US PGA Championship: McIlroy has major chance of glory

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Jimmy Walker will defend his US PGA Championship title this week at Quail Hollow, a venue familiar to the players as the home of the Wells Fargo Championship on the PGA Tour, writes Phil Casey.

But almost all eyes will be on Open champion Jordan Spieth as he attempts to become the youngest player to complete a career grand slam, joining Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in achieving the feat.

It is a reminder of how young Spieth is that he has only played in the US PGA four times, missing the cut in his first two starts and then chasing home record-breaker Jason Day in 2015 to make his record in that year’s majors 1-1-4-2.

The 24-year-old American, who was also 13th in 2016, has won three times in 2017 and the weight of history on his shoulders appears the biggest obstacle to him making it four at Quail Hollow, where he was 32nd on his only start in 2013.

Course record gives Rory the edge

However, Spieth is not the favourite and that honour belongs to the first of our US PGA Championship betting tips Rory McIlroy, who has won this tournament twice and also claimed two wins at Quail Hollow.

Given that he has not won in an injury-hit season and missed three cuts in four starts before the Open Championship, it might appear strange that McIlroy is a 13/2 favourite, with Spieth 9/1.

But after getting off to a shocking start at Royal Birkdale, where he was five over par after six holes, McIlroy did battle back to finish fourth and followed that with a tie for fifth in the Bridgestone Invitational last week.

Of McIlroy’s 56 drives at Firestone Country Club, 52 were over 300 yards and such long (and accurate) driving will be a must at Quail Hollow, which is a par-71 that will play every inch of its 7,600 yards due to the wet conditions.

Similar conditions prevailed when McIlroy won the US Open by eight shots at Congressional and if the four-time major winner can improve his approach play from inside 150 yards, he will be tough to beat.

The 28-year-old won his first PGA Tour title here in 2010 and after losing out in a play-off to Rickie Fowler in 2012, cruised to a seven-shot victory in 2015, equalling the course record of 61 in the third round.

Chappell worth sticking with

Hideki Matsuyama sealed an emphatic victory at Firestone with a closing 61 of his own and therefore has obvious appeal at 12/1, but for our second selection we’re going to give Kevin Chappell a chance to repay our faith at a tempting 70/1.

Chappell was tipped for the Bridgestone Invitational and was three under par early on day one before a dreadful back nine resulted in an opening 72, but he bounced back with a 67 and added rounds of 68 and 69 to finish in a tie for 13th.

The 31-year-old was third behind McIlroy in the 2011 US Open and seventh in the Masters this year, two weeks before claiming his first PGA Tour title in the Valero Texas Open.

Despite needing to win the US Open to complete a career grand slam, Phil Mickelson opted to attend his daughter’s high-school graduation rather than compete at Erin Hills, while he missed his first cut of the year “with flair” in the Open after carding four birdies, eight bogeys and a triple bogey in a second round of 77.

However, Mickelson was third at Quail Hollow in 2013, 11th in 2014, fourth in 2015 and fourth again in 2016 so the five-time major winner makes our list of US PGA Championship betting tips at 50/1.

And last but not least, with length off the tee being a distinct advantage this week, big-hitters JB Holmes – who also won here in 2014 – and Gary Woodland could reward a small bet in the outright market at odds of 80/1 and 100/1 respectively, or at 8/1 and 17/2 for a top-10 finish.

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Tony has been a journalist for more than 25 years, with past positions including Press Association betting editor, Teletext Sport betting editor and Sport Newspapers deputy racing editor. A Manchester United and Salford Red Devils supporter, he spends much of his spare time walking his two pet greyhounds.