The Round Table: this week, it’s all about the PGA Championship

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 kicks off this week at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, NY. Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler, World #1 and #2 respectively, headline the field. Tiger is not there but 2021 Champion Phil Mickelson is. So too is Rory McIlroy whose last major outing was a missed cut at the Masters. The Oak Hill course will look much different than the version players saw in 2013 when Jason Dufner won. What’s the most intriguing storyline about the 2023 Championship?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@JimDeeks): I suppose one might say the most intriguing storyline is that Jason Dufner won the PGA at Oak Hill ten years ago, joining a strange cast of also-rans, has-beens and never-weres over the last few decades.   Names like Y.E Yang, Shaun Micheel, Rich Beem, Wayne Grady, and Bob Tway.  This is the tournament that supposedly draws the most prominent field of players each year, but just never seems to live up to its reputation as a major.  Nevertheless, it’d be great if Jason Day could keep the momentum (and comeback) going. But I think most interest will focus on Rory and where his head is at these days.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: This tournament is getting about as much interest as watching grass grow. There isn’t a BIG star to take against the field (like Tiger). None of the top 10 guys are stepping up and the gap between the new players and the old stand-bys (within the past 5 years) is so narrow it isn’t measurable. So, I’ll choose the course as the story. I’ve played Oak Hill and watched Nicklaus win there. It is majestic! BTW It is not cut out of an oak forest. The trees were planted by bringing acorns from the original site downtown.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): It’s funny because I don’t think there’s a true top storyline this year, and maybe that’s because it’s clearly the 4th of the 4 majors and it’s weird that it’s being played in upstate NY in May, when our courses in this part of the world just opened recently!  It seems like the tourney kind of snuck up on us.  I guess the LIV guys competing offer that storyline once again, it will be interesting to see if they perform as well as they did at Augusta.  I personally hope that Rory rebounds and gets his year back on track.  But to answer the question, I guess the golf course and its condition will be the top storyline in my opinion.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I’m with Mr. Deeks on this one. Rory has become the Great Enigma – no major wins in the last eight years, puzzling disappearances from the limelight and leaderboard, and distracting obsessions with things other than his golf – yet wins enough to stay among the top ranked players. So, which Rory will show up? The one that dominates fields like his two RBC Canadian Open wins or the one that stumbles and mumbles through a missed cut.

There are 17 LIV golfers in the PGA Championship field including Dustin Johnson who won a LIV event last week in a playoff over reigning Open Champion Cam Smith and Brandan Grace. At the Masters, three LIV golfers (Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed) finished in the Top 4 and 12 of 18 made the cut. Do you expect to see as strong a performance from LIV players at Oak Hill? 

Deeks: It wouldn’t surprise me if they did, but I’m not sure their strong performance will mean any greater fan or media interest in the LIV Tour.  The sooner LIV fades into obscurity, the better.  At least for me.

Schurman: LIV players aren’t a bunch of hackers! Sure, they accepted a big payday which some refer to as ‘evil money’, but nothing has happened to their skills. Some will play well, and others won’t. That’s golf!

Rule: I don’t see why not.  It doesn’t seem like the lack of tournament reps is affecting their performance in any shape or form.  Not sure if Phil will be in the mix given how tight the course is going to play, but I can see a couple of the guys being in the mix on Sunday.  It’ll add to the hero-villain storyline of the event, not a bad thing!

Mumford: It’s absurd that we even ask this question. The LIV players in the PGA Championship field were all top ranked players before they went to LIV Golf. Are we to assume that playing 54-hole events with shotgun starts and receiving buckets of cash robbed them of their talent and made them forget how to compete? It’s just an address change. They’re still the same great players and I expect a few of them will contend and maybe one of them will win.

Who is your pick to win the PGA Championship? And which longshot player should we be surprised to see on the leaderboard on Sunday?

Deeks: Well, what the heck… I’m going to take Rory McIlroy to win… and to be the longshot player on the leaderboard as well, cuz I don’t think many people will expect him to be there.

Schurman: Both of my picks are long shots. Rory, who might have ruined his career filling the role of President of the Players Advisory Board and Cameron Young. My real pick is Tyrrell Hatton. It will be interesting to see how much Joey, Cantlay’s new caddy, has on him.

Rule: I’ve been terrible at this game the last few majors (I picked Rory to win the Masters!), so I decided to ask Griffin in my office what his picks were, so here they are.  He picks Cameron Young, a good NY boy who bombs it, and has had top 10s in three of the last 4 majors.  His longshot pick is Rickie Fowler, who is in the top 12 of Americans in strokes gained over the past 6 months, which would put him in the discussion for a Ryder Cup spot. He’s certainly trending in the right direction, that would be a great comeback story.

Mumford: I’d like to pick Jordan Spieth to complete the career Grand Slam, but his wrist injury makes him doubtful. So, I’ll go with Brooks Koepka who is still steaming that he lost the Masters. For a long shot, you’re asking who will be the Mito Pereira of 2023? Why not Mito Pereira coming back to get the job done?

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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