August 8, 2017

PGA Championship Preview

Quail Hollow has hosted a regular PGA Tour event for 14 years. It has long been considered a premier test on the PGA Tour. This week it gets to host a major championship, the PGA Championship. The course has made some changes with combining the first and second holes into an opening 540 yard par four. A new par three second hole was built and about a thousand trees were removed from the course. The biggest change and improvement was replacing all the grass on the greens will Champion Ultradwarf Bermudagrass. Word from the players is that the greens are putting pure. In the past the Tour event at Quail Hollow has produced some quality winners. Rory McIlroy won his first PGA Tour event here and then won a second with a tournament record 21 under par. Rick Fowler won his first Tour event here in 2012, joining Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, David Toms and others as title holders.

Being a major championship, the course will be setup to test all aspects of the best player's games.  The rough will be higher than how the course played in the regular Tour events hosted at Quail Hollow.  The pin positions will be more challenging and the back tee locations will be utilized. But if you can play from the fairways consistently, the course will yield some good scores. Since most of the contestants this week have tournament experience on the course, I expect the winning score to be in the 10 to 15 under range.

There are a lot of great stories to be followed this week. Jordan Spieth is going for the career Grand Slam. He could rewrite history and become the youngest to accomplish this task. Rory McIlroy has had great success on this course and a win here would save a so far dismal year. Hideki Matsuyama is on a roll with his convincing win last week in a World Golf Championship event at Firestone. A lot of pressure is placed on Japanese players to win a major, but Hideki seems to have the right personality and temperament to be able to do it. Then there is Rick Fowler, who we expect great things from, but fails to deliver in the clutch in major events. Could this be Matt Kuchar's time? He has been disappointing in majors during his career, but his great finish at the Olympics and his solid strong showing at the British Open probably have done wonders for his confidence. I like his chances this week. Dustin Johnson's back injury must have been much worse than we realized after he had to withdraw from the Masters. He has shown flashes of brilliance, but something is just a bit off. Jason Day is having an off year. I don't expect anything from him the rest of the year. Brooks Koepka is now a major champion. This course should suit him, so watch out if he gets it rolling. The Spanish contingent of Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia are strong contenders, but Sergio might not be fully into golf after his recent wedding. Phil Mickelson is now becoming a sentimental pick. His recent play is inconsistent. But when he finds his groove he is as good as ever. Phil is now 47 and I firmly believe he will add another major championship to his resume. Could it happen this week?

The PGA Championship has been the last of the major championships to be played each year. Sometimes it gets lost in football starting or the baseball pennant races. Even though the tournament is well run; is played on quality golf courses; and get the proper media attention, it seems to be the left-out sister of the major championship elite. The PGA and the PGA Tour are working to move the tournament to May of each year, between the Masters and the US Open. I think this is a good move. That would make a four month stretch of major golf championship action. Masters in April, PGA in May, US Open in June, and the Open Championship in July. That would also give the Fedex Cup and Tour Championship series more prestige as the close of the official PGA Tour season each year. Breaking from tradition if tough, but this makes sense and will be good for golf fans.


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