PGA Championship just became more exciting. The recent announcement that the defending champion, Rory McIlroy, will be in the field has turned the golfing world upside down. McIlroy has been testing his ankle at Whistling Straights since Saturday and stated he is good to go.
To add to the frenzy, McIlroy is grouped for the first two rounds with Masters and U.S. Open winner, Jordan Spieth and The Open champion, Zach Johnson, What a group to watch.
Whistling Straits is a Pete Dye gem that mimics the seaside link-style courses of the United Kingdom and Ireland. Playing just over 7500 yards, most players will have to bring their “A” game to successfully navigate the rolling fairways, the endless blind shots, and wrestle with the unforgiving rough. Adding to the challenging conditions, the course is anything but flat. The undulating terrain will pose additional challenges to McIlroy as he nurses his ankle through four days of élite competition.
The PGA Championship made two previous stops at Whistling Straits. In both cases, a playoff was required to determine the winner. In 2004, Vijay Singh won over Chris DiMarco and Justin Leonard; in 2010, Martin Kaymer outlasted Bubba Watson. Both Singh and Kaymer are in the field trying to regain some former glory.
Besides the hype of McIlroy saying he is ready to play, the golfing eyes are also on Tiger Woods. He is on the verge of missing the FedExCup Playoffs, but by winning the last major of 2015, he would jump to 60th place in the standings. Winning the PGA Championship four times before, Woods cannot be counted out if the Woods of yesteryear shows up.
Many of the pundits have outlined their picks and they are obvious. Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Justin Rose can be found at the top most lists as the players to watch. Even though McIlroy has not played professional golf and he is returning from a severe injury, many believe he will have the game to knock off the dominate Jordan Spieth.
The difficulty in picking a PGA Champion in 2015 is the field. With so many first-time winners in 2015, any streaking player could knock of the heavy favourites while they trade punches up and down the fairway. The variables are astounding and even the slightest hitch could derail any players dream of winning the PGA Championship.
This year, the PGA Championship field offers many past major champions and players trying to win for the first time. After much consideration, the following (in descending order) are my top 3 picks and dark-horse for this weekend’s Major:
Finishing third – Dustin Johnson. His strong play off the tee and ability to hit over most hazards gives him an advantage at Whistling Straits. Johnson played well at the Masters and US Open. He is ready to win his first Major; however, he will be close this year, but will not be able to close the deal.
Finishing Second – Jordan Spieth. Although his play of late is not what many pundits have come to expect, Spieth‘s record in the Majors cannot be over looked. He is the total package and definitely knows how to win. He will make a charge on Sunday, but will be held off by the eventual champion.
The PGA Championship winner – Rickie Fowler. Fowler always plays his best golf in the later half the professional golf season. His performance in the 2015 Majors did not match his 2014 performance, yet he seems to be in the mix for most tournaments. His win at the Players Championship (considered by many, including myself, as the 5th Major) demonstrated that he has the game to win on the world stage. Although he only has two career wins (both in playoffs), Fowler is my pick as the last man standing at the PGA Championship this coming weekend.
Dark-Horse – Phil Mickelson. A strange choice, but his play in 2015 has led to his steady decline in the world rankings. Mickelson has the game to defeat anyone in the field, but his challenges lie in consistency. He can shoot low, can handle the pressure, and yet has difficulty over the four days competition. Thus, Phil Mickelson is a great choice as the dark-horse for the 2015 PGA Championship.
This coming weekend, The PGA Championship will cast an aurora of excitement over the golfing world. The return of Rory McIlroy has added to the hype and many are hoping he poses a direct challenge to Jordan Spieth. Regardless of whose your champion, golfing fanatics will be treated to some great golf and exciting times at Whistling Straits!
The Grateful Golfer – Pundit Arena