Tournament: PGA Championship, August 9-12, 2018
Course: Bellerive Country Club, 7,317 yards, par 70.
Purse: $10,500,000. First place is $1,890,000
Fun Fact 1: The PGA Championship holds a very casual Long Drive contest for the field during Tuesday’s practice round. Keep in mind that seven players on the Tour are averaging over 315 yards on measured drives this season; two players had drives over 400 yards during Sunday’s final round of the WGC Bridgestone. And none of them came close this week. Bryson DeChambeau, he of the poor sportsmanship and epic choke jobs, won at a distance of 331 yards. Since the re-introduction of the contest, it has been won by bruisers such as Louis Oosthuizen and Anirban Lahiri (Editor: these guys really aren’t bruisers. Some guys don’t compete, some don’t hit a good shot. Cute idea, but overall a meh.)
Fun Fact 2: The course was orginally called The Field Club, but was later renamed in honor of Louis St. Ange de Bellerive, North America’s last French governor. You do you, Mizzou, you keep on doin’ you.
Fun Fact 3: For the second year, the PGA relaxed the dress code and allows players to wear shorts during practice rounds. Long trousers are still required during tournament days. If you like chicken legs and tan lines, then this is your week.
Not a Fun Fact: The last time the PGA Tour was scheduled to play Bellerive was September 2001 for the WGC American Express Championship. It was abruptly cancelled in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy.
How to Watch: Thursday-Friday, 2-8 p.m. ET (TNT). Saturday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. (TNT), 2-7 p.m. (CBS). If you like your golf with a Bulldog slant, TNT has you covered as Ernie Johnson, Jr. will trade the hardwood for the metal woods and gets behind the 18th green TV tower microphone.
The fourth and final major of the year, the PGA Championship has produced some incredible champions and intriguing storylines, all while competing with football and dwindling eyeballs. And though a full field, 20 of the 156 players competing this week are not touring pros, though they are PGA professionals. These 20 are “club pros” - the men who run the pro shop, hand out caddie scholarships, oversee the member-guest, give lessons, and cheat with your wives (Note from desk of MaconDawg: Stop being bitter and get on with your life, Glimmer!!!)
Here are just a few news nuggets going into Thursday’s opening round:
Jordan Spieth has try #2 in going for the career Grand Slam. If victorious this week, he would be the youngest winner of the Masters, US Open, British Open, and PGA Championship in his career. Only 5 players have previously accomplished this, and the current youngest to achieve it would be Tiger Woods. Who has 3 Grand Slams to his name.
Player of the Year Competition. UGA’s own Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, and Justin Thomas all have 3 wins this season. Recency bias being a thing, both DJ and JT have won in the last couple of weeks so they are the front runners at the moment. Any of the 3 who win this week will definitely capture POTY and I’d like to see that trophy ‘Tween The Hedges this fall.
I’ve mentioned Tiger Woods. Believe it or not I’m not alone. El Tigre is going for his 80th career victory (3 shy of all time record), and his 15th major. This will be his first time competing in the PGA Championship since 2015.
The Ryder Cup is just around the corner. A biennial team competition between ‘Merica and a team from Europe, most of the 12 man team is determined based on points with a few players picked as wild cards by the captains. The PGA is the last tournament in which to earn points, so this week locks in a majority of the team. Bubba Watson is safely ensconced, but lurking in the #13 and #14 spots are Kevin Kisner and Brian Harman respectively. Both former Bulldogs have had a good 18 months, but neither has a win this season and it would take a win this week plus some bad things to happen to the competition for either to qualify on points. Kisner has the best chance at making the team as a captain’s pick.
Weather. The PGA Championship has historically been held in August, and that typically means hot conditions. St. Louis, like much of the country, has had a very hot summer especially over the last month. So the grounds crew has watered and watered to keep the grass green. This then invites fungus, insects, and other enemies to invade. And to top it off, the course has been drenched a couple of times over the past week by Mother Nature, with a forecast that includes thunderstorms. If so, the PGA of America is handcuffed and we will see a slog-fest. Stay tuned.
Maybe most newsworthy is that this championship is moving to May in 2019, as the Players Championship gives up its May calendar slot and jumps back up to March (in which it was previously competed for many years). So the PGA Championship will now be held about a month after the Masters, and a month before the US Open. All this was done to attempt to end the wrap-around season by September, thus competing less with football for clicks and eyeballs for the marquee events.
The last 27 Major tournament winners have come from inside the top 50 in the world (at the time of competition). But this tournament has famously had dark horse winners. Y. E. Yang defeating Tiger Woods in 2009, Keegan Bradley over Dufner in 2011, Shaun Micheel all the way from #169 ranking in 2003, and of course John Daly as the 9th alternate in 1991. If you are fond of the ponies and long shots, this is probably the best tournament to do it.
Now let’s get down to business, the former ‘Dawgs competing in this 100th edition of the PGA Championship:
Brian Harman tees off Thursday at 7:45 am
Russell Henley goes out on #10 at 12:15 pm Thursday.
12:53 pm brings us a pretty good pairing of Bubba Watson alongside world #1 Dustin Johnson and Adam Scott.
Kevin Kisner starts his tourney with Sergio Garcia and long-hitting Gary Woodland at 1:26 pm.
Chris Kirk starts late in the day at 2:27 pm.
Other notable groupings are:
8:01 am - Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, Keegan Bradley
8:23 am - Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy
7:39 am - Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, Ian Poulter
1:15 pm - Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka, Francisco Molinari. This is the traditional Thur/Fri pairing of the current Masters, US Open, British Open champions.
1:37 pm - Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose
Of the ‘Dawgs, I like Kisner. He was in contention for 71 holes last year, and was competitive in the Open Championship just a couple of weeks ago. Out of the favorite, I like Rory. He has won in wet, lush settings before and he’s been close to form for a few weeks now. But it is really hard to bet against Justin Thomas (won last week) and Dustin Johnson (won the week prior). For dark horses, give me Nordic: either Alex Noren or Thorbjorn Olesen. I ask you, how can you bet against a guy named Thor?
So that’s the preview. We’ll be back with updates on leaderboards, especially if one of our DGDs starts going low. I now return you to your regularly scheduled angst of when Robertson gets cleared and Fields forces Fromm to transfer to Mercer. But as always...