Preview: 2020 PGA Championship

Labour of love.

Hope you enjoy.

From Day 1 to 1 day away

102nd PGA Championship

TPC Harding Park

San Francisco, CA

Yards: (per official scorecard): 7,251
Par: 70; (35-35)
Greens: 007 Tyee Bentgrass; 7,000 square feet on average.
Stimpmeter: Championship speed
Rough: Bent/Poa/Fescue beginning at 3.5″.
Bunkers/Water Hazards 47/2 (zero in play)
Architect(s): Willie Watson, Sam Whiting (1925)
Purse: $11 million; $1.98 million and 600 FedExCup points (winner).
Defending Champion: Brooks Koepka (-8).
Fact of the Week: First time hosting a major championship at TPC Harding Park.
Fact of the Week II: Brooks Koepka looks to become the first player since WWII to win this event three times on the trot.

 

2019-2020 Season Winners

*- First-time winner

**- First-time winner AND rookie winner

Event Winner
   
A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier *- Joaquin Niemann
Sanderson Farms Championship *- Sebastian Munoz
Safeway Open Cameron Champ
Shriners Hospitals for Children Open Kevin Na
Houston Open *-Lanto Griffin
CJ CUP AT NINE BRIDGES Justin Thomas
ZOZO Championship Tiger Woods
WGC-HSBC Champions Rory McIlroy
Bermuda Championship Brendon Todd
Mayakoba Golf Classic Brendon Todd (2)
The RSM Classic *-Tyler Duncan
Hero World Challenge Henrik Stenson
Sentry Tournament of Champions Justin Thomas (2)
Sony Open Cameron Smith
The American Express Andrew Landry
Farmers Insurance Open Marc Leishman
Waste Management Phoenix Open Webb Simpson
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Nick Taylor
The Genesis Invitational Adam Scott
WGC-Mexico Championship Patrick Reed
The Honda Classic *-Sungjae Im
Arnold Palmer Invitational Tyrrell Hatton
THE PLAYERS Championship Abandoned due to COVID-19, no winner
Charles Schwab Challenge Daniel Berger
RBC Heritage Webb Simpson (2)
Travelers Championship Dustin Johnson
Rocket Mortgage Classic Bryson DeChambeau
Workday Charity Open Collin Morikawa
Memorial Jon Rahm
3M Open Michael Thompson
WGC-FESJ Invitational Justin Thomas (3)

 

Horses for Courses publishes at PGATOUR.COM Tuesdays. It’s a look who has played well here recently so I suggest reading it as I won’t replicate all of the information here.

 

Recent Winners

Year Player Notes
2019 Brooks Koepka, -8 Opened with 63, set the 36-hole scoring record, led by seven (record) after 54 as he defended at Bethpage Black.
     
2018 Brooks Koepka, -16 Set the major championship scoring record on a wet, receptive Bellerive.
     
2017 Justin Thomas, -8 Picked up his first major at the last PGA to be held in August before the pandemic shuffled 2020.
     
2016 Jimmy Walker, -14 Picked up his first major at a soaked Baltusrol.
     
2015 Jason Day, -20 Picked up his first major as he bombed Whistling Straits into Lake Michigan to win by three.

 

Facts and Figures:

TPC Harding Park was formerly a lettuce farm before being transformed into a TOUR-worthy course. Hosting events in the 50s and 60s, the course fell into disrepair and became a parking lot for the 1998 US Open held across Lake Merced at Olympic Club. Renovated by the City and TOUR, TPC Harding Park hosted the 2005 WGC-American Express, 2009 Presidents Cup and WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship in 2015. It also hosted Champions Tour events earlier this decade.

Tournament Record: 264; Koepka
Course Record (TOUR): 64; multiple players, 2005.
Defending Champions (last): Koepka
Defending Champions (event): Woods (1999-00; 2006-07)
Multiple Winners Entered: Woods (4), Koepka (2).
First-time – TOUR Shaun Micheel (2003).
First-time Entered Micheel, Keegan Bradley (2011).
Low Round: Major 62; Branden Grace, The Open Championship, Royal Birkdale, 2017.
Odd Fact: This is the only major without amateurs in the field; 20 club pros entered.
Odd Fact II: First PGA Championship west of the Rockies since 1998 (Sahalee, Seattle).
Odd Fact III: First PGA Championship in California, and just fifth ever, since 1995 (Riviera, Los Angeles).

