97th PGA Championship
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: 7,500 square feet on average; Providence Bentgrass
Rough: Fescue and other grasses from 3 to 5"
Bunkers: Pete Dye says over 1,000. I'll go with the man who built this beast.
Water Hazards: Seven-Mile Creek; Lake Michigan; Two ponds
Course Architect(s): Pete Dye (1998)
Purse: $10 million
Winner’s Share: $1.8 million
FedExCup Points: 600 to the winner
Dates: August 13 - 16
Notes: 156 players including 20 club professionals; Top 70 and ties will play the weekend
Notes II: 98 of the top 100 OWGR are playing this week. Only Chris Kirk (No. 24) and Alexander Noren (No. 74) are out because of injuries.
Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker (twice), Bill Haas, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day (twice), Brandt Snedeker, James Hahn, Padraig Harrington, Alex Cejka, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth (four times), Matt Every, J.B. Holmes, Jim Furyk, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Chris Kirk, Steven Bowditch, David Lingmerth, Fabian Gomez, Bubba Watson, Danny Lee, Scott Piercy, Zach Johnson, Troy Merritt, J.J. Henry and Shane Lowry are the 32 winners of calendar 2015.
Hahn (No. 297), Harrington (No. 297), Cejka (No. 285), Every (No. 96), Bowditch (No. 137), Lingmerth (No. 212), Gomez (No. 283), Lee (No. 158), Piercy (No. 112), Merritt (No. 180) an J.J. Henry (No. 426) are the only players outside the top 70 OWGR to win this year.
After 28 wins in 45 events last season the USA has won with Snedeker, Koepka, Haas, Walker (two), Reed, Hahn and Johnson, Spieth (four), Every, Holmes, Furyk, Fowler, Kirk, Watson, Piercy, Johnson, Merritt and Henry in 2015.
Cejka, Harrington, Day, Rose, McIlroy, Bowditch, Lingmerth, Gomez, Lee and Lowry make up the rest of foreign legion who have won in calendar 2015. They join Sang-moon Bae (Korea) and Nick Taylor (Canada) from the 2014 as the international winners.
After 13 first-time winners in 2013 there were only 10 last year. Through 41 events in 2015, Hahn, Koepka, Martin, Streb, Taylor, Cejka, Lingmerth, Gomez, Lee, Merritt and Lowry have broken their maidens and have surpassed the 10 first-timers from last year.
The only multiple winners this season on TOUR are Watson, Walker, Day, McIlroy and Spieth. The young Texan is the only player besides Tiger Woods this century to have won four times in a season. Let that set in.
Previous Championships Hosted:
1999 PGA Club Professionals Championship
2004 PGA Championship
2007 U.S. Senior Open
2010 PGA Championship
Recent Course Ratings:
2004: Eighth-most difficult of 56 courses played; +1.163 over par
2010: Seventh-most difficult of 52 courses played; +.921
In 2010 there were only four rounds of sub-68 as W.C. Liang set the course record on Saturday with 64. J.B. Holmes and Jason Dufner both shot 66 on Friday. Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson achieved 67 on Thursday and Sunday, respectively.
In 2004 Singh shot 76 in the final round but won in a three-man playoff. It's the worst winning round ever by a PGA champ.
In 2010 54-hole leader Nick Watney began Sunday with a three-shot lead. He shot 81 (nine-over) and finished T18. Everyone remembers what happened to Dustin Johnson but not too many remember what happened to Watney.
This year the PGA has already posted warnings all over the clubhouse and course reminding players, AGAIN, that ANY sand things OUTSIDE or ON the ropes, the ball must be played as it lies and it shall be considered a hazard. NO FREE RELIEF.Foot prints? Tough. Hot dog wrapper or beer can? If it's OUTSIDE or ON the ropes, players CANNOT move the objects. The ONLY things that can be removed are rocks under rule 24-1.
Winners at Whistling Straits
2010: Martin Kaymer -11, 277*
2004: Vijay Singh -8, 280**
*playoff; defeated Bubba Watson
In the two previous PGA Championships only six players have put all four rounds at par or better at WS:
Chris DiMarco 2004
Bubba Watson 2010
Zach Johnson 2010
Steve Elkington 2010
Camilo Villegas 2010
Robert Karlsson 2010
Italics: not competing this week
Facts and Figures
This will be the third PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. Only Southern Hills in Tulsa has hosted more championships with four.
