Another poor week last week with no returns. Firestone played a little tougher than was expected this year with very hard and fast greens. But despite Matsuyama, Oosthuizen and Horschel struggling from Friday onwards, on Sunday the Koepka, Bradley and Haas bets were all winning. But it wasn’t to be as Koepka finished in the dreaded 6th place and Bradley/Haas just missed out on their Top 10/20s.
So after another 18pts lost this week and less time available, I’m going to alter this week’s preview slightly and change the staking plan a little.
US PGA Championsip – Whistling Straits
Whistling Straits is a Pete Dye designed Par 72 and at 7790 yards is another absolute brute however it looks to be playing at a mere 7514 for the USPGA! There is a bit of room off the tee for the bombers as 2004 and 2010’s USPGA Championship Leaderboards prove (pictured below). Martin Kaymer won the 2010 Championsip and he has also won the Player’s Championship around Pete Dye’s flagship TPC Sawgrass. With the exception of Chambers Bay earlier this year, Whistling Straits is probably the closest golf course to a Links course that they play on the PGA Tour with some 610,000 sq m of sand and dirt on the course. In fact the course famously has too many bunkers to count as Dustin Johnson was penalised 2 strokes for grounding his club in a waste area to the right of the 18th fairway on Sunday in 2010. Although with the recent weather it is looking rather more soft and green than in 2010. As well as the bombers there were some shorter hitters like Zach Johnson and Steve Elkington on the 2010 leaderboard. Coincidently these two both finished the 2010 season inside the Top 10 for 3-putt avoidance and with the greens averaging 7000 sq feet that is perhaps not such a surprise. All the leaders below also hit a lot of Greens in Regulation so that will be the 3 main things that I will be considering along with the following 2 USPGA stats that will be banded around all week but are a fairly good guide. Some stats in Sport are a nonsense but many can be solid, analytical tools that can really help punters.
14 of the last 16 USPGA winners had already won that season
All of the last 8 USPGA winners had finished in the Top 22 the previous week at Firestone.
Which tells me that you want a long hitting, green hitting, in-form, 2015 winner that plays well on Links courses and has a proven Major pedigree.
I have had Jason Day in mind for this for a few months. He has already racked up 9 Top 10 finishes at Majors, all starting with his T10 here at Whistling Straits in 2010. With so many near misses Day was starting to be discussed as a bit of a bottler and a non winner given he only had 1 PGA Tour stroke play title to his name prior to this season. However his Major final rounds this year have appeared to be a lot more solid and he was so close with his putt at the 18th at St Andrews. Additionally the fact Day hasn’t yet won a Major shouldn’t put anyone off him for “Glory’s last shot” as 4 of the last 6 USPGA winners were winning their first Major (and the other 2 were both Mcilroy!) It is surely just a matter of time before Day wins a Major and Whistling Straits looks to be right up his street. He has two wins this season to his name and a T12th last week at Firestone. He sits in 3rd place in Driving Distance, 36th in 3-putt avoidance, 32nd in Greens in Regulation and a brilliant 5th in Scrambling which is just crucial at every Major. He also has form at other Pete Dye courses with a T4 at TPC Lousiana in the Zurich Classic this year and a T6th at TPC Sawgrass in 2011. I can’t see him out of contention this week and I firmly believe he is due a little luck on a Sunday at a Major. If he gets it then surely this world-class talent can get over the line on Sunday. I really like him this week so he is going to be the main bet and the rest of the bets will just be cover bets to get my stakes back, longshots or place bets.
My only other outright bet is a win only cover bet on Bubba Watson. He lost in a playoff here in 2010 when a far less accomplished and major-less player. He now has two Masters green jackets on top of several other PGA Tour titles in the last 5 years. He comes off a 2nd place last week in the WGC Bridgestone and also a 2nd place to Jason Day two weeks prior to that in Canada. Bubba also has the all important win this year at the Travellers Championship around TPC River Highlands (a Pete Dye redesign). I can see both Bubba and Day fighting it out with Dustin Johnson on the back 9 on Sunday but after DJ’s recent collapses I don’t think he is deserving of anyones money at 16/1 so happy to play just 2 this week.
I like 6 Top 20 bets in this for a few different reasons too
Bernd Wiesberger played in the last group on Sunday in last year’s USPGA going on to finish down in 15th after struggling with the pressure a little. He as had another stellar season with a win in one of the European Tour flagship events – Open De France. Kaymer himself won there in 2009 and Wiesberger also has several other high finishes at courses where Kaymer has won. He is long off the tee and also finished in the Top 25 last week with his weekend 66-69 only being bettered by the champion Lowry. Looks set up to play well this week
Kevin Na loves Pete Dye courses and he had a fairly good start to the 2015 season but tailed off slightly. He came back to form last week with a resurgent T15th and will enjoy this week’s challenge having seen it before in 2010.
Ernie Els has 2 Top 20s already at Whistling Straits and even in his declining years he has shown that he can pull some form out of nowhere at courses that he likes. This long, linksy set-up is ideal for Els and I’d expect him to start strongly given he has been T2nd here after Round 1 in both 2004 and 2010. I’m going to play him first round leader as well as Top 20.
Camillo Villegas was T8th at Whistling Straits in 2010 and has played very patchy golf the last few years since he stormed onto the scene. When playing well his talent is unquestionable so it was interesting that he finished T25th last week closing with a 65.
Ben Martin very nearly won The Players Championship this year just finishing 1 shot shy of the playoff and continued his form at the US Open for 3 rounds. He looks to enjoy the test of a Major Championship so while not in the best current form I think he can outplay his price for a Top 20.
Ross Fisher simply loves long links courses and has several high finishes around courses that Kaymer thrives on. He looks massively over priced considering only a month ago he was finishing T8th at the Scottish Open around Gullane Links.
Finally I will throw a small bet on the reverse forecast with Jason Day/Bubba Watson for a bit of fun more than anything.
Summary of Bets (all bets Betfair Exchange unless stated)
Jason Day – 6pts win @ 14.5 , 4pts Top 5 @ 4.7
Bubba Watston – 2pts win @ 16
Bernd Wiesberger – 1pt Top 20 @ 6.6
Kevin Na – 1pt Top 20 @ 6.6
Ernie Els – 1pt Top 20 @ 9.8
Camillo Villegas – 1pt Top 20 @ 9.4
Ben Martin – 1pt Top 20 @11
Ross Fisher – 1pt Top 20 @ 12.5
Ernie Els – 0.5pt EW 1st Round Leader @ 125/1 Betfair Sportsbook
Jason Day/Bubba Watson Reverse/Dual Forecast – 1pt @ 110/1 Sky Bet
20 pts outlay.
(73 pts in total so far)