US PGA Confidential: The biggest stories from Kiawah debated

Wanamaker Bw Sketch

It's time for the second men's major of 2021 - and, as you might expect, there's much to discuss 

This week's US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island comes with tonnes of intrigue, the potential for history to be made and the promise of high drama. 

With that in mind, the bunkered team jumped on a Zoom call to debate all of the big storylines ahead of the 103rd battle for the Wanamaker Trophy getting underway. 

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Who's who?

BR - Bryce Ritchie; MM - Michael McEwan; DC - David Cunninghame; RC - Ryan Crombie; CA - Cameron Adam

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Who’s your pick to win?  

RC - Justin Thomas. He’s won already this year in impressive fashion at The PLAYERS and has the experience of winning a PGA Championship, invaluable for this year where the course will be the longest in major championship history at 7,876 yards.

DC - Jordan Spieth. It’s career grand slam time!

CA - Rory McIlroy. He’s found some form in the nick of time, not to mention he picked up his second major at Kiawah in 2012. 

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BR - If there was a player in golf who had the toughest job to turn the biggest corner under the most intense spotlight, it’s Jordan Spieth. It’s not his game that’s impressed me, it’s his head. I think he’ll be hungry to make up for lost time in the majors, and a win would bring a Grand Slam. 

MM - Unoriginally, I’m all-in on Rory. He won the Wells Fargo with his ‘B’ game. That won’t be enough at Kiawah Island but I fancy him to be even closer to the Rory who was dominating the game pre-COVID than he was at Quail Hollow. He, of course, won there by eight shots in 2012 so he clearly gets how to play the course. Plus, with the question marks over the fitness of DJ and Brooks Koepka, not to mention Bryson DeChambeau’s weird form, it’s hard to see any of the very, very best players competing with him. The drought is coming to an end.

Who’s your outsider?

MM - I quite like Abraham Ancer. The diminutive Mexican carries himself with a very cool, quiet confidence. He’s relatively new to the majors – he’s only played in eight before this week – but he looks quite at ease on the stage. He’s on top form, too. His worst finish in his last eight starts is a tie for 26th. In his most recent two events, he’s gone fifth at the Valspar and then second the McIlroy at the Wells Fargo. The big asterisk, of course, is that he’s yet to win on the PGA Tour… but maybe this week?

BR - Abraham Ancer, who is priced at 50/1, which is filthy odds for a guy who has only been outside the top-25 once since late February. 

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CA - Sam Burns. He picked up his first win a few weeks ago at Valspar, followed by a second place finish at the Byron Nelson. At 24-years-old, he clearly relishes the pressure and is ready to win on the biggest of stages. He will win a major at some point. Might as well be this week. 

DC - Despite finishing second at The Masters you can get Will Zalatoris at 50/1.  At those odds, he is well worth a fiver.

RC - Tyrrell Hatton. It almost feels silly suggesting someone inside the world’s top-10 is an outsider but, at odds of 45/1, Hatton is just that. The Englishman has racked up three huge wins since March last year and his game will suit the venue for this year’s event. 

Who’s your first round leader?   

DC - Viktor Hovland. Mr consistency will come out of the blocks strong.

CA - Cameron Smith. Another player I expect to win a major soon. 

BR - Abraham Ancer. Or Jordan Spieth.  

RC - Sam Burns. This man is on fire. A T4, a win and a solo second on his last three starts on the PGA Tour is some going. Red hot form does a lot for the confidence, plus he’s ranked 20th on the PGA Tour’s driving distance stats. He’ll have a good tournament. 

MM - Keegan Bradley. Has it really been a decade since he won this championship on his major debut? Mad. Anyway, he’s been showing some signs of life again recently after a quiet couple of years

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What are you  expecting from Bob MacIntyre? 

BR - To keep doing his thing. Bob has been a bright light for Scottish golf in the last 18 months, and I think I speak for everyone in that I just hope he keeps going in an upwards direction. He clearly has the game. My only concern is going from the British Masters to the PGA with all the Covid travelling restrictions. Might just take its toll.

