99th PGA Championship Preview

08-08-17

Quail Hollow hosts a major for the first time as the world’s best head to Charlotte’s monster.

Only Tiger Woods has defended in this format so it’s a big ask for defending champion Jimmy Walker.

99th PGA Championship

 

Quail Hollow Club

Charlotte, N.C.

 

Yards: 7,600 per the official scorecard;

Par: 71 (35-36);

Course Architect(s): George Cobb (1960); Tom Fazio (1997, 2003 and 2016).

Greens: G-12 Champion Bermuda running 13.5′; 6,500 square feet on average.

Rough: Bermudagrass at three-plus inches.

Water Hazards: only on one hole on the front (par 5, No. 7) plus the five finishing holes (creek, lake)

Purse: $10.5 million; $1.85 million (winner) plus 600 FEC points (2016).

Defending Champion (event):  Jimmy Walker claimed his first major as he defeated Jason Day by a shot at Baltusrol.

Defending Champion (course): First time as host.

Notes: 156 players including 20 PGA Professionals

Notes II: 72-holes, stroke-play; top 70 and ties play the weekend.

Notes III: Three-hole aggregate playoff will determine the winner in case of a tie. Sudden death begins on No. 18 if the aggregate doesn’t determine a winner. Nos. 16, 17 and 18 will be the rotation if that doesn’t work.

 

2016-17 PGA Tour Winners

Frys.com: Brendan Steele,

CIMB: Justin Thomas

WGC-HSBC: Hideki Matsuyama

Sanderson Farms: Cody Gribble**

Shriners: Rod Pampling

OHL Mayakoba: Pat Perez

RSM Classic: Mackenzie Hughes**

SBS TOC: Justin Thomas

Sony Open: Justin Thomas

CB Challenge: Hudson Swafford*

Farmers: Jon Rahm*

WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama

AT&T Pebble Beach: Jordan Spieth

Genesis Open: Dustin Johnson

Honda: Rickie Fowler

WGC-MC: Dustin Johnson

Valspar: Adam Hadwin*

Arnold Palmer: Marc Leishman

WGC-Match Play: Dustin Johnson

Shell Houston Open: Russell Henley

Masters: Sergio Garcia

RBC Heritage: Wesley Bryan**

Valero Texas Open: Kevin Chappell*

Zurich Classic: Cameron Smith* & Jonas Blixt

Wells Fargo Championship: Brian Harman

THE PLAYERS: Si Woo Kim

AT&T Byron Nelson: Billy Horschel

Colonial: Kevin Kisner

Memorial: Jason Dufner

FESJC: Daniel Berger

U.S. Open: Brooks Koepka

Travelers: Jordan Spieth

QLN: Kyle Stanley

Greenbrier: Xander Schauffele**

John Deere Classic: Bryson DeChambeau**

The Open Championship: Jordan Spieth

Barbasol: Grayson Murray

RBC Canadian: Jhonattan Vegas

WGC-BI: Hideki Matsuyama

Barracuda: Chris Stroud*

*-First-time winner

**-First-time winner AND rookie winner

 

Recent Winners at Quail Hollow

2016: James Hahn, -9*

2015: Rory McIlroy, -21 (seven shots)

2014: J.B. Holmes, -14 (one shot)

2013: Derek Ernst, -8*

2012: Rickie Fowler, -14*

2011: Lucas Glover, -15*

2010: Rory McIlroy, -15 (four shots)

* – playoff

Recent PGA champions

2016: Jimmy Walker, 266 (-14); Baltusrol

2015: Jason Day, 268 (-20); Whistling Straits

2014: Rory McIlroy, 270 (-18); Valhalla

2013: Jason Dufner, 270 (-10); Oak Hill

2012: Rory McIlroy, 275 (-13); Kiawah Island

2011: Keegan Bradley, 272 (-8); Atlanta Athletic Club

2010: Martin Kaymer, 277 (-11): Whistling Straits

I’ll let you point out the short hitter in that group! Er, wait…

 

The Particulars:

Quail Hollow Club joins Erin Hills as first-time hosts for a major championship this season. Built in 1960, the club hosted the Kemper Open from 1969 until 1979. The next decade saw it put on the World Seniors Invitational. In 1997 renowned Masters architect/re-designer Tom Fazio was commissioned to supervise a decade-and-counting make-over.

