Woe is Tiger, he’s coming off his worst tournament as a professional, he’s barely going to qualify for the FedEx Cup, and he’ll likely need to be a Ryder Cup captain’s pick. He’s struggling so badly, even the bookmakers have dropped him to double digit odds to win (12-1).
Woe is Phil, he’s had a summer full of chances to take over as the world’s number one golfer, yet balky play and a bout of psoriatic arthritis have kept him in his comfortable spot of second banana. He’s got a major on his 2010 resume, but that’s really the only highlight of his season.
With the game’s elite struggling (including world number three Lee Westwood, who withdrew with a leg injury), is now the time Steve Stricker steps to the forefront, in his home state to boot? Will it be one of the upstarts such as Rory McIlroy, Ryo Ishikawa or Ricky Fowler?
Winner and Score?
Ron Varrial: Adam Scott has worked his way back from the doldrums over the past 12 months, and a new cross-handed putting grip might be the key to taking the next step back into the game’s elite. A respectable finish at the British Open and a Top 10 at last week’s WCG, combined with a Top 10 last time the PGA stopped at Whistling Straits will add up to Scott’s first major title at 278 (-10).
Justin Pucheu: Ricky Barnes at 277 (-11). He finally breaks through after great performances in a number of majors in the past couple of years. It seems like he kicks his game up for majors.
Alan Olson: Steve Stricker gets it done in his home state with a score of 280 (-8).
Donald MacKenzie: Ian Poulter at 281 (-7). The petulant Englishman has a lot of game to go with his silly pants and pouty attitude. And he’s the perfect person to win the PGA Championship – a first-timer without as much pizzazz as the marquee players. A Mark Brooks for his generation.
George Promenschenkel: Stricker at 275 (-13). Home state boy hits it pretty straight so he shouldn’t knock one off a cliff like Mickelson and Tiger may.
Erik J. Barzeski: Is there a player named “The Field”? Vijay Singh shot a final-round 76 to get into a playoff and win. If I recall correctly, he didn’t make a birdie all day until the playoff, and still came away with the trophy. This course is so quirky that someone with a string of luck combined with a good week of golf will walk away with it. Picking a name out of a hat I get… Ben Crane. Score? I’ll take him at 282 (-6).
Two Top-Ten Finishers and One Sleeper?
Ron Varrial: Dustin Johnson’s post-U.S. Open funk was short-lived and he jumps back into the mix this week. If this course plays as close to a links as the pundits say, I like Padraig Harrington’s chances to contend. Hard to define a sleeper as wide open as this field is, but give me Justin Leonard, who tied for second here in 2004.
Justin Pucheu: Steve Stricker and Rory McIllroy, though I have a hard time not saying Paddy too. Nick Watney as the sleeper.
Alan Olson: Hunter Mahan continues his hot play and Rory McIlroy continues to play well in the majors. As for a sleeper pick, Alvaro Quiros has the length to deal with the 7500+ yards of Whistling Straits.
Donald MacKenzie: I like Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell to do well on the very British Isles-esque Straits Course. One more Euro? Why not. I like Alvaro Quiros to do his Spanish John Daly act and be a cult favorite by Sunday afternoon.
George Promenschenkel: Hunter Mahan is playing well and, more importantly, playing majors well of late. He’ll be in the hunt again at Whistling Straits. Els likes links, and it would be great to see him high on the leaderboard Sunday. I think he can get there. Sleeper? Fowler keeps impressing, though I never would pick his swing to hold up under major pressure.
Erik J. Barzeski: Luke Donald, Chad Campbell, and Jerry Kelly. I’m going with the OTHER guy from Wisconsin this week.
Where Will Tiger and Phil Finish?
Ron Varrial: Phil follows his recent hot-cold form to finish at the bottom of the Top 10. Tiger gets the one or two tips he needs from soon-to-be new coach Sean Foley and finds his game to contend. Coin flip who comes out ahead, but I’ll say Phil finishes seventh, Tiger tenth, thanks to one bad round each.
Justin Pucheu: Both of these are nearly impossible to predict. Phil has always been that way, but just when you think he’s going to make a big move, he goes out and has a day like this past Sunday at Firestone. Tiger on the otherhand has usually been a lock for at least a top 10. After last week though, well, there just isn’t much I can say about that. This is making my head hurt. Can I pass? 🙂
Alan Olson: Neither will finish in the top 10. Or the Top 25 for that matter. Phil will finish higher than Tiger.
