PGA Championship preview: Tiger can overcome Southern Hills bogey
Tulsa already has winners without a shot being fired in anger. They’re the perspicacious bunch who lumped on Tiger Woods for the PGA championship way back when his price was out over 4. Cue comprehensive victory at Firestone that shortens the price to just over 3, and they’re sitting pretty whatever happens.
Should they hedge back for safety or let it run and go with the betting flow that says Tiger will streak home?
Only a hermit would be unaware of the big difference of opinion on Tiger’s chances at Southern Hills. The naysayers make much of his last outing in the US Open in 2001 when he came 12th. Tight fairways and tough rough will punish Tiger’s wayward tee shots, they say, and the dog legs will force him to keep his driver in the bag. It is no coincidence, they add, that he also avoids playing the Colonial, which most closely resembles Southern Hills. It is also fateful that Tiger doesn’t do well on par 70s in majors.
It’s a powerful argument, but there’s an equally strong counter-punch. That’s a big fuss to be making over one tournament. It was certainly in one of his keynote years, but it came after five tournaments where he hadn’t even broken top 10, so something was already amiss. Even then a lot of his woes were down to an awful opening round of 74.
So what if he can’t use his driver too often? That didn’t seem to trouble him at Hoylake. Rough? Didn’t seem to bother him too much last week when it was a soggy mess that everyone was cursing. And, lest we forget, he topped the field for greens in regulation with masterful ironwork and his putting was pretty much in order too. The softish greens here should suit him and I think he will cope with the searing heat as well as anyone on the park.
Oh, and didn’t Tiger win by a massive, humongous, ginormous eight strokes last Sunday? Sure, he has made Firestone his own, but that’s surely got to have the great man fired up to grab his only major of the season. He’s put all his distractions behind him and looks ready for another victory roll like the end of last season. I hate to agree with the betting herd, but for once I’m on their side.
If not Tiger then history suggests a choice between one of the other leading lights who have dominated this competition over the last three years, or someone with some season form bidding for his first major, with a watchful eye on those who have prospered here or at the Colonial.
Trouble with the rest of the creme de la creme is they’ve all gone a little sour. Phil Mickelson is still not 100% with his wrist, Jim Furyk still has a wonky back (otherwise his stats would make him a hot property), and Vijay Singh is having too much of a yo-yo season to know what he’ll do, although it’d be no surprise to see him contending. The one I actually fancy most is Ernie Els, simply in the belief that he is going to bounce back on top some time soon. But if you’re banking on course form, his was pretty useless in 2001 and he’s another who sidesteps the Colonial.
Course form would put Stewart Cink in the frame - he fluffed it at the death in 2001 to finish third and has a half decent record in the Colonial. But he’s up and down too, came a bad cropper last week and hasn’t breached top 10 in this competition this century.
Sergio Garcia: is a Colonial winner back in 2001, when he also matched Tiger’s 12th at Southern Hills, but it’s been downhill from there and his present stats aren’t flattering. Still, he sounds in the mood to erase the memory of Carnoustie.
Justin Rose: is many people’s favourite on the back of his over-flattering surge to second place last week. As usual his stats are strong but he’s still to prove he’s a pressure player.
K J Choi: may have been saving himself for this one. His recent form puts him in with a strong chance.
Hunter Mahan: is still stellar in the form book, but is showing signs of flagging.
Justin Leonard: has shown flashes of his old self (as in second in the Colonial in 2003).
Andres Romero: is in torrid form.
Come to think of it, Rory Sabbatini is a Colonial winner too, and this year to boot. But then will he have recovered from last week’s humiliation? I just he hope he gets some more crowd stick this week. They can’t throw out everyone can they?
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You always pontificate AFTER the deadline for choosing
my Yahoo Fantasy Golf team for the week.
Of course, I am hovering around 300th place out of
150,000+ players, so I'm surviving on my own.
Still, I would benefit from your wisdom...
Kiel - I'm so sorry, I will try to do it earlier, honest. Problem is the pesky 60-hour day (and night) job that gets in he way slightly! But you can find plenty of other good analysis each week in the tournament analysis section of my website (see above)
I think Southern Hills (the course) took exception to Mr. Sabbatini.
Fans will be pleased, no doubt.
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