For the first time ever, I couldn’t consider Woods at any price. Last week’s performance made for unbelievable viewing, and dispelled any lingering doubts over whether his game is in total crisis. Clearly he hasn’t been practising, and needs a substantial break to sort his life out. Few expect to see him again in 2010 after this week. Even without those negatives, I doubt Whistling Straits is his track. He missed the top-20 here in 2004, and is expected to be troubled by the numerous hazards.
Phil held a strong chance on the final day here in 2004, but it must be remembered that it came during the best spell of his career. That year, he contended strongly in all four Majors, even the Open Championship. However, while I don’t fancy him around a narrow, penal linksy layout, I’m not going to read too much into Mickelson’s disastrous final round at Firestone. Long-term watchers will know he is never one to trust once his chance has gone.
There was much to like about McIlroy’s performance last week, even if he never got into serious contention. As in Ireland seven days earlier, Rory hit plenty of marvellous approaches without capitalising often enough, and undid the good work with mistakes elsewhere. That remaining weakness, plus the fact he’s still only won two titles and is an unproven front-runner, makes his 18/1 quote too short for me, but I’m sure he’ll be there or thereabouts.
Champion in 2008, a strong contender last year and a links specialist, Padraig deserves serious consideration. A top ten at Firestone was a decent follow-up after finishing second in the Irish Open, but there were enough problems with both performances to deter me from a bet. Harrington remains wildly inaccurate off the tee, and while Killarney and Firestone offered escape routes, Whistling Straits will be less forgiving.
Sunday’s winner could very plausibly go back to back. Mahan’s superb ball-striking skills are tailor-made for most Major venues, and Whistling Straits, looks ideal in that respect. He looks just the type of strong home candidate that has often historically made their breakthrough in the PGA.
Nobody has registered more top-tens on the PGA Tour this year than Goosen, whose putting touch appears to have returned. A consistent record in majors, including on links, entitles him to great respect.
Having given us no run for our money at Firestone, Donald was never likely to be retained, but he does rate the strongest English candidate in my view. Luke made the top 25 in 2004, and has become a much more accomplished scrambler since.
Yet again, the remarkably consistent Kuchar ticks all right boxes in terms of stats. He remains well overdue, and after challenging strongly last week, should at least improve on a poor PGA record.
As a dual Pebble Beach winner, Dustin is proven on US links layouts. He’s registered top-15 finishes on five of his last seven starts, including two Majors.
Casey has struggled to find his top form of late, and was worryingly inaccurate at Firestone. He’s best watched for now.
With top-six finishes on six of his last 11 starts, few can boast better recent form. Top 15s on both cracks at The Open also bode well for Overton, although he looked seriously nervy when losing the lead on his penultimate start.
Though the bare result suggests otherwise, if his greens in regulation stats are to believed, Fisher maintained his stellar form at Firestone. That is easily forgiven as he’s yet to show any aptitude for those putting surfaces, so Ross still rates one of the leading European hopes.
Kaymer already looks a threat in the biggest events, making the top ten in both the last two Majors and also in last year’s PGA. We need a big week for his Race to Dubai challenge.
Twice a winner already in the States this year, Rose made the shortlist. He’s generally very accurate, a good scrambler and has plenty of form on links layouts.
GMAC’s four results since winning the US Open have been solid if unspectacular. That victory at Pebble Beach entitles him to enormous respect around another US links.
Another winner-in-waiting, Nick was in contention going into the final day at Firestone. Top tens at Augusta and St Andrews also confirm he has the pedigree for Majors.
BO VAN PELT
Sunday was Van Pelt’s fifth place payout in what has been by far his best ever season. He looks a man on the up, and another high finish looks likely.
With seven PGA Tour titles to his name and fourth place in this year’s Masters, Choi could easily fit into the Major winners’ club, and this one is his best chance. KJ has four top 25s from his last six PGA attempts, with the best effort coming on this course in 2004, when beaten by just two shots.
Four Aussies made the top 25 at Whistling Straits in 2004, including Appleby, who has made that mark in eight of his last ten PGAs. The balance of form over the past couple of years must make him an outsider, but that 59 to win the Greenbrier Open a fortnight ago enhances his claim considerably.
The defending champ has proved that 300/1 shock to be no fluke since, but has rather gone off the boil since winning the China Open in April.
Leonard lost the play-off in 2004, and has bounced back in recent weeks after a poor spell. Placed 14th in the US Open has been followed by top 25s on his last two starts.
Stenson has finished top six in the last two PGAs, and also made the places at St Andrews. That performance in The Open was his sole highlight of 2010, however.
Another big-occasion player with a good PGA record, never missing a cut and registering three top tens from six. There were hints, albeit vague ones, of a return to form over the weekend.
Crane did nothing for us last week, but the fact he made the top ten in 2004 here could be a clue, as he is much improved nowadays.
Having looked a candidate every time he teed it up earlier in the year, Poulter’s form has fallen apart since the Masters. He looks up against it.
2010 STATS: -53pts
LONG-TERM ALREADY ADVISED
5pts MARTIN KAYMER TO WIN THE RACE TO DUBAI @ 9/1
More USPGA Championship: