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USPGA Championship Tips & Predictions: JT the pick at Kiawah Island

USPGA Championship Tips & Predictions: Justin Thomas features.
USPGA Championship Tips & Predictions: Justin Thomas features.

USPGA Championship Tips

  • Justin Thomas 14/1 – 1/5 9 places (William Hill) – 3.5 pts ew - NAP
  • Patrick Reed 33/1 – 1/5 10 places (Betfair) – 1.5 pts ew - NB
  • Matt Wallace 100/1 – 1/5 8 places (Betfred) – 1 pt ew - Longshot
  • Cameron Smith 40/1 – 1/5 8 places (Bet365) – 1.25 pts ew - Others to consider

It's major week and our golf tipster Jamie Worsley @JamieWorsley89 is back with four more outright tips for this week's USPGA Championship...

I have to start with a small mention for last week’s British Masters winner, Richard Bland. His first European Tour title at the age of 48, at the 478th time of asking, after an emotional playoff victory over Guido Migliozzi. It was a brilliant moment to witness after years of seeing him try to get one over the line. We also had a first time winner on the PGA Tour as Kyoung-hoon Lee won in a weather delayed final round in Texas at the Byron Nelson. 

Now for the small matter of our second major of the year, the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.

Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, a seaside links not dissimilar to many a British links course, is situated on the Atlantic Coast in South Carolina and can play to a whopping 7876 yards. Making it the longest course in major championship history. Designed by legendary architect Pete Dye, this par 72 was the scene of Rory Mcilroy’s first PGA Championship win, when he stormed to victory by 8 shots in 2012.

Frequently rated as one of the best and most difficult courses in the US, in large due to the course itself but also because of how exposed it is to the elements. It is made up of ten par 4s, with six measuring over 480 yards, including two at 500+ yards, four tough par 3s and four par 5s. Both the greens and fairways are Paspalum grass, not overly common in US events but is the grass of choice for events such as the Mayakoba Classic and Corales Puntacana.

It is generous off the tee for the most part, with some wide fairways and natural sandy areas. Though you will find trouble if you are too errant with the driver. There is also water in play throughout much of the course, including the 227 yard par 3 17th, a narrow green guarded by water which should provide plenty of drama when the leaders approach the finish on Sunday.

Golf betting tips

Though it may well be advantageous to hit it far at a course measuring such an extreme distance, driving distance was not overly important here in 2012, with only Rory from the top of the leaderboard ranking in the top 10 for DD that week. Driving accuracy even less important with none of the top 10 in driving accuracy finishing top 10 in the tournament.

I think you’re going to need to play well in every aspect to win here, it is a major championship after all but as with most links or links type tests, the short game is going to be hugely important. Rory and runner-up, David Lynn ranked 1st and 4th for scrambling in 2012.

I also think that quality approach play will be a necessity. Looking over the hole descriptions from Pete Dye himself on the course website, there is a rather common mention on many of the holes being “2nd shot holes” because of the amount of unique and elevated greens. Not only do you need to find the greens but also the right area of the green.

In contrast to the 2012 edition, the course should play firm and fast this week. Though it should be more fair and not as brutal as a US Open.

Up to now the weather looks excellent. Sunny with temperatures in the high 20s/low 30s. The wind is forecast to be moderate but that could all change before the start of the event and you have to expect some stronger winds will arrive at some point during the week.

The event got a lot more interesting a little over two weeks ago, as Rory Mcilroy returned to the winner’s circle at Quail Hollow. He now goes into the tournament as favourite.

Golf betting odds

Of the other market leaders, world #1 Dustin Johnson hasn’t been right for a few weeks and withdrew from last week’s Byron Nelson with a knee injury, Jordan Spieth continued his resurgence with a top 10 last week and Jon Rahm is gradually improving after the equipment change but doesn’t look quite there yet.

It is tough to look at past PGA Championships as a guide to this one due to the ever changing courses and conditions. Though one thing that does stand out is the frequency of first time major winners in the event. With 7 of the last 11 winners of the event picking up their first major. The latest addition to the list being Collin Morikawa last year.

Justin Thomas each-way (9 places)
14/1
Odds correct as of 2021-05-17 15:55 Odds subject to change.

