Fantasy Three to watch in America

Our stats guru's three picks for this week at the US PGA Championship...

Our stats guru's three picks for this week at the US PGA Championship...

The final Major Championship of the year is upon us,  as Bellerive Country Club in St Louis, Missouri, hosts the 100th US PGA Championship.

Defending Champion Justin Thomas arrives in the Show Me State on the back of victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, which he won by four shots to clinch his first World Golf Championships title.

Bellerive, which will host its third Major when play starts on Thursday, is the shortest course (7329 yards) to host the US PGA Championship since Oak Hill Country Club (7163 yards) in 2013. Could it prove the site of Tiger Woods' record-equalling fifth US PGA title? Or will Rory McIlroy win his first Major since 2014 and his third Wanamaker Trophy?

Our stats guru has crunched the numbers and come up with three players who could be worth backing this week.

 

Favourite: Rory McIlroy

There is no shortage of reasons to fancy Northern Ireland's most successful golfer in America this week. Not only is he going for a hat-trick of US PGA Championship trophies, but Rory McIlroy is arriving in St Louis in top form. A joint-runner-up berth at The Open Championship preceded a share of sixth at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio last week. McIlroy also performs consistently in this event; outside of his two victories - in 2012 and 2014 - he also has three other top tens and has missed just one cut in his nine appearances . In fact, he is second only to 2015 winner Jason Day in Strokes Gained per round at this tournament in the last ten years.

The 29 year old was in serious contention heading into Sunday in two of this season's Majors, eventually finishing in a tie for fifth at the Masters Tournament as well as the aforementioned second spot at Carnoustie. A determination to rectify disappointing Sundays on the big stage this year could drive McIlroy to victory at Bellerive. 

Form horse: Thorbjørn Olesen

Although Thorbjørn Olesen was already a four-time European Tour winner before 2018, it looks increasingly likely that this will be the year the rest of the world sits up and takes notice. After clinching a fifth  win and first Rolex Series title at the Italian Open in June - and qualifying for the US Open - Olesen's recent form reads T2-MC-T6-T12-T3. The Dane, who equalled his lowest ever WGC round with a 64 at Firestone Country Club on Sunday, will be looking to carry that form into this week as he bids to make his first Ryder Cup team.

In that superb run of four top 12s from five events, Olesen is +2.27 in Strokes Gained Total per round, behind only Claret Jug winner Francesco Molinari of all European Tour members. With a scoring average of 68.9 in his last eight rounds, there are few players as hot as the 28 year old right now. Olesen's best Major performance to date is a share of sixth at the 2013 Masters, but if the confidence is flowing as it should be in America, there's no reason why he can't surpass that result.

Wildcard: Ryan Fox

In the past 18 months, Ryan Fox has proved himself a man capable of rising to the occasion. A sumptuous summer of Rolex Series events in 2017 saw him finish in the top six three weeks running. He secured two more top sixes at this year's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation and Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open to climb the Race to Dubai Rankings in style. His game on tour in 2018 has been strong; he ranks second in average driving distance (317.3 yards) of all players with 25+ rounds and is fifth in Strokes Gained Tee to Green (+1.82 per round).

His big-hitting could serve him well in an event that traditionally rewards driving distance; fellow big hitters McIlroy, Day and Thomas are among those to have won the Wanamaker Trophy in recent years. Although he is yet to register a top 20 in a Major, Fox has made the weekend in four of the five he has played in. The signs are pointing to another impressive week.