As if we didn’t do enough predicting and opinion sharing around here, we’re delighted to bring to you this year’s edition of our PGA Championship Banter. Check out our hot topics for the PGA as Troy Klongerbo and Joel Harrington debate all things Kiawah:
1) Biggest predicted storyline of the week- The quirky, challenging course and its firm, fast and windy conditions wreaking havoc on the field or a why-don’t-we-play-here-more-often-than-every-20-years sentiment among the players?
Klongerbo: The challenging course will be the storyline here. I mean, it usually takes courses time to work their way into circulation of major events and The Ocean Course (assuming they have a great week) will see more events in the future. It was only built in 1991 and already has a Ryder Cup, Senior PGA and now a PGA Championship. This course will be similar to what we see every year over the pond in the Open Championship where the weather will dictate nearly everything. A links style course with elevated greens could lead to some DIFFICULT playing conditions for the pros this weekend. That will be the bigger story.
Harrington: Totally agree, this track just bleeds bogeys and missing ProV1s. I hope it gets some good pub from the week, but I have a feeling it’s going to be more of a brutal test and potential one-and-done for the Ocean Course in the PGA Championship rota.
2) Pick one player from the world top 10 who you predict will have the weekend off this week.
Harrington: No question about it- it’s Lee Westwood. Straight off an uh-what-happened 81-73 weekend in which he finished solo 70th out of 75 players (3 WD’d), you have to wonder where the supposed number 4 ranked player in the world goes from here. Firm/hardpan-like chipping areas and expected windy conditions at Kiawah Island for a guy who could send you to a psychiatrist just by watching his practice strokes, um no thank you. On Friday night after his MC, Lee will be jet-setting to Jakarta or Madagascar or somewhere else in Asia where he only seems to win to try and defeat Boonchu Ruangkit and company to further inflate his world ranking.
Klongerbo: Joel, I like the Westwood pick for sure. But, I am making my pick more out of spite. I picked Justin Rose at the British Open and he went MC on me. I will take Justin Rose to miss the weekend, despite a top-notch T5 finish last week at the Bridgestone. And honestly, it’s a process of elimination, as I feel every player in the top ten has a good chance to go Wannamaker.
3) Trap talk- With the PGA’s decision to un-bunkerify the Kiawah Island course (well, the bunkers will still be there but they will be played as waste areas, not hazards like usual), would you as a player be grounding your club in the sand to take advantage of the ruling? Or, would it be stick to your routine and play them as normal bunkers?
Harrington: This would be almost as weird as anchoring something against my body to take the nerves out as I stroked a putt. Oh wait, they’re both legal this week. I’m going with no on the grounding. I mean, just catching that sand during my backswing would throw me off that I’d probably skull one straight into the Atlantic.
Klongerbo: If a player feels comfortable grounding, ground the club. They hit every shot on the range grounding their club. Every shot during practice grounding the club. They practice non-stop. It won’t be a huge adjustment. Hovering the club with nerves isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. Maybe greenside hover, but anything over 40 yards, you’ve got to think those guys are going to take advantage of the grounding i.e. Dustin Johnson PGA ’10 (even though Dustin got busted). Either way honestly, hovering or grounding, I’m skulling that thing into the Atlantic.
4) As usual during major championship week, equipment changes to suit the course’s conditions are a hot topic. With the predicted winds, firm and fast turf, tight driving areas, etc…what would you change (if anything) in your 14 this week?
Harrington: I definitely would consider throwing a 2-iron in the bag for the stinging slingers needed in those howling winds and rock hard fairways. Certainly would consider altering the bounce on my wedges as well to compensate for the expected hardpan-iness that players are predicted to face.
Klongerbo: Maybe hit a stronger 3 wood to flight tee shots easier into the wind. No hybrids. Agree with the altering bounce too, I’m sure those guys are doing that almost on a weekly basis anyway. For guys who play with three wedges like 58, 54, PW- maybe go with the 60, 56, 52, PW or 64, 58, 54 PW combinations. Pinch those chips around the greens. Either that, or be a bump-and-run wizard.
5) Jim Furyk toe-hooked his way out of contention on 16 on Sunday at the U.S. Open after looking like he was on his way to another U.S. Open trophy, Adam Scott had one hand on the Claret Jug all day during the final round before melting the final four holes. Are we predicting another painful meltdown this week or finally nothing but triumph?
Klongerbo: So many factors…Who’s in contention, is the weather kicked up a notch, is the course toughening up for the players or softening up? I will say that once is an aberration, twice is a coincidence. Instead of a meltdown, someone will win this weekend with heroism.
