US PGA Championship

US PGA Championship 2023: The Punter's Preview

Golfer Tony Finau
Tony Finau is one of The Punter's three picks for the US PGA Championship

We're off to New York next week for the second major of the year - The US PGA Championship. - so read Steve's in-depth preview ahead of Thursday's start here...

  • Greens in Regulation a key stat for Oak Hill

  • Form at Donald Ross courses a big plus

  • Market struggling to separate Rahm and Scheffler


Tournament History

The Professional Golfers Association of America was formed in February 1916, one month after wealthy store owner Rodman Wanamaker (the man 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 or 1918 because of the First World War and the Second World War put pay to the 1943 renewal so this is the 105th edition.

Previously staged in August, as the PGA Tour season drew to a close, and after the other three majors had all been played, the US PGA Championship was very much viewed as the least prestigious of the four majors and the inception of the FedEx Cup Series in 2007 certainly didn't help either.

In order to give the Championship the gravitas it deserved, a change to the PGA Tour schedule in 2019 moved it to May and it became the second major of the year.

Venue

East Course, Oak Hill Country Club, Pittsford, New York.

Course Details

Par 70, 7,394 yards
The East Course at Oak Hill Country Club was designed by Donald Ross in 1925.

Robert Trent Jones Sr. made several changes to the course in the 1950's and prior to the 1989 US Open and this event in 2003, Tom Fazio also made further alterations.

An associate of Fazio's, Tom Marzolf, tweaked the greens on holes 5, 6 and 15, prior to the US PGA Championship here 10 years ago and it's undergone a big renovation ahead of this year's renewal, with Andrew Green restoring the course back as close as possible to Ross' original ethos.

All the greens have been returned to their original shaping and a new hole has been added. The clip below, which includes extensive conversations with Green, is fabulous and it whets the appetite very nicely.

The East Course has hosted six previous major championships - the US Open three times, in 1956, 1968 and 1989, and this event in 1980, 2003 and 2013. It's also hosted the US Amateur twice, in 1949 and 1998, the Senior PGA Championship twice, in 2008 and 2019, the US Senior Open, in 1984, and the Ryder Cup, in 1995.

The 2013 US PGA winner, Jason Dufner, and Webb Simpson, set the course record (seven-under-par 63) in round two 10 years ago after rain had softened the course and Dufner's 10-under-par winning total is by some distance the lowest winning total, but the East Course has been a consistently tough test.

3rd hole at Oak Hill.jpg

With more holes shaping left to right, faders of the ball should be favoured (or left-handers who draw the ball) and to illustrate just how tough a test of golf the East Course at Oak Hill has been, in the eight other major championships held here (including the three seniors) only 13 men have finished the 72 holes under par and the lowest total, aside from Dufner's, was Jack Nicklaus' six-under-par 274 in this event in 1980, but he was the only man to break par that week.

Weather Forecast

TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 12:00 on Thursday UK time.

Last 12 US PGA Championship Winners with Approximate Pre-event Exchange odds

2022 - Justin Thomas -5 (playoff) 21.020/1
2021 - Phil Mickelson -6 540.0539/1
2020 - Collin Morikawa -13 36.035/1
2019 - Brooks Koepka -8 12.011/1
2018 - Brooks Koepka -16 23.022/1
2017 - Justin Thomas -8 50.049/1
2016 - Jimmy Walker -14 220.0219/1
2015 - Jason Day -20 16.015/1
2014 - Rory McIlroy -16 6.86/1
2013 - Jason Dufner - 10 46.045/1
2012 - Rory McIlroy -13 23.022/1
2011 - Keegan Bradley -8 (playoff) 300.0299/1

Oak Hill Major Winners

Cary Middlecoff - 1956 US Open +1
Lee Trevino - 1968 US Open -5
Jack Nicklaus - 1980 US PGA Championship -6
Miller Barber - 1984 US Senior Open +6
Curtis Strange - 1989 US Open -2
Shaun Micheel - 2003 US PGA Championship -4
Jay Haas - 2008 Senior PGA Championship +7
Jason Dufner - 2013 US PGA Championship -10
Ken Tanigawa - 2019 Senior PGA Championship

GIR the Key Stat Previously at Oak Hill

The course has changed since it was last used and lots of trees have been removed but it's still a demanding track and I fancy the event will have a bit of a US Open feel about it.

It's going to be a tough week and the winner will need to be patient, make few mistakes and above all else, be relentlessly accurate.

Although long, Driving Distance hasn't been an important stat here and historically, the key metric has been Greens In Regulation.

