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PGA Championship Preview: The Worst of the Best

Wanamaker Trophy; photo courtesy pga.com

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PGA Championship Preview: The Worst of the Best

Here we are, folks. The last major golf championship of the season tees off this Thursday and this time they didn’t save the best for last.

Quail Hollow Club, the site of the PGA Championship is probably a course you’ve heard of or will recognize during television footage even if you’re a only passive follower of golf. I’ll come back to the reason for this later.

Unfortunately, the last major of the year every year isn’t the best or even most entertaining. The best major of the year is the Masters, for obvious reasons and the most entertaining is the U.S. Open, in my opinion.

The PGA Championship is generally played on a course layout that is the easiest of the four majors. Again, this is just my opinion, but the PGA Championship is played on the most benign layouts and setups of all of the majors. Not that it’s easy, it’s still a major, but it seems easier than the others from a scoring standpoint.

Statistics show that the the Masters allows for the highest number of possible winners of any major because it’s played at the same course every year and experience matters. Just turn on the Masters on a Saturday any of the last 10 years and you’d have seen Freddie Couples on the leaderboard well into his 50’s. It feels like he’s always on the leaderboard until he shoots a Sunday 73. Until just last year, the PGA Championship had the lowest winning total of -20, set by Jason Day. Henrik Stenson tied that mark at the British Open in 2016.

Back to this year’s venue, Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina. Remember that I said you’ve probably heard of it before or might recognize it on television if you’re even a passive golf fan? Yeah, that’s because Quail Hollow hosts a regular tour event every year. The Wells Fargo Championship has been played at Quail Hollow every year since 2003, except for this year when they switched courses to make changes and get the course ready to host the year’s final major.

In all, there are four holes on the course that are either totally different or have some alterations that make it different than what the pros have become accustomed to.

I’m sorry, but changing four of the holes on a course that the pros have been playing since 2003 doesn’t cut it for me. Not for major golf. I can’t stand the fact that a major championship is going to be played on a course that has been on the regular season rotation since 2003. I almost feel cheated. Sure, they recycle courses on the major circuit all the time, but that’s usually done every 8-10 years, if not more. Rarely will a major be played on the same course in the same decade aside from the Masters, which is played on the same course every year. I have zero problems with that, it’s Augusta National.

For me, one of the exciting parts of major championship golf is going to a new course in a new city that we haven’t seen before, with a new story to be told.

I feel like this is such a PGA Championship thing to do. The most boring and benign major of the year being played at a course that the regular tour has played every year since 2003, that’s so PGA Championship.

Who Wins?

There’s 14 years worth of scores at Quail Hollow Club to help you pick the winner of the PGA Championship. You’d be wise to pick a player who has played well there in the past. The obvious pick if you’re going off of past performances is Rory McIlroy. Rory has won twice at Quail Hollow and shot a course record 61 in 2015. He’s the odds on favorite for a reason, folks. Rory loves Quail Hollow and if you’ve played much golf in your life you know how playing a course that fits your eye can be a major boost to your confidence and play.

There is one difference for Rory this year. He’s got a new caddie. Rory and his caddie for the last nine years, J.P. Fitzgerald split on July 31st and he now has his longtime friend and the best man in his recent wedding, Harry Diamond on the bag. The change seemed to go smoothly in their first tournament together with Rory finishing tied for 5th last week.

Another guy to keep your eye on after a 9th place finish last week at the Bridgestone Championship is Rickie Fowler. Rickie has also won at Quail Hollow and seems to be in good form leading up to the season’s last major.

The storyline that will likely dominate the week is that Jordan Spieth is entering the final major with a chance to become the youngest player in history to complete the career grand slam, which is winning each major at least once in a career.

Only five players have completed the career grand slam. Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have all done it.

I’m going to drink a big pitcher of kool aid this week. I’m picking Jordan Spieth to win and become the youngest player to complete the grand slam. With this, rampant speculation will be thrown out about whether or not Jordan will be able to beat Jack Nicklaus’ all-time major total of 18, although way premature.

Big Cat Tracker

Not that anyone really cares anymore, but Tiger has popped up on social media a few times in recent week. Shocker, he wasn’t playing golf. Tiger first showed up last week posing with fans for a picture at a gym in the Bahamas as he was getting his “swole on”. In another picture posted on his own personal Instagram account, he was pictured holding a lobster on a boat while diving with his kids in Albany.

Although he isn’t playing tournament golf, he seems to be enjoying himself in other ways. Civilian Tiger is something we’ll probably get more used to seeing as his time competing in golf tournaments seems less likely anytime soon.

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Transplant Hoosier, born and raised in Lima, Ohio, Eric made his way to Indiana while attending IUPUI in 2008. By day, Eric is a Government Affairs professional, by night, a serial hobbyist. Eric is an avid cyclist, delusional golfer and home brewer. His contributions to HeartlandNow.com will focus on local, regional and national sports and overall cynicism to all things life.

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