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BlogPrelude to the PGA Championship

PGA Championship

August 6th – 9th, 2020

TPC Harding Park

San Francisco, Ca.

Par: 70 / Yardage: 7,251

Purse: $11 million

with $1,980,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Brooks Koepka

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

Have to say this, boy is golf’s biological clock going to really get screwed up this week. Not only will they be playing the first major championship in August, when last year it was established that majors would be finished in July at the British Open. But for most players (with the small exception of those coming from the Barracuda), the last eight weeks have been about playing in hot, humid conditions in which the ball has been flying googillion miles. For all those that have been playing regularly over the last eight weeks and especially those coming from Memphis, they will be in for a different experience this week at TPC Harding Park because everything shall we say in the stratosphere will be definitely different this week. Instead of stifling conditions that everyone would be sweating profusely, players will find themselves having to bundle up as each day will be in the mid-60s and the conditions will change during the day. Since the course is just a half a mile from the Pacific and it is August, the course will have clouds and fog in the morning that will burn away by 11 for a few hours of sunshine and then the clouds moving in around 3. With conditions like this, Bryson DeChambeau will probably not see drives in the 360-yard range and be lucky to hit it over 300 yards this week. So the advertised length of the course at 7,251 will be that and it will probably play long this week.  Oh, and talking about DeChambeau he is probably a very good player to start off with.  After being the hottest player on the planet last month, he has come down to earth and his game is showing signs that yes he is human and can make mistakes.  After missing the cut at Memorial and finsihing T-30th in Memphis DeChambeau comes to San Francisco a bit deflated and looking to regain the mojo he had last month.  DeChambeau needs to realize that on some courses hitting greens in regulation is important and the last two weeks on courses that he hasn’t had flip wedges left tot he greens he has stumbled on, he was T-61st in Greens in Regulation in Memphis.  If that happens at the PGA Championship it will be another long week for him.
As for some other key players, gosh anything is possible. Last week we were worried about the health of players like Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, and Jason Day and many including myself were wondering if their seasons were dead. But all three proved that wrong in Memphis and will be very talked-about this week. The biggest Brooks Koepka was T-2nd in Memphis and will have a big bullseye on his back in the early days of this championship as many wonders if it’s humanly possible to win a major championship three straight years in a row. It’s been 64 years since it’s last been done by Peter Thomson winning the British Open in 1954, ’55 & ’56. Adding to the rarity of the feat, it had been 29 years since Walter Hagan did his four-peat between 1924 and 1927 and 22 years and before that when Willie Anderson won the U.S. Open in 1903, ’04 & ’05 so you can see the type of rarefied air that Koepka is breathing this week. Making things worst there are 155 players that would love for Koepka not to accomplish that feat just this week, out of that pack about 40 have a legitimate chance of really winning. The one with the biggest chance will be Justin Thomas who played great in the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational and told the world after his three-shot victory that he has been working really hard on his game since the break and was surprised it took this long for him to register a victory. So for many, this is all the news they need, just have the engravers put his name on the Wanamaker Trophy now.
Still a couple of things to ponder, there has been some history at TPC Harding Park over the years. We haven’t heard much about this course, it’s not one those great courses like a Pebble Beach or a Pinehurst that despite being a public place to play, that is on anyone’s bucket list to play. People do remember that Tiger Woods beat John Daly to win the 2005 WGC-American Express Championship and that the American team beat the International team in 2009. And that Rory McIlroy beat Gary Woodland in the finals of the 2015 WGC-Dell Match Play Championship. But it’s also held numerous other tournaments, including on the PGA Tour the Lucky International played between 1961 and 1968. Funny thing about that one, of the seven events, played, six were won by major winners. Another thing that was surprising about the winners of the Lucky International was that of the seven winners, two were San Francisco natives and four of the seven had roots in California. If you count the 2005 WGC-Amex with Tiger, that’s five of the eight having California roots. Just like with Torrey Pines in which Californians seem to dominate that event a lot has to do with the Poa annua. Yes it’s advertised that the greens are creeping bentgrass but it’s nearly impossible for any course by the sea in California not to have some Poa in the greens, so that makes those players from California have an advantage. Now we have the $64 thousand dollar question? What about Tiger Woods? Yeh, what about him? He was on the course on Sunday and we know he will be ready to go, but will he be healthy, or should we say is he healthy? Again that’s the $64 thousand dollar question that only Tiger and maybe his caddie Joey LaCava is best to answer.
One last piece of business and everyone asks me and that is what’s up with Rory McIlroy? It’s not like his game is in shambles, it’s not. We talked about how Justin Thomas felt he was playing well and just couldn’t seem to win. Well Rory McIlroy is going through a stretch in which he isn’t playing bad, yes he isn’t playing well either, but just very inconsistent. He has probably lost a bit of confidence and lost his playing rhythm which happens to a lot of players in the place Rory is in. It’s not like Rory is not going to ever play well again, that’s not the case. He will break out of this funk, don’t know if it’s this week or next week or next month. The point is will Rory find that magical key this week and he will find the same magic he had when he won the Match Play on this course five years ago?  Could the rhythm flow again this week on grounds in which he has had past glories? Possibly, but I wouldn’t place my rent check on it.

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