It’s time for the second major of the season with the PGA Championship upon us in Oklahoma.
Southern Hills hosts the event for the first time in 15 years and, just as was the case in 2007, all eyes will be on Tiger Woods as he continues his return by featuring in his second tournament in 18 months.
But, the odds will inevitably stacked against his favour as a star-studded lineup descends on the Tulsan turf, with the first round opening the proceedings on Thursday.
So, what can we come to expect from this weekend? Our resident golfing-guru and previewing-mainstay David Kristiansen has you covered…
Course: Southern Hills Country Club
Length: 7556 yards (Par 70)
Architect: Perry Maxwell – Gil Hanse restoration
DK: If Phil Mickleson out-duelling Brooks Koepka a year ago or the former not showing up to defend his title this year are more shocking, I will leave up to others to answer.
But one thing for certain is that the Championship will be lesser without Mickelson on the tee sheet, that goes without saying.
A guy who is ready to go again is Tiger Woods, who sniffed contention at Augusta over the first two rounds but limped across the finish line for a T47 little over a month ago.
After almost having lost a limb only a year prior, it is understandable that that caught up to him.
And while we should not expect miracles, he has had another month of rehab, the weather looks to cooperate with forecast showing hot, dry, and windy conditions and not to mention this being an easier walk than Augusta, I’m optimistic he can at least improve on his finish at the Masters.
Speaking of Tiger, he won the last time Southern Hills hosted a PGA in 2007, but the players will face a completely different test this week as Gil Hanse restored the course in 2019 back to its original design.
Compared to 2007, the players will face much wider fairways, several of the trees are removed and with it being in the spring compared to late summer, the rough will not be as punitive so I would not put that much emphasis on driving it straight.
With a par 70 stretching out to over 7500 yards, I would focus mostly on players with a strong mid and long iron game compared to wedge specialist, but you will be tested on most approach lengths this week.
With the greens being small especially for such a long course and with the restored shaved run-off areas, having a good and creative short game should be essential at Southern Hills.
With moderate to strong winds in the forecast, I’m sure we will see a single digit winning score and I would not be surprised if that number is closer to -5 than -10.
Here are some of the things I will be looking at/for:
- Strokes gained approach
- Proximity from 200+
- Strokes gained around the green
- Par 4 scoring
- Bogey avoidance
2019-20 season: +35.61 units , ROI: 121%
2020-21 season: +170,92 units, ROI: 148%
Wagered: 95 units
Won: 49.58 units
Result: -45.42 units
Cameron Smith 29,00 4 pts to WIN
There is a good case that behind Scottie Scheffler, the scruffy Aussie has been the hottest golfer on the planet in 2022, topped off by his win at the Players.
A missed cut at the Heritage and since then not playing seems to have put him out of sight and out of mind and therefore many have him too far down the odds board in my opinion.
Southern Hills should set up close to perfect for a guy whose strengths are approach and short game, and someone whose driver can sometimes be a weakness.
He ranks in the top eleven in approach, putting and par 4 scoring and, as we know, he is a wizard around the greens, so I see this as a good an opportunity as any for Smith to pick up his first major.
Hideki Matsuyama 29,00 4 pts to WIN
An injury put a stop to a great start to the year which included a win at the Sony Open and at one point he even looked likely to miss his title defence at Augusta, but in the end finished The Masters in respectable fashion with a T14.
We saw him for the first time since last week and while the T3 in itself is impressive gaining almost 10 strokes on approach is what really caught my eye and if his usual elite short game returns (lost 0.7 last week) then he should be one of the absolute favourites at Southern Hills.
In my stats model he ranks 2nd and in the individual categories he is in the top seven in approach, bogey avoidance, par 4 scoring and proximity from over 200 yards.
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