We’ve been slacking on previews lately due to some real life complications, but we’re back with everyone’s favorite the final major championship of the year. In addition to the below, we have two preview podcasts this week. The first is a deep dive statistical analysis with Jake Nichols, along with D.J. Piehowski from Skratch TV. The second is with our friend Shane Bacon as we draft our teams for our traditional major championship bet.
PGA Championship Preview
We knew this crazy stretch of three major championship trophies to be handed out in the span of 45 days (and two in 15 days) was coming, but the reality of major championship season being over come Sunday evening is just now starting to hit me. My blood isn’t pumping as hard for the Olympics as I had hoped it would, and the tide has been seemingly turning against the US Ryder Cup team over the course of this summer, so I’m left to wonder if this smoking hot weekend in New Jersey isn’t really “Glory’s Last Shot.”
The fact that the PGA Championship thinks that they need a catchphrase or a label for the event automatically solidifies its place as the least prestigious and least glorifying major, but at no point does this tournament not feel like a major (insert Shaun Micheel joke here). In reality, it has given us some of the most memorable and exciting duels over the last pair of decades. Just look at the last fifteen years:
Sergio at Medinah in ’99 (golf.com)
- 1999: Tiger and Sergio’s duel at Medinah before they hated each other
- 2000: Tiger-Bob May in ’00 at Valhalla
- 2001: David Toms’ sickening lay up on 18 at Atlanta Athletic Club and 1 shot win over Phil
- 2002: Rich Beem holds off a charging Tiger Woods who birdies his last four holes
- 2003: Shaun Micheel stuffs it to inches on 18 to beat Chad Campbell
- 2004: Vijay wins in a playoff and everyone pretends it never happened
- 2005: Phil birdies the 18th here at Baltusrol to win his second major (after tapping the Jack Nicklaus plaque from 267 yards out before hitting his approach in true FIGJAM fashion)
- 2006: Tiger holds off Shaun Micheel at Medinah
- 2007: Tiger beats Woody Austin by two at Southern Hills (man, golf was weird 9 years ago)
- 2008: Padraig Harrington wins by two, but no one noticed because Tiger wasn’t playing
- 2009: Y.E. Yang beat Tiger by 3, as Big Cat limped home with a 75 on Sunday. Yang went on to military press his staff bag over his head
- 2010: Bubba collapses in epic fashion (#PrayForTedScott) in a playoff and loses to Martin Kaymer (this event best remembered for DJ grounding his club in the bunker on 18)
- 2011: Keegan Bradley edges Jason Dufner (two near no names at the time) in a thrilling playoff
- 2012: Rory blows the field away on Sunday and wins by 8
- 2013: Jason Dufner beats Jim Furyk by 2 which broke the hearts of TENS of Furyk fans all over the globe.
- 2014: Rory outduels Phil and Rickie in a wild finish in the dark
- 2015: Jason Day breaks a major championship scoring record, shoots -20 to keep Jordan from winning 3 of 4
There are some less than memorable results mixed in there, but no other major has provided the drama that the PGA has in this century. I saw a journalist that I won’t name suggest this week that the PGA Championship should be played in Asia to #GrowTheGame. Yes, yes, I’m sure the Professional Golfers Association of America that runs the event would gladly move it 10,000 miles away to fit your fire take! If you’ve got an idea on how to “fix” the PGA Championship, you’re already doing it wrong. The formula of assembling a fantastic field, some very solid (and not tricked up) golf courses that typically provide adequate challenges, mixing in the feel good club pro stories, and setting up the courses on the easy side to provide fantastic drama is working just fine.
