Rory Back On The Strait And Narrow
Rory McIlroy makes his comeback this week and at double figures, poses excellent value to defend his USPGA title at Whistling Straits this week.
The USPGA Championship, the fourth of the season’s Majors, was established as a professionals-only tournament in 1916, at a time when the game was run by amateurs, and it retains that professionals-only ethos today. Amateurs can, in theory, qualify, but only by winning one of the other Majors, and they receive no explicit invitation, whereas twenty places are reserved for club professionals.
This year the tournament returns to the Straits Course at Whistling Straits, Haven, Wisconsin, the venue for the 2004 and the 2010 editions. It’s a faithful replica of a Scottish or Irish seaside links course, laid out alongside a stretch of Lake Michigan, and features enormous greens, fiendish bunkers and significant undulations. At over 7700 yards it’s one of the longest courses on the PGA Tour and a real test.
In The Bunker
According to the market, Jordan Spieth has the edge over Rory McIlroy this week, but I’m not so sure. Spieth certainly showed he could cope with links golf when taking the US Open at Chambers Bay, and a tenth at the WGC Bridgestone last week hardly represented a dip in form. But the return of the world number one means he won’t have things his own way for the year’s final Major and at 13/2 he looks too short.
It isn’t often that you are able to back Rory McIlroy at double-figures odds, but that is the case this week and he should top your shortlist. He’s over the ankle injury that kept him out of the British Open and the WGC Bridgestone and while his enforced absence will have been hugely frustrating for him, it should mean that he’s fresher than his competitors this week.
He’s had plenty of time to readjust to the course, where he finished third in 2010 and he looks a solid bet at 10/1.
Bubba Watson was a tempting 33/1 for the WGC Bridgestone Invitational last week, and although his price has tumbled following his second place at Firestone, there is still a touch of value to be had about the double Masters winner.
Aside from missed cuts at the US Open and the British Open, he has been in good form, and has proven himself on this course, taking the 2010 edition to a play-off before losing out to Martin Kaymer. At 16/1 he’s worth sticking with at Whistling Straits.
Five years ago, Dustin Johnson led this event by one shot with one to play, only to suffer a bogey at the final hole and a two-shot penalty for grounding his club in a bunker, which left him in a tie for fifth. That experience should be motivation enough on his return to Whistling Straits, and although his last two outings at St Andrews and Firestone ended in disappointment, he was in contention at the halfway stage in both tournaments. Back him to bounce back this week at 16/1.
*Prices correct at time of publication