Inside the Ropes
The 94th PGA Championship
The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, South Carolina
The Ocean Course
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Sea Isle Supreme paspalum (OC03)
Rough: Bermudagrass at 2 inches
Bunkers: No. All sandy-like areas will be played as waste bunkers, NOT hazards. Dustin Johnson is not amused.
Water Hazards: Five
Course Architect: Pete Dye (1991); Redesign Pete Dye (2011)
Winner’s Share: $1,440,000, 600 FedExCup points and the Wannamaker Trophy.
Defending Champion: American Keegan Bradley defeated American Jason Dufner in a three-hole playoff at the Atlanta Athletic Club to win his first major championship.
Date: August 9-12
Notes: As of Monday morning, the top 103 players in the world, according to OWGR, are entered in the field this week making it the deepest in history. There is no opposite event this week.
Tiger Woods is the only player to defend his stroke-play championship at the PGA and he’s done it twice, 1999-2000 and 2006-2007. Stroke play began in 1958.
Since 1958, the only non-Americans to win this event are Gary Player (twice), David Graham, Wayne Grady, Nick Price (twice), Steve Elkington, Vijay Singh (twice), Padraig Harrington, Y.E. Yang and Martin Kaymer.
Internationals have won three of the last four PGA Championships as Keegan Bradley broke their streak last year.
Padraig Harrington and Martin Kaymer are the only European players to win the PGA since 1958.
Since 1990, 14 of the 22 winners have made the PGA their first major. Of those 14 winners, 12 have never won another major. Only Vijay Singh and Nick Price went on to win more (two each) majors.
Since 1990, 13 of the 22 winners have been American.
Sixteen different players have won the last 16 majors.
“Young” Guns versus “Middle” Guns versus “Old” Guns
In 35 events on TOUR in 2012 the “Middle” guns have once again tied the season lead on their “Young” gun competitors. J.J. Henry, 37, has canceled out Keegan Bradley’s short-term lead from earlier to even the season series at 16-16-3.
For the “Young”, age during their victory in ( ), Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24), Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan TWICE (29) Rory McIlroy (22), Justin Rose (31), Rickie Fowler (23), Dustin Johnson (27), Webb Simpson (26), Marc Leishman (29), Ted Potter, Jr. (28), Scott Stallings (27) and Keegan Bradley (26) are your winners.
The “Middle” guys are Mark Wilson (37), George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34), Tiger Woods THRICE (36), Bubba Watson (33), Carl Pettersson (34), Ben Curtis (34), Matt Kuchar (33), Jason Dufner TWICE (35), Zach Johnson TWICE (36), Scott Piercy (33) and J.J. Henry (37) have been victorious.
Steve Stricker (44), Phil Mickelson (41) and Ernie Els (42) are the only “Old” guys to hit the board in 2012. At least 33% of their wins are majors. Jim Furyk has now tried twice late on Sunday to crash this party to no avail.
So What? So Let’s Dance!
When I think about the majors, I categorize them in my mind in four different ways. The Masters is the consistent force. It’s the same course and usually the same cast of characters chasing the lead on Sunday. Guys know they have to score to win. The U.S. Open is toughest test, weather permitting, that players will face each year. Fast greens, thick rough, narrow driving areas are the first things that come to mind. The Open Championship is the most gimmicky and I mean that as a compliment. Nowhere else does the weather affect the proceedings as much as it does on seaside links. The bunkering, the fescue, golf on the ground and the wind make it an unbelievable test. The PGA for me is about being the biggest and baddest. Each year it seems the distance pushes closer and closer to 8,000 yards if it’s par 72 and 7,500 yards if it’s par 70. This week, will be no different as the best 103 players in the world descend on Kiawah Island, South Carolina.
The Ocean Course is just not a catchy name as it has 10 holes running along the ocean with the other eight just running along the side of them inland. The course is only 500 yards across at its widest point to give you some point of reference. The most interesting part that I have read about this course is there is no prevailing wind. The wind, instead, blows from multiple directions throughout the day and throughout the rounds during the day. After spending a week in Hilton Head a few years ago around this time, I can tell you that afternoon thunderstorms and gusty wind can also be on the menu for this week and weekend. Hot and humid conditions will be the order of the day and these players will have to keep their hydration and their wits about them.
Pete Dye has created a monster on the shore which has hosted the 1991 Ryder Cup, 2003 World Cup and the 2007 Senior PGA Championship. This course can play, depending on the wind, quite firm or impossible. Dye designed each hole with six sets of tee boxes to try and keep it playable, depending on the wind that day. Players who excel in windy conditions should embrace this challenge, especially those who might be a little wild off the tee. Once in the fairway, players will have greens that are heavily bunkered or protected with narrowly-mown areas so ball-strikers and GIR players should be enjoying this. On the green the players will face a style of grass that they rarely, if ever, have seen, paspalum. It’s a hybrid that eats up saltwater and can grow in hot and humid conditions. It has a catchy, Velcro-y surface that will make bump-and-run shots difficult from around the greens so that will be a factor this week. Good idea, huh? Also, it’s tough enough to cut down short without worry of burning out so they can get the greens slick enough to test the players’ skill on the greens.
Whoever wins this week will have to be able to handle the conditions, both mentally and physically. Since severe weather could be on the cards (check your forecast later in the week), the draw might come into play so stay tuned to that. As of Tuesday morning, storms were moving through the area and keeping the course soft. If there is not severe weather the wind still will play a part. Players who can control their trajectory and their golf ball will have the best chance of winning this week. I also like guys who have been through tough conditions and have showed they can thrive in them. Remember, not many guys have played this course before so I like guys who have been around the block in big tournaments to flourish this week.
In honor of hurricane season, I will rank five sets of five this week based on the Saffir-Simpson scale. If you talk about the hurricane and write about the hurricane, the hurricane will leave you alone, trust me. I hope.
Dustin Johnson: The player on TOUR with the most wins under 30 (six), Johnson has also proved multiple times that poor weather conditions don’t bother him. The South Carolina native should be licking his chops this week to play this monster. His last time at a major at a Pete Dye course he was getting ready for a three-man playoff with Bubba Watson and eventual champion Martin Kaymer before he assessed a two-shot penalty for grounding his club in a hazard. He won’t have to worry about that this week as that rule will NOT be in effect. He played solid golf at The Open (T9) and was T19 last week. He’s been around the top in majors before and I believe this is the week he finally gets over the hump. He’s played in the last three PGA’s and finished T10, T5 and MC last year. Let’s just hope he’s not lifting any jet skis this week before he plays.
Bubba Watson: Watson had me puzzled at the U.S. Open when he declared that he couldn’t play Olympic Park. Watson surprised me at The Open Championship as he stuck to his game plan and had a career-best T23. This week should feel nice and loose and Watson will be able, to a degree, to play #bubbagolf. There is plenty of room for driver. There are ample opportunities to work and shape the golf ball, which he loves to do. He showed at Whistling Straits that he could hang and that was before he had won a major. Now, he’s first in driving accuracy and GIR but I still worry about his putter in big spots. No question he can win this week but I am concerned if the Golf Boys are all rooming together this week. All that debauchery could wear them out…
Tiger Woods: He rallied to play the weekend last week in six under to hit another top 10 at WGC-BI last week. Woods’ hardest major to win will be the next one and the pressure of answering that questions surfaces this week. I have had a hard time pegging Woods in 2012. His best results have been in places where he has won multiple times and Kiawah Island doesn’t fit that mantra. The plentiful landing areas should help his confidence with the driver this week but if his wedge game and his putting (slowish greens here) continue to struggle, I don’t see him winning this week. He remarked last week that he hardly has spent any time on paspalum greens so that will be another challenge. If anyone can grind it out, he’s at the top of the list. He’s been hitting enough fairways and greens lately to survive. He didn’t play very well at The Open and still finished third so it would be silly to leave him out of the elite category. Speaking of silly, Woods has brought his own floating hotel to Kiawah Island this week. Wait, that’s smart, not silly. As you were people.
Graeme McDowell: In his last three majors, GMAC has finished T12 (Masters), T2 (U.S. Open) and T5 at Royal Lytham & St Annes. Another player who thrives in difficult conditions, the 2010 U.S. Open champion has gotten his act back together on the golf course and his results are proof. If Kiawah gets windy and wild, McDowell’s chances get even better. McDowell has already played in the final group twice (U.S. Open; The Open Championship) in his last two majors so his game is primed for another major championship. Or, he will be front-and-center to see the 54-hole leader crash and burn like he was at Olympic Club and Royal Lytham & St Annes.
Rory McIlroy: After MC at the U.S. Open and T60 at The Open Championship, questions swirled about McIlroy’s commitment to his game. He seemed to be too interested in his girlfriend than golf and frankly, can any of you blame him. He’s a kid. Let him be a kid. But don’t forget, he’s an unbelievably talented kid and he showed that last week. After beginning last week with three bogeys in his first four holes, McIlroy played his final 68 holes in 11 under par. Buoyed by his T2 GIR, McIlroy finished T5 and didn’t make anything on the greens. McIlroy was T3 at Whistling Straits in 2010, another Pete Dye monster on the water.
Jason Dufner: Dufner learned a valuable lesson last year as he failed to close out Keegan Bradley before losing in a playoff at the PGA. Dufner was T5 the year before at the PGA at Whistling Straits. There’s not many styles of courses that Dufner doesn’t play well. He hits way too many fairways and greens to be bothered by his surroundings. His improved putting has also seen him hoist a trophy twice in 2012. His record in majors has been almost as solid as his ball-striking as he’s hit the top five in three of his last seven.
Keegan Bradley: Wow, what 15 months for Keegan Bradley. He’s won on TOUR, a major and now a WGC all since June of 2011. He’s one of 11 golfers to have a major and a WGC title and he’s only 26. I would rate him higher but it would be asking quite a bit from him to go back-to-back a la Tiger Woods. As we mentioned last week, he’s the No.1 player on TOUR in the all-around category. As he showed us last week, he might be the best clutch putter on TOUR in the last year. I can’t think of anyone who’s made more big putts than Bradley in the last 15 months.
Steve Stricker: It’s hard to believe that Steve Stricker does NOT have a top 10 in his last 14 majors. His last top 10 was T6 at the 2009 Masters. Yet, in those last 14 majors he has hit the top 25 eight times. Last week, Stricker looked like the Stricker of John Deere Classic fame as he started to roll in the putts again. Stricker also found his wedge and iron play as he finished the week T4 GIR and the weekend 68-64 to finish T2.
Justin Rose: Ah, the English ball-strikers. Rose, Donald, Westwood and Poulter all have one major thing in common and you know what that is. For some reason, an Englishman hasn’t won this tournament since before World War II, but as well as Rose can play, and play in difficult conditions, it’s hard to leave him out this week. His ball-striking is just too good. He finished T5 last week in Akron.
Luke Donald: His play at the toughest courses this season has been admirable with the only exception being MC at the U.S. Open. I thought he would have too much pressure on him in The Open and he responded by posting T5 as he matched or broke par three of four rounds. Donald also fired 66 in round four at TPC Sawgrass which has been kicked around this week as a similar venue to the Ocean Course. He comes in playing well as he finished T8 last week at WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Zach Johnson: If you think the length might bother Johnson this week remember he finished T3 at Whistling Straits in 2010 so that should alleviate your fears. If the course plays long and wet, most below-average players will have to grind it out and Johnson fits this mold. Johnson was also T2 at THE PLAYERS this year on another long, difficult Pete Dye course and was T9 at the Open Championship. He won his only Masters is less-than-perfect conditions as well.
Matt Kuchar: I left him off my projections at The Open Championship but I won’t make that mistake at the PGA. He was T10 at Whistling Straits and in 2012 has finished T3, T27 and T9 in first three majors. He’s made 10 of his last 11 cuts in majors as well so he’s showed that his game has developed on the big stage. Of those 10 made cuts, he’s hit the top 10 four times. His all-around game makes him a threat every week evidenced by hitting the top 10 three times in his last four starts.
Nick Watney: After a disappointing first five months of the season Watney has picked the right time of year to have his game find form. Since his MC at Memorial, Watney has rattled off T21 (U.S. Open), 10th (AT&T), T13 (John Deere), T23 (The Open Championship) and T19 last week at WGC-BI. Sure, it’s not the finishes fantasy owners have been dreaming about but it’s an indication that he’s getting closer to breaking out. Watney was the 54-hole leader at Whistling Straits before a final round 81 sank his chances. He’s struggled with his driver and putter this year but with the wide landing areas and paspalum greens, he might get some relief this week.
Lee Westwood: He’s been in the top 10 in four of his last six majors so he has the pedigree to tee it up with the world’s best and not be bothered. In his last two PGA Championships, in 2009 and 2011, he finished T3 and T8, respectively. He struggled last week at WGC-BI as he finished the weekend 81-73 but his control off the tee and into the greens has to be respected this week. Also, he’ll be happy to see greens that will not be running 13-plus on the Stimpmeter. He has the experience and the guile to handle less-than-premium conditions as well.
Charl Schwartzel: Via Twitter, Schwartzel remarked that he played his first bogey-free round of 2012 Sunday at WGC-BI to fire 63. Sometimes, timing is everything in this world and Schwartzel will come into this week full of confidence. He’s only hit the top 25 once in his last four TOUR starts but he has plenty of game, as evidenced by his Masters win in 2011, to contend this week. I’m riding the hot hand here.
K.J. Choi: After a brutal start to 2012, Choi’s game has picked up since June where he finished T19 at the Memorial. He backed that performance up with a T15 two weeks later at the U.S. Open. After MC at AT&T and T69 at The Greenbrier, Choi has finished T13 (John Deere), T39 (The Open Championship) and T8 last week at WGC-BI. Known as a grinder as well, Choi could surprise this week if his current form continues.
Adam Scott: I struggled on what to do with Scott this week after his indifferent play last week at WGC-BI after his, ahem, collapse at The Open Championship. It’s one thing to say that performance is behind you and you’re moving forward and an entirely different thing to suppress those thoughts in play. The determining factor for me was Scott has made the cut in six of his last seven majors and has finished in the top 25 each time. I’m not sure if he’s ready to win this week, but I think he’ll find a way to crack the top 25 again as he’s been playing some very solid golf in 2012.
Nicolas Colsaerts: Absolutely smashes it off the tee and if this course plays wet and long, he could find himself in position on the weekend similar to the U.S. Open and The Open Championship. Anybody who fires bookend 65’s at The Open Championship, and especially the one on Sunday, should receive props heading into this week.
Jason Day: Another member in the “new father” club, Jason Day looks to join the 2012 majors paternity club of champions. Bubba Watson adopted a baby boy before the Masters. Webb Simpson gave birth shortly after he won the U.S. Open. Day looks to build on his momentum from his final three rounds at the WGC-BI last week as he finished 70-70-66 to finish T29. The Aussie has plenty of length so a wet course shouldn’t bother him as evidence by his T10 at Whistling Straits in 2010.
John Senden: Senden is as automatic as it comes in hitting fairways and greens and his play in 2012 has been admirable. The one thing that bugs you about Senden he just doesn’t win but that doesn’t mean he can’t help your fantasy TEAM win this week. Senden has made four cuts in a row finishing T10 (U.S. Open), solo fourth (John Deere), T34 (The Open Championship) and T16 last week at Akron. His nerves will be my biggest concern come the weekend.
Louis Oosthuizen: In his last eight rounds (The Open and WGC-BI), Oosthuizen has fired in the 60’s six times, including four-straight last week to claim solo fourth. A former Champion Golfer, Oosthuizen has proven that he can play in tougher conditions and his length off the tee and ball-striking (not to mention his form) will be his biggest assets this week. His record in the PGA is dismal but his form is encouraging. The South African contingent has had no luck in this event since Gary Player in 1972 but it’s better than the English!
Webb Simpson: Simpson would be higher on this list but I have a few reservations going into this week. He’s been dealing with a newborn and he hasn’t teed it up since playing at the Greenbrier five weeks ago. The Carolina native has had another excellent season but I don’t believe he’s ready for another major after that much time off but I believe he will make some noise.
Bill Haas: His last two results on TOUR have been his two best results since his playoff victory at Riviera in late February (T19, T19). Born in South Carolina and living in Charlotte, Haas is familiar with the weather and conditions that can and will take place this week. Haas does everything well but nothing spectacularly and has shown the nerves (2011 TOUR Championship) to perform under pressure. His record in majors and his soft 2012 make this pick a bit of a stretch but I like that he’ll be flying under the radar.
David Toms: The 2001 PGA champion had a bit of a back problem after the U.S. Open (T4) and was forced to take a few weeks off but he came back last week and was a very solid T8. I like Toms this week because he’s nice and steady tee-to-green and has the experience to be patient to take his chances when they come.
Jonathan Byrd: His record is majors is forgettable but the Anderson, South Carolina native has played well in this part of the country and lives down the coast at St. Simons Island. His form recently has done nothing to inspire me but he’s a grinder and will have played plenty of rounds in these conditions. Each major a guy pokes his head on the leaderboard that makes you wonder “where did this guy come from”. Byrd is my pick this week to make that happen.
Long Shots: “John Daly” section
Kyle Stanley: The Clemson grad is slowly but surely returning to his early season form. After dropping multiple caddies and rearranging his entourage, Stanley’s on-course results have improved as 13 of his last 24 rounds have been in the 60’s. Stanley crushes the ball off the tee and backs that up with T22 GIR. Don’t look at his putting numbers this week as most players will struggle to find the speed and line on paspalum greens in the early rounds. Stanley’s length and accuracy will help him continue to destroy par-fives (5th on TOUR).
Scott Piercy: Time to hop in the saddle again with Piercy as his solid play has extended over the last four weeks. He has not fired worse than 70 in his last 16 rounds on TOUR. Piercy takes it deep and his iron game has been crisp in the last month as well. In his last four outings he’s finished T12, solo third, WIN and T19 last week at WGC-BI in his first-ever WGC event. I doubt he’ll be intimidated this week.
Robert Garrigus: Don’t forget about one of the hotter players on TOUR! Garrigus is in the “long shot” section because his record at majors and big courses this year has been a bit soft. He MC at Augusta, THE PLAYERS and the U.S. Open but as well as he’s been striking the golf ball lately, I’ll take a look. He made absolutely nothing at the RBC Canadian two weeks ago and was still T2 (-16). He led that event, his last time out on TOUR, in driving and GIR. That was Garrigus’ third runner-up finish of 2012 so you know it’s in there. Remember, this guy was smoking pot in porta-potties in the last decade. What a story this would be.
Martin Laird: He’s 25th in driving distance and 24 GIR. He’s from Scotland. He was having a very steady Open Championship until he fired 82 on a benign Saturday. He finished T2 at THE PLAYERS earlier this year so he has shown some affection for big, nasty Pete Dye courses.
William McGirt: A huge step up in class but he’s finished T5 and T2 in his last two outings on TOUR. His biggest asset is GIR and he will need to hit about all of them this week if he wants to pull of the major upset. His form is excellent and he currently lives in South Carolina. DOTS CONNECTED.
Tropical Storm Warnings
Golfers blowing in the wrong direction
Jim Furyk: I can’t imagine that Furyk will pick himself up and dust himself off after his final hole failing last week at WGC-BI. That’s twice in two months that Furyk has let a monster fish off the line. He’ll be back, just not this week.
Phil Mickelson: I watched an interview with Mickelson with Charlie Rose just after The Open Championship and it was very interesting to hear what Mickelson had to say about life and golf. He mentioned playing without purpose. I stopped listening right there. In his last four events he’s been T65, MC, MC and T43 last week. No thanks.
Y.E. Yang: He has hit the top 25 once in 18 starts this year. His past champion status should not enter your thinking with a field this deep.
Robert Karlsson: He WD from The Open Championship with the yips. Really. This is his first tournament back. Don’t be enticed by his T16 finish at Whistling Straits in 2010.
Angel Cabrera: He’s missed the cut in four of his last six majors. He’s made the cut in five of 15 events on TOUR in 2012. Obviously, he’ll win this week.
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: The PGA Championship (Glass’s Picks)
Group 1: Tiger Woods
Group 2: Dustin Johnson
Group 3: Kyle Stanley
Group 4: Davis Love III
Ned said, “…
Ned Brown is a long-time contributor for Rotoworld Golf. He’s had documented success in Yahoo!’s game for years. Even if you’re confident in your selections for that game, give his insight a read. Now, Ned also provides us with his Golf Channel fantasy game selections as well!
Full Disclosure: I am NOT Ned! He’s smarter and better looking!
Steve Stricker-- It was a bit disappointing that he didn't three-peat at the John Deere, but he looked great last week in his T2 finish at the WGC-Bridgestone.
Luke Donald-- He has been a top 10 machine over the last couple of months, with five top 10s in his last eight worldwide starts, including a championship at the BMW PGA Championship.
Matt Kuchar, Keegan Bradley, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson
Tiger Woods-- I'm down to my last start of Woods, so I'll try to keep him on the bench, but I'm pretty sure I'll still end up using him because he is playing well right now.
Bubba Watson-- After his Masters win, Bubba has had a pretty light schedule up until now. He looked good last week at Firestone and that should carryover into this week.
Rory McIlroy-- He has been a bit of a risky pick recently, but his T5 finish last week at Firestone moved him up to the number two spot in the Official World Golf Rankings.
Dustin Johnson-- Johnson is from South Carolina and his length off the tee is a big bonus this week.
Ernie Els, Lee Westwood, Hunter Mahan, Bill Haas, Justin Rose
Jason Dufner-- Registered his seventh top 10 of the season with his T7 finish last week at the WGC-Bridgestone. He also has finished in the top 10 in his last two PGA Championship starts, with a T5 in '10 and a P2 last year.
Graeme McDowell-- He gets the nod in this spot because he has played well in each of the three prior Majors this season ( T12 Masters, T2 U.S. Open and T5 British Open).
Padraig Harrington, Louis Oosthuizen, Scott Piercy, Martin Kaymer, Franseco Molinari
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: The PGA Championship (Ned’s Picks)
Group 1: Tiger Woods
Group 2: Dustin Johnson
Group 3: Padraig Harrington
Group 4: Thorbjorn Olesen
“And another thing…”
The analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat with GolfChannel.com's Ryan Ballengee on Wednesday at NOON ET. They will be breaking down the field at The PGA Championship and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.