Update Monday 7th August 2018: Steve Bamford has published his final US PGA Championship tips here.
The US PGA Championship is traditionally the final chance to capture a Major title each season and the 99th US PGA Championship is being held at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina from Thursday 10th August to Sunday 13th August. "Glory's Last Shot" as it's affectionately known in the United States is organised by the Professional Golfers Association of America (PGA of America) and 2017 sees the PGA Championship being played at a course we're all very familiar with, the beautifully classical Quail Hollow. Previous winners here of the Wells Fargo Championship include Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy (twice).
Now into our 8th season, Golf Betting System will as ever be hunting for profit with our US PGA Championship tips from Paul Williams and Steve Bamford. Golf Betting System has full 2017 coverage with outright, long-shot and alternative market selections, a full range of free tournament and player statistics, plus of course our famous statistical Predictor Model.
2017 sees the PGA of America sticking to its mantra of testing the world's best on a stretching golf course. The course has received a makeover since the PGA Tour's last visit here in 2016 from Tom Fazio which has seen 3 holes rebuilt and another green complex on the 11th hole changed beyond recognition. The course has also changed from a 7,575 yard Par 72, to a 7,600 yard Par 71. So expect a stretching classical test with tree-lined fairways and Carolina course overtures. Sounds like the perfect setting for a gun-fight between the likes of Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and the Quail-loving Phil Mickelson looking ripe for this extended test.
So what do you need to know about the host course, Quail Hollow? In recent times the PGA Championship has seen a plethora of long hitters getting the job done, with many capturing their first Major titles. The PGA of America's choice of Oak Hill in 2013 raised eyebrows as the classical, claustrophobic nature of the course was totally alien to its mantra of testing through course length. As it transpired the neat and tidy Jason Dufner won his first Major. Either side of Oak Hill, Y.E. Yang (2009), Martin Kaymer (2010), Keegan Bradley (2012), Jason Day (2015) and Jimmy Walker (2016) have, like Dufner, all captured first-time Majors. All can hit the ball a long way, as can Rory McIlroy who won this title in 2012 at Kiawah Island and 2014 at Valhalla. With driving distances of the winners at Quail Hollow measuring 291 yards, 321 yards, 334 yards, 306 yards, 286 yards, 303 yards and 314 yards since 2010 in typical conditions, don't expect the distance requirement to change in 2017.
What to Expect at Quail Hollow
This year's PGA Championship renewal gives punters a slight advantage with Quail Hollow being the first Major venue since Congressional in 2011 to be a regular PGA Tour host course. Yes, the course has undergone changes since the 2016 Wells Fargo Championship and it will play as a stretching 7,600 yard Par 71, but in reality Quail Hollow is a very typical PGA Championship venue where power will always be an advantage.
Quail Hollow Club has undergone some fairly significant changes over recent years. A Tom Fazio re-design in 2013 made its competition debut in 2014 for the Wells Fargo Championship. Driven by requests from the PGA of America to intensify the challenge, 2014 saw totally new hardier MiniVerde Ultradwarf Bermudagrass in usage across the greens, which replaced the tired A1 Bentgrass putting surfaces that were way past their sell-by date. The 15th fairway was also shifted and holes 15-18 were lengthened by a total of 70 yards to make the course play as a 7,562 yard Par 72. 2016 then saw the par-5 7th extended 13 yards (545 yards) taking the overall yardage to a bruising 7,575 yards from its tips.
After James Hahn won the 2016 Wells Fargo Championship, more Fazio-inspired work started on the course with a 90-day window allowing significant changes to the very start of the front 9. The 1st is now a 524 yard dog-leg right par-4, which was previously a sub-420 yard birdie opportunity. The 178 yard par-3 2nd hole is no more (it's been used to lengthen the 1st) and a new 184 yard par-3, namely the 4th hole, has been built to replace it. As a consequence the 5th has now been shortened from a 570 yard par-5 to a 450 yard par-4. A 100% new green complex has also been built at the 11th and the par-4 has been lengthened by 35 yards.
Undoubtedly all of these changes have been made to make Quail Hollow far more of a challenge and, at 7,600 yards, we haven't seen a longer par-71 since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. For the record, Congressional in 2011, which hosted the U.S. Open, was a 7,574 yard Par 71.
But from a detail perspective it's also important to note that in 2016 the greens were changed from MiniVerde Bermudagrass to Champion Bermudagrass. Similar Champion Bermudagrass greens can be found across PGA Tour stop-offs at Sedgefield Country Club (Wyndham Championship), TPC Southwind (FedEx St Jude Classic), the Country Club of Jackson (Sandersons Farms Championship) and the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (Barbasol Championship). The 2011 PGA Championship hosted at Atlanta Athletic Cub and won by Keegan Bradley also featured Champion Bermuda putting surfaces.
