We're off to St. Louis, Missouri for the year's final major of the year, the US PGA Championship, where some strong trends have pointed our man in the direction of some tasty outsiders. Read Steve's detailed preview here...
"The days of one or two players dominating the game and dominating the majors have long gone and ten of the last 12 majors have gone to a first timer. Thomas was winning his first major 12 months ago and 14 of the last 22 winners of this event were breaking their major duck so don’t be at all surprised if we get another and they could well be a big price."
We're off to St. Louis, Missouri this week for the 100th edition of the US PGA Championship - the fourth and final major of the year.
The Professional Golfers Association of America was formed just over a century ago, in the February of 1916, one month after wealthy store owner Rodman Wanamaker (who the giant trophy played for this week is named after) had hosted a lunch meeting with the leading professionals of the age to set out the agenda for the formal organisation of the PGA.
In the October of 1916, the very first US PGA Championship was staged, in match play format. There was no tournament in 1917 and 1918 because of the First World War and the Second World War put pay to the 1943 renewal so although it's now more than 100 years since the inaugural event, this year sees the staging of the centenary edition.
The US PGA Championship is the most competitive of the four majors, with the deepest field, and Bernd Wiesberger and Joost Luiten, who are both injured, are the only players inside the World's top-100 that aren't in the field this week.
Bellerive Country Club, St. Louis, Missouri.
Par 70 - 7,317 yards
Originally known as The Field Club and later renamed in honour of Louis St. Ange de Bellerive, North America's last French governor, Bellerive Country Club dates right back to 1897.
The club relocated to its current site in 1960, when Robert Trent Jones Sr. was hired to select the land and build the course. The U.S. Open was played here just five years later, when Gary Player became just the third man to complete the career Grand Slam and Bellerive also hosted the 1992 US PGA Championship, when Nick Price won the first of his three major titles.
Bellerive also hosted the 2004 US Senior Open, the 2008 BMW Championship and the 2013 Senior PGA Championship and 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 large bentgrass greens. The course was built around a large creek which comes in to play on half of the holes and it was extensively redesigned by Robert Trent Jones Sr's son, Rees Jones, back in 2005 and 2006. Having lengthened and toughened US Open venues, Torrey Pines and Winged Foot, Rees Jones was nicknamed the Open Doctor.
The two par fives, measuring 610 and 597 yards, will be three-shot holes for most of the field and there are six par fours that measure in excess of 450 yards. And two of them measure more than 500 yards.
Although the course is long, length won't be the be all and end all this week. The rough is up and being in the fairway will be key to find the right portion of these big greens.
Sky lost the US PGA Championship after the 2016 edition and last year it was broadcasted, somewhat poorly, by the BBC. This year the tournament will be covered by Eleven Sports.
The Eleven Sports UK&I app will be supposedly launching on Monday and its apps will be available on both IOS and Android.
According to this article by Golf Monthly, coverage will also be available on the Eleven Sports website (www.elevensports.uk) which, like the app, is due to launch during USPGA week.
Thursday and Friday's coverage will also be shown on Eleven Sports UK Facebook Page and the (only) good news is that all coverage of the 2018 USPGA Championship will be free through a 7-day trial to the company's online platform.
Last Ten US PGA Championship Winners
2017 - Justin Thomas -8
2016 - Jimmy Walker -14
2015 - Jason Day -20
2014 - Rory McIlroy -16
2013 - Jason Dufner - 10
2012 - Rory McIlroy -13
2011 - Keegan Bradley -8 (playoff)
2010 - Martin Kaymer -11 (playoff)
2009 - Y.E. Yang -8
2008 - Padraig Harrington -3
2007 - Tiger Woods -8
What Will it Take to Win The US PGA Championship?
At the 2008 BMW Championship, Camilo Villegas amassed a 15-under-par winning score in rain-soften conditions and despite the course's length, other more accurate types prospered along with Villegas. Jim Furyk, Stephen Ames, 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 this week is debatable but despite the course's length, power off the tee is certainly not an essential prerequisite given those figures.
Is There an Angle In?
A previous win earlier in the season looks a very strong pointer. Last year's victor, Justin Thomas, won the first two tournaments of the year in Hawaii last year and 16 of the last 19 winners have now already won an event prior to success in the US PGA. That list of 16 includes some very unlikely US PGA winners too, with the likes of Y.E.Yang, Rich Beem, David Toms and Keegan Bradley all winning a tournament earlier in the season before they claimed the year's final major. Thomas hadn't won for seven months but very recent form looks like a very good guide too...
The 2016 surprise winner, Jimmy Walker, wasn't exactly red-hot either but he claimed to have found something at the Canadian Open in his previous start, where he finished 14th, Jason Day won on the back of a fourth-place finish in the Open Championship, a win in the Canadian Open and a 12th at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the 2014 winner, Rory McIlroy was even hotter. Victory at Valhalla was his third in-a-row after he'd won both the Open and the Bridgestone.
Last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational looks like a fantastic guide given the 10 winners before Thomas had all finished inside the top-22 at Firestone before winning this. After three missed cuts in-a-row, Thomas only finished tied 28th, but with rounds of 73, 70, 69 and 67 he was going in the right direction and he'd clearly found something. Improving nicely throughout the week at Firestone turned out to be a perfect prep. And just to emphasize what a great angle in a good performance at Firestone has been, four of the last six US PGA Champions played in one of the final two groups at Firestone the week before they won.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Although three of the last six winners (McIlroy twice and Jason Day) were easy enough to find, this is still a great event for outsiders and for first-time major winners so if you fancy someone that hasn't bagged a major yet and they're a big price, you could be in luck.
