Five Picks For The PGA Championship
27 July 2020
The world’s best golfers will descend upon TPC Harding Park in San Francisco to contest the first major of the year from August 6-9. The rescheduled PGA Championship will offer an $11 million prize purse, and the prestige associated with winning one of just three majors in 2020 will be immense. It will therefore be a fiercely competitive event, but these are the five leading candidates for success:
The controversial Californian has taken the PGA Tour by storm since emerging from the lockdown with an extra 20 pounds of weight. He has packed on thick slabs of muscle, and his driving distances have been positively monstrous. DeChambeau, who previously irked his fellow pros due to his slow play, is now on course to break the season record for average driving distances. Some pundits have called for his long drives to be curbed, but such drastic measures will not happen any time soon, and DeChambeau has been on a tear since the PGA Tour resumed.
He won the Rocket Mortgage Championship, and finished T3 in the Charles Schwab Challenge, T6 at the Travelers Championship and T8 at the RBC Heritage. DeChambeau is now up to seventh in the world rankings and he looks well placed for an assault upon the majors. His game will not suit every course, but you need to achieve long distances off the tee to thrive at Harding Park – it had 400 yards added to it in 2005, and there is a driveable par-4 16th plus a 480-yard sweeping hole around Lake Merced to wrap it up – so it could really play to his strengths. DeChambeau has a pretty woeful record at majors, but he looks like a different animal this time around.
Koepka is a 19/1 outsider to win the PGA Championship with some bookmakers. That is a pretty astonishing price on a man that has won this tournament for the last two years in a row. Koepka’s record at majors is remarkable in recent years: he won the US Open in 2017 and 2018, and the PGA Championship in 2018 and 2019, and finished T2 at the Masters and T4 at The Open Championship last year. He has since gone off the boil somewhat, slipping from the top of the world rankings all the way down to sixth following a poor run of results, and he also has a suspect knee.
However, he has an uncanny ability to raise his game at the majors, and he will be very dangerous at the PGA Championship. Koepka has been written off before, and he will relish the opportunity to prove his doubters wrong yet again. There are many perilous holes on the back nine at Harding Park, and it will take nerves of steel and a calm demeanour to flourish there. Koepka has the mental strength to succeed, and at that price an each-way punt looks tempting. For those who get in on the action early, Koepka represents excellent value.
Momentum is usually a crucial factor for the PGA Championship and the Spaniard is on fire right now. He has just leapfrogged Rory McIlroy to storm to the top of the world rankings for the first time in his career. Rahm is just 25, but he wrapped up a fourth PGA Tour win when he finished three shots clear of Ryan Palmer at last week’s Memorial Championship. He also has six European Tour wins under his belt, and now it is time for him to join the ranks of major winners.
Rahm has secured several top-10 finishes at majors in recent years, and he finished T4 at the PGA Championship in 2018. He has proven his ability to win everywhere, from Dubai to Ireland to San Diego, and he will get straight down to business at Harding Park. The last four PGA Championship winners have hailed from the United States, but Rahm is the leading contender to break that streak. He is also blessed with supreme levels of composure, and that could put him in the mix on the final day of this tournament.
It seems risky to include the Ulsterman in a list of the top-five contenders to win a major. After all, he perennially goes into these events as the outright favourite and always finds a way to disappoint his fans. He won four majors in a devastating burst between 2011 and 2014, but he has not added to his haul in the subsequent six years. We always hear that we can now look forward to seeing a more mature McIlroy in action, a man ready to remind everyone why he is regarded as such a special talent, but something always seems to go wrong.
Yet there are some positive signs. There is not much past form to study at Harding Park, but McIlroy won the WGC-Cadillac Match Play there in 2015. It is a course that rewards players for good shots, and the power he generates off the tee should serve him well. If he displays the requisite levels of mental strength, McIlroy could win this tournament comfortably. He is the most talented player on the tour, and he has spent most of the past year atop the world rankings, so it would be exhilarating to see him add to his tally of majors at Harding Park.
The South Korean was in magnificent form before the Covid-19 pandemic brought play to an untimely halt. He won the Honda Classic, he was third at the Arnold Palmer and he moved to the top of the FedEx Cup points list, suggesting he was on the verge of breaking into the elite group of players at the top of the game. He has not been able to replicate that form since the restart. A T10 finish at the Charles Schwab was as good as it got, and he has finished off the pace or failed to make the cut in his subsequent appearances.
However, Im is a grinder. If he can find a way to recapture the performance levels he displayed earlier this year, he could make great waves at Harding Park. He is just 22 years old, and he has the exuberance of youth could help him get the better of some of his more vaunted rivals. Earlier this year, Im was among the favourites for the PGA Championship. You can now find 66/1 or 80/1 on him at some sports betting sites, so he might make a good long-shot.