The USPGA Championship 2016 – Baltusrol Golf Club, Springfield, NJ live on Sky Sports
The USPGA Championship is the year’s fourth and final major of the season and has been re-scheduled for late July this year due to golf returning to the Olympic Games itinerary.
Established in 1916, The USPGA Championship is shared around many different venues across America and up until 1957 this was a match-play format tournament, before being altered to a more traditional stroke-play tournament in line with the other three majors in 1958.
Baltusrol Golf Club hosts the event for the second time this year before four of the next six venues hold the USPGA Championship for the first time. Baltusrol has previously hosted the US Open on seven occasions, the last being in 1993.
With Jason Day, Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson all first time major winners in the past four majors, will we see another maiden major victor this week? With doubts over Rory’s putting and Jordan’s driving, I certainly there’s every chance.
Baltusrol’s lower course played extremely difficult during Phil Mickelson’s 2005 USPGA victory. Measuring in at just under 7,500 yards off the tips, the course plays to a par of 70. With just two par fives (the closing two holes) par is king here as even the longest players off the tee could find themselves going into the greens with long irons on many of the twelve par fours – the 1st, 3rd, 6th, 7th all measure over 478 yards – whilst the four par three’s measure between 195 and 230 yards. Mickelson’s win was made with a score of -4 with only eight others breaking par for the week. Nobody has won a major here in double-digits under par. Rough looks juicy from the videos I have seen posted on twitter and hitting fairways this week, and getting it out there off the tee will be pre-requisites for my hopes. Likewise my suspicion is a tasty short game will be required to scramble for par for any GIR not hit.
We could be in for some thunderstorms on Friday and Saturday but hopefully nothing that will cause big headaches to the organisers. Temperatures will be 30c plus on all four days. There is no wind forecast over 8mph for any of the days so there should be no draw bias like we saw during The Open, which favoured the late-early starters by several shots.
Previous Winners & Key Stats
2015 – Jason Day – Whistling Straits (-20)
2014 – Rory McIlroy – Valhalla (-16)
2013 – Jason Dufner – Oak Hill (-10)
2012 – Rory McIlroy – Kiawah Island (-13)
2011 – Keegan Bradley – Atlantic Athletic Club (-8)
2010 – Martin Kaymer – Whistling Straits (-11)
(2005) – Phil Mickelson – Baltusrol (-4)
There are some cracking trends appearing for recent USPGA Championship winners.
For starters, 15 of the last 17 winners had already previously won an event on the PGA or European Tour that season. Jason Day’s victory last year at Whistling Straits meant 18 of the past 28 USPGA champions were winning their first major whilst being in the world’s top ranked 20 golfers is also a good pointer towards finding our 2016 champ – 16 of the last 19 winners were within this bracket – the cream really does rise to the top. Can Henrik Stenson go back-to-back? Paidraig Harrington, Nick Price, Tiger Woods (twice) and Rory McIIlroy have all won The Open and gone on to win the USPGA in the same season since 1994, so don’t rule the amiable Swede out.
Rickie Fowler 40/1 EW
2014 saw Rickie Fowler notch up top-five finishes in all four majors, whilst 2015 started with a further top-five finish at Augusta. 2016 has been surprisingly quiet in the majors for the ever-popular 27 year-old from California, with MC, MC, T46 his Masters, US Open and Open finishes. Most strange about this downturn in form is this has happened since Fowler registered a long overdue PGA Tour win at the Players Championship last May. Wins followed at the Scottish Open and the Abu Dhabi HSBC in early 2016 before losing a playoff to Hideki Matsuyama at the Waste Management. Rickie finished T10 at this months WGC Bridgestone and 40/1 this week to add a major to his CV looked too good to resist in my eyes.
Branden Grace 60/1 EW
Crazy to think it was only 18 months ago you could get Branden Grace on the major ante-post markets at 250/1 or more. His price plummeted for the Open to an embarrassingly low 20/1 during a second round 67 in the Scottish Open two weeks ago – luckily, a lacklustre T29 finish there followed up by a disappointing T72 at Royal Troon – means Grace’s price is back up to what I consider value. The skilful South African, who has a Qatar Masters and a RCB Heritage victory to his name this year, enters this major having finished inside the top-five of three of his last six majors. Last year at Whistling Straits he posted a 3rd place finish, and with a little more luck at Chambers Bay in the US Open, he could have easily registered his first major trophy.
Prices correct at time of writing.
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