The PGA was match play until changing to stroke play in 1958.
Walter Hagen won five match play PGA titles; Jack Nicklaus won five stroke play PGA titles.
Only 14 international players have hoisted the Wannamaker trophy since the first PGA Championship in 1916.
Interestingly enough, five of the last seven winners have been internationals.
2008: Padraig Harrington (Ireland)
2009: Y.E. Yang (South Korea)
2010: Martin Kaymer (Germany)
2012: Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland)
2014: Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland)
Since 1995, only three players have multiple PGA titles. Singh (1998, 2004), Woods (2000, 2001; 2006-2007) and McIlroy (2012, 2014).
Woods is the only player in the stroke play era to defend his title and he's done it twice.
Since 2000, only Shaun Micheel (2003) and Keegan Bradley (2011) have lifted the trophy in their first attempt. A total of eight players have won the PGA on their first try none more famously so than John Daly in 1991 at Crooked Stick.
Of the last 15 championships, eight have been decided by one shot or a playoff. The other seven have been essentially blowouts.
Padraig Harrington was the last player to win back-to-back majors (2008 Open/PGA) before McIlroy last year (Open/PGA) and Spieth this year (Masters/U.S. Open).
There are only a dozen or so to win on TOUR the week before a major. The last three to pull this off are Woods, Mickelson and McIlroy. Jordan Spieth missed a playoff by a shot at The Open Championship after winning the JDC Class the week before. #LimitedClub
Julius Boros is the oldest winner at 48 where Gene Sarazen is the youngest winner at 20.
Only five players have won the PGA in their 40s. The last to do so was Singh here in 2004 at 41.
Of the 96 winners, 42 have been between the age of 30-34. The next closest group is 22 players between 35-39. So 64 of the 96 winners, around two-thirds, have been between 30-39. Funny, most people consider that a golfer's prime!
Of the last five winners, four were in their 20s. Kaymer, Bradley and McIlroy twice. The other was in his mid 30s as Dufner was 36.
There have only been five wire-to-wire winners with no ties. The last to do so was Nick Price in 1984.
The low round in a major is 63 set by multiple players and lastly by Jason Dufner at Oak Hill in 2013. The course record at WS is 64 by W. C. Liang in 2010.
The largest margin of victory was eight shots by McIlroy over David Lynn in 2012 at Kiawah Island, another Pete Dye monster.
Bizarre Stat(s)of the Week:
The USA Slam is on as Yanks have won the first three majors. The last time the USA won all four majors was 1982. Who were the four champions? See "This will win you a bar bet" for the answer!
The last eight PGA winners finished T20 or better the week before at WGC-BI and the last three have been in the top five. Here are your choices this week:
01 Shane Lowry
02 Bubba Watson
03 Jim Furyk
03 Justin Rose
05 Robert Streb
06 Danny Lee
12 Jason Day
12 Soren Kjeldsen
15 Patrick Reed
15 Kevin Na
17 Lee Westwood
17 Paul Casey
17 Ian Poulter
This Will Win You a Bar Bet
The USA winners in 1982:
Masters: Craig Stadler
U.S. Open: Tom Watson (Pebble Beach)
The Open: Tom Watson (Royal Troon)
PGA: Raymond Floyd (Southern Hills)
Inside the Ropes
Whistling Straits plays to a par 72 with four par three, four par five along with 12 par four holes.
The par threes have two holes exceeding 200 yards and two under 200 yards so there is variance but they all share Lake Michigan in the eye sight. The monster of the four is the final one, No. 17, that can play almost 250 yards and is one of the hardest holes in major tournament golf because of its position on the scorecard. Errant shots will find bunkers that are upwards of 20 feet deep or Lake Michigan if the pressure gets to thick. Better score when you can boys!
The par fives start with No. 2 and that hole saw the most bogeys or worse in 2010 but still played under par for the week. No. 5 is the second par five on the front and brings water into play on either side of the dogleg but still played under par the last time. No. 11 used to stretch over 600 yards but has been shortened to 563 because of newly added hospitality chalets/suites for this edition. With the reduced length more birdies will also come into play this week. The last solid chance for birdie coming home will be No. 16 as it plays the shortest of the four and was the second easiest hole in previous events.
