Golf tips: How to pick a winner at the PGA Championship
Jack Green examines the trends from the past 20 years at the PGA Championship and picks out one player who fits the profile of a winner.
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With golf’s major season finally here, it’s time to pick a winner at the PGA Championship.
Brooks Koepka is the two-time defending champion at this event, and the American is the joint favourite to make it a three-peat this week.
The field at Harding Park is extremely strong, however, and a look at the trends from the past 20 years of the competition reveals a surprise name who fits the profile of a winner.
While the Open tends to favour the more experienced players and the Masters suits golfers who have had at least a few cracks at Augusta in the past, the PGA Championship has been the place that many younger golfers have made their breakthrough in recent years.
Since 2000, 19 of the 20 winners of the PGA Championship have been under the age of 40, and eight of the last 10 were under 30.
Seven of the last 11 winners had never won a major prior to lifting the Wanamaker Trophy, although Koepka has recently defied that trend.
The PGA Championship certainly does favour those playing in their home country, with 13 of the past 20 winners having been American, including each of the last four.
European stars like Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy obviously have the talent to win this week, but history suggests the title will most likely stay in the US.
There have been a few surprise winners in the past two decades at the PGA Championship, including world No. 169 Shaun Micheel in 2003 and world No. 110 Y.E. Yang in 2009.
For the most part, though, the tournament has been won by the stars near the top of the world rankings, with 15 of the past 20 champions having been ranked inside the top 25.
A place high in the rankings usually means a player has been in good form, so it’s no surprise that most recent champions were coming off a good result in their last start before the PGA Championship.
Of the past 20 winners, 18 had placed inside the top 30 in their previous start, including each of the past 16.
This time around, then, we’re looking for a player who performed well at last week’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
Only three of the last 20 winners had not already won an event in the year of their triumph, so we’re also looking for a player who has won on the PGA or European Tour in the 2019-20 season.
That narrows the field somewhat, leaving out contenders like Xander Schauffele and Koepka, who has struggled for form for much of this year.
Finally, though there’s not much course form to go on this week – Harding Park has only been used for a couple of WGC events in the past 15 years – it is important that players have had some success at this event in the past.
Since 2000, 15 of the 20 winners had previously earned a top-20 finish at the PGA Championship.
Fifteen of the last 20 winners had also made the cut in the previous year’s PGA Championship, meaning we can leave out any player who didn’t make the cut or play in this event last year, including joint favourite Justin Thomas.
Taking all the above criteria into account, only one name remains.
Daniel Berger has been in fantastic form this season, particularly since the restart.
The American won the Charles Schwab Challenge in June, taking his career tally to three PGA Tour wins, and has climbed to 20th in the world rankings.
At 27, Berger fits the age profile of a typical PGA Championship winner and he’s played well at this event previously, finishing T12 in 2018.
He made the cut last year and is coming off a runner-up finish at last week’s WGC event.
Berger clearly fits the bill, and look a great bet this week at .
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