Dan Box
By Dan Box

Stewart Cink's late career resurgence, to Brooks Koepka's return from injury, Justin Thomas' redemption after losing his cool in Hawaii and then Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy snapping long winless periods - so far the 2021 golf season has been all about comeback stories.

2021 PGA Championship Preview

Image Credit: Kiawah Island Golf Resort

That's the golf itself, but there's also been the matter of spectators returning to PGA Tour events and, crucially, to the major championships. It was great to take a different look at Augusta National last November without the grandstands and the patrons, but in reality the four biggest events on the golfing calendar just don't have that same buzz without fans surrounding each hole.

2021 PGA Championship Preview

Image Credit: PGA Championship Twitter

Thankfully, this year's PGA Championship will see around 10,000 fans per day descending on Kiawah Island to ramp up the atmosphere, and this is just one of the many talking points heading into this week's event.

Last Year

Collin Morikawa won his first major (and probably the first of many) at TPC Harding Park with a stunning weekend of golf, firing 65-64 on the final two rounds to take a two stroke victory over Paul Casey and Dustin Johnson.

Brooks Koepka had entered the tournament having won the last two PGA Championships and was seeking to become just the second player to win three straight titles - he worked his way into the top five heading into Sunday but struggled during the final round, eventually finishing in a tie for 29th place.

Dustin Johnson was the overnight leader on 9 under par, but struggled to gain any momentum until the latter stages, with two birdies in his last three holes not enough to catch the mark set by Morikawa.

The Course

Kiawah Island, located in South Carolina, is a Pete and Alice Dye creation (designers of TPC Sawgrass) and at over 7,800 yards, presents the longest golf course in major championship history. Lovely.

2021 PGA Championship Preview

Image Credit: PGA Championship

Though McIlroy may have made things look easy when he cruised to an eight stroke victory at Kiawah back in 2012, the rest of the field certainly didn't think so. The scoring average that year was 2.5 strokes over par and there was a whopping 53 triple bogeys or worse during the week. If you get out of position on this course, you're going to get punished.

As it sits right on the ocean, the course is also liable to strong winds which seem to blow in various different directions, making club selection and ball control even more difficult and imperative.

2021 PGA Championship Preview

Image Credit: PGA Tour Twitter

A feature of Pete Dye designs is that he likes to throw in a tough par 3 right in the closing stretch - think the 17th at TPC Sawgrass - and this is no different at Kiawah Island. Imagine having to play this hole with a one-stroke lead on Sunday...

We were lucky enough to have the chance to play at Kiawah Island just before it hosted the PGA Championship back in 2012, so if you're thinking of booking a trip to South Carolina or would like to read a more in-depth summary of the course, then check out our FULL REVIEW HERE.

The Field

Most of the headlines this week will be centred around Rory McIlroy, who won in his last outing at the Wells Fargo Championship in a fine return to form and the worlds top 10. Not to mention his lapping of the field at Kiawah in 2012 the last time the PGA Champs was held there.

2021 PGA Championship Preview

Image Credit: PGA Championship

Usually one of the best drivers in the game, it was the Northern Irishman's short game which set him apart at Quail Hollow a couple of weeks ago (and arguably during the final round in 2012) but he may still have to tighten up off the tee if he wants to contend this week.

Jordan Spieth will also receive plenty of focus this week as he seeks to complete the career grand slam with a victory. He looks completely rejuvenated since the start of 2021 with a win and six other top 10 finishes in 10 starts. If conditions are tough, Spieth could thrive thanks to his quality putting and shot-making skills.

2021 PGA Championship Preview

Image Credit: PGA Championship

The likes of Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka will probably enjoy coming into the event slightly under the radar as their form has been a little uninspiring so far this season, despite Rahm's finish T5th at Augusta.

Rahm has recently become a father for the first time, whilst Koepka and local boy Johnson have both battled injury, but major championships often bring the best out of the top players so don't be surprised if they turn it on this week.

2021 PGA Championship Preview

Image Credit: PGA Championship

Rounding off this week's favourites are Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau, both looking to add to their tally of one major championship so far in their career's. If either of them hits top form, they will be very tough to beat.

Look Out For

  • Rangefinders on the course

The PGA of America announced earlier this year that distance measuring devices, namely laser rangefinders, will be permitted during their championships this year. The idea is that it will speed play up, but plenty of players and caddies are pretty sceptical as to whether it will really be any more use or whether it will slow things down further.

As Jordan Spieth explains:

"I have a hard time seeing it speed things up, unless you get it way offline or you’re out of contention. We’ll plan on using it, but I think it will be more confirmation than anything. It’s not going to be we just step up, shoot it, and go. I mean, these pins get tucked and the wind’s blowing and you got to figure out a few more things than just the number to the hole.”

Golfalot Betting Tips

  • Jon Rahm @ 15/1

It feels like Jon Rahm has been next in line, perhaps alongside Xander Schauffele to pick up a first major for quite some time now. The world number three clearly has the game to win the biggest events on the calendar, and has been a model of consistency since turning professional in 2016.

The Spaniard has had a couple of strong finishes at the PGA Championship, including fourth place in 2018, and a slightly slow start to the year by his standards has already yielded six top 10s. Four solid days at the AT&T Byron Nelson last week should have him raring to go this week.

  • Jordan Spieth @ 18/1

Who would've thought that Jordan Spieth would be the hottest golfer in the world heading into the PGA Championship this year? His turnaround in form has been incredible, and it doesn't show any signs of relenting yet.

2021 PGA Championship Preview

Image Credit: PGA Tour Twitter

Fresh off a T9 finish at the Byron Nelson last week, this is probably Spieth's best chance of completing the career grand slam since he won The Open, his third major, back in 2017. If it's firm and windy, it should suit his game, so if he can keep his driver in play he should have a really good chance this week.

  • Tommy Fleetwood @ 66/1

A seaside golf course where the conditions can get very tricky, particularly around the greens, and the wind blows constantly should help the Englishman feel right at home, and his strong finishes at both The Open and the US Open at Shinnecock stand him in good stead to contend this week.

Fleetwood has three top 10s so far this year, despite being a little wayward off the tee, but at 66/1 is surely worth an each-way look.

  • Marc Leishman @ 66/1

Australian Leishman is another player who thrives in tough conditions, so if the weather takes a turn for the worst then prepare to see his name up towards the top end of the leaderboard this week.

Leishman also played in this event the last time it was played at Kiawah in 2012, finishing in the top 30, and has been in pretty good form recently with a win in the Zurich team event and a top five at The Masters.

  • Bubba Watson @ 100/1

Bubba is one of the hardest golfers in the planet to tip because he is so unpredictable - he can appear from nowhere and win a tournament with absolutely no form or previous history at the course.

Having said that, he has been in good form recently with three top 20s in his last four starts, and also performed well here in 2012 with a T11 finish.

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