2020 PGA Championship Preview
My major championship golf previews are back! It really has been a year since we last saw a major championship and we really are in for a treat in a stacked field on a golf course with a lot of history. It’s going to be a fun week and this year what’s new in my previews this year is a course preview and who I don’t like playing well this week as well. This adds onto to my usual storylines preview, my sleepers, power rankings, and my prediction on who’s winning.
TPC Harding Park Par 70 7251 yards
Past Events Held
2005 WGC- American Express Championship
2009 Presidents Cup
2010-2013 Charles Schwab Cup Championship
2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play
It’s not Bethpage Black but the setup for this year’s PGA Championship could very well be similar to last year’s. TPC Harding Park plays long with thick rough and narrow fairways requiring accuracy and a bit of luck along the way in where your ball ends up. Despite the PGA Championship temporarily moving to August because of COVID-19, the weather will play a big factor this week. The cold California air means the course will play a lot longer and the result will be the ball will not travel as far. The means that be a lot of players will be hitting driver off the tee this week fitting the playing style of the big bombers on the PGA Tour such as Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Rory Mcllroy, etc.
Hardest Hole Prediction?
The 8th hole 250-yard par 3
Hitting into a 250-yard par 3 on a course that is playing long sounds brutal as it is. I expect this hole to play tough with the conditions and a lot of big numbers to be posted if you miss the green.
No Fans at a Major?
Since restarting on June 11th the PGA Tour hasn’t had any fans attending its tournaments. A major championship without the excitement of the gallery is unheard of and weird but that’s, unfortunately, the way 2020 has been. It will be interesting to see how major without fans will play into the back nine on Sunday with the Wanamaker Trophy on the line.
Brooks Koepka is seeking to become the first golfer since Walker Hagen (1924-1927) to win three consecutive PGA Championships. Coming off a T2 at the WGC-FedEx-St Judge Invitational Koepka is most certainly a favorite this week to make history.
Spieth Career Slam?
Just like we do with Phil Mickelson at the US Open and Rory Mcllroy at the Masters we are on Grand Slam watch this week for Jordan Spieth. Spieth is seeking to become the sixth golf ever to complete the career grand slam by winning the 2020 PGA Championship.
World No. 1?
With his win last week Justin Thomas overtook John Rahm for number one spot in the World Golf Rankings. However, this week Rahm along with Rory Mcllroy, Dustin Johnson and Webb Simpson will have a chance to take the number one spot from Thomas.
A First-Time Major Winner?
I’m sure no golfer ever imagined winning their first major championship without fans being in attendance. However, there are a lot of talented golfers who still have yet to win a major including John Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Rickie Fowler, and Xander Schauffele to name a few. Over the last three years, 50% of the major championship winners have been first-time winners and in the last 20 years, 50% of PGA Championship winners have been first-time major champions. Therefore it’s most certainly possible to happen again this week at TPC Harding Park.
There’s a lot of questions coming into the week about Tiger Woods if this is the week for major number 16 and his fifth PGA Championship. Will his back be able to hold up in the cold weather? With only four rounds played since the tour restart on June 11th is Woods game in major championship shape? Will woods be able to replicate his success he’s had at TPC Harding Park in the past? All these questions and many more will be answered once Woods tees off at 11:33 ET Thursday.
Back to Back?
Justin Thomas this week is attempting to do what only Tiger Woods and Rory Mcllroy have ever done in winning the week before then going on and winning the PGA Championship.
It will be must-see TV this week to see for the first time Bryson DeChambeau going after a major championship with his new swing and power off the tee.
After a whole year off without any major championships, this week begins a stretch of seven major championships in 11 months!
Sleepers For This Week
Being one of golf’s brightest young stars and a premier ball-striker, Hovland played well since the restart on June 11th including finishing T-23 or better in his first five starts. Expect Hovland to be around the first couple pages of the leaderboard come Sunday evening.
Another one of golf’s brightest young stars who currently sits in the top five of the FedEx Cup standings. I’m is a quiet name who can slowly put together a good finish this week and surprise some people.
A T14 at a similar setup in last year’s PGA Championship at Bethpage Black and a good finish in last week’s WGC-FedEx-St Judge Invitational means Reavie is a good sleeper for this week.
Fitzpatrick is hot coming into the PGA Championship with a T-6 at the WGC-FedEx-St Judge Invitational and played well at the Memorial as well. He’s done well at making the weekend at the majors last year making all four cut lines. Fitzpatrick is a sneaky pick this week and will surprise some people, especially maybe a low round to set the tone on the weekend for the leaders to keep an eye on perhaps?
Always known for his putter getting hot at some point and I believe that could be this week. So put some money on Kisner making the cut and getting a top 20 finish this week and maybe even showing up on the first page of the leaderboard before the weekend starts.
Best known for his shocking win in the Masters in 2016, Willet has returned to decent form and finished third at the 2015 WGC-Match Play at TPC Harding Park making him an interesting sleepers pick.
Wallace played well at the Memorial and had a T-3 at a similar setup to TPC Harding Park at Bethpage Black last year. Wallace could sneak his way to a backdoor top 10 or make some noise come Sunday as a sleeper.
Golfers I don’t like this week
Rose has been struggling as of late and ranks outside the top 100 in strokes gained/approach, around the green, and putting. Don’t pick Justin Rose as a favorite this week at a tough course like TPC Harding Park.
Todd is a great story when he won back to back PGA Tour events to start the season and has climbed up the world rankings. However, blowing two 54 hole leads and not having PGA Championship experience does not give me much confidence in Todd this week at all.
