It is that time again in the golf season in which we like to refer to this week’s event with the catchy phrase, “glory’s last shot.”
That’s a great tagline the TV Networks were asked by The PGA Tour to ditch a few years ago and have since changed to “the season’s final Major.” Political correctness aside, I feel both lines are absolutely appropriate for this week’s tournament, The PGA Championship.
The site will be Quail Hollow, one of the most exclusive private golf clubs in America, located in Charlotte, N.C. Quail Hollow was originally designed by George Cobb nearly 60 years ago. It has since been tweaked by Arnold Palmer and undergone a complete redesign by Tom Fazio, who has continued making many modifications to the course over the last 20 years – many of which are based entirely upon this week’s Championship.
Since 2003, Quail Hollow has played host to a regular PGA Tour stop, The Wells Fargo Championship, but players will notice some changes this year for The PGA versus what they are used to seeing. The Wells Fargo is held in May and obviously the 99th PGA Championship takes place in August. This means different grasses had to be used, grasses better suited for the August climate in Charlotte.
The greens are now Bermuda grass and while this should not change things much, the rough being changed to Bermuda will be more difficult for players missing fairways off of the tee versus the less penal Rye used in May.
There are also changes to the first five holes. There are three Par 3’s at Quail Hollow that are each over 200-yards in length, and then there is The Green Mile. Holes 16, 17, and 18 – one of the hardest three-hole closing stretches on Tour. It ought to make for some tremendous drama come Sunday’s conclusion.
There are some scattered thundershowers in the forecast but it remains to be seen if this will be enough moisture to soften the golf course or go relatively unnoticed from a playing standpoint.
Rory McIlroy (7-1): It is well publicized that Rory is a horse for this course. He has won The Wells Fargo twice and also owns the course record, a 61 shot in 2015. He was fifth last week in Akron, fourth at Royal Birkdale and seventh at The Masters. A win would give Rory his third PGA Championship.
Jordan Spieth (8-1): He enters this week on a tear, having won in two of his last three starts, and just took 13th at The WGC Bridgestone. Spieth is trying to become the youngest player ever to complete the career grand slam. In his only time ever playing The Wells Fargo, he finished 32nd in 2013.
Dustin Johnson (12-1): DJ is familiar with these parts, growing up and going to college in South Carolina. His track record at Quail Hollow is not tremendous. He missed The Masters this year and admits to still not being 100%. He missed the cut at The U.S. Open and finished 54th at The British Open.
Hideki Matsuyama (12-1): Before Spieth won The Claret Jug, Hideki was the No. 2 player in the world and looked like it last week at The WGC Bridgestone, tying a course record 61 on Sunday to win the event by 5. Matsuyama took 11th at The Wells Fargo in 2016.
Rickie Fowler (15-1): He made Quail Hollow the site of his first ever PGA Tour victory in 2012 and was fourth last year. Again he has knocked on the door at the Majors this season, taking 11th at Augusta, fifth at The U.S. Open, and 22nd at Birkdale last month.
Paul Casey (35-1): His odds have come down substantially as he continues to put together an excellent season, fueled by world class ball striking. Casey was fifth last week at Firestone, sixth at The Masters, 26th at Erin Hills, and 11th at The Open Championship. It will be up to his putting if he can turn all of this into a win.
The Long Shots
Phil Mickelson (40-1): Lefty has not won a golf tournament since 2013 yet this week he arrives at one of his favorite courses. Mickelson is the all-time money leader there and yet has never won. His last four trips to Quail Hollow have resulted in 4th-4th-11th-3rd.
Thomas Pieters (40-1): The big hitting Belgian was 4th at The Masters this year and just turned another 4th at The WGC Bridgestone, both in his first ever appearances. This will be his second PGA Championship but again, another first time visit as far as Quail Hollow.
Charley Hoffman (50-1): The UNLV Rebel is by far having the best season of his career. He was 22nd at The Masters, 8th at The U.S. Open, and 20th at The British. He has two second place finishes on Tour this season.
Daniel Berger (50-1): Like Hoffman, Berger is also having a tremendous 2017 season. He has ascended to 19 in the world after finishing last year ranked 34. He successfully defended his title at The St. Jude Classic this year, has two second place finishes this season, and another three Top 10’s. He does everything well and having grown up in Florida really knows how to putt on Bermuda. In 2015, Berger took 28th at The Wells Fargo and was 17th in 2016. I believe he is the surprise winner this week.