PGA Championship Preview and Picks – 2009

The PGA Championship
Thurs. August 13 Sun. August 16, 2009
Hazeltine National Golf Club Chaska, MN

by Matt of

As the summer winds down, so does the PGA season and this week marks the final Major of the Tour schedule.

Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota will host the 91st PGA Championship, the second time the course has hosted the event with Rich Beem winning the 2002 edition. The PGA Championship has belonged to the big dogs on Tour over the last decade with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Padraig Harrington gaining seven victories since 1999. Harrington will defend his 2008 title having played his best golf of the year at the Bridgestone last week before ultimately fading to Woods, who will be looking for three wins in a row.

Padraig and Tiger will play the first two rounds together as a highlight pairing, and many players will be looking to not only win, but solidify their spots in the FedExCup Playoffs with only two weeks remaining to get in the exempt field. TNT will broadcast the early rounds with CBS picking up the weekend.

The PGA Championship wont feature the pure difficulty that the British and U.S. Opens feature, but accurate tee and iron shots are always important at any Major.

Hazeltine National will play at par-72 and measure 7,674 yards for the event and the four par-5s will need to be taken advantage of to keep up with the leaders.

Rich Beem carded a 10-under winning total in 2002 and those scores could be reached again as the weather in the upper Midwest has been hot with plenty of rain over the last week so the course should be receptive to quality shots.

At over 7,600 yards, the bombers should have an advantage if they can find the fairways. The USGA will likely dial up the difficulty and dry the course out if the course is playing too easy in the early going so those shorter clubs on the approaches will make a big difference.

Tiger was runner up the last time at Hazeltine with Justin Leonard, Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia and Stewart Cink all in the top-10. Lee Westwood, Steve Stricker and Rory Sabbatini were among the players missing the cut in 2002.

For every tournament, we take a look at the online golf sportsbooks and make our picks to win the event. We will highlight a short, middle and long odds golfer that we think has the goods to contend and make some head to head match picks as well. Odds and line information for this week come courtesy of the board at

It wont surprise you that Tiger, typically 3 to 2, is the easy favorite at every sportsbook, but there are a lot of players that will have a huge potential payoff given Woods hot streak over the last two weeks.

Phil Mickelson shows up at 15 to 1 with Padraig Harrington at 25 to 1 to defend his championship. With Woods out for the PGA in 2008, both Mickelson and Harrington would have been found in the 10 or 12 to 1 range.

Lee Westwood and Steve Stricker join Paddy at 25 to 1 with a large group at 30 to 1 including Goosen, Mahan, Garcia, Furyk and Ogilvy. Even though the little guy has been winning less in the Tiger era, Beem in 2002 and Shaun Micheel in 2003 have proved that the journeyman can show up big at the PGA. Here are our picks for the 2009 PGA Championship.

Short: Steve Stricker (25 to 1)
We picked Steve to win last week and he gave it a good run, closing to within three of Woods before giving one back and finishing 6th at the Bridgestone. Well stick with Stevie and his 2nd best scoring average for one more week. Stricker has two wins so far in 2009 and is one of the best iron players on tour, ranking 23rd in greens hit and 1st in scrambling.

The putter alone will give Steve a chance, he currently ranks 5th in average and 9th in putts per round. The length at Hazeltine will challenge Stricker, but a great short game has Steve in the top-25 in par-5 birdies despite the 115th rank in driving distance. The Wisconsin native will have a good crowd following as well, with Chaska only a little more than four hours away from Madison.

Middle: Geoff Ogilvy (30 to 1)
Geoff is a bit of a reach pick since he has figuratively gone missingsince his two wins early in the year. Even so, Ogilvy is still 5th in birdie average at 4.09 per round and ranks 10th in putting average.

The putting rank jumps to 4th when you count only the 15 to 20 footers, a big reason why Geoff is 6th in birdie conversion percentage on all holes. The bogeys have nipped Ogilvy lately, dropping his scoring average to 30th despite all those birdies, if he can manage the mistakes, hell have a solid opportunity to be in one of the final groups on Sunday.

Longshot: Miguel Angel Jimenez (80 to 1)
Most golf fans in the U.S. arent all that familiar with Jimenez as hell be making just his 8th start in the states, but hes a super value here at 80 to 1. MAJ hasnt done much with his starts on the PGA Tour so far, but he did finish T6 last week and hasnt been outside the top-25 on the Euro Tour since May, including a 4th at the BMW.

Jimenez is currently in the top-20 on the Order of Merit after finishing 4th last year and his 70%+ greens hit mark overseas would be in the top-20 in regular Tour action. Jimenez earned the nickname mechanic as a grinder and a player who just gets it done, no matter what it looks like.

Head to Head Matches (our pick) *all matches for entire event. Check your favorite book for single round matches, updated daily.

Ernie Els (-115) v. Vijay Singh (Singh)
A few years back, this could have been the marquee match-up of any tournament, but both players have taken a step back in recent years. Both are still plenty capable and are very similar on the stat sheet.

The ballstriking and putting numbers are nearly identical with Els owning a slight advantage in scoring average and fairways hit. Normally that would be enough to sway the pick here, but take Singh here based on his 2002 finish (7th) and the fact that he is better than his sheet. Neither player looks likely to return to vintage form, but Vijay is closer and hasnt been down as long as Els.

Robert Allenby (-115) v. Justin Leonard (Allenby)
If youve watched Allenby at all this year, youve heard the broken record story about his putting woes. The struggles are real (196th in putting average) but a grip change led to a top-10 last week and his ballstriking is better than nearly all others.

Leonard is by far the better putter but the length at Hazeltine will limit his birdie chances and his greens hit number has been slipping as the year has gone by. Any kind of putting improvement could have Allenby contending for a win this week, not just head to head wins.

Good Luck!!