Whistling Straits hasn't changed much from 2004 or 2010 says Pete Dye except for the course growing and maturing but there are some changes that are relevant heading into the 2015 event. No. 8 has a new green complex that looks like an infinity pool with Lake Michigan as the "infity" behind it. Dye also added a tightly-mown area left of the green just in case the blind tee shot wasn't challenging enough! Three par fours will measure over 500 yards and there is a fourth that tips out at 497. But there are also two par fours that could be drivable depending on tees and wind on the day (Nos. 6 and 10). A change to No. 9 will be a tighter driving chute as hospitality tents on both sides of the fairway will play tricks on the eyes of the pros. The fairway isn't any narrower but it will appear that way. Pete Dye gives these guys enough visual tests and the fans lining the tents will add another. No. 10 has added an extra 25 yards with a new teeing ground so the players don't plunk any spectators that are hanging on the other side of the hill that are out of sight.
The difficult finishing holes kick off with No. 15 which was the hardest in 2004 and third-most difficult in 2010. If that's not enough, don't count on too many birdies on the final hole as the par four plays well over 500 yards (520 on the card) and brings in water, Seven Mile Creek, for those like Watson in 2010 who try and cut the corner. The creek also comes into play on the approach if not clubbed properly.
Hey, it's a major championship! It SHOULD be difficult and the players who are going to compete this week must take advantage of the scoring holes and avoid bogeys elsewhere. As the numbers above show, par is a VERY good score here. Martin Kaymer made two bogeys in his final 55 holes in winning here in 2010 so players who keep their ball in positions should factor again this year.
Whistling Straits is not a classic links set up regardless of the images seen on TV in previous events. Unlike St. Andrews and even Chambers Bay, the course was designed on land that was mostly clay, not sand, as traditional links courses are. The fairways are fescue but not pure fescue and shots won't roll out as much as they do on sand-based tracks. There will be plenty of action in the air as players will have to flight their balls into receptive Bentgrass greens running at 12'. Also the weather on Lake Michigan this time of year is more akin to what we saw at Chambers Bay instead of St. Andrews but I'll turn in to see Weatherman Rob's forecast on Wednesday evening just in case!
This equation is simple this week; the execution is the difficult part. Players who avoid the most trouble with ball-striking are going to have the most chances to score. The lights-out putter won't hurt either but he'll need a big week off the tee and into the greens to have those chances. At 7,501 bombers will have an advantage especially getting in position to attack the par fives in two. But as Pete Dye has shown us before all great golf courses shouldn't eliminate half of the field and WS doesn't. Zach Johnson, Steve Stricker and Matt Kuchar all had top 25 finishes in 2010 and Justin Leonard was a part of the three-man playoff in 2004.
The rest of that leader board from 2010 were dudes who can flat-out crush it off the tee: Kaymer, Watson, McIlroy, DJ, Day, Mickelson, Casey, you get the point.
Pete Dye guys should have fun with this week and the guys who don't like his designs will probably be beaten before they tee it up. Dye forces players to trust their instincts and yardage books as he doesn't always lay it out in front of the player. I'm looking for guys who are long, strong, accurate and dominate par fives and drivable par fours. Even though there are over 1,000 bunkers this week, I don't think that's going to be a determining factor; avoiding those bunkers will and means accurate iron players. The better iron players will also find the proper parts of the very large putting surfaces and Dye has shown us that proper shots get proper rewards on his designs!
In order, these are the players that I believe project the best this week (Yahoo! group in parentheses).
Jordan Spieth (B): He has a chance to join Hogan and Woods as the only players to win three majors in one season in the modern era. Didn't have his best stuff last week and still ground out another top 10, his sixth in his last seven starts. He's first in scoring and second in strokes-gained: tee-to-green. He must be tense this week as he was looking for a way to get the U.S. Open trophy out for a practice round to get under Mickelson's skin. He gets it.
Bubba Watson (A): When course form meets current form...Watson lost in a playoff here to Kaymer in his only trip to WS. He torches par fives and par fours and is second in scoring average. He enters the week on back-to-back solo seconds so form isn't the issue. He leads the TOUR in SGTTG and I don't have to remind gamers he hits it a mile. His P2 is his best finish outside of Augusta in majors and he eats up courses that are difficult from tee-to-green.
