Still recovering from The Open hangover? Less than three weeks removed from Phil’s victory at Muirfield, it's time to gear up for what many consider the redheaded stepchild of all major championships, the PGA Championship. We’re going to look at the events leading up to this week at Oak Hill and what to expect through Sunday evening.Tiger Woods has proven himself to be fine-tuned and in good form heading into another major. Tiger’s putting and wedge play looked impeccable last week as he nearly lapped the field, winning by 7 shots and only shooting 2-under par for the weekend. The coolest part of the weekend, though, by far:
There seems to be a lot of speculation from fans and spectators of the golf world as to whether Tiger-of-new can equate to Tiger-of-old. I can assure you, though we may see performances similar to the one we saw last week at Firestone, don’t expect to see too many more double-digit victories from the man in black and red. I don’t assume this because he doesn’t maintain the same skill set he had many moons ago, but rather due to the fact that this is the “new” Tiger Woods. We see a man who is smarter and more reactive. Rather than simply going out and just playing his best and lapping the field in the process, he is sitting back and truly playing the field, making moves when necessary.
For some odd reason, I notice a sense of urgency from a number of Tiger fanatics out there as to whether or not Sir Eldrick will challenge Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships—even more so than TW himself. For all of you keeping track at home, let’s take a gander at how Tiger and Jack compare heading into the PGA Championship at 37 years of age. Both had 14 majors in 63 major appearances. Jack finished T-3 in his 64th major championship appearance. If Tiger were to finish T-3 this week, my mind would be officially BLOWN! All in all, something that people forget is that Jack won 4 majors in his 40s. Tom Watson came close to winning The Open at the age of 60. Give Tiger 22 more years and at least 50 more major appearances…I like his odds. Just remember, Jack had a drought and resurgence in his career similar to Tiger’s, minus a fire hydrant and infamous 4-iron of course.
Now, let’s get into the good stuff. Oak Hill this week! Unlike the other three major championship venues, there is a large contrast in style of venues from Oak Hill and last year’s site at Kiawah Island. We move from a windy, coast-lined track to an undulated, tree-lined masterpiece carved out by the great Donald Ross. With Phil and Tiger playing out of their mind, I look for the 95th PGA Championship to create some “good, clean family fun” up in Rochester, NY.
One parting thought: Dustin Johnson’s length on this type of venue is a strong advantage. Oak Hill plays very similar to Merion…look out for Justin Rose again!
Check back in on the weekend for Thursday/Friday recap and Saturday/Sunday preview!
-Winner or in the hunt: Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, and Justin Rose
-Winning number: -9
-Low PGA Professional: Chip Sullivan (Salem, VA/Hanging Rock Golf Club)