PGA Championship - Golf: Preview
The second Major of the season is upon us and Steve Palmer delivers his verdict on this week's US PGA Championship.
Golf fans get one Major a month from April through July - and this week sees the US PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Oklahoma.
Phil Mickelson is not going to defend his title, but Tiger Woods is teeing up bidding for a 16th Major triumph, and the greatest player of all time can be backed at 75/1 for victory this week.
Woods will have been thrilled by his draw for the first two days, with an early tee-time on Thursday and a late one for Friday. A calm opening morning seems set to be followed by a breezy afternoon, with the wind howling earlier on Friday, so Woods has an opportunity to compete.
Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy will be the playing partners of Woods, so that dynamic duo also have a great chance of forging forward early in the tournament.
Spieth is seeking to complete a career Grand Slam of Majors by winning the US PGA and he is 18/1 to get the job done. He has finished first and second in his last two PGA Tour events - the Heritage and the Byron Nelson - so Spieth is understandably well fancied to go close.
McIlroy signed off from the last Major with a final-round 64 at Augusta, finishing runner-up in the Masters, and the Northern Irishman can be backed at 14/1 for US PGA glory. He has won the tournament twice before.
Each-way terms of a fifth the odds, the first eight places are on offer this week. Scottie Scheffler is 11/1 to follow his Masters victory with another Major success, but the world number one has been handed a difficult draw, going out late Thursday and early Friday.
US PGA Championship course details
Southern Hills, Tulsa, Oklahoma, can stretch to 7,556 yards, but the USGA will probably not employ the full length given the strong winds which are forecast.
The par-70 has only two par-fives, four par-threes and 12 par-fours. Southern Hills hosted the 2001 US Open, which was won by Retief Goosen, and the 2007 US PGA, which was won by Tiger Woods, but the course has changed a lot since those Majors.
Gil Hanse completed a redesign in 2019, which has made the track more open off the tee. The main challenge for the US PGA competitors is to produce accurate approach shots to greens with sharp edges.
Anything mishit will be repelled by the greens and pushed down slopes. The two par-fives are enormous - the 656-yard fifth and the 632-yard 13th. The par-threes range from 173 yards (the 11th) to 251 yards (the eighth).
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Three to follow
The Pride of Japan could have a major role to play at Southern Hills this week and can be backed at 25/1 for victory.
Last year's Masters champion was enduring some injury niggles in the build-up to his title defence, but he battled his way to 14th place, which was a decent effort in the circumstances.
Having had time off to rest and recover since Augusta, Matsuyama fans could not expect much when he returned in last week's Byron Nelson.
Rounds of 67, 66 and 69 were solid over the first three days of the Byron Nelson, then he closed with a spectacular 62 to propel himself into a share of third place.
On the form Matsuyama showed on Sunday, where he signed off with an eagle, the 30-year-old can make a huge impact at Southern Hills. The keys to success at the course are accurate approach-play and strong chipping - two massive strengths of hotshot Hideki - and he has been given a morning tee-time for Thursday.
The ball-striking class of Viktor Hovland makes him of great interest at 25/1, especially since he has also been handed an excellent draw to work from over the first two days.
Hovland lives in Oklahoma, where he starred at university, and he has been looking forward to this event for months.
The Norwegian has not teed up since the Zurich Classic almost a month ago, so he has been at home, making regular visits to Southern Hills to prepare.
Chipping is a weakness, but Hovland is so strong from tee to green that he will probably not be missing many greens in comparison to the field average. His typically stellar approach-play can put him in contention and if the other half of the draw get blown away in gusts, the chances of Hovland threatening a maiden Major title seem strong.
Pick of the outsiders this week may be 80/1 chance, Cameron Young, who has been impressing on the PGA Tour in recent months and seems almost certain to make a breakthrough at some stage.
Young, who finished second in the Genesis Invitational in February, was third in the RBC Heritage in April, then second in the Wells Fargo Championship the week before last. He is bursting with power and potential, and is another of the lucky ones who has been put in what seems the advantageous side of the draw.
Young is making his US PGA debut, but Keegan Bradley and Collin Morikawa won the tournament on their first go (2011 and 2020), and cocksure Cameron could do likewise.
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