Intelligent punter's guide to the US PGA golf at Valhalla
Rory McIlroy is the red-hot favourite – and Tiger looks good to go. But who to put your money on?
The fourth and final golfing Major of the year - the US PGA championship – starts today. It is being held for the third time at Valhalla, the Jack Nicklaus–designed course in Louisville, Kentucky.
Smart punters should take four factors into account when making a shortlist:
One: focus on golfers who have already won at least one tournament in 2014. Ten of the past 12 winners of the US PGA had won an event in the same year.
Two: don't be put off backing golfers at long prices. This event has a habit of throwing up unfancied winners and runners-up - like the 300-1 outsider Shaun Micheel, who won in 2003. Last year Jason Dufner won at odds of 40-1. Fancied golfers do sometimes win the US PGA: Tiger Woods has won it four times and Rory McIlroy, this year's red-hot favourite, won it in 2012. But it's sensible to include at least two long shots in your portfolio.
Three: as in other Majors, pay close attention to golfers who have good course form. Two previous US PGAs have been played at Valhalla, in 1996 and 2000, as well as the 2008 Ryder Cup (the last time the US won the event).
Four: include at least one European on your shortlist. Europeans have won three of the last six championships - and, of course, the last two Majors. In 2012, seven of the top ten in the US PGA came from Europe while last year the Swede, Henrik Stenson, repaid each–way support by finishing third.
Bearing all that in mind, let's take a closer look at some of the likelier contenders, plus some lively outsiders, in order of their current odds:
RORY MCILROY. Best odds: 5-1. The Ulsterman comes into this in fantastic form having won the British Open and the WGC-Bridgestone at the weekend and if he plays as well as he did in those events, the new world number one is going to win his fourth Major, make no mistake. But as Justin Rose found out at the British Open, it's hard to win three tournaments in a row, and, of course, from a punter's point of view, the short odds aren't so tempting.
ADAM SCOTT. Best odds: 12-1. The 'always there or thereabouts' Australian has posted nine top ten finishes in his last 15 Majors. He is surely going to be adding to his haul of one Major victory (the 2013 Masters) sooner rather than later. A worthy second favourite.
JUSTIN ROSE. Best odds: 16-1. He came into the British Open chasing his third tournament in a row, but although he couldn't win, he still put in another decent shift to finish tied for 23rd. He came in tied for third in the US PGA in 2012, and played well in the Ryder Cup at Valhalla in 2008, making him an appealing each-way bet.
SERGIO GARCIA. Best odds: 18-1. Runner-up to McIlroy in both the British Open and in the Bridgestone (where he blew a six-shot lead), El Nino is clearly in good form. But, as always, he finds it hard to win. While he is perfectly capable of bouncing back from his latest disappointment, it's a concern that he didn't excel when the Ryder Cup was held at Valhalla in 2008.
RICKIE FOWLER: Best odds: 22-1. The American tied for fifth in this year's Masters and tied for second in both the US Open and the British Open. Given his great record in Majors this year, his each-way attraction is obvious.
HENRIK STENSON. Best odds: 28-1 Last year's Mr Consistency hasn't been playing as well in 2014, but he has the course form having performed adequately for Europe when the Ryder Cup was held at Valhalla in 2008 - so an improved showing can't be ruled out.
PHIL MICKELSON. Best odds: 30-1 'Lefty' has failed to hit the heights so far this year, but top ten finishes on the previous two occasions the event was held in Valhalla, plus a closing round of 62 in last weekend's Bridgestone tournament, mean he has to be short-listed.
KEEGAN BRADLEY. Best odds: 33-1. He has a great record in this event: he won it in 2011, finished third in 2012 and made the top 20 last year. He warmed up for this with a good performance in the Bridgestone, where he finished tied for fourth, and all looks set for another good showing.
BUBBA WATSON. Best odds: 33-1. A dual Masters winner who saves his best for Augusta. While he can't be dismissed, his current form is a concern: he missed the cut in the British Open and was well down the field in the Bridgestone
JIM FURYK. Best odds: 35-1. The veteran has been in cracking form this summer, finishing fourth in the British Open. Another positive is that he played well when the Ryder Cup was held at Valhalla in 2008. He was also runner-up in the US PGA last year and, all things considered, he looks one of the best each-way bets.
