The fourth and final major of the year begins tomorrow at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, and it is going to be an extremely difficult tournament to call.

As Tiger Woods alluded to in his PGA Championship press conference, the golfing talent pool is as deep as it has ever been, with the gap between the best and the rest narrowing all the time.

This week, Keegan Bradley defends the title he won so memorably last year at Atlanta Athletic Club, and will be supremely confident after triumphing at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone.

The stats go against him defending, however, with only six players in the history of the game winning the event preceding a major and reigning supreme the following week.

The Ocean Course will provide a stern test this week. Winds are expected to buffet the course from the Atlantic, and a spate of wet weather means the 7,676 yard brute will be playing longer than usual.

This week, I have chosen three favourites, three mid-rangers and three outsiders, all of whom have a legitimate chance if things go their way.

Favourites

Dustin Johnson, at 25/1 with Ladbrokes, is very well priced. He has the power to deal with a long golf course, an understated ability to move the ball in both directions and a wide variety of shots in his locker. He enjoys playing golf by the sea, finishing in the top ten at the Open in the last two years and in the top 10 at Pebble Beach earlier this season. He also contended at the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, another Pete Dye monster, and won’t be caught out this year, as sandy areas won’t be treated as ‘bunkers’.

Jason Dufner is also 25/1 with Ladbrokes, and all the stats point to him having a run at the title this week. Last year, he blew a five-shot lead to finish in second place, and he will be desperate to prove himself this time around. He is fifth in Total Driving on the PGA Tour, sixth in Greens in Regulation, fifth in Bogey Avoidance and 20th in Scrambling.

Louis Oosthuizen
, like Johnson, is generously priced at 33/1 with Ladbrokes. He played some fine golf last week in coming up just shy at the Bridgestone, and really has the stomach for the biggest events on tour. He finished 2nd at the Masters, 19th at the Open and 4th last week, and already has two victories to his name in 2012. His all-round game is superb, and it would be a surprise if he wasn’t in contention come Sunday.

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Mid-rangers

Hunter Mahan, at 50/1 with Ladbrokes, hasn’t set the world on fire of late but, equally, hasn’t missed a cut in his last eight starts. He has two victories to his name this season in big events, and top-25 finishes in two of the seasons three previous majors. He currently ranks second in Total Driving and third in Greens in Regulation, a formidable combination at any major.

Padraig Harrington is worth a bet at 50/1 with Ladbrokes. He may be a touch erratic, but he is in good form and has a PGA Championship title to his name. He finished in a tie for 8th at the Masters and a tie for fourth at the US Open, and has only finished outside the top 20 in America on one occasion since May.

Martin Kaymer, at 80/1 with Ladbrokes, is a decent price, despite his recent form. He is a past PGA Champion and will draw on many positive experiences from Whistling Straits, a course with many parallels to the Ocean Course. He has shown some positive signs of late – finishing in a tie for 15th at the US Open and playing good golf for a couple of rounds at Firestone – and is far too talented a player to remain outside the world’s top 20 for much longer.

Outsiders

Geoff Ogilvy, at 100/1 with Ladbrokes, is another golfer who has under-performed over the past couple of seasons. He is a past major champion and a golfer with some serious pedigree, and a tie for 9th at the US Open and a top 25 at the Bridgestone could be enough to persuade some he is on the verge of rediscovering his best.

Martin Laird, at 125/1 with Ladbrokes, is well worth considering. He is one of the longest hitters on tour and takes his place in the top 25 on the PGA Tour for Greens in Regulation. He has recorded two second place finishes this season and if the wind gets up he will hold an advantage, having grown up playing links golf in Scotland.

John Daly might be worth an each way look at 250/1 with Ladbrokes. Granted, he is erratic and very unlikely to win, but he has past history with the PGA Championship, and his 5th placed finish at last week’s Reno-Tahoe Open was his best PGA Tour finish for seven years.

US PGA Championship suggested bets

2pts outright on Dustin Johnson at 25/1 with Ladbrokes
2pts outright on Jason Dufner at 25/1 with Ladbrokes
1pt outright on Louis Oosthuizen at 33/1 with Ladbrokes

1pt outright on Hunter Mahan at 50/1 with Ladbrokes
2pts each way on Padraig Harrington at 50/1 with Ladbrokes
1pt each way on Martin Kaymer at 80/1 with Ladbrokes

1pt each way on Geoff Ogilvy at 100/1 with Ladbrokes
1pt each way on Martin Laird at 125/1 with Ladbrokes
1pt each way on John Daly at 250/1 with Ladbrokes

Where next?

PGA Championship micro-site