SantoSports PGA Championship Preview
By Peter Santo
Well Olympic golf is good for one thing, just two weeks after Henrik Stenson’s victory in The Open at Royal Troon, the world’s best players must get back in the saddle for another major championship this week. This year’s championship returns to historic Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, NJ.
This week could turn some player’s years from decent to great, and others from great to historic. A win for Jordan Spieth or Rory Mcilroy would salvage what has otherwise been a down year for two of the world’s best. In comparison, a win by Dustin Johnson would turn a break through season into one of the best in recent memory.
Major championships are always hard to predict, this year we have had three first time major winners in Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson, and Henrik Stenson. While those victories may come as a surprise to some, they are all in the top 15 in the Official World Golf Ranking, which makes me hesitant to pick someone outside the top 20.
Baltusrol is a long golf course, with many holes favoring the big hitter. One must be long off the tee, and deadly around the greens to have a chance, although you could say that about any PGA Tour event. While the first three majors have featured breakthrough winners, mental fortitude always matters in major championships, so I think the winner will be an experienced champion.
In my mind that narrows it down to three players, and they are three top players in the world of golf, Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcilroy, and Phil Mickelson. You can make a case for all three, and that’s what I’ll do before revealing my winner.
Spieth is the world’s best putter, which always comes in handy in major championships, and he has a strong mental game which helps him tackle difficult golf courses. The question is, and has always been his ball striking. He has struggled at times this season, the clinic he put on at Kapalua seems like a lifetime ago, but he did win at Colonial not too long ago. Form is important coming into major championships, and Spieth simply has not had his A game most of this season. Spieth will putt the lights out as usual to get himself into contention, but I think his ball striking keeps him from capturing another major title. this week.
Rory Mcilroy has had an interesting season. He faces criticism every week despite his play not being that bad. In fact his play has been quite good this season, just not up to Mcilroy standards. Save for a missed cut at the US Open, he has finished no worse than 12th in a start since March. He has been the opposite of Spieth, his ball striking has been solid, but his putter has let him down. You need to putt to win major championships, and I don’t think Rory will make enough putts to get it done.
Mcilroy and Spieth out means one thing, I’m picking Phil Mickelson to win the PGA Championship. I know Mickelson hasn’t one since the 2013 Open at Muirfield, but he comes in with fantastic form having finished second at The Open. In addition, he won the event the last time it was held at Baltusrol in 2005. His game has been as good as it can get lately. In his own words, Phil is playing the best golf of his life. It’s time he gets rewarded with a victory, and I think that comes this week.