 

Save Me, San Francisco

Last time we were talking about major championship golf was July of 2019 and Shane Lowry had just finished off the final barrel of Guinness after his victory at Royal Portrush. I’d hope his hangover is gone after almost 13 months but mine isn’t!

No Masters!

No PGA!

No US Open!

No Open Championship!

Cruel summer indeed.

BUT WE’RE BACK BABY.

And back to the West Coast we go for primetime golf so that’s another added bonus this week.

TPC Harding Park, from the majority of reports on site this week, will play extremely long tee-to-green. Pinched-in fairways and Cypress Trees will have plenty of thick, wet rough waiting to gobble up errant tee shots. The marine layer (read: fog) and cool temperatures mean, as usual, the ball isn’t going nearly as far as it would in the heat and humidity of the Midwest.

The parkland course will test all facets, as a major championship should, and working the golf ball both ways off the tee will be required. The greens here will feel massive compared to the ones at Pebble Beach and are perched and well-protected with gnarly rough and bunkers. While not as undulating as some, the lack of slope means more options for pin placement and a chance to red-line the Stimpmeter. Putters, as they should in a major, will have a say this week, if they can ring up GIR.

The courses always change but my philosophy on the tough ones doesn’t. Find guys who have no problem grinding, accepting some bad luck and this week, ones who don’t mind a bit of cool weather. Complaints about how long or how cold should stick out. Rough too deep, unfair? Ok, bye. Remember, Keegan Bradley was the last player to win a major (2011) who was NOT ranked inside the OWGR top 50. This is not the week to shop on the discount rack. With 48 of 50 and 92 of 100 OWGR in the field this week, I doubt, unless his name is Spieth, this trend will collapse.

I’m looking for a few winners, a few long shots and smattering of either top 10s or top 20s to keep me interested this week. I’m looking for major pedigree, California comfortable and scar tissue from difficult tracks. Of course I’ll sprinkle in some heat, stats and Old Bay just to make sure I get the flavour correct!

 

Full Examinations

Brooks Koepka: Might not have sat in his perch this week if not for his effort last. Incredible to see him flip the switch to ramp up to the events that matter most to him. He’s a billion under in the majors since 2017 and he wasn’t showing any effects, like he said he wouldn’t, about any knee issues last week. The only concern this week is the weather and the knee(s) but that’s where it stops. The last time he played a major where he was the two-time defending champ he finished solo second to Gary Woodland down the coast at Pebble Beach. Pressure ain’t bother him.

Jon Rahm: Grew up in a similar climate in Spain so he won’t be bothered this week either. Power player won’t worry about Marine layers and carry just like he doesn’t at Torrey Pines. His fantastic short game suggests his complete bag will take him as far as he can handle the pressure late on Sunday. I’m not betting against him.

Justin Thomas: Imagine if he puts it all together, eh? Wasn’t thrilled with all facets of his game last week but still found a way to get it in the hole down the stretch and win the WGC-Invitational on a second track. He’s been P2 and WIN in three events with THREE different caddies so I’m not worried about what’s between his ears. The 2017 champ has returned to No. 1 in the world and will look to join Woods and McIlroy as the only players to do the WGC-Major double on consecutive weeks.

Xander Schauffele: I don’t think I saw him hit a shot on CBS last Sunday. His 66 took him to T6 and it’s another top 10 in another big-time event and nobody knows any better. San Diego kid loves the big stage and big fields as his record at majors (7 top 20s in 11 starts) and WGC events don’t lie. Toss in the Cali roots and full bag and I’m all in this week.

Dustin Johnson: The perfect response last week (all four rounds in the 60s) came on a track he knows well but gamers have to be thrilled to see DJ is not injured and whatever was bothering him was sorted out. Maybe it was the beard. Maybe it was a case of being shite for a couple of weeks. Whatever the case, he’s another player with tons of history, good and bad, in this part of the world and this event. The problem is usually the putter with DJ and that’s fine on a week where 20-under isn’t required; I’ll settle for tons of GIR. Made Brooks work for it last year on a difficult Bethpage Black in tough weather.

