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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My PGA Championship Preview

"Glory's Last Shot." That's what they call the PGA Championship. Some call it the poor stepchild of the other majors, but the first PGA was played back in 1916. It was a match play tourney until 1958, and has been stroke play since. Even the trophy is one of the best-known in the game: The Wanamaker Trophy. Say what you want, this is a tournament with a long history. It also has some dominating winners -- Walter Hagen (the match player extraordinaire) and Jack Nicklaus have won it 5 times each, and Tiger 4 times. Equally notorious is the fact that neither Tom Watson nor Arnold Palmer ever managed to snag the Wanamaker... not even once.

2010 PGA Championship logo from Wikipedia articleThis year's course, Whistling Straits, has hosted the PGA once before -- in 2004, when Vijay Singh won. It played as a real bear that year, and it looks like it could do so again since it's over 7500 yards long. The last four holes could be one of the hardest finishing stretches in golf. Holes 15 and 18 are both extremely-long par-4s, and that massive X-shaped green (remember Dave Pelz sinking a 200-foot putt on that thing back in 2004?) makes it possible to hit the green and still not even have a putt.

The pre-tournament press conferences have already started a buzz, especially the Tiger and Phil conferences:
  • Tiger seemed more open than he's been in any of the other conferences, even explaining last week's comment that he wasn't surprised at his poor play at the Bridgestone. (He expected to play badly when he first came out, but was unexpectedly able to put some scores together.) He was also asked if he would accept a captain's pick to the Ryder Cup team and gave a blunt "yes" answer. (Later on, Corey Pavin said he was happy to hear that and, yes indeed, Tiger will get a pick if he doesn't qualify on his own.)
  • Phil revealed that he's been under treatment at the Mayo Clinic for psoriatic arthritis. He didn't want to talk about it until he knew what the prognosis was, but apparently it's looking good. He's on medication and has apparently become a vegetarian as part of the treatment. (Bad news for the Five Guys burger chain, since Phil is part owner!)
And now, since Lee Westwood (whom I chose to win this thing back before the U.S. Open) is not in the field due to injury, I have to pick a new winner. I've decided to pick five possibles, although I've picked one in particular to win. Here they are:
  • Jim Furyk: Furyk is my "Top Player" to watch. I think he's playing the best of "the usual suspects" in a major, but I'm afraid holes 15 and 18 could cause him more trouble than some of the longer hitters, especially if the wind comes up.
  • Anthony Kim: Kim is my "Surprise Player" to watch. Remember, Paula Creamer came back from the same surgery and won a major. Anthony probably has reduced expectations after this past week, and that could be just what he needs to play out-of-his-head great golf.
  • Adam Scott: Scott is my "Dark Horse" this week. He's shown signs of getting it all back together, but his play has been uneven. He has the tools to overpower Whistling Straits, and flying under the radar may help him.
  • Hunter Mahan: Mahan is my "Hot Player" coming in to this major. He says he found something last week, and he not only won with it but his scores improved each day... and a huge number of his lowest scores are shot on Sundays. He's a good bet to get his first major.
  • Rory McIlroy: But I'm going with McIlroy as my overall favorite to win this one. This course blends aspects of both Quail Hollow (where he won in record-setting style) and St. Andrews (where he nearly won despite an 80 in the second round). I picked him last week and, though he wasn't spectacular, he still shot four 69s -- not bad for his first time at Firestone Country Club. I think he's the guy to beat this week.
So there you have it. You can keep check on the leaderboard at this site; there's also a hole-by-hole tour of the course if you click on the "Course" button just above the scores. (And a quick nod to Wikipedia's article on the PGA Championship for confirming some of the facts in this post & for the 2010 logo.)

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