Nick Bonfield runs the rule over some USPGA Championship outsiders who have a chance of doing something special at Quail Hollow
USPGA Championship outsiders worth backing
The USPGA Championship is usually the most unpredictable Major of the year – a product of the diverse nature of the field and the familiar courses over which it’s contested.
Indeed, a quick glance at the list of recent past winners brings up names such as Rich Beem, Shaun Micheel, YE Yang and Keegan Bradley.
This year, the vast majority of the field will have some course experience as host venue Quail Hollow has been a regular on the PGA Tour since 2003.
But which USPGA Championship outsiders could fare well this year in North Carolina? Let’s investigate…
James Hahn is a two-time PGA Tour Champion who won both those events in play-offs, which tells us something about his constitution. The American has solid stats and three top-20 finishes in his last five events, including a tie for 10th at the Canadian Open. What’s more, Hahn held off a stellar chasing pack to triumph in the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow last season.
Ever year, the name of a seemingly random American appears on the leaderboard at the USPGA Championship. Patrick Rodgers, a former World No.1 amateur, could be that person. He hits a big ball – something that’ll be useful on a par-71 layout measuring 7,600 yards – and he finished second at the John Deere Classic in his penultimate outing on the PGA Tour.
At this point, it’s borderline to call Tony Finau an outsider, but I can get away with it as he hasn’t won a top-tier PGA Tour event as yet. He reigned supreme in Puerto Rico in 2016, but that tournament took place alongside the WGC-Match Play Championship. Anyhow, Finau is a fine player who looks poised to do something special sooner rather than later. He’s a massive hitter with excellent long-game stats this season, and he’s recorded three top-seven finishes in his last six starts. He typically struggles with the flat-stick, but Steve Stricker gave him an hour-long lesson in Canada. If he can find some improved form with the putter, he could be right up there.
Webb Simpson hasn’t been in great form over the last couple of years, but let’s not forget he’s a multiple Ryder Cupper and a former Major Champion. Simpson played some good golf at Royal Birkdale and preceded that performance with a tie for 14th at the Greenbrier and an 8th-place finish at the Travelers. Simpson has an excellent short game and he also ranks 22nd on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green. He finished 2nd at the Wells Fargo in 2015, too. At 125/1, Simpson is my favourite of all the USPGA Championship outsiders.
I must admit I don’t know a great deal about Xander Schauffele, but he impressed me with his performance at the US Open and then went on to win the Greenbrier Classic a couple of weeks later. He’s long, he hits a lot of greens and he’s a decent putter – a good combination in any golf tournament. You can also find him at 150/1, which is a great price.