Justin Rose (B): With T6 or better in four of his last five, Rose will be looking to get right back on track again this week after not being able to close out his co-54-hole lead last week in Akron. He's fourth in both total driving and ball-striking and that will come in handy this week. So will his ability to eat up birdies on par fives and with a major under his belt, he knows what it takes to close these out. His ball-striking last week was excellent (T2 in fairways and greens) so a putter tune up is all he needs this week.
Jason Day (B): Last time he played here it was his first PGA Championship appearance. He racked up the first of his nine top 10s in 20 starts with T10 and found time to squeeze in a 66. Not a bad debut. He became the first player in history to lead or co-lead after 54 holes at both the U.S. Open and Open Championship and not win. He won the week after St. Andrews at RBC Canadian and missed a seven footer for birdie last week to finish T12. I'd say he's dialed in. He hits it a mile and the harder the course, the better as his short game is fantastic. He's sits second in the all-around.
Rory McIlroy (A): He's 26. He's in his physical prime. I am the LEAST bit surprised that he is ready to go and his ankle is a "non-issue" heading into the week. He claimed he's played 90 holes already but I'll give him nine holes to find his tournament legs and then he'll be on his way. In 2010 he played his first four holes three-over-par; his next 68 were played 13-under for T3. He's finished in the top 10 in six of his last seven majors and that includes four in a row. He torched Pete Dye's Kiawah Island in 2012 to set the PGA margin of victory record, eight shots. The PGA Championship layouts of Hazeltine (T3), WS (T3), Kiawah (Win), Oak Hill (T8) and Valhalla (Win) seem to be right up his alley. Don't forget the 2017 edition is at Quail Hollow where he shot 62 on Sunday once-upon-a-time to chalk up his first TOUR victory.
Rickie Fowler (B): The only disappointing part of Fowler's season for gamers is his majors record (T12-MC-T30). Last year he posted T5 or better in all four big'uns and he'll have one last shot at glory (see what I did there?) this week in Kohler. There aren't many people hotter on the planet as Fowler rides the wave of WIN-T30-2nd-T10 in his last four. Don't forget he torched the final three holes at TPC Sawgrass eagle-birdie-birdie, another Dye masterpiece, to get in, then win a playoff in May. He's won THE PLAYERS and Quail Hollow as well.
Brooks Koepka (A): He's like the American Matsuyama as he just shows up in the top 25 week in and week out yet most people are still out to lunch on him. Reviewing: sixth in driving distance, 19th GIR, fifth SGP, third in scoring and fifth in the all-around. He hits more fairways than Day, more GIR and gains more strokes on the greens. He's finished T18 or better including three top 10s in his last six; T6 last week at Firstone.
Henrik Stenson (A): He fits the bill of the age to win but the 39-year old Swede is fighting a strong history of becoming the first MAN from his country to win a major. Some, like me, argue that his best chance is the PGA and his prior results don't argue. In his last five he's hit the top six four times including solo third-T3 in his last two. The PGA is usually the longest, most demanding ball-striking course of the four majors and unlike the Open Championship, weather is hardly a factor. After a disappointing T40 at St. Andrews he rebounded with T6 at WGC-BI. He was second in Munich before The Open so he's been in tasty form on big tracks. I'm not leaving off the No. 1 driver and ball-striker on TOUR on this layout!
Robert Streb (C): Another who rookie gamers are probably decrying as "what??!?!?" but Streb has been anything but surprising lately. After a treacherous early spring he' s blossomed as the temperature has risen. A MC at Zurich was his fourth in five events but kicked off a run that he's currently riding of nine-for-nine weekends and seven of those have been T19 or better. He bombed away to T4 at Quail Hollow and was fifth last week at 7,400 par 70 Firestone South. He even tossed in P2 at Greenbrier where he made a playoff without his using his putter on the back nine. He hits it a mile and is 11th GIR. He's also in the top 25 in too many categories to list. If he wasn't bothered in Akron, I don't see him being bothered this week either.
