Course profile and features
The Straits course at Whistling Straits is a lengthy, exposed links style track set in the backdrop of Lake Michigan. A number of par 4’s will play around the 500 yard mark and they’ll be extremely tough to navigate in the wind. The land is lined by grassy dunes and sandy waste areas but room is available from the tees.
The Straits course, designed by Pete Dye, can now stretch almost 7,800 yards to the tips and it exceeded the 7,500 yard mark in the 2010 renewal. Deep pot bunkers feature throughout the windswept terrain. Unlike traditional links courses, subsoil is not 100% sand based while Bentgrass and other strains are predominant over Fescue. Balls can be played more through the air in softer conditions and pins can be attacked.
Distance off the tee could be key
It's no coincidence that Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson - ranked 2nd and 3rd in Driving Distance respectively in 2010 - were fighting it out at the top of the PGA Championship leaderboard. Bubba was propelling drives up around the 350 yard mark on the Sunday on the Straits Course.
Rory McIlroy ranked 12th in Driving Distance on the PGA Tour in 2010 and missed a birdie putt on the 72nd that would have forced him into the playoff. The powerful Nick Watney - 20th in Driving Distance that year - held a 3 stroke lead (-13) after 54 holes only to blow up with a final round of 81. Winner Martin Kaymer ranked 29th in driving distance on the European Tour in 2010.
Birdies are the brief
69 birdies and 3 eagles were recorded at the 2010 PGA Championship between the aforementioned Kaymer, Bubba, Johnson and McIlroy alone. Throw 36 hole leader Matt Kuchar and 54 hole leader Nick Watney into the mix and the tally rises to 100 birdies and 5 eagles between the 6 players - an average of 17.5 par breakers. A figure of 4.583 strokes gained vs par per player per round is strong for a major championship test.
Nick Watney started his third round with a string of 5 birdies in his first 7 holes.
It was also round three where Wen Liang-Chong hit the course record 64 with eight birdies and no drop shots. In all, Liang circled 19 birdies in 72 holes. Matt Kuchar was top of the charts after 18 as well as holding the 36 hole lead, carding totals of 67-69 (-8).
An extremely strong bias towards big hitting birdie makers. The aggression factor is high and with the potential of up to 300 yards extra added in 2015, this looks a prime area to target when trying to profile a winner
DJ, Bubba and Watney occupied three of the top 5 spaces in the birdie or better % stat on the PGA Tour in 2010. Matt Kuchar finished the season 8th in that stat.
A look back at the history books
In 2004, a three way playoff was contested for the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. Vijay Singh, Chris Di Marco and Justin Leonard all finished on a total of -8. It was a tough final day with seven players actually lying on the eventual winning total of -8 or better after just 54 holes. Singh and Leonard began round 4 sitting on scores of -12 and -11 respectively. Eventually, it was the Fijian who emerged victorious.
Vijay Singh topped the birdie or better percentage rankings for the calendar year 2004 with a clip of 25.30%, edging out Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Coincidence? Vijay sat 13th in driving distance on the PGA Tour that year enroute to setting the single season earnings record, which still stands at $10,905,166.
An extremely strong bias towards big hitting birdie makers. The aggression factor is high and with the potential of up to 300 yards extra added in 2015, this looks a prime area to target when trying to profile a winner in the USPGA Championship Outright market for the Straits Course.
The 2015 PGA Championship on paper doesn't look like an event that will throw up an unexpected winner. Targeting and dutching a selection of aggressive, big hitting birdie makers in the 12.00 to 30.00 odds range of the betting market should be given due consideration and may prove fruitful. It might also pay to oppose the shorter hitters in the outright and match betting markets in this year’s PGA Championship renewal.
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