Spieth is one of the bigger storylines this week chasing the career grand slam. However, a long course with narrow fairways that require accuracy is something Spieth struggles at doing. Another thing is Spieth’s tendency to put up big numbers on holes makes me not like Spieth’s chances this week.
Oh Phil I know you mean well but with your age and inconsistency to go along with the course setup not being in your favor. I just cannot see you contending or playing well this week but hey the US Open is next month at a course you know very well to finally get that career grand slam!
Despite some good play before the COVID-19 shutdown, Scott has not played once since the restart on June 11th and you cannot expect to contend at a major being rusty.
Unlike Scott Fleetwood has teed it up since the June 11th restart but only twice and has struggled both times. For this week I simply do not think Fleetwood game is in major form just yet.
A new swing since the restart on June 11th has not impressed me at all with the inconsistent play. Fowler blew it last week when leading after five holes in the WGC-FedEx-St Judge Invitational in the final round. Fowler has not really shown anything making you think this is finally the week he gets that first major despite success in the PGA Championship in the past.
Finau just simply has not been able to close out tournaments despite having at least 30 top 10s on the PGA Tour since the 2016-2017 season! Despite the course being set up in his favor I just cannot trust Finau to rise to the occasion this week, as he’s more likely to fade once again.
10th Tiger Woods
Believe me, when I say this I went back and forth on how Tiger Woods would do this week. The back will always be a question mark because of the cold weather in the forecast this week. TPC Harding Park also requires you to hit the narrow fairways with the driver, something Woods struggles to do on occasion. It’s also not ideal to only play four rounds coming into a major, however, let’s not forget this is Tiger Woods we are talking about. If the body feels well he’s the best iron player to ever play golf so him being in contention should not be shocking considering his past at TPC Harding Park.
9th Collin Morikawa
Morikawa is arguably the game’s brightest star and made 23 straight cuts to start his pro career. To go along with two wins the last being outdueling Justin Thomas at the Workday Charity Open. Morikawa got all the tools to be a future multi major championship winner but the reason why he’s lower on this list is that this is his first PGA Championship and experience matters.
8th Patrick Cantlay
Cantlay is one of the more consistent golfers on the PGA Tour and last year he proved he can stick around with the best of them on the major championship scene. Cantlay has not finished outside the top 35 in his last eight starts on the PGA Tour. A fantastic ball-striker who should have some extra motivation playing in his home state of California this week.
7th Bryson DeChambeau
If someone benefitted from the quarantine it was DeChambeau who is now the longest hitter on the PGA Tour. TPC Harding Park is playing long this week so DeChambeau is going to take the course head on no matter what the conditions are. It’s either going to work out great for him or it’s going to be a disaster. I for one will need at least one major to evaluate how his new strategy will fair against major championship golf courses.
6th Dustin Johnson
After winning the Travelers Championship Johnson slumped for a little but played solid at the WGC-FedEx-St Judge Invitational. It’s always the putter that’s the story for Johnson at any major. This week the course setup suits Johnson’s game and will this finally be the week where Johnson wins major number two?
5th John Rahm
The former world number one dominated the weekend at the Memorial and is looking for his first major championship in his pro career. Rahm has said that life has been better for him over the past year and that’s translated over to the golf course with his sharp play as of late. However, my only question regarding Rahm will always be mental with him and handling major championship pressure. Maybe no fans will help calm him down? Will just have to see this week if Rahm will rise to the occasion and take back his number one spot in the world rankings.
4th Rory Mcllroy
Mcllroy was the hottest golfer in the world when COVID-19 hit and since then he has struggled a little bit with his game. However with the course playing long this week and Mcllroy driver always being a weapon and having won the 2015 WGC-Match Play at TPC Harding Park. Mcllroy has a great chance to snap his major drought this week that goes all the way back to 2014 at Valhalla.
3rd Webb Simpson
Simpson has been truly underrated over the past year with two impressive wins. His putting has become a weapon with his new armbar putting stroke. Let’s not forget his iron play is one of the best on the PGA Tour and he’s a fantastic closer of golf tournaments when being the 54 hole leader. The course may be playing long which puts Simpson at a disadvantage versus other golfers on these power rankings however, expect Simpson to be a factor come Sunday.
2nd Brooks Koepka
Before last week Koepka did not look like himself at all since the restart on June 11th. However, it’s major championship season and Koepka always rises to the occasion whenever its major season. With TPC Harding Park set up being similar to Bethpage Black a course he dominated. If Koepka is healthy he is a threat this week to the entire field.
1st Justin Thomas
The world number one is playing some great golf coming into major championship season with five top 10s in his last seven starts. The only three-time winner this season on the PGA Tour Thomas checks off all the boxes stats wise to win this week, and having Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay being his caddie with over 25 years of experience including some at TPC Harding Park will help Thomas efforts to win his 2nd major championship. The only concern I have his some inconsistent play in major championships but he’s in better form then he was then.
Just missed the power rankings cut but will still be a factor this week
It was this close between Thomas and Koepka and I went back and forth on who I wanted to pick. However, I’ll give the edge to Thomas because he’s been more consistent this season and having a veteran caddie in Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay who was on Mickelson’s bag for all five of his major championships helps a lot to be there for Thomas when he needs him. It’s just really hard to win the same event three times in a row but I expect these two to be in the final group come Sunday battling it out for the Wanamaker Trophy.
Winning Score -10
-8 was the winning score last year at a similar setup in Bethpage Black. TPC Harding Park is a little easier then Bethpage Black so I think -10 is the perfect number for this week.
By Ashkan Motamedi