Will Tiger be challenged at Southern Hills?
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2007 US PGA Championship | Preview | 08 Aug 2007
The PGA Championship returns to the Southern Hills Golf Club, in Tulsa Oklahoma for the first time since 1994 with the defending champion Tiger Woods looking to add a 13th major to his resume and to move within five majors of Jack Nicklaus’ record total of eighteen, created 21 years ago.
Woods arrives in Tulsa off the back of an emphatic eight shot victory at the Bridgestone Invitational last week and it seems impossible to imagine that he will not be the man to beat again.
Previous winners of the PGA Championship at Southern Hills have been Dave Stockton (1970), Raymond Floyd (1982) and Nick Price (1994). It also played host to the US Open on three occasions, the last being in 2001 when Retief Goosen defeated Mark Brooks in a playoff after Goosen, Brooks and Stewart Cink had both made a mess of the final hole of regulation play by three putting the 18th green.
The course was also used in consecutive years in 1995 and 1996 for the USPGA Tour Championship.
The layout at Southern Hills was designed by Perry Maxwell and opened in 1936, setting the standard for golf in Oklahoma for many years. The course will measure 7131 yards in 2007, an increase of 150 yards or so from that played at the 2001 US Open. Fast, contoured greens, Bermuda rough grown to a length to tantalise players, and the sweltering temperatures so prevalent at this time of the year in this area of the USA are sure to combine to provide one of the more demanding tests this field has faced.
The obvious favourite apart, the tournament will again offer the opportunity for several of the players yet to win a major to emerge from that almost stigmatised group. If successful they would become the fourth player this season to win a major for the first time.
Two of the game’s leading players are impacted by injury and both have a question mark over their heads. Furyk withdrew from last week’s Bridgestone Invitational just two days after a very impressive win in Canada. His back and neck injury forced him to leave Firestone before the event even started and Phil Mickelson, who would otherwise have been a genuine chance of winning his second major this week, is in doubt.
Mickelson has been a week to week proposition since his wrist injury in June and although he finished runner up in Scotland he has struggled in other events since returning from that injury. His lead up event at Firestone hardly gave any further confidence in his chances.
Ernie Els appears on the verge of another major victory but he has teased us on several occasions during 2007 and not fulfilled his promise. He played well last Sunday in Ohio after his near miss at Carnoustie and could do very well this week.
Vijay Singh has won this event on two occasions and went very close to winning in Canada two weeks ago. A very average week last week in Ohio highlights somewhat of a rollercoaster ride for Singh of late but if he can recapture his Canadian Open play he stands a chance.
Sergio Garcia seemed to put his Carnoustie blues behind him with a final round of 67 last week in Ohio and while many would suggest he might be scarred by letting a three shot lead slip at the Open, I think it will serve to motivate him further. He is clearly playing well and but for two or three holes last week may well have challenged a top three finish.
Padraig Harrington, like Garcia, followed up his Open Championship heroics with a solid week at the Bridgestone and now he is a major champion he knows victory at this level is not beyond him. It would be a huge effort if he was to win two majors in succession but it is certainly not out of the question.
Andres Romero has proved to be the find of the year in world golf and was not unduly fazed by playing with Woods in three of his four rounds last week in Ohio. His great victory in Germany after the late demise at Carnoustie tells the story of a man with an unflappable nature, the only question mark this week being whether three weeks in close contention at the highest level might catch up on him.
Justin Rose again showed last week that he is close to winning his first PGA Tour event. The floodgates must surely open for the brilliant Englishman who has been no worse than 12th in his three majors in 2007 and close in several other regular tour events. His time must surely come soon.
Tim Clark, David Toms, K.J. Choi, Kenny Perry, Scott Verplank, and Steve Stricker are others who could be considered genuine chances to be in the thick of things on Sunday.
Of the Australasians there are several whose form in 2007 indicates they have chances to challenge on Sunday but none have been able to finish off several very good opportunities in majors this season.
Adam Scott finished third in this event last year, recording his best finish in a major but his unpredictability makes him hard to follow. Geoff Ogilvy is not in the same form that he was earlier in the season, Rod Pampling and Aaron Baddeley are knocking on the door of this level, Stuart Appleby is mixing his form of late but if he can put it all together he has a chance and Nick O’Hern and Richard Green both have chances to head the Australians.
Nathan Green, Steve Elkington, John Senden and Stephen Leaney make up a list of twelve Australians and should not be discounted. New Zealander, Michael Campbell, is also in the field.