The 100th PGA Championship gets underway this week as the world's elite look to lay their hands on the Wanamaker Trophy. Often regarded as the best field of the year, 156 players make their way to Missouri looking for a defining win for their year or even career. The top two players in the world come into this event in scintillating form. Justin Thomas cruised to victory last week at the WGC-Bridgestone, while Dustin Johnson followed up his imperious triumph in Canada with a top-five finish at Firestone.
In 2017, Justin Thomas won the PGA Championship posting a total of 8-under par to win by two strokes.
Bellerive Country Club will host this week's event, and it will be the third major championship it has hosted in its history. A par-70 which measures over 7,300 yards will greet the players this week, with the majority of holes shaping from right to left. Bellerive boasts enormous greens which contain some vicious slopes, which makes green-reading and strokes gained putting very important. While as with all Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed golf courses, ball striking and approach play will also be essential areas to focus on this week.
You could make an excellent case for many at the top of the market this week, making it difficult to decipher value. Further down the board, however, Bubba Watson jumps out, and this is a week where we can see the best of him. A three-time winner on the PGA Tour this year, Watson has excelled at tracks that suit his game with a T5 at Augusta and victories at both Riviera and TPC River Highlands. Bellerive is a golf course that should also bring out the best in Watson, too. Watson ranks third for his last 50 rounds for strokes gained off the tee, and on a golf course where he can hit his favorite fade off nearly every hole, he should feel very comfortable this week.
It's been an inconsistent summer for the American; however, Watson is a different animal on certain courses that fit his eye. In 2008, he played Bellerive during the BMW Championship while he was ranked 97th in the world and he finished a very respectable T28, shooting weekend rounds of 66 and 65. Watson now comes to Bellerive ranked 14th in the world, with multiple major championships and three wins this year. At 60/1 he looks overpriced, and the left-hander leads my outright picks this week.
Another man who should fancy his chances at Bellerive is Phil Mickelson. Lefty has made more headlines recently for his rules infraction and questionable dance moves than for his actual performances on the course, but there are signs that Mickelson is playing well enough to contend this week. Mickelson has recorded six top-25 finishes from his last ten events which shows that he's been playing solid if not getting himself into contention, but Bellerive may offer him the opportunity to do just that this week.
Off the tee, the setup should suit Mickelson's fade, and the signs from Bridgestone are that his iron play is in excellent shape. Last week, Mickelson gained more than 4 strokes with his approach play over the field which was the eighth best in that department. While on the greens the American has been outstanding all year, sitting second this season for strokes gained putting. Mickelson notched a top-20 finish at Bellerive in 2008, and the signs are that he's ready to contend at a major championship again.
Bryson DeChambeau is another man who looks overpriced this week. DeChambeau has five top-10 finishes his year, as well as a brilliant victory at the Memorial. Over his previous 24 rounds, DeChambeau sits 13th in strokes gained tee to green and 18th in strokes gained total which shows that his game is in excellent shape.
DeChambeau started very poorly at Firestone, which may have been a hangover from his final round at the Porsche European Open, but over the final three rounds, DeChambeau played some excellent golf shooting three consecutive rounds under-par. In a tournament that has seen the breakthrough in majors for many of the young players recently, DeChambeau has enough in his locker to make a run at this championship at Bellerive.
Keegan Bradley has slowly managed to turn his excellent ball striking into high finishes as the year has progressed. Over his last seven events, Bradley has finished in the top 25 on four occasions. His previous tournament in Canada saw him finish fourth, and encouragingly he finished the week ranked fifth for strokes gained putting. The American ranks eight for strokes gained tee-to-green and 17th for ball striking over his previous 12 rounds. Bellerive, where strong tee to green play is likely to be well rewarded, should be a track that can bring out the best in Bradley. At 5/1, it's worth taking Bradley to keep his good run going by finishing inside the top twenty.
72 Hole Match Bets
Despite a top-10 finish last week at the WGC-Bridgestone, Rory McIlroy's poor iron play looks a significant concern heading into a major championship. The Irishman lost almost three strokes to the field with his approach play, and he has very little time to correct this before he tees it up at Bellerive. Justin Thomas, on the other hand, appears to be firing on all cylinders heading to Missouri. Thomas dominated last week, and it's a surprise that he's not shorter than McIlroy in the outrights. Unless McIlroy can find some magic formula to improve his iron play by Thursday, then it would be a surprise should Thomas not get the better of him this week.
2018 PGA Championship recommended bets
- Outright Winner (All Each Way): Bubba Watson 60/1 (8 Places, Bet365); Phil Mickelson 75/1 (8 Places, Bet365); Bryson DeChambeau 80/1 (6 Places, UniBet)
- Top 20: Keegan Bradley 5/1 (PaddyPower)
- 72 Hole Match Bets: Justin Thomas over Rory Mcilroy 5/6 (SkyBet)