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 storylines heading into the PGA Championship have focused a lot on defending champion Phil Mickelson, who is not playing; Tiger Woods, who continues his rehabilitation tour; and LIV Golf, which has nothing to do with the season’s second major but is taking up a lot of oxygen, nonetheless. Apart from those three stories, what’s the most intriguing storyline as players head to Southern Hills for the PGA Championship?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Sorry, but for me, the most intriguing topic, which won’t be resolved for a few weeks, is: who will be defying the PGA Tour’s refusal to grant permission for players to show up at the first LIV event in June? I have a feeling that Greg Norman and his people are begging players to jump, and probably dangling all kinds of quiet, extra incentives. But if all they get is Garcia, Westwood, Kaymer, and a bunch of has-beens, hopefuls, blaggards and ne’er-do-wells, then the LIV Tour may only see one event before sinking in the sunset. And of course, the other question: will this all end up in court? And if so, how many years will it take to get resolved there?
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: Golf has not filled the sports pages like it has recently since Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam. Unfortunately, the three stories you mention are the total package. If you remove them, you remove just about everything newsworthy about this event. In fact, given the news from around the world and specifically in the USA is it any wonder? BTW Did you hear the Leafs lost in game 7?
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): It’s hard to not focus on Tiger, but there are many other story lines including Jordan Spieth trying to complete the career Grand Slam, and the return of Bryson after his hand surgery. I think the top story has to be Spieth’s chasing of the career Grand Slam, and this is his best chance in a while. He’s on form, leading many ball striking categories in recent tourneys, and surprisingly it’s his putting that has let him down lately. If he can roll in some putts this week, I like his chances.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: There are a few chapters left to be written about Spieth, but could this be one of the most compelling? Is it all back together now? As irritating as he is to watch — I want a pair of his caddie Mike Greller’s earplugs — he is so talented. His dealing with his demons will be front and centre, hopefully on the weekend.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): The next biggest story is that there isn’t a next big story. Lots of chatter about various players, injuries and the toughness of the course but nothing either compelling or dominating. Personally, I’m excited to see if Jordan Spieth can complete his career Grand Slam. He’s not quite back to 2015 form but he has a win and second place finish in the last month and looks ready for another major win. Hate that mechanical pre-shot routine though.
Over the past few years, there have been players that immediately jumped to the top of the list when thinking about who could win the next major. Some of those players like Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau and others aren’t much in the conversation this week. In your opinion, which player most needs a major title to prove he’s still a contender in the big events and is he likely to get it this week?
Deeks: Rory McIlroy hasn’t won a major in nearly eight years, and what seemed to be a “one of the Greatest of All Time” careers has never quite lived up to its expectation. So, I’d say he has the most to prove that he’s still a contender. Then, I’d say both Jason Day and Jordan Spieth. Both have been showing some renewed vigour in recent weeks, and I’d love to see either of them pull it off at Southern Hills. Dustin Johnson could also do with a major, to keep his name in the “elite” conversation.
Schurman: My primary pick in every big tournament for months was Patrick Cantlay and it is in this one. His career and his age are beginning to add up to the best player not to win a major. Of course, we all hope Westwood can find the magic. Fowler is past his ‘best before’ date and Fleetwood is in animated suspension. As to who would benefit the most, it has to be Paul Casey.
Rule: Can I say Rory McIlroy? Seems crazy to put him in that category but it’s been 8 years since he has won a major and although he has 14 top 10s in majors since then, it doesn’t seem like he’s had many great chances to win on Sunday. He finished 2nd at the Masters but really didn’t have any chance of winning on Sunday. I think he needs a major victory more than any of the other top players in the world, and I hope he gets it this week.
Quinn: Reaching back to the golden oldies repeat mode, here we go again: Rory. He needs this, and so does the non-LIV golf world. He’s on form, took time off to prep, and it feels like this is a ‘why?’ moment. All the money’s in the offshore account; the bride and babe are fine; so now, Majors, or why are we doing this?
Mumford: Players with just one win (DeChambeau, Day) or no wins (Finau, Fowler) were part of the conversation at one time but more in a “who’s hot lately” kind of way. Koepka, Johnson, Spieth and McIlroy are in almost every conversation about majors but there’s no desperation there. Maybe, as has been mentioned, Rory needs another one because it’s been so long, but I think Justin Thomas may be the one who needs it most. He’s always mentioned as a contender and would be considered a huge underachiever if his career record ends up with just one major.
Who’s your pick to win the PGA Championship? And your sleeper pick?
Deeks: Since Fred Funk, Duffy Waldorf and Scott Gump aren’t playing, and since the PGA often gives a good but not great player an opportunity for a major (often the only one in the player’s career), I’m gonna go with Kevin Kisner (who failed to make the cut last week). My sleeper pick? I’d suggest Rip Van Winkle, but that would be silly. How ‘bout Hideki Matsuyama?
Schurman: Schauffele is a good pick. He played well last week. His game is sound, and he is entering his ‘best chance for a major’ part of his career. Scheffler tore the place apart in a practice round last week and Rory is playing well. But I like Morikawa and he likes majors. My long-shot dream pick is Cory Connors. Cam Young is a money machine in majors. However, at some point, Cam Champ will run away with a big victory.
Rule: Well, I kind of hinted at my two top choices in the previous questions, so I’ll stick with Spieth and McIlroy as my two picks (I’m allowed two, right?). As for a sleeper pick, I like Shane Lowry. Maybe he’s not enough of a sleeper as he’s one of the hotter players in the world right now, but he’s been relatively quiet until the last couple of months since his one and only major championship at Portrush. I like him being in contention on Sunday. But a real sleeper? I’ll take Cameron Young, just a hunch.
Quinn: Unrequited love’s a bore, and I’ve got it pretty bad. Apologies Mama Cass, but I’m going again with Senor Rahm. The sleeper, sort of like a Rich Strike in the Derby, is Bezuidenhout. Not only does he have an incredibly difficult name to spell, he hits it incredibly long.
Mumford: I’m looking for a repeat of the RBC Heritage playoff and taking Spieth narrowly over Patrick Cantlay. As I said above, Spieth is ready and he’s such a student of history, this would be huge for him. Cantlay too is playing exceptionally well and the challenging greens at Southern Pines will cater to his putting skills. My sleeper pick is Ian Poulter, just cuz.