Matt Cooper takes a look at the four majors in turn, highlighting what we need to be focused on from now until next summer.
Good players win at Augusta National. The last 10 winners were ranked in the world’s top 30 and nine of them had already finished top 30 in the tournament. These crucial factors are well-known so the potential for an ante-post bet is somewhat limited.
The PGA Championship
The tournament heads to Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma and has hosted two majors this century – the 2001 US Open and the 2007 edition of this championship. It might be worth noting that ahead of winning the latter event Tiger Woods revealed he didn’t hit many drivers in either visit to the course. The rough and many doglegs had him hitting “a lot of long irons or even fairway woods” from the tee.
The other big factor in Oklahoma is the wind. Norway’s Viktor Hovland regularly credits his ability to play in gusty conditions with being educated, and now living, there. Talor Gooch recently said the exact same thing when claiming his first PGA Tour title in blustery conditions.
The US Open
Expect lots of memories of the controversial 1999 Ryder Cup to crop up in June because the US Open is heading to The Country Club in Brookline. It last hosted this championship in 1988, when Curtis Strange defeated Nick Faldo in a play-off. More recently Matt Fitzpatrick won the US Amateur there in 2013.
It’s a northern venue (Massachusetts) and more tree-lined than last year’s Torrey Pines test. A really key feature of the course is the small (sometimes very small) greens, the rocky outcrops and the undulating terrain.
Delayed a year, but the oldest championship returns to The Old Course in St Andrews for its 150th edition. Expect all sorts of excitement and hullabaloo as the great and good pile into the auld grey toun to celebrate. It should be quite the occasion and the man who lifts the Claret Jug on Sunday will experience an exceptional high.
Fingers crossed for blue skies, but also, at the very least, a strong breeze because otherwise modern golfers could leave The Old Course gasping for breath. Will such fears affect course preparation? The R&A might have fireworks planned for the week, but it won’t want them to come in the form of multiple scores of 62, 61, 60 and, God forbid, 59.
— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) December 25, 2021
Matthew Wolff each way in the PGA Championship at +6600
A graduate of Oklahoma State University (so on familiar turf), Wolff has hit the 2021/22 season running with four top 20 finishes including second place at the Shriners Children’s Open.
He emerged on the professional scene at the same time as Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland, and was the first of that trio to land a PGA Tour win, in July 2019. They’ve both overtaken him since, but Wolff has plenty to offer and, notably, he has shown a real fondness for a major championship test.
He finished tied fourth in the 2020 PGA Championship, was second six weeks later in the US Open and he was T15th in the same event this year, when spending most of the week in-contention (crucially, he was top six with 18 holes to play).
Remember the words of Tiger Woods, quoted earlier? He spoke of the 2022 host venue having doglegs which requires a conservative approach from the tee box. That’s reminiscent of another layout – Colonial Country Club, home of the Charles Schwab Challenge. And guess what? Both are designed by the same man, Perry Maxwell.
Jason Kokrak was third at Colonial in 2020 and he won there earlier this year. He’s also transformed himself from a remarkably consistent performer who couldn’t win into a golfer who tucked into Christmas dinner knowing he’d won four times in his last 30 starts.
The last of those might have been the silly season pairs event in Florida, but the way in which he helped Kevin Na to victory suggested he is now both comfortable and confident when faced by a tense and exciting back nine on Sunday.