Horses for Courses: 2020 PGA Championship

The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.

Be sure to wear flowers in your hair.

There’s also some satisfaction in the San Francisco rain.

Horses for Courses: 102nd PGA Championship

August and Everything After

A bizarre 2020 continues as the PGA Championship will be the new lead-off major championship this week at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. Moved to May on a permanent basis last year, the PGA Championship this season will be the first of three majors to take place in the next three months as COVID-19 has rearranged the entire 2020 calendar. Believe it or not, after the Wyndham Championships next week, it’s on to the FedExCup Playoffs so there’s plenty on the line this week besides the Wannamaker trophy. The purse of $11 million ($1.98 winner) and the FedExCup points (600 winner) will help clear up the picture for the rest of the month.

For the first time since 1998 (Sahalee, outside Seattle) the PGA Championship will be played west of the Rocky Mountains. The event returns to California for the first time since Riviera in 1995 and for just the fifth time overall. Celebrating year 95, TPC Harding Park will host its first major championship and join the small list of municipal courses to enjoy this honor but is no stranger to holding large events. After a massive restoration project involving the City and eventually the TOUR, the 2005 World Golf Championships American Express reintroduced this classic layout to the modern game. Following Tiger Woods’ playoff victory over John Daly in 2005, Woods and his American teammates won the 2009 Presidents Cup on this same track. The world would return again in 2015 after new Bentgrass greens were installed for the WGC Cadillac Match Play. The trophy was lifted by Rory McIlroy as he defeated Gary Woodland 4 & 2 in the final.

TPC Harding Park was routed and designed by Willie Watson and Sam Whiting, the same pair who put together Olympic Club, site of five U.S. Opens, just across Lake Merced. The Par-70 will stretch 7,234 yards and will feature seven, Par-4 holes playing 460 yards or longer, a Par-5 hole over 600 and a Par-3 250 plus. Tight, Cypress tree-lined fairways will look great on television but the doglegs provided will be difficult to navigate. Over three inches of Bent/Poa/Fescue rough will swallow up errant tee balls but larger than average greens (7,000 square feet) will give glimmers of hope to recovery shots. The good news the green complexes are big targets. Once onboard the slightly sloping 007 Tyee Bentgrass should be prepped to run lightning quick so the premium putters will have a chance to shine this week.

Major championship golf should require all 14 clubs plus the six inches between the ears and this week won’t be any different. The last five holes will have Lake Merced on the left so there’s only one bailout. Located just half of a mile from the Pacific Ocean sea breeze, fog and swirling winds will also factor into the decision making process this week. Temperatures can range from the high 40s in the morning to the low 70s in the afternoon but it looks like rain will stay away. Brooks Koepka looks to become the only player in the stroke-play era (1958 and on) to win for the third consecutive year. He leads a field of 156 professionals, including 20 Club Professionals and 92 of the top 100 players in the world.

2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play  (Top finishers below; 43 of 64 in the field this week)

  1  *Rory McIlroy

2  *Gary Woodland

3  *Danny Willett

4  *Jim Furyk

5  *Tommy Fleetwood

5  *Louis Oosthuizen

5  *Paul Casey

9  *Hideki Matsuyama

9  *Charl Schwartzel

9  *Rickie Fowler

9  *Gary Woodland

2009 Presidents Cup Participants

USA

Tiger Woods

Phil Mickelson

Steve Stricker

Zach Johnson

Jim Furyk

Lucas Glover

Internationals

Adam Scott

Ryo Ishikawa

2005 WGC-American Express Participants

1  *Tiger Woods

3  *Henrik Stenson

3  *Sergio Garcia

6  Graeme McDowell

11 Davis Love III

15 *Jim Furyk

18 *Ian Poulter

18 *Charl Schwartzel

29 *Phil Mickelson

29 *Adam Scott

32 Vaughn Taylor

43 *Zach Johnson

2019 Recap

Brooks Koepka (-16)

Started his defense opening with 63, a PGA record, and new course record at Bethpage Black. … Backed it up with 65 in Round 2 to set the major championship 36-hole scoring record. … Led by seven, another PGA record, after 54 holes. … Led the field in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and Approach the Green. … Joined Tiger Woods as the only champion to defend in the stroke play era (1958 to present). … Became the first person since Hal Sutton in 1983 to go wire-to-wire (no ties).

