Wednesday, August 10, 2005

PGA Championship

With Ernie screwing up his knee a few weeks ago, I will definitely not make the mistake of picking him for this major (unlike the first two of the year). Once again, Tiger is clearly the favored based on his two majors this year, but several other players are hitting their stride. Vijay held Tiger off a few weeks ago at the Buick plus he does have two PGAs to his name and Goosen posted a W this past week at the International. I always like to see guys win a few weeks before majors. I will continue to include Mickelson in the mix just because is one of the best players of all time (even with only 1 major) and is in his prime, but don’t really expect him to win. Baltusrol has been stretched out to 7,392 yards and will play to a par 70. That immediately makes you think that a long hitter will win (Whistling Straits was over 7,500 yards last year), but in 1993 Lee Janzen won the US Open despite being an average length hitter. I think this year it will be a player who is at the top of the list in fairways in regulation and greens in regulation, i.e. leading in total ball striking. That usually brings three names to my mind, David Toms, Scott Verplank and Chad Campbell. Toms seems to be lurking this year. He won the Match Play in convincing fashion earlier this year but hasn’t quite put it together in the majors. Verplank is definitely a short hitter but is always in play and can probably hit enough greens in regulation to give him a legit shot at getting to 10 or 12 under. Campbell hasn’t done a whole lot lately but I think his game is built for the old style course that puts a premium on accuracy. One other name that I would throw in there is Jim Furyk just because he won a US Open, he has been playing better of late and he can flat roll it. Notice that I did not include any European players in the mix. Well, there is good reason. Sometimes the numbers speak for themselves. No European player has won a Major since Paul Lawrie at the 1999 British Open and the last year a Euro won the PGA was in 1930! Yes, 1930. So good luck to Darren Clarke and Sergio Garcia, you are going to need it.

One last thing, Baltusrol is a Par 70 that has two par 5s, #17 and #18 that measure a combined 1,204 yards. I am not aware of another course in the world that has only two par 5s that also happen to be the last two holes. You might think that this would lead to some fireworks coming in with players going for the greens in two, but 17 measures 650 yards which even today might be unreachable.

Developmental Tours

Developmental Tours

This weekend while the PGA Tour was in Colorado using the Modified Stableford scoring system, I was focused on the Nationwide and
Futures Tour. The Nationwide Tour is getting a lot of publicity this year with the emergence of Jason Gore. I have written in the past about Jason, but need to add the next chapter to his story. After a mediocre 1st round of 71, Jason came back with a 59 which puts him in some elite company with Al Geiberger, Chip Beck, David Duval, Notah Begay and Annika Sorenstam. Jason was able to parlay his 59 into a win which was his third consecutive on the Nationwide Tour. He now will be exempt on the PGA Tour for the rest of this year and next. Look for big things from him probably starting next year.

I was also out at the Futures Tour event in Beltsville MD on Saturday. I was impressed with the play of the field on a golf course that was playing very hard and fast which is a departure from their typical course conditions. I was out following a friend who is exempt on the tour for the season. She has been struggle some this year but had two good rounds that provide some encouragement for the last few events.