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 is often considered the “fourth” major, partly because it pales in comparison to the other three and also because it’s the 4th one played each year. Starting in 2019, the tournament will move to May. Will that help elevate the status of the tournament?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I would like to think it would elevate the stature of the PGA, but I think it’ll take a while. Partly because the PGA has had so many one-off, non-superstar winners over the years, and because it was the last of the four, it’s always seemed like just another John Deere Classic. The other three have more built-in “pedigree” as well… two are national Opens, and the Masters is like the Ritz in every respect. The PGA just can’t quite compete with those realities. But it deserves more respect because of its field, and its longevity, so I hope the new dates have some positive effect.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great Major, but it will always be the 4th IMO. The other three have too much brand cache. Even with near perfect course setups (they have to), moving it up in the schedule will not change its position out of the four, it just means the 4th major comes early is all.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: Yes! The move to May will elevate the status but it will remain as 4th among the majors but 5th over-all. IMO The Players has taken over as #1. Each of the majors as we have known them offers its own individual ‘package’ of qualities and there is adequate debate as to why each could be #1 but The Players has the combination of all of the best ingredients of the other four.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I think it might help. The PGA Championship always feels a little hollow to me and the only reason I can come up with why I feel that way is—I think—because of where it is placed on the calendar. The field at the PGA Championship is always great and the venues are top-notch, so it’s got to be the date…right?
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Have always loved the PGA Championship as a welcome antidote to the anal USGA’s Open. It has set the standard for challenging but not penal set ups allowing the players’ talents to be showcased not the rules officials. It can’t be elevated past 4th spot, but the spring timing will reduce the choices of courses unless the climates keep changing at the current rate.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): For many people, the Open Championship is the logical conclusion to the major series. After all, they crown the Champion Golfer of the Year, so everything afterward is irrelevant. The August date also means the PGA Championship is sandwiched into a congested finish to the season. In May, the tournament is presented as a nice build up to the two national championships, which should allow it to have more of a feature role.
There were high expectations that after briefly holding the lead on Sunday at Carnoustie perhaps Tiger Woods was ready to win again. His play at the WGC Bridgestone might indicate otherwise. What’s your assessment of Tiger’s game right now and do you see him as ready to win another major?
Deeks: Yes, I see him ready to win another major. But then, so are a dozen other guys, which I might not have said a decade again when Tiger was still in his prime. Not my favourite player, but I wish him well, and I admire how well he’s come back.
Loughry: I’m not judging TW on any single tournament. I will judge him based on his current world ranking, he’s in the top 50, and a fine player, clearly. But even he knows there is room for improvement to get to that next level. I DO like the fact he has improved over the course of this year, vastly. He gets most improved award in my book (not one he wants though), just give him a little more time, he’s figuring it out. You don’t scare leaderboards like he has (even at a Major no less, where the field is DEEP) without talent/skill.
Schurman: As I have said before “Tiger is exactly like a rookie on TOUR for his first year”. He is doing all things rookies do as he learns how to win. People will point to his swing, his putting, his driving and his health. They review his stats looking for the one missing ingredient that will bring us back to the year 2000. However, the one thing nobody seems to question is the ‘it’ factor. It takes determination, inner belief and heart to win but it also takes the timing of something happening at exactly the key moment. A par saving twisting downhill 15-footer, holing a bunker shot, catching a great lie in the rough, a bounce toward the hole instead of a trickle into a bad lie: any of these on the last 3 or 4 holes. Tiger was one of the best players ever, but he was also one of the luckiest! So far, it appears he may have had his lifetime quota of great breaks.
Kaplan: Tiger’s tee game is still extremely inconsistent and it’s outrageously tough to win any tournament at that level when you’re missing the fairways with regularity. Tiger hit the short grass 46% of the time at Firestone, and he is more comfortable playing there than anyone else on earth. I’m extremely impressed with the strides that he has made thus far, but he is not fully back yet and I do not expect him to win this weekend.
Quinn: His game is not ready for prime time — despite the fawning media — and he’s far from ready to win another big one. A Vegas book making him co-favourite at 12-1 was an insult even to the mouth breathers. He’s an old guy, and the young guys are really good.
Mumford: Apart from the fact that Tiger looked tired at Bridgestone, there’s nothing wrong with most of his game to prevent him from winning. The only real issue is in his head. He continues to hit driver (his worst club by far) when he can hit a 3-metal 300 yards and straight. He doesn’t have to outdrive DJ, Koepka et al to win – he just has to stay out of trouble. If Tiger can leave his ego in the locker room, he can win any week, including this week at Bellerive. Maybe Joey should snap the driver in two on the first tee and make the decision for him.
Who is your pick to win the PGA Championship and who might be a sentimental (long-shot) choice?
Deeks: I’m going to say Jason Day, as I often do in response to these questions. I just think he’s bound to click one of these days. My long shot… Adam Hadwin.
Loughry: John Rahm is my pick to win this PGA Championship. He’s had a quiet mid-year, but pulling off some sneaky top 10’s of late, he’s trending. My longshot: Kevin Kisner, similar to Rahm, putting together a really solid year and has played well the last few weeks. Although, I’d like to see him smile more on the golf course. I could double my chances by picking Zach Johnson, would you believe there are two of them in the field this week?
Schurman: Take 1/2 your betting allotment and put it on DJ. Sprinkle the rest around as you feel inclined but a little on Tommy Fleetwood could prove worthy.
Kaplan: Hard to pick anyone except DJ right now given how well he played in his last two outings. My sentimental pick is Bubba Watson because this is his year and us lefties have got to stick together!
Quinn: Only 15 guys in the field have played in competitions at Bellerive so not much advantage there. It’s going to be smokin’ hot, so it will be survival of the fittest. Rory and Day seem primed, so are DJ and his pal Koepka. Can’t see Thomas going back-to-back but can see Kyle Stanley finally winning a Major.
Mumford: Bellerive is quite long and right now it’s very soft, as in steamy, pounding rain, plugged lie, mud ball soft. That favours big hitters who can throw darts at pins. Sounds like Rory McIlroy or Rickie Fowler to me. Normally, for a major I’d say I’ll take Jon Rahm for 200 Alex. He’s my prohibitive pick for everything until 2040 but he’s been off a bit lately while Rory has been close. The greens are slow too, which is to McIlroy’s liking, so I’m going with Rory to win his third Wanamaker. My long-shot pick is Tiger Woods. Who would think he’d ever be a long-shot? He’s a bomber and still one of the best iron players in the game. As he showed at Carnoustie (and throughout his entire career) everything else is a warm-up for the majors, so I’d expect him to be firing on all cylinders this week – with only 13 clubs in the bag.