Power Rankings: PGA Championship
May 17, 2021
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM
- Rory McIlroy is one to watch at the PGA Championship. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Collin Morikawa has scattered four victories across three PGA TOUR seasons, but he hasn’t defended a title until now. But even the winner of the 2020 PGA Championship will have to wait to experience the thrill of returning to the same site as a previous conquest.
The 2021 PGA Championship will be contested at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort beside the Atlantic Ocean in South Carolina, essentially on the opposite side of the contiguous United States where TPC Harding Park is located, where Morikawa broke through for his major nine months ago.
Morikawa figures to dazzle again on the Pete Dye design that hosted the PGA Championship in 2012, but he’s hardly alone among the projected contenders. Scroll past the ranking of 20 for what the field of 156 faces, what’s new and more insight.
POWER RANKINGS: PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
RANK PLAYER COMMENT 20 Will Zalatoris 19 Sam Burns 18 Charl Schwartzel 17 Dustin Johnson 16 Corey Conners 15 Louis Oosthuizen 14 Keegan Bradley 13 Collin Morikawa 12 Cameron Smith 11 Jordan Spieth 10 Webb Simpson 9 Matt Fitzpatrick 8 Daniel Berger 7 Marc Leishman 6 Jon Rahm 5 Justin Thomas 4 Xander Schauffele 3 Viktor Hovland 2 Bryson DeChambeau 1 Rory McIlroy
Tuesday’s Fantasy Insider will include reviews of numerous notables, including 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, two-time PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Tyrrell Hatton, Joaquin Niemann and Patrick Cantlay.
When Kiawah Island hosted the 2012 PGA Championship, the PGA TOUR still had a Fall Series and current Danish sensation, Rasmus Højgaard, was 11 years old. (The two-time European Tour winner, who is now all of 20, is in this week’s field.) However, as of Monday, 42 qualifiers (more than one-quarter of the field) competed in the 2012 edition.
Rory McIlroy, then just 23 years of age, prevailed by a record eight strokes at 13-under 275. Focus on that and the message of the general challenges of The Ocean Course is lost. The stock par 72 averaged 2.566 strokes over par and punished with more double bogeys (286) and triple bogeys or worse (53) than any other course on TOUR that season.
So what did the PGA of America approve? Another 200 yards of length, because of course.
Now tipping at 7,876 yards, The Ocean Course is the longest track in the history of major championship golf. Eight of the holes – four on each side – were stretched. The par-4 12th was increased the most. Now 484 yards, it’s 72 yards longer than its 2012 self that, incidentally, averaged 0.145 strokes over par. Have fun with that, fellas.
Because of variable wind directions on the daily, Dye routed The Ocean Course in the facsimile of a figure eight. (Despite how many “others” are penciled down on the hardest holes, there’s no proof that the course also resembles a sideways snowman from above, but understanding Dye’s take-no-prisoners philosophy, it can’t be ruled out.)
Despite its aesthetic as a links course hard by the sea and general starkness of the land, The Ocean Course rewards shot-shapers and ball-strikers. However, there is a conflict. Even moderate breezes suggest a controlled, lower ball flight, but many of the greens are perched and surrounded by Dye’s infamous run-off areas. The complexity of that challenge will be humbling for many.
The weather will cooperate and push just enough so that the course shows its teeth, but the bark could be worse than the bite. Still, par will be a terrific score even though something in the red numbers will be required to claim the Wanamaker Trophy.
Long and accurate will play well, but it won’t be the only formula for success. Paspalum greens typically are slower by default, but they’ll be surprisingly slick due to the preparation and exposure.
The 2012 edition was held in August, so the rough was longer and the course no longer was affected by the annual overseed, but this week’s setup includes overseeded bermuda rough in which only the ryegrass will extend at least three inches. Because of the advancement in technology since its last staging, it’s understandable why the PGA of America has gravitated toward the limits of The Ocean Course.
Headlining a smorgasbord of perks, the champion will receive 600 FedExCup points, fully exempt status on the PGA TOUR through 2025-26, a lifetime exemption into the PGA Championship and exemptions into the next five editions of each of the other three majors.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers; Fantasy Insider
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.