Quail Hollow Club, Charlotte, North Carolina: Designer: George Cobb with 2013 & 2016 Tom Fazio re-design; Course Type: Classical; Par: 71; Length: 7,600 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 4; Fairways 419 Bermudagrass; Rough: 419 Bermudagrass 3"; Greens: 6,500 sq.ft average featuring Champion Bermudagrass; Tournament Stimp: 12.5ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 71.84 (-0.16), Difficulty Rank 25 of 49 courses. 2013: 73.04 (+1.04), Difficulty Rank 10 of 43 courses. 2014: 72.55 (+0.55), Rank 13 of 48 courses. 2015: 71.92 (-0.08), Difficulty Rank of 20 of 52 courses. 2016: 72.95 (+0.95), Rank 9 of 50 courses.
Quail Hollow is very much a classical golf course with Carolina connotations. When I say Carolina think Pinehurst Number 2, Harbour Town Golf Links, Sedgefield and even the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook which despite being in Florida has the feel of a Carolina golf course - so traditionally tree-lined with narrow sight lines from the tee.
The key to winning at Quail Hollow has always been to score heavily on the par-5s and play the other holes at around -3/4 or slightly better. Clearly the emphasis on the par-5s will be even greater at the PGA Championship with players now only getting 12 looks across the week at the easiest holes. To contend a player will need to master the 7th, 10th and 15th holes. From the par-5s the course simply gets tougher. For a start, 3 of the 4 par-3s measure 208, 223 and 249 yards. The par-4s are just as difficult with the closing 'Green Mile' stretch of the 16th-18th featuring a newly extended 508 yard par-4, a 223 yard par-3 and the famous uphill closing hole which is a 494 yard par-4. It's hardly a surprise therefore that 17 and 18 are traditionally one of the hardest set of closing holes on the Tour. With the freshly extended 524 yard 1st hole, 8 of the other par-4s measure over 450 yards.
With winning scores typically at -14/-15 here in recent years on the PGA Tour, Quail Hollow is clearly about making plenty of birdies on the shorter par-4s and the par-5s as bogeys really are unavoidable elsewhere. For me it's all about powerful, high approach and fearless, attacking golf at the end of the day, similar to the skill sets required at Augusta. Hardly surprising therefore to see the amazing Quail Hollow records of Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods plus other strong classical golf course players like Rickie Fowler, J.B. Holmes, Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Bubba Watson, all of whom have either won or contended at Quail Hollow. With a longer course, allied to a move to a Par 71 format and tough pure Bermudagrass rough, with fast conditions expect scoring around the -10/-11 mark being close to the winner's total.
Below are some revealing comments about the new course and how it's likely to play in 2017:
Jimmy Walker: "We're used to playing it with rye grass everywhere. It has a potential, with the pure Bermudagrass layout, 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: 'Am I going to get the big jumper?' Or 'Will I get the really soft shot that comes out?' "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 thought the new holes were great. The 1st has got a beautiful look to it. It's reminiscent of the original tee shot and it opens up nice down there to the right, and the green, you can see the entire green. I love being able to see kind of where you're going.
All the new green complexes are very nice. They are not too tricky. They have got a lot of flat spots. They have got some movement in them but they have got flat spots where you like to put the pins and there's plenty of room. Just I thought it looked really good. It's going to be fun playing with all Bermuda. It will be a completely different test."
Rory McIlroy: "The changes are good. It definitely makes the start of the golf course more challenging. The first hole, now instead of it being 3‑wood and a wedge, it's a driver and a good mid‑iron. I think you won't really see guys getting off to the hot starts that they used to. You see guys maybe, especially those first six holes, you'd see guys 3‑ or 4‑under par. I don't think that's going to happen now. And then the rest of the golf course is pretty much the same. Obviously they have lengthened 11 a little bit. But what they have done on 16, 17 and 18 over the years has stayed pretty much the same.
I like the changes. I mean, I obviously like the golf course the way it was before. My record around there is pretty good. I fancy my chances around there. But it's always been, I guess, a modern player's golf course. You've got to, if you can drive it a long way, there's an advantage there, especially coming in with the driveable par-4, 14th and in; the par-5 15 and the long holes coming in. So yeah, I think people will really enjoy it this year. It's a great venue for a tournament and it will be a great venue for a Major, as well."
Here are some additional player comments about Quail Hollow from recent Wells Fargo Championships:
Phil Mickelson: "I love playing here. I love what they've done to the golf course, softening some of the contouring. The beauty of Quail Hollow is in its simplicity. Tee to green one of the best layouts we have. It's really one of our best courses we have. It's a course, again, that I feel like I should play well on. The irony of the situation, I've actually won at Sawgrass last year - last week's event which is just unbelievable. I haven't won here where I really have - it's such a perfectly suited golf course for me that here at Quail Hollow that that's kind of the irony of the situation."
Adam Scott: "Yes. It's much like all the great courses of the world, really, where when you play well you get rewarded and if you're not quite on your game it is a real challenge and a struggle to get it around in a good score. That's the beauty of the best designed golf courses, they reward good shots. And thinking about the course, even though I haven't played here for a few years, there's a real opportunity, 5 through 15 to have a really great round with par-5s that are reachable, eagles. You can really have a good score. I think back to a couple of rounds where I've got it going, been 8-under through 11 holes and when in the same breath you can go out and just miss a few shots in the wrong spots and you're struggling to be even par. That's what all the great courses have."