CA - I reckon he will have a solid performance, perhaps top-10. Whether he can win remains to be seen, but I look forward to watching him go after it. 

MM - Very hard to say. He’s set an extremely high bar, hasn’t he? Four majors played, four cuts made. For me, success for Bob this week would be a top-20 finish. Equally, though, would we really be that disappointed with four rounds and all of the OWGR and Ryder Cup points that would bring?

RC - Top-20. The young Scot almost carries a weight of expectation on his shoulders going into events as a result of his meteoric rise. I’m fully expecting MacIntyre to better his T66 at this event last time out.

DC - I don’t see any reason why he can’t have another very impressive week. Bob is in fine form and I think a top-15 finish is on the cards.

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Where does the US PGA rank in your list of favourite majors?   

DC - I’m certain I’ll be in the minority here but it isn’t fourth. No it just pips the US Open in my opinion. I have been dismayed watching too many ridiculous USGA course set-ups to have it anywhere other than last on my list. At least the US PGA usually delivers solid entertainment, even if it only seems like a normal PGA Tour event on steroids.

MM - Fourth, I’m afraid. The Open has the history. The Masters has the intrigue. The US Open is the toughest. The US PGA? It’s the other one. You’d still want to win it, though.

CA - Fifth, behind The Players... 

Us Pga Confidential Main

RC - Last. The tournament struggles for identity and struggles to generate the same level of excitement as the other majors.

BR - It’s No.4, no doubt, but it’s a major and you can’t win a Grand Slam without it. Ask Jordan Spieth. 

What is your favourite US PGA memory? 

CA - Martin Kaymer's win in 2010. It was full of drama with DJ grounding his club in the ‘bunker’ and missing out on the playoff. I’m a big fan of Kaymer so it was nice to see him get that first major win. 

BR - Martin Kaymer’s win in 2010 stands out for me. So much happened on that Sunday, which made for a real entertaining final stretch.  

MM - I’m not sure ‘favourite’ is the right word but certainly my most vivid PGA memory is the hybrid that Y.E. Yang hit over the trees to six feet to beat Tiger Woods in 2009. Better shots have been in the event’s history but few as significant. Tiger had never lost a major after leading going into the final round until that day when Yang, a 37-year-old journeyman from South Korea, stunned him at Hazeltine, becoming the first Asian male to win a major in the process. A couple months later, Tiger reversed into a fire hydrant and, well…

RC - Watching Rory McIlroy collect his second major of the year in 2014 in near-darkness. What a season it was for the Northern Irishman. Who would ever have thought that trophy would still be his most recent major win seven years on?

DC - Rory storming to victory nine years ago at Kiawah. How I would love to see Rory in full flow again this week. It’s mesmerising to watch.

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What would be the first thing you’d drink from the Wanamaker Trophy?   

DC - I’d take it down to my local and fill it to the top with draught Tennent’s. I’m not sure what the Wanamaker’s pint capacity is but I think it’s fair to assume the following day’s hangover would be crushing. Worth it, though.

MM - Several bottles of Malbec. The best thing to come out of Argentina since Lionel Messi.

RC - A whisky. Start the night as you mean to go on.

CA - Probably Heineken or Peroni. I’m a simple man. 

BR - Super Bock, the ‘Taste of Portugal ‘. But the trophy would need to be cleaned first, then cleaned again, then thoroughly rinsed before the swally commenced.  

Write the headline you’d like to see on the Monday morning after this year’s championship? 

BR - ‘Spieth wins PGA, Olympics cancelled’

CA- “Bob MacIntyre ends 14-year wait for a Scottish major winner”

RC - “It’s coming home – Scotland’s MacIntyre seals maiden major”

DC - “Grand Slam Spieth”

MM – “Yaldi!” plastered across the front page of the Oban Times would be nice.

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