Roundtable: Surprises, analysis from Wednesday at the PGA Championship
May 15, 2019
By Staff, PGATOUR.COM
- May 15, 2019
Inside the PGA TOUR
PGA Championship preview
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – The season of championships continues tomorrow with the opening round of the PGA Championship. Plenty of storylines have dominated the early part of the week and here PGATOUR.COM’s writers tackle some of the big questions in the much-anticipated lead up.
Tiger Woods is the talk of the town. What do you see from him this week?
BEN EVERILL (Staff Writer): I expect Tiger will play well, but not well enough to win. Something tells me the rust from not playing might kick in just enough to keep him 3 or 4 off the lead throughout the week, keeping us hopeful of a charge that just might not eventuate.
SEAN MARTIN (Senior Editor): He’s obviously won here before but I think this long, wet course will be a bit too much for him. He’s not the TOUR’s big hitter anymore. He has to play more of a finesse game. This week will be about brute strength.
CAMERON MORFIT (Staff Writer): A guy who hadn't won a major in almost 11 years suddenly wins two straight? At 43? With a fused back, in cool weather? Yeah, that might be too much to ask for. The time off (one month) and the physical demands of the course plus good vibes ('02) and good form add up to a T12 finish.
ROB BOLTON (Fantsay Insider): More of the same. He’s been a model of economy both inside and outside the ropes. He’s also injected accuracy into his game off the tee that remains long enough. And, of course, he knows how his presence on the leaderboard influences others. Automatic top five.
MIKE McALLISTER (Managing Editor): He’ll play well. I expect him to be in the mix on Sunday. But I don’t expect him to win. Going to be difficult to recreate the kind of magic (and fortune) we saw at Augusta National.
HELEN ROSS (Contributor): I think he’ll play well but to expect another epic Masters-like performance is simply too much to ask. Look for his name on the leaderboard but not on the Wanamaker trophy for the fifth time.
Whose career would be most impacted by a win this week?
EVERILL: Jordan Spieth. Winning the career grand slam in the midst of a serious form slump would be an incredible story and elevate his status into an elite club.
MARTIN: Rickie Fowler. He has seven top-10s in the last 20 majors (dating to the 2014 U.S. Open). That’s the sixth-most in that span. Everyone ahead of him on the list has won a major in that span. Fowler’s time has to be near, right?
MORFIT: Everyone sees Rickie Fowler as a major talent, and he says he sees himself that way, too. Actually winning a major, though, would leave no doubt in his mind and set him up to take his career to the next level.
BOLTON: Rickie Fowler. I’d never argue that the career grand slam would be a lesser achievement for Jordan Spieth, but I’m assuming that inspiring form upon arrival contributes to the relative possibilities. That’s where Fowler edges ahead. Remember how he served notice at the Waste Management Phoenix Open where he finally captured victory with family in attendance and on a track that’s triggered tears.
McALLISTER: Jordan Spieth’s. Not only would he complete the career Grand Slam – becoming just the sixth player to do so -- but getting back in the winner’s circle will help quiet the critics. Of course, any first-time major winner would also be on this list, particularly a veteran such as Matt Kuchar.
ROSS: Jordan Spieth. Finishing off the career Grand Slam would be huge for anyone, but in this case if could be a massive confidence boost for a player who hasn’t put together 72 holes of his best stuff in a while.
Which will have a bigger impact, the length of the course (7,459 yards) or the length of the rough?
EVERILL: The length of course. If you can’t give it a serious poke out here you basically have no shot. Trying to compete with long irons into greens against guys with short irons will prove near impossible.
MARTIN: It’s 7,459 yards that’s playing more like 7,700 yards because of the cold, wet conditions (though the sun is shining Wednesday). I think the rough will be the biggest factor, though. This course is already long enough. I think the rough only exacerbates the long hitters’ advantage. Having 140 out of the rough is a much easier proposition than 180.
MORFIT: The length of the course. Kerry Haigh and his staff haven't been able to do much with the rain, but they plan to top the rough today. That'll make it more playable, but still brawny. I walked 16 holes out there and was reminded just how long this place really is. Shorter hitters can forget it. Medium-length hitters will have to be deadly accurate with fairway woods and utility clubs. A long hitter definitely wins.
BOLTON: Trick question. If it plays wet as it’s expected, it’ll play longer and the fairways will be wider because drives won’t roll out as much. Of course some will struggle staying out of the thick stuff, but in the aggregate, power will prevail.
McALLISTER: Length of rough. The key will be to stay out of it.
ROSS: It’s sort of like picking your poison, isn’t it? Longer hitters are certainly the favorites but if they can’t find the fairways, that advantage will be neutralized. Even Dustin Johnson, among the longest of the long, says he hasn’t hit more than a 9-iron out of the rough.
Brooks said the winning score could be a few shots under par. What do you think?
EVERILL: I agree with Brooks. The course is long, the rough is heavy… there are mistakes waiting to happen around every corner. It’s a par 70… I think four rounds near or just under par will have you well in the mix for a Wanamaker.
MARTIN: I think 6 under par is a good target. The winning score in the U.S. Opens here was 276 and 277. Both of those were played in wet conditions. The PGA is traditionally a little bit easier.
MORFIT: What does he know about winning majors? Oh, wait. That's right. I guess I'll go with Brooks.
BOLTON: He’s right.
McALLISTER: Who am I to disagree with Brooks? I don’t see somebody going super-low, but neither do I see the winner finishing over par.
ROSS: That certainly wouldn’t surprise me. Yes, the Black Course is a beast but 10 under won in 2012 when the FedExCup Playoffs kicked off there (although it played to a par 71 that week).
Which is more likely, a player wins his second major or a player wins his first major … or someone wins their 16th major?
EVERILL: A player wins his second major. Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Patrick Reed, Adam Scott… I like the look of this quintet here this week. Brooks Koepka might have other ideas though.
MARTIN: I think the odds are in favor of a first-timer. Fowler, Matsuyama, Schauffele, Fleetwood, Rahm, Bryson, Casey, Finau, Cantlay. There’s plenty of strong candidates to get their first major.
MORFIT: The most likely scenario is someone (goes by Dustin Johnson) wins his second major, but I'm not ruling out big-game hunters Fowler, Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele, all of whom would be winning their first.
McALLISTER: Can I add another option – multiple-major winner? I’m thinking Koepka (three majors) or McIlroy (four majors).
ROSS: I look for a first-time winner to hoist the Wanamaker Trophy. Someone like Rickie Fowler or Jon Rahm or Xander Schauffele comes to mind.
BOLTON: Helen’s right.