Before we get into the full breakdown of the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club, I had to take a minute to comment on Jason Day’s performance at the Byron Nelson over the weekend. It has been quite a turn around for this 35-year-old former number one player in the world. He had fallen out of the Top 100 in the official world golf rankings. Jason has worked his way all the way back inside the Top 20 in the world on the strength of 10 Top 20 finishes this season and a victory last weekend in Dallas. He has all the momentum heading into the PGA where he won his only major title back in 2015 at Whistling Straits. That win at the Byron Nelson all but sealed his Comeback Player of the Year award for the 2023 PGA Tour season.
Enough of the past, onto the future for this weekend’s 105th PGA Championship from Rochester, New York at the legendary Oak Hill Country Club. This course was founded in 1901 and has played host to the PGA Championship three times. The last time it was held at this historic course was 10 years ago when Jason Dufner beat out Jim Furyk by two strokes to win his one and only major title. We have also seen three U.S. Opens, two U.S. Amateurs, two Senior PGA Championships, one Senior U.S. Open and the Ryder Cup have all been played on this course since 1949.
All the top players from around the world will tee it up at Oak Hill this week which includes the LIV Tour players as well. We know how Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlory and the like are playing but what should we exactly expect from these LIV Tour guys? They had quite a world tour over the last month with stops in Singapore and Australia before teeing it up last weekend in Tulsa. We all watched what happened to Brooks Koepka at the Masters. After playing phenomenally for three rounds, collapsed on Sunday. I’m not saying he completely lost because the LIV Tour only played 54 holes instead of 72, but it probably didn’t help. I will have a couple of these guys in my playbook but I will limit my exposure.
Lots of storylines heading into the PGA Championship. We’ve got the continued battle between the two best players in the world, Rahm and Scheffler who have combined for six wins including a major this season already. Rory McIlory and Justin Thomas are both trying to become just the sixth man to win three or more PGA Championships in their career. If Justin pulled it out, he would be just the third player to win back to back PGAs in the stroke play era. Tony Finau has been playing terrific golf with four wins in his last 18 starts but is still seeking that first major championship victory alongside a large group of other talented players like Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Max Homa, Sam Burns, Tyrrell Hatton, Cameron Young and many more. I truly can’t decide which one I’d like to see come to fruition this weekend but I’m excited to see what happens.
This course underwent a massive overhaul in 2020 to prepare it for this championship. The architect Andrew Green tried to modernize the course without losing what makes it special as a historic golf landmark. The course will play at 7,394 yards with brand new championship tee boxes. That is 250 yards longer than it was a decade ago. The Par 4 6th hole plays over 500 yards in length, and will easily be the most challenging hole of the weekend. While peeling back the greens for a reshape and contouring, he restored some of the original hole locations and laid down pure bentgrass. The fairways are more inviting with some trees being removed but the landing areas are small for these professionals. Bunkers were relocated to account for the length of these players off the tee. This rough is no joke, it is dense, thick and gnarly cut to three inches in length.
Multiple major championships have been played at this venue because it is known as a fair yet stern test of a golfer's game. It features a rolling terrain with up and downhill holes as well as slightly sloping fairways. Allen Creek offers more challenges to these golfers as it dissects through multiple holes whether it be halfway down the fairway, 50 yards from the green or around the green. Tiger Woods actually called Oak Hill the hardest, fairest course that the big boys have been asked to play for a major championship. That quote should not surprise anyone because he finished 12 over in 2003 and 4 over in 2013 at Oak Hill. We are looking for golfers who prioritize accuracy but that’s not saying that distance can’t be an advantage. These golfers just need to stay out of this nasty rough and these difficult bunkers. Jason Dufner won the 2013 PGA Championship at 10 under par, I believe the winner this weekend will come in around the same number.
The weather does not look to be an issue this weekend but we know that can change at any time. We do have a 50 percent chance of rain on Saturday in the current forecast but the rest of the weekend looks clear.
ONE AND DONE PLAY: BROOKS KOEPKA