STAR PREVIEW: US PGA

Golf fans will be looking at this week’s US PGA Championship with the mantra of “The best is yet to come.” The final Major of the year is not the last highlight of the year, with the Ryder Cup coming, but we can expect to see some top class displays with the last chance to take a Major on the board.

And the US PGA has seen some of the sport’s top names triumph over the last decade, with Rory McIlroy amongst the winners to end the season on a high, whilst Tiger Woods went back to back in 2007/8.

The past few years have also produced some rather notable trends for the winners – that trend being an in form player who’s able to drive hard and hit greens. To be more specific, four of the last six winners of the PGA played in one of the last two matches on the tee at the WGC Bridgestone Championship (a big prize in itself and the start of the World Golf Championships) which would give one a shortlist of Justin Thomas (14/1 with starsports.bet), Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Ian Poulter.

That is an extremely high-quality quartet and Thomas is fancied to double up. He is the reigning PGA Champion, having nailed the back nine last year with three birdies as the field began to swallow the leader Hideki Matsuyama at Quail Hollow, and this year’s venue of the Bellerive Country Club ought to suit him handsomely.

He was masterful at Firestone, winning in a hack canter by four strokes, and that should have set him up perfectly for this challenge. His majors form since winning last year has been slightly hit and miss for a player of his quality but he is a prodigious winner – he has a strike rate of 18% in his PGA tournaments – and his missed cut at The Open doesn’t tell the full story.

He was sailing at Carnoustie until the Scottish links got stuck into him with three successive double-bogeys starting at the par-five sixth and then bogeys at the 16th and 17th holes – and a birdie putt that hit the lips at the last – and from then he won at Firestone and took apart a great field. If in the same form, he will take a massive amount of beating.

Dustin Johnson (8/1 with starsports.bet) is even more obvious, but he sliced through the field last week and seemed to be in love with his new putter. He also missed the cut at Carnoustie when accuracy was punished to the extreme there but apart from that he’s won twice in the last two months from his five starts and averages first in scoring for birdies and eagles, scoring averages and shots gained from the tee to green – and his Major record is exemplary, having made the top 10 in eight of the last 11 Majors held on American soil.

Jason Day (18/1 with starsports.bet) hasn’t quite had the major success that was promised when bursting onto the major scene when winning this very event three years ago, but he retains his best for this tournament. His worst PGA tournament finish is 15th when he’s made the cut and he has form figures of 9-2-1-15-8-MC-MC-10 at this event.

Indeed, he’s made the Top 20 in 17 Majors since 2013 and he would have been much closer at Firestone had he not overcooked his chase when within two shots of Justin Thomas with six holes to pay. A calmer approach might well have seen him push Thomas close and he was terribly drawn at The Open when playing in the worst of the conditions.

Big prices do win here despite the high-class roll of honour and names such as Gary Woodland (100/1 starsports.bet), Russell Henley (125/1 with starsports.bet) do catch the eye. However, it’s another one who’s close to the top that makes an appeal. Patrick Cantlay (45/1 with starsports.bet) is a fine ball striker as PGA stats show and he’s finished 12th at The Open and then sixth at Bridgestone, suggesting that this setup will suit more and he beats off the outsiders to finish the portfolio.

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK JUSTIN THOMAS 2 points each-way at 12/1 with starsports.bet
BACK DUSTIN JOHNSON 2 points each-way 8/1 with starsports.bet
BACK JASON DAY 2 points each-way at 18/1 with starsports.bet
BACK PATRICK CANTLAY 1 point each-way at 45/1 with starsports.bet

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