Adam Scott (A): In his last 19 majors he's banged 11 top 10s and seven of those are T5 or lower. It's no secret that his limited schedule is built around competing at golf's four biggest events of the year. It's also no secret that having Steve Williams back on the back is working in these events as well. He went for 64 at Chambers Bay to finish T4 and posted all four rounds under par at St. Andrews for T10. Sure he was off-kilter last week but as much as we think the WGC matter to him, it's the majors that get his blood boiling. He'll be dismissed by some this week because of T45 in Akron last week but that's silly. Putting won't be nearly the factor this week as it was last week and there's no way he hits just 50% fairways and 40% greens two weeks in a row.
Zach Johnson (B): The Champion Golfer or "Gentleman Golfer" as Gary McCord kept referring to him as last week returns to WS with a podium (T3) from the 2010 edition. Johnson, like most last week, struggled to find the fairways at a tight Firestone South but he showed at St. Andrews that he has no problem playing target golf. He also has showed in the past that his wedge game, when on point, can decide major golf tournaments. I wouldn't be as high on him this week without that previous T3 in his back pocket but he was also T37 here in 2004.
Hideki Matsuyama (B): He finally fell outside the top 25 last week for the first time since the second week in JANUARY with T37 at Firestone. Over the last two years when he's made the cut he's finished outside the top 30 about five times at quick glance and it's hardly a surprise. He ranks in the top 10 in multiple ball-striking categories and that will come in handy this week (as in most). He makes plenty of birdies and dominates par fours.
Louis Oosthuizen (C): His majors form is plenty for me this week as he has racked up T19-T2-P2 in the first three of the season. He's not afraid to take on extra distance to find the larger landing areas and he's proven his nerve to contend and win. He's made the cut in seven consecutive majors and all are T40 or better. He's posted plenty of duds before his majors this season (MC-WD-T73) so his T42 last week is actually an improvement! Premium ball-strikers will lead the line this week and he qualifies.
Matt Kuchar (B): Similar to Johnson, Kuchar's game doesn't cry out for WS but the 18 and 36-hole leader from 2010 might argue differently. Anytime par is a good score Kuchar's premium short game has value. He was T10 here in 2010 and found T12 at Chambers Bay earlier this year. He's also won THE PLAYERS and at Harbour Towne, more Pete Dye designs so he's not going to be wondering what's happening around him. He might not be in the playoff on Sunday but I'd be surprised if he wasn't in the top 15.
Sergio Garcia (A): One of a couple in this column who alerted gamers via Twitter that he was under the weather AFTER the conclusion of play last week at Firestone. He finished T37. That's his worst finish since he was T37 at the SHO the week before the Masters. He posted T17 at Augusta, lost in a three-man playoff at THE PLAYERS, T18 at Chambers Bay and T6 at St. Andrews. Big fields. Big courses. Healthy. He's in my list even though he remains the best player never to win a major and limited success in the last few years at the PGA.
Danny Willett (B): Illness No. 2 shared on Thursday after his round that he was on antibiotics and that Friday night was his first decent sleep of the week. Sigh. He still made the trip and finished T17 and was under-par for the week. He was T6 at Royal County Down and St. Andrews plus he won at the Omega Masters the week after The Open. Sizzling.
Patrick Reed (C): I'm still learning with Reed on what tracks make him the most comfortable but I need to remind myself he loves a proper grind as much as a birdie-fest. He chewed up and spit out new Doral last spring and has thrown up back-to-back top 15s at Firestone the last two years. He's also hit the top 22 in all three majors plus THE PLAYERS this season. I just have to remind myself to stop looking at his ball-striking numbers and focus on his fire as a competitor.
Branden Grace (C): His only MC since Augusta came on the easiest course he played, TPC River Highlands, the week after damn-near winning the U.S. Open. One of the best drivers of the golf ball around, Grace's OB tee ball on No. 16 at Chambers Bay did NOT derail his season. He rebounded for T17 at the Scottish, T20 at St. Andrews and was T17 last week in Akron.
Jim Furyk (A): Another disappointment for gamers won't bother Furyk moving forward. If it did, he would have quit three years ago. After back-to-back fourth-T3 and three top fives in his last five, I'll take the veteran who was T24 here in 2010. He's not the biggest Pete Dye fan, at least not at TPC Sawgrass, but there's no arguing his record at Harbour Town and his current form should trump his disdain. He enters the week third in SGTTG and 10th in par four scoring average.
