2008 PGA Championship Preview and Picks

Tournament: The PGA Championship
Dates: August 7-10, 2008
Course: Oakland Hills CC (South) – Bloomfield Township, Michigan
Television: TNT/CBS

The year’s final Major is next up on the schedule with the PGA Championship from Oakland Hills CC taking center stage. The PGA Championship has often served as an end to the season, but with the FedEx Playoffs and Ryder Cup selections looming, many players will be looking to reach their playing peaks as the stretch run begins in earnest. The South Course at Oakland Hills serves as host to the Pros and will bring the typical tests associated with Major Championship Golf. The crown stands vacant coming into the event as the ’06/’07 champ, Tiger Woods, remains sidelined after knee surgery. Most of the top-100 in the world descend on Bloomfield Township, just outside of Detroit, to take their shot at winning a Major. Catch all the action with TNT carrying the early coverage on all four days with CBS picking up the primetime slots. XM radio has coverage throughout the week, complete with updates and interviews.

The Oakland Hills County Club is no stranger to hosting high profile events with The South Course serving as site for two previous PGA Championships as well as the 2004 Ryder Cup. The Course has seen changes since ’04, with bunkers added or moved as well as a narrowing of the fairways to go along with 300 yards of length added throughout the course. For the week, the par-70 track will measure 7,445 yards and will demand players to be long and accurate to get into position for birdie attempts. While the PGA typically features a shorter rough than the other Majors, the greens at Oakland Hills will play as hard as any course on Tour. The winner this week will need a complete effort to pull out the victory.

Each week, we take a look at the golf sportsbooks and break down some of the favorites to win. We’ll make a pick from a short, middle and long odds perspective and pick some head-to-head match winners as well. Odds to win and match-ups this week are courtesy of the board at Bodog.

Phil Mickelson
9 to 1 to win and 15 to 8 for a top-5 finish (including ties)
Lefty is the favorite again with Woods watching from home, but hasn’t taken advantage thus far as the best player in the field. Mickelson has a good Major record in ’08 with three top-20’s including a T5 at the Masters and is the ’05 PGA Champ. Phil was in position for the win at the Bridgestone last week, before a three bogey finish derailed a championship charge. Its hard not to like him this week, given his imagination around the greens and ability to play from the milder roughs at Oakland Hills if the driver is wayward. Mickelson is 3rd and 4th in birdie and scoring average and should take advantage of the two par-5’s as the Tour’s leader in par-5 birdie conversion %.


Padraig Harrington
18 to 1 and 7 to 2
Harrington backed up his ’07 British crown by defending in ’08 and knocked on the door at this year’s Masters with a T5 finish. The wrist injury hasn’t been an issue and Paddy finished the Bridgestone with a 5-under weekend en route to a top-20. On the year, Harrington has notched top-10’s in half of his ten made cuts and should have an edge on the greens this week as the Tour’s 11th ranked putter. Another Major title is within reach given Harrington’s 3.84 birdie average and look for a good finish with the 5th best final round scoring average of 69.3.

Sergio Garcia
18 to 1 and 7 to 2
Garcia is one of the European players that will have good memories of Oakland Hills from the ’04 Ryder Cup victory. Sergio hasn’t fared that well in the Majors this year with a T18 at the U.S. Open as his best finish. A disappointing missed cut at the Masters went along with a T51 at the British, in which he was favored. Still, the Spaniard took the title at the very strong PLAYERS Championship and tied for 4th at the St. Judes a few weeks later. Sergio is plenty long to handle the course length and gets a break with the roughs looking playable. Garcia is top-50 in greens hit and owns the 11th best scoring average on Tour. As usual, the putter will need to cooperate for Garcia to contend.

