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Welcome to the final shot at glory for this weeks Takeaway…

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Welcome to the final shot at glory for this weeks Takeaway…

With the breaking news that the 2019 USPGA Championship is moving to the earlier timeslot of May, this will be one of the last times where the final major occurs in August. This is in part to facilitate the 2020 Olympics in Japan, but I like the idea of having a mammoth tournament each summer month, with The Players initiating it in March. The fact that The Open is the climax of the major season is beautiful for me, as it is my favourite of the Majors and it can feel at times that the USPGA is the forgotten major.

This week sees the return to Quail Hollow, just outside Charlotte, NC. This course was made famous by the puppy fat, Titleist thumping version of Rory McIlroy. In 2010, the fresh faced McIlroy was introduced to the American golfing public, when he simply unleashed his raw talent on the final day, shooting a 62 to win by four from Phil Mickelson. This was the first of his thirteen PGA Tour wins, and all the talk of the last few months was that he is nailed on to win this and resurrect his pursuit of more Majors. More on that later, after a briefing on the course.

Like most of the Major courses, Quail Hollow is a long one, stretching out to 7442 yards. Tom Fazio has redesigned a lot of the track, so that it is a significantly different eighteen to when James Hahn beat the field in 2016. The first and second holes have been radically altered. So much so, that the old opening pair have essentially combined to form an elongated first. Totally new greens are in play, with a new Bermuda grass being used. The thinking was to dry them out and have them firm and fast, but, as seems to so often be the case, there are dark clouds over the South Carolina area this week. Many of the trees have been eradicated to expose greens to more sunlight, so that should help those that are long and slightly errant off the tee. Even with the growth of more roughage, it should suit the longer hitters, and now even more so with the damp conditions. Much like Birkdale, Quail Hollow has a pretty decent list of winners, with Tiger winning it in 2007, and current tour pros like Fowler, JB Holmes and of course Rory winning here. You can see where my picks are going….

The most obvious candidate for my wagers is Rory. Today, Paddy Power have him at 13/2 favourite, so there is very little value to be made from him. I have said that he turned a corner at The Open and this week, he registered four decent rounds in Ohio. The main thing for him was to NOT play his way out of contention on the Thursday, and a 67 put him in the hunt early on. Four good rounds in the sixties at a tough course, even if it is a Par 70, is a great return to form. If he puts four proper rounds together, it is hard to see past him, and should add to his mental state. With buddy Harry Diamond on the bag, Rory has admitted that he is more involved in his shot making than before, where he may have passed the buck onto JP Fitzgerald. Seeing Speith at The Open must have switched a light on for him to better plot his way around.

Daniel Berger is a higher value at 60/1. He already has a victory to his name this year, winning the St Jude classic, and finishing runner up to Speith at the Travelers. He has had a mixed bag of results in Majors this year, but good recent form sees him a decent shout for each way. He isn’t short, is a good iron player and best of all he knows how to get birdies, so can put up a score. Marc Leishman is a 70/1 bet that usually looks good for an each way. You can even get him at 10/3 to make the top twenty, but I fancy him to place. The performance at the Bridgestone this weekend is anomalous, as he has posted top ten finishes in six outings, with a win at the Arnold Palmer invitational. Again, he is a decent driver of the ball, but his best work is in and around the green, where he ranks highly in the shots gained around the green, and having a high sand save percentage.

Other little bets to be placed would include Charlie Hoffman to be first round leader at 33/1, which should be done each way. Zach Johnson is 11/2 to finish in the top twenty too, so check that out.

Can I go three for three? Time will tell but I feel this time I won’t get to make as much profit as the last few times!