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.
From mid July to the end of the season, there are a lot of big events compressed into a ten week period: 2 Majors, 1 WGC, 4 FedEx Cup playoffs and the Presidents Cup. That leaves only the RBC Canadian Open and the Wyndham Championship as potential weeks for top players to take a break. Some people maintain that all the big events packed into a season ending finale builds excitement while others argue that the schedule dilutes the importance of key events, the Majors in particular. What’s your take on it?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): No question the Canadian Open and the Wyndham suffer for the fact that so many big name players take advantage and take time off. And I must admit, I really don’t pay any more attention to World Golf Championships or the FedEx Cup than your average weekly tournament. I still revere the Majors, because I think they have the tradition and the extra bit of prestige that the newer big events don’t. To answer the question, my excitement isn’t built by the current schedule, but neither is the importance of the Majors diluted. For me at least.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I think the big events are a bit too close together, but I guess the PGA Tour and PGA of America addressed that by moving the date of the PGA Championship, which I like. This is certainly the least important and my least favourite major (by a mile!), so moving it earlier in the calendar might make me care a bit more about it. Hopefully it helps the Canadian Open field too!
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I love this exciting stretch at the end of each season because of how frantic the action is on a weekly basis. Two majors and a WGC event in less than a month is ideal and takes place, in my opinion, at the perfect time of the calendar season when golf is only competing with the dog days of the baseball season.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: I’m glad they have decided to move the PGA Championship back to May and The Players’ Championship (how it should be named and spelled) back to March. Although it’s designed to avoid the NFL and Olympic conflicts, it will ease the season-end congestion a bit. There is no question that the calendar is overloaded with big money and prestige events, and that dilutes the impact of all of them. There can’t be too many fans, however avid, who can justify the time required to watch all of them.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I’m not a fan of so many important events happening in succession. To me it especially dilutes the importance of the PGA Championship, the major that struggles to be on par with the others already. Apparently, the PGA Tour will be moving it to May in 2019 and that will open up some breathing room for all the events and maybe even help the RBC Canadian Open.
Hideki Matsuyama’s win at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, especially after his record tying 61 on Sunday, puts him at or near the top of the favourites to win this week’s PGA Championship. Hideki may be the Best Player without a Major although many people would still maintain that dubious distinction belongs to Rickie Fowler, Lee Westwood or Matt Kuchar. What player currently without a major would you like to see get his first one to start a legacy or maybe one to cap off a long career?
Deeks: Matt Kuchar, hands down. Great guy, solid player, terrific role model. Definitely deserves at least one major in his career.
Rule: I’ll always cheer for Westwood to win a major as long as he’s playing in them. He’s the best player not to win a major in my mind. That doesn’t mean he’s the best player right now – clearly that’s Matsuyama – but he’s had the best long career of anyone that hasn’t won a major. And he’s running out of time!
Kaplan: I’d like to see Rickie Fowler finally break through and get that first major. He’s been so close so many times with six finishes of T5 or better over the course of his career, including back-to-back runners up at the US and British Opens in 2012. I don’t think that win will come this week, but I will be pulling for him nonetheless at Quail Hollow.
Quinn: Westwood has been so good for so long that it would be great to see him get a Major. It would be poetry though if that one could be The Open.
Mumford: From a sentimental point of view I’ll go with Steve Stricker but at age 50 he’s probably beyond even a long shot. Of the more current crop of BPWAM, a crop of Englishman stands out: Luke Donald, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and of course, Lee Westwood. All have had significant success on the European Tour and varying degrees of success on this side of the Atlantic but each has burnished his career legacy with Ryder Cups, World Cups and near misses in Majors. Brandt Snedeker too is nearing that mark where a Major would fit nicely with eight PGA Tour wins, however, Matt Kuchar is my sentimental pick to win one now, especially after that close call at Royal Birkdale.
Both Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy have found their game of late and are looking to add to their legacy with another Major Championship, a career Grand Slam in Spieth’s case. Matsuyama, Charlie Hoffman and others will be looking for their first. Who’s your pick to win the PGA Championship? And your long-shot, dark horse candidate?
Deeks: I hate to be Mr. Boring, but I’ve got to go with Spieth, and I hope he can do it. My sentimental favourite would be Kuchar, and it would be awesome to see them reprise their Birkdale showdown, but with Kuchar winning this time. I’d also be happy to see Fowler pull this one off. My longshot, dark horse: Adam Hadwin.
Rule: Well it’s hard not to consider McIlroy the favourite given his success at Quail Hollow, but I think Matsuyama stands a great chance of winning his first major this week. My longshot is another guy who hasn’t won a major, but is so consistent he may just finish one off, and that’s Marc Leishman.
Kaplan: McIlroy is my pick for this week. He has won two events at Quail Hollow in the past, owns the course record there and is coming off consecutive Top 5 finishes against star-studded fields at both the Open and the WGC-Bridgestone. My dark horse pick for this week is Kenny Pigman. I don’t know much about him other than that he is ranked 1987th in the world and has a most unfortunate last name. Beware the Pigman!
Quinn: Rory has played phenomenally well at Quail Hollow, at least before they put in Bermuda greens and changed a few holes. But after a week of not hitting a drive less than 300 yards and the putting stroke starting to show some intent, he has to be favoured. A dark horse, positioned perfectly heading to Charlotte, is Hadwin. If he can keep it together for four rounds, he has a real shot.
Mumford: The PGA Championship needs a Hall of Fame type showdown like Stenson and Mickelson displayed at the Open Championship in 2016. With all due respect to Jimmy Walker, Shaun Micheel and Rich Beem, the event loses some lustre, in my opinion, when it doesn’t have a superstar winner. I think the edge here has to go to McIlroy based on his past success at Quail Hollow and his recent play. For a longshot, I’ll jump on the Adam Hadwin bandwagon too. He looked solid last week and we’re due – it’s been over a year since a Canadian won a Major.