Nick Bonfield analyses the field and comes up with five players to avoid at the USPGA Championship
Players to avoid at the USPGA Championship
Somehow, the year’s fourth and final Major is upon us.
It seems like just yesterday that Danny Willett was slipping on the Green Jacket, but with a congested summer schedule owing to golf’s reintroduction to the Olympic Games, the USPGA Championship has been brought forward.
This year, Baltusrol, in New Jersey, is the host venue. It’s a long, tough layout characterised by deep bunkers, thick rough and slippery greens.
It last staged the USPGA Championship 11 years ago, when Phil Mickelson reigned supreme with a score of eight-under-par.
But who will succeed and who will fail in 2016? I’ll let my colleague Jake O’Reilly answer the former, and tackle the issue of players to avoid at the USPGA Championship when it comes to betting.
USPGA Championship preview podcast:
This might seem like a strange choice, given his success in 2005 and the fact he played such brilliant golf at the Open Championship, but I just can’t picture Lefty lifting the Wanamaker Trophy.
He was so downcast in his post-Troon press conference and I just wonder if he’ll be able to shake off the blues and focus on the task at hand. Who knows, it could have been Mickelson’s last shot at Major glory. That’s a thought I guarantee has run though his mind. Plus, no one over the age of 40 has won the USPGA Championship in the last ten years. Mickelson is 46.
Justin Rose finished third at the USPGA in 2012 and fourth last year, but I’m not expecting fireworks this time around. The Englishman has endured something of a stop-start season, partly due to a back injury that plagued him during May and June.
It’s not been a bad season by any stretch of the imagination, but he doesn’t have much momentum and his putting is a real cause for concern. He ranks 130th on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting and looks very shaky from six feet and in. What’s more, nine of the last ten USPGA Championship victors had won already that year. Rose hasn’t.
Shane Lowry played very well in the US Open at Oakmont – a golf course that isn’t dissimilar in nature to Baltusrol. However, his form is a slight concern. The Irishman missed the cut by a distance at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open and took that form into the Open Championship, where he opened with a 78.
Furthermore, his PGA Tour statistics aren’t overly impressive – in fact, he’s outside the top 90 on tour in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green, Strokes Gained: Putting and Greens in Regulation Percentage – and eight of the last ten winners came from inside the world’s top 25 (Lowry is 28th).
I have concerns about Jordan Spieth’s mindset going into the USPGA, having witnessed his rather disconsolate pre-Open press conference where he talked at length about the burden withdrawing from the Olympics has had, and will continue to have, on him. He’s struggling to recapture his sensational 2015 form, his body language is a little off and things don’t seem to be coming naturally to him at the moment.
While Spieth continues to put well, he’s not hitting many fairways and he ranks 118th in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green – not ideal when you consider he’ll have a number of long-irons in his hand at Baltusrol. However, we must remember he’s won twice on the PGA Tour this season, and that he led The Masters by five shots heading into the back nine on Sunday.
On his day, Louis Oosthuizen is up there with the very best in the world. However, he’s struggled to find consistency this season and hasn’t recorded a top 10 since the WGC-Dell Match Play in March. That’s partly due to ongoing back issues, which flared up again before the Open Championship.
His record in the USPGA Championship is also underwhelming for a player of such calibre. In seven starts, he’s failed to register a single top ten, with his best result a tie for 15th in 2014.