form. The PGA hasn’t been his friend though and six starts have resulted in three early exits and nothing better than T46. The hope lies in his U.S. Open exploits which show T9 in 2015 and T2 in 2016.

 

Russell Knox

Knox has missed three of his four PGA cuts but did manage T22 in 2016. A couple of months ago the Scot posted T12 in the U.S. Open at Shinnecock and followed it up with a T2 in the Open de France and a victory in the Irish Open but, after a sustained run of activity, he’s looked jaded since and slogging away for four rounds (T48) at Firestone probably didn’t help.

 

Rafa Cabrera Bello

There’s a theory that RCB has tensed up with the Ryder Cup looming and three MCs along with 74th at The Open has left him behind the 8-ball for Paris. But T17 at the WGC-Bridgestone (6th GIR) represents a nice shift in momentum and he’s played all four rounds at each of the majors so far this year. He’s 3-for-6 at the PGA.

 

Matt Fitzpatrick

He tends to favor parkland tests as shown by T8 at Wentworth back in May and T12 at Shinnecock was a worthy effort too. But he’s not been hitting the ball straight enough in recent weeks and, with his lack of length, it’s putting too much pressure on the rest of his game. This is his third PGA start and so far he’s had to settle for T49 and MC.

 

Andy Sullivan

Sullivan was in super-consistent from April to the start of July with five top tens in seven starts. It was a surprise, therefore, to see him throw in missed cuts in the Scottish Open and Open Championship. He’s teed it up in seven majors on American soil, missing the cut in four and T23 at the 2016 U.S. Open is his only top 40.

 

Martin Kaymer

A dramatic winner of the Wanamaker trophy at Whistling Straits in 2010 when beating Bubba Watson in a play-off after DJ had got muddled with the rules. The German had also taken T6 in 2016 while he’s finished T12 (2015) and T7 (2016) in his last two so it’s been a good event for him. He returns under something of a could after MC at the U.S. Open and a trio of early exits in his last three starts.

 

Chris Wood

The giant Englishman hasn’t managed anything better than T33 in his seven starts at the year’s final major and four times he’s missed the cut. T28 at Carnoustie followed T14 at the Irish Open and T2 at the Open de France so he has some decent appeal on current form at least.

 

Americans/Internationals available for the official European Tour fantasy game

 

Patrick Reed

Tied second, first and fourth in the last three majors to be held on his home American soil, Reed has been a huge asset for Euro gamers. As well as finishing runner-up in last year’s PGA, he was T13 in 2016 and has a 4-for-4 slate overall. T28 in both The Open and WGC-Bridgestone, he also sandwiched in a T9 in Germany between those two biggies.

 

Xander Schauffele

Now gamers are aware of his availability, Schauffele’s reputation for big finishes in big events makes him extremely appealing. Last year’s Tour Championship winner has posted second places at Sawgrass and Carnoustie along with T6 in the U.S. Open over the last few months. T68 at Firestone was a step backwards but he’s a legitimate contender for any six-man line-up.

 

Matt Kuchar

Plenty of managers played him at The Open where he justified the faith with T9. Kooch warmed up nicely with T14 at Firestone last week and his record at the PGA is highly impressive with three top tens and a further pair of top 25s in his last seven appearances. He should enjoy this style of golf and is definitely one for the short-list.

 

Louis Oosthuizen

Before last year, the South African had a sneaky-good PGA record with a run of 21-15-30-22 in his previous four appearances. He took it up a notch at Quail Hollow to finish T2, thus completing the slightly dubious near-miss Grand Slam of having a second place in all four majors. He’s been solid in them this year too with T12, T16 and T28. Took T24 at Firestone on Sunday.

 

Bryson DeChambeau

One big stat in his favor is that 15 of the last 18 PGA winners had already posted a win that season. DeChambeau’s came at Memorial and he almost added another on the European Tour last month. In the majors he’s still finding his feet but has three top 25s so far, is 3-for-3 this year and was T33 in the 2017 PGA. Recovered from an opening 75 to shoot 69-68-67 and finish T30 at Firestone.

 

Brandon Grace

In the Sergio camp so far in that becoming a new Dad has had a short-term negative effect on his golf rather than improved it via the Nappy Factor. He’s made just two starts since the U.S. Open, missing the cut at Carnoustie and finishing T63 at Firestone, putting poorly in both. He’s finished third (2015) and T4 (2016) in the last three editions of the PGA but it’s hard to see him challenging again in his current form.

 

Byeong-Hun An

If you start to google your own mind and can’t come up with anything connecting An doing well in a major, the grey matter is working well. The Korean has played in 17 and not had a top 20 although making the cut in the last three is at least some sort of positive. It’s hard to say why he’s struggled and perhaps two second places (Memorial and Canada) will fuel something much better this time.

 

Charl Schwartzel

A major winner (2011 Masters) and a reliable cut-maker in this event having made the weekend in nine of the last ten. Surprisingly, he hasn’t managed better than T12 while T15 is his only top 35 in the last six. The South African lost form over the summer but T9 in Germany two starts ago was better and he closed with 63, the low round of the day, for T31 at Firestone.

 

Kiradech Aphibarnrat

The Barn Rat was T25 on his PGA debut in 2013 but has gone WD-68-66 since and is still searching for a first top ten in the majors despite going close when T15 at Shinnecock. Fifth in both the WGC-Mexico and BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, he’s not had a top 30 in five starts so appears to have gone off the boil at the wrong time.

 

Pat Perez

After loving life for a few days at Carnoustie and ending some poor form with T17, PP has rather gone backwards with MC in Germany and T63 at the WGC-Bridgestone. His one top ten in 25 starts at the majors came in this event at least (T6 in 2005) while he was T21 in 2012 and T28 last year but he’s down the list of Americans who appeal this week.

 

Anirban Lahiri

Lahiri became the first Indian golfer to record a top five in a major when taking tied fifth in the 2015 PGA at Whistling Straights so this tournament has some very happy memories for him. It remains his only finish of any note at this level but he’s in fine form on the PGA Tour with a run of 9-13-39-6 in his last four starts on American turf, the T6 coming at Firestone.

 

Ryan Fox

The Kiwi could well top the Driving Distance stats this week and his enormous hitting fuelled finishes of second and sixth in the Irish and Scottish Opens last month. He’s 2-for-2 in American majors, taking T54 in this event last year and T41 at June’s U.S. Open.

 

HaoTong Li

It’s certainly possible to build a case for the Chinese youngster. He was a fast-finishing third in last year’s Open Championship, took T16 in the U.S. Open at Shinnecock while back-to-back finishes of T39 at Carnoustie and Firestone were compromised by final-round 76s. He even had a top six on his one start in Missouri, the Web.com’s Price Cutter Charity Championship in 2015.

 

 

Who’s On The Team?

 

Rory McIlroy has to be pencilled in despite Sunday’s latest frustration but there’s a big decision to be made on Justin Rose and, to a slightly lesser extent, Henrik Stenson.

 

If the latter pair were properly fit they’d have very strong cases.

 

Thorbjorn Olesen looks an interesting contender given recent exploits while eligible U.S. quartet Patrick Reed, Matt Kuchar, Byrson DeChambeau and Xander Schauffele are all worthy of perusal in their homeland.

 

 

One To Swerve

 

Paul Casey still seems to be battling his swing.

 

** Look out later for Matt Cooper's preview of the Overseas sleepers.



Dave Tindall is former golf editor at Sky Sports.com in the UK and has been writing betting previews for the European Tour since 1997. He can be reached via e-mail on tindall_david@hotmail.com and on Twitter @davetindallgolf.
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