Golf betting: Matsuyama ticks all the boxes for the US PGA Championship as Spieth chases Grand Slam record


US PGA Championship overview and betting market

High. Towering. Irons. I have these words asterisked in my notes on Quail Hollow and this along with total driving efficiency is the key stats theme I'll be following for the PGA Championship. Exactly the same as Firestone actually. Expect the leaderboard this week to have a similar look to that of the WGC Bridgestone. The engine for our assault on the PGA Championship - the last major of the year - will be not one, but two Thomases who fit the bill.

Past champs in Rickie Fowler - 17.00, Lucas Glover (Clemson University man and course specialist), and Rory McIlroy bring a bit of a right to left ball flight trend of Quail, as did Patrick Rodgers chasing down the Irishman with a great display using his then high "draw" shot in 2015, but we have a couple of new left to right doglegs implemented within the course changes at Quail this year.

Last week's WGC Bridgestone winner Hideki Matsuyama - 11.00 - equipped with his efficient total driving (14th) and towering proximity (27th) tick the boxes here. The Japanese topped the strokes gained tee to greens stats at Firestone and ranked first in greens in regulation. Four of Hideki's wins on the PGA Tour have now come on tracks with a huge premium on total driving and proximity, and it's no coincidence: TPC Scottsdale (x2), Muirfield Village and Firestone CC. Quail Hollow is probably number two on the rotation behind Muirfield in this aspect. I've actually earmarked the 25-year-old for Quail and put him up in this column due to said premium but while he always finished well, he never really got into first gear on this course. I wondered about my fade and fast greens theory but looking at his previous Firestone stats, which showed an average finish of only 28th in four starts, they are similar to Quail Hollow. I think the slower greens and softer conditions at Firestone helped last week but he should push for back to back wins at Quail.



JB Holmes - 101.0 - did win at Quail Hollow using the power fade but from my notes it was with a fairways hit clip of just 45.2% in 2014 and maybe the left to right shape was indeed tougher to keep in play. JB led the driving distance stats that year and primarily "gouged his way to the win", from the rough I jotted down. Derek Ernst was another previous, and a random winner at Quail Hollow who excelled in the total driving department and actually topped the total driving stat leading into the week of his defence. With the new left to right holes this year the total driving theme is the prevalent one.

Jordan Spieth - 9.50 - bids to become the youngest ever player to achieve the 4 Major grand slam. This is his last chance to take the record from Tiger. It's Quail Hollow specialist Rory McIlroy - 8.00 - who leads the US PGA Championship market though. His game just fits the course perfectly and two wins and a playoff loss demonstrate this. Rory has hit rounds of 61 and 62 at Quail Hollow and tops the scoring average, to-par, and par breaker stats here since 2010. He is simmering with top five finishes back to back at the Open Championship and Bridgestone.

US PGA Championship Course: Quail Hollow Club, 7,600 yards, par 71

Quail Hollow has seen changes before the 2017 US PGA Championship. The opening stretch has been ripped up and made tougher. The 5th is a dogleg right par 4 - one for the faders. No 1. is also a dog leg right now and lengthy at over 500 yards from the tips. A number of trees have been removed to give added sunlight to the greens. The 8th and 14th are reachable risk & reward par 4s but the "Green Mile" - arguably the toughest closing triumvirate of holes on tour - remain unchanged. Driver will be used on most holes at Quail.

Greens here were changed from Bentgrass to Bermuda a few years back but now the previously overseeded Rye fairways and rough make it Champion Bermuda grass everywhere. Bermuda all over means conditions can be even faster and firmer, and the rough tanglier and more unpredictable. There has been some rainfall in the area but in saying that, we are now in the peak of summer time and it's an average of 30 degrees Celsius daily in the Charlotte area currently.

Quail Hollow is a tree-lined parkland style course very similar to Congressional playing wise, and aesthetically it shares similarities with Augusta incorporating lush terrain, white sands and pine straw laden turf. Fairways are tough to hit at Quail. As alluded to, ripping it off the tee and propelling a high trajectory shorter iron into some of the largest greens on tour is the concoction for success around this track. Proximity to the hole is vital on the large surfaces averaging out over 6,500 square feet.  Big deep sandy bunkers surround them and some surfaces are elevated, as are parts of the course. Radar Riley talked about the subtle undulations and mentioned putting downhill was tough in 2016. The greens were extremely fast from above the hole at circa 14 on the stimp. Wayne said they rivalled Augusta that year, and they battled Memorial at Muirfield Village in this respect.