Vijay Singh
18 to 1 and 4 to 1
Vijay is coming off a win at the Bridgestone that broke a string of winless starts dating back to early ’07. Singh struggled through much of the year with the putter, returning to the belly model for his win. Singh is still adjusting to the new flat-stick and will have to be on top of his greens game to go back to back. His 9th rank in greens hit should give him plenty of looks and his 6th ranked scoring average proves he can get it done even with the balky putter. Vijay will be looking for his 3rd PGA title, with wins in ’98 and ’04 already on the resume.

Jim Furyk
20 to 1 and 4 to 1
Furyk is on his best run of the season, with top-5’s at the AT&T and British among his finishes in the last month. Furyk will be playing for the 7th time in 8 weeks, but has held off fatigue thus far, with strong showings in Canada and at last week’s Bridgestone. Jim will rely on his top-30 accuracy in both fairways and greens hit to score and will look to improve on the 144th ranked putting average. Furyk is a Major winner (’03 U.S. Open) and draws on that type of experience to keep him in the mix.

Lee Westwood
22 to 1 and 4 to 1
Westwood made an impressive run at the Bridgestone, making up several shot on the back nine, coming up just short of Singh. Westwood has had a good Major season, with a T11 at the Masters and a solo third as his top ’08 finishes. Lee has the tee length to be aggressive at the South Course and hits over 65% of greens in regulation, but is another who will battle the greens with a 204th ranked putting average. Westwood is another of the Euro Ryder Cup players that had great success here in ’04.

Anthony Kim
22 to 1 and 9 to 2
Kim had taken the reigns somewhat in Tiger’s absence with two wins and several top-10’s in a run of good play. Kim is among the longest on Tour, averaging over 300 yards off the tee and backs that up with a 29th ranked putting average. The youngster has shaved his scoring average to a 5th best, 69.71 and has moved to the 4th rank in the All Around stat. Kim trails only Mickelson in par-5 conversion %.

Stuart Appleby
40 to 1 and 8 to 1
Appleby makes the list as our middle range pick to win this week. Stuart had a run in the early going that saw him finish in the top-10 in five consecutive weeks. The results have been mixed since, but a runner-up finish last week at the Bridgestone points in the right direction. Appleby is solid overall, but is a top-40 putter on Tour and that should bear fruit this week on the tricky Oakland greens. Appleby cashes in 3.45 birdies per round on the way to the 16th best scoring average on Tour.

Zach Johnson
66 to 1 and 12 to 1
The ’07 Masters champ is our longshot this week. Zach has had an average season to this point with only one top-10 in 18 starts, but has played the weekends in 15 of those. A title looked within reach last week with the game rounding back in form, but a 1-over weekend led to a T16 at the Bridgestone. Johnson hits the 5th most fairways on Tour, but has dropped on the distance list to do so. Still, fairways in Majors are a key to success and a top-50 GIR% will lead to birdie looks.

For the Win

Short: Phil Mickelson – The tournament as a whole last week was good even if the finish was choke-worthy. Good record in ’08 Majors to go with top-25’s in all events this year should lead to more than the current 2 wins.

Middle: Stuart Appleby – 40 to 1 is longshot territory, but anyone watching last week saw a renewed fire in Appleby and a return to early ’08 form.

Longshot: Zach Johnson – A bit of a hunch pick here, but showed signs last week and the accuracy off the tee should lead to pars and keep him in it.

Head to Head Matches (our pick)
(all matches are for entire tournament)
Look to your favorite golf sportsbooks for similar matches as well as single day match-ups.

Padraig Harrington (-115) v. Sergio Garcia (-115) (Harrington)
I like both players to do well this week, but Paddy has gotten the better of Sergio of late, especially in the Majors. The difference here should be Harrington’s superior putting.

Retief Goosen (-140) v. Geoff Ogilvy (+110) (Ogilvy)
We’ve picked against the Goose for most of the year and it has paid to this point. He is coming around of late after struggling for most of the year, but Ogilvy as the ’06 U.S. Open winner and the underdog is too good here to pick Retief.

Good Luck!