Martin Kaymer (B): The final spot goes to the 2010 winner as he made only two bogeys over the final 54 holes to claim his first major. A woeful spring and early summer finally thawed with T4 at the French Open and T12 at St. Andrews. He's conquered TPC Sawgrass as well so he's familiar with playing Dye tracks that involve blind shots, tough carries and Jedi mind tricks.
Supporting Cast Members
David Lingmerth: It's a step up in class again this week for the Swede but after his T3 at Firestone gave him four top sixes in his last six outings I'm hardly put off. Three of those finishes are AFTER winning for the first time on TOUR so he's grabbing the bull by the horns. Stenson-Lingmerth is not an exacta that I'm going to talk anyone out of playing this week.
Dustin Johnson: If this was a 36-hole tournament I'd be all over him this week. He's shown that he can overpower every course on the planet. He's also shown that it can fall apart just as quickly. I love the DJ that I saw at Chambers Bay for 71.5 holes. I love the DJ I saw at St. Andrews for the first 36 holes. Heck, I even really LIKED the DJ I saw last week opening 69-67. Sadly he hasn't broken 75 in his last four weekend rounds. He's dangerous but I can't label him a favorite because of these ups-and-downs.
Pat Perez: Make it 11 cuts in a row after his T21 at QLN. Of those 11 weekends, nine have gone for T26 or better so he'll be flying under the radar this week. I'm relying his course management and steady all-around game this week to continue his excellent run of form.
Billy Horschel: He resides in the top 20 in both ball striking (9th) and total driving (18th) so it's not surprising he faired well at both Chambers Bay (T25) and St. Andrews (T30). There hasn't been much recent form to write home about regarding top finishes but it wouldnt' surprise me if one hot round fired him up this week. He won't be afraid of the conditions, course or the field.
Bill Haas: He might slip under the radar this week after he MC at the last two majors. I'll remind you he was T12 at Augusta and T4 at THE PLAYERS plus he enters the week T4-T25 with only one of his last seven rounds over par. He's made the cut in his last four PGAs after MC at WS in 2010. He's a steady roster filler but he's never bettered T12 in 24 majors. Sneaky supporter based on his current form, penchant for finding fairways and greens and having the ability to par places to death.
Ian Poulter: Surprisingly, he's played the weekend in 11 of the last 12 PGA Championships. I had him on "Ferrari Watch" last week and he was in the thick of it until his Sunday 38 on the front (T17). He putted the dimples off the ball and had a very good ball-striking week as well. His best PGA finish was T3 at Kiawah Island.
Danny Lee: Look at his current form (T25-WIN-T3-MC-T4-T6). Look at how close he is to realizing his dream of representing his country in the President's Cup (No. 10). He's flying.
Steven Bowditch: He's made the cut in six of his last seven on TOUR and five of those have been in the top 30. Tied Rose last week with the low round, 63, on Saturday at Firestone. This is only his fifth major but he was T30 at St. Andrews last time out.
Bernd Wiesberger: He'll hit plenty of fairways and greens and played in the final group at Valhalla with McIlroy last year. Hit tons of greens at St. Andrews but ran into an ice-cold putter. He won in France last month and is the midst of five straight weekends where he's teed it up.
Marc Warren: I understand that it's not LINKS golf but it will look and feel enough like it to remind Warren of his home in Scotland. He tends to show up on the tougher tracks and this qualifies. His last four worldwide are T4-T40-T4-T25.
Francesco Molinari: He's made the cut in eight consecutive majors where he's teed it up so that presents plenty of value this week. His ball-striking makes him a very steady, if not sexy, option for multiple formats. He's also played the weekend in six consecutive PGAs so his skills translate.
Paul Casey: The Englishman has been beaten in two playoffs this year stateside and has only MC three times. He closed last week with 67 on a tough Firestone course and only made two bogeys (one double) on the weekend. He was T12 at WS in 2010 and can par courses to death.
Horses for Courses:
If your angle for this week is a guy who's had past success here he's probably in the column at some point. For those of you who like longer shots, I'll list them here based on their previous "horeseness"
Phil Mickelson: Life is like a box of chocolates, right? Mickelson was T6 here in 2004 and T12 in 2010 but he also won majors previous in those years. Mickelson has proven on TOUR to play well at places he's rocked it out before but that's not the determining factor in majors for me (see: Pinehurst, No. 2). He was second last year at Valhalla after closing with 62 the week prior at Firestone. That's not the case this week.
