• Betting Bunker

Johnson on path to Atlanta redemption

Josh Williams August 10, 2011
Dustin Johnson's experience at the US PGA in 2010 was an unhappy one © Getty Images

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If Tiger Woods' former caddie Steve Williams was smug following Adam Scott's win at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last week, saying it was "the best win of his career", then he is sure to explode with self-satisfaction if Scott can walk away with the US PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic, which begins on Thursday.

Following Williams' acrimonious split from Woods, he is now working the bag for Scott, who enters the tournament at shorter odds (22/1) than the former world No. 1 does (25/1). And it's hard to argue with that as, once again, the American's game was a mess at Firestone, the site of his latest comeback. Every now and again, one component flickered into life - but, more often than not, the flame would extinguish as quickly as it arrived. There's just no value in betting on him.

Scott's a more tempting prospect - he was unlucky to finish behind an inspired Charl Schwartzel at The Masters, and the recent switch to a long putter looks to have reawakened something in him. He also has the attributes to succeed at Atlanta, a long course with severe rough that will reward pure ball-strikers.

But let's not get swept up with the compelling narrative of Williams, ruthlessly discarded by Woods, enjoying success on Sunday while his former employer fails to make any impression. Very few players win the preceding tournament and then a major, plus the presence of Williams did nothing for Scott at the US Open (missed cut) or the Open Championship (seven-over, tied for 25th).

Williams' wagers

  • Dustin Johnson E/W to win the US PGA Championship - 28/1 at bet365
    Bubba Watson E/W - 55/1 at bet365
    Webb Simpson E/W - 90/1 at bet365

So I can't get too excited by Scott - and I've got a feeling there's going to be an American winner, as there has been every time the US PGA has been held at Atlanta. This trend of European victors at majors will end at some point and, with the weather set to be sweltering later this week, I think the scorching heat could melt the chances of those accustomed to playing in the wind on the Euro Tour. Just as the gusts blew Darren Clarke to the Open title, so the serene weather will propel the Americans to US PGA glory.

Driving is going to be very important, given the daunting rough and the mammoth 7,463 yardage, a huge amount for a par-70 course. The putting surfaces promise to be pretty lively too, so a high ball-flight and soft landings on the greens will be crucial.

And so who is American, skilled with the driver and able to send the ball soaring into the skies with the irons? Dustin Johnson. But before we get on to more reasons why he's worth backing, a note of caution: I'd advise holding off on any bet until early on Thursday morning (UK time), as he's been steadily drifting and I can see him trading in the mid 30s by that point, which is excellent value.

The story of his US PGA heartbreak last year bears repeating: he had a one-shot lead when he stood on the tee at the 18th, a hole which he appeared to bogey, forcing him into a play-off. However, he received a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club in a bunker, thereby dropping him to a tie for fifth place. Heartbreaking enough in itself, and doubly so because of what happened at the US Open earlier in 2010, when he began Sunday with a three-shot lead before firing an 82 that left him down in eighth place.

Bubba Watson's hitting from the rough makes up for his lack of accuracy from the tee © Getty Images

It may seem like a history of choking, but I prefer to view it in a more positive light - this is a guy who keeps putting himself in contention at majors. He looked far more composed at the Open Championship, finishing in a tie for second, and his pursuit of Clarke only went awry because he had to get recklessly aggressive to have any chance of keeping pace.

He's 35th on Tour for total driving, 16th in greens in regulation (GIR) and second in birdie average, which is crucial as they will be hard to carve out on a par-70 course that takes no prisoners. For me, he's worth a play even at current odds of 28/1 and, as I've said, those are only going to lengthen as Thursday draws nearer.

Now, the rough is punishing, there's no doubt about that - but despite a lack of accuracy from the tee, I'm still tempted to throw my weight behind another bomber, Bubba Watson, who tops the GIR rankings.

That's a seriously impressive stat - he's 130th when it comes to driving accuracy - and one that shows he knows how to play from the shrubbery framing the fairway. Missing the short grass is a problem for most players, but not so much for the likes of Watson, who is used to it and who can adapt accordingly, in the process making the most of his prodigious length with the driver.

He's won twice this season, is sixth in the FedEx Cup standings, was second at the US PGA last year, all of which makes 55/1 seem like an extremely tempting price.

Finally, an American who has enjoyed a breakthrough season. Webb Simpson has shown he possesses the temperament to challenge at majors, finishing 14th at the US Open and then 16th at Sandwich, while he hasn't been outside the top 20 at any tournament since the middle of May.

What really appeals is his excellence from the tee, with the 26-year-old able to boast both brawn and precision, enough to put him 18th in the total driving stats. I don't think he'll win, but there's huge each-way potential at 90/1.

Please note that odds are correct at time of publication and are subject to change.

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Josh Williams is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk