94th PGA Championship Preview

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“Glory’s last shot” happens this week at Kiawah Island in South Carolina as the world’s best players have their final shot at winning a major championship in 2012. This won’t feel like your normal PGA this week however, this will look, feel and play more like an Open Championship.

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island:

The stage for the PGA Championship.

The Ocean Course was designed by Pete Dye and opened in 1991, which is also the year it hosted the Ryder Cup, which became known as the “War by the Shore.” The Ocean course at Kiawah Island is a bomber’s paradise, being that it can be stretched to 7.937 yards and was voted the most difficult course in America in 2010. Pot bunkers, rolling mounds in the fairways, and greens with severe run off area’s will make the players think they are in Scotland and not South Carolina. Rain is going to be a major issue this week, so the course should play even longer, but the greens will hold and not make the run off area’s as penal.

The Ocean Course will play as a par 72, with 3 of the par 5′s being reachable for the majority of the field. The players better take advantage of those birdie opportunites, because there are plenty of brutally long par 4′s that will be everything the players can handle. The PGA made the decision to play all “sandy area’s” not as bunkers, meaning that players can ground their clubs and even take practice swings in the sand. This assures us that we won’t see another “Dustin Johnson” penalty like we did at Whistling Straits.

The Favorites:

According to Ladbrokes, the favorites to hoist the Wanamaker Trophy are:

Tiger Woods- 10-1

Luke Donald- 16-1

Rory McIlroy- 20-1

Lee Westwood, Adam Scott and Dustin Johnson at 25-1

The keys to winning at the Ocean Course, assuming the rain and wind stays, is going to be driving the ball and short game. While Woods has been great off the tee this year, his short game has not been up to par. His sand play has been below average, and he’s struggled to get it going on the green’s this year. Donald will need the rain to go away to firm the course up, otherwise his lack of driving distance will make it to tough to compete with the longer hitters. Westwood’s weak spot is his short game, and that’s to important at Kiawah for me to see this being the week he breaks through and win’s his first major.

My Pick:

The last 16 Major Champions in golf have been different winners, and I think that trend continues this week. Jason Dufner has the consistency, distance and short game prowess to win his first major championship. Dufner won at the Zurich Classic (another Pete Dye design) and followed that up 3 weeks later with another win at the HP Byron Nelson. Dufner is long, straight, and has shown that he can step up when the pressure is on. Last year’s runner up at the PGA will get his revenge this week, and gain the notoriety his game deserves worldwide after this week.

Do not be surprised if the former Auburn Tiger takes it all in South Carolina.

Dark Horses:

It’s tough to call a US Open Champion a dark horse, but Graeme McDowell comes into the PGA under the radar, despite finishing 12th at the Masters, 2nd at the US Open, and 5th at the Open Championship. G-Mac grew up in Northern Ireland, so links golf won’t be anything new to him. He’s stellar off the tee, and as long as his putter cooperates, he should be in contention come Sunday.

Louis Oosthuizen- Louis is coming off a good week at the Bridgestone Invitational, and who can forget his dominant win at St. Andrews in the 2010 Open Championship. Louis cruised to a 7 shot victory with an impressive ball striking display. Look for Louis to continue his hot play and make some noise at Kiawah this week.

Robert Garrigus- Garrigus has been open in his talk of how much he enjoys the Ocean Course, he can blast the ball off the tee and also ranks 12th in greens in regulation. Garrigus has recently switched to a long putter, which with a win would further the debate as to if they should be legal. Since I picked two prior major champions as “dark horses” I decided to dig deep here and give you one that could shock the casual golf fan. Look for Garrigus to have a good tournament, and who knows, maybe even give himself a shot at the Wanamaker on Sunday.

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island has all the makings of being one of the most dramatic majors in recent history. The 17th and 18th holes are brutal, and no lead will be safe come Sunday afternoon. Follow me on Twitter throughout the tournament for updates and commentary, and most importantly, enjoy the last major of the year, glory’s last shot!

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