Form Guide - 2006 US PGA Championship
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2006 US PGA Championship | Preview | 15 Aug 2006
Medinah Country Club, just west of Chicago, plays host to the 88th USPGA Championship this week. The Tom Bendelow designed layout originally built in 1928 underwent a significant Rees Jones inspired redesign and upgrade in 2002 and now boasts a par 72 layout measuring 7561 yards.
The longest course in major history, tight fairways, re-contoured greens, deep greens, tall vegetation and hot temperatures will ensure a tough demanding week awaits the field of 156 players, who have earned their right to play the last of this year’s major championships.
The golf course last hosted a major in 1999 when Tiger Woods edged out the then rookie Sergio Garcia to win the PGA Championship and prior to that Hale Irwin defeated Mike Donald in a playoff for the US Open in 1990.
Form from the 1999 PGA will be of only limited use in assessing a likely contender here given the significant changes made since.
Woods will be a short priced favourite to win his 12th major championship and there would be few to say that he won’t give his supporters a great sight. Not only did he win at this venue the last time a major was played here in 1999 but the recent form he has displayed, firstly at the Western Open then at the Open Championship and at the Buick Open will have many feeling they are playing for second even before they tee off. Golf is seldom as predictable as that but there are a lot of things this week suggesting it should be.
Mickelson appears to be more affected by his US Open demise than perhaps at first thought. Since the final hole debacle at Winged Foot he has been 65th at the Western Open, 22nd at the Open Championship and just last week missed the cut at one of his favourite tournaments, the International. His pre US Open form would have had him perhaps even the favourite here but now there is a question mark.
Singh is definitely the type of player to do well here. He missed the cut at the Open Championship but his form around that event was good. The swing changes he has made of late appear to be falling into place and he should figure.
Furyk, in my opinion, is a definite danger to Woods. He has been rock solid in recent starts and the type of golf course that Medinah presents should suit Furyk down to the ground. He hits it straight, has a great short game and while not the longest of hitters it has not precluded him from playing long courses well previously.
Goosen continues to go just quietly about his business but in recent weeks his form has tapered off a little. If he was firing on all cylinders this presents the type of golf course on which the South African would play well. A missed cut at the US Open was followed by a poor weekend at the Open Championship and a less than impressive defence of his International event title are hardly encouraging however.
Ogilvy had highlighted even before his US Open win that he was up to performing well in majors. With that victory behind him and a couple of average but perhaps understandable efforts since he could well contend again in this championship. He was 6th at the PGA last year. His task is to put the US Open win behind him and focus on what lies ahead. He has already proven he has the game to win this week but it might still be a bit soon after the impact of the US Open.
Scott recorded his best ever major finish at the recent Open Championship which was also his last tournament start prior to this week. He has recorded five top tens in his last eight USPGA Tour starts in 2006 and just how he follows up his Open Championship will be watched with interest. He is as well placed to win a major as he has been to date in his golfing life but that is not necessarily a guarantee of success.
Els appears to be getting back to somewhere near the form we know he is capable of. He snuck quietly into third place at the Open Championship and prior to that was 9th at the Barclays event at Westchester. He finished strongly at the International and when he plays well, courses such as Medinah are those on which he performs very well.
Garcia has been all around it in recent weeks and clearly will enjoy a return to a golf course that earned him a place in golfing history almost immediately after turning professional in 1999 when runner up to Woods at Medinah at the age of 19. No-one will forget his run and jump after hitting and impossible shot from behind a tree in the final round that year. His putting has been his Achilles Heel in recent times but if he can find a way to right that, even just for the week then he might just surprise. He was a little disappointing in his last round at the International.
Donald has been very consistent in recent months, producing plenty of solid weeks with his runner up at Loch Lomond and his 5th at Westchester the highlights. Donald is effectively playing a home game this week as he bases himself in the Chicago area these days. Donald is one of the shorter hitters on the PGA Tour but hits it straight and putts well and could figure, at least for some of the event.
Toms is a previous winner of this event but if he was to do so again in 2006 it would be perhaps an even bigger surprise than it was in 2001. He had a reasonable week last week in Colorado but his recent form has not been all that encouraging and his forced withdrawal at the US Open due to back injury is genuine cause for concern.