Nick Watney: He was the 54-hole leader on 13-under and had a three-shot lead. He shot 81 in the final round. He has revenge on his mind as well.
Long Shots, Forgotten Names, Etc.
Lee Westwood: Battling with Garcia to wear the crown of "best golfer never to win a major", I've lost count on how many of these he's teed up. I do know that he has a penchant for showing up in the top 25 when he does show up though. This will be event No. 71 for the Englishman and he's looking to keep a streak alive of hitting a top 10 in a major for the eighth consecutive season. His T17 last week at Firestone was a step in the right direction after a dismal spring and summer everywhere but Malaysia. Maybe he's personal life has settle down enough to refocus on golf.
Justin Thomas: Young guy who hits it a mile has racked up seven top 10s on his maiden voyage on TOUR. Spieth's buddy on the road, he introduced him to his caddy, Michael Greller, back in the day, Thomas enters the week off T5-T4 and 30-under-par. It's his first major but I doubt he will care. Massive risk-reward play this week.
Chris Wood: He's been killing it on the European Tour with four top fives in his last 11 and that includes a win. That's a nice four-month run! Lovely ball-striker who has made six of nine major cuts lifetime.
Tony Finau: Wondering where I left him weren't you? Every year there is a player who jumps up and sticks their face where it shouldn't belong in this event. Finau doing this would be the least shocking event of the week. His T14 at Chambers Bay told me all I needed to know.
Boo Weekley: He's made four weekends from six with three top 25s in his PGA career. He's been lightly raced this summer but his last three on TOUR are T8-T69-T6. Rank outsider makes this list because of his ball-striking.
Daniel Berger: Fearless bomber who's missed four of his last five cuts worldwide but can move it off the tee and into the greens. He's in the top 32 for both par four and five scoring average. You needed a long shot. I've given you one.
Soren Kjeldsen: Hidden here for my pleasure so the sharks in my weekly fantasy game don't see, the Dane has played the weekend in nine of his last 10 worldwide. Highlights include winning the Irish Open at Royal County Down, finishing second the following week in Sweden and T12 last week at Firestone. Please keep it down.
Tyrrell Hatton: He's bagged five top 10s on the European Tour including two in his last two. He's played four of the last five weekends with noting outside of T22. Step up in class but has already had a taste with MC at The Open Championship this year. The second time around should be a bit easier but it's still his first major outside his Great Britain. LONG. SHOT.
Russell Knox: There are worst fliers to stick into any lineup this week than the ball-striker Knox. He's not the longest but the more fairways and greens he hits, the more valuable he becomes. He also feasts on par fours which never hurts in majors but this is a huge step up in class.
Jimmy Walker: Only two top 25s in 10 events since his win at Valero. His value this week is sneaking him in the back door when nobody is looking but I can't have him leading the line.
Hunter Mahan: Not sure what's happening here. Similarly to G-MAC, I see more of him on Twitter doing fundraisers, commercials, etc. than playing golf on the weekends. Boys need to remember the reason they're in demand is because of their golf results...
Gary Woodland: It seems like every week is a week his length should be an advantage. He finished T20 at Travelers and that's by far his best finish in his last seven on TOUR. T57 is his next best.
Ryan Palmer: Nothing inside the top 30 in his last six starts worldwide. Only two top 25s since the end of March.
Brandt Snedeker: His ball-striking numbers plus his recent hip issues push him away from me this week. I'll reload at Wyndham after he gets another few rounds under his belt.
Shane Lowry: His performance last week was incredible. I'd be shocked if he had any magic left. The size of this field won't help any letdowns either.
Man with His Own Section:
Tiger Woods has been a very polarizing player in the world of golf but hardly as much in our world, fantasy land. Gamers who got excited with two or three decent rounds on two of the easier courses on TOUR (Greenbrier, RTJGC) are few and far between and don't read this column. If there's a week for Woods to make audible noise, it's not going to be on a track with blind shots, over 1,000 bunkers and fescue grass over five inches tall growing where he hits it off the tee. Look, this man DESTROYED St. Andrews in his prime and couldn't make the cut last time he played there. That was less than a month ago. I'm not sure hitting wedges in his DOPE backyard is the key to fixing what is wrong but major championship golf is NOT where problems are solved and solutions fall out of the sky like birdies. Omit.
Rookie/Up-and-Comer of the Week Last Week
Once called the “Jordan Spieth” of the week, I had to retire that name after his last two seasons on TOUR. Now, we’ll keep a broad view of newer names/faces that gamers should pay attention to as the season moves on. Some former examples in this column include Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed and Chesson Hadley. Streb and Koepka have also graduated this year.
Shriners: Finau, T7
McGladrey: Robert Streb, WIN
CIMB: Cameron Smith, T5
HTOC: Taylor played his sixth event as a pro. He’s won 1/6 of the events he’s entered. That’s worth keeping an eye on for the foreseeable future.
Sony: Blair and Thomas finished T6 in their Sony debuts.
Humana: SJ Park (T2) is new to the TOUR but is hardly a rookie; Oh, look: Thomas in the top 10 again (T7).
WMPO: Koepka won so he graduates from this column like Reed, Spieth and Matsuyama before him. Justin Thomas is now the current mayor. Daniel Berger was T10, Thomas T17 and Finau returned with another top 25.
Farmers: Blair and Ortiz were T11 and Finau and Berger were T24. Not bad on a big, bad course!
Pebble Beach: Another top 10 for Berger and Curran as they had low rookie honors at T10. Will Wilcox was T18.
Northern Trust: Barber checked in at T12 and all that took was firing a tournament-low 65 on Sunday. No shame in Ortiz’s final round 75 from the final group as he played two very tough SoCal courses, Torrey South and Riviera T11 and T20. Noted.
Honda: Berger lost in a playoff. He’s played 10 TOUR events.
PRO: Young Argentine Emiliano Grillo missed a three-footer for his first win on TOUR. Curran hit another top 10, his third this season. Grillo has three TOUR starts; Curran has 17.
Valspar: There’s that pesky Thomas back in the top 10 AGAIN!
API: Berger just missed out on another top 10 with T13 and Blair and Ortiz racked up another top 25 each on T21.
VTO: Welcome Scott Pinckney to the proceedings as his T8 was quite stout. Ortiz hit the top 20 AGAIN with T15.
SHO: Berger, T25. He just keeps on keepin’ on.
Masters: Now you see why Spieth (WINNER) and Matsuyama (5th) were retired from the column? Koepka has already won as well. So has Henley. And Reed. Nobody this week fits.
RBC Heritage: Thomas, T11.
Zurich: Berger, T6. Thomas T12.
WGC-Match Play: N/A but Tommy Fleetwood is only 24 on the European Tour.
THE PLAYERS: Thomas fell from T5 to T24 closing with 75. #learningexperience
Wells Fargo: Web.com’s Patrick Rodgers inched closer to STM with his T2. He needs just nine FedEx Cup points to gain unlimited exemptions for the rest of the 2015 season.
Colonial: Finau returned to the scene as he backed up a good week at Quail with another at Colonial. T19.
ATT&TBNC: Pinckney, T2, best finish ever on TOUR; Berger and Finau T10.
Memorial: Finau, T8. He won't be in this column for long, I feel...
U.S. Open: Smith made eagle on the final hole to finish T4. That gave him a trip to Augusta next year and STM for the rest of this season. Finau continues his fantastic run with T14.
Travelers: Curran pegs another top 10 with T10.That's No. 4 in 2015 and No. 5 overall. Not bad for less than 25 starts on TOUR in his first year!
Greenbrier: Finau, again, T13.
JDC: Thomas, again, T5.
RBC Canadian: Tom Hoge, T5, his best finish in his rookie season. Cook, T7.
QLN: If you didn't know that T4 Thomas hit his SEVENTH top 10 of the year you're beyond help. Whee Kim needs to be on the radar as well as he went low again. Ollie Schniederjans is going to be really good (T15).
WGC-BI: No qualifiers in that monster of a field, sorry.
Barracuda: Hoge keeps rollin' (see what I did there?) at T10 but it was the 40-something crowd which took advantage of the MSSS last week at Tahoe.
Coming Later TUESDAY Afternoon
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game, DFS plus the European Tour! Oh, and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it around 6ET every Tuesday for the rest of the season.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at 12 ET. We will be breaking down the field at the PGA Championship and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/MikeGlasscott) on Twitter.