US PGA Championship 2021: Three-ball picks for the opening round at Kiawah Island

Golfer Antoine Rozner
Antoine Rozner is tipped to thrive in his first ever major

Paul Krishnamurty has scoured the opening day coupon and recommends a quintet of picks among the three-balls...

"I doubt George Coetzee will need much to win this and happily, he's on my list of players who could outperform their odds this week."

A unique feature of the PGA Championship is the presence of club professionals, who nearly always struggle badly when elevated to major class on a championship golf course. That could especially prove the case at a tough set-up like Kiawah Island.

Coetzee stands out in weak group

Consequently many of the three-balls effectively descend into matches between the two pros. Of course that isn't certain if both pros struggle too and for that reason, I won't entirely rule out Derek Holmes in this early group.

Byeong Hun An is having a nightmare at present, missing five of his last six cuts and only making one top-40 in ten. He ranks an absymal 191st for R1 scoring average. Therefore I doubt George Coetzee will need much to win this and happily, he's on my list of players who could outperform their odds this week.

Wind is the key factor at this course and the South African has bags of pedigree on exposed tracks in Qatar, Portugal and Scotland. Notably, he was seventh in the last PGA at Whistling Straits, which looks an excellent guide to this track. I see he's also on Matt Cooper's radar as a lively outsider.

Keep following MacIntyre in majors

Another B.B. tip I'm happy to endorse is Robert MacIntyre, who Dave Tindall puts up for first round leader. The Scot is probably my favourite up and coming player, improving by the week, and with wind pedigree in spades. He's already shown great promise in majors, finishing 12th at the Masters and sixth at the 2019 Open (when storming forward on the windiest day).

His two opponents are capable but with negatives. Cameron Champ ranks 186th for R1 scoring average and hasn't made a top-25 this year. John Catlin makes a rare start in his homeland, coming off winning form in Europe. This is a big rise in class, though, and his short and straight style might not be ideal for this test.

Beem no forlorn hope against former champs

At the very least, the next bet is a bit of fun and Sky will doubtless show Rich Beem whenever they can. I'm not convinced he should be anywhere near 5.24/1 to win a poor group involving three of the unlikeliest major winners ever.

Y.E. Yang starts odds-on, logically based on the fact he's been easily the best of these in recent years. However in 2021, he's only managed two missed cuts and a withdrawal. Shaun Micheel hasn't been seen since last August.

Beem, meanwhile, played last week on the Champions Tour, making his seventh straight cut at that level. He's also made two of his last five cuts in this major.

Harrington preferred given wind factor

Next another outsider of three. I'd be more confident if the forecast winds were stronger as Padraig Harrington is one of the greatest wind players of all-time. He's also been starting well of late, ranking 42nd for R1 scoring average.

That compares favourably to Jason Day (81) and Phil Mickelson (205). The former comes in off three missed cuts, while Phil fell back really badly after an opening 64 at the Wells Fargo.

Rozner to impress on major debut

This group probably won't take much winning. Chez Reavie is in atrocious form (three cuts from 13) and would probably lack the length for Kiawah Island even at his best. Look instead to the two European Tour regulars.

Brandon Stone has pedigree in these conditions, but two missed cuts in South Africa are a worry. Antoine Rozner is preferred, both here and moving forward. The promising Frenchman showed his wind pedigree when winning the Qatar Masters and impressed on his US debut in the World Matchplay.


Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

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