DiMarco has been an absolute mystery of late. He was the only one to put any pressure on Woods at the Open Championship and finished runner up there but that aside he has had a poor run since a skiing accident injury earlier in the year.
Montgomerie seems to have gotten over his last hole demise at the US Open better than Mickelson who had also double bogeyed the last to lose. He has had one or two very good finishes since then and has the type of game to perform well on a golf course like Medinah. He is not the sort of player I would select to win it but he has surprised myself and others previously including when nearly winning at Winged Foot. He had a reasonable week at the KLM Open when 14th.
Howell leads the European Tour Order of Merit but has not been as sharp in recent weeks. There have however been a few encouraging finishes in the US this season including when 16th at the US Open. He missed the cut at the International but there were still encouraging signs. Not one I would choose but not the worst hope by any stretch.
*Trevor Immelman *
Immelman won his last start in golf when he held off a fast finishing Tiger Woods at the Western Open. He has developed into one of the better players in the game and has shown that he can handle the tough courses well. His problem, if indeed it is a problem, is that he has recently experienced the birth of his first child and as such has not played competitively for over a month.
Clark is yet another South African who has shown a capacity to handle the big events well. Many will forget that he was runner up to Mickelson at the Masters this year but that was not his only good finish when the best line up against the best. He last played at the Deutsche Bank Championship in Germany when 14th.
Harrington was in many ways as unlucky at the US Open as any other and he has shown in recent times that the US style of golf is of no concern to him. He returned from such an agonising finish at the US Open to finish runner up at the French Open and although he missed the cut at the Open Championship he was going well enough prior to that to be a chance to do again do well this week.
Perry might feel like this event still owes him something after having blown a great chance to win it ten years ago. He is gradually finding his way back to form after surgery earlier this year and his high quality driving will this week be a huge asset. If he could find a way to make friends with his putter this week he might go some way to making amends for his blunder in 1996.
Cabrera is playing well at present and his length is certainly not going to hurt him this week. He was 8th at Augusta and 7th at the recent Open Championship and his other form has been solid. He has a good chance for another top ten.
Cink has put together some very good tournaments in recent starts and might just be on the verge of contending once again in a major. He does not drive the ball all that accurately but he has found a way to make things happen on some tough golf courses this year. He went close last week in Colorado.
Weir has been quietly going about his business putting together several solid weeks of late and has missed only two of eighteen cuts in 2006. He was 6th at the US Open, did well early at the Open Championship then, at his last start, finished 20th at the Buick Open.
Jose Maria Olazabal
Olazabal played very well earlier in the year but not so much of late. He has a knack of playing the big events well but his driving will need to improve dramatically if he is to have any chance.
Other leading Australasians
Allenby has begun to play very well in recent weeks and although he does not possess a good major record, there is enough to like about his recent form to suggest that may change in part this week. 15th place at the US Open 16th at the Open Championship highlight that much better run of late.
Appleby has been a little inconsistent of late after winning twice earlier in the year. He has played quite well at the International this past week and at his best he could challenge to be the leading Australian. Not sure if he can do a lot better than that however.
O’Hern has the game to suit this type of course, despite not being a long hitter. He is such a methodical and grinding type of player that he might just find himself in with a chance to do well by Sunday.
Campbell is too hard to work out. He plays great at times then has several ordinary weeks by his standards. His putting has been his biggest problem of late and if he has been able to remedy that in the week since the Scandinavian Masters then he might be a chance but that is his only hope.
Pampling keeps making cuts without doing anything spectacular although he finished off last week’s International with a final round of 67 for a good finish there. He will needs to step it up a notch however if he has a chance to be the leading Australian this week let alone contend.
Green has surprised many this year, perhaps even himself, with the manner in which he has handled virtually everything put in front of him. Five top tens in his rookie season including when runner up to Woods at the Buick Invitational in February indicate that he could do much better than his current world ranking of 131 suggests he should. He is having another very good week at the International.
Lonard played well at the Open Championship in his most recent start when 16th and that with two bogies to finish his tournament. He has made a lot of cuts this season but has not really contended of late. He is beginning to play a lot better however.
Senden has made lots of cuts of late, culminating with his win at the John Deere Classic. A step up to challenge at this level might be a little much to expect but the confidence his win has given him might just lift him to that higher level.
Photo – Anthony Powter