They said... 

Jimmy Walker - 101.0 - who grew up on Bermuda had this to say after playing the revamped Quail hollow course: "We're used to playing it with rye grass everywhere. It has a potential (with Bermuda) to play really firm and really fast. That's when golf gets really hard - when you start losing control of the golf ball. Bermuda rough tends to fly a lot, or it could come out where you get some horrendous lies. Guys are going to have to deal with that. Even around the greens, Bermuda rough is very hard to chip out of. The greens ought to be fast, and that's the biggest variable, I would think."

I can’t think of three holes in golf, including majors, that are tougher finishing holes than these,” said Webb Simpson - 126.0, referring to the Green Mile (course member and local resident). Both players are worth a look this week at a price.

 

US PGA Championship Best value bets

Justin Thomas - 41.00 - was 7th here at the 2015 Wells Fargo but out of form preceding a MC in 2016. Thomas sits 11th in driving distance and was 3rd in strokes gained tee to green and 6th in GIR at Firestone last week. He ranked 5th in approaches. He was 8th in driving distance. It was on the greens were Justin lost over five strokes to the field for whatever reason, but he still finished under par in 28th place. I like his game for Quail Hollow and a better week on the greens should see him contend. Thomas broke the low round major record at the US Open recently shooting -9. Interestingly, he recorded a T4 finish at Memorial earlier in the year.

Thomas Pieters - 46.00 - demonstrated his credentials for Quail Hollow with his tee to green attributes at Firestone last week. Pieters flushed his irons all week in the Bridgestone and led for 54 holes. He also excels in the short game department. Pieters' temperament gets the better of him at times and the Belgian looked a frustrated figure on Sunday, having traded as low as 2.46 for the win. I'm going to stick with my prediction that the players who contended last week will do so again at a Quail Hollow Club requiring the same attributes. Thomas is on top of his game and possesses all the aforementioned skills required for the US PGA Championship test.



Paul Casey - 51.00 -  ranks 9th in strokes gained tee to green and third in approaches in 2017. He sits 12th in total driving and 18th in proximity. He topped the stats in SG: Approach at Firestone en route to a T5. The Englishman comes here off the back of 6-12-22-10-26-5-11-5 form, starting at the Masters and incorporating US Open and Open Championship finishes in that stretch. I think it's a case of I can't leave him out with these stats, especially as he fits all the trends I'm looking for nicely, and he's priced up generously.

 

US PGA Championship sleeper watch

A strong theme down the Wells Fargo Championship leaderboards through the years at Quail Hollow is one of local Carolina residents and or Clemson University grads going well and the strongest link is course specialist and former winner Lucas Glover - 201.0. Again, Glover ticks all the boxes and is outspoken in his love for the track. The tee to green machine even clocked a top 10 finish here last season when seemingly out of form. That top 10 would have been a top 5 if not for a bogey on the 72nd hole. The Clemson man has been sneaking along quietly this season with top 10s at Bay Hill and at The Players Championship. The Major winner ranks 27th in prox and 6th in total driving in 2017.

Two more players with the same style as Glover and who fit the total driving and high approach proximity criteria we're looking for in the profile this week are Keegan Bradley - 176.0 - who isn't on many people's radar I shouldn't imagine, and Ross Fisher - 201.0. Former US PGA Championship winner Keegan is really catching my eye here with sneaky 8-5-50-14 current form figures. He led the strokes gained off the tee category last time out in Canada and most significantly he leads the tour overall in total driving in 2017.

Ross Fisher has course form of 29-43-10 in three visits to Quail Hollow and Ross has had an extremely consistent season. He owns no less than six top 10s and opened with a 67 at Firestone last week. Again I just love his playing style for Quail Hollow: He's one of the best total drivers on the European Tour and not many hit the ball as high as he does from approach shots.