The year’s final Major takes place this week at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York. Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy will defend his title in the USPGA Championship.
An extremely strong field has assembled for this event and excitement is high as a number of the world’s best players are heading into the event with excellent form.
Tiger Woods will come into this week’s tournament as the strong favourite having cruised to victory in last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The World Number 1 hasn’t tasted Major success since the U.S. Open of 2008. He’ll be aiming to end his Major drought this week.
Could there be a showdown between Woods and his old rival Phil Mickelson? It’s certainly a possibility with Mickelson claiming the most recent Major title at Muirfield last month. The left-hander is a firm favourite with the New York fans.
Also in the field will be the year’s two other Major winners, Adam Scott and Justin Rose, plus a host of stars from the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia.
Last year, Rory McIlroy produced a superb display of golf to leave the field in his wake at Kiawah Island. The Northern Irishman closed with rounds of 67 and 66 to win by eight strokes from England’s David Lynn.
The East Course at Oak Hill Country Club was built in 1926 to a Donald Ross design. The layout has a rich history and is the only club to have hosted a: U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, PGA Championship, Senior U.S. Open, Senior PGA Championship and a Ryder Cup.
In 1968 Lee Trevino won the U.S. Open here and Curtis Strange took that title in 1989. European golf fans will remember Oak Hill as the site of Europe’s thrilling, one point victory in the Ryder Cup of 1995. The course was also the venue for the USPGA Championship of 2003 in which Shaun Micheel ran out as an unlikely winner.
The USPGA Championship owes its inception to the department store owner Rodman Wanamaker. At the start of 1916 he convened a meeting of leading golfers and other important golf industry figures to discuss the formation of a professional golfers’ association.
The result of this gathering was the founding of the PGA of America. Seven months later the organisation contested its inaugural ‘Championship’ at Siwanoy Country Club.
Wanamaker put up the prizemoney and trophies for that first tournament and suggested the event should be similar to the British ‘News of the World’ tournament – a matchplay event. From 1916 right up to 1957, the USPGA Championship was played to a matchplay format. Since 1958, the competition has been strokeplay.
The weather for this week looks promising and, with a little luck, the event will be completed without disruption. Temperatures look like being warm and only a slight breeze to contend with.
Venue: Oak Hill CC, Rochester, New York
Date: Aug 8-11
Course stats: par 70, 7,163 yards
Purse: $8,000,000 Winner: $1,445,000
Defending Champion: Rory McIlroy (-13)
Thursday 8 – Sky Sports Xtra from 1pm
Friday 9 – Sky Sports Xtra from 1pm
Saturday 10 – Sky Sports 3 from 4pm
Sunday 11 – Sky Sports 3 from 4pm
Tiger Woods will be the man to beat at Oak Hill, if he can maintain the form he showed in Firestone. But with odds of 3-1, he’s not an appealing prospect on the betting front. Who else might be in the running this week?
Keegan Bradley – Runner-up at Firestone last week, albeit distantly, Bradley is a determined competitor and one of the straightest, longest hitters on the circuit. He was the 2011 USPGA Champion at Atlanta Athletic Club.
Jason Dufner – He’s coming back to form with tied fourth place finishes in both the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the U.S. Open. He’s extremely consistent from tee to green and, if he can get the putter going, he’ll be a contender.
Matt Kuchar – Perhaps the PGA Tour’s most consistent performer, Kuchar has made 22 straight cuts on the circuit and posted seven top-10 finishes in 2013. His straight, error-free game should be ideally suited to this track.
Henrik Stenson – The Swede is a real form horse at the moment with second place finishes at Firestone and Muirfield in recent weeks. He has what it takes to win a Major and this could be his time.
Key hole: 17th. At 509 yards this will likely play as the most difficult hole on the course. It turns from left to right and demands a long and accurate drive, preferably struck with a fade. Thick rough lurks on the left and trees guard the right. Players will mostly be going in with long irons making it extremely hard to hold this undulating green. If the leaders can get through this without dropping a shot on Sunday afternoon, they’ll have done well.