As mentioned several times on the podcast, I don’t know all that much about Baltusrol. I talked with a couple players this week about the course, and the consistent message was that it is “right there in front of you,” and is not the type of course you need to play a bunch of times in preparation. It’s a par 70 layout, with no par-5’s until the final two holes, with the 17th being measured at 649 yards. I agree with what Shane Bacon told me, in that I hope they move the tees up on 17 at least one of the days so these guys can have a go at the green. I’m yet to find a good par-5 that plays over 600 yards, and most certainly haven’t seen one that tops out at six-fiddy. It just seems like unnecessary protection of scores. Per my discussion with Jake Nichols, he mentioned that there are several holes in that “par 4.5” category this week. While I’m a strong advocate for the fact that the par of a hole does not matter, I do believe that the par 3.5 and par 4.5 holes are usually some of the best holes in golf.
Overall, I like the way that the PGA of America doesn’t draw a lot of attention to the golf course, and let’s it play as the setting for the drama.
The first thing that comes to mind for me when I hear the words New Jersey is Fred Armisen doing his impression of David Patterson on Saturday Night Live.
Whenever there’s an event in the Northeast, the attention automatically gets put directly on the shoulders of the People’s Champ. I have no idea why the N’Easterners love the swashbuckling, audacious Southern Californian, but it’s one of those things I don’t bother asking about, and just enjoy it. There was a video on Snapchat this week from Callaway that showed Phil arriving at the autograph area after his round to an overwhelming welcome and ovation it gave me a little bit of the chills. Fans in this area have a reputation for being harassing boo birds (RIP Sergio), and there will for sure be more than a fair share of shenanigans from the galleries this week. But if Phil does his thing, you may not be able to hear it over the roars for their one true king. They tried to will him to victory in the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage, and you can guarantee if he’s in the running this week, the noise is going to be so loud that Bubba is going to be backing off shots from the other side of the course.
"OVER HERE!" pic.twitter.com/l6P1ORPYFW
— Callaway Golf (@CallawayGolf) July 26, 2016
I’m so conflicted here. So far in 2016, I have stuck with the major predictions I made in my December 2015 mailbag, and it has treated me well. A heartbreaking T2 at Augusta for Spieth, a win for DJ at Oakmont, and a T5 for Rory (although a mile back, and did not compete for the title) makes me want to trust my instincts, and stay with my Koepka pick. But if the torn ligament in his ankle was so bad that it kept him out of the Open Championship just two weeks ago, I have a hard time believing that a pulled a full Tiger, popped it back into place, and healed himself in that time. If he somehow goes onto win this, I’m not going to be able to live with myself. I apologized to him profusely on the Bacon podcast, but was blessed with Shane’s permission to veer off from this pick, and go with my gut….
Bold! Out on a limb and choosing the favorite (per Sportsbook) to win his second major of the season. No one is playing better golf than he is right now, he’s going to be hitting from 340 yards down the middle of every fairway, and he’s quietly having his best putting season ever. Tron predicted in 2015 that DJ would win the US Open and the PGA, and he was just off by one year. (Also, photoshopping the Wannamaker into this picture proved to be too tall of a task).
Haven’t done a mailbag in forever, and got a bunch of good questions. If I didn’t get to yours, we also answered a bunch of them on both of the podcasts linked above.
@NoLayingUp why is coverage of @PGAChampionship so terrible
— Jeff Meyers (@jeffmeyers_) July 26, 2016
It hasn’t even started yet and we’re complaining! Jeff, I’m actually so confident that CBS’ coverage of this weekend is going to be so terrible that I’m ready to start going in on them already. So thank you for the open invite to join you in the rally against the TV networks.
I didn’t catch much of the RBC Canadian Open, but what I saw on Sunday was absolutely appalling. Usually when I watch golf, I have the US broadcast going on my iPad, but I also have a Dutch channel on my TV on mute, as the broadcast is usually in Dutch. When the US network goes to commercial, the Dutch channel switches over to the international PGA Tour broadcast, and drops in on a ton of other players in the mean time. Because of this, the commercial breaks seem less painful and much less noticeable.
