Dave Tindall

Across the Pond

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PGA Championship Preview

Monday, August 7, 2017


With four wins in the last nine editions of the PGA Championship, Europe has reversed a dreadful record in the year’s final major.

 

Rory McIlroy is responsible for two of those victories and he’s also the only Euro to have tasted victory at this week’s course, Quail Hollow.

 

The North Carolina track has staged the regular-season Wells Fargo Championship (previously Quail Hollow Championship and Wachovia Championship) on 13 occasions and Rory took the trophy in 2010 and 2015.

 

Open champion Jordan Spieth is amongst a raft of players, writers, oddsmakers and gamers to have pencilled in the Northern Irishman as the man to beat this week and McIlroy is likely to form the bedrock of most fantasy teams.

 

This preview will look at all those available for the official European Tour fantasy game.

 

 

Last 10 PGA Championship Winners

 

2016 Jimmy Walker (Baltusrol) - 14

2015 Jason Day (Whistling Straits) - 20

2014 Rory McIlroy (Valhalla) -16

2013 Jason Dufner (Oak Hill) -10

2012 Rory McIlroy (Kiawah Island) -13

2011 Keegan Bradley (Atlanta Athletic Club) -8

2010 Martin Kaymer (Whistling Straits) -11

2009 YE Yang (Hazeltine) -8

2008 Padraig Harrington (Oakland Hills) -3

2007 Tiger Woods (Southern Hills) -8

 

 

Quail Hollow Top 5s

 

2016 James Hahn, Roberto Castro, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Andrew Loupe, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson

2015 Rory McIlroy, Patrick Rodgers, Webb Simpson, Phil Mickelson, Robert Streb, Gary Woodland

2014 J.B. Holmes, Jim Furyk, Martin Flores, Jason Bohn, Justin Rose

2013 Derek Ernst, David Lynn, Phil Mickelson, Robert Karlsson, Lee Westwood

2012 Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, D.A. Points, Webb Simpson, Ben Curtis, Lee Westwood, Ryan Moore

 

The winning scores read: -9 (Hahn), -21 (McIlroy), -14 (Holmes), -8 (Ernst), -14 (Fowler).

 

 

The course

 

It remains to be seen how useful past course form is due to severe changes at Quail Hollow since 2016, the most obvious the Bentgrass greens being replaced with Champion Ultradwarf Bermudagrass. It was a much-needed change as in some previous editions the putting surfaces had been dreadful. After a Tom Fazio upgrade, the course has been stretched out to 7,600 yards (the 1st is now a 524-yard par 4 after the addition of 100 yards), par changed to 71 from 72, fairways have been overhauled, greens reshaped, thousands of trees removed and four holes have been given extreme makeovers. The front nine is set to play much tougher than it did before while the course ends with the “Green Mile” – the ultra-trough 16th, 17th and 18th holes. From Rory’s win in 2010 to the last event held there in 2016, the stats suggest Driving Distance and Greens In Regulation are key at this course (winners averaged 12th in both those categories).

 

 

Trends

 

It helps considerably if you arrive at the year’s final major with a win under your belt that season. In all, 15 of the last 18 winners of the Wanamaker trophy tick that box. The last 10 winners were also aged between 23 and 37 (inclusive). Eight of the last 11 major winners have been first-timers.

 

 

Weather

 

This, from the local Charlotte Observer on Monday: “Forecasters expect a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms throughout the peak days of the PGA Championship. Cloudy skies and high humidity can be expected all week long. Championship rounds at Quail Hollow Club start Thursday, and a 50 percent chance of rain is expected to continue all the way through Saturday. High temperatures will be in the low 80s, climbing to 86 degrees on Saturday. For the final round and trophy presentation Sunday, there may be some good news: The sun is expected to come out after early-morning showers.” Winds look fairly modest throughout.

 

The Leading Contenders


Rory McIlroy

“It's always been, I guess, a modern player's golf course. If you can drive it a long way, there's an advantage there,” says Rory. And he should know. It was the scene of his very first PGA Tour win (2010) when he came from the cut line to win with 66-62 on the weekend. He also shot a 61 on the way to victory in 2015. His full form there: 1-MC-2-10-8-1-4. After the lows of the Irish and Scottish Opens (MC in both) and slumping to 5-over at Royal Birkdale, McIlroy has turned a corner with back-to-back top fives at the Open and WGC-Bridgestone. Quite simply, he looks Europe’s standout this week and must have a huge chance of winning this tournament for a third time after lifting the hefty Wanamaker trophy in 2012 and 2014.