Patrick Cantlay: California loves the Bent and has no problem tee to green. In fact, he has no problems anywhere as his WORST major statistical ranking is 61st (Driving Distance).Didn’t fire at Memorial after T7 at Workday and I’m hoping his T35 last week scares a few off. I doubt that will be the case after 65-67 on the weekend! His last two results are the only two this calendar year outside T17 so he’s ready to take the next step. T3 at Bethpage won’t be forgotten either.

Matthew Fitzpatrick: The only greater pain last week than holding a win ticket on Koepka was brining Fitz along as my second choice. In a vacuum, he had another great week as T6 backed his T3 from Memorial. He also rode Bones McKay to a podium before JT saddled him last week for a win. The next step for Fitz is closing the door on Sunday but being in this position on two very difficult courses his last two times out should have him scarred, in a good way, and ready to go. Super driver and putter should relish the larger targets to aim at this week.

Jason Day: Might need to bump him up. Multiple winner at Torrey, always a threat at Pebble and now it appears he’s free and clear in the mind. He never had a top 10 at Memorial and then rattled off T7-T4 in consecutive weeks. He doesn’t prefer Bermuda, ask Ben Everill, and yet he ground out four rounds in the 60s in Memphis last week for T6. Oh, and he did that while separating from essentially his golf father, Col Swatton before the event. And his back didn’t go out. And he’s won one of these before. And he hits it a mile and putts fast Bent like a savage. And move him up.

Next

Shane Lowry: Climate won’t bother him. Strength of field won’t either. Free as a bird after Royal Portrush and put it together on the weekend (67-67) on a tough, hot Memphis track last week. Won WGC-BI on a monster Par 70 (Firestone) and I don’t have to tell you about the 2019 Open.

Patrick Reed: The worse, harder, difficult the more I like Reed. No problem navigating bent and not many are going to be in the fairway this week. Electric short game and steady putter will be the keys to his success.

Daniel Berger: Phoenix-Pebble-Honda. Three entirely different tracks in three entirely different climates. All top 10s. Colonial-Harbour Town-Memorial-Memphis. Bent-Bermuda-Bent-Bermuda. All top 10s, minus Memorial. One finish outside the top 30 this season.

Rory McIlroy: Wait, he hasn’t won a major since 2014??? Yep. Fact. Quick, name how many top 10s has he since the restart in five tries? Zero. Fact. Ok, he’s also won the WGC-Match Play here and his power tee-to-green makes him a threat anytime he tees it up. Might have seen some clues in Memphis with 66-67 Friday/Sunday. Or was it 73-73 Saturday/Thursday?

Webb Simpson: The Olympic Club memories should be flooding in this week and I don’t blame him for remember his only major championship. 2012 feels like a lifetime ago and there’s no belly putter anymore haha. He’s fourth in scoring average but it’s no secret that Bermuda is his preferred surface. You notice annually he doesn’t play in California? There’s probably a reason for that!

Gary Woodland: Second in Match Play 2015 and US Open winner in similar conditions last year should have him feeling great this week. Next step is putting all four rounds together in the new 2020. Also won Reno-Tahoe in this part of the world.

Tyrrell Hatton: Top 10s in five of his last 14 majors including T10 on soggy Baltusrol and Bellerive. T6 at Shinnecock isn’t driving me off of him either. I don’t think one week in Memphis wiped his hard drive clean. Does he have the disposition to get it over the line? He did in very tough conditions on very fast greens at Bay Hill. Might nudge him up.

Jordan Spieth: Has no problem plodding around and saving pars from everywhere. Without any water on the course (way left down the stretch) hopefully his wizardry on and around the greens can balance out uneven ball-striking. Oh, if he wins, it’s the sixth career Grand Slam so he’ll be motivated.

Tommy Fleetwood: Cashed in 11 straight majors and that’s not a fluke by any means. Hard to win your first one in the States against a field of this stature but he has the chops to give it a run. Need some cooperation of the putter as well. Maybe this is the week the preparation at Shinnecock, National Golf Links and Friar’s Head pays the dividend.

Chez Reavie: Going back for more! Streak of T14-T12-T3 in majors was busted at Royal Portrush last summer. No easy task to T12 Bethpage and T3 Pebble in major conditions so that sticks out. So does his last two weeks at Memorial and Memphis. Lack of length will be mitigated from playing down the sprinkler line. No expectations from anywhere so he’ll, again, just go about his business.

