This Thursday, the second Major of the golfing season will get underway at the famous Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma; the USPGA Championship.
Last year, Phil Mickelson was the surprise winner of the tournament, claiming his second USPGA Championship title and in doing so, becoming the oldest player ever to win a golf Major at the ripe old age of 50 years.
This year, after Scottie Scheffler’s maiden Major victory at The Masters at Augusta National last month, the American World Number 1 is one of many professionals from all over the globe looking to at the prestigious Wanamaker Trophy to their cabinet.
In our article today, we are going to look ahead to the tournament, take a look at the course, the history of the event and of course, we will take a look at some of the players that should have the game to perform well at Southern Hills.
As always, any odds shown for any of the competitors are taken from Bet365 Sport, where you have extensive pre-tournament and In Play betting throughout the event available.
Let’s begin first by taking a look at the history of this famous golfing major.
The USPGA Championship – A History
Following on from The Open and the US Open, the USPGA Championship was the third Major to be contested and was first established in 1916.
The tournament was originally played in August each year, before the change in the scheduling for the Golf Majors each year saw it moved to May (with The Players Championships at Sawgrass vacating its May date and moving to March).
In addition, prior to 1958, the tournament was also a matchplay event, before it switched to a strokeplay tournament in that year and has remained a stroke play tournament, the same as the other Major tournaments, ever since.
As is the case with the US Open and British Open, the tournament is played at different courses around the United States each year. Last year’s tournament was played at Kiawah Island and before that the tournament made a rare trip West to TPC Harding Park in San Francisco in 2020.
Tiger Woods has four victories in the USPGA which puts him second on the all-time list behind joint leaders Walter Hagen and Jack Nicklaus who both have five wins apiece. Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen are next on the list after Woods with three wins apiece, while a number of players have landed two wins.
American players have won all of the last six events and the last non-American to win was Jason Day back in 2015. Additionally, the last five winners of the tournament have all landed their victories by the same margin – two shots.
Last year was the first time the winning player took home over $2 million, with Phil Mickelson pocketing $2.16m for his victory at Kiawah Island.
However, last year’s Champion will not be defending the title this year as he continues his self-imposed exile from PGA Tour Golf following comments he made about the Tour and the new Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour.
Southern Hills – Course History And Guide
Southern Hills has hosted the tournament four times previously. In 1970 Dave Stockton won his only USPGA title there and in 1982 it was Ray Floyd who landed the second of his two wins in the tournament.
In 1994, Nick Price also won his second USPGA Championship at the course and most recently, back in 2007, Tiger Woods landed his fourth USPGA Championship win at Oklahoma’s most famous course.
The course has undergone something of a major redesign in 2018/19, which has really changed the course a great deal. Around 300 yards as added to the total length of the course with the alterations, but perhaps more tellingly has been the changes in the green complexes.
Southern Hills used to have greens fringed by rough which would often capture errant or poorly hit shots. Now, the greens have been elevated more, with the rough cut away and run offs developed, which means any poor shots will now run down the slopes and away from the green, which makes hitting the green all the more important.
Signature holes include in the 10th, 12th and 18th, all relatively long par four holes, with the 18th viewed my many as one of the toughest closing holes in professional golf. There are also two monster par-5 holes, both of which are well over 600-yards in length.
Despite the added length, the course still remains one that your approach shot, and play around the green, will be more advantageous than being able to hit massive distance from the tee.
And as such, that does mean that there are a number of golfers that you may not ordinarily expect to feature in the reckoning for a Major title, who could well be in for a good week in Oklahoma.
The USPGA Championship Field – Who Stands A Good Chance Of Success?
While the two 600+ yard holes will certainly favour the longer hitters on the tour, with some of them likely to be able to reach the green in two given favourable weather conditions, the majority of holes will tend to favour players who are accurate with tee shots and who can hit solid approach shots with regularity.
In addition, players that can scramble well from around the green and regularly get up and down in two, often from some difficult positions using creative shots, should also thrive at the venue.
The bookmakers have Scottie Scheffler as the 11/1 favourite, with Jon Rahm at 12/1, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas at 14/1, Jordan Spieth at 18/1 and Collin Morikawa and Patrick Cantlay both at 20/1.
For my money though, the player to watch here is Shane Lowry. The Irishman has seen his price come in from 33/1 earlier on this week to 28/1 now and there is a good reason for that.
Lowry is in fine form, he is long from the tee, but also accurate and his approach play ranks in the top five on the USPGA Tour this season. Then of course, he is renowned as being one of the best players on the tour from around the green, with many envious of the touch and creativity the Irishman shows.
It’s not like Lowry is a Major novice. He is a former British Open Champion and showed his qualities to finish third in the Masters in April. He is also well-rested ahead of the event having had some time off in the run up to the second Major of the year.
The action begins on Thursday morning, around mid-day UK time and it promises to be an intriguing four days of high-quality golf.