Who’s going to win the US PGA 2014? By studying recent US PGA Championships, it’s possible to pinpoint the golfers most likely to get their hands on the Wanamaker Trophy at Valhalla.
1. Accurate iron play is key at the US PGA – nine of the last 10 champions have hit more than 64 per cent of the greens they’ve aimed at in that calendar year.
A glance at this season’s greens in regulation statistic reveals it’s time to say goodbye to ‘streaky’ iron players Jonas Blixt, Steven Bowditch, Roberto Castro, Ben Crane, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Rickie Fowler, Chesson Hadley, Russell Henley, JB Holmes, Ian Poulter, Charl Schwartzel, Scott Stallings and Kevin Streelman.
2. Only Gene Sarazen in 1922, Ben Hogan in 1948, Jack Nicklaus in 1980 and Tiger Woods in 2000 have ever won the US Open and US PGA in the same calendar year.
Sadly, we end the hopes of current US Open champion Martin Kaymer.
3. No male Japanese golfer has ever won a major, with Tommy Nakajima’s 3rd place finish at Oak Tree in 1988 being the nearest miss.
So we have to dismiss the hopes of Sayonara Ryo Ishikawa, Hideki Matsuyama and Koumei Oda.
4. Major form is necessary if you want to be US PGA Champion – 20 of the last 25 winners had previously recorded a top-six finish in a major.
So… Raphael Cabrera-Bello, George Coetzee, Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson, Harris English, Matt Every, Tommy Fleetwood, Stephen Gallacher, Branden Grace, Bill Haas, Charley Hoffman, Charles Howell III, Mikko Ilonen, Matt Jones, Chris Kirk, Pablo Larrazabal, Shane Lowry, Joost Luiten, Matteo Manassero, Francesco Molinari, Ryan Moore, Kevin Na, Seung-Yul Noh, Ryan Palmer, Patrick Reed, Kevin Stadler, Richard Sterne, Brendon Todd, Jimmy Walker, Marc Warren, Bernd Wiesberger and Gary Woodland.
5. Life doesn’t begin at 40 in the US PGA. Just two of the last 30 winners – Lee Trevino in 1984 and Vijay Singh in 2004 – have been aged 40 or over.
So we must dismiss Rich Beem, Thomas Bjorn, Mark Brooks, Angel Cabrera, KJ Choi, Darren Clarke, John Daly, Stuart Deane, Steve Elkington, Ernie Els, Frank Esposito, Jim Furyk, Padraig Harrington, David Hronek, Thongchai Jaidee, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Paul Lawrie, Davis Love III, Jim McGovern, David McNabb, Shaun Micheel, Phil Mickelson, Colin Montgomerie, Kenny Perry, Rod Perry, Steve Schneiter, John Senden, Vijay Singh, Jerry Smith, Bob Sowards, Steve Stricker, David Tentis, David Toms, Dustin Volk, Boo Weekley, Lee Westwood and YE Yang.
6. Valhalla’s major winners make birdies – 1996 US PGA champion Mark Brooks averaged 3.69 per round that calendar year.
With that in mind, we cut anyone averaging less than 3.6 birdies per round in 2014. Namely: Erik Compton, Peter Hanson, Freddie Jacobson, Marc Leishman, Hunter Mahan, Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen and Brandt Snedeker.
7. Since the US PGA became a strokeplay event in 1958, only Tiger Woods, has defended the title (’99/’00, ’06/’07).
Thus we bid farewell to last year’s champion Jason Dufner.
8. Twenty of the last 21 US PGA winners had previously registered a European Tour or PGA Tour win.
This information means we can discount Michael Block, Jamie Broce, Rob Corcoran, Brendon de Jonge, Graham DaLaet, Ryan Helminen, Kim Hyung-sung, Brooks Koepka, Johan Kok, Aaron Krueger, Anirban Lahiri, Brian Norman, Matt Pesta, Chris Stroud and Eric Williamson.
9. Americans have won each of the four major strokeplay events played at valhalla – 1996 US PGA, 2000 US PGA, 2004 Senior PGA and 2011 Senior PGA.
With regret, we strike off remaining international players Paul Casey, Jason Day, Luke Donald, Ross Fisher, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy, Thorbjorn Olesen, Justin Rose, Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson.
10. Finally, 14 of the last 15 US PGA winners have averaged more than 285 yards from the tee during that season.
So our final cut erases Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson.
Keegan Bradley, Billy Horschel, Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson.
And our winner is….
We’re not certain Tiger Woods is the player he used to be, or if Billy Horschel or Dustin Johnson have the mental strength to win a major, or if Bubba can win two majors in one year. Which leaves Keegan Bradley. He might not have won since August 2012, but he has a great record in this event, he hits it miles, makes a lot of birdies and tends to save his best golf for the second half of the season. The fact his 4th place in this year’s US Open mirrors the 2013 US Open performance of 2013 US PGA Champion Jason Dufner seals it.