Tony Finau: Maybe a major is just what the doctor ordered. With five top 10s in his last eight tries, I’ll argue that could be the case. Keep knocking away, right, but if it gets hairy on Sunday, I hope he has a strong voice in his ear.

Longer Shots

Collin Morikawa: I’ve seen enough evidence on the putting surfaces that he might not be ready JUST YET. We’ll see this weekend.

Abraham Ancer: T17 or better in all four WGC events in the last four. T16 Bethpage. 9 straight on TOUR.

Matthew Wallace: Playing every week minus 3M, flashed T4 at Memorial and was T3 Bethpage T12 US Open last year. Quiet at Memphis but closed with 67.

Scottie Scheffler: Bang it son. Bang it all weekend long.

Kevin Streelman: He likes Pebble so I hope that translates again this week. He likes Bent so I hope that translates again this week.

Louis Oosthuizen: Surely he’ll be injured at some point but if not, he’ll fly under the radar as usual. I’d bump him up.

Hideki Matsuyama: Majors examine all 14 clubs. Start holing out! Last top 10 in a major was Quail Hollow and nothing better than T20 since the restart. He’s not a regular guy so he doesn’t get held to regular standards.

Henrik Stenson: Lightly raced since his win at Hero last December but made SIXTY TWO PARS last week in Memphis. The GAS tank is the only question.

Danny Willett: T12 Pebble, T6 Open. Sameish weather. Mushy peas for all.

Viktor Hovland: If you’re asking, you must be new here. Thanks for reading. Make a putt, son.

Tom Lewis: Ok, man. I surrender. Closed 61-66 in Memphis. Got it.

Luke List: Bombs away as he enters with little fanfare. T32 or better in three of the last four including T10 at Memorial with 79. T6 at Bethpage last year is my bigger clue.

Harris English: Eight straight paydays in his last eight majors. Of his last seven starts on TOUR six are T25 or better. Big power and putter.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout/Erik van Rooyen: Future is bright. van Rooyen gave the top 10 a quick look at Bethpage.

Billy Horschel: Not much love in the majors but flashed at Memorial and was decent last week in Memphis.

Emiliano Grillo: Hot, T3 at 3M was followed by T9 at Barracuda. Not the biggest fields on the biggest tracks but both Bent. Also won at Silverado. Stretching, I know.

Mackenzie Hughes: T6 and T3 in his last three deserves a look. Never made a cut in four trips to the majors though.

Extreme Reaching

Sepp Straka: Big bat for a big ballpark and can roll the rock. In form as well.

Richy Werenski: Not even Jon Rahm could back it up last week. Nor Michael Thompson. Seven straight and Win-T3 in the last two.

Brian Harman: Nothing brewing until 16-under in his last three rounds LTO at 3M.

Cameron Champ: NorCal won’t have any issues with this track playing longer.

Brendon Todd: Too many fairways.

Brendan Steele: Just tell him it’s Silverado.

Talor Gooch: Puts up more results than not and T10 Riviera sticks out.

Xinjun Zhang: T10-T12

Nick Taylor: Won Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February. #Angles.

 

LAWST, JUST LAWST

You said fade, not me…

Tiger Woods: If he wins this week we might never see him again at a “regular” TOUR event. Playing once every six months? Chilly forecast? New putter!?! Sounds more questions than answers. If I nibbled on Koepka last week at 28-1 imagine what’s going through my head when I see Tiger at 35-1.

Justin Rose: Which one shows up? Colonial-Harbour Town or MCX3 in his last three?

Bryson DeChambeau: Struggled with the new plan on proper courses. Never inside 15th at a major. Pass.

Matt Kuchar: Last top 10 was T2 at Riviera. Nothing better than T25 in the restart. Might be too much chicken on the bone here.

Adam Scott: When was the last time he played?

Marc Leishman: T40 is the best recently, pass. Did win Torrey if you need to be contrarian.

Phil Mickelson: Last time he went back-to-back top 10s was 2018.

Rickie Fowler: Painful to watch last Sunday. Maybe I’m the wrong guy to ask.

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

 

 

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