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PGA Championship Preview and Picks
by Matt Fargo - 08/10/2010
This week we have the final Major of the PGA season as the PGA Championship will be contested from Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin. It has been a season of pretty lackluster Majors for the most part. Phil Mickelson’s birdie on the 15th at Augusta sealed the win at the Masters, Graeme McDowell nearly gave it away on the back nine at Pebble but held on while Louis Oosthuizen ran away at the Open Championship.
With Tiger Woods not close to himself and Phil Mickelson coming off a horrid Sunday at Bridgestone, it makes the PGA Championship pretty wide open. This is the one Major where you have seen a lot of one-hit wonders and first time champions such as Shaun Micheel, Rich Beem and Mark Brooks in recent years. The top players in the world have held their own as well so finding the right combination this week is key.
Whistling Straights features two courses, the Straits Course and Irish Course, but only the Straits Course will be used this week. It is a Pete Dye design that was inspired by the seaside links courses in Europe and it does a very good job in emulating those. The par-72, 7,502-yard layout is pure links golf and located on Lake Michigan which can be seen from every hole on the course. Tall reed grass and nearly 1,000 bunkers add to the presentation.
Winning this week cannot be attributed to just one aspect of the game as all-around ranking will be of the utmost importance. Putting is always imperative but it goes up a notch here as does driving accuracy and distance along with a solid sand game. The PGA Championship was held here in 2004 and a score of -8 was good enough to get into a playoff. Don’t expect scores much better than that this week.
What is wrong with Tiger Woods (+1200)? He obviously is not playing like he has in the past but he started out the year with a T4 in both the Masters and U.S. Open so things were not as bad as it seemed. We were wrong. He came back with finishes of T46 and T23 and then last week at Bridgestone added to the misery. His T78 at Firestone was his worst as a professional since the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open.
Phil Mickelson (+1000) had a chance to overtake Woods as the number one player in the world with a top four finish and it looked as though he would do so. However on Sunday he blew up with a 78 and finished T46 and that has to have some effect this week. A win at the Masters this year was supposed to set the stage for a big year but it hasn’t. He won the PGA Championship in 2005 at Baltusrol and finished T6 here in 2004.
There are five two-time winners in 2010 playing this week and Steve Stricker (+2000) is one of those. He won early at the Northern Trust and most recently at the John Deere. He now heads home to Wisconsin where he was born and looks to earn his first Major victory. He was second at the 1998 PGA Championship and last year had a T22 at Hazeltine. He has only one missed cut this year and six top tens in 13 stroke play events.
Sean O’Hair (+2500) made a lot of noise last week at Firestone following a 64 on Saturday and a share of the 54-hole lead. However, after birding two of his first four holes Sunday, he closed at +3 the rest of the way to settle for fifth place. That was his third top ten of the year and the links courses have been kind as he finished T12 at Pebble at the U.S. Open and T7 at St. Andrews. His first Major could be here.
Dustin Johnson (+2500) was one of our selections for the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach where he had won twice in two years. His collapse on Sunday was painful to watch but he has bounced back with two top 15 finishes since then including a T14 at the Open Championship. He definitely likes links courses and his distance will not hurt at the Straits Course. Last year was his first appearance at the PGA Championship and he tied for 10th.
Retief Goosen (+3000) is the only pick of the bunch that is a previous Major winner and that certainly cannot hurt. He is playing too good to not have a title this year as he has eight top ten finishes in 14 events. This includes three top tens in his last four starts including an outright sixth at the Open Championship. He missed the 2004 PGA Championship at Whistling Straights because of an injury.
We had Matt Kuchar (+4000) last week and he was right in the running to nab his eighth top ten of the season. This includes four top tens in his last six starts so it is hard to find anyone playing better right now. His solid play is no accident as he is first on the PGA Tour in all-around ranking. He has never made a cut in three tries at the PGA Championship but he has never come into one as solid as he is now.
Jeff Overton (+5000) had one of the worst possible beats two weeks ago as he lost by a single stroke at the Greenbrier Classic to Stuart Appleby and his Sunday 59. He could have stewed about it but instead came back at Bridgestone and posted yet another top ten, his fifth in his last eight events. This included a T11 at St. Andrews and had he qualified for the U.S. Open, who knows what would have happened. He is third in all-around ranking.
Recommended Tournament Win Six Pack at the PGA Championship – All for 1 Unit
Steve Stricker (+2000)
Sean O’Hair (+2500)
Dustin Johnson (+2500)
Retief Goosen (+3000)
Matt Kuchar (+4000)
Jeff Overton (+5000)