Our man takes a good luck at the year's final major where he's picked out a plethora of outsiders and where he's very keen on the chances of Dustin Johnson in his home state...
Universally known as 'Glory's Last Shot', the PGA Championship is the year's fourth and final major. This will be the 94th staging of the event.
The Ocean Course, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Par 72, 7,676 yards
I'm looking forward to this event immensely and mainly because I can't wait to see how the Ocean Course fares against the best players in the world. If there's much wind, there'll only be one winner, the course.
Opening in 1991, this Pete and Alice Dye design, with spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean, is exposed to the often very strong winds. First used for the 1991 Ryder Cup, known as the "War on the Shore", it was very well received by the competitors...until the wind blew.
After playing the course in benign conditions in practice, Ray Floyd told Pete Dye that the course was "the greatest thing ever". A few days later and he and Freddy Couples were hitting 3-irons and 3-woods into the par 3 17th when they'd been using 9-irons and wedges in practice. Marc Calcavecchia played the final four holes in +8, Seve won one hole against Wayne Levi with a triple-bogey seven and Hale Irwin played the back-nine in 41. When the wind blows at Kiawah, anything can happen.
After practising there a few weeks ago, Adam Scott said: "The front 9 is a really nice, playable golf course, and then the back 9 is not."
And an examination of the hole averages from the Senior PGA Championship, held at Kiawah in 2007, backs that up somewhat, although if taking those averages as gospel, the scoring section of the course looks to be between holes 5 and 12, with the 10th, ranked 6th toughest in '07, the hardest of the eight. The par 5 7th and 11th holes ranked the two easiest that week by some margin.
Other than the two events discussed, the course has also hosted two World Cups. Ireland's Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley beat Scotland's Colin Montgomerie and Raymond Russell in 1997 and South Africa, represented by Rory Sabatini and Trevor Immelman, beat England's Justin Rose and Paul Casey.
Ranked by Golf Digest as the toughest course in America, it's a ridiculously long track at 7,676 yards, with wide fairways and wind-exposed Sea Isle Supreme paspalum and Poa annua grass greens. The course guide and course tour links below will give you a good feel for the test the players are up against this week and both Paul Krishnamurty here, and Romilly Evans here provide some excellent further reading.
Last Ten Winners
2011 - Keegan Bradley -8 (playoff)
2010 - Martin Kaymer -11 (playoff)
2009 - Y.E. Yang -8
2008 - Padraig Harrington -3
2007 - Tiger Woods -8
2006 - Tiger Woods -10
2005 - Phil Mickelson -4
2004 - Vijay Singh -8 (playoff)
2003 - Shaun Micheel -4
2002 - Rich Beem -10
What will it take to win the 2012 PGA Championship?
Length off the tee will be imperative this week and with wide fairways, inaccuracy with the driver shouldn't be too much of an inconvenience. With run-off areas surrounding the greens, a good short game will also be key. Form on Pete Dye tracks is a definite bonus, and especially form at Whistling Straights, home of this event in 2004 and 2010. Like Whistling Straights, the Ocean Course is a links-style course exposed to the wind, and a study of the leaderboards from 2004 and 2010, could well reap rewards.
The most important factor will be the weather, and in particular the strength of the wind. It won't take much to blow the players off course and I'm pretty sure whoever finishes the week atop of the leaderboard; they'll be a renowned wind-player. It's still early days when it comes to making predictions on the weather and monitoring the various forecasts is already proving troublesome.
When I looked on Monday night, Thursday morning was predicted to be the only time all week that the wind would be almost non-existent. For the rest of the tournament, we looked set for typically breezy conditions, with a constant risk of thunder. If we were to get no wind on Thursday morning, then an early draw on day one would be a huge advantage, however, when I rechecked again this morning, the forecast had changed. There is now a bit of a breeze forecasted and the draw bias looks minimal, but that could all change very quickly.
Paul Krishnamurty covers the in-play here and I agree with what he's written, we're sure to see plenty of drama. It's worth noting that none of the last four major winners have started day four in the final group and that the 54-hole leader has failed to win 11 of the last 14 majors. Under immense pressure in what's almost certain to be tough conditions, that pattern could well continue.
As detailed in the course details above, the finish is brutally tough and in the clubhouse on Sunday, checking the scores, could well be the best place to be. I can easily envisage someone posting an early score and hanging on, a la Webb Simpson at the US Open.
Tiger Woods heads the market but he's not for me. His putting over the first two days at the Bridgestone Invitational last week was poor, he lost his way at the US Open from a strong position, didn't have enough confidence in his game to play aggressively enough to win the Open Championship last month and won't be particularly favoured by the likely windy conditions.
Luke Donald could go very well. He'll be at a disadvantage slightly with regards to length off the tee but he won't mind the wind and his brilliant short game will save plenty of shots around the greens but do you really want to take odds of just 21.020/1 about him finally breaking his major duck? I don't.
After a disappointing spell, Rory McIlroy finally put in a decent effort at Firestone, finishing in the top-5. I fancy the wind will be the biggest factor this week though and the harder it blows the less chance Rory has and he's not for me either.
