The year’s second Major takes us to Oklahoma for the 104th running of the PGA Championship.
The course, Southern Hills, will be known to most serious golf punters as it’s staged several big events in the past.
The Tulsa course was the scene of Retief Goosen’s 2001 US Open win while Tiger Woods captured the 2007 PGA Championship there, winning with 8-under and almost shooting a 62 in the second round (his birdie putt at the last famously lipped out).
Since then, Perry Maxwell’s original design has been upgraded by Gil Hanse and, on the new layout, Alex Cejka won the 2021 Senior PGA Championship, again with 8-under.
For this year’s event, the course has been stretched to 7,556 yards with a par of 70 and scoring could be tricky, especially if the winds get up, something that’s common in this part of the world.
Looking at comments from those in charge of the course and players who have made reconnaissance trips ahead of the event, there’s some agreement that chipping will be vitally important.
The greens are relatively small and balls are repelled into shaved run-off areas from which getting up and down is a real test.
Looking at stats from the previous Majors held there suggests that finding the greens in the right number is also a strong path to victory.
Newly-crowned Masters champion Scottie Scheffler is the clear favourite for victory while Tiger has declared himself fit enough to play.
However, defending champion Phil Mickelson doesn’t take part after withdrawing.
Angles to consider
With such an emphasis being placed on chipping, Scrambling looks a key skill this week. It’s often a key area in Major championship golf and the green complexes here have been likened to Augusta National and Royal Portrush in the fact that many of them are raised.
2/ Greens In Regulation
It’s inevitable that getting up and down will be important so the less often players have to do that the better. Therefore, hitting greens in regulation will be rewarded as the week goes on. Looking at past Majors at Southern Hills both pre- and post redesign highlights the importance of GIR. The three winners - Goosen, Woods and Cejka - all ranked 4th for GIR when they won.
Justin Thomas said in the build-up that there’s no faking it at Southern Hills and every part of the game will be tested. That should equate to the All-Around ranking being an area to look at given that it’s a measure of everything.
The above angles have been used to create a shortlist from which the following players are selected.
Chipping the ball well and the mentions of Portrush immediately bring Shane Lowry to mind following the Irishman’s brilliant Open win there in 2019. He ranks 2nd in both Scrambling and Sand Saves this season while he’s 21st for All-Around and 43rd for GIR (also 4th in SG: Approach). He has plenty of Majors pedigree, including a third place at last month’s US Masters.
The Japanese star has already won twice this season and his strength is shown by a 4th place ranking in the All-Around stats. He’s shown his ability to chip well with a series of high finishes - including a win - at Augusta National and a decent putting week should see him contend. He comes in off a fast-finishing tied third at the Byron Nelson.
The American has already shown he has the game for the Majors with a second, two sixths and an eighth in the handful he’s contested. Zalatoris ranks 9th for Greens In Regulation, 1st for SG: Approach and 31st for All-Around. The big hitter missed the cut in his home event in Dallas last week but that may just be a case of trying too hard. He has shown good skills around the greens at Augusta (15th for Scrambling there when finishing tied last month).
1pt e.w. Shane Lowry at 30/1 (Skybet 1/5 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-0-10)
1pt e.w. Hideki Matsuyama at 28/1 (Skybet 1/5 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)
1pt e.w. Will Zalatoris at 30/1 (William Hill 1/5 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9)