The US PGA Championship can often feel like the forgotten major. While the Masters has the bright green splendour of Augusta National, the US Open is known for being one of the toughest tournaments of the year and the Open is always played at historic links courses, the US PGA Championship has struggled to differentiate itself amongst the majors.

For years, the US PGA used the slogan, “Glory’s Last Shot” but that simply drew ridicule. Why, the critics asked, should a major championship have to rely on a marketing ploy? So, the US PGA have worked very hard to keep the prestige as high as possible but there is one way they can increase interest in their event – keep holding it at fantastic golf courses.

That’s the route they took last year at Whistling Straits and it’s the route they’ve taken this year with a return to Baltusrol Golf Club. The 2016 US PGA Championship will be held at the club’s Lower Course, a very difficult par 70 that measures over 7,400 yards from the championship tees. That will test the players’ power but the main challenge is keeping the ball out of trouble. Baltusrol always has penal rough but the bunkers have been recently made deeper and manoeuvred to bring them into play more often from the tee.

All the players in the field know that they have to be at the top of their game to have any chance of success this week. It is vital to have a plan to keep bogeys off the card and make the most of the few birdie chances and then to stick to it. Anybody who tries to cut corners or push their luck will likely find themselves moving backwards relative to the competition.

Rory McIlroy has had a frustrating time of it so far this season. At various times he’s had issues with his full swing, his pitching and his putting but he might be about to put all those concerns behind him. A bad week for McIlroy is a good week for most other golfers and he only needs a few small things to go his way in order to win the US PGA Championship for the third time. He’s 9/1 with Ladbrokes and could well increase his major tally.

Phil Mickelson has improved dramatically this season after changing his swing coach and the only thing that’s been lacking is a win. ‘Lefty’ has six top five finishes to his name already this year including that valiant second place at the Open. He’s clearly still got the game to win at the top level and won the US PGA Championship in 2005 when it was last held at Baltusrol. At 22/1 with Coral, Mickelson looks well worth an each way bet.

Another previous winner of this championship who could well go well this week is Jason Dufner. The 2013 champion has put some very tough years behind him and won on the PGA Tour at this season’s CareerBuilder Challenge. He’ll have to be at the very top of his game but at tasty odds of 100/1 with BetVictor, Dufner looks like a very good each way option.

Golf fans in Scotland are right in the middle of their best time of the year. A fortnight ago the European Tour hosted the Scottish Open at the wonderful Castle Stuart Golf Links. Last week the galleries were treated to perhaps the best Open Championship of all time and this week they’ve got the chance to see masters of the game compete for the Senior Open at Carnoustie.

Just like the Open, the Senior Open is always held at genuine tests of links golf. That is certainly an apt description of Carnoustie. The 7,295 yard course is as long a layout as you will find on the Senior European Tour. Players on the Senior Tour like to use hybrid clubs to approach the greens on long courses but they tend to launch the ball high into the air which is not ideal on windy links courses. The distance will be a concern for some (the 255 yard par three 16th will be particularly tough) but it is far from the only defence of Carnoustie.

Like many other traditional links courses, Carnoustie plays host to a number of very difficult, deep bunkers. These are strategically placed around the greens and on the edges of the fairways and should be considered genuine hazards. There are windy water hazards ready to catch any poorly struck shot or even good shots as the ball rolls up the firm fairways and the weather will have a huge impact on scoring.

Given the size of the challenge posed by Carnoustie, it makes sense to bet only on players who have a proven ability to get round the course without being eaten alive. That is why you will see Bernhard Langer at the top of the bookies’ outright markets across the board. The German star won the last Senior Open when it was held at Carnoustie with a quite remarkable score of -5. He is a perennial competitor on the Senior Tour who knows just how to score at links courses. He will not allow the troughs to overly frustrate him and will not get carried away by the peaks so is the man to beat at 4/1 with Betfred.

Tom Watson is another man with a good history at Carnoustie. He won the Open here in 1975 and although he’s not quite the same golfer now, he remains a very competitive player on the Senior Tour. Watson is a clever strategist, has the ability to hit a low ball flight to keep it out of the worst of the wind and with 79 professional wins to his name, he knows how to overcome the nerves of the closing stretch. At 40/1 with Bet365, Watson is well worth backing.

Mark O’Meara made the cut at last week’s Open to the delight of his many, many friends in the game. The experienced American carefully picks and chooses the events that he plays in and will feel that his game is in perfect shape for a battle with Carnoustie. He’s an Open champion and at odds of 50/1 with Sky Bet he looks a great each way selection.

