By Ian Palmer
In golf betting news, the U.S. PGA Championship tees off at the Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky this Thursday, August 7 with Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy as the favorite going into the tournament. McIlroy is looking for his second straight major title as he recently won the British Open. He also took the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in his last start at Firestone on the weekend. The world’s top-ranked golfer is aiming for his fourth major championship at Valhalla. Other top contenders for the year’s final major crown include Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Adam Scott.
The Valhalla Golf Club sits about 16 miles outside of Louisville, Kentucky, and comes in at 7,458 yards. The par-71 course was designed by Jack Nicklaus and has been the host of some major events over the years. These include the Ryder Cup in 2008 as well as the 1996 and 2000 U.S. PGAs and the Senior PGAs in 2004 and 2011. The course was renovated in 2011/12 and is expected to be in excellent shape for this weekend’s event in hot and humid weather conditions.
Seven out of the past 14 U.S. PGA tournaments have been taken with double-digit, under par scores. The lowest score came at Valhalla back in 2000 when Tiger Woods and Bob May finished at 18-under. Woods went on to win the event in a playoff. In addition, 13 out of the past 15 winners of the tournament posted a victory earlier in the season.
This is a brief look at the top contenders for the U.S. PGA Championship
The Northern Irishman appears to be unstoppable at the moment. He won the BMW PGA Championship earlier this year at Wentworth and then went on to capture the British Open at Hoylake as well as the recent WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. McIlroy is playing the best golf of his career as his driving and putting have been excellent. He won this tournament by eight shots back in 2012 and came in third in 2009 and then again the next year. When it comes to all of the majors, McIlroy has enjoyed the most success at the U.S. PGA Championship.
Garcia of Spain played some excellent golf at Firestone. He needed just 59 strokes to complete the second nine last Friday and the opening nine the next day. He shot a 27 on a back nine last week as well as a career-best 61, but still lost to McIlroy again, just as he did in this year’s British Open. Garcia tied for 34th place at the 2000 U.S PGA at Valhalla. However, he also has a pair of second-place finishes to go along with a third in this event. He’s still looking for the first major triumph of his career.
The Australian recently lost his number-one ranking to McIlroy after finishing tied for eighth place at Firestone. He also finished tied for fifth at the British Open and tied for ninth at the U.S. Open this year. Scott is consistent when it comes to majors over the past four years with eight top-10 finishes and a win.
Rose of England has one major victory to his name. He’s also won a couple of recent events at Congressional on the PGA Tour and at Royal Aberdeen on the European Tour so should have some momentum and confidence behind him. He tied for fourth place at last week’s Firestone tournament. He played at Valhalla in the 2008 Ryder Cup and was the second best point scorer for Europe with three in four matches.
American Phil Mickelson shot 62 during the final round at Firestone last weekend. He says he loves playing at Valhalla as the course suits his type of game. He played there at the U.S. PGA in 1996 and shot 67-67 which gave him a three-shot lead after two rounds. However, he finished the event tied for eighth. He played the 2000 tournament there as well and tied for ninth. He hasn’t won a tournament yet this season, but he won the U.S. PGA in 2005 and still has a shot in 2014.
Stenson of Sweden was in fine form last year as he finished second at the British Open and then placed third at the U.S. PGA. However, he’s struggled slightly so far this year even though he finished the U.S. Open in the top four. He placed 39th at this summer’s British Open and finished the Firestone event in 19th place. He’s done well at previous U.S. PGA events though as he’s finished in third, fourth and sixth in the last four tournaments.
Rickie Fowler of America placed fifth in this year’s Masters and tied for second at the U.S. Open and British Open. He finished eighth at Firestone last Sunday again and has just a lone PGA Tour victory to his credit, which was the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship. However, he’s still young at 25 years of age.
Bradley of America finished in a fourth-place tie at last week’s Firestone event and tied for fourth at this year’s U.S. Open and tied for 19th at the British Open Championship. He always plays well at the U.S. PGA. He won the event in 2011 in what was his first start in a major. He then finished third in 2012 and tied for 19th last year. He’s hoping to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team this year and that should motivate him to play well here.
American Bubba Watson has won a pair of tournaments so far this year, which were The Masters and the Northern Trust Open. It was the American’s second Masters victory. He also placed third at Muirfield Village at Memorial. He came close to winning the U.S. PGA in the past, but lost in a playoff to Martin Kaymer at Whistling Straits. Watson also finished the 2012 event in 11th place.
Kuchar of America is looking for his first major win. Up to now he’s enjoyed 18 finishes of 28th or lower since 2010. He finished the 2012 Masters in third place and his best finish at a U.S. was a 10th-place tie in 2010. Kuchar has won at Hilton Head this year and placed 12th at the recent Firestone event with a final round of 65.
The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational is held a week before the U.S. PGA and it has been since 2007. Since that time it’s been a good barometer for what takes place at the U.S. PGA. Therefore, last week’s Bridgestone event at Firestone on Akron, Ohio, could give us a clue on the outcome of the last major this year. All U.S. PGA winners since 2007 placed in the top 22 at the Bridgestone Invitational the previous week, with Tiger Woods winning the event last year.
In addition, players who have already won an event this year and placed 22nd or better at Firestone include Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama, Kevin Stadler and Lee Westwood. If the trend continues then this year’s winner of the U.S. PGA will come from that group of golfers.