While James Hahn was finishing off his playoff victory in May of 2016 crews were tearing up the first five holes in preparation for the 99th PGA Championship. Three different firms were in charge of tearing down and rebuilding the opening five holes plus adding a new back tee at No. 11 in preparation for hosting this event.

Gamers who lean on course form must be aware that the redesign all included the regrassing off all 18 holes with Champion Bermuda. That shouldn’t be a huge deal because this is the third time since 2013 that Quail Hollow has regrassed their greens changing from bent to TifEagle to Champion.

Quail Hollow eliminated the opening par five and will play as par 71. The opening five holes included four of the easiest on the card and will be different for everyone this time around and that should favor the premium player.

Playing at 7,600 yards with most greens defended by front bunkering (all redone with similar white silica as Augusta) and back-to-front slopes, I’m having a hard time looking at anyone besides power players and GIR experts. Sure there are always exceptions but that length and those demands will favor those who find GIR.

Even the greenest of gamer knows about the finishing stretch called “The Green Mile”. The final five holes all include water and the last three are the toughest of the bunch. There’s no faking it with 504, 223 and 494, all with water in play, on these final holes.

As with most PGA Championship tracks, length is a factor. Luckily for the players the recent renovations have cleaned up tree lines and lower-lying limbs so recovery shots from the Bermuda rough can at least be attempted. With four par fives playing 483 or better and every par three 184 or better, length will have to be in the equation this week. Or PREMIUM short gamers if they can navigate the traps and tight-lie Bermuda in the landing areas. Leaning on putters will be tough this week as these greens are new and the new surfaces will take some time getting used to.

Weather:

Woof.

At 7,600 yards and tough to pick apart tee-to-green adding weather into the mix isn’t going to help the short hitter either. Target golf on a wet course favors those who know where their golf ball is going and will widen those landing areas and greens.

MUD BALLZ!

With thunderstorms forecasted for the entire four days, I’m going to lean heavily on the big, bad ball-strikers.

This will win you a bar bet I:

Before last year because of the Olympics changing the schedule, the last nine winners of the PGA had finished T-20 or better at WGC-BI the week prior.

Here are your choices if you believe in that trend:

1.) Hideki Matsuyama
2.) Zach Johnson
3.) Charley Hoffman
4.) Thomas Pieters
5.) Paul Casey
5.) Rory McIlroy
5.) Adam Hadwin
5.) Russell Knox
9.) Rickie Fowler
10.) Scott Hend
10.) Thorbjorn Olesen
10.) Hudson Swafford
13.) Kevin Chappell
13.) Xander Schauffele
13.) Adam Scott
13.) Jordan Spieth
17.) Daniel Berger
17.) Dustin Johnson
17.) Matt Kuchar
17.) Henrik Stenson
17.) Bubba Watson

 

This will win you a bar bet II:

There are only 11 players to win the week before winning a major. Rory McIlroy is the last to do so as he won the 2014 WGC-BI before winning the PGA Championship at Valhalla.

 

Facts and Figures:

 

  • ·       Missing from the OWGR Top 50 this week: Brandt Snedeker as he’s WD for the fourth event running.
  •  PGA Championship abandoned match play after the 1957 edition.
  • Walter Hagen won five match-play titles.
  •  Jack Nicklaus has won five stroke-play titles.
  • There have only been 11 foreign-born winners in 98 previous editions.
  • Americans have won only three times since 2006.    The only players in the field this week with multiple titles are Vijay Singh (1998, 2004) and McIlroy.
  • Tiger Woods is the only player to defend the stroke play championship. Unsurprisingly, he’s done it twice.
  • First-time winners at the PGA since 1989 are John Daly (1990), Shaun Micheel (2003) and Keegan Bradley (2011).
  • Since 1900, only Francis Ouimet, Ben Curtis and Keegan Bradley have won a major on their first attempt.
  • Oldest winner: Julius Boros, 48.
  • Youngest winner: Gene Sarazen, 20.
  • Lowest winning score to par: Day, -20, 2015.
  • Lowest winning score: David Toms, 265, 2001.
  • Largest margin of victory: McIlroy, eight shots, 2012.
  • Course record, non-major: McIlroy, 61, 2015.
  • Of the 98 winners, 65 were between 30-39 years old. #Prime.
  • Of the last seven winners, only two have been in the 30-39 range (Dufner, Walker). #TrendNotATrend?
  • Of the last eight major winners, only Jordan Spieth had a prior major victory.

