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.” A great tagline that 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.
It is indeed the season’s final major, and it will be staged at Quail Hollow Club, one of the most exclusive private golf clubs in America, located in Charlotte, North Carolina. 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 being prepared for 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 vs. 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 that different grasses had to be used, grasses better suited for the August climate in Charlotte. The greens, changed in 2014, are now Bermuda Grass, and while this should not change things much, the rough being changed to Bermuda will. It will be more difficult for players missing fairways off of the tee and missing greens to get their ball out of the Bermuda cleanly vs. the less penal Rye Grass they are used to in the Spring.
There are changes to the first five holes on the golf course. There are three Par 3s at Quail Hollow that are each over 200 yards in length, and then there is “The Green Mile”: Holes 16, 17, and 18 and it is 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 determined if this will be enough moisture to soften the golf course or if it will blow through and in large part keep this course firm and fast.
Rory McIlroy (+9.04 Pinnacle) 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 5th last week in Akron, 4th at Royal Birkdale, and 7th at The Masters. A win would give Rory his 3rd PGA Championship.
Jordan Spieth (+10.58 Pinnacle) Spieth enters this week on a tear, having won in two of his last three starts, and just took 13th at The WGC Bridgestone. He 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 here in 2013.
Dustin Johnson (+1415 Bookmaker) DJ is familiar with these parts, growing up and also going to college in South Carolina. His track record at Quail Hollow is not tremendous. He missed The Masters this year due to injury 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 (+13.59 Pinnacle) Before Spieth won The Claret Jug, Hideki was the number 2 player in the world and he looked like it last week at The WGC Bridgestone, tying a course record 61 on Sunday to win the event by five strokes. Matsuyama took 11th here at The Wells Fargo in 2016.
Rickie Fowler (+19.29 Pinnacle) Rickie made Quail Hollow the site of his first ever PGA Tour victory in 2012 and he was 4th here last year. Once again, he has knocked on the door at the Majors this season, taking 11th at Augusta, 5th at The U.S. Open, and 22nd at Birkdale last month.
Paul Casey (+42.29 Pinnacle) Casey’s odds have come down substantially as he continues to put together an excellent season, fueled by his world class ball striking. He was 5th last week at Firestone, 6th 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 (+6600 5Dimes) Lefty has not won a golf tournament since 2013 yet this week he arrives at one of his favorite courses and where he is the all time money leader – and yet, he’s hasn’t ever won here either. His last four trips to Quail Hollow have resulted in 4th-4th-11th-3rd.
Thomas Pieters (+7550 Bookmaker) The big hitting Belgian was 4th at The Masters this year and just turned in another 4th at The WGC Bridgestone, both in his first ever appearances. This will be his 2nd PGA Championship but again, another first time visit as far as the golf course, Quail Hollow.
Charley Hoffman (+47.00) 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 2nd place finishes on Tour this season, two 3rds, and a 4th. Since the end of 2016, he has moved up 46 spots in the world rankings to #20.
Daniel Berger (+6050 Bookmaker) Like Charley Hoffman, Daniel Berger is also having a tremendous 2017 season. He has ascended to number 19 in the world rankings after finishing last year ranked 34th. He successfully defended his title at The St. Jude Classic this year, has two 2nd place finishes this season, and another three Top 10’s. He does everything well and having grown up in Florida, he really knows how to putt on Bermuda Grass greens. In 2015, Berger took 28th at The Wells Fargo Championship. In 2016, he took 17th. I believe this year he turns it into a 1st at The PGA Championship.
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