Frazzled outlines his picks for the 2016 PGA Championship from Baltusrol, New Jersey and he has picks including Sergio Garcia, Matt Kuchar and David Lingmerth.
The 2016 PGA Championship is suddenly upon us, less than two weeks after the stunning finale to The Open Championship at Royal Troon. Whether this event can generate anything like the same level of Sunday excellence is debatable, but while The Open was fought out by two gladiators in Stenson and Mickelson, there is every chance that this will be a far more closely fought affair this week at the Balustrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey.
Those who took our advice and grabbed some of the 40/1 and 50/1 about Phil Mickelson for this event, as the drama was unfolding over the weekend at Royal Trron, will have a very nice bet running into this week, but we are starting afresh, with a look at the current markets in order to unearth the value, and hopefully a few winners in the coming days.
Baltustrol was designed by A.W. Tillinghast and opened in 1922. It has hosted 7 US Opens in the past, with the most recent being the 1993 renewal won by Lee Janzen. Since then it has undergone some changes ahead of the 2005 PGA Championship, which was the only one held at this venue and some further alterations have been made by Rees Jones since that event. These changes preserve the feel of the original classic design, but some of the bunkers have been deepened and relocated in order to give them more relevance off the tee for the modern power game. In addition new collection areas have been added to a number of greens, but in essence this will still play like Tillinghast envisaged. It will measure 7,428 yards this year and again will play to a Par 70. There are only two Par 5s on the course and they are the 17th and 18th holes, with the former set to measure a monster 650 yards when the tees are as far back as they can be.
Balustrol is a ferociously tough course by PGA Championship standards and while the winning scores for the past couple of years have been -16 and -20, this venue has never yielded a double digit under par winning score and Phil Mickelson won with a 4 under total of 276 in 2005, when only 9 players were under Par. The course consists of average width fairways, surrounded by penal rough and the greens are heavily protected by deep bunkers. The bentgrass/poa annua greens are not as small as many writers have stated given that they average 6,400 sq. ft, but they will run very fast are a so well guarded with bunkers and with collection areas, that they are likely to be very hard to hit. The course has the same type of feel as Firestone Country Club, which is also a tree lined venue of roughly the same length, with similar sized greens that are difficult to reach. It is no surprise to learn that Tillinghast provided consultation on the original design. The Bridgestone Invitational has always provided a very good guide to the PGA Championship and it is a pity that it has been moved from its slot just before the last major this year, as the Tillinghast links could provide an even stronger form guide this time.
Like Donald Ross venues, Tillinghast course have a very similar feel to them and form at his venues seem to correlate very well, so it is worth noting the other Tillinghast designs that are played on the Tour.
His originals are;
- Bethpage Black - Hosted the 2002 & 2009 US Opens and also the 2012 Barclays
- Winged Foot - Hosted the 2006 US Open
- Ridgewood Country Club - Hosted the 2008, 2010 and 2014 Barclays.
In addition he reconstructed Medinah, which hosted the 1999 and 2006 PGA Championships and the 2012 Ryder Cup.
The course length and design and the comments from the players thus far, very much suggests that this is a venue where long accurate driving will be crucial. In this regard we will be looking at the Total Driving Stats as a key guide to this week. In addition Greens in Regulation will be very important, while scrambling skills will be crucial with so many run-off areas. Putting will obviously be important, but it may be players that can have a very good week with the putter to compliment the rest of their game that will thrive. You cannot be putting to save par continuously this week and this is a course that will have to be played from the fairway from the most part, in order to have a chance of winning. In addition Par 4 Scoring will be crucial, given that there are 48 of them to be played and only 2 of them played under par in 2005.
Form at Tillinghast designs will also be hugely persuasive and our selections will certainly include players that have produced excellent finishes at his venues.
Bigger prices were available on Sergio in the past few days, but at 25/1 he remains our first pick this week, simply on the basis that he is in terrific form, has outstanding form at Tillinghast venues, has precisely the game needed for this week and the wins for Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson in the last two majors will surely act as a major incentive for him to remove his name from near the top of the list of the world's best players never to have landed a big one.
Sergio has been runner up in this event twice, he has also finished 3rd and has 10th and 12th place finishes to go along with his near misses. He has not been on the radar in recent renewals, but he arrives here on the back of a win in the Byron Nelson, which was his first on the PGA Tour for about 3.5 years and this has been followed with 5th place finishes in both the US Open and The Open Championship.
