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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My "5 to Watch" at the PGA

Yes, it's finally time for what CBS refers to as "Glory's Last Shot." The PGA Championship, the final men's major of the year, is upon us.

And so also is my "5 to Watch" for the PGA.

Hole #2 at Whistling Straits

Let's be blunt here. There are six names that are on everybody's lips:
  • Rory McIlroy
  • Jordan Spieth
  • Rickie Fowler
  • Jason Day
  • Bubba Watson
  • Dustin Johnson
These six names probably make up 90% of all fantasy golf picks. And why shouldn't they? If you take these six players against the field, you'll probably clean up.

Therefore I am NOT going to pick any of them. What's the fun in doing that? The PGA is typically the most wide open of the majors, primarily because the PGA of America doesn't care if the winning score is -20 or +20 as long as they think the course setup is fair. And because of that, just about any player -- no matter how long or how short they are off the tee -- has a decent chance of being the PGA Champion.

And since this PGA has returned to Pete Dye's Whistling Straits, and since Pete Dye likes to create courses that give everybody a chance if they can just get past the mind games he likes to play with them, I think this PGA could be REALLY wide open.

As a result, I'm picking some less-touted players to do well this week. And even then, there are more possibilities than the five picks I'm allowed. But who knows? One of these just might skew the odds a bit:
  • Newly-crowned Open Champion Zach Johnson has to make this list. I know that performance in the 2010 PGA doesn't really tell us a lot about performance this year, but Zach finished T3 last time -- just one shot out of the playoff -- and he's definitely a better player now than he was then. And given what I heard at Zach's presser, he sounds like he's in the right frame of mind to deal with this "Dye-abolical" layout.
  • Shane Lowry was on my short list even before he won the WGC-Bridgestone last week. He's a long hitter, a great scrambler and really good on the greens. What more can you ask from a player at Whistling Straits?
  • Louis Oosthuizen has shot in the 60s in his last seven major rounds -- the final three at the US Open, all four at the Open -- and has barely missed winning both times. Although he didn't even make the cut here back in 2010 -- the year he won the Open btw -- I like where his game is right now.
  • I'm going with two fliers for this major. The first is Jim Furyk, who didn't play so well at Whistling Straits last time but who, like Zach Johnson, is playing some great golf right now. And he says he likes Pete Dye courses. That kind of brain damage has to have some value this week!
  • Finally, my other flier is Robert Streb. Streb has fallen somewhat beneath the radar since his breakthrough win at McGladrey early in the wraparound season. Except for a rough US Open -- and who besides Jordan Spieth didn't have a rough US Open? -- he's been Top10, Top20 in most of his events this summer, and he's had two Top5s in the last month.
As I said, there are a number of players I could have picked but I like this mix. There are four major winners here and all but Oosthuizen have won in this wraparound season, though Louis has seven Top7s -- two of which are runner-ups in majors. There's some proven talent in this group, and I won't be surprised to see one of them take the Wannamaker Cup if the favorites stumble.

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