Donald MacKenzie: I think Tiger wills himself to make the cut and maybe even gets something going on Saturday, but still finishes over par and out of contention. Whistling Straits is not a place to find your game. As for Phil, I think he’s already checked out for the season. He has a major, so he’s not going to push extra-hard this week. And he never plays well in windy conditions on links-y courses, so keep your expectations low for Lefty.
George Promenschenkel: Phil will be in the mix (maybe top ten) and might even win if Bones can keep him from pulling a “Mickelson” down the stretch and putting one into Lake Michigan. The way Tiger has been playing, he could miss the cut. He probably won’t because he’s Tiger, but his game is all
over the place in all bad ways.
Erik J. Barzeski: I’m with Alan. I don’t think Tiger misses the cut because, as much as I like the PGA (as a new member), the guys who qualified from French Lick really don’t stand much of a chance, so there’s nearly 20 of the MCs right there. Tiger only has to beat about 40 other people.
Sum Up the 2010 Season in 15 Words or Less.
Ron Varrial: Top Five are a bore while young guns add sizzle and hope for the future.
Justin Pucheu: The year no one steps up.
Alan Olson: Is it football season yet?
Donald MacKenzie: Either Tiger’s lost year, or the year after Tiger ceased to be a factor.
George Promenschenkel: Tiger’s trysts torpedo major triumphs. Flashy phenoms frolic. Public perplexed! Who won the British?
Erik J. Barzeski: Phil’s win was exciting, but the summer was as bizarre as it was boring.
The first three majors have a “hook.” What can the PGA do to brand itself better?
Ron Varrial: My first thought was match play but it makes for lousy weekend TV, so I suggest they adopt a modified Stableford scoring system that rewards bold play yet set the course up in a very demanding, yet risk-reward fashion. Feature short par fours, devilish pins and thick rough to punish risky misses.
Justin Pucheu: I think that would be more in the hands of the players than the PGA. They can promote it all they want, but there has to be a big showdown, or something unique to play off of. I’m really not sure at this point.
Alan Olson: Going back to the match play format would set it apart from the other majors.
Donald MacKenzie: Nothing. It’s the freaking PGA of America. Have you heard of it? Largest working sports organization in the world? Runs the Ryder Cup? Started the PGA Championship almost two decades before the Masters? Bringing back match play isn’t going to happen, and shouldn’t. After some dull years in the 80s and 90s on drab courses, the championship visits some cool classics and interesting new courses. The PGA Championship is just fine as it is.
George Promenschenkel: Bring back match play! There’s nothing more exciting than a lopsided final match with just two finalists and a “consolation” match to watch. Oh? right… Seriously, don’t try to be a U.S. Open or British or Masters. Birdies down the stretch are exciting. Tough but “scoreable” should be the mantra.
Erik J. Barzeski: They can expand the cut line at the National Club Pro to include anyone within ten shots of the lead. In other words, the PGA is fine. Why’s it need a gimmick? It’s already the last major for seven long months – that makes it awfully interesting in my book.
Are you more excited for the PGA Championship or the Ryder Cup?
Ron Varrial: The PGA feels like little more than a really good full field event. The top players will be there, but they were also at Firestone a week ago. The Ryder Cup lets personalities breathe, and with some of the most exciting players in the world assembled on the European team, I’ve had the Ryder Cup on my radar since the start of the year, which is saying a lot since I’ve never let previous Ryder Cups interrupt a fall football weekend.
Justin Pucheu: As much I hate to slight a major, I’m more excited about the Ryder Cup. At least the patriotism involved generates a lot of excitement. I’ve got a feeling we’re going to end up with an unexciting Sunday, similar to the British… I mean OPEN Championship. One guy sits atop with a nice cushion, and no one steps up to give him any pressure.
Alan Olson: The Ryder Cup is 50+ days away and the PGA is this week so I’m more excited for the PGA.
Donald MacKenzie: Ryder Cup, but that’s no slight on the PGA Championship. The Ryder Cup is pure fun for golf fans, and I’m very much looking forward to the Celtic Manor throwdown this year.
George Promenschenkel: Ryder Cup. The PGA is always the “other major” to me, though I like that club pros get a chance to play with the big boys. The proximity of the playoffs just adds to dilution of buzz around this one.
Erik J. Barzeski: If Tiger were playing well and chasing history (he’s taken a sabbatical from that), I’d be far more excited for the PGA. I couldn’t care less about the Ryder Cup at this point and think the U.S. team is going to get smacked, Tiger or not. So the PGA wins, if only because it’s right now while the Ryder Cup is still a ways off.