Form Guide - US PGA Championship
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2004 US PGA Championship | Preview | 09 Aug 2004
A departure this year for the PGA Championship as it heads to a relatively young golf course and indeed new style of golf course for its 86th staging.
The Pete Dye designed, Straits Course at the Whistling Straits complex on the shores of Lake Michigan, about an hour north of Milwaukee, is only six years old, but appears to have been around for many years. When Herbert Kholer, the owner of the course, commissioned Pete Dye to its design eight years ago, his brief was to create a course as close to the Irish gems, Royal Portrush and Ballybunion, as possible. He and Dye had often travelled on golfing trips to Britain and Northern Ireland and in that time he had fallen in love with the majesty of the links courses there. While The Straits Course looks that way and Dye has done a magnificent job, it was totally manufactured, probably making the golfing purists cringe, but offering a course bearing perhaps the closest similarity to a true links test in Major Championship history in the USA.
There is seldom the chance, even for a British links course in the true sense of the word, to sit so close to its adjacent water body and with the likelihood of strong late summer winds across Lake Michigan, it is going to prove more than a handful for those who contest this time honoured event. The edge of the green at the long par three 7th hole for example, sits only ten or so yards from the waters of Lake Michigan.
The defending champion is Shaun Micheel who edged out Chad Campbell at Oak Hill last year and as has been the case with recent British Opens, this event has produced a couple of surprise winners in recent years. Two years ago Rich Beem surprised most with his win at the Hazeltine Golf Club in Minnesota, before the win by Micheel last year.
Whistling Straits measures some 7500 yards but its day to day length will be very much determined by the strength or otherwise of the winds. Fescue grasses have been used on the fairways, another departure for American golf, and they will provide extra run especially in the dry of the summer.
There is a great deal of the unknown about Whistling Straits in terms of how it will play, but it certainly appears as if it will provide a magnificent venue for this event.
Woods showed at his last start at the Buick Open when third, that he is getting very close to where he has been saying he has been heading for the last six months, namely to the top of his game. If that is not the case however, then the golf course here will test him out, as there will be no place to hide on this golf course. His record on this type of golf course (exposed to the elements) is not quite as good as it has been elsewhere but if his game is right, then he can win.
Els played the International last week which is not necessarily the ideal lead up given the vagaries of playing at such altitude, but where he again acquitted himself reasonably well. Playing a few thousand feet above sea level is somewhat different to playing a few hundred feet above sea level here in Wisconsin, but Els has shown a great ability to quickly adapt from week to week and has little fear for wind swept courses. His runner-up performances at the Masters and British Open have him hungry for success in what will otherwise be a ’close but no cigar’ major season.
Singh took last week off after his win at the Buick Open. His form this season, despite a slight let down in June and July, has been brilliant and he knows how to play wind swept courses. He has won this event before in 1998 and it is hard to imagine that he won’t figure somewhere on Sunday.
As we knew him twelve months ago, Phil Mickelson wouldn’t have stood a chance on this golf course. Now however the ’new look’ Mickelson has, of late, shown the game to handle these style courses and the capacity to hit the shots that work well in the windy conditions that are likely to prevail at this venue. His record this year in the majors is sensational and the subsequent self belief and new found approach to the game give him a great chance here.
Davis Love III
Love played last week in Colorado where he quite nicely. He has a good form line of late including his strong finish for fifth at the British Open and 7th in his previous start at the Western Open. He has an ability to play windswept courses well as his solid record at the British Open would suggest and therefore can be expected to do well.
Goosen has withdrawn due to injuries suffered in a jet skiing accident two weeks ago.
Weir’s form has been a little patchy of late with a fourth place at the US Open and a ninth place at the British Open separated by a missed cut at the Western Open and preceded by a missed cut at the Buick Classic. His fourth at the US Open was impressive on a golf course that will have some similarities to here, given that it was windswept and hard and fast.
Furyk has worked his way back into calculations following his return from surgery. His sixth placing at the recent Buick Open highlighted just where he is at with his game and on a golf course where accuracy and strategy are likely to play such a significant role, then it would not surprise to see him win his second major.
Harrington really disappointed when he missed the cut at the British Open but bounced back the next week at the Irish Open when second. Has taken a two week break to recharge flagging batteries and if he can find the form that we know he is capable of on this type of golf course, then he can contend.
Garcia surprised many after missing the cut at the recent British Open. He was 20th at the US Open in his previous start but if there is a concern about Garcia at present, it is that he is playing too seldom for golf at this level. Only playing the US Open and the British Open since his great win at the Buick Classic is hard to fathom.
Perry continues to do everything right in his lead up to this event. He has had good finishes at the British Open, the US Bank Championship and the Buick Open leading into this event and seems to be one for longer odds. He has not won this year but has had several good finishes in the big events. The PGA Championship owes him one following his near miss in 1996 and this just could be it.
Scott seems to struggle a little on the type of golf course he will face this week. There seems little doubt that he will win this type of event one day but given the evidence we have to go on at present, then it would surprise if it was this year. He comes off an eighth place finish at the Scandinavian Masters and a 42nd place effort at Royal Troon which followed his brilliant win at the Booz Allen.
Campbell’s runner up placing in this event last year went a long way to elevating him to his current status in world golf. His recent form has not been quite so good however with missed cuts at the US and British Opens. At his best he is capable of winning and a course of this type appears to hold no fears for him as he showed with a 15th place at his first attempt at the British Open in 2003. His current form is of some concern but he did finish strongly last week at the International.
Clarke has enjoyed a real mixture of form of late leaves some doubt over his capacity to do well here. He was a good 11th at the British Open, especially after hitting it out of bounds at the last on day two, but then had an ordinary week at the Irish Open. He had also missed the cut at the Scottish Open two weeks earlier. If this golf course is created in the mould of an Irish Links course, as all indications suggest it is, then Clarke should feel at home, but he will need to find something a lot more convincing than has been the case of late..
Verplank is playing beautifully at present and is a very good chance of doing well here. He has not missed a cut this season. He has not always played courses such as this well, but his showing at the British Open this year when 7th, suggests he has solved some of that problem. His amazing accuracy from the tee will be a great advantage around here.
Cink is in fine form in recent weeks with an 8th place at the John Deere, 14th at the British Open, fifth at the Buick Open and another very good week last week at the International when 6th. He is the grinding type of player that an event of this nature often rewards. The concern for him and his supporters is that he has not had a lot of success on this style of course.
Ames seems to have gone off the boil a little since his win at the Western, missing cuts at the British Open, the Buick Open and last week at the International. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that if he found that earlier form again, that he could handle this type of golf course but there is that element of concern regarding his last two efforts as not only did he miss the cut at those events but he missed them by some way.
Toms, who the winner of this event three years ago, has had a rather inconsistent year with a win five starts ago but some rather ordinary stuff around it as he recovered from injury earlier in the season. Two reasonable, if not great weeks, at the US and British Opens and last week despite missing the third round cut it was not bad.
Appleby has played quite well of late including a fifth place at the Western, a reasonable effort at the British Open and a solid week last week at the International. He played well earlier in the season but his form had tapered off a little until the Western. He was fourth at the PGA in 2000, his best finish in a major until that point. He is perhaps the one Australian currently, who could win this and not surprise unduly.
Hamilton has wisely given himself time to recover from his heroics at the British Open and in his first event back at the International last week played very well. He showed that his win at the Honda earlier in the year was no one off when he so impressively held the big guns at bay down the stretch at Royal Troon. The confidence and self belief that will have given him, along with capacity to play well anywhere, will certainly help him here.
Maruyama played brilliantly at the US Open in rugged windy conditions and has continued to play well since. He has shown a capacity to handle exposed golf courses at both the British Open and the US Open (4th this year) and a good showing here would not surprise.
Allenby was playing well before his missed cut at the British Open including a 7th place at the US Open and an 11th placed finish at the Western. Had his best ever major showing at the US Open in June but it is hard to get excited about his chances of winning here. He missed the third round cut at the International last week but perhaps we should not read too much into that.
Casey is going nicely of late with top twenties in four of his last five starts. This style of golf course is hardly likely to bother him given his background. Great week at the Masters when 6th indicates he is not far off this level.
Despite now being eligible for the Champions Tour, Haas continues to play well on the regular tour. He missed the cut at the British Open but has had a series of very good finishes on the USPGA Tour apart from that including a solid week at Shinnecock Hills. He finished fourth at the Senior US Open two weeks ago then last week played very well at the International last week indicating his good form stays with him.
Leonard seems to be on the improve again after a bad run earlier this season. He was 16th at the British Open then played very well last week at the International. When he is in form he plays well in the wind as his win at Royal Troon in 1997 would attest.
His win last week at the International takes Pampling to another level and that finish along with his leading Australian finish at the British Open gives him some sort of chance of contending this week. The new found confidence that his win will have given him, will provide the self belief that victory in an event such as this is not the wild dream it perhaps was a week ago.
Lonard had a disappointing missed cut at the British Open but his form around that was good. He has the sort of game that could do well on an exposed windswept course and had the chance for a sneak preview there last week. His fourth place in Ireland at his last start was a good effort despite a poor last day.
Leaney continues to play consistently if not brilliantly in recent weeks after his fine start to the year. Has shown himself to be a big event player in recent times and may well show up in terms of being the leading Australian but hard to see much better than that. Missed the third round cut at the International.
Hensby missed the cut at this first start back since his win in John Deere Classic, but then found his form again quickly with a big finish at the International. He has found a totally new level this year and has played beautifully at times, but it is hard to imagine that he can find the level he needs to in order to contend here at this stage.
Unfortunately Campbell’s record in majors and in the US, give little reason to get excited about his chances. There have been several reasonable efforts of late including his 2nd at the Scottish Open and near top twenty finishes at the British and Irish Opens but he then missed the cut at the Scandinavian Masters two weeks ago.
Recent injury has precluded him from playing a lot of late. He missed the cut at the British Open and missed the third round cut at the International. Given his lack of play and form it is hard to imagine how he can be a serious contender.
Ogilvy is once again going well in the US, having found a far greater level of consistency this year. He was fifth at the Western Open, 18th in Michigan, but then fell away after a great start at the International. I’m not sure about his style of game on this type of golf course and given that he has yet to win a tournament on any of the main tours it is hard to get too keen on his chances.
After that marvellous win in Orlando earlier in the year, there has been little to get excited about and I can’t get too keen on his chances of doing well. If he had better close up form, then he could well show up on this type of golf course but unfortunately that is not the case.
Norman may show flashes of his class early on but that will be all.
Jones is a golfer very much on the way up but still not experienced enough to do well at this level and on this golf course. A couple of years down the track and we may well see him doing well in an event of this nature, but not yet.
O’Hern is just the type of golfer to do well on a golf course such as this that will demand accuracy and patience, key attributes in O’Hern’s game. This is a big step however from the European arena he has been so well in of late. He is playing as well as he has ever played of late but to contend here would be a surprise.