When Jason Day won last year’s RBC Canadian Open it was the start of something really special. Everybody in golf knew that Day was a genuinely world class talent and his win at Glen Abbey Golf Club was no surprise but few people expected what followed. The Aussie went on to win his first major at the PGA Championship with a host of other wins taking him up to number one in the world. Day’s been unable to add to his tally of majors this season but ahead of next week’s tournament at Baltusrol he is returning to Glen Abbey to defend his title.

‘J-Day’ is not the only world class player in the field this week. Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Jim Furyk are all taking part even though this year’s Canadian Open is sandwiched in between two majors. You may think it’s strange that players with a real chance of PGA Championship glory are not taking the week off but truth be told, they’re probably relishing the chance to make some birdies. Many players struggled at Royal Troon and Baltusrol will also be incredibly tough but Glen Abbey is a scoreable track.

Day won with a total of -17 last season and it may take an even lower total to be victorious this time around. Over the past 12 months the greens have all been changed from Poa Annua to bentgrass, the bunkers have been refilled with improved sand along with other more minor alterations. Those changes should help scoring, as will the rain which is forecast, as PGA Tour players are really able to go to town on a wet course.

The best price you will find on Day defending his title is the 11/2 that Bet365 are quoting. Backing such a short favourite for a golf event always comes with something of a health warning but it is hard to ignore the Australian’s appeal. The only negative Day could find with his game at Troon was that his short game was not up to scratch but that shouldn’t be too much of an issue at Glen Abbey. He didn’t overexert himself last week so it is advisable to get him on board.

One of the key stats to consider at Glen Abbey is greens in regulation. Previous winners at the course have ranked well for their approach play which is good news for Patrick Rodgers. The 24-year-old has been hotly tipped to make a real impact on the PGA Tour having graduated from the Tour and this could be the venue for him to make a real breakthrough. A poor second round ruined his 2015 Canadian Open but he is worth backing to bounce back at huge odds of 200/1 with Betfred.

Matt Kuchar has a solid history in the Canadian Open. He placed well inside the top 10 last season and was a runner up to Brandt Snedeker in the 2013 renewal. People in the game refer to Kuchar as an ATM given his incredible ability to record finishes in the money time and time again. At a course that really suits his game, Kuchar to finish in the top 10 at 13/8 with Coral looks a racing certainty.

The Open is a tournament steeped in history. The oldest of golf’s four major championships, it has been held at the best links courses in the United Kingdom ever since Willie Park won at Prestwick in 1860. This year it makes a welcome return to a golf course with its own rich history, Royal Troon.

Troon Golf club was founded in 1878 and has hosted the Open on eight occasions. The most recent of those came in 2004 when Ernie Els lost in a playoff to Todd Hamilton. Both men join the list of former Open champions in the field this week looking to make the most of their good memories of the course. They’ll know that Troon’s two nines are laid in opposite directions so the wind tends to be one way on the way out and another on the way in. They’ll also know that it is vital to keep your ball out of trouble to have any chance of making the most of the various birdie chances the course offers.

In 2004, Hamilton and Els ended on -10 and it could require an even lower score to win 12 years on. The weather forecast suggests that the wind is going to be relatively calm and the rain that has fallen in the area leaves the greens fairly receptive. Troon is a fairly short course and has a number of drivable par fours and a couple of par fives that can be reached in two. As ever with a links course it will be a big test of short game and imagination with the long game but this looks like an Open where the big hitters could have a real advantage. That will be music to the ears of Rory McIlroy.

Injury prevented McIlroy from defending the Open last year at St Andrews and he’ll be desperate to be named the “champion golfer of the year” once more. He grew up playing a lot of links golf but his best chances of winning always come at wet, receptive courses. Providing he doesn’t get off to the sort of slow start that has dogged him this season, McIlroy looks the best placed of the shorter priced players at 10/1 with Coral.

Rory will, of course, be greatly challenged by the rest of the world’s best players but away from the top of the betting markets, there are some bigger odds selections which pique our interest.

The first of these is Graeme McDowell. Like his countryman McIlroy, McDowell has a great deal of experience at links courses and is a major champion. GMac has also been playing some very good stuff this season and is saying all the right things in terms of his confidence levels to justify an each way bet at 80/1 with Ladbrokes

Second, have an each way punt on Ernie Els rolling back the years at 150/1 with BetVictor. Everybody saw Els’ horror show on the first green at the Masters but since then he looks to have completely overcome his putting woes. The South African is also hitting the ball very well and has proven time and time again that he loves the challenge of links golf.

