One of the intriguing betting markets related to majors is whether the winner will be a first time major winner and this time it’s difficult to assess. Having highlighted the credentials of Rory McIlroy for the USPGA Championship who has won four of the titles that matter most it might seem contradictory to suggest this week will see a new major champion but Hideki Matsuyama and Rickie Fowler are playing for that side of the market.
Matsuyama is the favourite in a number of markets including the leading player from Asia and top golfer from the rest of the world. The Japanese player is in the form of his life. His final round 61 to clinch the Bridgestone Invitational last Saturday was in his opinion the best he has played. The issue is whether he can maintain that level of form when he tees it up in the first round of the USPGA Championship.
The current world number three has won nine times in his last 20 starts which is Tiger Woods territory at his best in terms of strike rate. Golfers lose many more times than they win and there are up to 156 runners in tournaments. Matsuyama’s current level of form makes him the best player in the world even though Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth are above him in the world rankings.
Matsuyama has been knocking on the door in majors for a number of years. He has recorded six top 10s in the weeks that matter most. McIlroy has a great deal in his favour this week but Matsuyama can chase him home. In that case you would lose money if betting on a new major winner but collect on Matsuyama to be the top non-US player and rest of the world contender.
Fowler is in the bracket of “one of the best players to have not won a major” and he has also been getting close. He is proven at the highest level as a winner of the Players Championship which is known as the fifth major due to the quality of the field. Fowler finished 11th at the Masters and 5th in the US Open this year but did little wrong. He didn’t throw away a winning chance but others played better at the business end of both events and Fowler’s day will come.
Matsuyama and Fowler are the shortest in the betting of the non-major winners. Jon Rahm is also a member of that club and he is another major champion in waiting. However, on balance the betting suggests the winner of the PGA Championship this week will be winning a second or more major. However, it’s worth noting that before Spieth won the Open Championship there were seven new major champions.
The weather forecast for the Quail Hollow area suggests thunderstorms are highly likely. Golfers can play in the wind and rain but any treat of lightening will lead to play being suspended for the safety of players and spectators. Dealing with breaks and delays will present a mental challenge and could affect the winning score and margin. It makes sense to bet low in these markets and the course is a tough test.
In the last five Wells Fargo Championships played at the course the average winning score is 12 under but this week a much lower score can get the job done. In the seven year history of the event under this name there have been four Playoffs and two one shot wins. McIlroy won by seven shots in 2015 but that was exceptional and another hint that this could be his week. Tournaments at Quail Hollow are close run affairs that often go down to the wire.
There is often a bit of value in the market for a top 10 finish and some players are overpriced. The focus is on the leading contenders and sometimes a consistent performer in the majors is overlooked. Lee Westwood is the only player in the history of the sport to finish in the top three in all four majors without winning one. There have been some changes in his private and professional life and though winning this week looks beyond him he has enough in his favour to make the top 10.
McIlroy is the main tip to win the 2017 USPGA Championship but you should keep Matsuyama on your side in some of the related markets for a high scoring tournament that could be won by 1 shot or after a Playoff.