US PGA Championship: DJ ripe for second major win

American Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson can land an overdue second major
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It's the final major of 2018 and Dave Tindall has three each-way selections for the showdown at Bellerive...

"His 66-64 weekend finish was two shots better than anyone else in the field at Firestone and he played the front nine on Sunday in 29."

Dustin Johnson each-way @ 9/1

Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 8 places

Main Bet: Back Dustin Johnson each-way @ 9/1

We may have very little course form to go on but I just can't look beyond Dustin Johnson at this week's US PGA Championship.

I see it quite clearly; if he putts half decent, he wins.

And as a joint-best 9/1 is available here at Betfair, it's a no-brainer for me.

DJ Gut Smarts.png

Johnson may still only have a single major to his name and, sure, he's thrown plenty away but at some point he could win one by a distance and I have a feeling this could be the week.

He heads to Bellerive in Missouri on the back of tied third at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and it's a result that needs some further analysis.

For two rounds, when the course played easy (we saw a 62 ad three 63s), DJ dawdled. And yet it wasn't the biggest surprise because apart from the year he won it - 2016, two weeks after his US Open triumph and with a winning total (-6) far higher than usual - Firestone is a course that has bugged him.

The victory was his only top 10 in eight previous starts so expectations were a little tempered.

The pressure was off but his 66-64 weekend finish was two shots better than anyone else in the field and he played the front nine on Sunday in 29.

Before his tactically inept performance at Carnoustie, Johnson had cruised to a three-shot win in the Canadian Open. That gave him 19 PGA Tour wins in the last decade, more than anyone else.

Bellerive, a par 70 with a bit of length, looks like a fairly standard PGA Tour course and DJ has won on plenty of those.

It has few quirks but one is that the fairways are Zoysiagrass. That's unusual and the last time we saw it was at the St. Jude Classic at TPC Southwind. The result that week? Johnson shot 19-under to win by six shots.

Tied 10th and solo third in the first two American majors this year, DJ has four top 10s in his eight US PGA starts so, if in form, he usually makes an impression in the year's final major.

Ranked 1st in Eagles, Birdie Average, Scoring Average, FedEx Cup season points and official money, it's his No. 1 position for Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green and SG: Off-The-Tee that should stand him in particularly good stead at Bellerive.

The flatstick? He's 18th in Strokes Gained: Putting this season and gained over 2.2 strokes on the field in both Canada and Ohio.

He switched it at Firestone and had an immediate boost so everything is working well enough for the 34-year-old to go ahead and win major No.2 and perhaps by a clear margin.

Looking at his main market rivals, Rory McIlroy is struggling to finish things off, Rickie Fowler and Tommy Fleetwood have too much alternating between excellent and poor, Jordan Spieth doesn't look right, Jason Day had an alarming collapse at Firestone, Jon Rahm keeps getting it wrong in majors, Tiger Woods got a reality check at Carnoustie when contending in a major again and there are injury concerns over Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.

That leaves two players.

Justin Thomas, last year's champ and a superb winner at Firestone on Sunday, has shown he can win in back-to-back weeks (Hawaii) and defend titles (CIMB) although trying to do both is a tall order although not one beyond him.

The other is Brooks Koepka, who just oozes confidence and serenity in majors.

Thomas at 14s and Koepka at 20s are decent back-up options if you want to stay down the front end of the market.

Next Best: Back Matt Kuchar each-way @ 60/1

There's not an awful lot of evidence from Bellerive but look at results from the 1992 US PGA, the 2008 BMW Championship and the 2013 Senior PGA Championship held there and, to be honest, there's an awful lot of careful plodders in the top 10.

Johnson is far from that obviously but, like the super-elite, he has his own set of rules.

But certainly Matt Kuchar fits the bill of a steady-eddie, who could do well at this course.

For a long time this has been the major which goes to a guy trying to land his first.

Tiger skewed the stats for a while but the seven of the last nine US PGA winners were making the big breakthrough at this level.

He's not the sexy name that most get excited about but the veteran's last seven major results read: 4-16-2-9-28-MC-9.

The tied ninth came at Carnoustie last month and he did a decent job of backing it up with T14 in last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational where he gained nearly five shots on the field tee-to-green.

Despite being known as a gentle giant - "shucks and bummer" are the closest he comes to on-course profanities - Kuchar registered his disapproval at the Byron Nelson this year when not happy with the controversial Trinity Forest layout.

You get the impression he also doesn't like the USGA messing with US Open layouts so perhaps it's no coincidence that he's had just a single top 10 in the year's second major.

It's a different story in this one though and, of the 11 top 10s he's posted in the majors since 2010, four have come in this event. That run includes T7 in 2015 and T9 last year.

A few years ago, he noted: "It was great how the PGA of America does a good job and creates a very playable setup of the golf course. Don't mind if a guy shoots 6- or 7-under. You're talking about the best players in the world coming out and playing the golf course. So you don't find things that are too tricked up, it's a good test of golf."

A proper, honest test works well for Kuchar and, with eight payout places, the 60/1 offers plenty of juice.

If there's a modern-day steady-eddie it's Patrick Cantlay and he could go well at 45s.

The American was T12 in the Open Championship and backed that up with T6 at Firestone last week. Apart from his pace of play, he does lots of things well and perhaps this is the major that naturally fits him given how much they interfere with US Open tracks these days.

Final Bet: Back Marc Leishman each-way @ 60/1

In total, 15 of the last 18 US PGA winners had already won that season. Good for DJ, not for Kuchar.

Then again, two of the last five (Jimmy Walker and Jason Dufner) hadn't.

However, both Walker and Dufner had won twice the season before so had hardly forgotten how to get it done.

So how about a two-time winner from 2017 in Marc Leishman, who is down at 60/1.

That's a surprise given that he showed his hand a little when tied 14th at Firestone.

A closing 73 - the same as Rory - relegated him from tied fifth with 18 to play and he dropped four shots in the final six holes so his ugly finish masked lots of good stuff. He could have made the top three by playing par golf to the finish and then we wouldn't be looking at 60s.

On Saturday, the Aussie revealed: "I feel like this week I've improved as the week's gone on, particularly my driving. I drove it really well today. My bad shots, I know exactly why I'm hitting them, so that's a bonus, I can work on that. But it's simple things.

"No, I'm happy with where my game's at, feeling good over the putter, over the ball. Yeah, definitely excited about next week."

We always think of the Open Championship when it comes to Leishman joining the major's club but he was tied 13th in this event last year and also T12 in 2013 so he's had a couple of good knocks.

Also T9 at Augusta National this year and runner-up at Trinity Forest (Zoysiagrass), Leishman looks to be underrated a little this week at 60/1. He's the World No.18, knows how to win and is pleased with the state of his game.

At bigger prices, Anirban Lahiri was T5 in this event in 2015 and finished with a 68 to take T6 at Firestone last week. It added to previous form on American soil of 39-13-9.

There are worse 200/1 shots than the Indian.

If blindly backing recent winners, Troy Merritt at 250s could spring something (Rich Beem won this two weeks after landing The International) while Stewart Cink (a second, a fourth and two other top 25s in his last five PGA Tour starts) is surely playing better than a 250/1 shot.

Dave's 2017/18 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 ew per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)

Staked: £1140
Returned: £1652.84
P/L: +£512.84

(After the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational)

2016/2017:
P/L: +£1179.89

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