Harrington: This course screams meltdown with ketchup and mustard hazard stakes galore. That being said, I have a funny feeling that this could be a comfy 4-5 shot runaway victory for the victor. I mean, playoff at Augusta, down to the last hole with 4 or 5 guys having a chance to win at Olympic and a brutally razor thin loss by Scott to Ernie at the British. Yep, there’s no way that the golfing gods will give us 4 close majors in one year.
Definitely a frustrating week for Tiger Woods last week at Firestone (Tigerstone), a tournament where he’s won 7 times. A Sunday 66 yes, but missed putts and Foley-ified lack of distance control dominated his week.
6) How will El Tigre fare this week in “Glory’s Last Shot?”
Klongerbo: Starting to find that its a shot in the dark to determine how players will fare each week, especially in major championships. With Tiger, safest bet is to say he makes the cut, is a factor Friday and Saturday night and Sunday afternoon he is a non-factor. The media will overhype every step, swing and pee he takes all week. He could win. He always could win. But I guess if I’m asked, I’m not forseeing it this week for him. A top 20 performance though, with excuses galore.
Harrington: Couldn’t have said it better myself. Blaming the “slow” greens (would be nice to be able to call 11.5-12 on the stimp greens slow), swearing at the wind and finding something nit picky about the bunkers. Yep, a complaining non-factor scrounging to make the cut is where my money’s at as well.
7) Who will be the how-did-this-guy-even-get-into-a-major-championship-field sleeper pick of the week?
Klongerbo: As far as a how-did-this-guy-even-get-into-a-major-championship-field sleeper pick, I’ll say Blake Adams. He ranks well in overall driving has made the 4th most birdies on Tour this year. 4 par 5’s for a guy who plays par 5’s extremely well. He’s in the top ten on Tour. Lets see how Blake fairs this weekend.
Harrington: Man I love that Blake Adams pick. I’ve been all over that guy in Fantasy Golf this year and have pointed my way up the leaderboard several times with him (although not far enough up). Since we’re going to a snoring level of a sleeper here, I’ll go with Scott Stallings. Yes, he won the True South Classic recently, but that doesn’t DQ him from snoring sleeper status. Nobody is talking about him this week, yet coming off a win at the True South and a t-7th at the RBC Canadian Open, Mr Double S could be making more than a little noise this weekend.
8 ) Who is our lock-ola rock solid, gritty competitor who we’d wager every last nickel on to contend this week?
Harrington: I wrote about it here that I LOVE John Senden this week. He’s got the no-pressure sleeper approach into the week and is a fairways and greens type of guy who ranks 24th on Tour in driving accuracy and a salty 5th in Greens in Regulation. Also, the guaranteed wind factory that Kiawah will greet players with is right up this Aussie’s alley. Wouldn’t at all be surprised to see the tall lanky fellow in contention on Sunday.
Klongerbo: I also like John Senden this week. I was thinking of him earlier and it was nice to see you go in his direction. Another gritty player we should keep our eyes on would be Strick himself. Steve’s putter speaks for itself, especially on the Ocean Course’s SILKY, VELVETY, CREAMY (?) greens. Not a long player, but a player with a good short game (great*) and he came off a good week at the Firestone.
9) Winning Score?
Harrington: I might be well off the mark here, but even with the quirky Pete Dye track, hazards galore and the unpredictable wind factor, these guys are so dang good that I still think it reaches double digits under par late Sunday afternoon. I’ll go with -11 for the winning total.
Klongerbo: Everyone is talking about the difficulty of this golf course, but I always pick major championship scores to be worse than they actually are. I was thinking double digits range too, with the low after day one being a 7 under 65 somewhere. Can we both say -11 and say we were both right? If not, I’ll take the under on 10.5 and say -10 will win the event.
10) ……And the Winner Is?
Klongerbo: I want to take Luke Donald – because he simply has to win one at some point. But I’ll go in a different direction. Give me Nick Watney. He has performed well in major championships missing only 2 cuts in the past 11 majors he’s played in. Let’s not forget 2010 at Whistling Straits where he played so well for 3 rounds before shooting 81 on Sunday. Players learn from situations like the one Watney had. I say 2012 is his comeback and triumph. Nick Watney.
Harrington: It’s revenge city this week on the shores of Kiawah- Jason Dufner baby. The Duf man let the Wannamaker slip right out of his grasp in blowing a 5 shot lead with 4 holes to play last year as Keegan Bradley fist pumped his way eventually to victory in a playoff. All the big dipping Duf man does is contend, and every major since last year’s PGA he’s been in the mix at some point (lead the Masters at the halfway point, finished 2 strokes behind Webb at Olympic, in the hunt going into the weekend at Lytham), it’s about time Mr Amanda Boyd busts out and hoists a major championship trophy.