Glory’s last shot, The PGA Championship. This year, the venue is Whistling Straits (Straits Course) after a 6-year hiatus. However, the course has been re-designed twice since then. The field is great, especially coming off of the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, where players don’t have to travel overseas and should be fresh. In this post, I’ll look at the course, some opening groups to watch and five Nike Golf athletes to watch.
Yardage: 7, 513 yards
Designers: Pete and Alice Dye
There are a few key factors to look at when thinking about the course. The first is that it’s a Pete Dye course, which should be familiar for many golfers. However, this is a couple’s design and Pete and Alice Dye have also done TPC Sawgrass. His courses are always tough and this one should be no different, other than it’s Irish/English links-inspired course which could favour some of the Europeans.
The second point to note is that this is the 2nd longest major course ever (next to Hazeltine last year). I think many people will make a big deal out of this, but if you look at Hazeltine last year, everyone in the Top 10 drove the ball at least at an average of 290 yards off the tee. That doesn’t sit well for Furyk, Clark, Kuchar, Donald and other favourites this week.
For more details on the course (and a more unique perspective) check out these two videos from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.
Groups to Watch
Sure, there is the current Major pairing of Mickelson, McDowell and Oosthuizen, but there are more intriguing groups to watch and I’ll highlight my three favourites.
Corey Pavin | Ian Poulter | Camilo Villegas
This group is very intriguing as it tries to put two brash, hot-shots with the cool veteran in Pavin. Poulter and Villegas have big games but don’t always play consistently. Poulter is looking to get back into Major form and he and Villegas both struggled recently after picking up early wins in the season. This should be a good grouping for all of them and Pavin can get a good scouting report on Poulter.
Jerry Kelly | Paul Casey | Anthony Kim
This should be the most easy-going group of them all. Casey is playing well and Kelly finished with a good finish at Turning Stone. On the other hand, Kim was dreadful last week. I think the relaxed grouping should help all of them out.
Angel Cabrera | Trevor Immelman | Hunter Mahan
What this group says to me is “All right, Hunter, it’s time to win a major.” I would argue that Mahan has always been much more consistent than TI and Angel, but he doesn’t have a major. It will always be a good test for Immelman who is playing very well right now. However, Cabrera is the one with a pair of Top 25’s in Majors this year. Trevor Immelman | Angel Cabrera | Hunter Mahan
Nike Athletes: Five to Watch
Nike athletes had a decent showing last week, but no one thought that Justin Leonard would be at the top, while Tiger and AK filled out the bottom of the leaderboard. First, here are a list of all the Nike Golf Staffers who are in the field this week;
Casey has been very consistent as of late. I’ll let the MC at the Canadian Open slide, as it was right after The Open, where he finished 3rd. Casey also posted a T22 at Firestone. I think Casey is due and hasn’t played in the PGA that often and it’s the only major that he doesn’t have a Top 10 in. It may scare others, but I think he’s due. He’s also T24 in driving distance and has the game to contend here.
I wouldn’t say that G’Lover has been lighting it up, but he’s made the cut at all the majors and is coming off of a Top 25 at Firestone. Lucas did the same thing last year and had a solo 5th at Hazeltine. He can deal with the length.
JL has back-to-back Top 25’s at good venues. He’s putting it together and also has a T2 at Whistling Straits in 2004. He’s been spotty on Majors, but the trend is MC-T14-MC-??? I think that will be a Top 25 again as this sets up nicely for him.
He’s quietly having a great year. In his past 5 starts, he has a T39 at Firestone, then Top 10’s in the Irish, Scottish and French Opens. That’s impressive. Combine that with his Major performance (he had 4 straight majors where he was T27, T13, T10 and T30) and you have a major sleeper for the week.
Has Tiger ever been a sleeper before? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think he has a chance of winning and the Bridgestone no-cut format really exposed him and showed that he just quit. That being said, I would love to see him win. I want him to play pressure free and get back to his winning ways. Maybe this is just what Tiger needs, not a bunch of venues where Tiger has well, that way he has nothing to prove. This could be just what Tiger needs, a chance at revenge to set him straight. You know he’s still stinging from last year’s loss to Yang’er, and maybe this is when we see Tiger thrive, when the world counts him out.
Overall, I think the Europeans have the edge given the style of course, along with long hitters. I like Kaymer, McIlroy and McDowell a lot. I don’t see Phil doing well at all, as he can’t play in Europe and this isn’t his style. I think every Nike athlete has a great chance with their own storylines. The fact that the Top 3 golfers in the world aren’t playing well (or playing) opens up the door for surprises and young guns to take aim at the Wanamaker.