The first major championship of the year is behind us and The Masters never disappoints. This year created major excitement like we have never seen because the PGA Tour and LIV Golf ‘defectors’ finally went head to head. Let’s look back at The Masters, and speculate what might transpire at Oak Hill in this years PGA Championship.
The Masters began with so much hype and major excitement weeks before any of the players stepped onto the property at Augusta National. By the time Thursday rolled around, the anticipation of what was to come was at an all time high. The opening two days spilled into Saturday with the lengthy rain delays on Friday. Low opening round scores were met with higher numbers on the second day, particularly from those completing round one on Friday ahead of the rain. LIV Golfer, Brooks Koepka and amateur Sam Bennett from Texas A&M stole most of the headlines headed into the weekend.
Saturday’s 3rd round saw more strong play from Brooks Kopeka. Although his lead shrank to two shots headed into the final 18 many assumed with his past play when holding a major championship, 54 hole lead would continue and he would close out his fifth major victory. As always on the final day of The Masters, Augusta National and the final nine holes brought much major excitement. Jon Rahm pushed Kopeka from the very start, and a final nine hole blitz from three time champion Phil Mickelson had the Patrons and viewers at home buzzing.
It was ultimately the Spaniard, Jon Rahm who stood strong despite efforts from Koepka to claw his way back into contention. Rahm claimed his second major victory at The Masters to go with his 2021 US Open triumph at Torrey Pines. Rahm became the first European player to win both the US Open and Masters titles.
The PGA Championship
As the month of April ended we found ourselves looking to the years second major, the PGA Championship. I think we all expect it to produce the same major excitement as The Masters but we are all wondering who will provide it? Before we dive too deeply into the players we should take a look at the venue.
Oak Hill East
The host of this years PGA Championship is the world famous Oak Hill Country Club East Course. The golf course has hosted a swath of major professional and amateur golf tournaments throughout the years. The original layout was designed by the great Donald Ross, arguably my favorite golf architect alongside Dr. Alister Mackenzie. The course was built in the 1920’s and modernized by the Fazio brothers in the 1970’s and later Oak Hill utilized A.H. Green for a long term plan.
For this years PGA the course will stretch to 7,360 yards, a considerably long and daunting test for a par 70 layout. If history is any indication then it is unlikely the winner will reach double digits under par. In six previous men’s major championships Jason Dufner is the only player to reach that number in 2013. Prior to Dufner shooting ten under par the next best four round performance was six under. This was recorded by Jack Nicklaus at the 1980 PGA Championship.
For this years addition of the PGA Championship and to get a sense of the contenders we need to look back at past champions around Oak Hill. In the storied history of the course, the majority of winners around Oak Hill had the ability to get the ball in play from the tee and most would be considered strong ball strikers.
I have selected my top 5 players and used a combination of odds for the event, position in strokes gained off the tee and current form to make my picks. At number one is Scottie Scheffler because of his continued good form and combined length and accuracy from the tee. For my number two pick I have chosen Brooks Koepka because of his solid form and strong finish at The Masters. Despite Patrick Cantlay’s slow play becoming a topic recently he continues to perform in majors and comes in at three. At number four I have chosen Rory McIlroy because of his length and accuracy. If you combine this with his poor showing at Augusta and I think Rory will rebound at Oak Hill. Lastly I am going to pick Viktor Hovland. Hovland is always knocking on the door and because of his length and accuracy believe he will contend.
I will let you all make your selections and judgements however I know we all agree that this could be an epic second major. With the event less than three weeks away, I am counting the days to parking myself on the couch and soaking it in!