Sergio has simply outstanding form at Tillinghast courses, with finishes of runner up in 1999 and 3rd in 2006, when this event was played at Medinah. He has also been 3rd in the 2012 Barclays at Bethpage and 4th in the US Open when staged at Bethpage in 2002. He was also runner up in the 2008 Barclays at Ridgewood and he has been runner up in the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone in 2014. His game is in great shape at the moment and he ranks 3rd in GIR, 18th in Total Driving, 11th in Strokes Gained Tee to Green and 66th in Par 4 Scoring.
There is always a concern that he simply will not get over the line in a major and it is not helped by some hostile crowds that he has had to contend with in some US majors, but this simply looks like a great opportunity for him and with his personal life very settled and the inspiration that can be drawn from Dustin and Henrik, who have had numerous major near misses in the past, he is the automatic first choice this week at 25/1.
1.5 points each way Sergio Garcia at 25/1 with Paddy Power, Coral and William Hill (1/5 odds - 7 places)
I am pretty sure that we have never tipped Matt Kuchar up for a major in the past and he is a player that we have rarely selected in PGA Tour events. This has been down to the fact that he can be questionable under pressure right at the business end of an event and his price at the start does not always compensate for that. However at 50/1 with Coral this week, he looks worth taking an interest in from the start, as he arrives here with his game in great shape and this is a venue that should very much suit his game.
Kuchar has already won on a Tillinghast course in the past, as he won the 2010 Barclays at Ridgewood and he was also 5th when the event returned there in 2014. He was also 3rd in the Bridgestone Invitational this to go along with previous finishes of 8th and 9th so he has the form on relevant courses that we like to see. Kuchar also has won some of the bigger events in Golf, with a Players Championship victory in 2012, a World Matchplay win in 2013 and wins in other significant events on some of the best courses on Tour, including The Honda Classic and The Memorial Tournament.
This season, he has been in excellent form,even if he has not won a title (which is a negative on the trends). He has 9 Top 10 finishes, which include his 3rd at Firestone, and also 3rd places in The Players Championship and the Byron Nelson,. He was also 9th last week in Canada, which was ruined by a triple bogey in the final round, but if he has won last week, he may well have been 10 points shorter for this event, so this has worked in pour favour.
His game has been rock solid this year and he ranks 54th in Total Driving, 34th in GIR, 12th in Strokes Gained Tee To Green, 13th in Total Putting and 5th in Par 4 Scoring Average. He also lies 9th in Bogey Avoidance and 24th in Round 1 Scoring average, so on a course where a fast start and protecting a score could be essential, he certainly is playing the type of golf required. Kuchar has a best finish of 7th in this event, but has been 3rd and 5th in The Masters and in the year of the nearly men converting misses into their first major, he looks to have an excellent chance this week. He is a player that we will trade on Sunday if he is in contention, but at the outset, 50/1 makes plenty of appeal with 7 places being paid each way.
The 1997 US Amateur Champion played his last US Amateur event here in 2000 before turning pro later that year. This looks the perfect place to mark the biggest achievement of his over 15 years as a professional on the PGA Tour.
1 point each way Matt Kuchar at 50/1 with Coral (1/5 odds - 7 places)
David Lingmerth is now ranked 50th in the world. He has PGA Tour title and 5 Top 3 finishes in his 4 years on Tour and he looks underrated in the market for this event. He might have made it two career wins but for snatching defeat from the laws of victory, when losing to Jason Dufner in the Career Builders Challenge earlier this season. Since that runner up finish, he endured a slump, but has bounced right back recently with a solid 27th in The Memorial Tournament, followed by 12th in the US Open and an excellent 7th last time in the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. This 7th place finish followed a 6th place the previous year and the form at Firestone is very encouraging with this week in mind.
Lingmerth also has some other excellent form in the biggest events, with a runner up position in The Players in 2013 and he has finished 17th in the 2013 US Open and 12th in this year's event at Oakmont. He ranks a very solid 49th in Total Driving this season, despite length being an issue. This is made up for by 17th in Driving Accuracy and he is 54th in Strokes Gained Tee to Green. In addition he is 47th in Par 4 Scoring Average, 53rd in Total Putting and 61st in Round 1 Scoring. With a potentially favourable early tee slot on Thursday, he could make a fast start to this event, as he has done on a number of occasions this year, including a 65 in the Sony Open, 66 in the RSM Classic and 67s in a number of other events.
He might still come up short and might make more appeal in some secondary markets, but 200/1 with Coral is insulting and with 7 places being paid each way, he is worth an interest here.
0.75 points each way David Lingmerth at 200/1 with Coral (1/5 odds - 7 places)