Webb Simpson: "I think 16 was a hole, before that it was a tough hole, now it's a really tough hole. I think the wind is going to affect that hole a good amount. If you get it downwind, the fairways are firm, you could have a short iron, but it's 510 yards, whatever it is, that there are going to be some guys hitting woods in this week. Then 17 is extremely long as well. I've been hitting 4 iron or hybrid it seems like every day. So a lot of it is going to be dependent on the wind. But they're extremely difficult. I can't think of three holes in golf, including majors that are tougher finishing holes than these."
Quail Hollow: A Tom Fazio re-design Carolina course which is hard, but fair.
Lets take the final skill statistics from the last 7 winners at Quail Hollow since 2010. This gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
Tournament Skill Averages:
With a course the length of Quail Hollow and the fact that the PGA Championship roll-of-honour is dominated by longer types, you'd expect that Driving Distance is a critical aspect when it comes to winners here and you'd be 100% correct. In McIlroy, Holmes and Fowler we have true bombers who keep themselves close to the top of the Driving Distance statistic. But in reality any regular 290+ yard hitter as per Lucas Glover and James Hahn cannot be ruled out, especially if they're straight hitters - worth remembering that the pure late-summer Bermudagrass rough at the PGA Championship will act as a greater deterrent when it comes to being able to hit greens consistency well. Indeed Greens in Regulation at Quail Hollow is the joint most important skill set of winners here on what looks like to be a true ball-striking test.
This totally differs to Baltusrol, the host course last year, where both Jimmy Walker and (in 2005) Phil Mickelson triumphed showing real caution off the tee on the measured holes by taking shorter clubs for position. Baltusrol was far more about natural putting ability.
Winners, Winners, Winners!
14 of the last 17 PGA Champions (82%) had already won a tournament in the season prior to winning the PGA Championship. That is a trend worth noting, but 2 of the past 4 Champions namely Jason Dufner (2013) and Jimmy Walker (2016) had been winless in the calendar year entering the PGA Championship.
|PGA Winner||Season Wins|
|2015||Day||Torrey Pines, Glen Abbey|
|2014||McIlroy||Wentworth, Hoylake, Firestone|
|2011||Bradley||TPC Four Seasons|
|2007||Woods||Torrey Pines, Doral, Quail, Firestone|
|2006||Woods||Torrey Pines, Doral, Hoylake, Warwick Hills|
|2005||Mickelson||TPC Scottsdale, Pebble, TPC Sugarloaf|
|2004||Singh||Pebble, Houston, New Orleans, Warwick Hills|
|2000||Woods||Pebble, Bay Hill, Muirfield, Pebble, St Andrews|
Better Use Bridgestone
With the PGA Championship back in its regular August spot on the PGA Tour schedule, there are no doubts that the World Golf Championship status Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone year after year proved to be a real indicator of who would win the PGA Championship. Since the Firestone-based tournament became the PGA ‘warm up’ in 2006, the winner of the PGA Championship had always been in the Bridgestone field and had always finished in the top 22 of the tournament.
|PGA Winner||Bridgestone Finish|
With Quail Hollow placing a premium on Greens in Regulation from distance, similar to Firestone decent form in Ohio prior to tee-off in North Carolina still appears a great correlation. From a hot form perspective, 2016 saw the Olympic Golf Competition creating massive changes with the WGC Bridgestone Invitational moving to July. Instead the RBC Canadian Open directly preceded the PGA Championship, where Jimmy Walker finished fast on Sunday to grab 11th spot at Glen Abbey.
Excellent immediate tournament form was key to both Mickelson and Singh's triumphs in 2005 and 2004 respectively. Mickelson finished 10th in Colorado before jumping on his private jet to New Jersey and winning the following weekend at Baltusrol. Singh won his prior tournament 2 weeks before the PGA at Warwick Hills, before travelling across to neighbouring Wisconsin to capture his 3rd Major at Whistling Straits. Even Rich Beem in 2002 won at Castle Pines (The International) and then won a fortnight later at Hazeltine.
Driving Distance is the Key
So what's the key player attribute that a PGA Championship winner needs in his arsenal to get the job done? Well with the PGA Championship being played on a stretching 7,600 yard, Par 71 a premium advantage will inevitably return to longer drivers of the golf ball. In recent times that's always been the case. Taking 2013's exceptionally tight Oak Hill set-up out of the overall picture, every winner of the PGA Championship since 2004 has been a 290+ yard hitter from off the tee.
|PGA Winner||Season Driving Distance (Yards)|
Author Steve Bamford, preview updated 4th October 2017 . Our 2017 US PGA Championship tips will be published on Tuesday 8th August. You may also want to read our other Major previews: US Masters Preview | US Open Preview | Open Championship Preview
Steve Bamford's final US PGA Championship tips for 2016 were published here