The last six major winners here (including the two Senior majors) have all ranked inside the top-four for greens hit.

Of course, in order to hit the greens, finding the fairways is pretty important but surprisingly, Jay Haas, who ranked third, is the only winner of the six to rank inside the top-ten for driving accuracy.

Jack Nicklaus and Curtis Strange both ranked tied 13th and Shaun Micheel was ranked tied 40th, Dufner ranked 22nd and Ken Tanigawa, who won the Senior PGA Championship here in 2019, ranked 27th.

With so many trees now removed, there's a chance the big hitters will be able to attack off the tee more this time around and that accuracy will be even less important than it has been previously. Whether that's the case or not, finding greens with regularity is still likely to prove vital, especially given how tough the rough looks, and that's the stat to concentrate on.

Will Donald Ross Course Form Prove Pivotal?

Shaun Micheel went off at 1000.0999/1 when he won here 20 years ago and the fact that his victory here was his only success on the PGA Tour demonstrates how much of a shock winner he was, but there was a sizable clue beforehand.

Micheel won just once on what's now the Korn Ferry Tour, way back in 1999 at the Nike Greensboro Open held at Sedgefield Country Club and that's significant because Sedgefield, now the home of the Wyndham Championship, was also designed by Donald Ross.

The runner-up to Micheel, Chad Campbell, and the third-placed finisher, Tim Clark, have both placed at Sedgefield too. In fact, they finished second and fourth there in 2012, when the 2013 winner at Oak Hill, Jason Dufner, finished seventh.

Dufner wins at Oak Hill.jpg

Jim Furyk, who finished second to Dufner, has Sedgefield form figures reading 9-10-4-MC, and Henrik Stenson, who finished third, won the Wyndham at Sedgefield in 2017.

Although they score very differently (Sedgefield is a low-scoring track), form at the two courses clearly correlates and now that Green has restored the course with Ross' original design constantly in mind, form at Ross designed tracks should be even more pertinent.

To give more credence to the Donald Ross link, Chad Campbell's biggest career win came at the 2003 Tour Championship at another Ross designed course - East Lake - and Furyk and Stenson have also both won there.

Other Ross designs used recently to consider are Aronimink, which hosted the now defunct AT & T National in both 2010 and 2011 (won by Justin Rose and Nick Watney), and the BMW Championship in 2018 (Keegan Bradley beat Rose in a playoff), Pinehurst No. 2 course, which hosted the US Open in 1999, 2005 and 2014, and Detroit Golf Club, which hosts the Rocket Mortgage Classic each year.

Is There an Angle In?

The US PGA Championship has moved around a bit in the calendar over the last few years but a previous win earlier in the season has been a very strong pointer historically with as many as 18 of the last 23 winners having already won an event prior to their success in the US PGA Championship.

It's not especially incredible that a major should be won by someone that had already tasted success earlier in the season, especially when it used to feature towards the end of the season, but it's worth highlighting that the list of 18 includes some very unlikely US PGA winners, with the likes of Y.E.Yang, Rich Beem, David Toms and Keegan Bradley all winning a tournament earlier in the season before they won what was then the final major of the year.

Is There an Identikit Winner?

This used to be a great Championship for big outsiders and the three winners between 2001 and 2003 - David Toms, Rich Beem and Shaun Micheel - went off at huge prices. 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 330.0329/1, Keegan Bradley was matched at a whopping 650.0649/1 before the off 12 years ago, the 2016 winner, Jimmy Walker, was matched at a juicy 220.0219/1 and Mickelson was a whopping 540.0539/1 chance two years ago, but four of the last five winners have been easy enough to spot.

Whether we get an outsider or not, the chances are they'll be a first-time major winner that's inside the world's top-50.

As many as 20 of the last 30 (67%) major championships have gone to a first-time major winner so don't be surprised if we get another but do expect them to feature highly in the Official World Rankings.

Since Keegan Bradley's win in this Championship 12 years ago, the 2021 shock winner, Phil Mickelson, is the only major champion that wasn't inside the world's top-50 but as Dave Tindall highlights in his 10-year trends piece, Lefty broke most trends and defied all sorts of logic when he won at the age of 51 - ranking 115th in the world.

Phil Mickelson PGA trophy 2021.jpg

Looking at this event alone, 22 of the last 37 winners (59%) were breaking their major duck when they won and that's quite an impressive number given Mickelson's surprise second success, that Brooks Koepka has won two of the last five US PGAs (his third and fourth major wins) and that Tiger Woods has won five of the last 37.

