Power Rankings: PGA Championship
July 25, 2016
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM
- Dustin Johnson looks to ride a T2 finish at Glen Abbey into Baltusrol and the PGA Championship. (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
The last time that the PGA Championship was contested outside the month of August was in 1971 when it was held in late February. The shift was due to the oppressive conditions a summer stop at PGA National in south Florida would have guaranteed, but there’s no escaping summer, even in Springfield, New Jersey, site of this week’s final major of 2016.
The Lower Course at Baltusrol Golf Club is hosting the PGA Championship for the second time. In its first spin in 2005, historically hot and humid weather added to the challenge of the A.W. Tillinghast gem that opened in 1922. Similarly steamy weather during the opening round of this week’s 98th edition will undoubtedly remind locals of 11 years ago, but Mother Nature will relent a bit on Friday and over the weekend, not that anyone will notice. Skies could open on any day and light breezes will offer little relief.
Phil Mickelson came out on top in the 2005 PGA Championship at just 4-under 276. He went wire-to-wire with shares of the 18- and 54-hole leads, but it was a 65 in the second round that positioned the lefty to absorb a pair of 2-over 72s post-cut. Baltusrol is a par 34-36=70 with two par 5s that conclude the walk. No. 17 can stretch 649 yards. It was eagled just once in 2005 when Kenny Perry holed out from 80 yards. (When Baltusrol hosted the 1993 U.S. Open, its most recent of seven turns as host of that major, there weren’t any eagles on the hole.) The par-5 18th tapes off at 554 yards, unchanged since 2005. Overall, the course is 36 yards longer at 7,428 with No. 13 (+27 yards) and No. 15 (+23 yards) – both par 4s – leading the four holes extended. Of the five holes reduced in yardage, the par-4 11th experienced the greatest snip, but it’s only nine yards shorter at 431.
Tillinghast’s architectural philosophy made possible modernizations over the decades. Most recently, Rees Jones, whose father Robert Trent, Sr., famously enhanced the property in the early 1950s, upgraded all of the 138 bunkers to better test the games of today. Some bunkers were added, other were shifted closer to greens and greenside hazards were deepened, but all decisions were made with respect to what Tillinghast would have approved. Placement and purpose enrich the design.
Some of the bentgrass greens have been expanded and the average square footage is 6,402. Continuous with the theme, Tillinghast’s nuance has been retained since he signed off on the property. It’s this respect for the land that aided Baltusrol in receiving the designation of National Historic Landmark in 2014. It joined Oakmont, Merion and Pinehurst as the only golf courses with this distinction.
The heavy air will aid in keeping the ball aloft longer this week, which could bring the exceptionally gnarly rough into play more often. The premium will be on threading needles on longer holes while saving strokes elsewhere. Distance is of value as long as accuracy is behind the wheel. Mickelson ranked fifth-from-last in distance off the tee in 2005 but T37 in fairways hit. He finished T8 in scoring opportunities at 69.44 percent.
POWER RANKINGS: PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
RANK PLAYER COMMENT 1 Dustin Johnson 2 Henrik Stenson 3 Rory McIlroy 4 Phil Mickelson 5 Jason Day 6 Matt Kuchar 7 Sergio Garcia 8 Zach Johnson 9 Jordan Spieth 10 Justin Rose 11 Adam Scott 12 Jason Dufner 13 Charl Schwartzel 14 Bill Haas 15 Lee Westwood 16 Andy Sullivan 17 Brandt Snedeker 18 Patrick Reed 19 J.B. Holmes 20 Gary Woodland
ROB BOLTON'S WRITING SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM's Fantasy Columnist Rob Bolton will be filing his usual staples leading up to this week's events. Look for the following features later this week:
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider, Comfort Zone (Baltusrol GC)
THURSDAY: Most-picked players
* = Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM's Expert Picks, which also publishes on Tuesdays.