2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla GC
Rory McIlroy is in a groove as he enters the PGA Championship at Valhalla GC in Louisville, KY as a big favorite over the rest of the field. McIlroy roars into Valhalla with back-to-back victories, with a PGA win in the British Open and a WGC win in the Bridgestone Invitational. Over McIlroy’s last eight rounds of golf, he has combined to shoot 32-under par. McIlroy is the favorite at Bovada.lv 9/2, with Adam Scott (11/1), Justin Rose (16/1), Sergio Garcia (16/1), and Phil Mickelson (20/1) rounding out the top five.
Valhalla is a long course, but compared to some of the other courses on tour, it’s a pretty straightforward course without a lot of unforeseen hazards. This is a good course for the technical players and that could open some doors for a lot of guys that just play solid golf in all aspects of the game. Valhalla will play at just under 7,500 yards and a par 71 for Day 1 of this year’s PGA Championship.
McIlroy fits that bill as a technically-sound player. He drove for 35 more yards per drive than the field average at the Bridgestone Invitational and his putter was a key component in helping him chase down Sergio Garcia. Valhalla was designed by Jack Nicklaus, so it’s conducive to players with big swings because the first cut of rough is rather short and the fairways allow for a greater margin for error.
As of 2 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, the status of Tiger Woods for the PGA Championship was still up in the air. He was in the Louisville area and was reportedly surveying the course, but the rain in the forecast coupled with his play in the last couple of events may keep him out of the field. He won’t be a contender to win the event, but his name does drive ratings and it would certainly help for him to participate in the final major of the season.
Anoter one of the big stories out of Valhalla this week is that reigning tournament champion Jason Dufner is trying to play through some bulging discs in his neck in an effort to both defend his PGA Championship title and be a part of the Ryder Cup team. Another story has to be Garcia’s collapse at the Bridgestone. For a player that has a lot of talent, Garcia seems to falter on Sundays and he has rarely been able to close out a tournament. His psyche has to be in question for this one.
Dustin Johnson could have been in play for this tournament as one of the tour’s biggest hitters, but off-the-course transgressions have forced him into getting help for his problems. Looking at the top 10 in average driving distance, players like Robert Garrigus and Charles Howell III could see some time on the leaderboard because of their ability to shorten holes off the tee.
Weather could be a big factor at Valhalla with rain and thunderstorms in the forecast every day. That will soften the fairways and prevent some roll, but it will also benefit the players who have had success on approach shots over the course of their careers. If rain is in the forecast, second-shot accuracy will be where players can separate themselves from the field and have a great shot at taking home golf’s final major of the season.
Here are a few options to look into, with odds courtesy of Bovada.lv:
Jordan Spieth (35/1) – With all of the emphasis seemingly on driving distance, putting could make all the difference at Valhalla. Spieth is second on tour in one-putts per round and trails only Justin Leonard in average putts per round. Spieth is tied for 91st in driving distance, but the 21-year-old doesn’t have to outthink himself on this course. He can swing away and not worry so much about what lies down the fairway.
Charl Schwartzel (35/1) – Another candidate to win this event at 35/1 is Charl Schwartzel. Schwartzel played very well at the Bridgestone, but a third-round 73 kept him out of the top three. Schwartzel is a respectable 31st in driving distance and is tied for sixth in putts per round. Three of Schwartzel’s last five events have resulted in top-10 finishes, so he’s played pretty well overall.
Louis Oosthuizen (100/1) – You could do a lot worse at 100/1 odds than Louis Oosthuizen. This season hasn’t gone the way that he had hoped, but Oosthuizen is 17th in driving distance. He just hasn’t been able to get the putter going. With his ability off the tee, a lottery ticket at 100/1 isn’t the worst investment by any means.
Weather permitting, the first group should tee off at 7:30 a.m. local time.