Steve 'The Punter' Rawlings completes his initial look at next year's majors with an evaluation of the final major of 2018 - the US PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club...
“It’s also worth bearing in mind that 16 of the last 19 winners had already won earlier in the season so I wanted to find someone I expect to win next year - someone up and coming.”
The 2018 US PGA Championship
Bellerive Country Club, Town and Country, Missouri
All four days live on Sky Sports
The USPGA Championship is the fourth and final major of the year. It's the least prestigious, the most nomadic and the hardest to predict but here goes.
For the 100th edition, we're off the Missouri and to the Bellerive Country Club which last hosted the event back in 1992 when Nick Price won by three strokes.
Bellerive also hosted the 1965 US Open, the 2004 US Senior Open, the 2008 BMW Championship and the Senior PGA Championship. It was also due to stage the 2001 WGC-American Express Championship but that was cancelled after the 9/11 atrocities.
Bellerive is a long course with zoysia grass fairways and bentgrass greens. The course was built around a large creek which comes in to play on half the holes and it was extensively redesigned by Rees Jones back in 20065 and 2006. Having lengthened and toughened US Open venues, Torrey Pines and Winged Foot, Rees Jones was nicknamed the Open Doctor.
At the 2008 BMW Championship, Camilo Villegas amassed a 15-under-par winning score and despite the course's length, other more accurate types prospered along with Villegas. Jim Furyk, Stephen Ames and Tim Clark, and K.J Choi all made the top-eight and ties and renown putter, Dudley Hart, finished runner-up.
Villegas only ranked 27th for Greens In Regulation but the eight players to fill the places immediately behind him ranked fourth, 11th, seventh, third, first, tied 14th, fifth and tied 14th. Hart had a slow week with the putter for him but the other three to fill the first four places had a Putting Average ranking of first, second and third. Whether we can expect similar stats in August is debatable but length is certainly not an essential prerequisite given those figures.
It's perhaps too early to get too hung up on the course stats, especially with such a small sample size to assess so it might be better to look at the event more generally.
Justin Thomas was a 50.049/1 chance when he won at Quail Hollow this year and three of the five winners before him (Rory McIlroy twice and Jason Day) were well fancied but this is an event where outsiders have certainly prospered.
The three winners between 2001 and 2003 - David Toms, Rich Beem and Shaun Micheel - all went off at huge prices and had either Chris DiMarco or Justin Leonard won the 2004 playoff at Whistling Straits (instead of Vijay Singh), the run of triple-figure priced winners would have stretched to four.
The 2009 champ, Y.E Yang, went off at around 330.0329/1, Keegan Bradley was matched at a whopping 650.0649/1 before the off in 2011and the 2016 winner, Jimmy Walker, was matched at a juicy 220.0219/1 before the off at Baltusrol.
Outsiders do well and so do those seeking their first major. The last three winners were all bagging their first major titles and 14 of the last 22 have been first time major winners so given how many towards the fore in the market have already won at least one, it might be worth scanning further down to find a promising player that could make in to a major champion.
It's also worth bearing in mind that 16 of the last 19 winners had already won earlier in the season so I wanted to find someone I expect to win next year - someone up and coming.
Jon Rahm and Hideki Matsuyama are obvious candidates but I was keen to stick with the home contingency. International players have fared well this century but this is traditionally an event that the Americans do well in and following victories for Walker and Thomas, I fancy we might get a third US champion in-a-row.
I also thought it wise to side with players with a good record at putting on bentgrass greens and three names tick all the boxes - Rickie Fowler, Daniel Berger and Xander Schauffele.
I can't back Fowler - he's just too short - and at 40/1 and 45/1, the Sportsbook have really ducked the other two so it's going to be a case of monitoring the exchange and waiting for prices. I'd happily play both at around 70.069/1.