There is nothing quite like links golf. We get used to watching players smashing it miles are pristine, beautiful American courses but this week’s Aberdeen Asset Scottish Open is a completely different event.

The winds around Castle Stuart Golf Links are forecast to really whip up, meaning that the players will have to have brilliant control of their golf ball to have any chance of joining a list of winners that includes the likes of Phil Mickelson, Luke Donald and Justin Rose.

Castle Stuart is a par 72 layout which can stretch to the best part of 7,200 yards from the back tees. The tournament organisers are unlikely to have it playing that long this week though because distance is far from the course’s number one defence.

It is a true test of links golf with thick, punishing rough, pot bunkers and run off areas around the greens which require a deft touch to avoid. In the words of course designer, Mark Parsinen, “Castle Stuart itself reflects an appreciation that the game of golf is more about error and recovery than it is about perfection.” The player who makes the fewest mistakes is likely to end up on top of the pile come Sunday evening.

When looking for a winning bet for the Scottish Open, it is important to concentrate on top class players who have a proven ability to get it done at testing links courses. A positive mental attitude is also vital as it is going to get ugly out there at times – bouncing back from mistakes is crucial.

Of the pre-tournament favourites, the player who stands out most is Brande Grace. The South African may have grown up thousands of miles away from Inverness but he has a real knack for links golf. His long game is world class but it is around the greens that he really stands out.

Grace’s ability to get himself up and down out of trouble has been a major factor in his rise to the top 10 of the world rankings. He showed all of his short game ability when winning the Alfred Dunhill Links and in finishing runner up to Phil Mickelson at Castle Stuart in 2013. He is well fancied for a reason so back Grace to win at 12/1 with Bet365.

The Scottish galleries will have their favourites for the week but few players are going to get as much support as Russell Knox. The 31-year-old was born in Inverness so he is intimately aware of the conditions that the place can throw up. Knox is doing all he can to get a place in Darren Clarke’s Ryder Cup team and he can make that dream closer to a reality by winning this week at a generous 35/1 with Paddy Power.

The final player to back this week is Thomas Pieters. The young Belgian has a reputation for being one of the longest hitters on the European Tour but he is much more than an out and out bomber. His win at the KLM Open showed that he has what it takes to cope with blustery conditions, while his performance at the Open de France showed he’s over his hand injury so back him each way at 50/1 with BetVictor.

This is a strange year for golf. The combination of golf’s inclusion into the Olympics and the Ryder Cup in Hazeltine has concertinaed the summer’s tournaments. For fans it’s largely a good thing as we have top class tournament after top class tournament to enjoy but it’s proving to be a challenge for the world’s best players. Events such as this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational which would normally command a phenomenally strong field have suffered. Only 61 players have made the trip to Ohio for this week’s tournament as some have chosen to play at the Open de France while others will take the week off.

Still, world number one Jason Day is in attendance alongside the likes of Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and defending champion Shane Lowry. There are no cuts at World Golf Championship events but that’s about where to good news ends for the players. The South Course at Firestone Country Club is a fearsome test. At 7,400 yards it is a real monster of a par 70 layout. The course includes a 667 yard par five which is the longest hole you’ll find outside of the majors.

There is no getting away from the distance of Firestone but it is also a real feat of course design. Over the years Bert Wray, Robert Trent Jones and Jack Nicklaus have all overseen work on the course which is one of the fairest tests of golf. There is no horrible stretch but nor is there any respite. To win at Firestone you’ve got to grind. It is also vital to be able to hit the ball a long way to really contend at Firestone. The fairways are fairly generous so it is possible to let rip with the driver.

Jason Day sits at the top of the betting but the Aussie has a fairly disappointing record at Firestone. Of the early favourites with the bookies the man to get on board with is Dustin Johnson. DJ won his first major championship just a couple of weeks ago under incredibly tense circumstances which will be a major boost to his confidence levels. He also has the required power off the tee and the ability to hit a small target out of the rough so back Johnson to win at 8/1 with Ladbrokes.

Another big hitter who could well be worth backing this week is Bubba Watson. There is no doubting the fact that Bubba is a quirky character who is just as able to throw away a good tournament as he is to outshine the rest of the field but the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational should suit him perfectly. Like Johnson he can hit the ball over 330 yards and he is an excellent iron player. If Bubba putts well and keeps his head screwed on he will look over priced at 25/1 with Bet365.

Shane Lowry goes into this week as a 40/1 shot with BetVictor which has to represent value for the defending champion. The Irishman has spoken positively about his inability to convert at the US Open, saying that it proves he has the ability to win a major. He certainly has the ability to win this event.

