On August 10th,Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota will begin to play host to the 91st PGA Championship. When the PGA Championship was last played at Hazeltine in 2002, it was the sight of a historical comeback by Rich Beem who outlasted the mighty charge from Tiger Woods to claim his first ever victory on Tour. This year, more bunkers have been added on the fairways and some of the holes on the course have been lengthed to challenge the best players on tour one more time.
Here’s a sneaky peak at what to expect at Hazeltine National Golf Club and some predictions of some players who might win come Sunday. Perhaps we might be in for a surprise this year?
What To Expect:
Hazeltine is a par 72 that features very narrow fairways, nasty rough and greens harder than linoleum. It will play over 7600 yards and therefore favor the longer hitters who are striking the ball well. A good example of this will watching the play on the par 5’s. Some of the par 5’s (like numbers 3, and 11) might take 3 shots to reach the green in regulation. Short hitters who miss the fairway on these holes might have to take 4 shots to reach the green and stare bogey in the face….The par 3’s will be crucial too because a bad tee shot on these holes ( 4,8,13 and 17 ) will nearly always will guarantee a bogey. Look for players in contention to play the Par 3’s at even par or better…Finally if there’s any wind at all during play, look for scores to shoot up to 74-77 and watch 70 look like a 68 or better on good days.
Predictions And Players To Watch For:
Now that we know what’s facing the players at Hazeltine, here’s some golfers who I think have what it takes to be near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday at the PGA. These golfers have the long driving game needed for birdie opportunities on the birdie holes and they seem like they’re overdue for a big week, too.
Retief Goosen. Sure. He blew the Canadian Open with a un-Retief like miss of a 6 foot birdie putt that would’ve won it. And yes. He did blow a 10 footer in the playoff for par that would’ve extended things further. But something tells me this is Retief’s time to shine. The course sets up perfectly for players like Goosen and his temperament should help him patiently navigate through any trouble he’ll get himself into this week. He’s also long and accurate most of the time off the tee, too. If he could find some magic in his putter for the week, he might just be the one to beat.
Phil Mickelson. Lefty has had to deal with many personal problems you wouldn’t wish on your worse enemy. I think he’ll put that aside and have a big week. The course requires a great short game, length off the tee and some moxie to try shots others won’t dare to try. Besides, after the US Open letdown, he’s due for a big week that convinces naysayers his off-course problems aren’t a distraction.
Anthony Kim. Kim is due for a big breakthrough at a major championship. The hero of the last Ryder Cup matches has the hart, the game and the moxie to make a charge. It’s just up to him now to put the pieces all together and make a charge. Look for him this week to do just that.
Finally, Stewart Cink, after winning the Open championship in a playoff over Tom Watson, is riding on a magical crest that makes holes look bigger, fairways wider and bunkers non-existent. Look for him to ride this magic crest to another run at a major. He’s that good and he’s that confident.
Players To Watch For:
Here are some other players to watch for in the media reports as the bigger fish in the golf media world try to ponder…
What’s going on with Tiger Woods? After his curse-filled, club-throwing, tantrum-filled disaster at Turnberry that made 6 year olds look like polished diplomats, one has to wonder what he’ll do at the PGA? His recent track record at Hazletine isn’t so good either. (Remember, he lost to Rich Beem even though he made a memorable charge at the end.) With all this going against him, all eyes will be on Tiger to see if he can improve his game and his manners. Only time will tell.
Paddy Harrington is the defending champ of this event. He’s had a bad year so far and his doctoring of his swing sure could be the cause. Can he find something inside him to at least not embarrass himself at this event?
Finally, Watch out for John Daly too. The former PGA champ might be on track to respectability both on and off the course. He knows how to win on tough courses and if there was ever a time to breakthrough, now’s the time to do it!