 

The Field

 

Favorites

In order of preference for this week and tournament only. Rankings vary week-to-week based on event, course, life, etc.

Rory McIlroy: He backed up his top five at Royal Birkdale with T-5 last week at Firestone, new caddy notwithstanding. To say this course fits his eye would be insulting to his eye(s) as he’s posted two wins, two course records and top 10’s in six of seven tries. The longer and wetter, the better and these setups are made for his game.

Jordan Spieth: He’d love to pip McIlroy to the finish line in the career grand slam race but let’s remember only six men in history have accomplished that milestone. The Texan has already done the difficult part in winning back-to-back majors in 2015 so this won’t be a “new” experience in that sense. Remember, his issue last week was putting, not ball-striking, and that’s easier to quickly correct.

Hideki Matsuyama: All cylinders were firing last week at WGC-BI as he torched the field and had just about every part of his game tuned in. As mentioned above, it takes some cache to join the win, win major next week club. He has it. His worst finish in a major this year was T-14 at Augusta.

Rickie Fowler: Quail Hollow is his spiritual home as he picked up his first Tour win here with a playoff victory over McIlroy and D.A. Points. He adds two more top 10’s to his six-year haul. There’s not a weakness in his bag and he closed 67-66 last week to bag another top 10.

Dustin Johnson: On April first he would have been at the top of this list by a mile. This is why dudes like me don’t answer questions in February like “who you got for the four majors this year”. Well shit happens. Falling down the stairs happens. Kicking soccer balls happen. Weddings and babies happen. If I had a crystal ball, I’d be chillin’ at the pool with Todd and Payne! DJ is a big-time weather player and won’t care how long it plays this week. Roared home with 66 on Sunday at WGC on a less-than-easy track to show signs of life.

Paul Casey: With finishes of T-12 or better in seven of his last nine worldwide, he’s an easy inclusion this week and most weeks. Fowler and Matsuyama will have the “never won a major” spotlight this week but Casey will gladly do his business under the radar. He sits in the top 10 in approach, tee-to-green and total and is second GIR. #Metronome.

Charley Hoffman: When he told his caddy “I’m trying to win a golf tournament” last Sunday, I almost stood up and applauded. Sadly for Hoffman I had too much fun Saturday night and couldn’t muster the strength. His career year hasn’t included a win but it has included big finishes at big events. He’s led at every major at one point this year? Surely that can’t be true! I do know that he’s posted three podium finishes in his last six and back-to-back weeks. He’s also rattled off 12 cuts in a row.

Brooks Koepka: His two best finishes this year have been on 7,800-yard Erin Hills and almost 7,500-yard AT&T Oaks course. This won’t bother him much. He backed up his U.S. Open with T-6 at Royal Birkdale and T-17 last week in Akron. He hits it a mile and won’t to navigate small greens again this week.

Matt Kuchar: He’s usually the exception to the big course, big hitter theory because he gets up-and-down from everywhere and usually stays out of trouble. He fought through a tough week at Glen Abbey after “that” happened at Royal Birkdale. He found form late last week closing 66-68. His two best PGA finishes are both at Whistling Straits, hardly a pitch and putt.

Adam Scott: The Aussie replaced Steve Williams before the WGC-BI and he posted his best finish in two months with T-13. David Clark retains the bag this week as they keep the momentum rolling. With 30 rounds under his belt at Quail Hollow he should be more than familiar with what it takes to finish around here. Another top 15 shouldn’t surprise.

Justin Rose: In his last 12 rounds here over six years, he’s posted 11 in red figures. The last two times he played the WFC he finished fifth in 2014 and third in 2016. His recent form, or lack thereof, might chase folks away, but I’m hoping the grind that is on the cards plus his results from his last two trips will get his attention.

Henrik Stenson: If this was May, there’s no way I’m making this stretch as the Swede flat out stinks here. His lowest round is 70 in six events and his best finish is T-58. In his last eight starts worldwide he’s made seven cuts and not collected worse than T-26. Couple that with the forecast and length of this track and I’m zigging while they’re zagging. Class counts in these big events.

