PGA Championship Preview

Oak Hill is a demanding course, but even Tiger Woods said that it was the fairest, toughest course he’d ever seen. The 1924 design has the sheer brutality of Merion and the strategic value of Muirfield. Like most Donald Ross courses, the 7,163 yard gem is jammed with par 4s, which mostly bend left to right. Despite concerns about the green speed course superintendent John Cochran had them running at a 12 on the stimpmeter and the course in prime tournament condition. We have heard it before: this is “glory’s last shot” and the final chance to win a major this year. Who will hoist the 27 pound Wanamaker trophy on Sunday evening? While there is no answer, the clues are below.

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Tiger Woods: In winning 14 major championships, Tiger used to put on that signature red shirt and watch his competition fold like a 2-7 off suit hold-‘em hand. Today, things are different. Tiger Woods is still desperate for a major after going 0-for-17 in major championships since winning the US Open on a broken left leg in 2008. Woods continues to look calm, prepared, and focused on the task ahead. Reports from Rochester say that he is not working on his swing; instead he is just focused on “tightening his start lines” and “hitting shapes.” Some are saying that he already has one hand on the Wanamaker trophy after blowing away the field by seven shots at last week’s Bridgestone Invitational with the help of a Friday 61. Despite struggling in his 2003 trip to Oak Hill, the East Course seems to set up nicely for the game’s best long iron player. Tiger loves to fade the ball, especially with his woods and irons, so any course that does not demand the driver will set up nicely for the California native. The last time that Tiger won by more than seven shots at the Bridgestone, he went on to win the 2007 PGA at Southern Hills. The numbers are on his side, but there is just one thing keeping Woods from another Sunday roar.

Its no secret: Tiger Woods struggles on Sundays. Despite winning five times on tour this year, he has not broken 70 on Sunday this year and has not had a sub-70 weekend round since the 2011 Masters! The culprit has been inconsistent putting on the weekend. Prior to last week’s blowout in Akron, Woods ranked 8th and 12th in putts per round in Rounds 1 and 2 this season. The weekend numbers were not so impressive. He ranked 147th and 151st in average putts per round on the on Saturdays and Sundays. Statistics like that are shocking, especially for somebody who used to make every clutch putt since his days of blowing away fields in junior tournaments. The red shirt no longer represents fear like it did five years ago. Tiger’s ball-striking is better than ever before, but there is just one question remains: Can Tiger tame his biggest weakness?

Rory McIlroy: It’s no secret: Rory has struggled this year but insists that his game “is moving in the right direction.” Can last year’s PGA champion make up his struggles this week?

Adam Scott: He continues to play well in majors and says that last month’s British Open loss stung more than 2012’s meltdown at Royal Lytham. Can Steve Williams win a 16th major?

Brandt Snedeker: After struggling at the beginning of the summer, Snedeker told the media that he is back on a hot streak now heading into the PGA. He has already won a FedEx cup but can he complete an already impressive resume at this week’s PGA?

Phil Mickelson: After finding fixes to a historically erratic long game and an inconsistent putter this year, insists that he is playing as well as ever. Can Mickelson continue to stay hot this week?

Lee Westwood: He hits is as well as anybody in the game, and has hired Ian Baker-Finch to help him with his putting. He has gone 62 majors without a win and he has finished in the top-3s in 8 major championships. Is this his time?

Henrik Stenson: He leads the tour in Greens and Regulation and Total Driving. How can he not be a favorite this week?

My Predictions:

Favorite: Tiger Woods

Contenders: Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott


Winning Score: -3