MATT KUCHAR. Best odds: 35-1. Admirably consistent, 'Kuch' has made the cut in the last ten Majors and posted six top ten finishes since 2010. But he needs to find that little bit extra if his name is going get to the top of the leaderboard and be there at the finish.
CHARL SCHWARTZEL. Best odds: 35-1. The South African is something of an 'under-the-radar' performer in the Majors, but he does have one to his name - the 2011 Masters - and nine other top 20 finishes. However, he missed three Majors cuts in a row in 2013-14, before coming back to form in the British Open when he finished tied for seventh. An interesting outsider.
GRAEME MCDOWELL. Best odds: 40-1. The Northern Irishman has been in good form this summer, landing the French Open for the second year running in July and then finishing tied for ninth in the British Open. His record in the US PGA is up and down: three top 12 finishes and two missed cuts in the past five years. But he played well at Valhalla in the 2008 Ryder Cup.
TIGER WOODS. Best odds: 40-1. When's the last time you saw Tiger available at 40-1 before a Major? That's because it's not yet 100 per cent clear whether his back problem will allow him to play. But he turned up at Valhalla for a practice round yesterday and looked to be free of the spasms that had forced him to withdraw from the Bridgestone. If he does confirm he's playing, the case for backing him is simple: he won the event the last time it was held here.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA. Best odds: 50-1. The 22-year-old Japanese hasn't performed as well in the Majors this year as he did in 2013. But he did land his first PGA Tour success in June, while his tied-twelfth finish in the Bridgestone was encouraging.
MARC LEISHMAN. Best odds: 50-1. The Australian has been in excellent form of late and finished third, just three shots behind Rory McIlroy, in the Bridgestone. He also fared well in the British Open when he finished tied for fifth. Odds of 50-1 for a golfer in such fine form make it tempting.
MARTIN KAYMER. Best odds: 50-1. The runaway winner of this year's US Open couldn't follow up that performance in the British Open when he finished well down the field. He was well off the lead in the Bridgestone, too. On the plus side, however, he is a previous US PGA winner (2010) and so his odds could be said to be on the generous side.
J.B. HOLMES. Best odds: 80-1. Local knowledge is the reason why the 32-year-old American is included: he grew up less than 100 miles from Valhalla and has spoken of his "love" for the course. He also did well for the US when the Ryder Cup was held there in 2008 and at 80-1 he could be worth a small each-way interest.
JASON DUFNER. Best odds: 90-1. The American not only won this event last year, he also came second in 2012 and fifth in 2011. The reason for the long odds is he has been struggling with a neck injury in 2014 which has affected his form.
THOMAS BJORN. Best odds: 125-1. There are two reasons to consider an each-way investment in the Danish veteran: first, he finished third the last time the tournament was held at Valhalla in 2000; second, he warmed up for this nicely with a good performance in the Bridgestone. He'd be an unlikely winner, but you can see him going well.
GEOFF OGILVY. Best odds: 150-1. The 2006 US Open winner only qualified for this by winning the Barracuda tournament last weekend, but he did post three successive top ten finishes in this event in the 2000s and, now that he's returned to form, he could be a lively outsider.
IAN POULTER. Best odds: 150-1. He's had a poor 2014, missing the cut at the British Open. The one ray of hope for his supporters is that a return to Valhalla will spark a revival: he put in a great performance here for Europe in the 2008 Ryder Cup, delivering four points out of five.
JOHN SENDEN. Best odds: 200-1. Something of a dark horse, but the 43-year-old Australian has had one of his best years on the PGA Tour (he recorded his second Tour win in eight years in March) and he also tied for eighth in the Masters. He tied for fourth in the US PGA seven years ago and has made the cut for the past three years: there are certainly worse outsiders in the field.
SEUNG-YUL NOH. Best odds: 200-1. Given the record of rank outsiders in the event it's a good idea to have a couple of golfers available at huge prices in your portfolio - and the 23-year-old South Korean might just fit the bill. Earlier this year he won his first PGA Tour victory, the Zurich Classic, and he has made the cut in each of the last five Majors he has played. ·