And finally, as Dave Tindall highlights in his 10-year trends piece, seven of the last ten winners have been in their 20s so this is the major where the young guns shine. And given the 2010 winner, Martin Kaymer, and the 2011 winner, Keegan Bradley, were both 25 when they won this, it's actually nine of the last 12 winners that have been in their 20s.

In-Play Tactics

Looking at the stats from the last six majors held here (including the Senior PGAs), the East Course is definitely not a catch-up course.

In this event in 1980, Jack Nicklaus was just three off the lead after round one, one back at halfway, clear by three after three rounds and he won by seven.

At the 1989 US Open, Curtis Strange trailed by fully five strokes after round one but he equalled Ben Hogan's 1942 course record of 64 in round two to hit the front. He dropped back to third behind Tom Kite and Scott Simpson after a third round 73 but with the leaders floundering on day four, he was able to win by a stroke with a final round of 70.

Micheel trailed the first-round leader, Phil Mickelson, by three in 2003 but he was never headed after round two and in 2008, Jay Haas led after day one and trailed by one after rounds two and three before going on to win by a stroke over Bernhard Langer.

Dufner was three adrift after round one in a tie for 11th but he was two clear at halfway after his course record 63 in round two and he trailed by a stroke through 54 holes. And Tanigawa sat second, seventh and third in-between rounds one two and three (trailing by one, four and three strokes) before going on the win by one.

Oak Hill has a tough finish. Holes 17 and 18 (both par fours) were the 1st and 3rd hardest holes in 2003 and they were the hardest two holes ten years ago, averaging 4.42 and 4.34 so anyone in the house will have an advantage over someone still on the course on the same score on Sunday.

Market Leaders

The market is struggling to separate the top-two in the Official World rankings - Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler - and both have obvious and strong claims.

Rahm is looking to win back-to-back majors, having won the US Masters last month, and he's also seeking the first victory in the Championship for Spain. Sergio Garcia has finished second twice but that's the closest they've come to winning it.

Rahm finished 15th in The Heritage, a week after winning at Augusta, and he finished second to Tony Finau when defending his Mexico Open title at the end of April so there's no reason to think he won't be raring to go.

Scheffler is a much harder man to assess as he's currently in-contention at the Byron Nelson Championship and how that ends could have a bearing on how he plays at Oak Hill.

A home state victory will be a huge boost but, as has so often been the case with the world number two, his putting hasn't been great in Texas and that's a worry.

Ranking number one for Greens In Regulation on The PGA Tour, Scheffler's game is in fine fettle and he's already won twice this year, at the Phoenix Open and the Players Championship but will he hole enough putts at Oak Hill to claim his second major title?

Oak Hill member, Rory McIlroy, is the only other player trading at less than 20/1 but he makes little appeal.

The Northern Irishman has missed cuts at the Players Championship and the US Masters recently and he was disappointing last time out in the Wells Fargo Championship after a bright start around a course he loves.

McIlroy has won this Championship twice before and coming into the tournament slightly under the radar may be a plus but it's now nine years since he last won a major.

Selections

Tony Finau ticks plenty of boxes and I was happy to chance him at 34.033/1.

Bang in-form after his victory at the Mexico Open a couple of weeks ago, Finau is yet to win a major but as highlighted above, first-time major winners have a good record in the US PGA Championship.

Now a prolific performer on the PGA Tour, Finau romped to a five-stroke victory in the Rocker Mortgage Classic at the Ross-designed Detroit Golf Club last July, he currently ranks 14th for GIR on the PGA Tour, and he ranks 11th in the Official World Rankings. And that's a huge plus given seven of the last 10 winners were ranked in the world's top 15.

The world number seven, Matt Fitzpatrick, who won the US Open last year at Brookline, is another recent winner that looks over-priced.

The 28-year-old Englishman won the Heritage at Harbour Town a week after finishing 10th in the US Masters in April.

Matt Fitzpatrick at the wells Fargo.jpg

Fitzpatrick's GIR stats are a little inconsistent, but he ranked 13th last time out at the Wells Fargo Championship and first for that key stat when he won at Brookline. He's also a quite brilliant scrambler and looking at the thickness of the rough around the greens, that could be a key metric this year too. Dufner ranked first for Scrambling ten years ago.

I'll have a good look at the outsiders with the Find Me a 100 Winner column closer to the off, but I've already backed the 2016 Wyndham Championship winner, Si Woo Kim, who's found a bit of form at the Byron Nelson Championship this week.

Selections:
Tony Finau @ 34.033/1
Matt Fitzpatrick @ 36.035/1
Si Woo Kim @ 420.0419/1


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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