5 Things to Watch For: PGA Championship

The first major of this weird golf season is finally here – the PGA Championship.

The Tournament begins on Thursday, August 6 at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, California and contains 93 of the top 100 players in the world.

“This course is great. It’s fun. It’s right in front of you. It’s not tricked up. You just have to hit the fairways. You have to have control of your ball. I mean, I’ve only played 18 holes, but it seems pretty difficult in my eyes. I think it’s going to be a little bit more of a challenge this week than maybe some in the past,” said Justin Thomas during his press conference earlier this week. 

Thomas will tee off at 11:33 a.m. eastern time alongside Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.

“This is going to be a fun test for all of us. The rough is up. Fairways are much more narrow than they were here in 2009. Don’t ask me for the routing because I’m still getting a little confused on the routing. Still trying to learn that part,” Woods added.

Here are five things to watch for:

TPC Harding Park

TPC Harding Park

Unless you are a die hard golf fan, you probably don’t know much about TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.

The course has hosted PGA Tour events and the President’s Cup in the past, but this is its first time hosting a major in it’s 95-year history. 

One major thing to watch for in this tournament is the fog that covers the golf course in the early morning and evening. 

It will effect site lines, and distance. 

“Talking to some of the guys yesterday, they were laughing at their TrackMan numbers already. They don’t have the swing speed or ball speed they did last week. It’s just the way it is,” said Tiger Woods during his press conference on Tuesday. 

Thomas added, “If I really cranked one out there, I was getting ball speeds of 174 miles per hour, something like that. Pretty much all of them were in the 70 to 72 range, whereas the [last week] in Memphis, I was getting 77 to 81. It is quite a difference.”

See a flyover of the course below: 

History on the Line 

Brooks Koepka PHOTO: Jazzy JoeyD/Wiki

Two time defending champion Brooks Koepka enters the PGA Championship with a chance to make history. 

A win would make him the first player to win three straight PGA Championship titles since Walter Hagen won four straight from 1924 to 1927. 

However, Koepka wanted no part of talking about that earlier this week. 

 “I’ve already dealt with it at the U.S. Open going into Pebble. I feel like I know how to handle it and I played pretty well there,” said Koepka. 

This season, Koepka’s game has not been great, although he showed flashes last week at WGC- FedEx St. Jude. 

Last week, Koepka had a chance to tie Justin Thomas for the lead on the final hole, but he put his tee shot in the water while trying to cut the corner.

“My game feels like it’s in really, really good shape right now. I like the way I’m hitting it, and feels — putting it really, really well. Every day is a lot more comfortable. I’m excited. This is a big-boy golf course. Got to hit it straight and put it in the fairway. It’s going to be quite long,” he added. 

Will be interesting to see which Koepka shows up this week.

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods PHOTO: Angela George/Wiki

Four-time PGA Champion Tiger Woods is back in action this week at the first major of the season. 

It is just his second tournament since the restart following his appearance at Memorial, in which he did not play well and was not a factor. 

“Obviously I haven’t played much competitively, but I’ve been playing a lot at home. So I’ve been getting plenty of reps that way. Just trying to get my way back into this part of the season. This is what I’ve been gearing up for. We’ve got a lot of big events starting from here, so looking forward to it,” said Woods during his press conference on Tuesday. 

Earlier this week, it was reported that Woods is putting his famous Scotty Cameron putter on the bench in favor of a backup putter. 

Switching putters two days before a major championship seems a bit curious, but that will be something to watch for. 

A potential advantage for Woods is the early-late tee times. 

Woods goes off in the morning on Thursday and then the afternoon on Friday, giving him extra time to rest and recover. 

Justin Thomas

You can’t preview a major championship without talking about World Number 1, Justin Thomas. 

Thomas, already a former PGA Champion, is coming off a win at the FedEx St. Jude last week in which he won by three shots over a slew of players, including Koepka and Mickelson. 

“Obviously it’s hard enough to win one week in a row out here, let alone two. But at the end of the day, last week is over with. This is a new week. We have a new field, new guys that are out here, all trying hard, trying to win a tournament, trying to win a major, and I’m trying to do the same thing. What happened last week is something I feel like I can only use to my advantage as opposed to hurt me, or at least I’m hoping so,” said Thomas. 

This week, he will have Jim “Bones” McKay on the bag once again as they look for their second straight win. 

It has been an interesting year for Thomas, he has a few wins, but he also has had a couple of tournaments where he kinda blew it. 

“I’ve been playing solid. I’ve been driving the ball well, which is something that’s going to be key here. I think that’s — I mean, if I could sit down and choose something, I can make an argument for all of them, but driving the ball well is going to be a big, big priority this week. I think that’s going to be something that whoever wins this golf tournament is going to most likely be driving the ball pretty well,” said Thomas. 

Thomas will look to win his second PGA Championship this week, and further distance himself as World Number 1. 

Two New England PGA Pros in Field 

The great thing about the PGA Championship is that it allows regular PGA professionals to compete. 

This week, there are two New England PGA professionals competing, Rich Berberian Jr. and Shawn Warren. 

Berberian is off at 12:41 p.m. in round one and 7:16 a.m. in round two. 

Warren tees off at 2:37 p.m. in round one and 9:12 a.m. in round two.

For more on these pros, read Peter Walsh’s column here.

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