Hello friends, and welcome to the first major of the 2020 PGA Tour season – the PGA Championship from Harding Park in beautiful, yet chilly San Francisco. The PGA Championship has long been the youngest brother in the Major Family, often picked on and forgotten about due to the exploits of its older, more accomplished brothers. Not that we have any scar tissue from being the youngest brother, but we’ve been told that’s a tough place to be. Nothing you ever do is good enough.
The PGA tried to brand itself as “Glory’s Last Shot” while being the final major of the year. Sure, we produced major champions like YE Yang, Shaun Micheel and Rich Beem, but if you don’t win here, there it’s a long time till the Masters. Just as they started to build that reputation the PGA Tour thanked them for all that hard work by moving the tournament to May and making it the second major of the year.
Second is the worst. Ever compete in a relay race? Whoever runs or swims the second leg is definitely the slowest. Again, not that we have any experience being the second leg of a relay race. We’ve just heard that’s the worst.
Well, if you were looking at the list of people/tournaments/organizations that benefitted from COVID, the PGA Tournament would be at the top of the list. Now, they are first! We’re guessing they show up to the Major Family Zoom chat with a background of someone holding up a middle finger.
Hey US Open – how’s that local qualifying that produces those great stories? Oh, you cancelled it. Suuuuccckkkksssss.
Open Championship – hey tough guy! Love how you embrace playing in any conditions! Well, except, you know, global pandemics. Have some more haggis!
Masters! Been a loooong time. You’re looking a little rough – not had your manicure recently? Really hate it that you couldn’t play for 18 months. Does the pimiento cheese stay good until November?
So, congrats to the PGA. Cherish this moment to be the king of the family, because it won’t last long and you’ll be back to being the fourth-class citizen next year. You’ve got to capitalize on these moments, because they are fleeting. Again, not that we know anything about that.
Anyway, on to the golf and the picks.
Harding Park, a local muni in San Francisco, will be a great challenge this week. Besides the narrow fairways, and long rough, the weather in San Fran will be cold and breezy, making the course play even longer.
So, what kind of golfer can win on a course like this…someone who hits it long and straight off the tee, and when they miss the fairway, they scramble well. So, bear with us, we actually did some research. Disappointing, we know. But we looked at four PGA Tour statistical categories – Shots Gained Off the Tee, Total Driving, Shots Gained: Approach and Greens in Regulation from the Rough. Without getting too golf nerdy, these stats measure…who can drive it the best and who can get the ball on the green the quickest.
Looking at the top 15 golfers on those four lists, the winner is clear. We don’t even need to give you ten…we have One to Win…the legendary…. Jhonattan Vegas! Vegas is in the top 7 in three of those stats..better than anyone else on the tour.
What’s that? Vegas didn’t qualify for the tournament? Oh.
Well, then, without further ado…the actual Ten to Win the PGA Championship (in alphabetical order):
Daniel Berger: Since the restart, Berger has been one of the hottest players on tour, with 3 top 3 finishes in four events, including a win at the Charles Schwab Challenge. That’s, as they say, pretty good. To back up our intro, he also is in the top 10 of both Total Driving and GIR from Rough. So, unlike Johnny Vegas – Berger is hitting fairways and greens and actually shooting good scores. Novel concept.
Paul Casey: Unlike Berger, Casey hasn’t exactly been putting up great finishes, with two missed cuts and the best finish being a T32. That said, we thought we’d take a flyer on Casey for two reasons. First, he actually leads the total driving and GIR from Rough statistics on Tour this year. Second, he’s a guy that always seems to put him in a mix at the majors. Sure, he’s never actually won one, but there’s a first time for everything, right?
Corey Conners: The affable Canadian (is there any other type of Canadian) broke through for his first win last year, and has been solid this year. He’s in the top 15 of three of the four statistics we watched, and it doesn’t take an actuarial mathematics degree, which Conners has, to figure out that’s good.
Viktor Hovland: The 22-year old Norwegian has rapidly moved up the world rankings since turning pro last year, and currently sits at 24 in the world. While this is his first major as a professional, he played in last year’s Masters and US Open as an amateur, and finished T32 and T12, respectively. So, he’s handled major pressure well, and stands to be a factor this week as well with a game that suits the course.
Dustin Johnson: DJ remains one of the best drivers of the golf ball on Tour, and despite poor finishes since the restart, we’re picking him for two reasons. First, he shaved his beard and looks like a totally different person. Second, it’s the 10-year anniversary of his famous “grounding the club” incident in a bunker that also happened to have people standing in it at the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. If anyone is owed a PGA Championship from the golf gods, it’s DJ.
Brooks Koepka: Look. There’s only one stat that matters when it comes to Koepka: Back to Back PGA Champion. In the words of Ric Flair, to be the man, you gotta beat the man. And no one has beaten Koepka at this particular championship for two years.
Rory McIlroy: Rory hasn’t played well the past couple weeks, but if his driver is working, he’s the best driver of the golf ball on tour. Currently ranked 4th in Shots Gained off the tee, Rory seems to thrive on long, wet courses. He has good history at Harding Park, having won the Dell Match Play there in 2015, and
Jon Rahm: Rahmbo had a brief but distinguished tenure as the #1-ranked golfer in the world. With that milestone checked off the career bucket list, the only thing missing from his resume is a major. Rahm dominated a strong field on a major-caliber course at Muirfield Village, and fits the mold for the setup at Harding Park.
Xander Schauffele: Aside from Vegas, Schauffele is the only golfer in the top 10 on three of the four statistical categories we researched. And since Xander is actually playing in the tournament, he makes this list. He’s won on tough courses before against tough fields, and he’s poised to break through at one of the big ones. Plus, it’ll be fun to hear reporters that rarely cover golf butcher the pronunciation of his last name on the local news.
Justin Thomas: We aren’t as high on Thomas as everyone else seems to be, but the numbers don’t lie. With his 13th career win last week, he joined a couple fellas named Woods and Nicklaus as the youngest to reach 13 wins. He’s #1 in the world, he’s won three times this season, he just won last week after losing in a playoff a couple weeks ago, and his golf bag weighs more than he does.
Obviously, a couple notable names not on this list…Woods, Mickelson, DeChambeau and Speith (a PGA away from the career grand slam) to name a few. Can they win? Of course. Will they? We don’t think so for the following reasons: Cold weather/hasn’t played enough, doesn’t drive it straight enough, too much vegan food in San Francisco and too many double bogeys.
Want to know Mrs. Hangover’s favorite part about the West Coast major? Prime-time golf for those of us on the East Coast! That’s right, on Friday, we can start happy hour right as Woods tees off at 5pm. Talk about a great date night!