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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

My "5 to Watch" at the PGA

The final major of the year is finally here. While the news that the PGA Championship will move to May in 2019 set everyone abuzz on Monday, our concern now is August 2017... and my "5 to Watch."

Defending champion Jimmy Walker

The revamped Quail Hollow course is only a few dozen yards longer -- is listing it at 7600 yards -- but it's been toughened up. The Green Mile is already considered the hardest final stretch on tour, and now the course opens with a 524-yard par-4. No rest for the weary, it seems.

No one is quite sure how the changes will affect play, especially with the major setup the pros will face this week. One thing's for sure -- Quail Hollow will be a real handful! The only question is who will be able to handle it the best. Since this course normally hosts the Wells Fargo Championship, we do have some recent history that might give us some clues.
  • I have to agree with Jordan that Rory McIlroy is the favorite this week. Rory's the only player in the field with two wins at Quail Hollow (2010 and 2015), and the weather will likely suit him as well. I live about 90 minutes north of the course, and rain is expected in North Carolina virtually every day this week. Need I remind you that most of Rory's majors have been wet ones?
  • While Dustin Johnson may not have returned to his pre-Masters form yet, he's still playing pretty well and he was one of the runners-up last year at the Wells Fargo. Even if he's off a bit, you have to think he'll have a good -- if not exceptional -- showing.
  • Brian Harman was last year's champion at the Wells Fargo, and he gave Brooks Koepka a run for his money at the US Open this year. Had Brian's driver not deserted him on Sunday, that event might have gone differently. Brian's got to have good feelings coming back this week, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him play well.
  • Has Hideki Matsuyama begun another streak with his win at the WGC-Bridgestone? We won't know until we see him in action... but it's hard to bet against him, after that run he put together late last year.
  • And my flier is... Webb Simpson. True, Webb's game has been somewhat sketchy since the anchoring ban went into effect. But he plays Quail Hollow quite a bit, and he's been runner-up at the Wells Fargo before.
My pick this week is... Matsuyama. He was T11 at the Wells Fargo last year, before his streak began. I think this may be the week Japan gets its first-ever major winner.

Remember, this major "belongs" to TNT and CBS. The first round is Thursday from 1pm-7pm ET on TNT.

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