Justin Thomas is the headline selection this week and I find him to be the pick of the market leaders.

He’s one of the absolute best players about tee-to-green, where he ranks 3rd for the season and has been impeccable in that respect since his victory at THE PLAYERS Championship in March.

His results have been solid since then, with finishes of 21st, 14th and 26th coming into this week and almost certainly would’ve gone close again, particular at the Valspar had the putter behaved better. That is the one question mark with him but I’m not concerned. If he continues his excellent approach play, where he ranks 2nd and continues to excel with his short game, currently the 10th best player on tour around the greens, he won’t need to have a mind blowing week on the greens, just adequate.

That victory at THE PLAYERS came at another Dye design, TPC Sawgrass. He’s shown form at other Dye designs in the past with an 8th at Harbour Town last year at the RBC Heritage and also went well at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in 2015, where he finished 18th. A course very similar to this week in the sense it’s long and linksy.

A former PGA Champion, having won at Quail Hollow in 2017, he’s a player that is expected to win more majors. His talent demands it and I feel there’s a strong chance that he picks up his 2nd PGA Championship this week at Kiawah Island.

Patrick Reed each-way (10 places)
33/1
Odds correct as of 2021-05-17 15:55 Odds subject to change.

Of all the golfers on the PGA Tour, I find Reed to be the most consistently overpriced. Major champion, two time WGC winner and another 6 regular PGA Tour events to boot. He is a superb competitor and above most players in this field, is the one you’d have the most confidence in winning the event, if he is in a good position going into Sunday.

He’s been in excellent form of late. Top 10s in two of his last three events, with an 8th at Augusta and a 6th place finish last time out in the Wells Fargo. Largely down to his wonderful short game but he has shown before that he is a player who can get the long game going when he needs to and rarely misses a beat in majors. Shown by him finishing top 15 in the last 5. 

He’s very comfortable in this part of the country, having gone to University in the neighbouring state of Georgia and I expect the player that everybody loves to hate, to feel just as comfortable with the tests that Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course throws at the players this week.

Matt Wallace each-way (8 places)
100/1
Odds correct as of 2021-05-17 15:55 Odds subject to change.

There’s been a number of signs over the last 12 months that Wallace is really starting to find his feet playing in the US.

4th in The Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village last year was the first sign and he’s carried that on this year, in particular in his last few events. Contending right to the final day in the Texas Open, before eventually finishing 3rd to Jordan Spieth and a 6th place finish at the Wells Fargo last time out.

His quality results this year are a result of some excellent golf tee-to-green. He ranks 8th in that respect this year, with 4th in approach play even more impressive, as well as 29th around the greens. 

He’s flying high on confidence at the moment, as he iterated at the Wells Fargo and I feel he’s ready for another big performance in a major championship. Hopefully he can match or even better his previous best, when he was 3rd in the PGA Championship in 2019.

USPGA betting
Cameron Smith each-way (8 places)
40/1
Odds correct as of 2021-05-17 15:55 Odds subject to change.

Of the others, Brooks Koepka appealed at 40/1+ but there are still concerns over his fitness. With Scot, Robert MacIntyre the other I considered as my longshot but it’s short-game wizard Cameron Smith who is my final selection of the week. 

After a missed cut in the Farmers Insurance Open at the end of January, Smith burst into form and has maintained it since, putting together a really strong book of results in some quality events. Six top 30s on the bounce, with five of them being top 20s and three top 10s. The best of those being a 4th place finish at Riviera in The Genesis Invitational and a 10th place finish in The Masters.

These two bits of form alone would be enough to make you sit up and take notice. Both long, tough courses where being sharp around the greens is important. That performance at Riviera was particularly pertinent, where the course played firm and fast and they were tasked with handling some brutal wind. It isn’t the first time he’s performed well in such conditions, as his sole win on the PGA Tour at the Sony Open in 2020 came in windy conditions.

A player who has threatened in majors before, as recently as a 2nd place finish at The Masters last year and I think he is definitely capable of landing one. I feel a course where the wind will blow and there will be an emphasis on being excellent around the greens represents a great opportunity for him.

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