The days of one or two players dominating the game and dominating the majors have long gone and 10 of the last 12 majors have gone to a first timer. Thomas was third US PGA winner in-a-row winning his first major 12 months ago and 14 of the last 22 winners of this event were breaking their major duck so don't be at all surprised if we get another and they could well be a big price...
The three USPGA Championship winners between 2001 and 2003 - David Toms, Rich Beem and Shaun Micheel - all went off at huge prices and they were very hard to pick. 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 [330.0] and Keegan Bradley was matched at a whopping [650.0] before the off in 2011. Kaymer, in 2010, and Dufner five years ago, both went off at around [44.0], the 2016 winner, Walker, was matched at a juicy [220.0] before the off and Thomas was generally a [50.0] chance 12 months ago.
Although we've seen outsiders win, and 10 of the last 12 major winners were winning one for the first time, all 27 major winners since the start of 2012 have been ranked inside the world's top-50.
Thomas was matched at a high of [150.0] after a slow start last year. He sat tied for 44th after round one and he trailed by six but Walker won wire-to-wire in 2016 and first round leaders have a decent record in the tournament. We've had 60 editions played with the now traditional stroke play format and a dozen first round leaders have gone on to win the title. That's quite an impressive strike rate and it's well worth bearing in mind on Friday morning. Especially given previous results at the venue...
Gary Player sat tied for fourth and just two off the lead after round one at the US Open in 1965 here but he led all the way after that. Nick Price was four adrift in a tie for 12th after round one of this event here in 1992, he was tied seventh and four back at halfway and he was tied second through 54 holes before going on to win by three. Peter Jacobsen led after rounds one and two and he sat second after round three before going on to win the US Senior Open and Villegas won the BMW Championship wire-to-wire ten years ago, suggesting playing the early leader looks a very sensible play but Kohki Idoki throws a spanner in the works. He trailed by five strokes after rounds one, two and three before going on to win the Senior PGA Championship here five years ago. The spanner might only be a small one though - the first round leader, Jay Haas, and Kenny Perry, who led after rounds two and three, finished tied for second so it looks like concentrating on the early pacesetters could be sensible.
And up with the pace is the place to be after three rounds too. Thomas won from two adrift 12 months ago but only two of the previous 20 winners hadn't began round four in the final pairing.
A change of putter during the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational for the world number one, Dustin Johnson, did the trick. He scythed his way through the field over the weekend to finish tied third and he's understandably firmed up at the head of the market.
He missed the cut at the Open Championship but he's won twice in the last two months (from five starts) and it's about time he won another major. Definitely the one to beat.
Rory McIlroy putted well at Firestone last week but his wedges weren't quite dialled in and another poor Sunday in-the-mix (fell from second and only three back to tied sixth and seven back) is a bit off-putting. He likes this major though (won it twice already) and I wouldn't want to put anyone off him. He's been playing some good stuff of late and the putter behaving last week is encouraging.
Defending champion, Justin Thomas, has hit form at just the right time, winning the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, easily by four strokes and he's won back-to-back tournaments before so that doesn't put me off (Woods in 2007 and Rory in 2014 both won the US PGA after winning at Firestone) but the fact that Tiger Woods is the only player to win back-to-back US PGAs is slightly off-putting.
Maybe that shouldn't put me off either though as he knows how to successfully defend and since he won the 2016 CIMB Classic, 12 months after winning it for the first time (his first win on the PGA Tour), he has a very impressive strike rate of over 18% (eight wins from 44 starts). He's around half the price he was last week but he may still represent value.
Jordan Spieth looks opposable given his form and the fact that he hasn't won since last year's Open victory. Rickie Fowler ticks all the right boxes but is awful in-contention and Justin Rose missed last week's event with a back injury.
I've had quite a bit of success in-running at the majors this year so I'm keeping most of my powder dry for the in-play but I've had small bets on Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka and I've backed a few outsiders too...
Bryson DeChambeau looks an insultingly big price for such a talented player. He started slowly at Firestone after the fallout from his poor finish at the Porsche European Open and the reaction to the brevity of his handshake to the winner, Richard McEvoy, but the market has definitely overreacted. Yes, it was an ugly, error-strewn finish in Germany but he knows how to win and I wouldn't read too much in to it.
Thorbjorn Olesen was a juicy price at 200/1 with the Sportsbook on Sunday evening as he charged through the field at Firestone and I thought Russell Knox, who won the Irish Open a week after finishing second at the Open de France last month, was too big at [320.0]. I've also backed two players that have both won this season and just finished fairly well at Firestone. Aaron Wise, who won the Byron Nelson in May finished tied sixth at Firestone and Cameron Smith, who won the Australian PGA Championship, finished 23rd.
Dustin Johnson @ [12.5]
Justin Thomas @ [16.5]
Brooks Koepka @ 25/1 (Sportsbook)
Bryson DeChambeau @ [120.0]
Thorbjorn Olesen @ 200/1 (Sportsbook)
Aaron Wise @ [220.0]
Russell Knox @ [320.0]
Cameron Smith @ [420.0]
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter