The 2020 US PGA Championship
TPC Harding Park
All four days live on Sky Sports
There was a change to the PGA Tour schedule this year, with the US PGA Championship moving from it's late season slot to May and it felt like the right thing to do.
Always seen as the weakest of the four majors, it suffered being the final one of the four and the phrase "after the lord mayor's show" used to come to mind. The Open Championship is considered by the majority to be the jewel in the crown so following it was always hard. In its new slot, the PGA felt more important and we were certainly treated to an exciting finale.
The defending champ, Brooks Koepka, who had gone off at around 12/1, began the fourth and final round with what looked like an unassailable seven-stroke lead. He hit a low of just [1.03] early on in round four but then hit the buffers as Dustin Johnson put in an almighty rally. DJ was matched at just [2.54] as he narrowed the gap to just one but bogeys at 16 and 17 swung the momentum back Koepka's way. He went on to win by two so he'll be seeking the hat-trick in five months' time.
Walter Hagen won his second to fifth PGA tour titles consecutively between 1924 and 1927 but nobody has won the event three times in-a-row since the event changed from match play to stroke play in 1958 so Koepka's bidding for a unique treble in May. Tiger Woods was the last to win back-to-back before Brooks, in 2006 and 2007, his third and fourth titles, and he also achieved the feat in 1999 and 2000. Koepka heads the early market but history looks to be against him.
The US PGA Championship is a nomadic championship and this year it takes in TPC Harding Park in San Francisco for the very first time but we do have some course form to look back on for clues.
Freddie Couples captained the US team to Presidents Cup success here, when Tiger Woods won all five points available and Phil Mickelson won four and a half from five, before Couples went on to win one of three renewals of the Champions Tour's Charles Schwab Cup held at Harding Park but the best guide is probably the 2005 edition of the WGC - American Express, which is now the WGC-Mexico Championship.
Colin Montgomerie led after rounds one and two before John Daly took up the running with a round to go but he was caught by Woods on the Sunday before losing a playoff at the second extra hole.
Although now almost 15 years ago, I can still recall the event and in particular, what a titanic struggle Woods and Daly had on back nine on the Sunday afternoon, at what is a stunning venue that rewards excellent iron play. The top five all ranked inside the top-12 for GIR.
Woods and Daly ranked third and first for Driving Distance and Sergio Garcia, in tied third, ranked second so power from the tee was certainly rewarded but the leaderboard was littered with players renowned for their excellent iron play. Just look at the top -15 and ties below.
Tiger Woods -10
John Daly -10
Henrik Stenson -8
Colin Montgomerie -8
Sergio Garcia -8
David Howell -5
Graeme McDowell -5
Vijay Singh -5
David Toms -5
Stephen Ames -4
Shigeki Maruyama -3
Davis Love -3
Luke Donald -3
Stuart Appleby -3
Fred Couples -2
Chad Campbell -2
Jim Furyk -2
Daly played especially well and I was one of many cheering him on. He played the par fives and par fours in eight and seven under-par, which was bettered by no one in the field, but being +5 on the short holes, when Woods played them in one under, cost him the title.
That was Woods' fourth of seven WGC - American Express titles and he'll rock up to Harding Park in May in search of his fifth US PGA Championship. Given he's the only course winner in the field and that he won maximum points at the Presidents Cup here, he's arguably a fair price at around 16/1 but this is a notoriously good championship for first time major winners.
Looking back, 14 of the last 24 US PGA Championship winners were winning their first major and after the successes of Gary Woodland at the US Open and Shane Lowry at Portrush, 11 of the last 14 majors have gone to a first timer. An elite ball-striker in search of his first major looks the way to go here and someone that's been around a while often claims the spoils too. The likes of Jason Dufner, Jason Day and the aforementioned Walker have all won the event in the last seven years.
Paul Casey didn't play here in 2005 but he might just take to the place and he's certainly one to consider but the one that I quite like as a small stakes early punt is Canada's Corey Conners.
The 27 year-old won the Valero Texas Open in April so he's a winner on the PGA Tour and he finished last season sitting on top of the PGA Tour Greens In Regulations stats.
Paul Casey @ circa [65.0]
Corey Conners @ circa [260.0]
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter