Power Rankings: PGA Championship
4 Min Read
Written by Rob Bolton @RobBoltonGolf
Golf is the only sport in which it’s possible to go forward to the past and still adhere to the expectations of today. When done right, it’s like successfully connecting dots that don’t exist at the same time.
This is what’s in store at the 105th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club’s East Course in Rochester, New York. The Donald Ross design isn’t the same as it ever was, it’ll only appear that way.
Continue reading beneath the expanded ranking of projected contenders for why Oak Hill checks all the boxes for the second major championship of 2023.
Collin Morikawa, Jordan Spieth, Sam Burns and Cameron Young will be among the notables reviewed in Golfbet Insider.
No matter how you dissect Oak Hill’s role as the site of the men’s major hosted by the PGA of America, it’s objectively perfect.
For starters, it’s been here and done this before, time and again. It’s the only course that’s hosted the PGA Championship, the U.S. Open, the Ryder Cup, the U.S. Amateur, the Senior PGA Championship and the U.S. Senior Open. This is its fourth PGA Championship and first since 2013. Furthermore, given that this edition originally was slated for August until the major was moved permanently to May in 2019 (ignoring the one-off rescheduling of the 2020 edition due to the pandemic), it already was poised to adapt, for both Senior PGAs (2008, 2019) were contested in May.
As of Monday, 33 who competed in the 2013 PGA are ready for their return this week, but Oak Hill presents considerably different since the last time they vied for the Wanamaker Trophy. Like so many golf courses, championship-caliber and otherwise, Oak Hill is among the throng to have undergone what’s been a trend of the 21st century – widespread removal of trees. It was a big part of a big year-long project launched in 2019 and headed by architect Andrew Green. The plan restored Ross’ vision of the land he had when he built the course almost 100 years ago, but the coequal objective was to improve the sustainability of the grass previously shadowed. Done and done.
All 18 greens also have been rebuilt. The old blend of bentgrass and Poa now is entirely bent. Weather pending (more on this in a moment), green speeds should flirt with 13 feet on the Stimpmeter.
The targets themselves average just 4,500 square feet, so there is no escaping from the premium on keeping the ball in play from tee to green. Par is a fair score in the PGA Championship, but it’s not going to win the tournament. Not all PGA Championships are alike, but course management will be a smarter weapon than aggression.
On the scorecard, Oak Hill is a stock par 70 that tips at 7,394 yards. The restoration has repositioned the old par-4 fifth hole as the par-4 sixth and added 75 yards to stretch it to 503 yards. No. 5 now is a new par 3 measuring 180 yards. All other holes were upgraded, of course, but they remain in their familiar spots on the walk, albeit with extended sightlines thanks to the roomier confines. The other major modification occurred beside the 155-yard par-3 15th where a pond once swallowed wayward strikes. That’s gone and the green was shifted to the left from the tee perspective.
Both par 5s – Nos. 4 and 13 – can be longer than 600 yards, and the par-4 17th and 18th hole can range beyond 495 yards, so the champion likely will feel more like a survivor while posing for pictures with the 27-pound silver trophy. He’ll collect 600 FedExCup points and $2.7 million of a prize fund of $15 million. He’ll also be fully exempt on the PGA TOUR through 2028, exempt into the PGA Championship for life and exempt for the next five editions of the other three majors.
The experience will include overcoming the elements. The pleasure of a cool, quiet Thursday will be short-lived and even it might open with a delay due to frost. Come Friday, the daytime high could rise into the upper 70s with the influx of potentially strong prevailing breezes from a southwesterly direction. Saturday presents a mild letup from the gusts but it’ll be cooler and the threat of rain enters the equation. It’ll linger into Sunday’s scheduled conclusion and winds are not expected to abate.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.com’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous perspectives. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Power Rankings
WEDNESDAY: Golfbet Insider
FRIDAY: Medical Extensions
SUNDAY: Payouts and Points, Qualifiers, Reshuffle
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.
Rob Bolton is a Golfbet columnist for the PGA TOUR. The Chicagoland native has been playing fantasy golf since 1994, so he was just waiting for the Internet to catch up with him. Follow Rob Bolton on Twitter.