Sock hats, hand warmers, and sweaters just doesn’t seem right for the PGA Championship. Normally it’s IV’s, Gatorade or Body Armour, and changing shirts every 3 holes. The side effects of moving the tournament from August to May have started to show themselves.
Bethpage Black is known to be one of the best tests in major championship golf. The two times the US Open was played there then winning scores were three and four under par respectively. Throw in colder temperatures, a wet golf course, and over seed and you have a 7500 yard course playing more like 7800. The fescue stands knee high which will tighten the already narrow golf course, that will be lined with rowdy New York fans.
The “People’s Country Club” may be the greatest nickname for a golf course, and it couldn’t be more fitting. People sleep in cars, drive miles in the wee hours just to get a spot for one of the coveted tee times. For New Yorkers, they get access for the bargain of $65, while foreigners have to pay double. For a course that is about to host it’s third major and the Ryder cup in 5 years, you can’t beat it. You certainly won’t find another Tillinghast Course you can pay that little for.
Tiger winning at Augusta has thrown everyone’s thinking about who is going to win this week into disarray. Do I think he will win? I sure as hell hope so. That’s my heart and 3/4 of my mind. The other quarter of my mind got to thinking and it lead me down a rabbit hole I didn’t think I could get out of. It felt like a scene in National Treasure, when a door slams behind them and Nick Cage looks over and says, “the only way out is to press on”.
I looked at all of the PGA Championship winners since 2000, which was Tiger’s second. He tore Valhalla apart, shooting -18 for the championship. I tabulated the names, ages at the time of the win, OWGR, margin of victory, how many majors they had at that point, and where they won. From there I started looking at common themes or trends amongst the winners. As I pushed on, and made it to the end, there was one man standing.
2000: Tiger Woods, Valhalla, -18, OWGR #1
2001: David Toms, AAC, -15, OWGR #19
2002: Rich Beem, Hazeltine, -10, OWGR #73
2003: Shaun Micheel, Oak Hill, -4, OWGR #169
2004: Vijay Singh, Whistling Straits, -8, OWGR #3
2005: Phil, Baltusrol, -4, OWGR #4
2006: Tiger, Medinah, -18, OWGR #1
2007: Tiger, Southern Hills, -8, OWGR #1
2008: Paddy Harrington, Oakland Hills, -3, OWGR #3
2009: YE Yang, Hazeltine, -8, OWGR #110
2010: Martin Kaymer, Whistling Straits, -11, OWGR #13
2011: Keegan Bradley, AAC, -11, OWGR #108 (Tommy Gainey was inside the top 100…..Luke Donald was #1…. YIKES)
2012: Rory, Kiawah, -13, OWGR #3
2013: Dufner, Oak Hill, -10, OWGR #21
2014: Rory, Valhalla, -16, OWGR #1
2015: Jason Day, Whistling Straits, -20, OWGR #5
2016: Jimmy Walker, Baltusrol, -14, OWGR #48
2017: JT, Quail Hollow, -8, OWGR #14
2018: Brooks Koepka, Bellerive, -16, OWGR #4
Of the 19 winners in this stretch, 15/19 were in the Top 50 in the OWGR with 12 of them in the Top 20. This eliminates everyone except the following; Dustin Johnson Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm, Matt Kuchar, Paul Casey, Jason Day, Tony Finau, Tommy Fleetwood, Patrick Cantlay Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed,Webb Simpson.
Not a bad crew to pick from, but here is where guys start dropping off. In the last 10 years all but Duff Daddy had won in the calendar year that they won the PGA. That eliminates Finau, Fleetwood, Cantlay, Webb, PReed, Bryson, Bubba, JT (WD anyway) and Jason Day. This next stat hurts, in the last 19 years, only one person was over 40 at the time of their win, Vijay in 2004. This takes out Tiger, Phil, Kuchar, and Paul Casey.
DJ, Justin Rose, Brooks, Rory, Frankie, Xander, Rickie, and Rahm are left. I hate to bring in nationality, but 12/19 were Americans. Exit stage left Rosey, Rory, Rhambo and Frankie. We are left with two young Americans, both ranked inside the Top 20, seeking their first major after numerous close calls. What will tip the scales in either Rickie Fowler’s or Xander Schauffele’s favor?
The final criteria, one that hurts even more considering Big Cat won at 43 a month ago, is 7 of the last 10 champions were in their 20’s when they won. Sorry Rick, this means that Xander is the man to beat according to my best Elias Sports Group impersonation.
He certainly meets the criteria of a PGA Champion. He holds the #9 spot in the OWGR, has won twice in the new wrap around season, including a WGC and the Tournament of Champions. He finished T-2 at the Masters in April, as well as last years Open Championship where he held a share of the lead in the final round. Cap that off with finishing in the Top 10 in 50% of the majors he has played in. That stat stands out to me the most. He is in the mix half of time, and doesn’t shy away form the big moments. For you folks betting on this, at +2500 he has pretty good value for a guy that has two T-2 finishes in the last three majors.
Get ready for another huge week, on a big time golf course, in the Mecca of sports. As much as I want my code cracking abilities to prove adequate, I’ll take being wrong for another Tiger Woods victory in the Big Apple.