US PGA – Year’s last Major
Do you happen to know the 169th name on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR)?
Well, back in August 2003, when current host Oak Hill Country Club last held the PGA Championship, the name of the 169th ranked golfer was on everyone’s lips. Shaun Micheel came from absolute obscurity to lift the Wanamaker Trophy. It was the only PGA Tour win of his career, and still is – a major no less!
Shaun Micheel with the Wanamaker Trophy
Not to be confused with the PGA Tour, the Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA of America, or PGA) is a Florida-based organisation set up to represent the interests of some 27,000 men and women professional golfers – mainly club and teaching pros – based in the US.
In addition to running a number of events for its members and apprentices, the PGA also conducts major tournaments including the PGA Championship, Senior PGA Championship, PGA Grand Slam of Golf and what has become its biggest event, by far, the biennial Ryder Cup – run in conjunction with the PGA European Tour.
The first PGA Championship was held in 1916 – the year the PGA was formed. The tournament was established specifically for professional golfers at a time when they were not highly regarded. This was when golf was run by wealthy amateurs, a fact that is still reflected in today’s entry conditions. It is the only major that does not explicitly invite leading amateurs to compete, and is the only one which reserves a large number of places, 20 of 156, for club professionals – factors that perhaps contribute to a lessening in competitor standards when compared to the other three majors. This may partly explain why it ranks behind the others in terms of prestige – but it is a major nevertheless.
The PGA Championship was initially a match play event. It was not until 1958 that it turned into its current stroke play format of 72 holes played over four days. Back in 1916, the winner of the inaugural championship, Jim Barnes, received $500 along with a diamond-studded gold medal donated by wealthy sponsor Rodman Wanamaker. Last year’s winner, Rory McIlroy, earned $1.445 million and a replica of the rather large Wanamaker Trophy.
PGA defending champion, Rory McIlroy, with the Wanamaker Trophy
This year’s host, Oak Hill Country Club, is situated in Pittsford, New York. Oak Hill (East Course) has a USGA Course Rating of 76.7 and a Slope of 147. It has hosted three US Opens, two PGA Championships and a Ryder Cup.
Whilst not long by modern standards – 7,163 yards par 70 – there are a few 500-yard par fours, including the two finishing holes. This does suggest players will need to use driver more frequently than has been the case in the last two majors.
The course has been described as having thick, punitive rough designed to keep scores in check, although winning scores at this particular major do not suggest the courses are set up as tough as an Open or US Open. Since stroke play was introduced in 1958, there have been just four occasions when the winning score has been over par. The average winning score during this 55-year period: 7.6-under par.
The most likely winning score come Sunday? After round one, take the leader’s score relative to par, double it, and then deduct two or three strokes to arrive at the likely winning score. As stated in an earlier column, this usually works for most tournaments except don’t try it for either of the opens.
Now we turn to a “top-10” of contenders as determined by a mixture of form, ability and odds. Given that golf’s major champions are notoriously hard to predict – from 2009 the last 19 majors have produced 17 winners – this becomes a tough exercise. This is especially true since these selections are based on an assessment of best return for odds given, as opposed to simply posting the bookies’ ten most favoured players.
Tiger is a case in point. He has been included in each of the year’s major top-10s, but not this time. Despite his marvellous performance at Firestone last weekend, odds of 3/1 are simply too unattractive.
This column’s top-10 lists for the previous three majors has included the winner each time, so the chances of going 4-zip is rather pushing it. The odds quoted here are courtesy of William Hill as at the time of writing – Wednesday 7 August.
- A Scott 16/1 Excellent form in majors continues. Oak Hill should suit.
- H Stenson 22/1 Excellent form continues. Now second in GIR.
- J Rose 28/1 Focus back after expected Open slump. Should compete well.
- B Snedeker 28/1 Gifted. Now well used to name on majors leader-board.
- K Bradley 33/1 2011 PGA Champion. Starting to hit straps again.
- Z Johnson 33/1 2007 Masters winner. Course should favour him.
- W Simpson 50/1 2012 US Open winner whose form is returning.
- M Kaymer 50/1 2010 champion. Confidence returning, form good.
- B Horschel 80/1 Rookie with 7 top-10s this year. Form hot.
- J Kokrak 300/1 No other reason than he’s 169th in OWGR.
As mentioned above the 17th and 18th play long, so expect them to play amongst the hardest on the course. Should make for a pressure-packed finish if the lead is tight come Sunday afternoon.
Oak Hill’s signature hole – the par 5 13th
Good luck and good golfing.