USPGA Championship Form Guide
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2014 US PGA Championship | 04 Aug 2014
Golf’s major championship season draws to a close this week when the USPGA Championship is played at the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville in Kentucky.
The Jack Nicklaus designed layout has already staged two PGA Championships, those coming in 1996 and 2000. Both were won in playoffs with Mark Brooks defeating Kenny Perry in 1996 and Tiger Woods heading Bob May in 2000.
So for a high percentage of this week’s field it will be their first exposure to the layout although in 2008 it did play host to the Ryder Cup and so many of the leading American and European players will have played the golf course in some format.
All greens were ripped up in 2011 and rebuilt so even those who have played here in the past will have little benefit as the greens have been re-shaped and in many cases levelled out reducing the strong contours of previous years.
Given those factors, therefore, it will be important to rely on current form rather than a history on the golf course to attempt to find a winner. Many of the game’s leading players are in great form.
Let’s take a look at those players and assess their chances.
The Northern Irishman has played beautifully this season culminating in his Open Championship victory and last week in Ohio where he regained his former status of world number one. He already has a PGA Championship to his name having won by eight shots at Kiawah Island in 2012. He has shown in his three major championship victories that when at his peak he is capable of dominating any event and given his current form he might well do just that this week. He comes off the back of impressive wins at the Open and the WGC Bridgestone. That form is hard to ignore.
From an underachiever in major championship four years ago, Scott has developed into one of the game’s best at the elite level. In racing terms Scott hardly ever runs a bad race these days and it is hard to see that not being the case at the end of this week. Six top tens in his last eight outings including a win at the Crowne Plaza event in Fort Worth suggest a player near the top of his game and he is a great chance to better his previous best PGA finish of 3rd in 2006. He had another good week at the Bridgestone.
Stenson has become the forgotten man to some extent of late but that is perhaps because his form this season pales in comparison to his amazing run in the latter half of 2013. A closer analysis of his game at present however reveals that he is not playing too badly at all. He is the world number three after all and although yet to win a major championship he is certainly not out of this. He has been inside the top ten in four of his last six starts and although he disappointed in last week’s final round at Firestone he remains a chance.
Garcia is another yet to win a major but if he was not to win one during his career it would be a travesty. Fifteen years after he introduced himself to the golfing world with a runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, he is still chasing that elusive victory but the manner in which he has been playing of late suggests he is a great chance to breakthrough. Three times runner-up in his last four starts makes him, along with Rose and McIlroy, perhaps the hottest player in town right now.
In superb form with wins in Washington and Scotland, Rose has the major monkey off his back following his US Open win in 2013. He plays the big events and the tough golf courses well and another good week at the WGC Bridgestone has him primed for contention once again.
Kuchar continues to be one of the more consistent players on the PGA Tour but is currently playing below the level he was at earlier this season. He did however put together a final round of 65 last week at the WGC Bridgestone suggesting he is not far short of where he needs to be to contend. One of the game’s best without a major but has a chance at least to right that wrong this week.
Furyk is having a great season, albeit without a victory. Three runner-up finishes tell the story of a man playing near the peak of his game and if he can continue that run this week then he has a real chance to add this major to the one he secured at the US Open in 2003. One of the few players last week in Ohio to record all four rounds in the 60’s.
Watson played beautifully at the start of the season, winning the Masters and at Riviera and recording runner-up finishes in Phoenix and Miami. He followed up with a 3rd place finish at the Memorial but his form since seems to have dropped off. That continued last week in Ohio with a disappointing week by his standards, although he did improve with a final round of 68. Given those circumstances it is hard to see him challenging for a 3rd major this week.
Day’s withdrawal from last week’s WGC event leaves his chances of even playing this week in jeopardy. The reason for his withdrawal was put down to vertigo as a result of treatment for a thumb injury that has bothered him for much of the year. Even if he is able to make it into the field there is doubt about his capacity to contend given some disappointing efforts of late although a 4th place at the US Open offers some hope.
There is too many uncertainties about Woods at present to back him with any real confidence. His withdrawal from the Bridgestone leaves his involvement this week in real jeopardy. He no doubt has great memories of Valhalla because of his victory in 2000 but logic suggest he can’t win. It is a brave man to make that statement but this will be only his 6th event of the year and with a best of 25th it is difficult to see him contending despite his reputation. If he is to be a Ryder Cup consideration he likely needs a good week at least so that is motivation but motivation alone might not be enough to help him even if he can miraculously recover to play the event.
Mickelson has played a little better the last few events than was the case earlier in the year but it would seem he is still below where he needs to be to be a serious contender this week. A brilliant final round of 62 last week at the Bridgestone leaves the door open for possible contention but it might be that those ahead of him in the world ranking are playing just too well at present.
There appears little doubt that Jordan Spieth will be winning major championships at some stage of his career and it might be sooner rather than later. He finished midfield at the Open Championship and was well below his best last week in Ohio but his form prior was very good and if he can regain that he is a real chance to at worst contend.
When Kaymer won the US Open in the manner he did it was hard to imagine he would not even be near contention in his next four events. Given his very poor week last week in Ohio it is hard to imagine he can recapture the magic he had at Pinehurst and although a previous winner of this event I can’ get excited about his chances.
Former winner Keegan Bradley may well be one to invest in at longer odds. His 4th place finish at the US Open has been followed by one or two other solid weeks and he had a very good week at the Bridgestone last week. He has a major to his name so he knows he can do it and could do so again.
There is little doubt that Matsuyama will be Japan’s first major championship winner – it is just a matter of when. Already inside the top 15 in the world after only eighteen months of the PGA Tour, Matsuyama’s win at the Memorial this year gave him the belief that he could win and convinced many others that he was the real deal. He played very well again last week in Ohio and if he was to contend this week there would be little surprise.
Fowler has played the majors as well as anyone to date this season, finishing 5th at the Masters and then runner-up at the US open and the Open Championship. That curve may well be completed this week with his first win in a major championship. He certainly deserves it. His effort last week in Ohio was good enough and he begins this week’s event as certainly one of the favourites.
Schwartzel has been a little inconsistent of late but when he has been good he has been very good including his top ten finishes at the Memorial, the Canadian Open and last week’s WGC Bridgestone.
Walker started the season in great fashion with three wins before February. He has not been quite so good since but there have been plenty of top tens and generally good weeks. He has top tens in two of the three majors this year and another reasonable week at the Open Championship. He is not out of this.
McDowell has been inside the top ten on a regular basis of late and played well very nicely last week in Ohio. He generally plays the majors well including his win and runner-up finish at previous US Opens. To be considered.
It would seem the defending champion Dufner is not playing well enough to defend his title. He has recorded only one top ten in his last eleven starts. Last week’s effort in Ohio gave no reason to change my mind.
Bjorn might be a strange suggestion for consideration this week but he has played very well this season and actually contended at this venue in 2000 before finishing 3rd. Solid week last week in Ohio when 15th.