Notables: Dustin Johnson (2nd) put all four rounds in the 60s. … Patrick Cantlay shared third with Matt Wallace and Jordan Spieth. … Spieth can complete the career Grand Slam with a win this week. … Luke List (6th), Sung Kang (7th) followed by T8 crowd of Matt Kuchar, Shane Lowry, Rory McIlroy, Erik van Rooyen, Adam Scott and Gary Woodland.

 

Top golfers in each statistic on the 2019-2020 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week.

Strokes-Gained: Tee to Green (* – previous top 10 at PGA since 2015)

1  *Justin Thomas (2017 winner)

2  *Hideki Matsuyama

3  Sergio Garcia

4  Collin Morikawa

5  *Rory McIlroy

6  Xander Schauffele

7  *Patrick Cantlay

8  *Jon Rahm

9  Bryson DeChambeau

10 *Tony Finau

11 Viktor Hovland

12 Webb Simpson

13 Daniel Berger

14 *Tyrrell Hatton

15 Harold Varner III

16 Harris English

17 Corey Conners

19 Joaquin Niemann

20 Abraham Ancer

21 *Jason Day

22 *Adam Scott

23 Scottie Scheffler

24 *Shane Lowry

25 *Paul Casey

 

Strokes Gained: Putting

1  Denny McCarthy

2  Matthew Fitzpatrick

3  Kevin Na

5  *Matt Kuchar

6  Bryson DeChambeau

7  Andrew Putnam

8  *Tyrrell Hatton

10 *Patrick Reed

11 Christiaan Bezuidenhout

13 JT Poston

14 Daniel Berger

16 Wyndham Clark (first major)

18 Mackenzie Hughes

19 Webb Simpson

20 Richy Werenski (first major)

21 Harris English

22 Billy Horschel

23 Ian Poulter

25 *Gary Woodland

26 *Jon Rahm

Bogey Avoidance

  1  Harris English

2  Bryson DeChambeau

3  *Tyrrell Hatton

4  *Justin Thomas

5  Webb Simpson

6  Xander Schauffele

8  *Jon Rahm

9  Abraham Ancer

11 Daniel Berger

13 *Rory McIlroy

14 Brendon Todd

15 Cameron Tringale

18 Brandt Snedeker

19 *Adam Scott

20 Bud Cauley

22 *Gary Woodland

23 Brian Harman

24 Kevin Na

Major History

 Tiger Woods: Already has four of these on the shelf and is one of two players to win an event on this track. His record at Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines suggests he doesn’t mind a bit of California coastal golf. It will be interesting to hear what his back/body has to say this week after playing twice in six months.

Brooks Koepka: The last 10 majors he’s entered he’s won four, finished second twice, a T4 and a T6. Burst in to life last week in Memphis as he nearly defended his WGC title at TPC Southwind.

Rory McIlroy: His history is getting historical in the major championships since he hasn’t picked one off since the PGA Championship at Valhalla in 2014. The following spring he won the WGC Match Play on this track so he’ll have a serious point of reference this week. The final four from 2015 will have the most tournament reps at TPC Harding Park.

Gary Woodland: Speaking of, most will remember that he picked up the U.S. Open down Highway 1 last summer at Pebble Beach.

Webb Simpson: Last time San Francisco proper hosted a major it was the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic Club. Simpson closed with 68 to pick up his first, and to this point only, major championship.

Shane Lowry: The Northern Irishman won’t have any problems in cool, damp conditions just like he didn’t at Royal Portrush last summer in winning The Open Championship.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s