Can a European finally win an individual tournament on US soil? Or does he require 11 friends to help?
Leading European Tour Coach, Keith Williams, PGA Master Professional gives his expert view
It has been 89 years since a European player was victorious at the US PGA. Despite winning the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills – the same course that is hosting this season’s fourth Major – the Europeans have consistently failed to win on American soil as individuals.
But with 30 golfers from this side of the pond teeing off on Thursday, and with competition for those highly coveted Ryder Cup team places still fierce, will this finally be the year that a European individual triumphs? Or can they only perform at their peak as part of a team?
As English national team coach from 1994 to 2005 I have worked with the cream of home-grown talent either on a one-to-one basis or as part of squad training for over a decade. I have seen at first hand the current crop of talent grow and mature as players on the European Tour and here's my views about who may be worth a bet this week; Miguel Angel Jiménez - he’s brimming with confidence and is playing great golf this year.; he produced a string of great fairway woods shots to close out the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May 2008 and his skill with his woods could prove telling on what will prove to be a long and demanding course. He’s my best value choice amongst the Europeans.
Padraig Harrington - is bidding for back to back Major titles and played very well at Oakland Hills in the Ryder Cup in 2004 winning 4 out of 5 points. He’s second favourite at 16/1 and worth a decent sized wager.
Lee Westwood – will be full of confidence after his joint second place finish in the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. Four years ago Westwood was unbeaten at Oakland Hills, winning four and a half points out of five. He’s playing well enough to win every week at the moment and I cannot see any reason to back against him this week. With odds of around 25/1 available I think he’s the most obvious choice of all the English players.
Sergio Garcia – he’s in a run of good form and finally seems to have mastered his putter. But these greens are notoriously tricky and perhaps the title will go to someone who is more confident with the flat stick, although he’s pretty good value at 20/1.
Ian Poulter - was a rookie in Bernhard Langer’s Team in 2004 and this may prove to be the inspiration for the Englishman who finished runner-up in The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale a fortnight ago. He has a good chance of going one place further and winning his first major and at 50/1 is worth backing to win.
Justin Rose – is one of the few English players to have performed well on Majors on US soil and can always seem to play well for 3 rounds. If his worst round isn’t too far off the pace this week then he’s got a really good chance. At 50/1 he has to be worth considering.
Paul Casey – knows he needs to continue his improvement in form at this week's USPGA if he is to enjoy another Ryder Cup experience next month. He finished with a good final round at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational and I think he’ll carry on this form into this week’s Major. He also has good memories of that European Ryder Cup win in 2004. A good each way bet at 50/1.
Oliver Wilson – I am expecting a big week from the man who came so close to win the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth earlier this year. He is very consistent, and on a course where avoiding bogeys (or worse) is arguably as important as making birdies he could do very well. He’s under pressure to maintain his grip on a Ryder Cup spot and a good performance here could seal his place. I expect him to feature on the leaderboard at some stage; for how long is the question? At 200/1 he’s my top tip for an each-way bet.
Colin Montgomerie – He’s come close on two occasions to winning the USPGA, so could it be third time lucky? His game is not peaking right now, but with a desperate hunger to make this year’s Ryder Cup team, could now be the time for him to raise his game to the standards we all know he is capable of? I somehow doubt it, but the romantics amongst you might fancy a nice each way bet at around the 150/1 mark
Steve Webster – is having a good season but this is a classy field and the bookies don’t fancy his chances offering odds of 500/1. However, if he gets off to a good start he has the game to shoot low scores and he could be a surprise package.
It will be no easy task for any of the European’s to win at Oakland Hills. It is a notoriously difficult course to negotiate; Ben Hogan described it as the greatest test of golf and the toughest course he had ever played on. The players will need to adjust their game accordingly to be in with a chance of the title. With many of the greens on the course having severe undulations, you will see many of the players electing to play a high lob shot that lands softly next to the pin rather than risking the more obvious chip and run. This is a fun shot to learn and one that will save you shots on your next round.
You can see a video of the Lob Shot here in my short game golf video series.
The High Lob Shot
Take your most lofted club and stand a little wider than you would for a normal pitch shot. Aim your feet, hips and shoulder slightly left (open) of the target. The ball should be midway between the centre of the stance and the left heel. Keep your lower body relatively passive with the upper body, arms and hands all working in unison. Make a nice wide swing, without any excessive wrist set, allowing your body to turn freely and your arms to swing naturally. The swing should feel wide and the ball “gathered” at impact rather than “hit”. This smooth action will send the ball nice and high and it will stop quickly on landing.
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Many congratulations to Lee Westwood, who has just been crowned World No.1 Golfer. He is of course, coached by Europe's No.1 Golf Coach, Pete Cowen, whose videos you'll find here on Save a Million Shots.
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