Well, we’ve made to the final Major of the 2011 Golf Season at Atlanta Athletic Club and the US PGA Championship. Reports coming from the Deep South say the course is setup more like a US Open course but surely the good auld PGA of America wouldn’t do that to one of the best fields in golf. The following are the main contenders with some long shots that will hopefully all make ye a few quid.
Rory McIlroy – 11/1 with Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, bet365 and Victor Chandler
US Open Champ McIlroy comes into the last Major of the year in only decent form compared to the awe inspiring display at Congressional in June and I’m surprised he is again favourite although easy to back at double figure odds each way. A repeat of that performance would definitely put him in the mix but his putting just isn’t up to scratch still while his long game remains superb despite criticism in certain quarters via social media – not wanting to name any names of course!!
Luke Donald – 14/1 with Paddy Power, Boylesports and bet365 – all offering 6 places and Quarter Odds
World Numero Uno Luuuuuuuuuuuke is again one of my main pics for this week, and the fact that he did not win last week will count in his favour as opposed to The Open Championship. He is still puring the ball, probably the finest long iron player since Olazabal was at the height of his powers and I expect a big week from Donald. His Major putting performances have not been good enough so far in comparison to his regular tour events standard but I expect him to get even closer to grabbing his First Major and maintain his spot at the top of the Golfing World.
Lee Westwood – 14/1 with Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and bet365
Up until recently Westwood was looked to as the most likely player from the Chubby stable of World Class Golf Stars to make the big break in the Majors but he has been overtaken by Messrs Schwartzel, McIlroy and Clarke. Lee has the game to win any Major but when it comes to the crunch, whether he plays well or not it seems like there is somebody better that week and I think there will be at least a half dozen of these at Atlanta.
Phil Mickelson – 25/1 with Victor Chandler, William Hill, Ladbrokes and bet365
Phil is back on familiar turf now, and the likelihood that he won’t need an umbrella, two rain gloves or a wetgear jacket or pants could well count in his favour. He surprised a lot of people at Royal St Georges, nearly taking a big bite out of Darren Clarke’s Open Championship Sandwich! Mickelson chased Toms home in 2001 here and although it may be setup a bit tougher, Phil has proven form on courses he has done well on before – Augusta and Phoenix being prime examples here. A fantastic price and, barring some hole-in-ones from his main contenders he could well claim his second PGA Championship.
Tiger Woods – 25/1 with bet365, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power
Pending me eating a huge chunk of humble pie come Sunday evening, I could not recommend anybody backing the once Greatest Golfer of his Generation. His comeback last week at Bridgestone, where he had won 7 times previous, was unimpressive although his putting seemed decent enough. His long game is still a long way off and if the course is indeed setup more US Open than PGA then he’s in for a long week, supposedly 11/4 to miss the cutt might seem a better option. I WILL STAND CORRECTED!
Adam Scott and Steve Williams – 26/1 with betchronicle
Last week’s WGC winner comes into this week in superb form, long putter working well included. I’m not mentioning any of the other factors that may help him to win because I just don’t want to see another ridiculous interview at the end of the tournament. Sorry Adam, I don’t think you’ll win and because of who is on your bag I’d prefer if you didn’t….no offence!
Jason Day – 28/1 with Stan James
I don’t think I know who Jason Day’s caddie is……….sorry I’ve gone off topic! The Aussie has been the star performer apart from the winners at the Majors this year, his poor weekend at The Open apart of course. Another Top 5 finish is expected and with odds at 28/1 it would be a solid each way bet.
Rest of the Irish
Graeme McDowell – 159 on Betfair
2010, a fantastic year for G Mac, now seems a long way away and it is an uphill task to emulate his Pebble Beach heroics this week at Atlanta Athletic Club. Would be great to see him contend but just can’t see it on recent form.
Padraig Harrington – 239 on Betfair
To recreate the photo above would be some achievement this week, hence the odds. He remains one of the grittiest competitors out there but he is unlikely to be in the shake up come the back 9 on Sunday. A Top 20 would be a step in the right direction for sure.
Darren Clarke – 399 on Betfair
When has the Champion Golfer of the Year been so easily discounted from contending at the closing Major? Having played so well at Royal St George’s it would make sense he could recreate the form but the many celebrations and also the lack of form shown in the interim would point to maybe just making the cutt for Big D.
Best of the Rest
Steve Stricker – 28/1 with Boylesports and Paddy Power
Stricker remains one of the finest players on the planet and probably one of the best putters out there. I expect a big week in Atlanta with him right up there come the end of the last Major of 2011. Take the price early because I think Stricker will be right up there from the off, and he is a fantastic front-runner.
Rickie Fowler – 33/1 with betchronicle and 28s with Boylesports
Fowler came of age at The Open Championship with a quite majestic performance in the worst of the conditions during the Third round. A serious contender who could well make the 2011 US PGA Championship his first ever tour win.
Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey – 400/1 with Paddy Power
The Two-Gloved one plays in his first Major this week and has shown very good form on tour this year. He is one of the few characters on the PGA Tour for sure and while it would be a very unexpected victory it would be some achievement.
So, that is the end of my Major previews for this year…………….yes, I’m relieved too. So, to summarise (no I’m not jinxing Luke Donald) I expect Rickie Fowler to claim his first tournament at Atlanta Athletic Club this week and in doing so win his first Major championship. Luke Donald, Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker to be the main contenders behind the youngster.