The understandable gamble on Dustin Johnson is gaining momentum and I can see why. He's my number one pick. The South Carolina native lives just an hour-and-a-half away from the course and I'll be amazed if he doesn't know the track well. He's a great wind-player, a fine links exponent (twice a winner at Pebble Beach a great pointer), he hits it miles, has a fine short game, should have won at Dye's Whistling Straights two years ago and as a winner already this year he obliterates every tick-box with a great big bold marker pen. I can't remember the last time I fancied someone at a decent price so strongly in a major. For my money, he has an outstanding chance.
Lee Westwood will again have his legions of faithful followers but I can see them again being disappointed. My biggest worry, as always with Lee, is his putting. He struggled on the Bermuda greens at last year's USPGA and he might find these just as tricky. Saturday's 81 at Firestone wasn't particularly encouraging either.
As already stated, I'm very keen on the chances of Johnson but he's far from my only pick. As always in majors, there are some monster prices available about lots of top-quality players and I've backed a plethora of outsiders too.
I can see the South African contingency being really suited to Kiawah Island and I managed to scramble aboard Louis Oosthuizen at 50.049/1 last week, as he started well at the Bridgestone Invitational. The 2010 Open Champion narrowly missed out on glory at the US Masters and he'll be suited by this latest major test. He usually holds his form quite well too and on greens unfamiliar to all, his sometimes weak short putting may not be the big disadvantage it often is.
Anyone dismissing Ernie Els this week could be making a huge mistake. I'm not remotely concerned by his performance at Firestone -he has never played particularly well there and his missed cut in Canada, just a week after winning the Open, can be very easily dismissed too. A links-style test in windy conditions is not just up his street, it's delivering exactly what he wants to his front door.
Having missed the US Masters, he contended strongly at the US Open before winning at Lytham, where had conditions been poor for all four days instead of just one, he'd have been further advantaged. Ernie is very much a major player still and if the going gets tough, he'll simply love it. Padraig Harrington did the Open-USPGA double back in 2008 and Ernie's far too big a price at 60.059/1 to emulate him four years on.
K.J Choi won the Players Championship last year at Pete Dye's Sawgrass, was 6th at Whistling Straights in 2004, is comfortable in windy conditions and he caught the eye with his tied 8th at Firestone on Sunday.
Although older players have a poor record in this major as a rule, I've a feeling patience and experience could be more of a factor than it usually is at this year's renewal, and at nice and juicy prices, Retief Goosen and Thomas Bjorn are both patient bad weather links golf specialists who could find themselves on the premises, should conditions become testing.
Jonathan Byrd, born and educated in South Carolina, now resides in neighbouring Georgia, where he lives alongside Zach Johnson and Davis Love (who were both considered carefully) in Sea Island. The Sea Island lads play plenty of golf at the Seaside Course, home of the McGladrey Classic, which looks to have plenty of similarities with the Ocean Course and Byrd's another that won't mind the wind. He's a fairly prolific winner at a huge price.
Big-hitting maiden George Coetzee, Branden Grace (already a winner three times on the European Tour this year) and Rory Sabbatini, who partnered Immelman to World Cup success here, are the final three South Africans to make the portfolio and after that, I'm probably entering the realms of fantasy but as this is a major that has produced plenty of shocks, why not go for it?
Only two courses on the PGA Tour also use paspalum on the greens - Trump International, home of the Puerto Rico Open and El Camaleon, home of the Mayakoba Classic. I've thrown a few pounds at bright prospect John Huh and wind-loving veteran Robert Allenby. The pair fought out a lengthy playoff at El Camaleon in February (won by Huh) and I've also chanced last year's winner there, Johnson Wagner, who noticeably shot rounds of 68 and 69 at Firestone at the weekend.
John Daly will enjoy the space of the tee and at 500.0499/1 he's a big price given he's a duel major winner in decent form. Michael Thompson, who almost won the US Open in June and should have won last year's McGladrey Classic, also looks too big. I've taken a chance on Thai veteran Thongchai Jaidee, winner of this year's Wales Open and a fine bad weather links player and I've finished off with a pair of Irishmen at monster prices...
Darren Clarke might relax a bit now that he's no longer the reigning Open Championship and I couldn't resist the 1000.0n/a about Michael Hoey, who went to college in South Carolina. Again, the reasoning's quite simple; both players are great bad weather links players.
USPGA Championship Selections:
Dustin Johnson @ 34.033/1
Louis Oosthuizen @ 50.049/1
Ernie Els @ 60.059/1
K.J Choi @ 170.0169/1
Retief Goosen @ 220.0219/1
Thomas Bjorn @ 230.0229/1
Branden Grace @ 240.0239/1
Jonathan Byrd @ 270.0269/1
Rory Sabbatini @ 430.0429/1
John Huh @ 430.0429/1
George Coetzee @ 470.0469/1
John Daly @ 500.0499/1
Robert Allenby @ 520.0519/1
Michael Thompson @ 590.0589/1
Johnson Wagner @ 610.0609/1
Darren Clarke @ 710.0709/1
Thongchai Jaidee @ 740.0739/1
Michael Hoey @ 1000.0n/a
I'll back later with a look at some of the Speciality Markets.