The reputation of Tiger Woods, and his place on the oddsboard, continues to take a hit as the PGA Championship tees off Thursday from Atlanta Athletic Club in Georgia.
The course is a grueling 7,467 yards, a full 250 longer than the last time it was played here in 2001, won by David Toms (-15 score). The increased length and more narrow fairways are expected to bring the winning score way down.
Woods has won this event four times, but not since 2007. His last win in a major was the 2008 U.S. Open, losing the last nine he’s entered. He’s at 18/1 odds to win this week, ranked fifth overall.
The now 35-year-old Woods finished tied for fourth at this year’s Masters, but had to sit out both the U.S. and British Open due to lingering knee and Achilles issues.
Woods did return last week for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, a tourney he won seven times, but he wasn’t a factor. He shot a respectable opening-round 68, with following scores of 71, 72 and 70 dropping him into a tie for 37th.
It’s seems everyone is into the ‘Tiger bashing’ lately, including caddie Steve Williams. The two had an acrimonious split after over 12 years together, with Williams now carrying Australian Adam Scott's bag.
Scott (20/1 odds) shot a -17 at Bridgestone, winning by four strokes. He’s still looking for his first major at age 31, with his best finish a second-place tie at this year’s Masters. Having the loquacious, but knowledgeable Williams by his side is a big positive overall.
Scott is trying to continue a string of non-Americans victors at the PGA Championship. Germany’s Martin Kaymer, South Korea’s Y.E. Yang and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington were the last three winners. An American has also been shut out of the first three majors this year, the last time it happened in all four was 1994.
Rory McIlroy (9/1) is the favorite with his eight-stroke win at this year’s U.S. Open still fresh in everyone’s mind. However, the uber-talented Northern Irishman still needs to develop consistency as his tie-for-25th at the British Open attests. The 22-year-old finished tied for third at this tournament the last two years.
Luke Donald (10/1) sits right behind McIlroy as he begins his 11th week as the No. 1 player in the world. The native of England finished tied-for second last week at Bridgestone after disappointing finishes at the U.S. Open (tied for 45th) and British Open (missed cut).
Lee Westwood (14/1) is sick of hearing he’s the world’s best player to never win a major, but it will continue until he gets it done. He didn’t play in this event last year with a calf injury, but finished tied for third in 2009.
Steve Stricker (16/1) is the highest ranked American (fifth) in the World Rankings. He’s a consistent player who finished in the top-20 in his last four majors. However, it’s hard to imagine him getting his first major win at age 44 and other online sportsbooks have him more in the 20/1-25/1 odds range.
Phil Mickelson (20/1) finished one shot back of Toms here in 2001 (Woods finished tied-for-29th). The always exciting ‘lefty’ is on the wrong side of 40, but got the second of his four majors at the 2005 PGA Championship.
This year, Mickelson struggled at the Greenbrier Classic and Bridgestone after finishing tied for second at the British Open, but he’s always capable of getting hot.
Nick Watney (18/1), Dustin Johnson (23/1), Jason Day (25/1), Rickie Fowler (28/1), Sergio Garcia (30/1), Kaymer (33/1) and Matt Kuchar (33/1) are in the next tier down.
Johnson and Day arguably provide the most value, with the former finishing in a second-place tied at this year’s British Open and the latter second at both the Masters and U.S. Open.
Toms is an interesting 42/1 with a win here already and currently ranking 10th in the FedExCup Standings.
Underdogs are always dangerous at the PGA Championship. Names like Shaun Micheel (2003) and Rich Beem (2002) came out of nowhere and haven’t done much since. The ‘Field’ odds (after the first 20 golfers) are +125, which could be the best pick of the week.