The European Tour have thrown their full weight behind this year’s Open de France. It is the centenary edition of the tournament and to help gather as strong a field as possible the Tour are offering increased qualification points for the Ryder Cup as well as a healthy prize purse. Those who believe they will be around the top of European golf for a while have another reason to compete around the remodelled Albatross Course at Le Golf National. The course will play host to the 2018 Ryder Cup so some of Europe’s leading lights have made the trip to Paris for what should be a quality event.

Rory McIlroy is the biggest star in the field and also the bookies’ favourite for the week. The Northern Irishman refuted claims that he is being paid to appear in Paris, making it clear that his decision to give the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational a miss is to support his home Tour and to get vital course form in the books ahead of the 2018 Ryder Cup. At 9/2 with Bet365 Rory does look a little short but he is one of the best golfers of his generation and he’s got all the tools necessary to contend this week. Don’t be put off having a bet on McIlroy even at those odds, though there are a few players in the field who look like better value selections.

The first of those is Andy Sullivan. The Englishman is one of the most popular players on the European Tour largely because of the positive attitude that he approached his golf with. The past few months have been something of a struggle for Sullivan but it’s got better for the Nuneaton born player of late. He battled very well with three tough courses in his most recent appearances as his game has come back to him. If that improvement continues in Paris, Sullivan could win his fourth European Tour event at 33/1 with BetVictor.

Francesco Molinari is another player who offers great appeal. The Italian has a decent record at this event and he certainly has the controlled game required to go well around the tough Albatross Course at Le Golf National. There are few more accurate drivers of a golf ball in the world than Molinari which will be a big plus as he seeks to navigate a way around the course. Fresh of a top 10 finish at Congressional last week, Molinari is feeling good about his game and we feel good about the 25/1 that Betfred are quoting.

Finally, it is a bit of a surprise to see Nicola Colsaerts available at 100/1 with Coral. He’s been in contention at a number of events recently without being able to get over the line. The ‘Belgian Bomber’ has all the power needed to put himself in favourable positions around the Albatross Course and he is rediscovering that vital bit of belief in his game. It will be interesting to see how he copes with the pressure should he find himself in contention but at those odds it is well worth placing a speculative small stakes each way bet on Colsaerts.

Summer in Europe means one thing for golf fans, top class European Tour events on home soil. The Open is on the horizon but there are plenty of tournaments to get your teeth stuck into beforehand, including this week’s BMW International. Some of the European Tour’s elite have pencilled in a trip to Germany and the Golf Club Gut Larchenhof for a crack at a large prize pot and vital ranking points in the race for a place in Darren Clarke’s Ryder Cup team.

Gut Larchenhof has hosted the BMW International twice before and is a fitting course for an event of this size. The par 71 layout, which was designed by the legendary Jack Nicklaus, measures 7,229 yards. It is a parkland layout which means that trees will be present to make shots from the rough particularly troubling but it is not what you’d describe as a tough test of driving. There are some very generous fairways which will allow the European Tour’s biggest hitters the opportunity to open up their shoulders and give the ball a good old whack. The greens are fairly big so accurate approach play is vital while there will be more than a couple of players who find the strategically placed water hazards.

A quick look at the bookies’ outright markets shows that there are some genuine stars of world golf in attendance this week. It would not be a surprise to see one of Sergio Garcia, Danny Willett or Andy Sullivan winning but they each played four rounds at the incredibly demanding Oakmont Country Club before catching a transatlantic flight. That’s got to take its toll so of those at the top of the betting, Henrik Stenson offers the most appeal.

The Swede withdrew from the US Open due to minor injuries to his neck and knee but it is likely that he foresaw he was going to miss the cut and so decided to call it a day. Stenson has suffered with knee problems in the past but underwent surgery to sort the issues out so his health should not be a major concern. The Swede is one of the most consistent players in the game and this week could be set up perfectly for him to claim a much needed win at odds of 10/1 with BetVictor.

Joost Luiten did not make the trip to Pennsylvania for the US Open and will have been glad to have a week’s rest. The Dutchman has been a top 10 machine on the European Tour this season and with the chance to iron out a few issues with his coach, he should be well in contention once again at Gut Larchenhof. He goes into the event as a 25/1 shot with Betfred and is well worth an each way bet.

Another player worth backing each way is Scott Hend who is priced at 55/1 with Bet365. The Australian is one of the very best drivers of a ball in the field this week. That will suit him very well at Gut Larchenhof. Hend threw away a good chance of winning at the BMW PGA Championship which should spur him onto a strong performance at another big European Tour event.

