Keegan Bradley has an opportunity this week to win back-to-back PGA Championships, something no golfer not named Tiger Woods has done in 75 years. That said, you can make a strong argument in his favor.
Bradley, who has built a reputation as a great late-hole closer, is coming off an amazing victory last week in Akron following another Jim Furyk meltdown that rivaled his blowup at this year’s U.S. Open. Keegan’s win at last year’s PGA came in his first-ever appearance in a golf major.
Debut showings also apply to the site of this week’s PGA, the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, which was christened for the 1991 Ryder Cup. It’s a mammoth 7,676-yard, par 72 layout along the Atlantic Ocean, a hybrid club away from Charleston.
I spent 18 years in South Carolina and my golf experience recalls many horrible chips from the wetlands. The Ocean Course will make for incredible TV viewing and a favorable opportunity for Dustin Johnson, a native son who played collegiately at Coastal Carolina in the Myrtle Beach area.
By the way, the golfer other than Tiger to repeat as PGA champion was Denny Shute, who won consecutive titles in 1936 and 1937. As for those who played the Ocean Course in 1991, only Spain’s Jose Maria Olazabal is in this year’s field. And he’s a luscious 100-1 at LVH to win.
Back to the Ocean Course, it’s probably the only championship course outside the British Isles and Pebble Beach to be most dramatically affected by the wind. The field of 156 golfers includes each of the top 108 in the world rankings and 20 PGA club pros.
The favorite, of course, is Tiger at 13-2 (Sportsbook.com) because he almost always is. Does he deserve to be? No, especially the way he has struggled with a short game that will be severely tested at Kiawah. Put Phil Mickelson in the overrated category as well. John Daly has as good a chance to win this week as Lefty.
There have also been 17 straight majors ending with different champions. That eliminates Ernie Els and Wade Simpson, who skipped the British Open. And I’ll throw Masters champ Bubba Watson in this group, too. He’ll be all over the golf course and that’s big trouble. Add on Furyk and Adam Scott who have too much emotional baggage right now.
So who do we like? Well I look at golf handicapping the same way as horse racing’s Triple Crown and Breeders Cup. That means bet as many entrants as you can at long odds. For me, a Sweet 16 at $5 a pop.
The short 6
• Bradley: Love the karma off the Akron win and better yet, he really believes in himself. Capable of that repeat.
• Steve Stricker: So overdue in a major, Stricker is off a brilliant 64 in Akron with birdies on his last three holes.
• Matt Kuchar: He could smile his way to victory. Like Stricker, he’s so consistent and great driver of the golf ball.
• Ian Poulter: Have to include some international golfer. Poulter is a big-tourney player and the Ocean Course definitely suits his game.
• Bill Haas: Could certainly break through much like Bradley did last year and Martin Kaymer, a former world No. 1.
• Johnson: As mentioned earlier, his knowledge of South Carolina courses will be a big advantage. And his incredible length off the tee works well at the Ocean Course.
The back 9
• Nicolas Colsaerts (60-1): The PGA is famous for long shot champions. Colsaerts is a comer, much like Bradley was last season.
• Daly (200-1): JD has shed a bunch of weight and seems to have both his personal life and golf game for the first time in years. Played well last week at Reno/Tahoe.
• Luke Donald (15-1): The world’s No. 1 should benefit from the Ocean Course, but don’t see him finishing in the top 5.
• Jason Dufner (25-1): Runner-up to Bradley in last year’s PGA and one of golf’s most consistent players.
• Justin Rose: (40-1) Has a habit of winding up on “majors” leaderboards. Off nice effort in Akron.
• Louie Oosthuizen (50-1): Also played well in Akron, a major champ and excels on British type courses.
• Olazabal (7-1 field): Worth $5 as a lark. PGA known for surprise winners. Definitely would be a Cinderella story.
• Rory McElroy (20-1): An encouraging finish in Akron, but still not playing A-level game. Neither is his girl friend, former tennis No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki.
• Graeme McDowell (30-1): Almost a given now as a majors contender. Certainly worth a $5 wager.