Daniel Berger: He’s proven he’s a factor in the regular Tour events and the next step is moving up in the majors. He’s pegged T-27 at the Masters and Open Championship this season so he’s adapting nicely. He has a chip on his shoulder that he’s not getting the love as some of his 2011 classmates. He has plenty of weapons in his bag as he checks in 11th in Strokes Gained: Total.

Zach Johnson: Along with his Ryder Cup buddy Kuchar, ZJ is the exception to the rule when big, nasty courses are on tap. He handled his business at JDC with T-5 and backed that up with T-14 at Royal Birkdale. He put up a noble fight for 14 holes for Matsuyama last week before finishing second at WGC-BI. This is his best run of form since, wait for it…, this time last summer when he peeled off T-8, T-10 and T-12 in consecutive starts. This will be his 13th trip to Quail Hollow so it obviously doesn’t play “too long” for him or he wouldn’t show up almost annually.

Marc Leishman: Proper weather player as the Aussie has no problem with big courses and bad forecasts. He sits fifth in total scoring and 14th in SG: Total. He’s collected checks for top 10’s in two of his last three including Royal Birkdale and has played eight weekends in a row.

Phil Mickelson: Gamers will remember when he lost the plot late to Derek Ernst in 2013. Pro gamers will remember although he hasn’t won, he’s bagged NOYNE top 10’s in 13 starts in Charlotte. His wonderfully inconsistent form drops him here but we’ve learned over the recent years if you’re going to jump, jump when he’s on a familiar, happy track. This week easily qualifies.

Thomas Pieters: Take a look at where his best finishes on Tour have been this year and they all share one thing in common: They’re not easy tracks. He’ll have no problem on a wet, long course with his prodigious length but I can’t point to back-to-back big events when he’s backed up a previous big check.

 

Supporting Cast

Just missed and should make excellent support staff for deeper games/tickets.

Jon Rahm: There’s more to having big results in majors besides stats. I can’t argue the he leads the Tour in SG: Off-the-Tee, fourth in SG: Tee-to-Green or that he’s third in SG: Total. After finishing second at Colonial, his last four starts in the States are MC, MC and T-28. His best finish in three majors this season is T-27.

Justin Thomas: Hit it great last week at Firestone but couldn’t putt; bogey-free Sunday suggests the turnaround is coming but I’m not leading with him. T-28 after three MC’s isn’t inspiring but his par four scoring and power won’t let me dismiss him altogether.

Francesco Molinari: Another straight fit on ball-striking numbers but he’s also struggled in the majors this season (T-33, MC and MC). He played the WFC in 2016 for the first time and posted three rounds at par or better (T-17). The better news is that made eight PGA cuts in a row on some nasty, nasty courses.

Kevin Chappell: I have no problem lining up in-form players in the supporting cast. Chappell backed up his T-8 at Glen Abbey with T-13 at Firestone last week. Gamers know that he tackled a very difficult AT&T Oaks course for his first Tour win earlier this season. He cashed T-7 at Augusta and T-23 at Erin Hills before MC at Royal Birkdale. He should be higher up the list.

Xander Schauffele: Folks, stick him in your lineup and forget about it. If you thought his U.S. Open was a fluke, you’ve been highly disappointed to see his first Tour win and three additional top 20’s since. The better news is he crushes it off the tee, is 20th in GIR and is 26th in scoring average. He should be higher up the list.

Tony Finau: He’s played six majors in the last three years and made four cuts. He’s also never cashed for worse than T-27 so this stage doesn’t bother him. The formula is quiet simple here. Finau blasts it off the tee and takes advantage with his irons. He hasn’t MC in his last nine and three of his last six were top 10’s.

Kyle Stanley: Similar to Finau, Stanley has plenty of goods from tee-to-green. It’s no secret, as like Finau, putting can be a chore. These two fellas will hope the new greens reset the field when it comes to putting this week. He leads the Tour in GIR and that will never hurt in a major. He’s also 12th in scoring average.

Kevin Kisner: Seven is the magic number here as that is how many cuts in a row he’s racked up in the majors plus he sits seventh in SG: Total. It’s no secret that he paints a ton of fairways and his preferred surface is Bermuda.