 

Jon Rahm

A big, modern course should be a great fit for Rahm, who is 16th in Driving Distance and 30th for Greens In Regulation this year. The Spaniard took his first PGA Tour win on another 7,600 track (Torrey Pines South) at the start of the season and, only last month, blitzed the field to win the Irish Open. He’s been a little quiet since (T44 Open, T28 WGC Bridgestone) but has done fantasy managers some huge favors this year and five of the last 10 winners of this event have been in their 20s. It’s his course debut but he did make the top four on his last trip to North Carolina when the Wells Fargo was staged at Eagle Point.

 

Justin Rose

With five-year PGA Championship form of 22-4-24-33-3, Rose has been a solid pick in the year’s final major. He’s also got some eye-catching form at Quail Hollow with third (2016) and fifth (2014) in his last two appearances before the course was revamped. The concern is recent form. He missed the U.S. Open cut, had to settle for T54 in The Open at Royal Birkdale and looked very subdued when shooting 74-71-76-75 to trail in T63 at Firestone CC last week. Rose says Quail Hollow suits his eye but admits he’ll need to drive the ball better to succeed there after recent swing changes to alleviate the pressure on his back.

 

Henrik Stenson

Five of the Swede’s 11 top 10s in the majors have come in the PGA and that ties in with the idea that he usually plays his best golf in the second half of the season. Stenson has finished 7-25-3-3 in the last four editions of this event and, after a decent defense of the Claret Jug (T11 Open), added T17 at Firestone on Sunday after shooting 70-69 on the weekend. But now the big fly in the ointment. His course form at Quail Hollow is MC-58-MC-MC-MC-69. Hmmm.

 

Sergio Garcia

He’s still feeling the glow of Augusta National and his recent marriage but perhaps at the expense of full focus on the course. Sergio could only manage T37 and T39 respectively in The Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and just didn’t look sharp enough in either. He’s good enough to cruise to a top 20 here but gamers will be looking for more. A runner-up at Quail Hollow way back in 2005 but he hasn’t made the top 10 in six starts there since.

 

Paul Casey

A shame he’s not available for the official European Tour fantasy game, as he’s one of Europe’s in-form players. He deserves to be a popular pick in other formats though after adding to a run of strong results with T5 at Firestone. In fact, you have to go back to Arnie’s event in March to find him finishing worse than T26, a run of nine events. Casey has played well in North Carolina before although not at Quail Hollow (T41-MC-MC) but there’s no obvious reason why he shouldn’t reverse that form.

 

Thomas Pieters

The big-hitting Belgian, who seems to love the big time. Adding to the feat of being top points scorer on his Ryder Cup debut, Pieters has posted a fourth at The Masters and top fives in WGC events in Mexico and Ohio. His T4 at the Bridgestone on Sunday carried an air of disappointment after he co-led through 54 holes but was still another standout performance. Negative? He’s struggled on Bermuda greens this season and that’s what he’ll face at Quail Hollow.

 

Branden Grace

Definitely a man for the majors in the last few seasons and his five top sixes (yes, really) from the last 10 include third and T4 in the last two editions of the PGA. The latest came via T6 at Royal Birkdale last month when he shot that record-breaking 62 while Grace ticked over reasonably well at Firestone when T28. The South African will be making his first start at Quail Hollow so managers don’t have the comfort of course form but there is still much to like.

 

Tommy Fleetwood

An excellent fourth in the U.S. Open on 7,741-yard Erin Hills, Fleetwood can certainly handle a long major track and since then he’s taken victory in the Open de France on next year’s Ryder Cup venue. Also runner-up in the WGC-Mexico Championship, his breakout season could hit another peak here after cooling just slightly with T27 at Royal Birkdale and T28 at Firestone CC. Another of the younger Euros, who will be seeing this venue for the first time although, given the changes, that could be no bad thing.

 

Alex Noren

Despite going on a winning spree on the European Tour, managers may still have held reservations over Noren in the very big events due to an unproven record on American soil and a miserable record in the majors. Well, a top 10 at Sawgrass, T5 in the WGC Match-Play and T6 in The Open at Royal Birkdale have answered a lot of those questions and he makes far more appeal now. The Swede, who was third for G.I.R at The Open, added T28 at Firestone CC last week.


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Dave Tindall is former golf editor at Sky Sports.com in the UK and has been writing betting previews for the European Tour since 1997. He can be reached via e-mail on tindall_david@hotmail.com and on Twitter @davetindallgolf.
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