Very few golf
fans agree on which is their favourite Major.
the glorious beauty of Augusta makes The Masters unbeatable; many are suckers
for the unique blend of history, quirkiness and intervention by the weather
that makes The Open what it is today; while others believe the sheer brutality
of the USGA's set-up sadism makes the arduous test of a US Open mesmerising
tournament you never hear people mentioning as their favourite, is the
US PGA Championship. It remains in many ways little more than a sort of
turbo-charged US Tour event, one whose only saving grace is its occasional
stunning choice of venues, such as last year's venue Whistling Straits.
year, though: the tournament goes back to a good-but-not-great golf club, the Highlands
course at Atlanta Athletic Club. It's the the sort of layout that you'd doodle
on your notepad during a boring meeting: ridiculously long, water coming into
play everywhere (including three of the final four holes), and full of the sort
of nonsense holes that sound cool but in reality are probably not much fun to
Take the 260-yard par-3 16th, for example. If the organisers make players use the back tees, many of the shorter hitters in the field will be forced to hit a 3-wood over the lake to a rock-hard green that has plenty of bunkers. It's utter madness to demand a precision shot over such a distance; as Darren Clarke said
earlier this week, it's downhill, "but it ain't that much f***ing
So who will be able to handle this beast? Long hitting
will surely be a pre-requisite for a winner, particularly if it gets close
since the final five holes are par 4s of 469, 470 and 507 yards, and par-3s of
260 and 207 yards, both of which require carries over water.
Add to that
an iron constitution: this is Georgia in August, folks, with both temperatures
and humidity set to be in the high 90s. It makes you sweat just thinking about
Bunker Mentality runs the rule over the top contenders, with the best available odds as of Wednesday.
----- The superstars -----
Martin Kaymer (35/1)
champion (pictured above left) hasn't had a top 10 in a stroke play event since winning in Abu Dhabi
six months ago. Plus, Kaymer's patchy record suggests he only really prospers
on courses that suit his eye, and the Atlanta layout is similar enough to
Augusta (where he has never made the cut) to make us think he'll flop.
Rory McIlroy (12/1)
BM is far
from convinced that the 22-year-old can make it two Major victories in three
starts, for the simple fact that he's head seems to be full of scrambled egg
mush right now. An out-of-character Twitter spat with an inane commentator
suggests he's fraying under the pressure of stardom. Chances are that McIlroy, just
like Tiger Woods, will have a year or so of missing out before he wins his
Luke Donald (14/1)
stretching his lead in the official golf world rankings, but his back nine flop
at Firestone last week was all too reminiscent of the old Donald, who continually
used to post top 10 finishes without ever finishing off a victory. As a Chicago
resident he'll handle the humid summer conditions, but the length of the course
(he's hitting fairway woods on some of those long par-3s) mean this won't be
the week for Luke to break his Major duck
Lee Westwood (15/1)
If we were
Westy, we'd have been pictured on course breaking a putter over our knees more
than once this season. The Worksop man's tee-to-green has been little short of
flawless, but his consistent inability to roll in the putts this season has cost him dear.
Missing the cut at The Open despite being the second best player in the field
from tee to green in the opening two rounds says it all. Despite his
encouraging finish last week, put your money elsewhere.
Phil Mickelson (25/1)
up at Atlanta Athletic Club 10 years ago, Lefty is a proven and prolific winner
of both normal tournaments and Majors and he looks to have everything needed to do well this week: long
hitting, imperviousness to hot weather and the sort of putting and short game
skill that any Major winner needs. He's been all over the place this season, mixing
missed cuts with top 10s, but we still fancy him to bring it home on Sunday
night and right the wrong done to him a decade ago.
Tiger Woods (25/1)
to imagine getting better odds on Tiger (pictured top right) at a Major, and it's also hard to
imagine being less tempted to back the former world number one. With his game
in disarray due to swing changes, a search for a proper caddie still ongoing
and his gammy leg still a question mark, it's just impossible to see him
winning this week. Write off Tiger at your peril, so they say; well, not this
time. We're completely confident saying that Woods won't win.
----- The likely lads -----
Adam Scott (25/1)
victory at the WGC-Bridgestone last week was so effortless and complete a
performance that it's hard to imagine he won't contend - at least in the
opening rounds. Ironically, the fact that caddie Steve Williams took the spotlight
away from him by having a pop at former boss Tiger Woods in his post-tournament
interview might help: it should help ease the pressure slightly, and give the
Aussie a chance of finally landing the Major that his talent deserves.
Jason Day (28/1)
young Aussie is a Major champion waiting to happen, and after finishing as
runner-up at both Augusta and Congressional this year he's irresistible value. A long
hitter, he'll be knocking irons into those tough long holes
Dustin Johnson (28/1)
Day, Johnson is both a Major winner in waiting and the sort of long hitter who should do well here. He
went to college in nearby North Carolina so should have plenty of crowd
support, and considering that only a rules snafu stopped him winning the title
last year he will be itching to go one better. The only worry is his failure to
enter the winner's circle for nearly a year, despite brilliant play. Does he
have the nerve?
----- The dark horses -----
Ryo Ishikawa (110/1)
Rickie Fowler: the Japanese superstar in the making is the young player with
the best chance of joining Rory McIlroy as a wunderkind Major winner this year.
You never know which Ishikawa will turn up though: in his last nine starts he
has missed four cuts and had four top-four finishes. But if he manages to turn
the afterburners on (as he once did in Japan winning a tournament with a final
round 58) he could win as convincingly as McIlroy did at Congressional in June.
Sergio Garcia (60/1)
and bad news for Sergio fans. The good news is that top 10s at both the US Open
and The Open show that his putting, and his game under pressure, seem to be coming
back to him at last. Don't worry about that poor finish last week at Firestone:
he's always struggled at the tournament even when in his pomp, and always been
the sort of player to turn it round from one week to the next. The bad news for
the Spaniard's fans is that he missed the cut on his previous visit to Atlanta
Athletic Club 10 years ago. Still, we'd love nothing more than to see El Nino celebrate
the late Seve Ballesteros's memory with a Major championship victory just a few
months after the great man died.
David Toms (55/1)
years of Toms's career appeared to have come to an end half a decade ago when
he slipped out of the world's top 10, but he ended a five-year win drought at
the Colonial just a few months ago, and the proven winner has also racked up a
second at the Players Championship and a third at Bay Hill this season. A top
10 last week shows that he is still in fine fettle - and more than that, this
Louisiana native knows exactly what it takes to play in hot, humid Deep South
summers. He proved as much when winning the US PGA Championship at this very
same course ten years ago, realising that he couldn't make the carry over the
water on the final hole, but laying up and then holing a 20 footer to beat Phil