Tommy Fleetwood: His tee-to-green numbers are enough for me if the price is right. He already showed his chops on a monster at Erin Hills where he finished fourth.

Gary Woodland: With plenty of power and plenty of GIR he’ll be included in the group that hopes the new greens at Quail Hollow don’t decide the result. He currently checks in at No. 182 in SGP behind both Finau and Stanley. He hasn’t made a cut in his last two tries at this event so move cautiously.

Jimmy Walker: Man, he was my outsider of the week last week and when he sat two clear of the field after 36 on Friday I was starting to count my coins. Dumb. #Play72.The defending champ from Baltusrol didn’t finish the way he started last week but it looks like he’s playing himself back into form. Walker has no problem hitting it a mile or hitting GIR but he’ll need to keep it on the planet if he wants to join Woods as the only man to defend the stroke play title.

Bill Haas: Plenty of history with his family in this part of the world but his course history doesn’t match. He has more MC (six) than top 30’s (five) from 13 events but his penchant for making pars finds him on my radar. He had a run of seven major weekends in a row snapped at Birkdale but he’s played the last six weekends at the PGA.

J.B. Holmes: You let me know when you figure him out. The 2014 champ at the WFC has 31 rounds in the memory bank and also adds a top 10 from 2011.

Branden Grace: He’s played the weekend in nine of his last 10 majors including six in a row. He finished third at Whistling Straits and T-4 at Baltusrol. I’m trying to remember why a guy who closed with 62 at Royal Birkdale is doing way down here…

Range Jockeys

Long shots, no-names with names, trending, event jockeys and everyone else with a few warts.

Lucas Glover: With five top 10’s from 13 tries, the former U.S. Open champ and 2011 WFC winner should feel right at home this week at Quail Hollow. His recent form is the deterrent.

Hudson Swafford: He sits in the top 30 in both driving distance (plus) and GIR (plus) and has posted 12 of his last 13 rounds on Tour at par or better.

Patrick and Patrick: Rodgers finished second here to McIlroy in 2015 and has plenty of power to get around here. Cantlay also makes his money tee-to-green and hasn’t been bothered by much this season.

Nicolas Colsaerts: Remember when he was Thomas Pieters? T-26 or better with two top 10’s in his last seven in Europe.

Martin Laird: Former Charlotte resident has never been better than T-26 at Quail Hollow or T-21 in 20 majors.

Daniel Summerhays: He’s only MC once in eight majors and has a streak of seven in a row collecting checks. He ground out top 10’s last year at Oakmont and Baltusrol so there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Thorbjorn Olesen: Of his last 10 events worldwide he’s posted a top 10 in four of them including last week at Firestone South.

Jason Kokrak: Perfect. Charlotte resident. Hits it a mile. No top 25’s in his last seven. Epitome of long shot.

Bud Cauley: He’s had almost a month off so he should be fresh after T-12 at JDC. He sits top 50 in both GIR and scoring and top 30 in tee-to-green and approach.

James Hahn: With three top 10’s in his last seven on Tour and the last champion before the redesign, he checks plenty of boxes.

Fades:

Not this week

Sergio Garcia: After his “honeymoon” in Akron resulted in T-39, which came as no surprise, I’ll point out he did end the week with 67. Fades are always relative. If you find Garcia at a price you like, I can see popping him into any lineup. I’m not building my lineup around him as part of me wonders, in a non-Ryder Cup year, if his is “over”.

Jason Day: I thought he turned the corner after solo second at AT&T Byron Nelson and T-15 at Memorial, a course he never plays well. I was wrong. MC, MC, T-27 and T-24 in his last four isn’t inspiring regardless of his record in this event.

Alex Noren: His pattern is every-other-week. This is the right week to be on board. I need something more than that to be committed. To be fair, I’ve been wrong on Noren every week but I can’t point to many successes on U.S. soil so I’m out.

Webb Simpson: As a member here you’d think he’d have an advantage. I’ll suggest he’ll be busier than normal with other stuff since it’s a major. His only top 10 in 25 majors is his win at Olympic Club.

 

Next:

 Wednesday I’ll present my gaming angles for the week so keep your eyes peeled at @MikeGlasscott and mikeglasscott.com for more information.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out through Twitter or email me mikeglasscott@gmail.com.

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