The conditions at Bellerive
The soft conditions could make putting difficult. When the 100th PGA Championship gets started Thursday in St. Louis, there’s plenty of evidence to state with some sort of reasonable certainty that the golf course won’t quite live up to typical major championship standards, whatever those arbitrary marks may be. There is also a chance of storm this weekend, making for a combination of wet, soggy, slow slog through 7,300-plus yard track.
The PGA is where Tiger Woods’ major career took a turn for the worse
Tiger Woods is returning to PGA, the major where the paradigm of his on-course career changed. It was the 2009 PGA, when two obscene shots from Yang and the sudden back nine shift, that stopped Woods from claiming a major in a 10-year span. Yang became the first Asian-born player to win a men’s major championship. Those final four holes are among the best in PGA history, given the circumstances.
We’d see glimpses of that “nervous” Tiger the next month when he blew a short putt to win at The Barclays, and then again at several more majors in the years that followed. Tiger’s personal scandal would erupt just a few months after Yang beat him as he crashed his Escalade into a fire hydrant on Thanksgiving weekend. The aftermath of that has been cited over and over for Tiger’s inability to win a major since. The unknown Yang finally being the one to land an uppercut on Tiger on Sunday of a major receives far less attention. But it changed the paradigm of Tiger’s major career.
Not only does Tiger Woods’ game need to hold up this week at Bellerive if he is going to end his decade-long major championship drought, but perhaps more critically his body needs to hold up. Woods admitted he is dealing with inflammation, which acted up last week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he struggled to a pair of 73s on the weekend as he drifted down the leaderboard.
If Jordan Spieth is going complete the career Grand Slam with a win this week at the PGA Championship, he’s going to have to get through Thursday. That might sound simple, but for Spieth that has been extremely hard.
“I think I was probably a little more anxious last year,” Spieth said. “I feel somewhat under the radar this year. I’ve kind of felt that way a lot this year, I don’t mind it. At the same time, this tournament will always be circled until I’m able to hopefully win it someday. It will always be circled to complete the career Grand Slam, which will ultimately achieve a lifelong goal for me. So certainly emphasis in my head on it, but nothing overpowering, nothing that takes over once I start on the first tee, just more going into the week.”
Hocknull from 2,043rd in the world to PGA top 20
Craig Hocknull is an Australian-born club pro ranked 2,043rd in the world. This year, he will be appearing in his first major championship, the PGA as one of the 20 club pros.
Hocknull is a member of the PGAs of Australia, America and Canada, and in 2016 won the PGA Professionals of Canada Championship. He now splits his time between a coaching role at Saber Golf Academy in Arizona, which he founded, and teaching at a private golf club in Utah during summer.
“I’ve never even attended a major championship,” Hocknull said. “It’s surreal to work hard your whole life and your dream finally comes true.”
Given the soft conditions, it’s going to take a low score to claim the Wanamaker Trophy.
“So I think you’ll see guys shoot some low scores, given when they get into trouble you’re not going to see that many bogeys or doubles,” Spieth said. Unlike the U.S. Open, at which the USGA does everything in its power to keep the winning score near even par, the PGA has no such mandate.
Advantage and Odds
Key Players’ Timetable