A quick overview of the contenders ahead of this week’s final major of the year, the 2016 US PGA Championship.
The short-awaited final major of the year is upon us. Barely two weeks since Henrik Stenson claimed his first major victory at The Open Championship at Royal Troon we find ourselves just a short-putt from the US PGA Championship, this year at Baltusrol.
So far in 2016 we’ve had three first-time major winners claim victory; Danny Willett prevailed after Jordan Spieth’s collapse at The Masters, Dustin Johnson prevailed after the controversy at the US Open, and Stenson prevailed after an almighty battle with Phil Mickelson at The Open.
After such high hopes to start the year, its surprising world number one Jason Day hasn’t added to his major championship trophy cabinet but increased expectations have led to the 28-year-old Queenslander feeling the pressure and with little control off the tee.
So, where does that leave us for this week heading to Baltusrol Golf Club in New Jersey this week? Here is a quick overview of the course, the contenders, the Aussies and some sneaky picks.
The golf course
Baltusrol Golf Club is arguably the opposite of Royal Troon. Host of this week’s US PGA Championship is an inland parkland course that will play green and soft, with bunkers surrounded rough. Designed by A.W. Tillinghast, Baltusrol has an incredible history from the origins of its name (linked to the murder of a local farmer named Baltus Roll) to hosting some memorable US Open’s and PGA Championships that produced winners such as Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson.
Strangely, Baltusrol finishes with two difficult par-5’s where most of the drama will take place late on Sunday. The 17th is a beast with very few players in the history of the major championship managing to hit the green in two. Expect drama here over the weekend.
DUSTIN JOHNSON is outright favourite having finished top-10 in the majors this year and is making ground on the world number one spot.
The man he is chasing, JASON DAY is looking a little shaky with the driver and 3-wood in his hands. Day has been the best Australian finisher in all three of the majors this year; his best was a tie for eighth place at Royal Troon but was leading Aussie at both The Masters (T10) and the US Open (T22) but looks (and sounds) apprehensive off the tee.
RORY MCILROY is listed as equal favourite to Day with many bookmakers but looks well below the sort of form we expect from the Northern Irishman, largely because of poor form with the short stick in his hands.
HENRIK STENSON is not surprisingly rated a good chance to go back-to-back this week after a career defining victory at The Open. The short break between majors may play in Stenson’s favour in trying to keep up his good form, but you’d expect the media commitments since the win may have eaten into his practice time a little.
[bctt tweet=”If a favourite was ever going to be a sneaky bet, it could be Jordan Spieth this week.” username=”AussieGolfer”]
Ever since that Masters collapse, JORDAN SPIETH has been out of favour with the bookies but we don’t think this guy can stay down for too long. Spieth won on the PGA Tour in late May and finished high at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. If a favourite was ever going to be a sneaky bet, it could be Jordan Spieth this week.
Nine Australians will be teeing it up at Baltusrol this week; Jason Day, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, John Senden, Marcus Fraser, Aaron Baddeley, Scott Hend, Matt Jones and Greg Chalmers.
We’re a little worried JASON DAY is yet to play Baltusrol after taking a few days off to rest with his family. Day only needs to straighten his driver to make a run at this tournament as his results even without form off the tee have been solid.
ADAM SCOTT never really got it going at The Open and will be seething at his major performances this year; a T42, T18 and T43 is nothing to write home about. But Scott should be able to attack Baltusrol a little more than the three previous major venues which could change his attitude, and see a better finish this week.
And speaking of attitude, it would be hard to dismiss AARON BADDELEY. After years of pain, Badds.com has the ball going long and straight off the tee and won the Barbasol Open to earn a spot in the field. Combined with deadly putting, Badds may ride the confidence wave right into Baltusrol. Keep an eye on him.
With some of the favourites out of form and three first-time major winners this year, it does leave us wondering if anyone else can score there first major victory at Baltusrol. Sergio Garcia maybe? Lee Westwood? Rickie Fowler?
After Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson’s major wins, SERGIO GARCIA now firmly leads the pack of best players never to win a major. The Spaniard is in arguably the best form of his career in with three top-5’s and a win in his last four starts and 10th in the OWGR. If he is ever going to win one, it could be this week.
American’s PATRICK REED and MATT KUCHAR are in good enough form to get themselves off the list led by Garcia. Reed particularly played himself into good form in Scotland and could make a run for it with poor weather expected over the first three days.
We were expecting much more from MARTIN KAYMER and JUSTIN ROSE in the previous two majors but neither really threatened. Kaymer looked good early at The Open before fading and Rose looked solid excluding Friday’s nasty weather round. We’re expecting at least one of them to get into contention this week.