The 2018 PGA Championship Invitational preview with Skeeter McGillicuddy
So close, so Rory. Astonishing to believe he could get it so out of sorts on Sunday at the WGC applying little to no pressure to Thomas. He’s human and golf is inherently difficult but I wonder if even Thomas would like to have been pushed? Stanley three putted twice mid way through the last round and thus secured 2nd place without putting any pressure on Thomas.
So with little respite off we go to the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellrive Country Club in St Louis, Missouri. The 100th staging of this event will neatly, but somewhat sadly, be the last played in August with the new 2019 schedule changed to get golf done and dusted before the NFL season begins. All of this is testimony to the strength of US PGA Tour and no doubt we’ll get used to it, but it sticks in the throat that such a knuckle headed game dictates golf’s schedule.
The usual assortment of non contenders tee it up this week continuing the paradox that is the Majors – all of them actually fail to deliver the strongest fields. The Masters is an invitation event with qualifying structures but too many weak players filling places that should go to in-form professionals. Both Opens are, well, Open and thus have amateurs and the PGA is laden with Club professionals.
We got Thomas last year at 40/1 – he tees it up on Thursday at 14’s! To be fair he’s earned his place at the head of the market and Bellrive will hardly feel uncomfortable given his game on display at the WGC.
Bellrive last hosted a Major in 1992 with Nick Price winning. Why so long between drinks? At just over 7,300 and a par 70 Bellrive with its tree lined old style layout will somewhat mirror Firestone with slightly wider fairways – but expect deeper rough.
What it does offer is severe slopes on the greens placing a premium on hitting them in the “right” places and Zoyslagrass fairways. So what about the fairways? This stuff is spongy and not all that common on tour and allegedly prone to flyers. I’m less concerned about the fairway connections as I am the greens – pure Bentgrass. Top players who like Bentgrass include Rory and Rose with tons of wins over the last ten years on them. Spieth and Dustbin aren’t shabby either.
As with most of these Majors there’s a case for the market leaders. Did Dustbin just have an off week or did he party too hard after his Canadian Open win with his father-in-law Wayno? His numbers look incredible and yet it seems he’s not won enough to justify them – and he’s 9/1. Jordan’s form at the WGC hardly surprised as his wayward tee game was masked by his genius at the Open but caught up with him on the Sunday. I love Jordan but he feels skinny at 25’s in what looks like a driver fest. Lurking at a price I always wanted to be on, and the freak he is, he could trot up, as he’s prone to turnarounds. The thing that puts me off is his laughter at his own luck on the Saturday at Carnoustie. When you’re on the way to a 65 on moving day and you start to giggle and openly talk about the extent of the luck you are having that says a lot about his view of his own game. He must have felt left out of the party at Firestone with just one sub par round. Anyone else and I’d write them off but equally I just can’t see him not being in the rough a lot at Bellrive and so the 25’s doesn’t tempt me.
Thomas is just too short having been 30/1 last week. Jase was so wide down the stretch at Firestone – to be fair when chasing and he’ll need to improve his driving radically. Rose is amazingly consistent but that suppresses his price and he flatters too often to deceive for me. Brooks would seem to be made for Bellrive, eats Majors, and came home hard on the steel at Firestone. I just feel he’s tailing off as opposed to coming into form. Finau also appeals to a degree but he’s contracting in price without ever winning and his putting looks suspect. Xander looks spent after his effort at the Open. Finally a word about Cantlay. He looks too short at 50’s but his credentials are undeniable. Painful to watch though.
Rory McIlrory 2pts e/w at $14 Palmerbet
Kyle Stanley 1pt e/w at $101 Crownbet
Keegan Bradley 1pt e/w at $101 Crownbet
Tyrrell Hatton 1pt e/w at $151 Palmerbet
Bryson De Chambeau 1pt e/w at $81 Palmerbet
Roryas a headline pick will come as no surprise as any regular reader will know. Yes be blew up last week but that was as a chaser and it just didn’t come off. Three back he had to attack and he did so with a wayward driver. – of all the clubs to let him down. His 3 wood down 18 on Sunday was ironic given it nearly gave him the birdie we needed to get a top 5. He still looks ready to eat one of these long par 70’s and is a 6 time winner on these Bentgrass greens. Has anyone ever looked like they are hacking it round and contended like Rory? He’s still having his best season on the greens for years and he’s a fraction off being the best scrambler out there too. His top gear is way out there – we just need to see it.
Kyle Stanley has returned us nice each-way money twice now and Bellrive looks right up his alley. Still ranked T5 in accuracy and 4TH in greens in regulation his putting let him down when he really needed it on Sunday. Stanley’s Major form is less than stellar overall but in fact his 39th at the Open was one of his best and at 100/1 off the back of last weeks second in what is remember – his BEST year ever on the greens – on a course with a lot in common to Firestone? Come on!
Tyrell Hatton didn’t set the world on fire at the WGC with a T28 but he hardly disgraced himself either. Ranked the 25th best player on the planet he drove it badly at Firestone and was forever scrambling. So a leap of faith is required that he’ll have a good week off the tee and can then bring his competitiveness to the fore on the greens. T6 at the US Open and with a great record in quality fields the Englishman wouldn’t surprise me a bit if he contended here. Plus we know he can really putt.
Keegan Bradley has been touted here before and we’ve lamented the treatment golf meted out to him and Webb Simpson in particular with the changes in putting rules. Unlike Webb he’s failed to win since the change but he looks like he’s back. A 2nd, 4th and fifth this season represent this three time tour winners’ best season since 2014. While his overall strokes gained putting figure suggests a player who is really struggling he has managed to putt well on occasions including a solid 1.305 at the Canadian open – his last event. We’ll be trusting he has a week on the greens but one thing we can rely on is his long game. Long (ish), he’s accurate off the tee (68.11% for 17th), and hits greens (69.64% for 28th). Off the back of his closing 64 at Glen Abbey and his comments about his putting he goes to Bellrive with as much confidence he’s had for years.
Bryson De Chambeau is a polarizing character no doubt but he is a winner. He impressed with his effort at the WGC when he improved after a poor start to shoot 3 sub 70 rounds for 30th. Off the back of the flak he got for his less than gentlemanly handshake at the European Open it was always going to be difficult at Firestone – but all that malarkey is over now. A multiple tour winner, ranked 22nd in the world, with a season scoring average of 69.867, what’s not to like? Highly ranked in stokes gained off the tee, and into the green, plus the ability to turn it on with the putter, his 80/1 quote seems way too big. Deshambles he can be but one thing for sure he won’t lay up down the stretch to finish in the money.