PGA Championship tips: How to pick a winner at Bellerive
Two emerging European stars are poised for success at the final major of the season, judging by our research from the tournament's last 18 years.
New kids on the block
The PGA Championship has been a great platform in recent years for younger golfers to win their first major.
Since 2000, 10 players have picked up their first major title at the tournament, including in seven of the last nine years.
Given the recent trend of maiden champions – eight of the last 11 major winners were first-time winners – there’s a good chance of a breakthrough winner at Bellerive.
So, even though Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy are all attractive options at the top of the market, there’s better value elsewhere.
Given the trend of first-time winners at this event, it’s definitely worth swerving the older players in the field.
Of the last 18 PGA champions, 17 were under the age of 40 at the time of their win, so the wait will probably go on a little longer for veterans like Ian Poulter and Paul Casey.
Been there before
Although plenty of players win their first major at this event, PGA champions tend to be prolific winners who sit near the top of the world rankings.
Since 2000, 14 winners have been ranked inside the top 50 in the world, and 12 of those have been inside the top 20.
That’s not a great sign for Adam Scott and four-time champion Tiger Woods, who are currently ranked 76th and 51st, respectively.
Just two of the last 18 champions had won fewer than two PGA or European Tour events, so up-and-comers like Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay are best avoided this week.
Also, 16 of the last 18 champions had made the cut at the PGA Championship in the past, and 13 of those had done so in the previous season.
That means Justin Rose, Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson – all of whom missed the cut a year ago – are not worth backing on this occasion.
Coming in hot
It’s important to enter the PGA Championship on a decent run of form.
The last 14 winners had finished inside the top 30 in the start prior to the major, and three of those were coming off a win.
That bodes poorly for Jordan Spieth, who’s struggling for form and could only muster a T60 at last week’s WGC Bridgestone Invitational.
Spieth is also yet to win this season – another bad sign given that 15 of the last 18 PGA champions had already won that year.
Profile of a winner
Two emerging European stars are the only players who fulfil all of our criteria for this week at Bellerive.
Tommy Fleetwood picked up a T14 at Firestone last week and has already won this year at January’s HSBC Championship in Abu Dhabi.
The Englishman is currently ranked 11th in the world at the age of 27, has amassed four career wins on the European Tour and made the cut at last year’s PGA Championship, finishing T61.
One of the best players in the field to have not won a major, he looks a great bet this week.
Jon Rahm also has a strong chance this week.
The 23-year-old world No. 7 has won twice this year and five times in total, and was T17 at the WGC Bridgestone.
Rahm managed just a T58 at this event last year, but did at least make the cut. He certainly has the talent to win his first major.
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