This Week in Golf
Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
The PGA Championship has often been labelled “the 4th major” in terms of importance, appeal, field strength etc and sometimes was even ranked behind The Players and Tour Championship. However, the PGA of America has upped their game the last few years by holding the tournament at classic courses and producing some exciting finishes. In your mind, where does the PGA Championship rank in order of importance?
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: I’ve always liked the PGA Championship, especially the 3-hole playoff format. But thanks to Finchem’s tireless promotion and the obscene purse attracting the best field, The Players Championship (they can’t drop the ‘The’ a la The Golf Channel) ranks fourth behind The Open Championship, The Masters, and the U.S. Open. The fifth-place PGA Championship always boasts course set ups that lead to fun and excitement, and because of that, the tourney rarely disappoints.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): In terms of allure, the PGA Championship is certainly last out of the four major tournaments each season, but I think it has been getting much more attention in recent years with the venue selections. I love that this will be the third time since 2004 that Whistling Straits has hosted a major.
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): About 6th… behind the other three majors, The Players, and the Tour Championship. To be fair, a lot of my thinking is based in history, wherein the PGA has seemingly so often boasted sketchy winners (Wayne Grady and Mark Brooks – come on down!!). But also the golf media continually reinforces the message that it’s the least respected major, so therefore, to most of us, it is the least respected major.
Craig Loughry, GAO director of Handicapping (@craigloughry): It’s the 4th Major, simply because of the composition of field which arguably is weaker than the Players Championship. I still have it a notch above the Players Championship and Tour Championship though.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Nobody is counting Bridgestones or Dorals. Every player wants to add majors to his career records. The others are nice to win and come with fat cheques but when the WGHOF comes knocking, they’re not asking how many Accentures are on the resume. There are just four of them and while other tournaments may be in or out of favour, the four majors are the only ones that year after year get me to turn on the TV. The PGA Championship is definitely Top 4. Everything else is just another golf tournament.
Whistling Straits is Pete Dye’s masterpiece and it’s hard to believe the site was flat farmland before Pete starting moving a lot of dirt around and adding dunes and bunkers. It’s visually stunning on TV but is it a great test of golf and what kind of player does it favour?
Deeks: Purists can sniff that it’s a fabricated course, but come on, who really cares? Man-made or not, is it a good test of golf? Does it require players to think, to plot, to make decisions, to take risks, to be patient, to be rewarded for courage? And to be penalized for stupidity, recklessness, lack of intelligence? Those are the characteristics of a great course, and the winner after four days on such a course can be called a true champion. I seem to remember Whistling Straits impressed me greatly on its big stage debut a few years ago, but I’ll reserve judgement till Sunday night. As for what kind of player it favours… well, if it’s great course, it favours a smart and patient player.
Kaplan: Well, it is 7,790 yards and overrun by close to 1,000 bunkers, so the challenge is there. The track certainly favours bombers but if you are not accurate, you can get into a LOT of trouble quickly.
Loughry: If you look at the last Championship (2010) and the leaders, they all had one thing in common, they all BOMBED it off the tee. I see no reason this trait won’t continue in 2015’s version, with one exception, Jordan Spieth). And this is why I don’t consider it a great test of golf. To me that means testing every club in the bag, and requiring the player to think their way around the course. There’s one thought with this course: BOMBS AWAY.
Mumford: I’ve played a lot of Pete Dye designs and consider his courses the best at testing every facet of a player’s game. There’s rarely a spot where you can relax or even get away with a bad shot. Recovery is always difficult and strokes lost are hard to make up. Whistling Straits is brutally long. There are hundreds of bunkers although most are visual rather than penal. The greens are massive and severely contoured. The course hugs the shoreline so wind is a factor. It favours a player with a lot of imagination who can make great lag putts. Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson spring immediately to mind.
Quinn: I’m not convinced that Straits is a great test, but with all the Dye-isms, it definitely tests the driver. Every one of the more than 1,000 (ridiculous) sandy areas is deemed a hazard by the PGA, so wayward tee shots — like Dustin Johnson’s famous one five years ago — can be penalized, so to speak, by hazards on adjacent holes. As Frank Nobilo said, to play well on this Dye-made landscape, you have to “hit it where the superintendent mows.” So, it favours long straight drivers of the ball — now there’s a shocker!
Who’s your pick to hoist the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday?
Loughry: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, that’s right, this guy is a sneaky good player.
Kaplan: I’ll take the Dustin Johnson redemption story. He’s got the length to get around this week and he knows not to ground his club this time.
Quinn: Justin Rose is not given to braggadocio but last week he said he is hitting his driver and striking the ball better than anyone right now. I’ll take his word for it. If he sinks any putts, he can win it.
Deeks: My heart says Jordan Spieth, but believe it or not, my head says Zach Johnson. If Wayne Grady happens to be in the field, I’d be leaning that way, too.
Mumford: Anybody known by one name only. That could mean Phil, Bubba, Dustin, Justin, Rory, Rickie, Jordan, Zach or Tiger. Or Louis, Ernie or Adam. Or Graeme. OK Alex, I’ll take PGA Championship winners for $200. And the answer is, “2015”. BZZZZZZ. Who is Bubba Watson?