Once again, I feel the need to demonstrate my lack of knowledge of the PGA tour by trying to predict the winner at this week’s PGA Championship at Baltusrol. After making a mess of the U.S. Open (although I did predict a second for DJ) this is a chance to redeem myself. In order to predicted finish, here are my picks:
Dustin Johnson: Currently in the best form, he plays well in majors (at least in the top 10) and has the monkey of his back after Oakmont. He has exceptional length and a better than average short game , which should serve him well. I think a second major is probably a long shot, but the other top players are struggling.
Jason Day: World Number 1, and formerly the “ best player on the planet” seems to be suffering the same fate as Rory and Jordan. I believe each is pressing too much. Day’s game has been indifferent for several months. That said, he has certainly got all the shots necessary to retain the Wannamaker trophy.
Steve Stricker: The wiley veteran was the best of the morning/afternoon rotation at Royal Troon. Short of one quadruple bogey on Friday, he was the only one of the group that could have been on the leaderboard on Saturday. He putted well, and his ball striking looks as good as ever. Despite the length of the course, I expect him to do well, although he is probably too old to win.
Sergio Garcia: You can probably bet against him winning, but top 10 seems reasonable based upon his history in majors. Great ball striker should have a chance. If Sergio can find a hot putter this may be a great opportunity to break through. That said, I expect him to find a way to lose, but cement his reputation as a great player on tough courses.
Jim Furyk: Another cagey veteran who appears to playing well. I suspect he will find a way to land on the leaderboard at some time during the tournament. He is very capable of playing under pressure. A good start could make him dangerous.
Rory McIlroy: Very concerned about his mental state (look for blog next week), but he sure hits the ball well. Rory seems very confused on the greens, so minimizing putting mistakes will be the key to his finish. I expect one bad shot, and a club toss, as well as several missed putts offsetting a lot of birdies. Not sure Rory’s head is in the right place to win…unless he laps the field early.
Brandon Grace: He has been below the radar; however, Grace has shown he has the game to compete in the majors. He makes the most sense to be a first time winner, which has been the latest trend (Day, Willett, Johnson and Stenson). He will probably be a quiet challenger.
Justin Thomas: I need to pick one of the young guys (Koepka, Finau, et al could make a splash). Thomas has shown flashes of brilliance, especially in the early rounds. He does not look like someone who is ready to win a major, but definitely has the game to compete.
Jordan Spieth: Mostly a sentimental pick here. Live by the long putt, die by the long putt. They have not been dropping, and the rest of his game does not seem as strong as the ball strikers above. The former number one looks like he is trying too hard, so making the cut may be a good week…again.
Phil Michelson/Henrik Stenson played the best 18 holes of golf I have ever witnessed, I have a feeling both are in-line for a letdown. It will not surprise me if one, or both, misses the cut. There is no way Stenson will have as much success putting as he did in Scotland. Still, he remains an incredible ball striker. Phil would seem to have the better chance given his knowledge of the course and pretty good golf most of this year. However, I expect him to revert back to form and take too many ill-advised chances.
Some other observations: Would love to see Fowler on this list, but every time I put him here he misses the cut. He is making too many unforced errors. Bubba will hit some long drives, and could compete, but not sure he has the mindset for the majors, except Augusta. Justin Rose has putting issues. Adam Scott was in form early in 2016, but is now scuffling. Kuchar would have been on my list (instead of Spieth) but I question his distance off the tee. Nevertheless, he is playing pretty well. My sleepers include J.B. Holmes, Brant Snedeker and Martin Kaymer.
Weekly Observation: There is no way they can duplicate the incredible show put on by Lefty and Henrik at Royal Troon. The faster greens will work against many who played well across the pond. I cannot believe it is already the last major of the year. (Erin Hills and Whistling Straits are on my schedule this week…just sayin.)
Paul Laubach is completely unqualified to provide expertise with respect to golf course rankings and design, however, he is a highly opinionated golf addict who believes everyone should be entitled to his thoughts. He has recently released Confessions of a Golfaholic: A Guide to Playing America’s Top 100 Public Golf Courses; now available in hardcover, Kindle and audio editions. Please visit tophundredgolf.com regularly for more (im)practical information.