I was stuck in a hotel in Germany on Sunday night with only the option to watch the CBS broadcast, and I’m not exaggerating when I say I was close to just turning it off. It was an absolute disgrace. If I had rewind capabilities, I would have gone back and counted the number of commercials compared to the number of shots shown, as I’m confident the ratio was greater than one. Zero rhythm to the broadcast and absolutely critical shots not being shown (Martin Laird needed a birdie at the par-5 18th to get into a playoff, and they didn’t even show his tee shot, and showed his 2nd on tape delay). The same old weekly narrative shtick. We don’t ask for much. We just want live golf. Last year, they didn’t show Koekpa (who ended up in the top-5) until a tape delayed shot on 16. Be prepared for another infuriating weekend, as they have apparently learned nothing from Tron’s take-down in February.
Six hours of live golf on Thursday and Friday with eight hours on Saturday and Sunday of course looks modest compared to what the Golf Channel and NBC gave us at the Open, but they supplement it with featured group coverage online. For me, the feature groups are going to be what I care about in the early mornings of the first two days of an event anyways, and the coverage is usually much better than the commercial and narrative driven television broadcasts. What’s going to be the worst is when the championship is being decided on Sunday, and we get Nantz saying “this was earlier” as they come back from six commercial breaks in the last thirty minutes.
@NoLayingUp how long before the Players officially matters more than the PGA
— Matt Gallegos (@Mgallegos_8) July 26, 2016
Not in my lifetime. I’ve got three decades worth of excellent memories of the PGA Championship, and don’t understand it being the sometimes called the runt of the litter. Sure it’s the least prestigious of the three, but it has it’s own special place as the cap to major championship season.
@NoLayingUp also, I NEED a Ryder Cup team projection this week. This isn't a choice. *please*
— Nelson Hunstad (@Hunny_Hunstad) July 26, 2016
Gotta wait one week on this. With double points available for the last time this year, it wouldn’t make sense to project the team until next Monday. After that, we’ll have months to break down this silly little three day event that we all obsess over, and you’ll get more than enough coverage from me on who I think should be on that team.
That being said, I’ll be paying a lot of attention come Sunday on those guys trying to Kuch their way in the backdoor for those double points.
@NoLayingUp I've saved Rory all season in my one and done league for this week. Any reason why I should hesitate to use him?
— Bert Brantley (@bertbrantley) July 26, 2016
None at all. I think the course sets up great for him, and I would be really shocked to see him finish outside of the top-10 this week.
@NoLayingUp – which life do you choose if you have to go back and live the last 20 years as Big Cat or People's champ- on & off golf course
— PSteelman (@ptwitt88_p) July 26, 2016
This is a fantastic question, and I talked about this with Bacon. He went Tiger, and I went Phil. If we’re talking straight golf careers, Tiger is the easy answer. But if I’m choosing between their lives, and can avoid the last seven-eight years of embarrassment that Cat has had to go through in horribly public fashion, I think I would take the happy marriage, three kids, five majors, and the label as the People’s Champ over years on my couch playing Call of Duty.
- Adam Sarson addressed the dumb “what’s wrong with Rory” narrative this week with an excellent Fire Joe Morgan style takedown of a Golf Channel “doctor” that tried to evaluate Rory’s psyche. It’s a pretty bad crash and burn.
- Phil is a popular pick this weekend for many reasons, but it seems a bit too convenient for me. Yes, he won here eleven years ago, and put together what Jake Nichols called the fifth best performance in major championship history at the Open Championship, but rarely does Phil do what he’s expected to do. And this week, he’s expected to play well. (Also, please note that I am burying this at the bottom in hopes that no one reads this.)
- If you haven’t made your way over to the Pro Shop in awhile, I strongly suggest you do. Neil has done a fantastic job keeping it updated with new gear, and I swear we wouldn’t be pushing it as hard as we have if we didn’t believe in it. Don’t wait too long to order your Ryder Cup themed shirts. Plus, who doesn’t love rocking some stars and stripes on any occasion? Your support for the site, which is still ad free, is very much appreciated, and you get some truly excellent merchandise out of it.