The 102nd US PGA Championship due to get underway on Thursday – and there are plenty of talking points going into the first major of the rescheduled season.
With that in mind, we got our team – Bryce Ritchie (BR), Michael McEwan (MM), David Cunninghame (DC), Ryan Crombie (RC) and Cameron Adam (CA) – to discuss some of them.
Read on to find out who they’re backing to lift the Wanamaker, what they expect from four-time champion Tiger Woods and more…
Who’s your pick to win and why?
RC: Xander Schauffele. The consistency this man has shown in major championships over the past three years is impressive. The 26-year-old has made eight straight cuts, which have included two T2s a T3 and a T6, so he knows what it takes to be at the right end of the leaderboard come Sunday. It’s only a matter of time before he closes one of these out.
CA: Jon Rahm. He followed up his win at the Memorial with a lacklustre performance at the WGC, but I still think he is right where he needs to be to win his first major. It's only a matter of time and after he's won his first, he'll undoubtedly rack up a few more.
BR: There’s no predicting majors these days, so the obvious picks are Brooks, Rory and JT and maybe not even in that order. But I’m liking Gary Woodland for this one. He’s already tasted the big time and if he can find fairways and have the kind of putting week he had at the US Open, he’ll be in the mix.
LISTEN TO EPISODE 1 OF THE BUNKERED PODCAST
DC: I’m torn between Brooks and Bryson. Two bomb and gouge monsters who have the brute strength to overpower TPC Harding Park and the rest of the field. Gun to my head, I’m picking Brooks. As per usual, he is hitting form at the right time and he loves to up his game for the majors.
MM: I’m going with DeChambeau. Harding Park is a bomber’s paradise, and there are no bigger bombers in the game right now that the bold Bryson. First in SG: Off-The-Tee, sixth in SG: Putting, ninth in SG: Tee To Green, second in SG: Total – that’s major winning form by any measure.
Who’s a dark horse that would make a good each-way bet?
BR: Poor Rickie Fowler is 33/1. Seems wrong to pick Rickie as a dark horse, but bookies tend to know best. You know what, he’s bound to finish the job at one of these events. Just depends how much all these close shaves leave a mark. Top-five might not be a bad shout for Fowler fans.
CA: Cameron Champ was 125/1 last time I checked. At those odds, he’s is a great bet in any event. He's currently ranked 2nd on tour in driving distance so the length of TPC Harding Park shouldn't be a factor. Unfortunately, his accuracy from 150 yards and in is poor so that may be where he lets me down. If his approach play is solid and he can hole a few putts, I reckon he might be there come Sunday. Not to mention he is a two-time winner already, a huge advantage when the pressure is on coming down the stretch.
MM: I discovered this week that just only Englishman has won the US PGA – and that was Jim Barnes a century ago. Now, I’m not saying that Matt Fitzpatrick is good to end that drought this week but, at 45/1, as I got him earlier, he is terrific value for an each-way bet. His relative lack of length off the tee might put some people off but he comes into this week off the back of two top-six finishes on seriously tough, PGA-esque courses.
RC: At 66/1, I’m going with Abraham Ancer. His game has been trending in the right direction since the restart. With five top-15s to his name and managing to make the cut at The Memorial tournament, the Mexican is never far away from a string of birdies that can throw him into contention. He might yet be seeking his first win on the PGA Tour but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to be there or thereabouts come Sunday.
DC: Matthew Wolff is a great shout for a top-5 finish. He has all of the skills to succeed at the PGA Championship and has proven that he doesn’t lack the bottle to compete on the big stage.
How will Tiger get on?
DC: I can’t say I’m too confident in the Big Cat. He did not look sharp at The Memorial and I think he’ll be battling to make the cut on Friday. I just hope to god I’m wrong and we see him in contention.
MM: According to the forecast, it’s going to be chilly in San Francisco on Thursday and Friday, so I’m going to say he’ll be at home in his jammies watching it on TV like the rest of us come the weekend.
CA: I wouldn't put it past him to turn up and win, but I also wouldn't be surprised if he missed the cut. Even pre pandemic, his major prep had decreased in order to protect the back which is wise at this stage in his career. That being said, I don't think he is sharp enough to win but you can never write him off.
RC: Tiger openly admitted that he struggled physically at the Memorial Tournament, managing to avoid missing the cut by a single shot. It’s Tiger Woods so anything can happen but, with such little golf under his belt this year, it’s difficult to see how he’s going to cobble together four rounds of golf to beat the rest of a strong field. Tiger will be mentally prepared for this week. Whether his body will be is another matter…
BR: Who knows? Seems crazy that Thursday will be his 13th competitive round of 2020. For me, that’s really pushing the boundaries of feeling comfortable with his game. We’ve been here before. He’d played five events before the Masters win last year. I’m not sure two is enough. I expect him to make the cut because he can grind with the best, but I don’t expect much else.
Will the absence of fans have an impact?
MM: Yes… but only on Sunday. This isn’t the Ryder Cup. For the first three days, it will be business as usual. Come Sunday, though, it will be interesting to see how the players react, or even adapt, to having nobody watching. There will be a lot more leaderboard-watching going on, that’s for sure.
CA: There's no doubt it's not the same without fans, but the players are just as competitive and they all want a major win. I just hope nobody runs away with it after 2 rounds otherwise I'll be reaching for the remote.
BR: Same impact it’s had in recent weeks. These behind close doors events are different, slightly refreshing at times, but do tend to create the buzz that filters back to the players. Will be very odd to watch the leaders hit the back nine on Sunday with no atmosphere.
RC: I’m enjoying the golf just as much without fans as I do with them. The events since the restart have been excellent to watch and the excitement that the guys are providing makes you forget all about the lack of atmosphere. It’s cool to be able to hear what the players are saying more regularly as well.
DC: I love the boisterous nature of an American crowd and, over the last few weeks, I have to admit I’d happily go back to shouts of ‘MASHED POTATO’ over the current silence. There will definitely be a lack of buzz on the back nine come Sunday but, so long as we have a bunched-up leaderboard, it’ll make for great viewing.
If you had to rank the four majors in terms of how much you enjoy them, where would the PGA rank?
CA: Fourth. Nothing against the PGA but I think we all know it doesn't carry the prestige of the other three.
DC: Third. Masters is No.1, with the Open a close second. Although many view the PGA as the least prestigious of the majors, it is certainly a better viewing experience than the USGA’s ridiculous efforts to force the winning score above par at the US Open.
RC: Right now, it feels like the most important thing in the world. Every one of the majors has its own appeal but, under normal circumstances, it probably ranks last.
MM: I have it third ahead of the US Open. The problem the US PGA has is a lack of identity. The Masters has the intrigue and The Open has the history. The US Open? The US Open has the notoriety. It’s an invariably tough watch, made all the tougher by the fact the USGA couldn’t run a bath, far less a golf tournament. The US PGA is like a regular tour event. It just so happens to mean a lot more.
BR: It’s definitely more fun than US Opens of recent years. Yes, it lacks an identity, but the US Open’s ‘identity’ hasn’t been to everybody’s tastes lately, so what’s an identity worth? Considering the field, it could spring the best surprise of what majors are left in 2020. And that would be so 2020.
Do you agree with our guys?
Leave your thoughts on our team's predictions in the Comments section below...