Dustin Johnson will be having a well-earned rest this week after his heroics at Oakmont to win the US Open but there is no rest for the PGA Tour which is back on track with the Quicken Loans National. The tournament has now become a staple on the PGA Tour thanks in no small part to Tiger Woods. Tiger hosts this event on behalf of his charitable foundation and he’ll be at Congressional Country Club this week to hand the trophy to the winner. But who will that winner be?

Troy Merritt is the defending champion but this is not an event where outsiders have tended to do well. Merritt is by far the lowest ranked winner of the Quicken Loans National and we should be looking towards the upper part of the market for our bets this week. Previous winners of this event include Bill Haas, Justin Rose and Tiger Woods himself and there are some big name players in the field vying to join that impressive winners list.

Being well ranked does not, however, simply guarantee anybody a good week at Congressional. The par 71 layout can stretch to a pretty mammoth 7,569 yards and it is also a stern test of accuracy off the tee. As well as needing a solid driving game, hitting greens in accuracy and putting well are important skills to have for anybody with genuine desires of winning.

Ordinarily the bookies’ favourite, Rickie Fowler, would offer great appeal in a field of this calibre but his form is nowhere near good enough to suggest that he can get the better of Congressional. Rickie is fighting his swing a little at the moment and his aim is to get his game back to tip top shape rather than winning events. That should make Patrick Reed the man to beat.

Reed infamously suggested that he has the game to be one of the top five golfers in the world but there is substance to support his hubris. The 25-year-old is strong off the tee, a world class ball striker and he currently ranks first on the PGA Tour for strokes gained around the green. He’s already a multiple winner including at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and he could well be set to dominate this week at odds of 20/1 with Betfred.

Byeong Hun An is not currently considered amongst the true elite of the game but there are plenty of people who think that he is on the road to stardom. The Korean has forged a very good name for himself on the European Tour where he won the 2014 BMW PGA Championship and he is currently 27th in the world. An hit the bar at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and could just bag his first PGA Tour win at 35/1 with Betfred.

Daniel Summerhays has been quietly going about his business in recent weeks but a quick examination of his form shows that he is playing some very good golf. A top 10 at the US Open last week was a very tough achievement and he could follow that up with another top 10 at 9/2 with BetVictor.

The United States Golf Association play a key role in the development of golf all around the world. Along with the Royal and Ancient, they set rules for what golf equipment can and can’t do with the aim of keeping the game more about skill than it is about technology. The USGA know that golf is hard and they intend to ensure that it remains a very difficult game to master.

When it comes to the major championship that they host – the US Open – the USGA like to remind the players that although they may be the best in the world, they’ve not yet mastered the game of golf.

The USGA do this by deliberately picking tough golf courses and then setting them up so that they play even harder. It is not uncommon to see a US Open won in an over par score and that looks to be an absolute certainty this week at Oakmont Country Club.

Oakmont is one of the most difficult tests of golf in the world. The par 70 includes a par three that measures 288 yards and a par five that stretches to 667 yards. It’s also a very tough test of accuracy. A number of strategically placed bunkers are waiting to gobble up any stray balls and the rough – both around the fairways and the greens – is especially penal. It is almost unbelievably hard to hit the greens in regulation but once there the players will find putting surfaces that are as fast as anywhere in the world.

When it comes to picking a winner for a US Open at Oakmont it is vital to pick a top class player. Almost all the previous winners here have gone on to win multiple major championships and it makes sense that we side with high quality players this week. At the moment it is fair to say that there aren’t any higher quality players than Jason Day. Day is the world number one, nobody has gained more strokes putting than the Aussie on the PGA Tour and he’s already a major champion. At 7/1 with BetVictor, Day is the favourite but he very much looks like the man to stop.

Patrick Reed is currently just outside of the world’s top 10 players and nobody doubts his golfing ability. He is also well known as one of the fiercest competitors in the world and would dearly love to bag his first major win at such an iconic and difficult venue. He is excellent at manipulating his ball flight and has a solid short game for when he misses the greens. At 50/1 with Betfred, Reed looks overpriced.

Another player who has the desired combination of ball striking ability and demon short game is Sergio Garcia. Like Reed, Garcia is yet to win a major championship but it would be a travesty if he finished his career without getting over the line in one of the biggest tournaments. Sergio’s going to have to remain patient and putt well but at 50/1 with Ladbrokes he looks a good each way bet.