USPGA Championship Tips: Tiger, Phil, Rory and more - five big names to swerve at Oak Hill

Tiger endured one of his worst ever majors at Oak Hill

The last PGA to be held at Oak Hill produced a leaderboard featuring very few obvious star candidates. Paul Krishnamurty is expecting history to repeat itself, and recommends a series of lays against five of the biggest names in golf...

"These are optimum betting conditions...Oak Hill will clearly suit players with certain skills-sets more than others. The favourites, whose odds are at their lowest level in ages, will see much of their usual advantage negated. Best of all, being a major, there is a wide range of ways to oppose them."

In an era when golf is becoming ever more competitive and shock winners more frequent, the strangest thing about the three 2013 winners to date has been their predictability. Adam Scott was widely labelled the next major champion and was among the favourites before winning the Masters. Justin Rose inherited the tag and duly landed the US Open. Phil Mickelson started the Open as second favourite.

Consequently, nearly all the ante-post money for this week's USPGA Championship has been for the game's biggest names. The odds about Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, for instance, have almost halved. It is as if punters have forgotten the plethora of shock winners seen earlier this season and ignored the last major at Oak Hill. When the USPGA was last played here ten years ago, it produced the unlikeliest major winner of all-time and one of the least likely championship leaderboards ever. None of the top-four begun the week below 50.049/1, with only Chad Campbell trading below triple-figures.

Having studied the course on a hole-by-hole
 basis, the 2003 result makes perfect sense. Oak Hill is a drivers' course, perhaps more so than any other, presenting a tough, pivotal tee-shot on almost every hole. It is no surprise, therefore, to see that almost the entire top-ten were very accurate drivers. Notably, the only long-hitter in the top-nine was Ernie Els, a man who accumulates high finishes in majors for fun, whatever the conditions.

In my view, these are optimum betting conditions. The course clues are obvious. Oak Hill will clearly suit players with certain skills-sets more than others. The favourites, whose odds are at their lowest level in ages, will see much of their usual advantage negated. Best of all, being a major, there is a wide range of ways to oppose them. See for instance these bets against the following five big names.

Lay Tiger Woods for a top-ten finish @ 1.68/13
Lay Tiger Woods for a top-20 finish @ 1.330/100

Nobody would take anything away from Tiger's scintillating performance at Firestone, thrashing an elite field for his eighth title, but it should not be seen as a precursor to winning the USPGA. There is a definite sense of deja-vu from the last couple of seasons. Tiger wins well at one of his favourite tracks - previously it was Bay Hill or Muirfield Village - before flopping in the major. He hasn't won one since 2008 and suffered one of his worst ever results at Oak Hill in 2003 when ending up in what was a then unthinkable finishing position for Tiger of 39th place. Moreover, he is a much less reliable place pick these days, making the top-ten in only four of his last 11 majors. Likewise, while five victories are a magnificent return from 12 starts, he's also missed five top-30s.

Lay Phil Mickelson for a top-ten finish @ 2.77/4

Again, the plunge behind Mickelson makes sense on the basis of recent form, if not necessarily this week's test. The bottom line is that Phil has rarely produced his best on very narrow driving courses and has never been particularly accurate off the tee. He admits that Augusta makes him feel and play better because of the room, and Oak Hill couldn't be more different. Nor, unlike the Open, is laying up with irons off the tee a realistic route to success here. His 2003 effort is a further negative, leading after day one then falling away to 23rd, in an event where the chasers were at a distinct disadvantage.

Lay Rory McIlroy for a top-20 finish @ 2.447/5
Lay Rory McIlroy to make the cut @ 1.42/5

It is almost impossible to make a case for the defending champion. Apart from 27th in last week's much smaller field, Rory hasn't made a top-40 since May. Inaccuracy off the tee has been a huge problem and without meaningful evidence of improvement, McIlroy must be expected to struggle.

Lay Keegan Bradley for a top-20 finish @ 2.47/5

For reasons that escape me, the market adores this guy. Every time Bradley enjoys one or two good results, his odds collapse and he's rated alongside genuine elite players like Lee Westwood and Justin Rose. Of course, as a former PGA and WGC winner, Bradley warrants respect. But is this 36.035/1 chance really three times likelier to win than Ernie Els at 120.0119/1? While his peak form is excellent, Bradley is inconsistent. His eight attempts in majors have yielded a win, a third and five failures to make the top-25. On that basis, plus the fact his power will be negated, he's well worth taking on in the top-20 market, matchbets and 3-balls.

Lay Dustin Johnson to make the cut @ 1.51/2

Johnson's game is all about power off the tee and, apart from one driveable par-four, it is hard to see where he'll enjoy an advantage on this course. His wider results reveal a predictably inconsistent style, thriving on favourable courses while doing nothing on others that less suit his game. Dustin fell away alarmingly in both recent Opens as conditions toughened and is unlikely to enjoy this test. It would be no surprise to see him miss the cut.

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