This week sees the fourth and final Major of the golf season as the top golfers in the world descend on Valhalla Golf Club, Louisville, Kentucky for the 2014 USPGA Championship.
In this article, we’ll preview this exciting finale to the season’s major championships and take a look at the course, previous winners and which golfers from this year’s crop are likely to mount a serious challenge for the title.
But first let’s take a look at where this year’s field will play, the famous Valhalla course, owned by the PGA of America and designed by golfing legend, Jack Nicklaus.
If you’d like to go right to the betting tips – and a Bet365 Sports bonus offer – then head straight to the last section.
Spanish professional Sergio Garcia has already stated that Valhalla is not one of his favourite courses to play, but it remains a firm favourite of the USPGA, hosting the USPGA Championship on two prior occasions.
In 1996, American Mark Brooks was a surprise winner when he defeated Kenny Perry in a play off and four years later, Tiger Woods also won in a playoff, this time over three holes, against another American, Bob May.
The course has also hosted two Senior PGA Championships, the first in 2004 when Hale Irwin was victorious and the second in 2011, when Tom Watson lifted the title.
In between, in 2008, the Ryder Cup was contested with the American team victorious over Nick Faldo’s Europe. Following the 2011 Senior PGA, the course was extensively modernised and the 2014 PGA Championship will be the first time that a Major championship will have been contested on the new design, which features all 18 greens being extensively reshaped and rebuilt.
The course is a 72-par monster at 7,540 yards and in addition to distance, the players will also have to cope with the unrelenting heat of a Kentucky summer, which can be as much of a problem for players as the course itself. American players (and teams) have enjoyed exclusive success at the course, boding well for the incumbent 2014 Champion.
In the four USPGA and Senior PGA majors, plus the Ryder Cup, an American individual, or team has won the event each time. It is certainly a course where history at least tends to favour an American golfer.
However, it is worth noting that all these wins came before the major redesign of the course and greens, with all 18 holes seeing significant development work on them ahead of this week’s event, will those changes have helped or hindered the home-grown players?
The two biggest names in world golf today are once again hitting the headlines prior to the 2014 USPGA, but for vastly different reasons. Tiger Woods garnered ink on Sunday when he was forced to withdraw from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, an event he has won eight times in the past, with a recurrence of his back injury. The American former World Number 1 has been out of sorts this season after major corrective surgery on his back and has struggled with changes to his swing.
He remains a real doubt as to whether he will be fit enough to take his place on the tee on Thursday.
However, Northern Irish ace Rory McIlroy is celebrating a return to the form that has not only seen him win the British Open and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational back-to-back, but in the process has seen him regain his spot at the top of the World Rankings. Since May 2014, McIlroy has won three big tournaments, the two mentioned previously plus the BMW PGA Championship and has fared well in most of the other tournaments he has faced. His resurgence in form has been the key to his loft elevation back to World Number 1 status.
Other players in form at the moment, include Spaniard Sergio Garcia, who shot a superb 61 at the World Golf Championship event last weekend, which included a back nine 27. Rickie Fowler has been in superb form in all this season’s Major events posting low scores in all three and along with Adam Scott, Germany’s Martin Kaymer and Englishman Justin Rose, they have been the most consistent performers on the tour this season.
Jason Dufner, who is the defending champion, cannot be discounted but along with other American golfers such as Keegan Bradley (another former USPGA Champion) Hunter Mahan, Brandt Snedeker and Masters Champion Bubba Watson, although their form has been sporadic at times this season.
Outside of Rickie Fowler, the best American hope may well be Jim Furyk. The veteran golfer has been in splendid form in recent weeks and he is a Major winner, although he has never yet manage to lift the USPGA title in a long and successful career.
Stats and Facts
42 of the 55 winners of the USPGA since it turned from a match play event into a stroke play event in 1958, have been American.
Since 1958, Jack Nicklaus has won the event a record five times, one ahead of Tiger Woods who has four victories. No English player or Scottish player has ever won the USPGA in stroke play format. Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland) and Padraig Harrington (Ireland) are the only two winners from the UK and Ireland. The only English player to win the event was back in 1916 and 1919 when Jim Barnes of England won the first two USPGA events when they were a match play tournament.
Nick Price (Zimbabwe), Gary Player (South Africa) and Vijay Singh (Fiji) have all won the event twice. The event has a history for producing shock winners such as Rich Beem in 2002, Shaun Micheel in 2003, Yang Yong-eun in 2009, Wayne Grady in 1990, Mark Brooks in 1996 and John Mahaffey in 1978. Although Americans have dominated the event of the last six tournaments, American have only won two (Jason Dufner in 2013 and Keegan Bradley in 2011).
The four other winners have come from four different countries (Ireland, Northern Ireland, South Korea and Germany).
Top Tips for the 2014 USPGA Championship
After hitting the nail on the head for the Masters and the British Open, not to mention The Players Championship at Sawgrass, we are in top form with our golf tips and for this week I am once again looking at a winner bet and a good each way outside bet.
For the winner, Rory McIlroy is the obvious choice, but for a player to win three tournaments in a row is exceptionally difficult, especially when each of the three is a top tier event, including two Majors. However, I think McIlroy is still an exceptional each way bet, however as I am looking for value, I have to discount him here. For an each way bet, I think you need to look at a player who has quietly been amassing a superb season and who has experience of winning a USPGA title and for me that man is Martin Kaymer (40/1).
The German looks back to his best and his elegant stroke play and calm demeanour will be a huge plus around what will be a testing course. At 40/1 with Bet365, Kaymer is a great each way bet. As for a winner, I’m torn between two similarly priced picks and while I think Rickie Fowler is a great shout at 22/1, I am going to back Justin Rose at 18/1 to lift the title.
Rose finished -9 last week at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational but from tee to green, only McIlroy was comparable. Rose usually reliable putter ran cold, otherwise he would have been a serious contender to McIlroy on the final day. He is solid, consistent, has won a Major and has recently won in the US and I think he is in the best possible form going into this event.
I do expect McIlroy, Bradley, Furyk, Stenson and Schwartzel to put up a stern fight, but I think Justin Rose has what it takes to win on Sunday.
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