The Australians at Valhalla
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2014 US PGA Championship | Preview | 05 Aug 2014
Australian chances of a fifth victory at the PGA Championship this week appear good with Adam Scott, Marc Leishman and Jason Day all appearing some chance of at least contending for the title at the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville in Kentucky this week.
They will be joined by John Senden, Matt Jones, late entry, Geoff Ogilvy, whose return to form in Reno last week might just give him an opportunity to contend for a second major championship, and former Queenslander Stuart Deane.
Previous Australian winners of the event are Jim Ferrier in 1947, David Graham in 1979, Wayne Grady in 1990 and Steve Elkington in 1995.
Let’s look at the current form of the Australians and assess their respective chances this week.
Just keeps churning out top tens in major championships, recording nine in his last fifteen appearances. He has been in the mix in each of his last two starts this season. He was 9th at the Open Championship and 8th at last week’s WGC event and he although he lost his number one mantle last week his form has hardly been an issue. A victory this week would have him back on top.
Scott has four top tens to his name at the PGA Championship with a best of 3rd in 2006 and has been 7th, 11th and 5th in his last three outings but it is his consistency and current form which provide the most reason for optimism. It is difficult to imagine Scott not being in the mix at some stage over the weekend and is a genuine chance to win a second major championship.
The quiet achiever amongst the Australians on the PGA Tour, Leishman is developing into quite an achiever. His capacity to handle the big stage has been highlighted by making it to the Tour Championship in his rookie season in 2009, his 4th place finish at the 2013 Masters, his win in Hartford in 2012, his 5th place at the Open Championship three weeks ago and his very impressive 3rd place last week in Ohio.
Leishman has recorded five top five finishes on the PGA Tour in this season alone and playing with the confidence level he must now enjoy he has to be respected this week. He might only be 39th in the world at present but he shapes a real chance this week.
In another place and another time Day would be one of the favourites this week but his recent injury and then illness concerns leave a cloud over his prospects. There is little doubting his capacity to eventually win majors and several of them but the uncertainty about his wellness is of concern to those that might otherwise have fancied his chances.
Three runner-up finishes in major championships highlight his capacity to contend at the absolute elite level and as he displayed when 4th at the recent US Open he could still be a factor despite the disruption to his schedule this year. Perhaps though there are too many factors working against him at present.
Ogilvy’s late inclusion in the field courtesy of his long overdue return to form and victory last week in Nevada leaves the door open for a much improved major championship effort this week. When at his best Ogilvy is more than capable of winning major championships and World Golf Championships but his victory last week, although impressive, was recorded under the modified stableford format and we might need to see further improvement before we are convinced of his genuine return to top form. Either way it is good to have him in the field and heading back to where he used to be.
Following a fine stretch of golf through April and May, Senden has just gone off the boil a little in recent starts. Amongst that earlier stretch was his best ever finish at Augusta National when tied for 8th and his win in Tampa. If he can rediscover that level he could again contend in an event where he recorded his best ever finish in a major when 4th in 2007.
Jones confirmed with his victory in Houston this year what many have known for some time, namely that he was capable of winning on the PGA Tour. Like Senden, however, his form has dropped off in recent times although two of his recent starts where he finished well back were in relatively unfamiliar conditions in Britain. I find it hard to see him contending however.
Bowditch broke through for his first PGA Tour title in San Antonio earlier in the season but has missed the cut in half the events he has played since. He has begun to play a little better again in recent starts however.
The event is just the third major championship in which Bowditch has played, one of those coming earlier this year at Augusta National when he finished a creditable 26th. Hard to imagine him contending but is more than capable of making the cut.
Deane’s is a great story. He may not be a name all that familiar to Australian golf fans but he has won a cheque for US$1 million when winning the shootout style Trump International in 2006.
From Brisbane originally, Deane moved to the US in the mid 2000’s and has played mini tours and wherever he could since. He now lives in Texas where he is a teaching professional. He has played occasionally on the Web.Com Tour and the occasional PGA Tour event but has secured his place in this elite field by finishing third at the recent PGA National Championship. Just to get a start in the event is an accomplishment for the 42 year old.