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Picking the leading contenders for the US PGA title

Jamie Kennedy
August 6, 2014
Rory McIlroy is the favourite at Valhalla

It's the year's final major and with it the last opportunity for eight months to clinch one of golf's four biggest prizes - not to mention a huge week for Fedex Cup and Ryder Cup hopefuls.

But what kind of player does it take to win the US PGA Championship?

Whilst Rory McIlroy is a huge favourite to lift the Wanamaker Trophy this week at Valhalla, does his game and form fit that of recent winners of Glory's Last Shot? Here's a look at the numbers behind the last 25 US PGA champions to find out what it takes to win what is affectionately known as Glory's Last Shot.

Profile of a PGA champion

  • Taking an average of the past 25 years, the US PGA champion is 32 years old, ranked 35th in the world, has played 25 previous majors and six prior US PGA Championships

Major form

Whilst major experience is important, major form is perhaps not so.

While a select group of just 18 players have made the cut at the first three majors of the year, history suggests the PGA champion may not even come from that pile. Just 10 of the past 25 winners made the cut at the first three majors of the year prior to winning the US PGA.

Only Tiger Woods (1999, 2000 and 2007), Davis Love III (1997) and Payne Stewart (1989) finished inside the top 25 of the Masters, US Open and Open before winning the final major of the year.

Previous US PGA form

Often when it comes to picking winners, fans look at last year's event and see who won or came close. However, numbers show that you need to dig a little deeper than that.

Just one of the last six US PGA winners - Martin Kaymer - finished in the top 10 the previous year. However 15 of the last 25 winners had previously finished in the top 10 at the US PGA at some point in their career. Furthermore, seven of the last 10 winners had a top-six finish at the US PGA on their CV.

Jason Dufner defends his PGA Championship title at Valhalla © AP
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WGC form

Since moving to the week before the US PGA in 2007, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational has provided a welcome proving ground for the following week's major. Each of the past seven PGA champions finished inside the top 25 at Firestone:

2013: Jason Dufner finished 4th
2012: Rory McIlroy finished 5th
2011: Keegan Bradley finished 15th
2010: Martin Kaymer finished 22nd
2009: YE Yang finished 19th
2008: Padraig Harrington finished 20th
2007: Tiger Woods won

Season form

Unlike the other majors, the US PGA offers a greater sample size when it comes to season form. The best players in the world will have played around 15 events prior to the year's last major and shown what type of form they are in.

Each of the last 18 PGA Championship winners had at least three top-10 finishes during the season. Thirteen had five or more.

Recent wins

Winning can be contagious, just ask McIlroy and Justin Rose. Thirteen of the 15 US PGA winners since 1998 won an event earlier that year.

Having a recent win to rely on when it comes to the final few holes of a major can be the difference between raising the Wanamaker Trophy or not.

Shaun Micheel is the only US PGA champion in the last 18 that didn't have a career victory on Tour prior to that major breakthrough. His win came down to a battle between him and Chad Campbell, ranked 70th in the world at the time.

So who are the contenders?

From all of the above, we can deduce that the winner this week should have the following qualifications:

  • Top 25 at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational last week
  • At least five top 10s this season
  • At least one win in their last 20 events
  • Previous top-10 finish at the PGA Championship

Matt Kuchar was one of the players who fitted that criteria, but following his withdrawal, there are just nine players, and they are:


Take your pick from that list and you should have your own chance at Glory's Last Shot.
Graeme McDowell is in form, but is he your bet to lift the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday? © Getty Images
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Jamie Kennedy is a golf writer and statistician. He tweets at @jamieonsport

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